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Ontario, Quebec post case records; Trudeau strikes hopeful note in holiday message


Canada's two most populous provinces reported record daily COVID-19 caseloads Thursday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged this won't be the Christmas anyone had hoped for. 

Ontario reported 2,447 new infections, topping its previous high a week ago by 15. It also recorded 49 new deaths from the novel coronavirus. 

Quebec had 2,349 new infections, the third day in a row it hit a record, and 46 additional deaths. 

The pandemic means families aren't supposed to gather the way they normally would at this time of year.

"This isn't the holiday season we wanted, I know," Trudeau said in his annual Christmas message. 

"But here's the thing: Even though this year's Christmas traditions will be different, we can and should give thanks for everything that unites us.

"This crisis will end and, as a country, we will come out of it stronger and more united."

The prime minister said later on Twitter that the first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine had arrived in Canada.

Health Canada authorized the use of the vaccine Wednesday. It is the second to receive approval since the Pfizer-BioNtech one on Dec. 9.

Moderna is expected to deliver 168,000 doses by the end of next week.

In Ontario, sweeping provincewide restrictions come into effect on Boxing Day to try to stem the spread of the virus. They are to last a month in the southern part of the province and two weeks in the north.

The measures include a ban on indoor gatherings, a 10-person cap on outdoor gatherings, and the closure of non-essential businesses and sit-down dining. 

In a video message posted on Twitter, Ontario Premier Doug Ford urged Ontarians to only go out if it's necessary — even before the "lockdown" begins. 

"Every time you take a trip, it puts people in jeopardy, so, please, as of right now ... stay at home when you can," he said. 

"Folks, we will get through this. We have 28 days and we're going to give it everything we can and we will come out stronger than ever after this."

Quebec is closing all businesses the government deems "non-essential" on Christmas Day, until at least Jan. 11, in an effort to reduce transmission and ease pressure on the health-care system. Indoor and outdoor gatherings in the hardest-hit zones are not allowed over the holiday period. 

There were few shoppers out on a wet, but relatively warm Christmas Eve in Montreal, despite the impending retail closures.  

About seven people waited in line outside V de V, a popular home decor boutique in the trendy Plateau borough. 

Corrine Cartier said she didn't mind queuing to shop at a local business. She said she understands why stores are being closed and that she hopes neighbourhood businesses will survive. 

“It's been very difficult for them since March."

Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said on Twitter that there were an estimated 1,100 cases identified the previous day and that seven per cent of tests were coming back positive. She said hospitalizations were on the rise, but intensive care admissions were stable. 

Alberta has also prohibited indoor or outdoor social gatherings into the new year. Earlier this week, Premier Jason Kenney announced that a person living alone could attend one family gathering in another household over a five-day period that started Wednesday. A household may have up to two single people as guests. 

Manitoba reported 244 new infections on Thursday and 12 more deaths. Health officials said 10.6 per cent of tests have been positive over the last five days. 

Saskatchewan had 154 new cases and four additional fatalities. It was the lowest daily case count since mid-November and the third day in a row the number was under 200.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported seven new infections, Prince Edward Island had three and New Brunswick had two.

Yukon reported one new case, which the government said was contracted outside the territory. The person has recovered. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2020.

— With files from Jacob Serebrin in Montreal. 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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