Quebec imposes COVID-19 curfew, 4-week lockdown
- Japan declares state of emergency in Tokyo area as COVID-19 cases surge
- Lebanon begins new lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases
Quebec’s premier announced Wednesday that he is imposing a provincewide 8 p.m. curfew beginning Saturday as a way to curb surging coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
The hard-hit province, which has seen nearly 218,000 COVID-19 cases and 8,488 deaths since the pandemic began, will become the first in Canada to impose a curfew to address the pandemic.
Premier François Legault said despite the fact that schools, stores and many other businesses have been closed since December, infections and related hospitalizations continue to rise. Too many seniors are ending up in hospital after becoming infected in private homes, he said.
“We are obliged to provide a type of shock treatment so that people reduce their visits,” he told reporters.
Beginning Saturday and until at least Feb. 8, people in Quebec will be under a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., Legault said. He said anyone caught breaking the rules will be subject to a fine of between $1,000 and $6,000. The government is considering creating a document for people who have to be out after the curfew that could be shown to police.
“When we say we are giving an electroshock it’s really for four weeks, a period that should make a difference,” Legault said.
Legault said officials have been struggling to understand why the province’s caseload has continued to spike despite existing restrictions, including the closure of schools. He said they concluded the virus was being spread through gatherings in residences, and the curfew is meant to prevent that.
The premier said all non-essential businesses that he ordered closed in December will remain closed until at least Feb. 8, when the curfew is scheduled to be lifted.
The premier said primary schools will reopen as scheduled, on Jan. 11, and high school students will return to in-person learning the week after, on Jan. 18. “Our children have to be able to continue to learn,” he said.
Speaking before Legault’s news conference, Dr. Donald Sheppard, chair of the microbiology and immunology department at McGill University, said the government needed to explain the logic behind a curfew because the majority of outbreaks documented by public health have been in workplaces and schools.
Much of Quebec, including the province’s largest cities, has been under partial lockdown since October, when bars, restaurant dining rooms, gyms and entertainment venues were closed. In December, Legault closed all “non-essential” retail stores and extended the winter break for elementary and high school students.
As of early Thursday morning, Canada had recorded more than 626,000 cases of COVID-19 and 16,369 deaths. The bulk of cases have been in the country’s two most populous provinces — Ontario and Quebec — where conditions have been deteriorating rapidly in recent weeks.
Compounding the picture is the still small but growing number of cases related to a novel coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom that is believed to be even more contagious than the original.
Nevertheless, Transport Minister Marc Garneau lifted the ban on inbound flights from the U.K. A negative coronavirus test will be required to board planes to Canada starting this week.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
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In hard-hit Ontario, health officials reported 37 additional COVID-19 deaths and 3,266 new cases on Wednesday. Hospitalizations climbed to 1,463, with 361 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, according to provincial data.
Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday that he is going to discuss the possibility of keeping schools closed with the province’s medical experts. Decisions on schools and whether or not stricter restrictions are required in Ontario are expected in the coming days.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported a single-day high on Wednesday with 31 new COVID-19 cases. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said she expects a rise in cases over the next week to 10 days as a result of New Year’s Eve gatherings. The province reported 27 infections on Tuesday — a record at the time — spurring the premier to increase restrictions across the province.
Health officials in Nova Scotia reported 12 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, while Prince Edward Island reported four new cases, saying they were all travel related. There were no new cases reported in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the North, Yukon reported one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday. In Nunavut, there were no new cases reported Wednesday as health officials kicked off the territory’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, beginning at a centre for elders in Iqaluit. There were no new cases reported in the Northwest Territories.
In Manitoba, health officials reported 176 new COVID-19 cases and 10 additional deaths on Wednesday. Sixty of the new cases were linked to holiday gatherings.
- While Manitobans were being told to stay home, CEO of St. Boniface Hospital spent Christmas in Quebec
British Columbia reported 625 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday as well as eight additional deaths.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 87.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 48.8 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a COVID-19 case tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.
COVID-19 vaccine deliveries under the COVAX facility co-ordinated by the World Health Organization to support lower-income countries could start this month, WHO immunization director Kate O’Brien said on Thursday.
“We need about $7 billion [US] in order to deliver enough vaccine to these countries through the end of 2021. The facility has already raised about $6 billion of the $7 billion,” she told an online social media event.
“So the facility has access to over two billion doses of vaccine. We will start to deliver those vaccines probably by the end of January, and if not, then certainly by early February and mid-February.”
In the Americas, the U.S. COVID-19 case count stood at more than 21.3 million on Thursday, with more than 361,000 deaths. Hospitalizations surged in the U.S. as the historic vaccination effort lagged.
The U.S. reported more than 3,800 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins. The New York Times, which has also been tracking COVID-19 cases in the U.S., put the figure even higher, at 3,964.
In Louisiana, hospitals warn that they are running dangerously short of beds because of the influx of COVID-19 patients and the situation is expected to worsen because of the recent holidays.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and public health officials said Wednesday that efforts are being made to speed up vaccinations for the coronavirus. But they add that nothing will happen quickly enough to lower Louisiana’s coronavirus outbreak except the precautionary measures they have been preaching for months.
Virus restrictions in Louisiana are scheduled to expire next week, and the governor says he doesn’t know whether he will toughen the rules or simply renew them. New Orleans announced new restrictions on Wednesday.
Brazil is ready to begin vaccinating its population this month, and the country has secured a total of 354 million vaccine doses for 2021.
In Africa, South Africa set out plans to vaccinate 40 million people, or two-thirds of its population, in a bid to achieve herd immunity, as a mutant variant drove daily new cases above 21,000 for the first time.
South African officials said the country will import 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to inoculate the country’s health workers. It’s the nation’s first announcement of the purchase of a COVID-19 vaccine. It comes as record highs of 21,832 new confirmed cases and 844 deaths were registered Wednesday.
The health minister said the first one million doses will be delivered later this month from the Serum Institute of India, followed by 500,000 doses in February.
South Africa, with 60 million people, has reported more than 1.1 million confirmed infections. That represents more than 30 per cent of all cases on the 54-nation continent of 1.3 billion people.
Some of South Africa’s hospitals are reporting they are at capacity. The rapid spread of the disease in recent weeks has been driven by a new, possibly more infectious variant of the virus, according to medical experts. There have been 31,368 confirmed deaths in South Africa.
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Kenya’s health minister, meanwhile, said the country is expected to start receiving 24 million doses next month of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, as countries in sub-Saharan Africa begin to announce progress in obtaining the desperately needed vaccines.
Mutahi Kagwe on Wednesday said health workers and teachers will have priority for vaccinations in East Africa’s economic hub and that the shots will be voluntary. The ministry on Thursday confirmed his remarks, which were first reported by local media.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan has declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby areas as coronavirus cases continue to surge, hitting a daily record of 2,447 in the capital.
It kicks in Friday and will remain in place until Feb. 7, and includes asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and people to stay home and not mingle in crowds.
The state of emergency carries no penalties.
New coronavirus cases in northern China’s Hebei province have more than doubled as officials move to lock down an area that is home to about 75 million people.
Officials announced 51 new cases Thursday, bringing Hebei’s total to 90 since Sunday. Most of the cases have been in Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital that is due to host some events of next year’s Winter Olympics.
In the Middle East, Lebanon has begun a 25-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus as infections hit a new record in the tiny Mediterranean nation and patients overwhelm the health-care sector. The lockdown is the third in Lebanon since the first case was reported in late February.
Most schools and businesses will be closed, public gatherings restricted and public transportation limited for a two-week period beginning at midnight Thursday. Thousands of police are expected to be deployed to enforce the closure. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the decision late Wednesday.
In Europe, the Czech Republic on Thursday reported 17,668 new cases over the past 24 hours — its highest daily tally, health ministry data showed.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:55a.m. ET
With files from CBC News, Reuters and The Canadian Press
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