As health officials issue dire warnings about Canada’s surging COVID-19 numbers, some people are still pushing back against calls for tighter restrictions to combat the virus.
One such group gathered in Steinbach, Man., on Saturday to hold an anti-mask rally. Lewis Weiss, the local reeve, spoke at the rally and was handed a ticket worth $1,296 for disobeying a public health order.
He later said they were not protesting masks, but instead protesting the closing of small stores while “the big Walmart can stay open.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, meanwhile, is warning that the soaring COVID-19 numbers in some of the hardest-hit provinces could soon overwhelm hospitals.
Dr. Theresa Tam says hospitals are already being forced to make the difficult decision to cancel certain elective surgeries and procedures.
Tam says the number of people with severe cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, with a daily average of more than 1,400 people being treated in hospitals over the past week.
Celebrants of Diwali were forced to find new ways to mark the holiday this weekend as they heeded warnings from politicians and community leaders to keep gatherings to a minimum. The typical festivals and gatherings were replaced by virtual options for those celebrating the five-day South Asian holiday, which marks the victory of light over darkness.
Organizers of Canadian Diwali celebrations said they’re working hard to celebrate the holiday virtually this year. Ajaay Modi, the founder and a director of the Indo-Canada Arts Council and Canada-Diwali, says technology has permitted people around the world to share in the spirit of the holiday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a video statement posted to social media Saturday that he understands celebrations will look different this year.
“At the heart of this festival is the idea that light, good and knowledge will always triumph over darkness, evil and ignorance. And as we continue to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, this message couldn’t be more important,” he said.
Happy Diwali! I know celebrations will look different this year, but the message at the heart of the day – that light, hope, and knowledge will always triumph over darkness, evil, and ignorance – remains the same, and it has never been more important. <a href=”https://t.co/HBAydTSaiW”>https://t.co/HBAydTSaiW</a> <a href=”https://t.co/KrVU18DKLz”>pic.twitter.com/KrVU18DKLz</a>
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged those celebrating Diwali and the Sikh celebration of Bandi Chhor Divas to do so while respecting health guidelines.
He said doing so will help allow future celebrations to take place in-person.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6 a.m. ET on Sunday, provinces and territories in Canada had reported a cumulative total of 291,935 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 232,915 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,891.
In British Columbia, the Fraser Health Authority has announced three schools are closing for two weeks after reporting cases of COVID-19. They’re located in Surrey, Delta and New Westminster.
Alberta reported more than a thousand new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Saturday. In addition to the 1,026 new infections, the province also announced three additional deaths.
Saskatchewan announced a record 308 new cases, with 123 of those cases coming from Saskatoon. Intensive care units in that city are so full that officials have stopped accepting most out-of-town patients.
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Manitoba said Saturday 15 more people have died of COVID-19, marking the highest single-day increase in fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic. There are also 239 new cases, the province said.
Ontario reported 1,581 new cases, hitting a new daily high.
Meanwhile, seven residents have died at a Scarborough long-term care home amid an outbreak, while 136 other residents and 66 staff members have tested positive for the virus.
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Quebec, which has seen more reported COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other Canadian province, topped more than 1,400 new cases for the first time. In addition to the record 1,448 new infections, the province also reported 25 more deaths.
Nova Scotia reported six new cases Saturday — the largest single-day increase in cases since May 15.
“I am concerned that people are not taking the virus seriously and putting others in jeopardy,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a news release from the Department of Health and Wellness.
New Brunswick also announced six new cases — the largest single-day increase in nearly a month.
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Newfoundland and Labrador recorded two new cases. The province said both are travel-related, one returning from Ontario and the other from the U.S.
Prince Edward Island’s revised pandemic visitor and compassionate grounds visitation protocol is expected to come into effect next week, and will apply both to public and private facilities on P.E.I.
Nunavut reported four new cases, all of them in the Hudson Bay community of Arviat. The latest cases make for a total of five in Arviat after the territory’s health officials announced a case there on Friday.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 54 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 34.7 million of those considered recovered, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.3 million, the database reported.
Mexico has now reported more than one million novel coronavirus cases and nearly 100,000 confirmed deaths attributed to COVID-19. Mexican Director-General of Health Promotion Ricardo Cortes Alcala announced the numbers on Saturday.
The country has the world’s fourth-highest death toll from the illness behind the United States, Brazil and India.
India has reported 41,100 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, taking the country’s overall tally since the pandemic began to 8.79 million, the country’s health ministry said on Sunday. The ministry also reported 447 deaths in the same period, driving total fatalities to 129,635.
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Daily infections have been on the decline since the middle of September. There has been, however, a resurgence of infections in New Delhi in recent weeks, with 7,340 new cases on Sunday, including 96 deaths.
Austria is planning to move to a more strict lockdown from Tuesday until Dec. 6, closing non-essential stores and shifting schools to online teaching.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the measures are necessary because Austria has seen 550 new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants in the past week, a level 11 times greater than what authorities said would be sustainable.
“My urgent plea for the next four weeks is: meet nobody,” Kurz said. “Every social contact is one too many.”
In France, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 dropped this weekend for this first time since September, after two weeks of new nationwide lockdown measures aimed at slowing surging infections and easing hospital strains.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care also fell for the first time in six weeks, according to figures released Saturday night, though coronavirus patients still occupy 96 per cent of France’s standard ICU beds.
France has reported more virus infections than any European country and has had 44,246 virus-related deaths. The government imposed a nationwide partial lockdown starting Oct. 30 and could start easing the measures on Dec. 1.
In Africa, the continent has seen more than 1.9 million confirmed cases and more than 46,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. South Africa leads the continent on both counts, having recorded more than 746,000 infections and more than 20,000 deaths.
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