Dozens of people marched in downtown Montreal late Saturday in defiance of the province’s latest pandemic-related curfew.
Police made one arrest and handed out 57 tickets for violations of the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. ET curfew, which was in its second night of enforcement. No injuries were reported.
People gathered on Sherbrooke Street just before 10 p.m. local time. Police drove along the street and used loud speakers to order those in the crowd to leave. At one point, other officers in riot gear stood in a line across from the demonstrators.
Fines for breaking the new curfew range from $1,000 to $6,000, the provincial government announced Thursday
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has condemned Quebec’s latest restrictions — including the only curfew ordered in Canada in response to rising cases of COVID-19. It’s the second curfew Quebec has imposed since the pandemic began; a previous one, announced in early January 2021, was in place for nearly five months.
The civil rights advocacy group said the Quebec government has presented no evidence that curfews work to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Premier François Legault has not set an end date for the curfew, but said Thursday it would be the first restriction to be removed once the situation has improved.
Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens announced on Saturday they are suspending operations until Jan. 6 as a preventative measure after two more players were added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. Players on the list include those who are inactive because they either have the virus or could have been exposed to it.
What’s happening across Canada
With testing capacity strained, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will begin to report more precise data that separates the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also happen to test positive for COVID-19.
At least three provinces and one territory set new highs in COVID-19 daily cases on Saturday as the highly transmissible Omicron variant continued to drive up infections across the country.
Ontario reported 18,445 cases — an increase from 16,713 new cases reported New Year’s Eve. The provincial public health department said 12 more people have died due to the virus and 85 more people were in hospital.
Records were also set on Saturday in Nunavut, which reported 50 new cases, and Newfoundland and Labrador, which logged 442 new infections.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Health Minister John Haggie said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was isolating with cold-like symptoms.
Quebec reported 17,122 new cases, marking the fifth straight day a record number of new infections have been reported in the province. It also recorded eight additional deaths.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, roughly 289.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.4 million.
In Asia, India reported more than 27,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, with infections sharply rising for a fifth consecutive day, but the chief minister of the capital New Delhi said there was “no need to panic,” citing low hospitalization rates.
The country’s largest cities, including New Delhi and the financial centre Mumbai, have seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, including those of the Omicron variant, which has triggered a fresh wave of infections in other parts of the world.
Although the number of active cases in New Delhi has tripled in just the last three days, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that hospitalizations had not gone up.
New Delhi was among hardest hit cities during the second wave of the pandemic in India last year, with hospitals running out of beds and life-saving oxygen, leaving patients gasping for breath.
In the Middle East, a surge of Omicron infections in Israel led to a renewed discussion around herd immunity among officals in the country on Sunday as daily cases continued to climb.
Until late December, Israel managed to stave off the Omicron variant to some degree but with infection rates now gaining pace, daily cases are expected to reach record highs in the coming three weeks. This could result in herd immunity, said Nachman Ash, the director-general of the health ministry.
“The cost will be a great many infections,” Ash told 103FM Radio. “The numbers will have to be very high in order to reach herd immunity. This is possible but we don’t want to reach it by means of infections, we want it to happen as a result of many people vaccinating,” he said.
Salman Zarka, the tead of the health ministry’s coronavirus task force, said herd immunity was far from guaranteed.
“We have to be very cautious with this particularly in light of our experience over the past two years in which we saw people who have recovered [from coronavirus] be re-infected,” Zarka told Ynet TV.