- Ontario and Quebec report record-high single day COVID-19 case numbers.
- Africa CDC says new virus variant appears to have emerged in Nigeria, but further investigation is needed.
- Mexico now has more people hospitalized for COVID-19 than it saw at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in late July.
- Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been approved in Canada. Here’s what you need to know.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford says international travellers pose ‘extreme risk’ for COVID-19 spread. Here are the facts.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is urging people to stay home ahead of Christmas as the province posted another record high COVID-19 case number on Thursday.
“I know the lockdown starts on December 26 — but I have to tell you, folks, every time you take a trip it puts people in jeopardy,” he said. “So please, as of right now, please stay at home when you can.”
He urged people to only go out for essentials like groceries, medical appointments or other “necessary trips.”
“We have 28 days and we’re going to give it everything we can,” he said. “We will come out stronger than ever after this.”
Ontario on Thursday reported 2,447 new cases of COVID-19 and 49 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 4,278. Hospitalizations stood at 967, with 277 COVID-19 patients in Ontario’s intensive care units, according to provincial data.
Ford has faced criticism over how the province responded to increasing COVID-19 cases, with some critics lambasting the way lockdown measures were designed and implemented. The premier also faced questions over the delay between the announcement of the new measures and the beginning of the provincewide lockdown after the Christmas holiday.
Hard-hit Quebec also reported another single-day record on Thursday, with 2,349 new cases of COVID-19. Health officials in the province also reported 46 deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,913. Hospitalizations stood at 1,052 with 146 people in intensive care units, according to a provincial database.
The updates from Ontario and Quebec come a day after Health Canada approved a second COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for the shots from U.S. biotech firm Moderna to start arriving in the country.
In Alberta, the chief medical officer of health said Thursday that the province had an estimated 1,100 positive tests for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the positivity rate is estimated to be seven per cent and that hospitalizations are increasing, while intensive-care unit numbers are stable. Alberta did not report deaths or recoveries on Thursday.
As of 1:40 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 534,503, with 77,164 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,692.
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With COVID-19 cases on the rise, communities across Canada were making adjustments to traditional Christmas celebrations. Here’s a look at how some in Canada are celebrating this year.
What’s happening in the U.S.
U.S. officials say they are on track to deliver 20 million vaccine doses by the first week of January. But how quickly those shots will get into arms isn’t clear. In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Operation Warp Speed official Gen. Gus Perna said states are administering doses at a “good pace” and are “immunizing quite a bit of people.”
But the chief science adviser for the U.S. vaccine push added that vaccinating people is going “slower than we thought it would be.”
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Data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about one million doses had been administered as of Wednesday morning out of the 9.5 million doses delivered.
However, Perna saidthere is a lag time in reporting the administration of shots. The shipments are for vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
The U.S. has seen more than 18.4 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and more than 326,000 deaths, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
Despite health officials’ pleas that people stay home, millions of Americans are travelling ahead of Christmas and New Year’s, much like they did last month for Thanksgiving.
Hospitals in California and elsewhere have been pushed to the brink. They have hired extra staff, cancelled elective surgeries and set up outdoor tents to treat patients, all to boost capacity before the cases contracted over Christmas and New Year’s show up in the next few weeks.
— From The Associated Press, last updated Thursday morning
What’s happening around the world
As of late Thursday morning, more than 78.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 44.4 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.
Another new variant of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, Africa‘s top public health official said Thursday, but further investigation is needed. “It’s a separate lineage from the U.K. and South Africa,” the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters.
He said the Nigerian CDC and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in that country — Africa’s most populous — will be analyzing more samples. “Give us some time … It’s still very early,” he said.
The alert about the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, he said, but that and South Africa’s alert late last week were enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC this week. The news comes as infections surge again in parts of the continent.
The new variant in South Africa is now the predominant one there, Nkengasong said, as confirmed infections in the country approach one million. While the variant transmits quickly and viral loads are higher, it is not yet clear whether it leads to a more severe disease, he said.
“We believe this mutation will not have an effect” on the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines to the continent, he said of the South Africa variant. Late on Wednesday, South Africa’s health minister announced an “alarming rate of spread” in that country, with more than 14,000 new cases confirmed in the past day, including more than 400 deaths.
The country has more than 950,000 infections and COVID-19 is “unrelenting,” Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement. The African continent now has more than 2.5 million confirmed cases, or 3.3 per cent of global cases. Infections across the continent have risen 10.9 per cent over the past four weeks, Nkengasong said, including a 52 per cent increase in Nigeria and 40 per cent increase in South Africa.
In Europe, Denmark has identified 33 infections with the new variant of the coronavirus that has been spreading rapidly in parts of Britain.
Irish health chiefs believe a new variant of COVID-19 found in neighbouring Britain is present in Ireland, but not solely responsible for a rapid spread of the disease.
Ukraine’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed one million on Thursday. Ukrainian health officials reported 11,490 new infections Thursday, which brought the country’s total to 1,001,132. Ukraine has also reported 17,395 deaths in the pandemic.
The rapid rise in virus cases in Ukraine started in September and put a strain on the country’s health-care system. In a bid to curb the spread of contagions, Ukrainian authorities decided to impose tight lockdown restrictions in January.
Russian authorities reported 29,935 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest daily spike in the pandemic. This is nearly 2,700 infections more than was registered the previous day. Russia’s total of over 2.9 million remains the fourth-largest coronavirus caseload in the world. The government’s coronavirus task force has also registered more than 53,000 deaths in all.
Russia has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.
French President Emmanuel Macron no longer has virus symptoms and is leaving isolation after a week with COVID-19, but is urging the French public to limit contacts and remain vigilant to keep infections under control during the holiday season.
Macron’s office said in a statement on Thursday that he is finishing a week of isolation at a presidential retreat in Versailles based on French health protocols, which recommend seven days of confinement following a positive virus test.
In the Americas, Mexico now has more people hospitalized for COVID-19 than it saw at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in late July. The Health Department says 18,301 people are in hospital across Mexico being treated for the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus. That is 0.4 per cent more than in July.
Mexico City is the epicentre of the current wave of infections and 85 per cent of its hospital beds are in use.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus variant found in the United Kingdom, while 11 others who were already in quarantine had returned preliminarily positive results for the new strain
Indonesia has banned travellers from Britain and tightened the rules for those arriving from Europe and Australia to try to limit the spread of a new coronavirus variant.
Taiwan’s tourism department on Wednesday cancelled an annual New Year celebration at the northeastern tip of the
island, after a report of the first locally transmitted COVID-19 case since April 12.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has reported 888 new coronavirus cases as of Thursday, an all-time daily high.
In the Middle East, Israel has detected four cases of the new, highly infectious variant that has emerged in Britain. The country will impose a third national lockdown to fight climbing COVID-19 infections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Kuwait has started its vaccine rollout, with the first Pfizer shots given to health-care and essential workers, older adults and those with chronic health conditions.
— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated early Thursday afternoon
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