December 3, 2023

Recent developments:

Ontario’s health minister has signaled that existing mask mandates due to expire Wednesday will be extended until June 11.

Health officials in Ontario have said it looks like the sixth COVID-19 wave has crested.

Quebec’s hospitalizations and COVID-19 staff shortages may have stopped rising, say top health officials. The province has also extended its mask mandates until at least May 14.

The high level of COVID-19 spread is causing problems at more hospitals, with the Montfort Hospital delaying some procedures and western Quebec hospitals restricting visits.

Fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to provide a quarantine plan upon entry, and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children aged five to 11 who are accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent or guardian will no longer have to undergo a COVID-19 test for entry to Canada.

What are the numbers to watch?

Testing strategies have changed under the contagious Omicron variant and many people with COVID-19 aren’t reflected in case counts. Hospitalization numbers and the wastewater signal offer additional data that can help fill in the picture.

There’s more information in our daily story on key numbers.


The average level of coronavirus detected in Ottawa’s wastewater is slightly below last week’s record high, but still above the previous record from April 2021.

There were 26 Ottawa residents in local hospitals for treatment of active COVID-19 as of Friday’s OPH report. Four needed intensive care.

Ottawa has had 70,168 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 773 residents have died from the illness.

The wider region

Western Quebec has about 100 COVID hospital patients. Four are in intensive care.

Eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa has about 55 COVID-19 hospitalizations. About 10 of those patients need intensive care. These numbers don’t include Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, which has a different way of counting patients.

Recent wastewater data from sites in Kingston is high and stable. Trends vary in the different wastewater sites in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties

Eastern Ontario as a whole has one of the highest regional wastewater averages in the province.

In the rest of eastern Ontario, 460 people with COVID-19 have died. The death toll is 299 in western Quebec.

More than 5.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Rates of eligible eastern Ontarians with at least two vaccine doses range from 80 to 92 per cent; adults with a third dose range from 58 to 71 per cent. These numbers aren’t regularly available for western Quebec.

How can I manage risk?

COVID-19 spreads through droplets that can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms, including after getting a vaccine.

The dominant Omicron BA.2 subvariant is more contagious, but generally less deadly for vaccinated people without underlying conditions.

This level of spread puts vulnerable people at risk and can make covering for isolating staff a challenge.

WATCH | The challenges for children’s hospitals in wave six: 

Children’s hospitals under strain in 6th COVID-19 wave

The sixth pandemic wave is causing high patient volumes and staff shortages at a number of children’s hospitals across Canada, leading to concern among parents and medical experts about COVID-19 spreading among kids. 2:06

Officials say people need to take personal responsibility as government rules transition to recommendations.

They’re urging people to get all vaccine doses they’re eligible for — especially if they’re over 50 — stay home when sick, wear medical masks in crowded and indoor spaces, keep their hands clean, distance, see others outdoors and limit close contacts, while also taking community spread and vaccine rates in the area into account.

What are the rules?

There are no provincial vaccination requirements or capacity limits in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario and Quebec isolation rules have loosened for some close contacts. 

Masks are only mandatory in certain indoor settings in Ontario. All of Ontario’s COVID-19 rules were expected to end on Wednesday but have been extended until June 11.

Some places may choose to continue requiring people wear masks, be vaccinated or both. Mask rules may be different in places that fall under different jurisdictions, like the Ottawa airport and on OC Transpo vehicles.

Quebec has pushed back plans to lift most mask mandates until May 14 at the earliest.


Travellers older than 12 years and four months must be fully vaccinated to board a plane or train in Canada. People age six and over have to wear masks.

People have to be fully vaccinated, pre-approved and asymptomatic to enter Canada without quarantining.

The U.S. requires all adults crossing a border to be fully vaccinated. People flying there will need proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test or recent COVID recovery.

Travellers who need a test have local options to pay for one.


Vaccines curb the spread of all variants of COVID-19 and go a long way toward avoiding deaths and hospitalizations without offering total protection.

Six COVID-19 vaccines are safe and approved in Canada, with some age restrictions.

Eastern Ontario

Eligible people can look for provincial appointments online or by phone at 1-833-943-3900.

Adults can book third shots once 84 days have passed since their second. Third doses are available for ages 12 to 17 after 168 days.

Fourth doses are being offered to everyone age 60 and above and select groups. The recommended time after a third dose varies.

Check local health unit websites for clinics and any locally specific rules. Some pharmacies and family doctors offer vaccines through their own booking systems.

Western Quebec

Eligible residents can get an appointment online by calling 1-877-644-4545. There are also walk-in clinics.

Everyone age 12 and up is eligible for a third dose; the general recommended wait time after a second is three months.

Fourth doses are available for people age 60 and above and some higher-risk groups.

Symptoms, treatment and testing

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, headache, fatigue and vomiting. If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

“Long-haul” symptoms can last for months.

Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic and resources are available to help.

Ontario and Quebec are using antiviral treatments on people with a higher risk risk of severe COVID-19 problems who have tested positive. They have to start within a certain period of developing symptoms.

Quebec is giving the Paxlovid pill for free at pharmacies with a medical professional’s referral.

Ontario expanded eligibility in mid-April to groups including everyone age 70 and over. Health-care providers are empowered to prescribe them to other people if they deem it necessary and Ontario pharmacies are now able to give Paxlovid alongside clinical assessment centres, where people can get a test and treatment.


Ontario and Quebec have limited laboratory-checked PCR tests to people at higher risk due to the demand generated by Omicron.

Ontario also expanded this eligibility in mid-April to match that antiviral expansion; everyone age 70 and over and immunocompromised adults can now get them, for example.

Qualified people can check with their health authority for locations and hours. Other people with symptoms should assume they have COVID-19 and isolate.

Both provinces are giving rapid tests away at participating stores and child-care settings. People can also buy them. People in Quebec can report rapid test results online.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis

Indigenous people, or someone travelling to work in a remote Indigenous community, are eligible for a PCR test in both Ontario and Quebec.

Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 on weekdays for testing and vaccines in Inuktitut or English.

Akwesasne has COVID-19, test and vaccine information online or at 613-575-2341. Masks remain mandatory indoors this month in some settings. Nineteen residents have died between its north and south sections and about 2,000 residents had tested positive until April 2022, when its northern section stopped sharing a total.

People in Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg can call 819-449-8085 for a test on Wednesdays, if they qualify. Rapid tests are available at the health centre. It had more than 175 confirmed cases and one death as of mid-January; more than 150 since Dec. 3, 2021.

Pikwàkanagàn has ended its COVID hotline, referring people to its health-care services instead. The community didn’t have any confirmed COVID-19 cases until December 2021; it had 114 confirmed cases as of March 11.

The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte are keeping mask mandates for government buildings until May 2. Anyone who’s interested in a PCR test or vaccine can call 613-967-3603, rapid tests are available at the wellbeing centre on weekdays. It has two deaths and 91 confirmed cases until it stopped sharing its count in January 2022.


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