A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada:
— Canada's chief public health officer says Canada is expecting a potentially massive surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, driven by the new Omicron variant already spreading through communities. While COVID-19 could be with us for many years to come, Dr. Theresa Tam is optimistic the pandemic could end in the foreseeable future. She foresees a "bumpy ride" this winter, but says Canadians can get through it with increased vaccination, proper testing, public health measures and better treatments for the virus.
— The fast-spreading Omicron variant has prompted several Ontario regions to announce new public health measures. Kingston is limiting gatherings to a maximum of five people. Restaurants must also close to indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., not sell or serve alcohol after 9 p.m., and not allow dancing, singing or live music. Waterloo Region's top doctor is recommending people work from home and is urging schools to pause all sports and extracurriculars. In London, the health unit says COVID-19 was spreading rapidly and all cases and close contacts must isolate for 10 days and get tested regardless of their vaccination status. In Toronto, city employees were informed Monday that a return-to-work plan announced weeks earlier wouldn't go ahead.
— Technical issues left some Ontarians eager for COVID-19 boosters unable to book shots under expanded eligibility Monday, amid a fast-rising wave of Omicron infections. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the "intermittent technical issue" with the provincial booking portal that came up amid "high volumes of demand" was resolved as of 12:45 p.m., nearly five hours after the expanded bookings opened. The province's expert pandemic advisers estimate the new Omicron variant now makes up 21 per cent of Ontario's new cases, just weeks after the first cases were detected. Cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant are doubling every three days, the group said.
— Premier François Legault says Quebecers shouldn't expect to change their Christmas and New Year's plans, despite the high number of new daily COVID-19 infections in the province. Limits on indoor private gatherings will increase from 10 to 20 people starting Dec. 23 — even though cases of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus are likely to jump in Quebec like they have in Ontario, Legault added. The government is focusing not on daily cases but on the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Quebec, which are currently low, he said.
— The federal government is extending, and slightly expanding, a travel exemption for Canadians trying to return home from South Africa. Earlier this month, the government lifted a requirement for Canadian travellers from South Africa to have a negative COVID-19 molecular test result in a third country before coming to Canada. An update on the federal government's website says the exemption will remain in place until at least Jan. 7.
— Several universities are adjusting their plans for end-of-semester exams in response to the rise in COVID-19 cases. The University of Victoria says it will not be holding any further in-person exams this month. The school says its instructors have been asked to offer alternative exams online or in another format. Queen’s University in eastern Ontario says exams will be changed to an "alternative delivery format" if possible, and those that must be done in person will be postponed until the new year.
— The Toronto Raptors say the club's television broadcast duo of Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong will be staying away from the team "for a period of time" due to potential COVID-19 exposure. According to a team statement, Devlin and Armstrong will miss at least two games because they may have been in contact with a person outside the organization who has since tested positive for COVID-19.
— The Manitoba government is urgently asking Ottawa for nurses amid warnings that the province's intensive care units are close to being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. In a written statement Monday, the provincial Health Department said it has asked the federal government to provide up to 30 nurses for about six weeks. The move came six days after Doctors Manitoba, which represents more than 4,000 physicians across the province, warned that the health-care system was close to being "on the brink," and one day after a group of 10 doctors called for military help.
— Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Alex Pietrangelo says he hasn't decided if he will compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. He has been named to Canada's provisional Olympic team, along with forwards Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. Speaking before the Golden Knights' game Sunday night against Minnesota, Pietrangelo said he is waiting until he gets more information before making his choice.
— Thursday's NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and Chicago has been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Bulls. The NBA announced Monday that the Bulls will have at least their next two games postponed, including the game at Toronto and a home game Tuesday against Detroit. The league says 10 Bulls players and additional staff members are currently in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
— The NHL has postponed the Calgary Flames' next three games after six players and a staff member entered the league's COVID-19 protocol over a 24-hour period. The Flames announced Monday morning that forwards Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Brad Richardson and Adam Ruzicka and defencemen Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov were in the protocol. Postponed games include Monday night's game at Chicago, Tuesday's game at Nashville and Thursday's home game against Toronto.
— Nova Scotia health officials reported 114 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and confirmed the first cases of the Omicron variant in the province — most of which were linked to a recent outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University. The presence of the Omicron mutation has pushed officials to reduce limits on indoor gatherings and impose a range of other health orders. The recent outbreak tied to a Dec. 3 graduation ceremony at the Antigonish, N.S., university las led to four consecutive days of new cases reaching triple digits, Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, told reporters.
— Health officials in New Brunswick are confirming the first cases of the Omicron variant in the province. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says there are two cases in the Miramichi region and one in the Moncton area. Russell reported 100 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today along with two more COVID-19 related deaths.
— Newfoundland and Labrador health officials have identified 15 new cases of COVID-19 in the province since Friday. A news release says nine cases are linked to travel or to previously known infections, while the sources of six cases remain under investigation. Health officials also say that all residents aged 18 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot six months after receiving their second dose.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2021.
The Canadian Press