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With COVID-19's latest wave showing few signs of abating concerns are deepening as more and more workers in vital sectors are sidelined by the pandemic.

In Ontario where the number of COVID patients in hospital has ballooned by a factor of five in just two weeks to 2,279, numerous hospitals are reporting massive staff absences due to COVID-19 diagnoses.

Outbreaks in the province's long-term care homes have lead to staff absences of 20 to 30 per cent in some areas as COVID's highly infectious Omicron variant drives up case counts. Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association, is calling it a dire situation.

In Quebec the government says about 20,000 health-care workers are off the job after testing positive or being exposed to the virus. And four federal prisons in the province say they are now "very close" to experiencing staff shortages for the same reason.

Hospitals in New Brunswick say they too are struggling with staffing issues due to coronavirus infections.

In addition to the health-care sector, police forces in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg are facing similar staffing problems, as is Winnipeg Transit and the fire department in Prince Rupert in northwestern British Columbia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2022.