Despite widespread mask-wearing and testing, Canada is seeing a rising Covid-19 case count with leaders imposing new restrictions on social gatherings.
New positive Covid-19 cases have doubled in Canada in less than a month with 952 cases reported Wednesday. While this represents about a quarter of new cases, per capita, reported by the US Wednesday, the doubling trend over the past month is a “cause for concern,” according to public health officials.
The vast majority of cases are in people under the age of 40 and although hospitalizations remain low, Canadian officials have started imposing new restrictions in recent days.
According to government data, Canada’s positivity rate remains low at 1.4%, however, less than a month ago the positivity rate was at just 1%.
How the government is responding: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday his government is stepping up with millions more in funding for provinces to combat the virus with more testing and contact tracing.
On Thursday, the province of Ontario announced new restrictions on social gatherings in the Toronto area and Ottawa, the nation’s capital.
Private, social gatherings in those regions will now be restricted to 10 people indoors, 25 outdoors although the restrictions do now apply to places like bars and restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and notably schools.
Public health officials say those businesses and venues have not been associated with a dramatic increase in cases. Rather, it’s private parties and gatherings with friends and family which have led to the rise in cases.
Ontario will now impose some of the most severe fines in North America for offenders with a $7,500 minimum fine for the host and jail time a possibility.
“We will throw the book at you if you break the rules. It’s just not fair to the vast majority of people,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford during a news conference Friday.
“This is to send a message for the reckless, careless people who want to hold these parties and put their neighbors and community in jeopardy, so just follow the rules,” said Ford adding, “They must be a few fries short of a happy meal, these people.”
Other impacted areas: The province of Quebec is also coping with a rise in cases, especially in Montreal. Public health officials say there is no definitive evidence of a second wave just yet but that the trend is worrying.
Quebec has been imposing new but moderate restrictions in recent days, like banning karaoke, responsible for one of the worst outbreaks in the province in recent weeks. But health officials say they are still reluctant to go further with new restrictions at this point.
“We have to have some stability in the data through time to be able to have an adequate appreciation of things because if you react to a peak and the next day it goes back down, you will have over reacted, it’s like using a cannon to kill a fly,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, during a news conference Thursday.