A man wears a face mask as he skateboards along a street in Montreal, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

COVID-19 cases hit new records as Tam urges perseverance, promises vaccine on the way

Canada’s top doctor urged cautious optimism — and a healthy dose of patience — on Saturday, even as the second wave of COVID-19 continued its unsettling rise.

There is still a “long road ahead” in the battle to contain the virus, Dr. Theresa Tam said in her daily update, but she added that an initial vaccine supply is expected to hit Canada early next year.

“There is some good news on the horizon,” she said. “An initial supply of vaccines is expected to become available in early 2021 and although supply will be limited at the outset, Canada is well-positioned to provide access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for all Canadians.”

Tam’s comments came as some provinces reported new single-day highs of new COVID-19 cases and related deaths.

Quebec saw its daily report in total new cases climb above 2,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, though the figure was inflated by some diagnoses that weren’t captured in Friday’s tally.

The province recorded 2,031 cases and 48 deaths.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube urged people to adhere to local COVID-19 measures to prevent further spread of the virus.

“Now is not the time to relax our efforts over the past few months, it is with everyone’s collaboration that we will be able to curb the spread of the virus,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ontario also broke its record with 1,859 new COVID-19 cases, coming above the 1,855 case-high reached last month, as well as 20 new deaths.

Manitoba set a single-day peak for virus-related deaths in the province, reporting 19 alongside 354 new COVID-19 infections.

Saskatchewan did not report any new virus-related deaths, but saw 202 new cases.

Figures were lower in Atlantic Canada, but all of the country’s eastern-most provinces continued to see their regional infection rates creep upward.

New Brunswick reported two new cases, bringing the provincial total of active diagnoses to 98.

Prince Edward Island logged three new cases, saying the new patients are all women working in Charlottetown restaurants, while officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new infections.

In Nova Scotia, six new cases were reported, while Premier Stephen McNeil reminded people now isn’t the time to cave to the temptations of the holiday season.

“Weekends are usually filled with friends, family & shopping, but this year must be different,” he wrote on Twitter.

“We need to limit our social contacts & non-essential travel, and follow all the public health protocols to protect each other & slow the spread.”

The prospect of an imminent vaccine should be encouraging, added Tam, but she noted that recent troubling numbers reinforce the need for ongoing adherence to public health protocols meant to stem the spread of the virus.

“We don’t have a COVID-19 vaccine just yet and we must be prepared to address a range of logistical and operational challenges,” she said.

“Canada must continue with the collective effort of individuals and public health authorities to sustain the response, while balancing the health, social and economic consequences.”

How soon a vaccine will arrive in Canada is still uncertain.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that information will be shared with Canadians once it’s certain, but that dates will depend on when Health Canada approves the vaccine and other factors such as shipment and storage necessities.

“That is what’s happening now,” she said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

“We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible.”

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