The sun rises over the city of Toronto on Monday, April 26, 2021. Ontario has marked a grim milestone with the province’s death toll pushing past 8,000 accelerated by a deadly third wave of the pandemic as Nova Scotia saw a slight decline in new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario marks death-toll milestone as Atlantic bubble remains closed by outbreaks

Ontario marked a grim COVID-19milestone on Thursday as the pandemic’s deadly third wave pushed the province’s virus-related death toll past 8,000.

The province recorded 41 new virus-related deaths to bring the provincial total to 8,029 since the onset of the pandemic. There were 3,871 new cases. Premier Doug Ford remained in self-isolation after a possible exposure to the virus.

Provinces across the country, meanwhile, were laying out plans to ramp up vaccinations so significantly more people will be able to book appointments in coming months.

Regions are preparing to receive much larger volumes of vaccines over the next two months as Pfizer-BioNTech ramps up deliveries.

Ontario is forecasting everyone over the age of 18 will be able to book a vaccine by May 24.

“The way out of the pandemic is vaccines, and the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.

The province planned to lower the age eligibility for mass vaccination clinics to 55 and older starting Friday.

Officials also announced that the province will send half its available vaccines to hot spots in the first two weeks of May to try to slow spread in those hard-hit regions.

Elsewhere, Quebec reported 1,042 new cases and 10 more deaths as the government opened vaccinations to the general public. Health Minister Christian Dubé said Quebecers between 50 and 59 could begin booking appointments Friday.

The age will continue to drop until May 14 when the government expects vaccines to be available for anyone over 18.

The province’s public health institute predicted the sped-up pace of vaccinations should lead to a rapid drop in new infections by mid-May or early June.

Marc Brisson, with the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, cautioned that regions hit hard by the virus will need to maintain strict public-health orders until more doses find their way into arms.

The province said 69,501 shots were given Wednesday for a total of 3,039,512. Quebec’s population is roughly 8.4 million.

Nova Scotia, for its part, reported 70 new cases. That marked a slight decline in new infections after days of record-setting, single-day case counts. The province went into full lockdown after logging a single-day peak of 96 new infections on Tuesday.

That, and other outbreaks of more contagious COVID-19 variants, contributed to premiers in all four of the Atlantic provinces delaying the reopening of their travel bubble indefinitely.

“Premiers will revisit the reopening of the Atlantic travel bubble when the threat of further outbreaks has been reduced,” they said in a joint statement. They added they are optimistic that travel within the region will resume by summer after most residents receive at least an initial dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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