Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world May 19

The latest:

Nearly three-quarters of adults living on reserves in Canada have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 36.1 per cent have received both doses, according to Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller.

Overall, Miller says, the picture of the pandemic is looking better in First Nations and in the territories, where 74 per cent of people over 18 have received a shot, but “challenges still remain,” particularly among younger people who aren’t yet vaccinated.

He said efforts are underway to vaccinate youth with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has now been approved for kids as young as 12.

Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for anyone under the age of 18, but until now, only Moderna had been used in First Nations and in the territories.

The Pfizer vaccine has been trickier logistically, mainly because it initially required ultra-cold freezers and the use of special, low dead-volume syringes to get the six doses out of every vial.

However, Health Canada announced Wednesday it has authorized a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech to allow the vaccine to be stored at temperatures of between 2 C and 8 C for up to a month — up from the previous five days.

Miller said “planning is actively underway” on youth vaccination, noting Manitoba intends to vaccinate 18,000 youth on reserves by mid-June and Yukon is looking at vaccinating kids at schools before the summer break starts.

Vaccination rates are also strong across the prairies. Alberta has given first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than half of its eligible population and new case numbers are trending downward — but the test positivity rate is still too high, the province’s top doctor says.

Alberta reported 908 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths on Wednesday.

The positivity rate was down slightly to 9.1 per cent from 11.4 per cent yesterday. The province is looking at when it can begin offering second doses.

The education minister announced Wednesday that most Alberta students will return to in-person learning next week, though students in some harder-hit regions will stick to online learning until at least May 31. 

With Alberta schools closed Andrea Reid and her daughter Jillian Reid, 9, along with her siblings, started home schooling in Cremona, Alta. Most students across the province will return to in-person learning May 24. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

In neighbouring Saskatchewan, which reported 141 new cases and no additional deaths on Wednesday, officials have released a “tentative guideline” outlining when people will be able to book second doses

The province noted that the plan — which currently allows those vaccinated on or before Feb. 15 and those 85 and up to book second doses — could change “due to vaccine eligibility.”

Manitoba offered some details around second doses on Wednesday, saying it would begin booking appointments for priority groups as of Friday. People who will receive priority access to second doses include those on dialysis or who are taking certain immune suppressing medications, as well as people with severe heart failure, liver cirrhosis, HIV or Down Syndrome. Organ and stem cell recipients are also on the list.

The province reported 402 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and four additional deaths.

From CBC News, last updated at 3:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Feeling reopening envy? Here’s why Canadians need to wait a bit longer:

Dr. Barry Pakes of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health explains why many parts of Canada shouldn’t open up just yet. 1:45

As of 7:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,342,388 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 61,608 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,066. 

Ontario on Wednesday reported 1,588 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 1,401, with 735 in ICU due to COVID-related illness.

In Quebec, which unveiled its staggered reopening plan on Tuesday, health officials reported 584 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and eight additional deaths.

Across the North on Wednesday, Nunavut reported four new cases of COVID-19. There were no new cases in Yukon while officials in Northwest Territories reported one new case.

WATCH | Quebec to start lifting COVID-19 restrictions May 28: 

Quebec has announced its plan to lift its COVID-19 restrictions starting on May 28 with the end of its curfew, opening patios and allowing outdoor gatherings. 2:27

In Atlantic Canada on Wednesday, Prince Edward Island reported five new cases of COVID-19, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases. 

Health officials in Nova Scotia reported 83 new cases and two new deaths on Wednesday, and said that while case numbers are going in the right direction, restrictions will remain in place until at least the second week of June. Schools will be closed for the remainder of the year, with all students doing online learning. 

WATCH | N.S. officials explain slow reopening:

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, says despite making progress against the third wave of the pandemic, restrictions must remain in place at least until the second week of June. 1:16

Officials also announced some easing of the rules for permanent residents regarding returning to the province. They will no longer have to wait for approval when they apply to enter the province via the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in, but will get an automatic conditional approval. They will still have to show proof of permanent residency at the border.

New Brunswick reported eight new cases and one additional death. 

In British Columbia, health officials reported 521 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and eight additional deaths. Overall hospitalizations are down in the province since last Wednesday, but a new outbreak was declared at the Heritage Manor II assisted living facility in Fort St. John, where Northern Health says three residents have tested positive for the virus.

WATCH | Advice on COVID-19 vaccines for kids raises questions about 2nd doses:

The National Advisory Council on Immunization has recommended people over 12 can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s sparked questions about whether vulnerable people should get a second shot before kids get their first. 2:04

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A medical worker checks equipment and beds inside a hospital ward that will be used in treating COVID-19 patients at a district hospital in Siliguri, India. (Dipetndu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Wednesday evening, more than 164.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.4 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India has set another record for daily COVID-19 fatalities even as infections dipped further.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 4,529 deaths in the last 24 hours, driving the overall toll to 283,248. India also confirmed 267,334 new infections, as daily cases dropped below 300,000 for the third consecutive day. Both numbers are almost certainly undercounts.

India’s vaccination drive is also faltering just at the time when it is needed the most. The number of daily vaccine doses has fallen by about half over the last six weeks, from a high of four million a day on April 2 to around a daily count of two million or fewer this week.

Nepal and Bangladesh are making frantic diplomatic efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccines as stocks run out amid India’s prolonged curb on vaccine exports.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is easing coronavirus-related restrictions amid a steady decline in infections and deaths. According to a government announcement, schools will reopen Monday in those districts where positivity rates are less than five per cent.

In Africa, Sudan will restrict all travellers who have visited India within the prior two weeks.

In Europe, the French government is lifting restrictions incrementally to stave off a resurgence of COVID-19 and to give citizens back some of their signature “joie de vivre.” As part of the plan’s first stage, France’s 7 p.m. nightly curfew was pushed back to 9 p.m. and museums, theaters and cinemas reopened along with outdoor cafe terraces.

“Let’s get used to try and live together,” President Emmanuel Macron told reporters from a café. “If we manage to get well organized collectively and continue vaccinating, have a common discipline as citizens, there’s no reason why we can’t continue moving forward.”

WATCH | Cafés, theatres and museums reopen in France: 

France lifts some COVID-19 restrictions after a six-month shutdown as new cases drop and vaccination rates increase. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus) 3:11

In the Americas, vaccinated New Yorkers can shed their masks in most situations as of Wednesday; restaurants, shops, gyms and many other businesses can go back to full occupancy if all patrons are inoculated. 

Midnight curfews for bars and restaurants will be gone by month’s end. Broadway tickets recently went back on sale. City residents have mixed views about whether the city is getting back to normal or whether normal is even possible anymore.

Mexico is mounting a final push to get all of the country’s three million school teachers vaccinated so it can reopen schools, perhaps by the second half of June.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that getting kids back into classrooms is an urgent necessity, as much for their social development as anything else. “School is like a second home, and we need all students at all levels to return to in-person classes,” he said. 

A health worker applies a dose of China’s CanSino COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination for teachers and school staff in Mexico City on Tuesday. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

Officials estimate 2.1 million teachers at private and public schools have already been vaccinated, and hope to inject almost 520,000 this week and a similar number in the last week of May.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates will offer a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine from China’s state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm at least six months after the initial two doses.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6:50 p.m. ET

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