A syringe is prepared with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Montreal, on Monday, March 15, 2021. The two provinces hit hardest by COVID-19 are weighing stricter restrictions amid surging case counts, as health officials and politicians urge Canadians to stay home over the upcoming Easter holiday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Quebec tightens COVID-19 rules, Ontario considers more restrictions as cases surge

Quebec tightens COVID-19 rules, Ontario considers more restrictions as cases surge

TORONTO — Quebec moved to place three cities into lockdown and Ontario weighed stricter public health measures Wednesday as the two provinces hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic sought to combat a recent surge in cases.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced schools and non-essential businesses will close in Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau for at least 10 days starting Thursday, while the curfew will be moved to 8 p.m. from 9:30 p.m.

“The situation is critical and we have to act quickly,” he said, adding he expects hospitalizations to spike in those cities in the coming days.

The announcement comes a day after Legault had warned that tighter pandemic rules could be imposed in five regions where he said people were flouting public health measures.

Four of those regions — Quebec City, the Outaouais area across the river from Ottawa, Chaudiere-Appalaches and Bas-St-Laurent — will also be moving to the more stringent “red” pandemic alert level from the “orange” level.

The Quebec premier said he is not ruling out additional restrictions in other regions should the situation there worsen in the near future.

Legault said he has also been in talks with the Ontario government regarding the decision to tighten restrictions, particularly in light of the close connection between Gatineau and Ottawa.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is poised to announce Thursday whether any new measures will be put in place to rein in the spread of the virus.

Ford said Wednesday he is “very, very concerned” by the recent increase in infections seen in the province.

Ontario reported 2,333 new COVID-19 cases and 15 more deaths on Wednesday, as well as a new high for the number of patients in intensive care units.

Canada’s top public health doctor, Theresa Tam, said while vaccine coverage is increasing across Canada and immunization programs are gaining momentum, the recent surge in infections and growing proportion of cases involving more contagious variants of the virus show “strong public health measures and individual precautions must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating.”

She stressed that abiding by public health practices remains important even for those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, noting more information is needed on the shots’ ability to prevent transmission.

More people in British Columbia were able to schedule appointments to receive an Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Wednesday as bookings opened up to Lower Mainland residents between the ages of 55 and 65.

The response has been “overwhelming,” the pharmacy chain London Drugs said Wednesday, adding bookings at its three designated sites had been filled.

The province decided to bump up its age-based immunization plan for AstraZeneca shots after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization opted to pause the use of that vaccine for anyone under 55 due to concerns over rare blood clots.

The move prompted several provinces to announce they would stop administering the vaccine to those under 55.

Out east, many doses initially earmarked for New Brunswick teachers were redistributed Wednesday to residents over the age of 55 in light of the committee’s decision.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs was among the 200 or so people offered a vaccine at a clinic in Fredericton.

In Manitoba, the province’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force said its current supply of COVID-19 vaccines will run out in a week, noting there are concerns about delays in future shipments.

The task force said Wednesday a shipment of 28,000 Moderna vaccines has been pushed back at least a week. The province is expecting 40,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine per week and 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine next week.

Meanwhile, Pfizer Canada said it will be asking Health Canada to broaden the authorization for the use of its COVID-19 vaccine to include children 12 to 15 years old.

The Pfizer shot is currently approved for those as young as 16, but initial clinical trials didn’t include younger adolescents.

On Wednesday, the drugmaker released preliminary data from a U.S. followup study involving 2,260 kids between 12 and 15, saying none of the children who got the vaccine developed a COVID-19 infection. In comparison, there were 18 infections among those given a placebo, the company said.

Officials across the country continued to urge caution regarding the upcoming Easter holiday, entreating residents to refrain from gathering with anyone outside their household and to limit non-essential travel.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
The Red Deer Rebels will have three new assistant coaches when the WHL regular season starts on Friday. Brad Flynn (left), will be on the bench alongside fellow assistant Ryan Colville (right) head coach Brent Sutter (middle). (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches a speaker appear by videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 9, 2021. Grassroots Liberals have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to develop and implement a universal basic income — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau winds up Liberal convention with election campaign-style speech

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau wound up a three-day Liberal convention Saturday with… Continue reading

Team Canada skip Brendan Bottcher makes a shot against Italy at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Men’s world curling championship in Calgary in COVID limbo

CALGARY — The men’s world curling championship in Calgary remained suspended Saturday… Continue reading

Pipes intended for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline are shown in Gascoyne, N.D. on Wednesday April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Non-profit Quebec law centre to aid environmental group targeted by Alberta oil firm

QUEBEC — The Quebec Environmental Law Centre is coming to the aid… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives cite empathy, relationships as ways to help expand their movement

OTTAWA — Conservatives should show empathy with Black residents who say they’ve… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. New Democrats are reconvening for the second day of a three-day policy convention as they look to push past the glitches of the virtual event's opening sessions and rally around keynote speaker John Horgan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats reconvene as hiccups, frustrations plague national policy convention

OTTAWA — New Democrats reconvened Saturday for the second day of a… Continue reading

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a joint statement with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his commitment to the Republican Party — and raise the possibility that someone else will be the GOP's next presidential nominee — in a closed-door speech to donors Saturday night, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Trump in 2024? He says only that ‘a Republican’ will win

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his… Continue reading

A cruise ship sits docked waiting for passengers to be evacuated in Kingstown, on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Friday, April 9, 2021 due to the eruption of La Soufriere volcano. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)
Ash-covered St. Vincent braces for more volcanic eruptions

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — People who ignored an initial warning to evacuate… Continue reading

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Most Read