Coronavirus: What happened in Canada and around the world on Dec. 17

Manitoba, Ontario, B.C., P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador announced new restrictions on Friday as the Omicron variant continued to spread around the country. In Nova Scotia, the province's top doctor warned that the variant is "pushing us to our limits."

Manitoba, Ontario, B.C., P.E.I., N.L. announce new restrictions amid sharp rise in cases across the country

Provinces race to introduce restrictions to fight Omicron variant

1 year ago
Duration 5:10
Across Canada, provinces are tightening restrictions on gatherings and capacity limits to combat a surge of COVID-19 cases.

The latest:

Manitoba, Ontario, B.C., P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador announced new restrictions on Friday as the Omicron variant continued to spread around the country.

The updates from health officials come amid a push for Canadians to get their vaccine booster shots to protect against the highly infectious variant.

In Manitoba, the province's chief public health officer said it is the first time since widespread vaccination has been available that Manitoba has been forced to introduce a large set of pandemic measures that apply even to immunized people.

"It's absolutely frustrating to be here again for all Manitobans," Dr. Brent Roussin said as he announced the province is putting a smaller cap on the number of people allowed to gather in public and private settings.

Under the new measures, gyms, theatres, licensed venues and museums will also have their capacity cut down to 50 per cent, and indoor and outdoor sports tournaments are not allowed.

The province reported 239 new cases on Friday, continuing a trend of rising cases, and one additional death.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford unveiled new restrictions for businesses and social gatherings — including limiting indoor social gatherings to 10 people — as the province reported 3,124 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

"We need to meet this variant head on. We need to do everything we can to push it back," said Ford.

Amid warnings from the province's COVID-19 science table that the omicron variant could overwhelm hospitals in the coming weeks, the province has moved up its timeline for booster shots. Every Ontarian aged 18 and older who got their second dose at least three months ago is eligible to sign up on Monday.

Ford has also said the province is making millions of free rapid tests available at pop-up sites across the province, including at liquor stores.

People stand in a long line in the parking lot of an LCBO in Ottawa on Friday morning in hopes of snagging a COVID-19 rapid test kit. (Brian Morris/CBC)

In B.C., health officials announced new public health restrictions including limits on indoor gatherings, capacity limits in large venues, suspension of sports tournaments and across-the-board cancellations of organized New Year's Eve events.

At an news conference Friday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said health officials are seeing a major spike in cases driven largely by younger people who are becoming infected at informal parties.

The province reported 789 new cases and three new deaths on Friday.

WATCH | Why are many rapid tests in Canada going unused?

In P.E.I., the province's top doctor said the "exponential spread" of COVID-19 means new cases are coming in almost faster than public health officials can notify them.

"Every day matters," Dr. Heather Morrison said as she announced new restrictions on personal gatherings, long-term care homes and public spaces such as retailers.

The new measures come as P.E.I. reported 31 new cases, a record high for the province, and its second case of the Omicron variant.

WATCH | 3rd mRNA dose seemingly quite protective against Omicron, expert says: 

3rd dose of mRNA vaccine seemingly quite protective against Omicron, expert says

1 year ago
Duration 8:37
Getting a third dose of any mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is an effective way to protect yourself against the Omicron variant, says pediatric infectious diseases specialist Dr. Cora Constantinescu.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, anyone who is fully vaccinated and deemed a close contact of a positive case now needs to isolate for seven days, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said at an afternoon news conference.

Weddings, funerals, burials and religious events will be under new capacity limits, and travel around the province for sporting events, arts events and recreation is banned.

The province, which reported 46 new cases on Friday, is also shortening its vaccine-booster timeline by about four weeks. People over 18 are now eligible for a booster 22 weeks after their second dose.

— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

WATCH | Omicron 'pushing us to our limits,' says N.S. top doctor: 

Omicron 'pushing us to our limits': top N.S. health official

1 year ago
Duration 1:56
Saying many people will need to 'self-manage' their cases of COVID-19, Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang says the province needs to focus its resources on those who are most at risk and who have the most severe illnesses.

Nova Scotia announced 394 new cases, a record high, as Premier Tim Houston warned that the "sheer volume" of new cases is putting pressure on public health as it tries to keep up with tests. Tightened restrictions around masking, distancing and gathering limits took effect in the province on Friday.

New Brunswick reported two additional deaths and 163 new cases, including 16 more confirmed cases of the Omicron variant. New restrictions announced earlier this week will take effect just before midnight.

In Quebec, health officials on Friday reported 3,768 new cases of COVID-19 — a new single-day high in the province — and seven additional deaths. The update came after Premier François Legault ramped up COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday as his province faced an uptick in cases.

Saskatchewan reported 49 new cases and one additional death on Friday. People ages 18 and up will be eligible for a booster as of Monday.

Meanwhile, in Alberta, health officials reported 473 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with no additional deaths.

Across the North, Yukon reported seven new cases on Friday, while there were no new cases reported in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6 p.m. ET

What's happening around the world

WATCH | Omicron transmitting faster than data can be collected: virologist

Omicron transmitting faster than data can be collected: virologist

1 year ago
Duration 4:27
Researchers are learning more about Omicron on an hourly basis, says virologist Jason Kindrachuk. One of the many unknowns is whether or not it is more severe than the Delta variant.

As of Friday evening, more than 273.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's case-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.3 million.

In Africa, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is making good progress with his recovery from COVID-19 while continuing to receive treatment for mild symptoms, the presidency said on Friday. Ramaphosa, who was given Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in February, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

In the Americas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new strategy called "test-to-stay" that allows unvaccinated children to stay in school even if they have been exposed to COVID-19, the institute's director Rochelle Walensky said on Friday.

"If exposed children meet a certain criteria and continue to test negative, they can stay at school instead of quarantining at home," she said.

Meanwhile, the NFL moved three games because of COVID-19 outbreaks: Las Vegas at Cleveland has been moved from Saturday to Monday; and Seattle at Los Angeles and Washington at Philadelphia have been moved from Sunday to Tuesday.

Over in the NHL, three teams — Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers — have been shut down until after the holiday break amid rising COVID-19 cases.

Nurse Sheena Davis administers a dose of a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Keystone First Wellness Center in Chester, Pa., on Wednesday. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

In Europe, Denmark's prime minister announced Friday that theaters, cinemas, concert halls, amusement parks, museums and art galleries across the country must close down under new restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the measures also would require stores smaller than 2,000 square metres and restaurants to limit the number of customers. Restaurants must serve their last meals and alcoholic beverages at 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m. local time.

The partial shutdown order was approved later Friday by Parliament's 21-member Epidemic Committee. Most restrictions apply as of Sunday at 8 a.m.

The Danish government is advising residents to limit social contacts over the holidays, and urged public and private companies to have employees work from home where possible.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday his government is accelerating COVID-19 booster shots and securing oral medicines after speaking with Pfizer's CEO. Japan has confirmed a handful of Omicron variant cases, while revealing a cluster of infections of about 100 U.S. troops on Japan's southern island of Okinawa since earlier this month. Japan, which lacks home-developed vaccines, has so far approved booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna. Japan is also moving to shorten the interval between the second jab and boosters.

In the Middle East, the Palestinian health ministry reported its first cases of the Omicron variant in the territory.

— From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 6 p.m. ET

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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