Canada surpassed 300,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, marking yet another grim milestone for a country grappling with a worsening second wave.
Ontario and Quebec — Canada’s long-standing coronavirus hotspots — both recorded significant case counts on Monday, despite seeing declines in daily tallies on Sunday.
Ontario reported 1,487 new confirmed cases, along with 10 additional deaths. Quebec reported 1,218 cases and 25 deaths.
The vast majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada have stemmed from the two provinces — both of which have imposed varying tightened restrictions to try and curb the virus’s spread.
However, climbing cases in Manitoba and Alberta have drawn new concerns.
Manitoba currently leads all other provinces in per capita active cases. On Monday, the province recorded 392 new cases and 10 deaths. Just days earlier, Manitoba hit its own grim milestone, surpassing 10,000 total cases.
Officials there have warned that the province is nearing hospital capacity and that the health-care system is already feeling the strain. In response, the Manitoba government moved the entire province to the critical or red level on the pandemic response system, effectively reverting to lockdown-type restrictions.
The enhanced restrictions bar social gatherings outside immediate household members and shutter non-essential businesses, among other rules.
Alberta has also seen new targeted restrictions in hopes of bringing rising virus cases under control.
The province has been seeing a significant increase in cases over the last few weeks. On Monday, 860 new cases were reported, and 20 new deaths.
Like Ontario and Quebec, Alberta has seen hospitalizations and deaths increase along with cases. The surge has triggered a domino effect on health resources and staff, forcing the cancellation of elective surgeries in Edmonton and prompting nearly 200 Alberta-based physicians to call on the government to do more to curb the uncontrolled spread.
The same call has come from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in recent days.
He took aim at the provinces on Friday, warning them that a failure to get the case counts under control could force Canada to make “impossible” choices.
“I reassured the premiers that the federal government will always be there to help, but reminded them as well that the resources are not infinite,” Trudeau said, referring to a conference call he held with the premiers Thursday evening.
“Controlling the virus now reduces the impossible choices we might have to make down the road.”
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s top doctor, voiced similar concerns on Friday.
She described the coronavirus surges in much of the country as “burning fires.”
“Now is the time to get those under control,” she said.
Tam, among others, has been sounding the alarm in recent weeks about the rising national case counts.
In mid-October, Canada had about 2,300 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed each day. By November, that number had grown to above 4,000. Last week, it was just shy of hitting 5,000.
Should Canada “continue on the current pace,” Tam says the country could see daily case counts of more than 10,000 by early December.
“You can only imagine if we got to that level, that the pressure on the health-care system would be huge,” she said. “We’ve got to stop the acceleration so we don’t see that (number) in the beginning of December… That’s only a few weeks away.”
Worsening numbers in British Columbia and Saskatchewan may also contribute to the growing daily national tally.
British Columbia on Monday reported 646 new cases and 9 new deaths over the last three days. The province has now seen a total of 22,657 confirmed cases, and 287 epidemiologically-linked cases to date.
In Saskatchewan, the province recorded 181 infections on Monday, bringing the provincial tally to 5182. So far, 31 people have died.
The ever-changing spread of the virus was demonstrated most recently in Nunavut, where the territory-wide case counts more than doubled over a 48-hour period.
On Sunday, 10 new cases linked to an outbreak in the community of Arviat took the overall total to 18. On Monday, Nunavut ordered a mandatory two-week shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses to help curb the growing spread. The same day, the territory reported eight new cases of the virus.
Atlantic Canada continues to fare better than much of the county. On Monday, Nova Scotia reported two new infections, bringing the total tally of confirmed positive cases to 1,146. While it’s still a far cry from other provinces, an emerging cluster linked to a bar has stirred warnings from the premier.
“I am concerned that people are not taking the virus seriously and putting others in jeopardy,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a press release on Saturday.
“It is imperative that everyone follow public health protocols — wear a mask, limit social contacts, practice social distancing, stay home when feeling unwell and wash your hands.”
New Brunswick reported eight new cases, while Newfoundland and Labrador did not see any new infections.
Tam urged Canadians to follow public health guidelines to limit the spread of the virus.
“What comes next for us this fall and winter is for every one of us to determine, through our decisions and actions,” she said.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she was “deeply concerned” about the growth in cases.
She said Canada is experiencing “exponential growth,” adding that it is “a scary place for any country to be.”
“We need a Team Canada approach,” she said. “Everybody has to be pulling together.”
She said the next few months “will be difficult for all of us.”
“This is a hard time, it’s a hard time around the world, especially in countries that are in northern climates that are seeing a growth in cases as people move inside,” she said.
Hajdu said Canadians need to reduce their gatherings and “go back to basics” to stem the spread of the virus.
— With files from Global News’ Hannah Jackson and The Canadian PressView link »