Stricter public health measures are once again in effect in Ontario on Sunday, with capacity limits back in place in restaurants and a smaller cap on social gatherings.
Premier Doug Ford announced the new restrictions on Friday, saying the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is so contagious it threatens to overwhelm the health-care system.
Restaurants, gyms and many other indoor settings now have a 50 per cent capacity limit.
No more than 10 people can attend indoor social gatherings — down from 25 — and there’s a maximum of 25 attendees at outdoor social gatherings, down from 100.
And cinemas, arenas and other large venues are no longer allowed to serve food or drinks.
The measures come as cases have been rising rapidly, with the seven-day average of new daily diagnoses sitting at 2,156 Saturday, compared to 1,194 a week earlier.
The province has also ramped up its COVID-19 vaccine booster campaign. Starting Monday, all adults are eligible for a booster, provided it’s been at least three months since their second dose.
Ford says the public health measures are meant to slow the spread while people are getting their boosters and the shots are kicking in.
Ontario on Saturday reported 3,301 new infections — the highest tally since early May — and four additional deaths.
The Omicron variant is compelling many jurisdictions across the country to reintroduce public health restrictions just ahead of Christmas. New public health measures are set to begin Monday in Quebec and British Columbia, while Manitoba will bring in new restrictions on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Ottawa will tighten border rules as of Tuesday, requiring a pre-arrival negative molecular test result for COVID-19, even for short trips of less than 72 hours.
— From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 9 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
Nova Scotia reported 426 new cases on Saturday — a single-day high. A Halifax hospital has said it is rescheduling non-urgent surgeries because a “rapidly growing” number of employees are isolating from exposures to COVID-19.
New limits on contacts and venue capacity took effect in New Brunswick on Saturday as the province reported 133 new cases and two additional deaths. P.E.I. reported 13 new cases as it rolled out its own tougher restrictions.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported 23 new cases on Saturday. The province has also introduced new measures around self-isolation, travel and capacity limits, in addition to shortening its booster timeline to 22 weeks following a person’s second dose.
Quebec reported 3,631 new infections and two new deaths on Saturday, as Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced she had tested positive for COVID-19. In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson also said he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of emergency preparedness, said Saturday that nurses from the Red Cross will be deployed to Manitoba until Jan. 17 following a request by the provincial government.
Saskatchewan reported 61 new cases on Saturday. Pharmacists in the province say they don’t have enough staff to handle a growing demand for third COVID-19 vaccine doses, as more people become eligible on Monday.
In Alberta, those 50 and older and all health-care workers are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. Premier Jason Kenney announced the expanded availability of booster shots and rapid antigen testing kits earlier this week as he also introduced a relaxation of rules around gatherings.
In British Columbia, fears over hundreds of students being packed tightly together to write finals has prompted a call for the cancellation of in-person exams at the University of British Columbia. Several universities across Canada have already taken that step, including the University of Victoria.
In the North, public health authorities in the Northwest Territories have issued a COVID-19 exposure notification for a Yellowknife Dene First Nation office.
— From CBC News, last updated at 9 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 274.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.3 million.
In Europe, Britain’s health secretary has refused to rule out imposing tougher COVID-19 restrictions before Christmas amid the rapid rise of infections and continuing uncertainty about the Omicron variant.
Sajid Javid said Sunday that the government was assessing the fast-moving situation and urged the public to be cautious as scientists examine the data. Much is still unknown about the new variant, even as hospitals brace for a surge in infections, he told the BBC.
The U.K. reported 90,418 new cases on Saturday, a day after hitting a record daily high of 93,045 new cases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week reinstated rules requiring face masks in shops and ordered people to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test before entering night clubs and other crowded venues.
But government scientific advisers have recommended more far-reaching restrictions to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, according to leaked minutes from a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
Germany added Britain to its list of “virus variant areas” late Saturday. This means anyone travelling from the U.K. to Germany must enter a mandatory quarantine for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status.
In the Americas, U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday the Omicron variant is “raging through the world” as he urged Americans to get booster shots and continue wearing masks.
Travelling will increase the risk of infection even among vaccinated people, Fauci said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.
In the Middle East, Israel’s prime minister also warned citizens against the spread of the Omicron variant on Sunday and urged them to get vaccinated.
Naftali Bennett told ministers that there was already community transmission of the Omicron variant in Israel and a rise in the country’s coronavirus infection rate. He called the variant “very infectious.”
Israel rolled out a world-leading vaccination campaign, and more than 4.1 million of the country’s 9.3 million people have received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The country’s Health Ministry has reported at least 134 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant since its emergence in late November.
Meanwhile, Iran has detected its first case of Omicron, state TV reported Sunday.
In the Asia-Pacific region, new COVID-19 measures took effect in South Korea on Saturday as spiralling numbers of both new infections and serious cases threaten to overwhelm its medical system
The curbs announced earlier this week limit gatherings to no more than four people — as long as they are vaccinated — and force restaurants, cafes and nightly entertainment facilities to close by 9 p.m. and movie theatres and internet cafes by 10 p.m.
In Africa, South Africa has said it will donate roughly two million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine to other African countries. The shots will be made available over the next year through a medical supplies platform set up by the African Union (AU).
— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9 a.m. ET