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Good evening, here are the COVID-19 updates you need to know tonight.

Top headlines:

  1. COVID-19 cases in Canada top two million as hospitals brace for Omicron wave’s unknowns
  2. New COVID-19 cases rise in Quebec, dip in Ontario amid Omicron variant surge
  3. Pandemic puts ‘right to disconnect’ in spotlight as provinces inch toward new policies

COVID-19 data will return on Wednesday, Dec. 29.

Coronavirus explainers: Coronavirus in maps and chartsTracking vaccine dosesLockdown rules and reopening

Photo of the day

Travellers make their way through Miami International Airport today. Thousands of flights worldwide were cancelled or delayed on Monday, as airline staffing shortages due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant continued to disrupt the busy holiday travel season.Rebecca Blackwell/The Associated Press

Coronavirus in Canada

  • Ontario is reporting 9,418 new cases of COVID-19, which was down slightly from the record-breaking 10,412 new cases on Christmas Day.
  • Quebec is reporting 8,231 new cases today. Quebec’s Health Minister is urging people to reduce contacts after the province saw hospitalizations climb by more than 140 over a four-day period.
  • Manitoba is tightening public health restrictions on large gathering to curb the spread of COVID-19. As of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, indoor and outdoor public gatherings must not exceed 50 per cent of the capacity or 250 people – whichever is fewer – even for those who are fully vaccinated. The province reported eight new COVID-19 related deaths and 2,154 cases for a three-day period since Christmas Eve.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador has reached record-breaking single-day case counts of COVID-19 as officials report 357 new infections over the holidays. Previously, the highest single-day case count was 100, reported on Dec. 23.
  • Nova Scotia health authorities are reporting an outbreak at the Halifax Infirmary site of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. They did not give details on how many patients have tested positive, but said fewer than five had been “impacted.” The province is reporting 581 new cases today.

Health care staff and governments are on edge as they wait to see whether the sharp rise in case counts will have a domino effect on hospitals and intensive-care units.

  • A steady number of international studies show that the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 leads to fewer severe cases, but with the sheer number of infections, even a smaller ratio of people getting very sick could swamp hospitals.
  • In Ontario, hospital admissions have begun to rise. On Sunday, Toronto’s University Health Network announced that it is reopening its COVID-19 unit because of the rise in admissions. However, intensive-care numbers in the province remain relatively stable.

NHL holiday break: After shutting down for a week, the NHL resumes play Tuesday with three games on the schedule amid hopes that its extended holiday break caused by a rash of positive COVID-19 test results will set the stage for the league to complete an already upended season.

Coronavirus around the world

Coronavirus and business

As the lines between work and personal lives blurred even further during the pandemic, provinces are inching towards “right to disconnect” policies.

  • Inspired by a 2016 law giving workers in France the right to turn off electronic work devices outside of business hours, in 2018 Canada’s federal government started reviewing labour standards and mulling whether to give workers the right to ignore work-related messages when at home.
  • Meanwhile, the average time Canadian workers spent logged onto a computer increased from nine to 11 hours a day during the pandemic, cybersecurity company NordLayer found in February.

Also today: World stock prices rise on strong U.S. holiday sales

And: Canadian airlines say weather, not staffing shortages, are behind post-holiday delays

Globe opinion

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Information centre

Sources: Canada data are compiled from government websites, Johns Hopkins University and COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group; international data are from Johns Hopkins.

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