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A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada

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A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada and the restrictions being brought in to try to stem the spread of the Omicron variant:

— Canada is bringing back a requirement, starting Tuesday, for everyone entering the country to have a negative molecular test for COVID-19 before arrival. This includes travellers who are returning after being away for less than 72 hours. Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says a new requirement of the pre-arrival tests is that they must be taken outside Canada. 

— Travel industry experts are warning Canadians to double-check their insurance coverage before going on a trip during the holidays. The industry says renewed travel advisories may have altered insurance coverage. Omar Kaywan, co-founder of Vancouver-based Goose Insurance, says travellers who are on the fence about buying insurance should consider that it's a fraction of the overall trip cost and an essential investment during a pandemic.

— Ontario is reintroducing capacity limits at restaurants, bars and retailers. It is also capping indoor social gatherings at 10 people and outdoor gatherings at 25. Eating and drinking at sports arenas, cinemas and other large venues will not be allowed. The restrictions come into effect Sunday. An inspection blitz Saturday at businesses is also being done to ensure they're following measures. The province reported more than 3,000 new cases Friday. 

— Starting Saturday, Prince Edward Island is capping indoor private gatherings to members of one household plus 10 guests to try to restrict spread of the Omicron variant. There will be a limit on visitors to long-term care homes and a strict requirement for physical distancing at indoor public events, which can only operate at half capacity.

— Newfoundland and Labrador bars now must operate at half capacity and restaurants at 75 per cent capacity. The province's chief medical officer of health says anyone identified as a high-risk contact of a case will have to isolate for seven days, regardless of vaccination status.

— In New Brunswick, interim restrictions go into effect Saturday, including indoor gathering limits of 20 people and a requirement that movie theatres, sporting venues and casinos operate at half capacity. Distancing must also be maintained at all times in businesses, retail stores, gyms, salons and in spas. Tables at restaurants will have to be separated by two metres.

— In Manitoba starting Tuesday, indoor gatherings with vaccinated people will be limited to household members plus 10 others. Gatherings involving unvaccinated people will be limited to one household plus five guests. Gyms and movie theatres will also be limited to half capacity, as will large sporting venues. Churches that require proof of vaccination will be limited to half capacity, while those that do not require vaccination status will be limited to 25 people or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is less. First Nations schools will be some of the first to get free rapid-testing kids.

— British Columbia is placing restrictions on events and gatherings until the end of January. The new restrictions include capacity limits at venues that hold more than 1,000 people. There are to be no sports tournaments over the holiday period and all New Year's Eve parties are to be cancelled. A vaccination card is to be presented at all events and diners will not be allowed to move between tables at restaurants.

— Quebec reported a new daily high of 3,768 COVID-19 cases Friday. The previous high was 3,127 cases in January. The province's public health institute confirmed 13 cases of the Omicron variant and another 309 suspected cases of the variant — a jump of 180 from Thursday.

— Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage is isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19. Her chief-of-staff, Jerry Bellikka, says Savage has experienced mild symptoms and has not attended any public events in recent days. Savage was in Houston last week, representing the province and speaking at the World Petroleum Congress meeting.

— The Calgary Flames say centre Mikael Backlund and another member of the team's support staff have entered the NHL's COVID-19 protocol and are isolating. That brings the number of players and staff sidelined in the organization to 32. The league also announced it is postponing Calgary's home games next Tuesday and Thursday. Four games have already been postponed. 

— Another Ontario Hockey League club has been sidelined by COVID-19. The OHL says the Flint Firebirds have suspended all team activities because 11 members of the organization have tested positive for the virus. The OHL has been forced to scratch a total of 16 games so far this season because of COVID-19.

— Experts are calling for respirator masks, such as N-95s, to become the new standard. Virginia Tech engineering professor Linsey Marr, who studies viruses in the air, says respirators offer far more protection than a surgical mask — both to the wearer and to others. Marr says respirators are designed to form a seal around the face, while medical masks often leave gaps that allow virus particles to seep through.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press