In the coronavirus battle, Canada has been doing much better than its southern neighbour.
The nightmare still engulfing the US has not been shared north of the 49th parallel.
But now the country is experiencing a spike which authorities worry could turn into a second wave as children return to schools across the country after a nearly five-month forced shutdown.
Last week, the nation’s top medical officer warned that authorities could lose the ability to control the pandemic if tough action is not quickly taken to slow the spread.
“This week is a really critical week,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.
An average of 545 new cases were reported daily over the past week, up from about 300 in July.
“This is concerning,” Tam told a briefing. “When cases occur, including in schools, it is a reflection on what’s happening in the community.”
Ontario, the country’s most populous province, is cracking down on social gatherings, province Premier Doug Ford said in a surprise news conference called on Saturday.
He said the government is immediately cracking down on social gatherings in every region of the province, a day after stricter measures came into effect in the Covid-19 hot spots of Toronto, Ontario’s capital city, Ottawa the nation’s capital, also situated in Ontario, and Peel, west of Toronto, the Globe and Mail reported.
“The alarm bells are ringing. And too much of it is being tied to people who aren’t following the rules,” Ford said. “People who think it’s ok to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.
“Folks, we can’t have these wild parties right now. It’s just way, way too risky. We have to come down hard on the rule breakers.”
Ontario’s health minister Christine Elliott said that large private parties are a “significant contributor” to the recent rise.
From Saturday and for the next 28 days, indoor social events can now include no more than 10 people, down from the previous limit of 50. Outdoor events will be limited to 25, down from 100. Large fines will be levied on people who flout the new rules.
Quebec, Canada’s largest province, has declared police will target more than 1,000 bars and restaurants to enforce social distancing and hygiene rules.
Canada’s most westerly province, British Columbia, has told restaurants, pubs and bars to end the sale of alcohol at 10pm and close by 11pm.
Across the country, Covid-19 has killed over 9,000 people, according to the latest government data. New cases jumped by 1,606 in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 133,748.