Global cases of the novel coronavirus surpassed 70 million on Friday, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, Canadian public health officials urged people to dramatically limit their contacts amid rising cases across the country.
Canada is still experiencing high COVID-19 infection rates and the country remains in a “rapid growth” trajectory for cases, Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said as she and other health officials unveiled new modelling data.
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“We need to rapidly reduce the strain on hospitals and our public health systems so that our health workers can keep the pandemic under manageable control” while they also implement a complex vaccination campaign, Tam said.
Meanwhile, Ontario announced that two more regions in are moving into lockdown; as of 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, York Region and Windsor-Essex will join Toronto and Peel Region in lockdown in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The provincial government also said Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will move into the red “control” zone. Ontario reported 1,848 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday along with 45 additional deaths.
“Over the last week, public health indicators in the York and Windsor regions have continued to trend in the wrong direction and it is evident additional measures are needed to help limit the spread of the virus,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said in a statement.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6:05 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 448,841, with 73,297 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,251.
Health officials in British Columbia reported on Friday reported 737 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths. Friday’s report comes a day after B.C. reported 28 COVID-19 deaths — a single-day high for the province that Dr. Bonnie Henry described as “one of the most tragic days we have had yet.”
Alberta reported 1,738 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, along with 18 deaths. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said on Thursday that new restrictions brought in this week should serve as a warning to Albertans about how serious the pandemic has become.
The health system “is in trouble and we need to work together to save it,” Hinshaw said.
Public health officials in Saskatchewan announced 246 new cases on Friday. The total of known active COVID-19 cases in the province has now dropped to 4,547, after public health officials deemed another 387 cases as recovered.
The province said the number of known active cases could be inflated due to a backlog of data review.
In Quebec, health officials reported 1,713 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 53 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,435. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased to 871, with 123 people in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard.
The province faced scrutiny Thursday for how its long-term care system handled the first wave of the pandemic. An ombudsperson’s report said Quebec’s long-term care system failed to ensure the safety and dignity of residents as the virus first spread last winter and spring.
In the report, Marie Rinfret said the system was disorganized and unprepared for the surge, with many homes lacking in personal protective equipment and some unable to provide basic care and services.
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In Manitoba, health officials reported 293 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 451.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief provincial public health officer, again urged people to follow the rules and not gather for the holidays — saying that case numbers will spike again if people ignore the restrictions.
Tam said Friday that health officials are “beginning to see” the impact of the public health measures put in place in Manitoba.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island on Friday.
PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY: Five COVID-19 cases identified in Yellowknife. All isolating appropriately. All identified as part of testing call due to wastewater signal. Details at the link. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/yzf?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#yzf</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/nwtpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#nwtpoli</a> <a href=”https://t.co/qIauzJZlsB”>https://t.co/qIauzJZlsB</a>
New Brunswick reported eight new cases on Friday, along with one more death. Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the Edmundston region is being moved into the more restrictive “orange” level of restrictions at midnight due to a growing outbreak.
Across the North, Nunavut reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. All are in the community of Arviat, bringing the total number of active cases there to 56.
Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories, said in a news release late Thursday five travel-related cases had been reported in Yellowknife.
Yukon reported no new cases on Thursday and had not yet provided an update on Friday.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6 p.m. ET
As of Friday evening, more than 70 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 45 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said nearly a billion doses of vaccines had been secured for the COVAX program to provide shots for poor- and middle-income countries, with 189 countries participating. But several WHO officials noted that it would still take time to manufacture enough doses of vaccines to meet demand.
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AstraZeneca intends to start clinical trials to test a combination of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine with Russia’s Sputnik V shot to see if this can boost the efficacy of the British drugmaker’s vaccine, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said on Friday. Trials will start by the end of the year and Russia wants to produce the new vaccine jointly if it is proven to be effective, said the RDIF wealth fund, which has funded Sputnik V.
The move is likely to be seen in Moscow as a long-awaited vote of confidence by a Western manufacturer in Sputnik V, which the Russian defence ministry alleged on Friday was the target of a foreign-backed smear campaign. Sputnik’s Russian developers say clinical trials, still under way, have shown it has an efficacy rate of over 90 per cent, higher than that of AstraZeneca’s own vaccine and similar to those of rivals Pfizer and Moderna.
In the Americas, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Friday pressed U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn to grant an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of the day.
The vaccine won approval Thursday from an FDA panel of outside advisers, and sign-off from the FDA is the next step needed to get the shots to the public.
Meadows spoke to Hahn by telephone on Friday, according to a senior official familiar with the call but not authorized to discuss private conversations. Hahn signalled that he would tell regulators to do so, the official said.
President Donald Trump has been pressing for quick approval for the vaccine.
Meanwhile, U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least Jan. 21 amid a rising number of U.S. coronavirus cases, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Friday.
The decision means it will be up to the administration of president-elect Joe Biden to determine when it will drop the restrictions, first imposed in March to control the spread of the virus.
Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said on Twitter the latest one-month extension was to “continue to prevent the spread of COVID.”
In Europe, Denmark will expand lockdown measures announced earlier this week to more cities.
Switzerland has ordered restaurants, bars and shops to close from 7 p.m. across much of the nation.
Meanwhile, calls were growing Friday for tougher lockdown measures in Germany as officials report record daily increases in both coronavirus cases and deaths.
The Robert Koch Institute said the country’s 16 states reported 29,875 new cases of COVID-19, breaking the previous daily record of 23,679 cases reported the day before. The number of deaths from the virus rose by 598, to a total of 20,970. The previous daily record of deaths was 590, set on Wednesday.
In Africa, Nigeria may be on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the health minister warned, as another official said the country expects to roll out a vaccine by April next year.
In the Middle East, Bahrain will provide the vaccine for free for all citizens and residents, state news agency BNA reported.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the ability of developing countries in Asia to fight the pandemic got a boost after the Asian Development Bank said it has launched a $9 billion US facility to help nations access and deliver COVID-19 vaccines.
South Korean health officials reported another 689 new coronavirus cases on Friday.
The country is expanding the use of rapid tests and deploying hundreds of police officers and soldiers to help with contact tracing as it deals with its worst surge of coronavirus cases since the early days of the pandemic.
Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho said Friday that rapid antigen tests at emergency rooms, intensive-care units and remote-area hospitals will be covered by national health insurance starting Monday.
In Japan, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said he wanted to see the government avoid issuing another state of emergency over the coronavirus.
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