By Morgan Lowrie
The Canadian Press

Montreal: A decline in the number hospitalizations in Ontario and Quebec on Sunday provided some small glimmers of a hope in a day marked by a rising COVID-19 death toll and record-breaking cases in New Brunswick.

Ontario reported 69 new deaths and Quebec reported 50, as the two provinces reported vastly different numbers of new diagnoses.

Ontario recorded more than 3,400 new cases of the virus on Sunday, while Quebec reported just 1,744 new infections due to a data issue that omitted some new infections from the tally.

However, both provinces reported a drop in hospitalizations — a key metric for leaders who have repeatedly raised concerns over overwhelmed hospitals and exhausted staff.

New Brunswick, meanwhile, announced new restrictions are on the way for one regional hot spot and could be imposed elsewhere after the province reported a new one-day high of 36 new cases.

The province’s top doctor announced that the Edmundston Region, home to the majority of the most recent infections, will be moving to the red-alert level of New Brunswick’s pandemic response plan as of Monday morning.

“We are again reminded of how quickly the COVID-19 virus can spread, and how quickly things can change,” Dr. Jennifer Russell told a news conference.

The news means many businesses in the Edmundston region will have to close or reduce service and people are being asked to stay home.

Russell said while the other zones will remain at the orange alert level for the time being, it’s clear the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions are on the brink of moving to the red alert level.

In a statement, Canada’s chief public health officer said the number of hospitalizations and deaths across the country have continued to rise, putting a strain on health-care resources.

“Looking ahead, the upcoming months will be very challenging for Canada as local authorities and Canadians work together to bring COVID-19 infection rates down to a safe trajectory,” Dr. Theresa Tam said Sunday.

She urged Canadians to continue to make efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 during what she called a “pivotal” moment in the fight against the virus.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba government reported eight additional COVID-19 deaths, including one of a person in his 30s.

Saskatchewan reported 287 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths, but also reached a positive milestone in the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered.

The province said in a pandemic update that it gave 3,232 COVID-19 shots on Saturday, which it said was its highest one-day total to date.