Provinces Crack Down as COVID-19 Cases Surge Across Much of Canada

Provinces Crack Down as COVID-19 Cases Surge Across Much of Canada
Quebec Deputy Premier and Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, on Sept. 18, 2020 in Quebec City. (The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot)
The Canadian Press

Rapid increases in new COVID-19 cases could quickly spiral out of control, public health officials said Friday as some provinces continued to impose new and tougher public health measures.

Canada’s top public health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, said it’s too soon to declare a second wave of the pandemic across Canada, but daily case counts are increasing at an alarming rate.

“This situation increases the likelihood that we could lose the ability to keep COVID-19 cases at manageable levels,” she said. “Now is the time for Canadians to redouble their efforts with personal precautions that will slow the spread of the virus.”

The provinces also have a role to play, Tam noted, ideally by taking a targeted approach to stem outbreaks on a regional basis.

To that end, Quebec announced Friday it would send police officers to 1,000 bars across the province over the weekend, with particular focus on eight regions that have seen a marked rise in cases and could face further restrictions if the trend isn’t reversed.

“The goal behind this operation is to help our regions to go back to green and remain green for those that are already green,” Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault said in Quebec City, referring to the province’s colour-coded reopening framework.

The province, which has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus, announced 297 new cases on Friday.

Ontario, meanwhile, reported 401 new cases—a daily increase not seen since June—a day after it hiked fines for those organizing large social gatherings to $10,000 and cut down the maximum size of gatherings in three hot spot regions.

In Toronto, Ottawa and Peel region, only 10 people will be allowed to gather indoors—down from the current limit of 25—while the number for outdoor gatherings will drop to 25 from 100.

But soaring case numbers are not limited to the two provinces that have been hardest hit by the virus.

British Columbia, for instance, reported 165 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday—an all-time daily high for the province where case counts started cresting in August in spite of a previously flattened curve.

By early afternoon, Canada was reporting 141,565 cases of COVID-19.

Among them is Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, who announced that he has gone into self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

By Nicole Thompson