The pandemic has now reached every continent on Earth.
Chilean authorities announced that at least 58 people who were at two military bases in Antarctica or on a navy ship that went to the continent tested positive for COVID-19. So far no other country with a presence in Antarctica has publicly reported any other cases.
Chile’s army announced Monday that 36 people at the Gen. Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme Antarctic base have tested positive, and on Tuesday the health minister for the Biobio region in Chile said there are 21 infections involving people aboard the Chilean navy’s Sergeant Aldea supply vessel.
One more case was reported in Las Estrellas’ village, where civilian personnel working at the Lieutenant Rodolfo Marsh Martin Air Force Base live, said Eduardo Castillo, regional health secretary for the Magallanes area, which oversees Chilean operations in the Antarctic. The Sargento Aldea ship docked at that village, he said.
Michelle Rogan-Finnemore, executive secretary of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, said in a statement that the office received a report from the Chilean Antarctic Institute on Friday about positive cases aboard the Sergeant Aldea vessel “who would have disembarked in the ports of Punta Arenas and Talcahuano” on the Chilean mainland.
“We have yet to receive further formal information,” she said.
As of Tuesday evening, more than 77.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 43.9 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a database maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.
What’s happening in Canada
As of 7:20 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 521,509, with 75,522 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,425.
At a briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Canada on Tuesday, federal health officials said they had not yet seen a sign of the mutated COVID-19 variant that first emerged in Britain, which experts believe is more readily transmissible.
“What we can say is at this point in time, we have not detected this mutation,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.
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Experts will continue to monitor the situation, she said, “but we will of course inform people as this goes along.”
Tam said more testing and sequencing would be done in the days ahead.
Quebec reported 2,183 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a single-day record, and 28 deaths. Hospitalizations increased to 1,055 in the hard-hit province, with 137 people in intensive care units.
The province also reported that a total of 437 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered on Monday, for a total of 5,273 doses administered since vaccinations began on Dec. 14.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford said that he knows a sweeping shutdown set to begin across the province on Dec. 26 will be difficult, but that it is necessary as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations rise.
At a news conference Tuesday, Ford also called on the federal government to implement pre-departure testing for travellers to Canada in light of a rapidly spreading variant of the virus in the United Kingdom.
“It’s a massive threat that we can’t take lightly,” he said. “Everyday we delay it, thousands of people are landing.”
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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott on Tuesday reported 2,202 cases of COVID-19 and said more than 45,300 tests were completed. Hospitalizations also increased, according to the province, rising to 1,005 with 273 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. Figures published by a Toronto critical care doctor and attributed to Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO) put the ICU figure at 285.
The figures reported by the province daily can vary from the CCSO reports due to differences in how the numbers are compiled.
Warehouses, food processing plants, and manufacturing facilities are among the essential businesses exempt from the provincial shutdown — even though workplaces are a significant source of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> infections, <a href=”https://twitter.com/trevorjdunn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@trevorjdunn</a> reports, leaving workers at risk:<a href=”https://t.co/pbEeo6133a”>https://t.co/pbEeo6133a</a>
Manitoba reported 155 new cases on Tuesday, continuing a downward trend after reporting 167 new cases on Monday, which was the first time since Nov. 3 that the province’s daily count of new cases had been below 200.
However, the province also reported 18 new deaths, just one shy of Manitoba’s record of 19 in a single day. Seven of the new deaths are related to the outbreak at Oakview Place care home in Winnipeg.
Across Manitoba, there are 380 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 44 in intensive care.
As of Monday night, 1,192 front-line health workers in the province have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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Saskatchewan reported 181 new COVID-19 cases and three new deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The province is also reporting 124 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, including 21 in intensive care.
Saskatchewan reported that as of Dec. 21, 1,519 people have received their first dose of vaccine as part of the Regina pilot vaccination phase.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced changes to public health restrictions to make allowances for Albertans who live alone as the province reported 1,021 new cases and 11 new deaths.
People who live alone will be allowed to attend one event at another household between Dec. 23 and Dec. 28, Kenney said at a news conference. During this period, households may host up to two single people for an event, he said.
“This is a small change that was just adopted based on advice from the minister of health, with input from the chief medical officer, by the COVID cabinet committee, and it will make a world of difference for single Albertans who otherwise would not be able to visit their families over Christmas,” he said.
Health officials in British Columbia announced 12 more deaths and 444 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest single-day number of reported cases since Nov. 5.
In the North, no new cases were reported in any of the territories on Tuesday. Yukon, which reported two recoveries, now has no active cases of COVID-19.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported seven cases on Tuesday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case and New Brunswick reported two new cases, both in the Moncton region.
Prince Edward Island reported no new cases on Tuesday. The province expects to have 1,500 people vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the day.
What’s happening in the U.S.
The top infectious disease expert in the United States received the initial dose of the newest COVID-19 vaccine alongside other federal health leaders who helped oversee its development. Dr. Anthony Fauci received his first shot of the two-dose regimen with National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Each received the vaccine co-developed by NIH and Massachusetts drugmaker Moderna.
The vaccinations on Tuesday at the NIH campus outside Washington, D.C., are part of a broader government effort to bolster public confidence in the safety of two COVID-19 vaccines recently cleared by U.S. regulators. Six health-care workers from the NIH’s research hospital also received vaccination shots at the event.
The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, has passed a $900 billion US pandemic relief package that would finally deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Lawmakers tacked on a $1.4 trillion catch-all spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a massive bundle of bipartisan legislation as Capitol Hill prepared to close the books on the year. The bill approved Monday night went to President Donald Trump for his signature, which was expected in the coming days.
The bill combines coronavirus-fighting funds with financial relief for individuals and businesses. It would establish a temporary $300-a-week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theatres, as well as money for schools, health-care providers and renters facing eviction.
The U.S. has seen more than 18 million COVID-19 cases and more than 319,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
Californians, meanwhile, were being warned it is too risky to celebrate the winter holidays normally, and if they don’t change plans, a deadly explosion of coronavirus cases could follow. The state has recorded a half-million coronavirus cases in the last two weeks, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that a projection model shows California could be facing nearly 100,000 hospitalizations within a month.
“Another spike in cases in the winter holidays will be disastrous for our hospital system and ultimately will mean many more people simply won’t be with us in 2021,” Los Angeles County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer said bluntly during a briefing.
The current surge is overwhelming emergency rooms in both urban centres and rural areas, including along the Mexican border, where a small hospital system warns it is quickly running out of patient beds.
Conditions at El Centro Regional Medical Center in the southeast corner of the state are desperate — even worse than during a summer surge that caught the attention of the governor, hospital officials said.
“We don’t have space for anybody. We’ve been holding patients for days because we can’t get them transferred, can’t get beds for them,” said Dr. Alexis Lenz, an emergency room physician at the medical centre in Imperial County, home to 180,000 people.
What’s happening around the world
In the Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan has reported a locally transmitted case of COVID-19 — the first in 253 days.
The country’s Central Epidemic Command Center said on Tuesday that the patient is a 30-year old female. She was found to be a close contact of a foreign pilot who was previously confirmed as having contracted the coronavirus.
Health officials are in touch with 167 contacts of both individuals and have asked 13 of them to quarantine at home. An official said the pilot, who did not mention the woman as a close contact, may be found in violation of Taiwan’s epidemic prevention laws and could be fined.
Taiwan has largely shielded itself during the pandemic, recording just seven deaths and 770 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
South Korea will prohibit private social gatherings of five or more people and shut down ski resorts and major tourist spots nationwide starting on Christmas Eve as it contends with a surge in coronavirus infections.
The restrictions announced Tuesday extend to a national level similar rules set earlier by authorities in the Seoul metropolitan area. It is the most serious step the government has taken to reinstate physical distancing after months of easing.
India recorded 19,556 new cases of the coronavirus, according to Health Ministry data on Tuesday, its lowest daily increase since July 3.
In Europe, the chief executive of BioNTech says the German pharmaceutical company is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the U.K. variant, but further studies are needed to be completely sure.
Ugur Sahin said Tuesday that “we don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” but because the proteins on the variant are 99 per cent the same as the prevailing strains, BioNTech has “scientific confidence” in the vaccine.
Sahin said BioNTech is conducting further studies and hopes to have certainty within the coming weeks. BioNTech’s vaccine, developed together with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer, is authorized for use in more than 45 countries.
Germany has expanded its ban on passenger flights from the U.K. to forbid passenger transport by rail, bus and ship. Health Minister Jens Spahn said the measure took effect at midnight, a day after flights were halted. A similar measure applies to South Africa, where a new variant of the coronavirus has also been detected.
The measures apply through Jan. 6. There are exceptions for freight and mail transport, as well as for medical and humanitarian flights. A string of European and other countries halted air travel from Britain because of a new and seemingly more contagious strain of the coronavirus in England.
In Africa, Sudan will ban travellers from Britain, the Netherlands and South Africa beginning Dec. 23.
In the Middle East, Oman said on Monday it’s temporarily suspending all entry to the country by foreigners and halting international passenger flights over worries about a fast-spreading new strain of the coronavirus.
Oman said the one-week closure of all official ports of entry would begin on Tuesday “to protect community members from the severity of infection and the speed of spread.”
In the Americas, Brazil trailed only the U.S. in total coronavirus cases, with more than 7.2 million cases reported and more than 187,000 deaths. Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said it had certified the production standards of CoronaVac, China’s Sinovac-produced coronavirus vaccine candidate.
Colombia’s president said that Venezuelan migrants who are living in the country without residence permits won’t be given free COVID-19 vaccines when the doses arrive — possibly leaving hundreds of thousands unvaccinated.
Guatemala and Panama will restrict entry to travellers who have recently visited Britain or South Africa.
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