New restrictions on gatherings and restaurants are taking effect in Quebec as the highly infectious Omicron variant continues to drive a surge in COVID-19 cases across much of Canada. The country crossed the two million cases mark on Sunday.
Quebec reported 9,206 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, a day after it tallied more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time. It also reported four additional deaths.
Starting Sunday, the province is capping private gatherings at six people or two family bubbles. Restaurants are limited to serving groups of six, or two family bubbles — down from 10 people and three households.
In a Christmas message posted to Facebook, Premier François Legault acknowledged that the next few weeks would be “difficult.”
“It will be very important to continue our efforts and to stick together, even if we are tired,” he wrote.
Montreal’s director of public health has said it’s a “critical time” for the city’s health network, with 181 people hospitalized for COVID-19 across the city as of Thursday, an increase of 60 per cent over the last week.
New Brunswick will bring in tightened restrictions of its own on Monday, with households asked to stick to a steady bubble of 10, down from 20.
The stricter Level 2 rules also include requiring restaurants to operate at 50 per cent capacity and request proof-of-vaccination, as well as capacity limits for other businesses, public gatherings and faith venues.
The province reported 265 cases on Friday, its highest-ever single-day count, and one additional death.
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 9,826 new cases on Sunday, a day after it topped 10,000 new cases for the first time.
The 10,412 new cases reported on Saturday marked the third consecutive day the province had broken its record for daily case counts. With Sunday’s numbers, the rolling seven-day average of new daily cases now stands at 6,746, up from 2,542 one week ago.
Incredible to see <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TeamToronto?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TeamToronto</a> in action on <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Christmas?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Christmas</a> Day with <a href=”https://twitter.com/joe_cressy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Joe_Cressy</a>.<br><br>Shared my appreciation with everyone working at Mitchell Field Community Centre and all other clinics across our city for their dedication and sacrifice to help us get Torontonians vaccinated. <a href=”https://t.co/QlzW1rJr98″>pic.twitter.com/QlzW1rJr98</a>
Experts have said the actual number of cases is likely far higher than those reported each day, because many public health units have reached their testing capacity.
The province is racing to provide COVID-19 vaccine boosters, with some clinics running on Christmas Day. Anyone aged 18 and older is now eligible as long as three months have passed since their second shot.
Nova Scotia on Sunday reported 1,147 new cases over a two-day period. With these numbers, Canada has now reported 2,000,150 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 11 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
For more details on how COVID-19 is impacting your community — including hospital data and the latest on restrictions — check out the coverage from CBC newsrooms around the country.
What’s happening around the world
As of 11 a.m. ET Sunday, more than 279.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at almost 5.4 million.
In the Americas, U.S. airlines called off hundreds of flights for a third day in a row on Sunday as surging COVID-19 infections grounded crews and forced tens of thousands of Christmas weekend travellers to change their plans.
Commercial airlines cancelled 656 flights within, into or out of the United States on Sunday, slightly down from nearly 1,000 from Christmas Day and nearly 700 on Christmas Eve, according to a tally on flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. Further cancellations were likely, and more than 920 flights were delayed.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and a sharp jump in hospitalizations. Doctors and pharmacists have said they are running short of vaccine doses amid a rush for shots spurred by concern over the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile, a major laboratory in Sydney said that 400 people who had been informed a day earlier they had tested negative for COVID-19 had in fact tested positive, with the error believed to be due to “human error.” The lab’s medical director said those people were being contacted and informed of the error.
In the Middle East, Oman is requiring foreign travellers aged 18 or older to have received at least two COVID-19 vaccine doses to enter the sultanate, the state news agency reported on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett went into isolation at home on Sunday and will await the results of a COVID-19 PCR test after his 14-year-old daughter tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said.
In Africa, meanwhile, the Nigerian president’s top media aide, Garba Shehu, said on Saturday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and was in isolation. Shehu, who is in his late 50s, is in the immediate circle of 79-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari.
In Europe, France recorded a record high of 104,611 COVID-19 infections on Saturday, breaking the 100,000 threshold for the first time since the pandemic began as the Omicron variant continued its rapid spread. Health authorities said the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care went up by 28 to 3,282.
– From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 11 a.m. ET