Canada surpassed 400,000 cases of the novel coronavirus Friday, as the pandemic continues to spread at a record pace across the country.
As of 8 p.m., 402,223 total cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed to date. A total of 12,496 people have died of complications from the disease, 89 so far since Thursday.
The new milestone was hit even before daily case numbers were released by British Columbia, which also contributed heavily to the quickening national infection rate.
It also comes just four days after the end of a particularly brutal month.
Over the course of November, more than 140,000 people were infected with the virus, almost twice the number of new cases in October. It took from the start of the pandemic until mid-September for the country to confirm its first 140,000 cases.
The country is now averaging roughly 6,000 new cases daily — more than three times the rate seen during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, when new cases were averaging below 2,000.
Almost 2,000 people also died of complications from COVID-19 in November. While not as deadly as the first spring peak when roughly 150 people were dying daily, deaths have been steadily climbing along with infections.
Deaths are now averaging around 100 per day, a rate not seen since early June.
Cases and deaths are continuing to rise despite most provinces introducing tight new restrictions on public gatherings and urging people to limit their social circles. Yet health officials say most of the new cases are still being linked to household gatherings and workplaces.
The virus has also made a resurgence in long-term care homes in some provinces like British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, where residents of such homes are making up a majority of new deaths.
An estimated 82 per cent of Canada’s COVID-19-related deaths during the spring were residents of long-term care homes, according to federal data.
Officials warn that people will have to continue to make sacrifices throughout the winter and into the spring.
“Given continued rapid growth of the epidemic, there is an urgent need for everyone to take individual actions to not only protect ourselves, but also our populations and communities at high risk,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement Thursday.
“To do this, we need to limit close contacts to only those in our immediate household and reduce in-person interactions to only essential errands and activities, while consistently maintaining key public health practices.”
Canadians are also anxiously awaiting the arrival of a vaccine, though officials are warning the general population will likely have to wait until after the first quarter of 2021 to be inoculated.
Instead, the initial batch of vaccine doses for roughly three million Canadians will be distributed to the elderly and front-line health workers starting in January, the federal government said Thursday.
The government plans to have logistics and infrastructure in place before Christmas, according to Dany Fortin, the lead on the nation’s distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Speaking at a media conference, Fortin said although Health Canada is still reviewing approval for vaccines, the federal government and provinces are working on a rollout plan and will do a trial run next week.
“We’re not going to wait until the end of December … we are getting ready so that when it becomes possible we are poised to distribute,” he said.
Britain was the first country in the world to approve Pfizer’s vaccine this week, one of two shots expected to be part of that first batch being distributed throughout Canada early next year. Moderna’s vaccine will be the other shot Canadians will likely see first.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada are both expected to give the green light to the Pfizer vaccine later this month, with Moderna’s approval to follow shortly afterwards.
As virus cases continue to surge in communities across Canada, health authorities reported a total of 6,294 new cases of COVID-19 Friday.
Of the provinces that reported new infections, Alberta recorded the highest increase in new cases — 1,828. That provincial increase, which came alongside another 15 deaths, brought Alberta’s total cases and death toll to 64,851 and 590, respectively.
Ontario added 1,780 new case on Friday as well, pushing its total virus cases to 123,526. The province’s death toll now also stands at 3,737 after 25 more deaths were announced.
Quebec reported 1,345 more cases on Friday, as well as 28 more deaths. The province has the highest number of cases and virus-related deaths in Canada, with 147,877 cases and 7,183 fatalities after today’s increase.
British Columbia added another 704 cases of the virus and 11 more deaths. Another seven cases on Friday were also reported as “epi-linked,” which are cases that show symptoms and are close contacts of confirmed cases, but were never tested. B.C. has 35,783 confirmed cases, 349 epi-linked cases and a total of 492 deaths to date.
Saskatchewan added another 283 cases on Friday, raising its total COVID-19 infections to 9,527 while Manitoba reported another 318 cases. Manitoba currently has 18,069 cases as of Friday, of which an unknown number are considered probable.
Several provinces in Atlantic Canada also reported new numbers on Friday with New Brunswick adding eight more cases, Newfoundland and Labrador another three and Nova Scotia announcing another 15 infections.
Nunavut added eight more cases on Friday, with its total infections standing at 206. Northwest Territories added no cases in their update Friday, while Yukon reported another three infections.
Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 65 million people, 1.5 million of whom have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world in both cases, at more than 14 million, and deaths, with 275,000 confirmed so far.
—With files from Katie Dangerfield and David Lao