A stay-at-home order is in effect across Ontario in response to worsening COVID-19 trends in the province.
Premier Doug Ford announced the move Wednesday, saying it was prompted by a surge in cases driven by more infectious variants.
“The reality is, despite everything we’ve done so far, the COVID-19 situation in Ontario is getting worse as these new variants continue to spread,” Ford said. “Our hospitals are reaching capacity and patients in the GTA must now be sent to other parts of the province for care.”
Health officials in Ontario reported 3,125 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 additional deaths on Wednesday. A provincial dashboard that provides an overview of case data put hospitalizations at 1,397, with 504 people in intensive care units “due to COVID-related illness.”
Under the stay-at-home order, stores that sell goods such as groceries, cleaning supplies and pharmacy products can remain open but only to sell essential items. Non-essential retail can open for curbside pickup or delivery only.
“The situation is extremely serious,” Ford said. “We just need to hunker down right now. We need to limit mobility.”
The province is declaring the third state of emergency since the start of the pandemic to invoke the new measures.
The changes come after a month-long shutdown announced last week was criticized as too weak to address the third wave of infections.
In Quebec, people in areas hit hard by the virus are facing restrictions on gyms, faith gatherings and some inter-regional travel. The province on Wednesday reported 1,270 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations, as reported by the province, stood at 543, with 123 people in intensive care.
Meanwhile, Quebec residents with some chronic illnesses and who are under the age of 60 can also start getting vaccinated in hospital on Monday, while essential workers can start booking appointments Friday.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Canada facing perilous mix of COVID-19 variants:
As of early Thursday morning, Canada had reported 1,028,047 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 62,136 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,173.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Wednesday — a man in his 30s.
Health officials in Nova Scotia reported two new cases on Wednesday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.
Across the North, Yukon‘s chief medical officer of health said Wednesday it’s too early to lift COVID-19 restrictions in the territory. This despite the fact that Yukon has no new COVID-19 cases and about 68 per cent of residents have received at least one vaccine dose. Dr. Brendan Hanley says there are too many cases involving variants in neighbouring jurisdictions and there’s a territorial election taking place.
Health officials in the Northwest Territories reported one presumptive positive case linked to a mine. There were no new cases reported in Nunavut.
In Alberta, health officials reported 1,351 new COVID-19 infections in its latest update. There were 333 people in hospital, the province said, with 79 in intensive care.
Here are the latest COVID-19 data for Alberta:<br><br>• 1,370 new cases (1,351 net w/adjustments to past days)<br>• 11,464 active cases<br>• 333 patients in hospital, including 79 in ICU<br>• 1 more death. 2,002 total<br><br>More charts & context: <a href=”https://t.co/3dbTqmZSis”>https://t.co/3dbTqmZSis</a> <a href=”https://t.co/pLlFkV5r4x”>pic.twitter.com/pLlFkV5r4x</a>
In British Columbia, meanwhile, health officials reported another 997 new cases on Wednesday and two more deaths. There were 330 people in hospital and the number in intensive care has grown to 105.
The province has seen a growing number of variant cases, including the B117 variant first reported in the U.K. and the P1 variant originally linked to travellers from Brazil.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be ever-changing, and we are also continuing to evolve and adapt our pandemic response,” a statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
“As part of this, we are actively monitoring and screening for all of the virus strains to understand how they may impact us and what additional action may be required to keep our communities safe.”
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 133.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University case-tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.8 million.
The African Union has dropped plans to buy COVID-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India and is exploring options with Johnson & Johnson, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters on Thursday.
The institute will still supply the AstraZeneca vaccine to Africa through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, said Dr. John Nkengasong, but the African Union would seek additional supplies from Johnson & Johnson.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India reported a record-high 126,789 new COVID-19 cases, health ministry data showed on Thursday, with much of the country struggling to contain a second surge in coronavirus infections.
Indonesia’s health minister said the schedule for around 100 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines faced delays.
Health officials in South Korea said they will decide whether to resume administrating AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines to people 60 and younger over the weekend. The injections were paused while regulators in Europe reviewed a possible link between the shots and rare blood clots.
In Europe, Spain plans to join other European nations in limiting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the elderly due to concerns over links to extremely rare blood clotting. Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias said after meeting with regional health chiefs Wednesday that authorities will limit the use of the vaccine in those over 60 years old.
The decision came after the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots.
Last week, Germany and France limited the vaccine to elderly groups, and earlier Wednesday British authorities recommended that the vaccine not be given to adults under 30. Belgium said Wednesday it would not allow its use for people under age 56.
The EMA advised no such age restrictions, saying the benefits of the vaccine far exceed the very rare cases of thrombosis.
In the Americas, Argentina tightened movement restrictions on Wednesday including curtailing the leisure industry and blocking non-essential workers from using public transport after the country hit a record number of COVID-19 infections
Puerto Rico’s governor said officials will start vaccinating all those 16 years and older beginning Monday, prompting celebrations across a U.S. territory facing a spike in coronavirus cases.
Currently, only people 50 years and older as well as anyone 35 to 49 with chronic health conditions are authorized to receive a vaccine. Gov. Pedro Pierluisi also announced Wednesday that he is implementing more stringent measures to fight the spike in infections.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET