Ontario has declared a state of emergency due to a surge of COVID-19 cases and issued a stay-at-home order that takes effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m. ET, Premier Doug Ford announced.
The stay-at-home order issued Tuesday does not include essential activities, such as accessing health care, shopping for groceries, exercising or doing essential work. The new measures also include restricting the hours of operation for non-essential retail stores such as hardware stores to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET.
“Our province is in crisis,” Ford said. “The system is on the brink of collapse. It’s on the brink of being overwhelmed.”
As part of the new measures, outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to no more than five people with limited exceptions.
People are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open, and wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.
The province also says schools in five hot spot regions — Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex — will not reopen for in-person learning until Feb. 10.
“Community transmission is widespread. It’s in our hospitals, it’s in our long-term care homes and it’s in our workplaces,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday.
Earlier, the province released grim new modelling figures that show deaths in the second wave are expected to exceed first-wave totals if Ontarians don’t significantly reduce their contact with others.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said that increases in new daily cases are above seven per cent “on our worst days,” well into worst-case scenario territory for the outlook of the illness in the province.
Almost 40 per cent of the province’s long-term care homes now have active outbreaks of the virus, according to the figures released Tuesday. Since the start of the new year, 198 long-term care residents and two staff members have died, and the modelling suggests there will actually be more deaths in long-term care in the pandemic’s second wave compared with the first.
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About one-quarter of Ontario’s hospitals have no ICU capacity left, while another quarter have only one or two beds available at any given time, Brown said.
He added that the hospitals with very limited or no ICU capacity are spread throughout the province. “This is no longer an issue of one or two regions.”
Ontario moved into a provincewide lockdown on Dec. 26, with tighter restrictions on gatherings and the closure of many non-essential businesses.
The updated modelling and new measures come on the heels of Ontario hitting record highs in new COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations since the start of the new year.
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On Tuesday, Ontario reported 2,903 new cases and 41 new deaths, bringing the province’s official death toll to 5,053, behind only Quebec.
Elliott said the new cases include eight people who became infected with a variant of the coronavirus that was first detected in the United Kingdom, bringing to 14 the number of cases of the variant identified in Ontario.
Research has shown the mutated strain to be more transmissible than the more common strain circulating in Canada, though it is not believed to be more deadly.
The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital increased to a record 1,701. Of those, 385 are in intensive care and 262 require the use of a ventilator to breathe.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 2:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 673,375 cases of COVID-19, with 81,654 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,188.
The federal government has reached an agreement to purchase another 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday.
That brings the total number of vaccine doses scheduled to arrive this year to 80 million, which is enough to vaccinate the entire Canadian population with the two doses required for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products.
In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Along with one new recovery, the number of active cases in the province stayed at eight. Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases.
Nova Scotia announced one new case in the province on Tuesday. The province also announced mandatory testing for rotational workers returning to Nova Scotia after working in another part of the country.
The high number of cases, especially in Alberta where many Nova Scotians work, is concerning, Premier Stephen McNeil said at a press briefing.
New Brunswick reported 17 new COVID-19 infections and two new deaths on Tuesday. Health officials said the deaths involve one person in their 70s and one in their 80s who were residents of a retirement facility in Saint John.
In Quebec, Premier François Legault is standing by his decision to impose an overnight curfew, as well as to reopen elementary schools on Monday in spite of the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations.
“It’s a calculated risk,” Legault said. “It’s part of my job to make decisions, and I think there are more disadvantages than advantages to leaving children at home.”
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The province reported 1,934 new cases and 47 new deaths on Tuesday. The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 rose to 1,497 people, including 221 in intensive care.
Manitoba public health officials announced 90 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the fewest daily cases reported since Oct. 19, along with eight new deaths.
Way to go Margaret! Thank you for being our first!! <a href=”https://t.co/QAFblyPlp4″>pic.twitter.com/QAFblyPlp4</a>
Saskatchewan announced 248 new cases and five more deaths.The provincial government also announced it’s extending the public health rules until at least Jan. 29 due to current transmission rates.
The orders include a ban on household visitors and reduced capacity for businesses.
Alberta reported 639 new cases on Monday, along with 23 more deaths. Premier Jason Kenney said the province will immediately expand its COVID-19 vaccination program to include all paramedics and emergency medical responders.
But Kenney said Alberta is running out of COVID-19 vaccinations and could exhaust its supply as early as next week.
In British Columbia, health officials announced 1,475 new cases of COVID-19 in the province over the last three days, along with 22 deaths, which pushed B.C.’s death toll over 1,000.
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In the North, Nunavut officials are calling on residents to embrace the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine and urged them not to spread untruths about the vaccine or use “scare tactics.”
The territory, which reported no new cases on Tuesday, launched a community clinic vaccination program on Monday in Gjoa Haven, about 1,300 kilometres northwest of Iqaluit, and Igloolik, about 860 km northwest of the capital.
Yukon reported four recoveries on Monday, bringing its number of active cases down to six. The Northwest Territories has zero active cases as of its last update.
What’s happening around the world
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 91.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 50.4 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.9 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Malaysia’s king declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday to curb the spread of COVID-19, a move that the opposition decried as an attempt by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to retain control amid a power struggle.
The emergency declaration, which allows the Muhyiddin government to introduce laws without parliamentary approval, comes a day after the prime minister announced a nationwide travel ban and a 14-day lockdown in the capital Kuala Lumpur and five states.
The small Pacific nation of Micronesia has reported its first case of the coronavirus after a crew member on a ship returning from the Philippines tested positive.
In an address to the nation, President David Panuelo said many people had heard the “alarming news,” but the case has been contained at the border. He said the crew member on the government ship Chief Mailo has been isolated on board, that all other crew remain on board and that the ship is being monitored daily by law enforcement.
New Zealand will soon require that travellers from most countries show negative coronavirus tests before they leave for New Zealand.
The new rules, which require travellers to have a negative test within 72 hours of departure, will be imposed on travellers from the U.S. and the U.K. beginning Friday and most other countries soon after. Travellers from Australia and some Pacific nations will be exempt.
In Africa, Senegal is rushing to provide more hospital beds for coronavirus patients as infections soar, and a lack of capacity means doctors are only able to admit the most severe cases, health officials said.
A second wave of new infections and deaths hit record highs this month, forcing President Macky Sall to reimpose a state of emergency that bans gatherings and enforces mask wearing.
In Europe, the European Medicines Agency says it has received an application from AstraZeneca and Oxford University to authorize their coronavirus vaccine.
The Amsterdam-based regulator said Tuesday that it would assess the request at an accelerated pace because the vaccine is already part of a rolling review.
The office of the Portuguese president says that Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tested positive for COVID-19, although the veteran politician has no symptoms. Rebelo de Sousa, who took office in 2016 and is 72, is seeking a second term in the country’s presidential election on Jan. 24.
In the Americas, U.S. health officials have created a website to help people find where they can get antibody drugs for COVID-19, medicines that may help prevent serious illness and hospitalization if used early enough after infection occurs.
Two of these drugs — from Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals — have been authorized for emergency use in the U.S., but red tape, health-care staff shortages and other problems have prevented many patients and doctors from getting them.
The website includes a tool where people can find locations administering the treatment within 80 kilometres. Doctors will determine if patients meet the criteria. Treatment must start within 10 days of first symptoms.