Manitoba is entering the first day of a partial lockdown meant to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases while Ontario is set to release new projections after setting a record for daily infections.
Manitoba has the biggest per-capita caseload of active infections in Canada and reported nine new deaths on Thursday, matching the record for fatalities set only a day earlier. There were 474 new infections recorded in its latest update.
Gatherings in the province are limited to five people, in-person religious services are cancelled and non-essential stores and restaurants can only offer curbside pickup or delivery.
Bars, museums and theatres are closed and recreational activities are suspended, but schools remain open.
“The message everyone needs to hear right now, regardless of the legal orders, is don’t socialize outside your household. Stay home,” said chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.
Meanwhile, public health officials in Ontario are expected to release new projections Thursday for how the virus might spread in the province.
Two weeks ago, it was predicted that new daily infections would hold steady between 800 and 1,200 for a while.
The seven-day average for daily cases stands at 1,217, according to provincial data.
Ontario reported a record-breaking 1,575 new infections Thursday, along with 18 more deaths from the novel coronavirus.
The Ontario Medical Association, which represents tens of thousands of physicians, is urging the provincial government to lower thresholds that determine when restrictions should be tightened—by as much as 50 percent in some cases.
The plea follows a Toronto Star report that the provincial government ignored the advice of its own public health agency in designing the tiered and colour-coded alert system introduced last week.
Premier Doug Ford said Thursday the plan had the blessing of the province’s top doctor and that the “balanced” approach takes mental health and the economy into account.
“It’s easy for people to say ’just shut everything down’ when they’re guaranteed a paycheque every single week,” he told reporters.
Quebec reported 1,365 new COVID-19 cases and 42 more deaths attributed to the virus, including nine in the last 24 hours.
Premier Francois Legault said he is considering temporarily closing schools to reduce COVID-19 transmission after outbreaks forced 324 schools to close in the past two days.
He said closing schools is a last resort but his government is considering either advancing or prolonging the winter break to keep children home.
In Alberta, more than 430 doctors and three health unions urged short, sharp public health restrictions to curb that province’s soaring COVID-19 caseload.
Alberta has seen 600 or more new COVID-19 cases each day for more than a week, with 217 people in hospital, 46 of them in intensive care.
The letter to Premier Jason Kenney suggests time-limited restrictions including suspending indoor dining, bars, theatres and religious services—along with additional supports for affected businesses.
Kenney has resisted shutting down businesses, saying household gatherings are driving the spike and that getting Alberta through the crisis means balancing the needs of health, the economy and the community.
By Lauren Krugel