On Sunday, Canada marked its second Easter weekend with rising cases of COVID-19, tighter restrictions and — in some cases — lockdowns.
One grim tradition is already underway: for the second year in a row, Canadians are being urged to make Easter celebrations virtual. To make matters worse, deadly variants of the virus are wreaking havoc across the country, pushing the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada over 1 million on Saturday night.
Many Canadians took to the internet to voice their unhappiness and concerns. Tweets ranged from sorrow to anger. One Albertan tweeted: “I think my blood is still in flames.”
Variants of the coronavirus have plunged Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia into a third wave of COVID-19, as case numbers, deaths and severe hospitalizations surpassed those at the peak of the first wave, seen last year.
Ontario pumped its “emergency brake” on Saturday, forcing personal services closed and restaurants restricted to takeout, delivery and drive-thru service. The renewed shutdown also brought smaller capacity limits on essential and non-essential businesses for four weeks.
“We must all avoid social gatherings,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday as he announced tighter public health restrictions across the province.
“I know many of you were hoping to celebrate this important holiday with family and friends. But again, I’m asking people to only gather with their immediate household.”
For some, the news, coupled with Canada’s changing medical advice over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, has become a depressing reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.
Toronto-based writer Anne Thériault tweeted “real no-end-in-sight feelings” on March 29.
“For some reason having a second pandemic Easter paired with the news about Canada suspending AstraZeneca vaccines is hitting me really hard,” the tweet read.
“Case numbers are going up, everything’s compounding, and the government’s like “hair salons re-open soon!!”
Three regions of Quebec — Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau — are under a 10-day lockdown until April 12. As of Thursday, schools, non-essential businesses such as theatres, cinemas, gyms and restaurant dining rooms were required to close by 8 p.m., while businesses allowed to remain open were prohibited from selling non-essential products.
The new restrictions were announced just hours before the province reported the highest daily caseload since late January. According to Quebec Premier François Legault, cases of COVID-19 were rising almost exponentially throughout the province.
This year’s celebrations will be “a little lonely,” Daniel Casey of Gatineau, Quebec, told Global News when asked about his Easter plans.
“It’d be nice to be around family,” he said. “I got my folks doing a drive-by Easter hunt from Montreal, but then they have to go home so it’s not like it used to be where we would have a big dinner and be able to hug.”
On Wednesday, British Columbia imposed a three-week-long “circuit breaker” across the province hoping to decrease COVID-19 transmission.
“We know that the idea of more restrictions is not welcome news, but we are asking people to rise to the challenge with the confidence that vaccines mean better days are ahead,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said Monday.
“We are not out of the woods yet, but the provincial health officer’s orders, combined with our vaccines give us the tools we need to move out of this pandemic together.”
In a video released Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wished Canadians a happy Easter, asking them to check in on loved ones who may be isolated this year.
“This is the second consecutive Easter where COVID-19 has forced us to celebrate differently. That means many of us won’t be gathering with friends and family and some of us may not be able to attend Easter service,” he said.
“I know that these activities just aren’t the same over Zoom or on the phone, but we can still find ways to celebrate.”
— With files from The Canadian Press