Canada extends non-essential travel ban with U.S. as provinces step up restrictions

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Canada extended a ban on non-essential travel with the U.S. on Thursday while provinces upped measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the travel restrictions already in place will be extended until Dec. 21.

“Our decisions will continue to be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Blair said in a tweet.

The U.S. is the hardest-hit country in the world, with more than 11.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 250,000 deaths.

To combat the resurgence of the coronavirus, provinces have also stepped up restrictions.

Manitoba is clamping down harder on private gatherings and businesses selling non-essential items in an effort to slow the alarming rise in infections in the province.

New COVID-19 public health orders announced Thursday will forbid Manitoba residents from having anyone inside their home who doesn’t live there, with few exceptions, and prohibit businesses from selling non-essential items in stores.

Previous orders that came into effect last week allowed gatherings at private residences of up to five people beyond those who normally live there, although Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and others pleaded with Manitobans to stay home and only go out for essential items.

“Despite that, we saw people gathering at rallies, we saw crowded parking lots at big box stores, we saw people continue to go out for non-essential items,” Roussin said at a news conference Thursday. “So we’re left with no choice but to announced further measures to protect Manitobans, to limit the spread of this virus.”

In Saskatchewan, new restrictions took effect on Thursday. All residents must now wear masks in indoor public places, and visitations at long-term and personal care homes are officially suspended.

No more than five people can gather in a home with the exception of caregivers and tradespeople. People who live alone are allowed to have one other household in their bubble. Private gatherings larger than five people can occur in public spaces such as restaurants.

Entertainment transportation such as party buses and limousines are now prohibited.

In New Brunswick, the Moncton health region will be bumped back to the stricter orange phase — effective at midnight — Premier Blaine Higgs announced on Thursday.

The government said it made the decision based on the recommendation of Public Health because of the growing number of cases in that region.

New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health said the case count there has doubled in the past week and includes an outbreak at another adult residential facility.

Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Thursday promised to announce “tough” new public health restrictions tomorrow for the”hardest-hit areas” in the province.

“We have some difficult but necessary decisions to make,” Ford said.

Neither Ford nor Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams would specify exactly what those measures would be, saying they still need to go before cabinet.

What’s happening across Canada

Canada’s COVID-19 case count — as of 4:30 p.m. ET — stood at 314,110, with 51,625 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,256.

Saskatchewan reported 98 new cases on Thursday. Health officials estimate that, at best, Saskatchewan will nearly double its total number of cases over the next six months.

Manitoba announced 475 new cases, eight more deaths and a record high of 263 in hospital.

Ontario reported 1,210 new cases and 28 more deaths.

A thank you sign is displayed outside a hospital’s emergency department in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Quebec reported 1,207 new cases and 34 more deaths.

Also Thursday, Premier Françoise Legault proposed a “moral contract,” saying residents can have small gatherings — with no more than 10 friends and family members — around Christmas if they voluntarily quarantine before and after. 

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported four new cases. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador both reported one new case.

People are seen wearing face masks in Halifax on Thursday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

In the North, the Northwest Territories renewed a state of emergency for Yellowknife to clear the way for an emergency warming shelter in light of capacity limitations at other facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new case was confirmed in Whitehorse on Wednesday evening, bringing Yukon‘s case total to 26. The territory said it will also “divorce” B.C. from its COVID-19 travel bubble as case counts rise in that province.

And Nunavut health officials reported four more cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the number of cases in the territory to 74. 

A cashier wearing a face mask bags groceries in Iqaluit on Wednesday. (Natalie Maerzluft/Reuters)

What’s happening around the world

As of early Thursday, there were more than 56.3 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 36.2 million of those cases listed as recovered, according to a COVID-19 tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.3 million.

In Europe, Russia’s total number of confirmed coronavirus infections rose above two million and the country recorded 463 deaths on Thursday, its highest one-day increase in fatalities. The country’s confirmed death toll is 34,850. 

WATCH | Inside a Moscow COVID-19 ward:

A well-equipped, high-tech COVID-19 ward set up inside a Moscow convention centre is a stark contrast to the overwhelmed hospitals elsewhere in Russia. CBC News got a first-hand look at the facility and found out what’s creating the disparity in health care. 6:34

In Asia, South Korea has reported more than 300 new coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day as authorities begin enforcing toughened social distancing rules in some areas to fight a resurgence of small-scale clusters of infections.

In the Americas, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is imposing an overnight curfew as the most populous state in the U.S. tries to head off a surge in coronavirus cases. Starting Saturday, all non-essential work, movement and gatherings must cease between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. PT.

Africa has surpassed two million confirmed coronavirus cases as public health officials warn that the continent is “inevitably edging toward a second wave” of infections. The World Health Organization says this time the surge is driven not by South Africa — which leads the continent with more than 750,000 confirmed cases — but by North African nations as temperatures fall there.

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