COVID-19 hospitalizations are ticking down in Canada's two most populous provinces, as thousands swarmed Ottawa Saturday in trucks and on foot to protest public health restrictions and the Liberal federal government.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario has steadily declined from 4,016 on Wednesday to 3,439 on Saturday, amounting to a drop of 577 patients over three days.
The province reported that 597 patients were in intensive care due to COVID-19, down by 10 from Friday.
Quebec marked its sixth straight day of declining hospitalizations linked to the virus.
The province reported 2,975 patients in hospital with the illness on Saturday, down by 116 from the day before.
The Health Department said intensive care cases rose by three to 231 after trending down over the past week.
On the East Coast, Nova Scotia said 87 patients were hospitalized in COVID-19 units. Sixteen people were in the ICU, officials said.
Hospitals on Prince Edward Island were treating 19 people for COVID-19, including three ICU patients, the province reported.
In a tweet on Saturday, Canada's chief public health officer warned that COVID-19 severity trends continue to rise, with a daily average of 10,766 people with COVID-19 in hospitals, including 1,216 in intensive care.
Even as the Omicron surge has pushed reported case counts to record highs, Dr. Theresa Tam said there are "some hopeful signs" that the spread of the virus is slowing nationally.
"This reassures us that individual efforts ... together with population-based public health measures to reduce contact rates are helping to slow transmission and mitigate severe illness trends," Tam tweeted.
Meanwhile, crowds and idling vehicles jammed the arteries surrounding Parliament Hill on Saturday to condemn public health measures in a rally that's expected to attract as many as 10,000 people from across Canada this weekend.
While the professed objective of the protest is to oppose vaccine mandates for truck drivers crossing the Canada-U.S. border, it's become an outlet for an array of frustrations with COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's leadership.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2022.
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press