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They were ready to start a new life in Canada, then the coronavirus struck – Global News

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Harleen Kaur’s bags are packed but she has nowhere to go.

Last December, the Canadian government told her she was approved to become a permanent resident. So she quit her job as a scientific project manager in India and prepared to move to Toronto.

Read more:
Popular Canadian visa program for parents, grandparents reverting to lottery system

She and her family booked flights for early April. But then the novel coronavirus pandemic struck. All international flights leaving India were cancelled and the travel documents she and her family were issued by Canadian immigration authorities expired on April 27.

Now, six months later, Kaur says she and her husband, along with their two young children, are stuck in India. Even though flights between the two countries resumed in May, they can’t fly to Canada because the government hasn’t renewed their travel documents.






4:29
Coronavirus: The migrant worker crisis on Canadian farms


Coronavirus: The migrant worker crisis on Canadian farms

Canadian immigration and embassy officials also haven’t provided a clear timeline for how long it will take before these types of documents will be renewed, Kaur said, leaving her and potentially tens of thousands of other would-be immigrants feeling stranded.

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Read more:
International students call for COVID-19 immigration changes in Toronto

“The problem is that we have been kept in the dark,” Kaur said from her home in Bangalore, India.

“I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It’s like an endless wait.”

According to government data, more than 85,500 people immigrated to Canada from India in 2019. India is the largest source of newcomers to Canada, making up nearly a quarter of all new immigrants over the past three years.

Between April and July, the first four months after lockdowns triggered COVID-19 restrictions, the number of permanent residents arriving in Canada from all countries dropped by about 63 per cent compared to the same time period last year, according to Immigration Canada data. That’s a decrease of roughly 83,000 people.

It’s unclear how much of this drop is due to people being unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions, and how much is due to the government being slow to renew previously-approved residency applications.

Family losing hope

On March 18, Canada imposed travel restrictions for international flights, including prohibiting non-essential air travel for foreign nationals. But anyone whose permanent resident status was confirmed on or before this date was exempt from these rules and allowed to travel to Canada so long as they have a valid entry visa.

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Then, on March 23, India banned all international air travel, including departing flights, affecting people like Kaur and her family.

Read more:
Canada eases coronavirus border restrictions for siblings, grandparents, permanent residents

By the time international flights resumed — Air India operated at least 100 flights from New Delhi to Toronto and Vancouver between late May and the end of August — the Kaurs’ travel documents issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada were no longer valid.

And despite the fact that Canada has since set up an online portal for people with expired documents to get extensions, very few applicants have received the authorization they need to travel.

“We have contacted approximately 300 people so far [who completed the online process] and we are waiting on a number of them to get back to us with supporting information,” said Immigration Canada spokesperson Béatrice Fénelon.


Click to play video 'New travel exemptions allow for cross-border family reunification'



2:36
New travel exemptions allow for cross-border family reunification


New travel exemptions allow for cross-border family reunification

Global News asked Immigration Canada how many permanent resident documents have expired since the start of the pandemic and how many have been renewed. The government did not answer either of these questions directly. It also declined to say how many people have asked for an extension of their travel documents.

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At this point, Kaur said, she and her husband have all but given up hope, putting their immediate plans to move to Canada on hold.

“It was a big blow for us,” she said. “This is the most challenging time we have faced as a family.”

Government offers bad advice

Immigration Canada says it is facing unprecedented challenges due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, including the need to close visa offices around the world.

Despite these challenges, however, the government says it is processing renewal applications submitted through the online portal from confirmed permanent residents “as quickly as possible.”

The application requires submitting numerous details, including living arrangements, possible job offer, plus plans for accessing basic services, such as groceries and medical care, during the required 14-day quarantine period upon arriving in Canada.

Read more:
Minister said no one ever got COVID-19 on a flight. Here’s what the research says

Would-be immigrants must also have a compelling reason for coming to Canada now, such as being reunited with an immediate family member or working in the health-care sector, before their expired documents will be renewed.

But some of the instructions on Immigration Canada’s website for completing this process are misleading and have caused applicants to fork over thousands of dollars for flights they then have to cancel.

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Click to play video 'Coronavirus: How safe is air travel during the pandemic?'



3:32
Coronavirus: How safe is air travel during the pandemic?


Coronavirus: How safe is air travel during the pandemic?

Prashant Gupta, from Kolkata, India, says he’s completed Immigration Canada’s web form at least a dozen times trying to get his documents renewed.

According to the online instructions for the form, priority will be given to people with “proposed or confirmed” travel plans and to those willing to travel “immediately once approved.”

To boost his chances of success, Gupta booked a flight departing Aug. 25 from Delhi to Toronto and sent his confirmation to the government. But he then had to cancel the ticket because he didn’t hear back from Immigration Canada in time. The cancelled ticket, worth nearly $1,400, has not yet been refunded, he said.

“We’re looking for hope here, but we’re not getting it,” Gupta said.

Read more:
The COVID Alert app isn’t working as well as it should be, and Canadians are part of the problem

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Global News asked the government why it advises people that priority will be given to those with confirmed travel plans when there are no clear timelines for how long it takes to renew documents.

In an email sent Sept. 18, the government said Immigration Canada’s website would be changed to advise people not to purchase tickets until after their applications are approved. As of Oct. 7, the website remained unchanged.

“We ask that individuals provide [Immigration Canada] with a proposed travel itinerary to show that they have looked into whether they can transit through other countries while on route to Canada,” Fénelon said.

Families separated

Reetendra Desai, an IT recruiter living in Toronto, has been trying to get his wife’s expired entry visa and permanent resident documents renewed for months.

“It’s horrible. I just cannot imagine what she might be going through,” Desai said.

Desai married his wife in India after immigrating to Canada. He then sponsored her resident application so she could join him in Toronto.

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Click to play video 'Why the Canadian government’s COVID Alert app isn’t working well'



1:59
Why the Canadian government’s COVID Alert app isn’t working well


Why the Canadian government’s COVID Alert app isn’t working well

Her entry visa was granted on March 18 — five days before India suspended all international air travel and the last day Canadian officials said foreign nationals were exempt from travel restrictions.

Since then, however, Desai has been unable to get his wife to Canada. He’s completed Immigration Canada’s web form multiple times without success. The responses he gets are always the same, he said, generic replies with no real answers.

“If things don’t move, I think I’m just gonna say goodbye to everything that I’ve made here — to the dreams I have here,” he said.

Problems not limited to India

Immigration Canada did not answer questions about what, if any, countries other than India are experiencing delays in processing renewal applications for expired residency documents, and whether this issue is limited to a specific region.

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However, the government did say India “remains one of the top countries in terms of application volumes.”

“Processing times vary from country to country and IRCC is regularly reallocating resources to address fluctuations in the number of applications,” Fénelon said.

Read more:
Winnipeg couple living immigration nightmare after birth of baby in India

Global News has, however, spoken with people in Bangladesh, Nigeria and the United States who say they too have been unable to get their residency documents renewed, despite having completed the government’s web form on multiple occasions.

There has been a significant drop in immigrants coming to Canada from some countries. For example, in 2019, there were 33,240 permanent residents from India who came to Canada between April and July. But in 2020, during the same period, there were only 13,140 — a drop of more than 20,000. For the Philippines, which had the second-largest decline in immigrants moving to Canada, these numbers were 10,800 in 2019 and 2,750 in 2020.

There are also groups on social media platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram with thousands of members from all over the world who say they’re unable to get their documents renewed. Many of these people express similar frustrations about having quit their jobs in anticipation of moving to Canada, pulling their kids out of school, and burning through life-savings meant to be used to start a new life in Canada.

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Click to play video 'Why are so few Canadians using the COVID-19 alert app?'



2:02
Why are so few Canadians using the COVID-19 alert app?


Why are so few Canadians using the COVID-19 alert app?

Dr. Samira Tasnim, a physician from Bangladesh, said she and her family have been contacting Immigration Canada relentlessly for months with nothing but generic replies.

“I’m a physician and a researcher [but] I’ve quit my job for more than five months now, which is a long break for my career,” she said.

Read more:
20 million Canadians still don’t have full access to the COVID Alert app. Why?

Tasnim says she and her husband also sold their home, furniture and car in anticipation of immigrating to Canada. Instead of using this money to support themselves after moving, they’re now using it to cover basic living expenses since neither of them are working.

“Why are they holding us back? Why are they withholding this extension?” Tasnim said.

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A spokesperson for India’s High Commission in Ottawa told Global News there are no domestic travel restrictions that prevent an Indian citizen with a valid entry visa from travelling to Canada. This includes anyone whose documents expired but are then renewed by the Canadian government.

In August, Air Canada also resumed a limited number of flights between India and Canada, with plans to expand service even further in October, pending approval from India’s aviation ministry.

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Police issued 77 fines, charged 7 people for breaking Canada's COVID-19 quarantine rules – CBC.ca

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Over the past seven months, police have issued 77 fines and charged seven people for violating Canada’s Quarantine Act, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

PHAC said that since the act took effect in late March, more than one million people who entered Canada were required to quarantine for 14 days. The agency said it had flagged more than 247,000 of those travellers to police as potential quarantine violators.

RCMP officers issued the majority of the fines, which ranged from $275 to $1,275. Individuals can either pay their fine or contest it in court. Anyone charged — typically for a more serious offence — must appear in court. 

Under the Quarantine Act, both Canadians and foreigners entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days, unless they get a special exemption

Last month, Ontario Premier Doug Ford complained publicly that not enough people were being punished for breaching the act.

“The system’s broken,” he said. “We can’t have our police running around and seeing people breaking quarantine and nothing happens to them.… It turns into being a joke.”

Ford said that he planned to work with the federal government to fix the problem.

WATCH | Premier Ford says Canada’s Quarantine Act ‘broken’:

Calling penalties a ‘slap on the wrist,’ Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the current Quarantine Act for people arriving in Canada during the pandemic is broken and needs to change. 2:14

In response to Ford’s criticism, PHAC said police are responsible for enforcing the Quarantine Act, and that enforcement actions can include a written or verbal warning. 

The RCMP declined to respond directly to Ford’s comments but told CBC News that officers aren’t eager to dole out fines to everyone violating COVID-19-related regulations. 

“The RCMP’s focus remains on educating and encouraging members of the public who may not be following the measures set out by public health authorities,” said spokesperson Robin Percival in an email.

“Enforcement is a last resort, but one that can be used if the circumstances warrant.”

Who’s facing charges?

CBC News was able to obtain information from police on five individuals who were charged under the Quarantine Act. Most face penalties of up to six months in jail and/or fines of up to $750,000. Each person is set to appear in court at the end of this month or next month. 

One of the most recent cases involves a 53-year-old woman from Ottawa who works in a long-term care home. Police said she went back to work just four days after returning to Canada on Sept. 26 from a trip abroad.

“When management was apprised of the situation, she was immediately sent home,” said Ottawa police in a statement

Police didn’t provide the woman’s name or the name of her workplace. 

The woman was charged on Oct. 2 for allegedly failing to comply with the 14-day quarantine requirement and for causing risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm.

Chris Saccoccia, seen here during a protest against mandatory mask measures on the TTC, was fined $1,000 for contravening the Quarantine Act, police say. Despite the fine, Saccoccia attended an anti-lockdown rally in downtown Toronto on Oct. 3. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Outspoken anti-masker Chris Saccoccia, 37, of King City, Ont., and his wife, Jennifer, 34, were charged on Oct. 5 for allegedly defying the quarantine rules.

According to Toronto police, the couple had returned to Canada from abroad on Sept. 20. Just six days later, police fined Saccoccia $1,000 after he attended an anti-mask/anti-lockdown rally in downtown Toronto.

Police said Saccoccia and his wife were then charged after they attended another Toronto rally 13 days after their return to Canada. This rally was “attended by 500 non-mask wearing participants,” police said in a statement

Saccoccia told CBC News in a written message that he’s looking forward to filing a challenge against the quarantine rules, which he claims violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Even under extreme, emergency situations, justification to violate our rights must be presented,” said Saccoccia.

Alaska driver charged

A fourth case involves a man from Kentucky who was driving through Canada from Alaska. 

Although the Canada-U.S border is closed to non-essential traffic, Canada allows Americans to drive through the country to or from Alaska. But they can’t make unnecessary stops along the way. 

Alberta RCMP said John Pennington, 40, was initially given a $1,200 ticket on June 25 for stopping in Banff National Park on his way to the continental U.S. 

Police say Pennington had not left town the following day, as ordered, so he was charged for allegedly breaching the Quarantine Act. 

John Pennington of Kentucky has received both a fine and been charged for stopping in Banff while driving from Alaska through Alberta to the continental U.S. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

CBC News asked Pennington for an interview, but he didn’t respond. In June, he posted a video on Facebook, detailing his Banff experience but recently removed it. 

In the fifth case, Yukon RCMP said a man was charged on July 6 in Beaver Creek, Yukon, for allegedly returning to Canada from abroad and not quarantining for 14 days. RCMP said officers were alerted to the case after the man was sighted at the local post office. 

Provincial fines

Police have also issued numerous COVID-19-related fines under provincial legislation for violations such as not physical distancing or failing to keep a contact list of guests attending a party. 

According to Statistics Canada, RCMP responded to more than 9,500 incidents between March and June where people violated provincial or territorial COVID-19-related regulations. 

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Ontario COVID-19 cases top 1,000 for the first time.
  • Saskatchewan reports new single-day high of coronavirus cases.
  • Aide to U.S. vice-president tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Spain to impose nationwide curfew under new state of emergency.
  • Italy orders bars, restaurants to close early as COVID infections surge.
  • Hindu festival season scaled down due to infections. 

Ontario reported 1,042 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, setting a new single-day high for the province since the pandemic began in January and breaking the previous record for a daily count set on Saturday, at 978 new cases.

The latest number comes a day after Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, again sounded the alarm that the most critical health consequences of rising cases across the country have yet to emerge.

Tam said health officials are watching the number of hospitalizations and deaths, which tend to lag behind an increase in cases by one to several weeks.

WATCH | Pandemic adds to mental stress for some heading into winter:

Tim Aubry, professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa, stresses the need to monitor those who feel isolated and prone to suffer seasonal affective disorder. 5:08

She issued the warning on Saturday as the national death toll from infections inched closer to 10,000, and Ontario and Saskatchewan reported their new single-day highs. 

The number of active COVID-19 cases rose 16 per cent week over week, according to figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The sharp uptick left an average of 1,010 patients being treated in hospital each day over the past week, about 20 per cent of whom were in intensive care, Tam said on Saturday. 


What’s happening across Canada

As of 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 215,880 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 181,381 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting rose to 9,940.

In British Columbia, polling stations were equipped with personal protective equipment, plastic barriers and other now-usual preventative pandemic measures as residents cast their ballots on Saturday, re-electing the NDP under John Horgan, who had called a snap election.

A voter casts a ballot during the B.C. provincial election in Vancouver. (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)

In Alberta, a lawyer is calling for action after an outbreak at a Calgary jail leapt to 55 cases, a notable increase after the outbreak was initially reported Thursday.

Saskatchewan reported 78 new cases, the highest single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic.  Meanwhile, three more cases have been recorded at two Regina schools and an outbreak has been declared at Saskatoon’s largest shelter

Manitoba announced 153 new cases and two more deaths on Saturday, and a third unit of a Winnipeg hospital has declared an outbreak.

Quebec added 879 new cases to its tally on Sunday for a total 100,114 cases. There were 11 new deaths from the respiratory illness, for a total of 6,143.

On Saturday, the province reported 1,009 new cases and 26 more deaths. The average daily case count in Quebec has been higher than any other province but appears to have plateaued for the time being since a peak of 1,364 on Oct. 6, the same week that tight new restrictions went into effect.

People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Despite the rising number of cases in Ontario, politicians from the province’s Halton Region published a letter Saturday pleading for an exemption from stricter public health measures.

The mayors of Oakville, Burlington, Halton Hills and Milton, along with Halton’s regional chair, said they “prefer a measured, targeted approach over a blanket approach that unfairly punishes small businesses.”

The provincial government has already moved the long-standing hot spots of Ottawa, Toronto and the neighbouring regions of York and Peel to a modified Stage 2, which includes suspension of indoor dining at bars and restaurants.

However, rising case numbers elsewhere prompted Ontario Premier Doug Ford to announce Friday that officials would review the situation in Halton, Durham Region and other areas.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new confirmed case on Saturday, a man from the Eastern Health region in his 50s who had returned home to the province after working in Alberta.

Nova Scotia reported three new cases, all related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

New Brunswick announced two new cases in the province, both in the Campbellton region.

In Prince Edward Island, residents of Charlottetown-Winsloe strapped on their masks, sanitized their hands and marked their ballots in the province’s first taste of pandemic-era voting.


What’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 42.7 million. More than 1.1 million people have died, while more than 28.8 million have recovered.

The colourful Hindu festivals of Durga Puja and Dussehra have been scaled down this year in India, amid fears among health experts that the festive season might lead to a cascade of new coronavirus infections.

The towering displays of religious sculptures are rare, and at many places, prayers have gone virtual, with organizers live streaming the sessions for the devotees.

A Hindu priest performs traditional prayers in front of the idol of 10-handed Hindu Goddess Durga during the Durga Puja festival in Chennai, India. (Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images)

In many states, police barricades have been erected around the usually buzzing places of worship to avoid large gatherings.

India has the second-largest coronavirus outbreak in the world, after the United States. 

Last month, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.

In the United States, Marc Short, the chief of staff for U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesperson for the vice-president said on Saturday.

Devin O’Malley said Pence himself remains in good health, has tested negative and will maintain his schedule “in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel.”

In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has declared a second nationwide state of emergency, which goes into effect Sunday, in a bid to stem a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

His government will use the state of emergency to impose new measures, including a nationwide nightly curfew, except in the Canary Islands.

This past week, Spain became the first European country to surpass one million officially recorded COVID-19 cases.  Sanchez said on Friday the true figure could be more than three million, due to gaps in testing and other factors.

Italy on Sunday ordered bars and restaurants to close by 6 p.m. and shut public gyms, cinemas and swimming pools — starting Monday — to try to halt a rapid resurgence in the coronavirus.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announces new rules to curb the spread of COVID-19 during a news conference in Rome. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via The Associated Press)

The decree encourages people not to go out and to limit contacts at home with anyone outside their immediate family, but it does not impose a mandatory nationwide curfew or lockdown and allows shops and most businesses to remain open. Up to three-quarters of high school teaching is to move online to limit the number of pupils in school buildings.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said it’s hoped the measures will bring the rising curve of cases under control in the next few weeks. On Saturday, Italian authorities reported a new record daily total of 19,644 infections, as well as 151 deaths from the respiratory disease.

France on Saturday reported 45,422 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, a new record, after reporting 42,032 on Friday.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 75, of Algeria, is self-isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19, he said in a tweet on Saturday.

The country has officially confirmed more than 55,000 cases of the novel coronavirus with nearly 2,000 deaths.

Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca

Published

 on


The latest:

  • Ontario COVID-19 cases top 1,000 for the first time.
  • Saskatchewan reports new single-day high of coronavirus cases.
  • Aide to U.S. vice-president tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Spain to impose nationwide curfew under new state of emergency.
  • Italy orders bars, restaurants to close early as COVID infections surge.
  • Hindu festival season scaled down due to infections. 

Ontario reported 1,042 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, setting a new single-day high for the province since the pandemic began in January and breaking the previous record for a daily count set on Saturday, at 978 new cases.

The latest number comes a day after Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, again sounded the alarm that the most critical health consequences of rising cases across the country have yet to emerge.

Tam said health officials are watching the number of hospitalizations and deaths, which tend to lag behind an increase in cases by one to several weeks.

WATCH | Pandemic adds to mental stress for some heading into winter:

Tim Aubry, professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa, stresses the need to monitor those who feel isolated and prone to suffer seasonal affective disorder. 5:08

She issued the warning on Saturday as the national death toll from infections inched closer to 10,000, and Ontario and Saskatchewan reported their new single-day highs. 

The number of active COVID-19 cases rose 16 per cent week over week, according to figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The sharp uptick left an average of 1,010 patients being treated in hospital each day over the past week, about 20 per cent of whom were in intensive care, Tam said on Saturday. 


What’s happening across Canada

As of 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 215,880 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 181,381 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting rose to 9,940.

In British Columbia, polling stations were equipped with personal protective equipment, plastic barriers and other now-usual preventative pandemic measures as residents cast their ballots on Saturday, re-electing the NDP under John Horgan, who had called a snap election.

A voter casts a ballot during the B.C. provincial election in Vancouver. (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)

In Alberta, a lawyer is calling for action after an outbreak at a Calgary jail leapt to 55 cases, a notable increase after the outbreak was initially reported Thursday.

Saskatchewan reported 78 new cases, the highest single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic.  Meanwhile, three more cases have been recorded at two Regina schools and an outbreak has been declared at Saskatoon’s largest shelter

Manitoba announced 153 new cases and two more deaths on Saturday, and a third unit of a Winnipeg hospital has declared an outbreak.

Quebec added 879 new cases to its tally on Sunday for a total 100,114 cases. There were 11 new deaths from the respiratory illness, for a total of 6,143.

On Saturday, the province reported 1,009 new cases and 26 more deaths. The average daily case count in Quebec has been higher than any other province but appears to have plateaued for the time being since a peak of 1,364 on Oct. 6, the same week that tight new restrictions went into effect.

People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Despite the rising number of cases in Ontario, politicians from the province’s Halton Region published a letter Saturday pleading for an exemption from stricter public health measures.

The mayors of Oakville, Burlington, Halton Hills and Milton, along with Halton’s regional chair, said they “prefer a measured, targeted approach over a blanket approach that unfairly punishes small businesses.”

The provincial government has already moved the long-standing hot spots of Ottawa, Toronto and the neighbouring regions of York and Peel to a modified Stage 2, which includes suspension of indoor dining at bars and restaurants.

However, rising case numbers elsewhere prompted Ontario Premier Doug Ford to announce Friday that officials would review the situation in Halton, Durham Region and other areas.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new confirmed case on Saturday, a man from the Eastern Health region in his 50s who had returned home to the province after working in Alberta.

Nova Scotia reported three new cases, all related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

New Brunswick announced two new cases in the province, both in the Campbellton region.

In Prince Edward Island, residents of Charlottetown-Winsloe strapped on their masks, sanitized their hands and marked their ballots in the province’s first taste of pandemic-era voting.


What’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 42.7 million. More than 1.1 million people have died, while more than 28.8 million have recovered.

The colourful Hindu festivals of Durga Puja and Dussehra have been scaled down this year in India, amid fears among health experts that the festive season might lead to a cascade of new coronavirus infections.

The towering displays of religious sculptures are rare, and at many places, prayers have gone virtual, with organizers live streaming the sessions for the devotees.

A Hindu priest performs traditional prayers in front of the idol of 10-handed Hindu Goddess Durga during the Durga Puja festival in Chennai, India. (Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images)

In many states, police barricades have been erected around the usually buzzing places of worship to avoid large gatherings.

India has the second-largest coronavirus outbreak in the world, after the United States. 

Last month, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.

In the United States, Marc Short, the chief of staff for U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesperson for the vice-president said on Saturday.

Devin O’Malley said Pence himself remains in good health, has tested negative and will maintain his schedule “in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel.”

In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has declared a second nationwide state of emergency, which goes into effect Sunday, in a bid to stem a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

His government will use the state of emergency to impose new measures, including a nationwide nightly curfew, except in the Canary Islands.

This past week, Spain became the first European country to surpass one million officially recorded COVID-19 cases.  Sanchez said on Friday the true figure could be more than three million, due to gaps in testing and other factors.

Italy on Sunday ordered bars and restaurants to close by 6 p.m. and shut public gyms, cinemas and swimming pools — staring Monday — to try to halt a rapid resurgence in the coronavirus.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announces new rules to curb the spread of COVID-19 during a news conference in Rome. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via The Associated Press)

The decree encourages people not to go out and to limit contacts at home with anyone outside their immediate family, but it does not impose a mandatory nationwide curfew or lockdown and allows shops and most businesses to remain open. Up to three-quarters of high school teaching is to move online to limit the number of pupils in school buildings.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said it’s hoped the measures will bring the rising curve of cases under control in the next few weeks. On Saturday, Italian authorities reported a new record daily total of 19,644 infections, as well as 151 deaths from the respiratory disease.

France on Saturday reported 45,422 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, a new record, after reporting 42,032 on Friday.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 75, of Algeria, is self-isolating because some officials in “upper ranks of the government” are sick with COVID-19, he said in a tweet on Saturday.

The country has officially confirmed more than 55,000 cases of the novel coronavirus with nearly 2,000 deaths.

Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca

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