Canada surpassed 600,000 cases of the novel coronavirus Monday, as much of the country continues to grapple with accelerating transmission and hospitalizations.
The national total climbed above 600,000 as of Monday morning with Ontario’s latest provincial tally of 3,270.
By Monday at 7 p.m. ET, Canada’s total number of infections stood at 610,944.
Since the pandemic began, the virus has claimed 16,074 lives in the country.
There was a slight delay in releasing fresh figures as some provinces and territories refrained from releasing new COVID-19 data either during the holidays or over the New Year’s weekend. Health Canada’s tally of cases put the country’s total caseload over 600,000 as of Sunday night.
The new milestone was hit even before daily case numbers were released by Quebec and Alberta, both of which have also contributed heavily to the rapidly growing national infection rate.
Quebec reported 2,546 new cases on Monday morning and 32 additional deaths. To date, 212,850 cases of the virus have been detected in the province, and 8,379 people have died after falling ill.
Manitoba also reported 118 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths.
The new cases bring the province’s total number of infections to 25,244 and fatalities to 688
Ontario also reported 29 new fatalities on Monday.
Health officials in Alberta reported 1,128 new cases of the virus, and 96 more deaths.
Several of the fatalities are back dated, having occurred between Dec. 3 and Jan. 3, officials said.
Four of the newly reported deaths occurred within the last 24 hours.
In British Columbia, 539 new coronavirus cases were detected, and officials said eight more people have died.
Since the pandemic began, the province has seen 53,72 cases of COVID-19 and 946 fatalities.
Canada closed in on 500,000 diagnoses on Dec. 19, meaning more than 100,000 new cases were added to the national tally in just over two weeks.
Experts have long warned that the winter months, when coupled with the desire to gather for the holidays, could result in a dangerous situation for the country. But cases have been steadily increasing for months, leaving hospitals and health care systems already overwhelmed and some long-term care facilities in a dire state.
The worsening situation comes as two vaccines — Moderna and Pfizer — make their way across the country and into the arms of Canadians who need it most at this time.
However, some provinces are facing criticism over the speed of their rollout plans, including Ontario and Alberta.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is overseeing logistical planning for Canada’s vaccine distribution efforts, said last week that the December allocations of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have almost all been delivered.
He said Canada expects a sustained tempo of vaccine delivery in January, and an accelerated tempo through early 2021. By the end of January, Fortin said Canada should have 1.2 million doses of both vaccines.
In the meantime, the message from public health experts remains the same: stay home. Despite this, new admissions from politicians over travelling during the pandemic continues to come to light, including from several Liberal Party MPs.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health minister, said it is “deeply concerning” that “some Canadians are still travelling for nonessential reasons.” The federal government will soon require all air passengers to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in the country, in an effort to bolster travel restrictions previously criticized as too lax.
“We must reiterate that now is not the time to travel,” Njoo said.
Meanwhile, cases continue to climb in other provinces and territories.
New Brunswick on Monday reported 17 new COVID-19 cases — the third-highest single-day increase since the pandemic began.
So far, the province has seen 25,244 cases and nine deaths associated with COVID-19.
In Nova Scotia, six new cases were reported, but health officials in the province said no new deaths had occurred.
To date, the province has seen 1,505 infections and 65 fatalities.
Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case, bringing the provincial tally to 391, however officials confirmed the death toll remained at four.
A total of 96 cases of the novel coronavirus have been detected in Prince Edward Island since the pandemic began, 90 of which are considered to be resolved.
Two hundred and eighty four new cases in Saskatchewan bring the total number of cases to 16,367, while two new fatalities push the provincial death toll to 160.
No new cases or fatalities associated with the virus were reported in Nunavut, meaning the total number of infections and deaths remained at 266 and one respectively.
The Yukon added one new case on Monday, bringing the total number of infections in the territory to 65.
Fifty-nine of those cases are considered to be resolved.
To date, one person has died in the territory after contracting the virus.
Health officials in the Northwest Territories have not yet released any new coronavirus data on Monday.
— With files from Global News’ David Lao, Hannah Jackson and the Canadian Press
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