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Ontario reports new daily COVID-19 record as new measures take effect in Saskatchewan

Ontario sets new high in COVID-19 cases as province considers a longer lockdown.

December 18, 2020  The Canadian Press

Ontario hit a record Dec. 17 for new daily COVID-19 cases as hospitals urged a month-long lockdown, while tougher restrictions took effect in Saskatchewan, Alberta recorded its highest death toll and a vaccine maker said vials may yield more doses than expected.

Priority groups such as health-care workers and seniors began receiving Canada’s first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week.

“The amount of any excess vaccine left in the vial can vary based on provider technique and ancillary supplies,” Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said in an email.

“There may be excess vaccine in the vial after withdrawal of five doses, which in some cases may leave enough volume for an additional dose.”

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Meanwhile, Canada’s most populous province reported 2,432 new infections and 23 deaths.

To protect the health-care system from a surge in patients, the Ontario Hospital Association pushed for a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with an infection rate of 40 or higher per 100,000 people.

“We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals,” the association said.

Premier Doug Ford said his Progressive Conservative government would continue to consult with hospital leadership.

“It’s very, very concerning, the situation we’re facing right now,” Ford said. “Right now everything is on the table and we always take advice from the medical experts.”

He said there would be additional help for small business owners affected by any expanded health measures.

In Saskatchewan, residents awoke to new public health orders that include no longer having guests in their homes, with a few exceptions. It’s one of several new rules in place until at least Jan. 15.

There is also a 10-person cap on outdoor socializing. Starting Saturday, bingo halls and casinos must also close, and personal care services, such as hairdressers, have to cut their capacity in half.

Retailers have until Christmas Day before they also need to drop to 50 per cent capacity. Larger stores will be limited to 25 per cent.

Seven more people in the province died of COVID-19, pushing total fatalities to more than 100. Saskatchewan recorded another 238 cases and 126 people were in hospital.