Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday that his province’s state of emergency will not be extended, while authorities in Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia began lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
Ford told reporters that while he’s concerned about new coronavirus variants, he was ready to “gradually and safely” return to the colour-coded system of regional restrictions that was in place before the lockdown order. He said restaurants and non-essential businesses in three regions where COVID-19 cases are low will be allowed to open on Wednesday.
A stay-at-home order, however, will remain in effect across most of the province, he said, adding that it will be lifted on a region-by-region basis over the coming weeks. Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters that all positive COVID-19 tests are being screened for known variants, adding that “variants of concern” have been found in several parts of the province.
Ontario reported 1,265 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 33 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials said 901 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 335 in intensive care.
In Quebec, where 853 new cases and 17 more COVID-19-related deaths were reported Monday, non-essential stores, personal-care salons and museums reopened across the province. In six, less populated regions, gyms were allowed to reopen and in-person restaurant dining could resume.
In Alberta, restaurants also reopened for in-person dining Monday, while gyms could offer one-on-one training.
Restrictions on organized gatherings were eased in Nova Scotia Monday, as authorities reported one, travel-related case of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada released a report Monday noting a rise in excess mortality among younger men in Western Canada between the spring and fall. The agency said the increase may be linked to “indirect consequences of the pandemic, which could include increases in mortality due to overdose.”
Excess mortality — when more deaths than expected are reported during a specific period — among Canadians under 45 rose from four per cent between March and June to 16 per cent between mid-September and November, the federal statistics agency said.
Men accounted for 77 per cent of those excess deaths, and only British Columbia and Alberta saw “significant excess mortality” among men under 45.
Roughly 50 people under 45 in Canada have died from COVID-19, well below the 440 excess deaths among people under 45 reported from September to November alone, StatCan said.
Among all age groups, there were 12,067 excess deaths between January and November 2020, the study said, which is five per cent more deaths than would have been expected if there were no COVID-19 pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press