Provinces are reimposing restrictions on gatherings as health officials worry that the new increases in COVID-19 cases could lead to an equivalent spike in hospital patients or deaths in the coming weeks.
As of 5 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had 143,649 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 124,691 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,256.
Over the past week, as Premier Doug Ford and his government slapped new restrictions on private gatherings, Ontario reported an average of 335 new confirmed COVID-19 infections daily. That’s triple the pace of the last week of August.
So far, the rise in hospitalizations is nowhere near as steep. There were 63 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals as of Sunday. The hospitalization rate hit its low ebb in the third week of August, with a daily average of 38 patients in beds around the province.
However, hospitalizations and deaths are what epidemiologists call “lagging indicators” of the impact of a pandemic: you don’t see those numbers rising until well after the infections were transmitted.
“It’s just unfortunately a matter of time,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital.
WATCH | Quebec tightens restrictions in 3 regions amid rising COVID-19 cases:
This comes as Ontario pediatricians say their calls for the financial and logistical support needed to do more flu vaccinations during the pandemic have so far gone unheeded and fear an “imminent crisis” lies ahead.
“Right now, Public Health seems to expect the status quo from years past, when individual doctor’s offices and scattered flu clinics gave flu vaccine,” said an online petition launched on Change.org on Saturday by the pediatrics section of the Ontario Medical Association.
Public health officials and health-care experts have stressed the importance of getting the flu shot this year to avoid burdening the health-care system even more during the pandemic.
Following Ontario in imposing renewed restrictions, residents of Montreal and Quebec City are being urged to reduce their social activities to a minimum and face a host of new restrictions as the provincial government there tries to curb a rapid increase in cases of COVID-19.
Quebec’s two largest cities, and the Chaudière-Appalaches region, which is south of Quebec City, are under “moderate alert” beginning midnight Sunday.
That is the orange, or second-highest, alert level under the province’s regional system for categorizing the danger posed by the coronavirus.
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Quebec reported 462 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 427 new cases on Saturday. The province hasn’t seen similar daily increases since late May. Hospitalizations have been increasing at a slower rate and are now at 138, up from 124 a week ago.
At a news conference on Sunday evening, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced several new public health rules for residents in the orange zones.
The maximum number of people allowed at a private gathering has been reduced from 10 to six. If a gathering is limited to members of two different families, then it can exceed the six-person maximum.
Bars and restaurants will stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and will close at midnight. A maximum of six people will be allowed per table.
A maximum of 25 people will be allowed to take part in events like weddings, barbecues or religious services. In settings that involve sitting and little talking, such as movie theatres or concert halls, the current 250-person limit remains in place.
What’s happening around the rest of Canada
A student at Riverside Public School in Elmira, Ont., has tested positive for COVID-19, the Waterloo Region District School Board says.
The student was last in the building on Friday, the board said in a statement posted to its website on Sunday. The school is being cleaned, and it’s expected staff and students will be able to return on Monday morning.
The case is the third one in a school in Waterloo Region. There is also a student case at St. Anne Catholic Elementary School in Cambridge, Ont., and a staff member at Edna Staebler Public School in Waterloo tested positive for the virus.
An employee in Toronto’s parks, forestry and recreation division has tested positive for COVID-19, and a number of staff members who may have had contact with the infected person have been advised to go into isolation, a union local says.
The employee worked at Falstaff Community Centre, near Jane Street and Wilson Avenue, according to Dave Mitchell, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79. The local represents about 20,000 city inside workers.
Mitchell said the employee received the positive test result on Sept. 11, and the union local was informed on Sept. 12.
Some members have told the union local that they want more information about the case, he said. There is a larger group, outside of the employee’s close contacts, who were not informed of the case by Toronto Public Health, but found out through word of mouth, he said.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 31 million. More than 960,800 people have died, while 21.2 million have recovered.
All remaining virus restrictions will be lifted across much of New Zealand from late Monday with the exception of the largest city, Auckland, which will continue to have some restrictions for at least another 16 days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement Monday after meeting with top lawmakers.
The nation of five million reimposed some restrictions last month after an Auckland outbreak, which now appears to be under control.
Lebanon registered a record 1,006 cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the government announced Sunday, amid a sharp increase in infections and deaths due to the coronavirus.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan recommended a total lockdown for two weeks to stem the alarming rise in daily detected infections, but authorities will find it difficult difficult to impose another lockdown amid an unprecedented economic collapse.
Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech resigned on Monday following criticism of his handling of the pandemic after a surge in cases.
Before the start of the summer, the government lifted almost all restrictions imposed during the first wave of the pandemic. The number of infections has doubled this month and has grown at the second fastest rate in Europe in recent weeks, behind Spain.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis thanked Vojtech for his work in a Twitter message. Vojtech had been heavily criticized over the new wave of infections although some opposition politicians saw him as a scapegoat for the government.
“The prime minister is more responsible as he strongly and incompetently interferes with Health Ministry work,” Marian Jurecka, chairman of the opposition Christian Democrats, wrote on Twitter.