COVID-19 caseloads still high in some provinces despite vaccine rollout expansion

There were signs of hope that Ontario and Quebec are making progress in the fight against COVID-19 on Monday, even as provinces to the east and west continued to struggle.

Ontario’s hospitalizations and active cases continued a slow decline, as the province announced it is now receiving enough vaccine to allow health-care workers to begin booking their second shots in the coming days.

Like other provinces, Ontario extended dosing intervals to four months, but officials said Monday that some high-risk workers may now be able to get their second shots earlier than previously thought. The government also announced it will lower the age of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to 40 across the province on Thursday.

Read more: Despite COVID-19 vaccine ramp up, experts say Canada still in for ‘summer of uncertainty’

Quebec announced Monday that it has given second vaccine doses to all long-term care residents, as it reported just 662 new cases.

But while the province’s situation was stable overall, officials were still dealing with a flare-up of cases in the Estrie region east of Montreal, which was moved from the orange to the red alert level on Monday. The move means restaurant dining rooms and gyms must close, among other restrictions.

While cases and hospitalizations have been slowly declining in the two biggest provinces, they have spiked in Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Monday that his province is in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19 that it needs to try to reduce.

Click to play video: 'B.C. COVID-19 vaccination roll-out picks up speed' 2:09 B.C. COVID-19 vaccination roll-out picks up speed

B.C. COVID-19 vaccination roll-out picks up speed

“We’re in a race between the variants and the vaccines, and more must be done to ensure the variants don’t win,” he said as he announced expanded financial assistance for businesses.

The province recently brought in a number of new public health restrictions, and on Sunday it announced that schools in the Winnipeg and Brandon areas will be moving online beginning Wednesday until at least May 30.

COVID-19 case numbers have also been high in Nova Scotia, which closed its provincial boundaries to non-essential travel on Monday to try to limit the spread.

Health officials in Iqaluit, meanwhile, sounded the alarm about rising COVID-19 cases in the city’s shelters and correctional facilities after at least 18 positive tests in those settings. A seniors home in the city was also evacuated over the weekend after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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