People living in several provinces — including Alberta, Ontario and broad swaths of Quebec — are facing tighter public health restrictions as officials raise the alarm about more transmissible coronavirus variants and growing pressure on hospitals.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to make an announcement later Wednesday, with sources saying the province will issue a stay-at-home order.
The update comes as health officials reported 3,215 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 additional deaths on Wednesday. According to updated provincial COVID-19 data, hospitalizations stood at 1,397, with 504 patients in intensive care units. Of the ICU patients, 476 were still testing positive.
The planned announcement from the premier also comes as schools in Canada’s largest city move to online learning because of a third surge of coronavirus infections fuelled by more contagious virus variants.
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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that customer capacity in retail stores will be lowered to 15 per cent, restaurants must close to in-person dining, and low-intensity group fitness activities will once again be banned.
Kenney said cases have continued to rise “sharply” over the past week and variants of concern are surging.
“To be blunt: this wave is here,” Kenney said, noting that current trends would threaten the “maximum capacity of our health-care system by next month, right when we’re reaching critical mass of vaccination.”
Alberta reported 931 new cases and three additional deaths on Tuesday. According to the province, there were 328 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 76 in intensive care units.
Quebec Premier François Legault also announced more restrictions for harder-hit parts of the province on Tuesday, saying what happens in the month of April will be “critical.”
Starting next Monday, students in Grades 9, 10 and 11 in red zones, including Montreal, will attend school in person on alternate days and extracurricular activities will be cancelled. Legault said gyms in red zones must close as of Thursday, and that places of worship will have to limit attendance to 25 people.
“At this time, we’re able to manage the increase in hospitalization, but that can change very quickly,” Legault said, urging people to be “very careful.”
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:15 a.m. ET
Here’s a look at what else is happening across Canada
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As of 10:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,024,115 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 61,090 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,158.
In Atlantic Canada, there was a different message on restrictions on Tuesday as Nova Scotia loosened some limits, including allowing more people in malls, retailers and fitness facilities. The province, which reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, is also allowing travellers from Newfoundland and Labrador to come into Nova Scotia without a 14-day quarantine.
New Brunswick reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and there were no new cases reported in either Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 62 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 217 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths, while the number of people in the province’s ICUs with COVID-19-related illness stood at 44.
In British Columbia, health officials on Tuesday reported 1,068 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths. Health officials said COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 328, with 96 people in intensive care.
Across the North, there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 132.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.8 million.
In Europe, the U.K. is administering the first doses of the Moderna vaccine, the third authorized in the country against the coronavirus.
The rollout comes as the U.K. medical regulator investigates another vaccine, made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which has been given to more than 18 million people in Britain. Several countries have restricted the AstraZeneca jab’s use in younger people while scientists investigate a small number of cases of rare blood clots in people who have received the vaccine.
Britain, which has ordered 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot, has not restricted its use, but its medical regulator is reviewing the evidence. Oxford University said late Tuesday it had stopped giving the shot to children involved in a clinical trial until it had received more information from the regulator.
Hungary, meanwhile, began loosening its lockdown restrictions on Wednesday even as another daily record in COVID-19 deaths was broken and a surge in the pandemic gripped the country’s hospitals.
The European Union denied blocking shipments of 3.1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Australia, as the bloc steps up scrutiny of vaccine exports to address shortages.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India has hit another new peak with 115,736 coronavirus cases reported in the past 24 hours. New Delhi, Mumbai and dozens of other cities are imposing curfews to try to slow the soaring infections.
India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 78,000 cases per day and has reported 12.8 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.
Thailand has diagnosed 24 cases of the coronavirus variant B117 first detected in Britain, a virologist said, its first reported domestic transmission of the highly contagious mutation.
South Korea reported its highest single-day number of new cases in three months amid a rise in cluster infections, as it approved a Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a bid to expedite its inoculation campaign.
In the Americas, Brazil has for the first time reported a 24-hour tally of COVID-19 deaths exceeding 4,000. That made Brazil the third nation to cross the threshold. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has long downplayed the risks of the coronavirus and remains fully against lockdowns as too damaging to the economy.
In Africa, South Africa signed an agreement with Pfizer for 20 million dual-shot vaccine doses, boosting plans to start mass vaccinations from April.
In the Middle East, the Supreme Committee to Combat Coronavirus in Oman said Omani citizens coming to the Sultanate through various land, sea and air ports will be exempt from the mandatory institutional quarantine but still must quarantine at home.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:20 a.m. ET