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New gathering limits come into effect in Quebec as COVID-19 cases soar across Canada

New public health restrictions come into effect in Quebec Sunday as COVID-19 case counts soar across the country.

The province is capping private gatherings at six people or two family bubbles as of Boxing Day Sunday, after reporting more than 10,000 cases of the coronavirus on Christmas Eve and another 9,206 on Christmas Day.

READ MORE: Omicron COVID-19 variant disrupts holiday travel with over 6,000 flights cancelled

Officials have said the daily numbers are likely an underestimation because the province’s testing centres are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with demand.

The highly infectious Omicron variant of the virus has been driving a surge in COVID-19 cases across much of Canada in recent weeks.

Ontario reported 9,826 new COVID-19 cases Boxing Day.

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Christmas Day was the third day in a row that Ontario broke its record for daily case counts with 10,412 infections.

READ MORE: In Christmas message, Trudeau says ‘better days ahead’ despite difficult year

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot said more than 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has said Omicron has become the dominant variant in several provinces.

Premier François Legault warns tough weeks ahead

This comes as Quebec Premier François Legault warned of tough weeks ahead and asked people to be vigilant as they gather for the holidays.

In a Christmas message posted to social media on Christmas Eve, Legault said the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is more contagious than anything previously seen during the pandemic.

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Legault called on Quebecers to reach out to those alone during the holidays or who are isolating because of a positive COVID-19 test result, and he acknowledged the courage and dedication of health workers.

READ MORE: ‘Jingle jabs’, cancelled flights: How COVID-19 has impacted Christmas around the world

“The next few weeks are going to be difficult,” Legault wrote. “It will be very important to continue our efforts and to stick together, even if we are tired.”

Legault says the next few weeks will be difficult and that Quebecers will need to stick together to get through the latest wave.

Bars, movie theatres, gyms and entertainment venues were abruptly ordered to close earlier this week, while restaurants were permitted to stay open at 50 per cent capacity with a strict 10 p.m. closing time.

On Friday, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon extended pandemic aid to restaurants.

Quebec has also tightened rules at long-term care homes and at seniors residences.

–with files from Alessia Simona Maratta, Global News

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