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Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam attends a news conference as efforts continue to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Ottawa, March 23, 2020.Blair Gable/Reuters

Canada’s chief public health officer urged everyone to keep their guards up amid a surge in more contagious variants of COVID-19, as the pandemic disrupted Easter celebrations for a second year.

Canadians need to be careful since the more contagious variants of concern “could be anywhere,” Dr. Theresa Tam wrote on Twitter.

“Let’s all be careful (and) cautious and keep up our guard,” she wrote.

Coronavirus tracker: How many COVID-19 cases are there in Canada and worldwide? The latest maps and charts

Quebec added several more municipalities to its list of cities under lockdown on Sunday, as the number of cases confirmed or believed to be linked to contagious variants in the province soared past the 10,000 mark.

The government said in a news release that non-essential businesses will close and the evening curfew will be moved to 8 p.m. from 9:30 as of Monday evening in several parts of the Chaudière-Appalaches region, including Beauce-Sartigan, Bellechasse, Les Etchemins, Nouvelle-Beauce and Robert-Cliche.

Schools will close for in-person learning, while theatres and museums must also shutter as of Monday at 8 p.m. until at least April 12.

“These exceptional health measures, similar to those in force at the beginning of January, are necessary in order to limit unnecessary contact between people as much as possible,” the government said in a news release.

The region south of Quebec City saw its confirmed number of cases jump to 136 on Saturday, up from 74 the day before.

The Quebec government imposed the same restrictions in Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau last week.

Quebec reported 1,154 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday and nine additional deaths linked to the virus, including one that occurred in the last 24 hours.

The new rise in cases has been linked to more contagious variants, which now account for 64 per cent of new COVID-19 diagnoses in the province. Quebec announced 779 new presumed cases involving variants on Sunday, which brought the provincial total past the 10,000 mark to 10,337.

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Ontario, meanwhile, announced that the head of its air ambulance service would be tasked with leading the province’s vaccine rollout.

Dr. Homer Tien will replace retired general Rick Hillier, who chose not to extend his contract past its March 31 expiry, the province said.

Saskatchewan reported 321 additional COVID-19 cases, with 141 of them being identified through screening as variants of concern.

New Brunswick logged 11 new cases of COVID-19 and Nova Scotia recorded seven, while several other provinces chose not to release new numbers due to the holiday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged in a video message that COVID-19 has forced Canadians to celebrate Easter differently for a second straight year, and that many people are having to forego in-person church services and family dinners.

He urged Canadians to stay optimistic, saying, “My friends, soon this crisis will end.”

In the meantime, he asked people to check up on loved ones who are isolated and to find different ways to celebrate the holiday.

Several other politicians also sent out Easter messages paying tribute to front-line workers and encouraging Canadians to respect pandemic-related safety measures over the holiday.

Health columnist André Picard answers reader questions about COVID-19 variants, how effective the various vaccines are and the impact of on-again, off-again lockdowns.

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