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Coronavirus variants are testing the limits of what we once thought was safe in Canada

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


The rapid spread of more contagious coronavirus variants across Canada is driving a devastating third wave in much of the country and increasing the level of risk in situations previously thought to be relatively safe from COVID-19.

Experts say the risk of exposure is higher in everyday situations and the margin of error is lower for what we can and can’t do safely until more Canadians are vaccinated. 

“The things that you’ve gotten away with previously, and that you’ve put into your mindset that were safe … it wasn’t that they were safe, it’s that you got lucky,” said Erin Bromage, a biology professor and immunologist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth who studies infectious diseases. 

“That luck — it’s like rolling dice.” 

Bromage said activities such as visiting a loved one, sharing a meal or working out in a gym might seem safe because public health restrictions may allow them, but are even riskier now than they were before. 

The variants of concern not only appear to be more transmissible and potentially more deadly, but Bromage says they may also transmit for longer periods of time in infected individuals and bind to our cells more easily — providing more opportunities for infected people to spread the virus. 

WATCH | Canada facing perilous mix of coronavirus variants:

The mix of COVID-19 variants circulating in Canada has turned the country into a dangerous petri dish unlike anywhere else. 2:07

“If you’re only transmitting for a few days out of an infection cycle, you can only have so many contacts during those days,” he said. “But if that duration of shedding is now twice as long, you can have double the contacts and so therefore it moves more easily between people.”  

Linsey Marr, one of the top aerosol scientists in the world and an expert on the airborne transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech, says it’s possible variants may also be causing more virus particles in the exhaled air of infected individuals for longer.

“The virus is still transmitting the same way,” she said. “What’s different is likely that either the people who are infected are releasing more virus over a longer period of time or it’s possible that it takes fewer of those viruses to make you sick.” 

The number of confirmed variant cases in Canada has skyrocketed in recent weeks, rising from about 2,000 a month ago to close to 17,000 this week and counting, with more than 90 per cent of those being the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

The P1 variant first discovered in Brazil is also on the rise in Canada, with cases doubling in the past week to more than 1,000 — mostly in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. 

And the B1351 variant first found in South Africa is also picking up steam, with more than 150 cases identified in Quebec, more than 70 in Ontario and more than 50 in B.C. as of Thursday. 

“The race between the vaccine and the variants is at a critical point,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told reporters Friday. “It is clear that we need stronger control to combat variants of concern that are driving rapid epidemic growth in many areas of the country.”

Tam said in a statement Thursday that serious illness can occur at any age and evidence indicates that variants of concern can be associated with more severe illness and increased risk of death.

Younger Canadians are being impacted harder in the third wave as well, Tam said, with infection rates highest among those aged 20 to 39 and a rise in the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions in those under 60. 


Experts say Canada’s third wave of COVID-19 is showing no signs of slowing down, meaning Canadians need to buckle down and take precautions until more of us get a dose of vaccine. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Airborne transmission driving spread

New research is shedding light on the way in which infection was occurring around the world even before variants took hold, calling into question whether our previous public health guidelines go far enough. 

A recent study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that a singer at a church in Australia in July was able to infect several others from a distance of more than 15 metres indoors. 

While a second CDC study found an infection occurred in a New Zealand quarantine hotel in September after an exposure time of less than a minute in an open doorway. 

And a recent outbreak at a gym in Quebec City where physical distancing and mask use were not enforced has been linked to at least 440 cases of COVID-19 and one death in the community.

Quebec health officials say the rise of variants and a more relaxed approach to public health rules by residents have led to the spike in cases in the province, leading them to introduce a mandatory mask mandate for outdoor activities and indoor workplaces.

“The evidence just keeps piling up in favour of the importance of aerosol transmission,” said Marr. “We thought it was important before, I would say it’s probably predominant in terms of how the virus is transmitted.”

WATCH | Quebec City’s COVID-19 surge leads to more restrictions:

Quebec is imposing more COVID-19 restrictions as case numbers swell, especially in Quebec City where variants have gained control. Quebec City, Levis, Gatineau and Beauce are facing tougher controls while Montreal and Laval are returning to an 8 p.m. curfew. 2:02

Bromage says the reluctance of Canadian public health officials to acknowledge aerosol transmission in a meaningful way has been “frustrating” and adds to confusion among Canadians about how infections are occurring.

Aerosol transmission refers to spread via microscopic airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air longer than larger droplets, which tend to fall to the ground within a distance of two metres — a trait that informed the original physical distancing guidelines. 

“There has been a reluctance to accept that both in schools and in hospitals,” he said of aerosol transmission. “That poor messaging has led people indoors and infection starting up that really shouldn’t have.”

Canada revised its guidelines on how COVID-19 spreads to include the risk of aerosol transmission in November, weeks after other countries and international health organizations acknowledged the airborne threat.

“People tend to latch on to the first thing they hear, which was to wipe down your groceries a year ago,” said Marr. “But I think we need really a campaign to just clarify to people kind of how the virus is transmitting and then policies that match that.” 

The CDC also updated its guidelines to say the risk of COVID-19 infection from surfaces is now officially considered low — meaning disinfecting groceries, wiping down packages and cordoning off playgrounds are likely unnecessary.  

Outdoors not without risk 

Experts say now more than ever, Canadians need to mitigate the increased risk of transmission from variants by going above and beyond public health guidelines and moving activities outdoors — though not all outdoor environments are created equal. 

“Imagine, for example, the terrace of a cafe that would be enclosed by plastic sheeting on three of the four walls, in which you have a lot of people close to one another at tables,” said Dr. Raymond Tellier, an infectious diseases specialist and associate medical professor at McGill University. “This is logically outdoor, but physically has all the characteristics of an indoor environment.”


Now more than ever, experts say, Canadians need to mitigate the increased risk of transmission from variants by going above and beyond public health guidelines and moving activities outdoors — though not all outdoor environments have the same risk level.  (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Md., says it’s important to remember that while transmission can occur outdoors, it’s much less likely. 

“Even with the more contagious variants, the virus is still going to have difficulty transmitting in those settings,” he said. 

“But when you look at some of the issues that we had in the United States, for example the protests after George Floyd’s death, those were all outdoors and we saw very little transmission.” 

Even if you are moving activities outdoors, experts say to wear a mask with a high filtration level and stay as far apart from others as possible. 

The fact is Canada’s third wave of COVID-19 is showing no signs of slowing down as the vaccine rollout gradually ramps up — meaning Canadians need to buckle down until more of us get a shot, experts say.

Bromage says both Canada and the U.S. have a “rough” couple of months ahead, but that Canada’s slower vaccine rollout means our third wave could last into June. 

“The race is really on in the U.S.,” he said. “The variants are winning in Canada right now, whereas I think in the U.S. it’s sort of neck and neck.”

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CBC | Health News

Coronavirus variants causing growing alarm in B.C. as cases surge, hospitalizations rise

Experts are growing increasingly concerned about the spread of more transmissible coronavirus variants in B.C. and a consequent spike in serious COVID-19 cases that they fear could overwhelm hospitals in the province.

Doctors say they’re seeing younger patients with the disease — aged 20 to 50 — requiring critical care, in contrast with predominantly elderly people who got badly sick during the first year of the pandemic.

“We do know that a lot of that is the variant[s], and it does seem like it is a more transmissible strain and it also seems that people do get sicker with some of these variants,” said Dr. Gerald Da Roza, head of medicine at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C.

Da Roza says intake at the intensive care unit (ICU) has increased in the past few weeks at the hospital, where he reported that patients have spilled over into other departments.

“Some people say this is the busiest we’ve been in 15 years,” he said.

WATCH | How the P1 variant is taking hold in B.C.:

The P1 COVID-19 variant, first seen in Brazil, is creating a big problem for health officials because of how quickly it spreads. Currently concentrated in the Vancouver area, modelling shows it could spread out of control by late April. 2:06

The variants of concern in B.C. are B117, first detected in the U.K., and P1, associated with Brazil. Cases of both have so far been concentrated in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health authority regions, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday.

He said the number of cases of the P1 variant close to doubled over the Easter weekend.

“The most transmissive variants of COVID-19 are ultimately going to take over,” the minister said.

Dix said 60 of the current 320 coronavirus cases in B.C. hospitals are related to variants of concern. He also confirmed there are pressures on ICUs, especially at Royal Columbian and Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.

‘Worrisome’ spread of P1

B.C. is now being identified by epidemiologists across the world as a notable hotspot for the P1 variant that has spread unchecked through Brazil, where COVID-19 has killed more than 300,000 people.

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a Washington, D.C.-based epidemiologist and health economist, says the accelerating community spread of mutations in B.C. is “worrisome.”

He said that the P1 variant is more than twice as transmissible as the original coronavirus and initial data suggests it causes higher mortality rates and affects younger people more than the initial strand.

Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, raised the alarm a few weeks ago when he compared B.C. to Florida, where variants are also growing in number.

Health Canada reported 379 cases involving variants of concern in B.C. on April 1, up from 84 on March 22. As of Monday, Dix said there are now a total of 588 of the two primary variants in the province: 373 of B117 and 215 of P1.


Staff at Royal Columbian Hospital say the hospital is the busiest it’s been in 15 years. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Canucks off ice 

The fact that many Vancouver Canucks players have been affected — despite strict NHL safety protocols, testing and the use of personal protective equipment — should serve as an alarm bell, Feigl-Ding said.

“I think this has woken people up because people think … young people are healthy, especially if you’re an athlete. You train well, you shouldn’t have any problems,” he said.

As of Monday evening, a total of 17 Canucks players — most of the team’s active roster — were officially being kept off the ice under the league’s COVID protocols, though that does not necessarily mean all 17 have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Several sources say an unnamed player from the team’s reserve “taxi squad” is quarantining and three members of the coaching staff have tested positive.

While health officials and the NHL have refused to confirm that the team outbreak involves one of the coronavirus variants, hockey insiders at media sources including The Sports Network and The Province have said it is suspected.

One of the players affected, Jayce Hawryluk, contracted COVID-19 last year. 


Da Roza said it’s now a race to get people vaccinated to offset the increased infections he’s seeing in younger British Columbians. 

B.C. is rolling out its vaccine largely based on age, starting with the oldest. As of Tuesday, all residents born in 1950 or earlier are now eligible for their first shot.

Da Roza urges people to be vigilant so that the variants don’t draw out the pandemic any longer.

“Hang in there for a few more months, and be smart about things,” he advised.

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CBC | Health News

India’s daily coronavirus cases soar past 100,000 for 1st time as western state tightens restrictions

India reported its biggest single-day spike in confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began Monday, and officials in the hard-hit state home to Mumbai are resuming the closure of some businesses and places of worship in a bid to slow the spread.

The Health Ministry reported 103,558 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, topping the previous peak of 97,894 daily cases recorded in late September. Fatalities rose by 478, raising the country’s death toll to 165,101.

India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 73,000 cases per day, and infections in the country are being reported faster than anywhere else in the world.

The biggest contributor to the surge has been the western state of Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai. The state has contributed more than 55 per cent of total cases in the country in the last two weeks.

The state will start shutting cinemas, restaurants, shopping malls and places of worship from Monday evening. Authorities will also impose a complete lockdown at weekends.


People wait their turn for a COVID-19 test outside a court in Mumbai on Monday. India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 73,000 cases per day. (Rafiq Maqbool/The Associated Press)

Infections had receded in India for several months but started to rise again in late February. Since then, new cases have increased more than tenfold.

India has confirmed a new and potentially troublesome variant of the virus, but officials have cautioned against linking that or other variants to the surge.

Experts say the surge is blamed in part on growing disregard for physical distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces, including public gatherings. Some say the government has been sending mixed messages.

As health officials continue to warn of gatherings in public places, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party leaders continue to hold mammoth rallies in several states where local elections are underway.


Health workers wait after taking the body of a COVID-19 victim for burial in New Delhi on Monday. (Manish Swarup/The Associated Press)

Modi’s government has also allowed a huge month-long Hindu festival to go ahead on the banks of the Ganges River in northern Uttarakhand state. The festival draws tens of thousands of devotees daily.

Vaccinations ramp up

India has intensified its vaccination drive in recent weeks, now administering more than three million jabs a day. But the shots have been slow to reach India’s nearly 1.4 billion people.

More than 76 million Indians have received at least one shot, but only 9.5 million of them have received both. Health officials want to cover 300 million people by August, but experts say the vaccinations need to move faster to stop the spread.


People wait to get inoculated in New Delhi on Monday. Those older than 45 are now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. (Manish Swarup/The Associated Press)

The country has launched the third phase of its coronavirus vaccination drive with those older than 45 eligible for the jab. In the first two phases, front-line workers and people above the age of 60 were eligible.

India has reported 12.6 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.

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CBC | World News

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday

The latest:

Ontario announced a provincewide “shutdown” to combat a spike in coronavirus cases on Thursday, as federal health officials reported that nearly 15 per cent of Canadian adults have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Citing the need for drastic action, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the change will take effect Saturday and continue for at least four weeks.

The government is asking Ontarians to limit trips outside the home to necessities such as food, medication and other essential services, but stopped short of imposing a stay-at-home order like it did in January.

Retail stores will see limits on capacity while restaurants will be restricted to takeout, delivery and drive-thru service, the premier said.


Nurses from Humber River Hospital’s mobile vaccine clinic administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Toronto and Region Islamic Congregation Centre as part of the coronavirus vaccination campaign in Toronto on Thursday. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

The government has said schools will also remain open because they are crucial to the mental health of students.

“The decision was not made lightly,” Ford said. “I know the toll these restrictions continue to take on people’s mental health and well-being.”


The announcement comes hours after the province’s science advisers said stay-at-home orders are needed to control the third wave driven by more contagious and deadly COVID-19 variants.

The move came a day after Quebec Premier François Legault announced tighter rules in three cities he said are facing a “critical” situation in his own province.

Legault announced on Wednesday that people in Quebec City, Gatineau and Lévis should “remain at home unless they absolutely have to go to work.” The new measures, which begin Thursday evening, will last 10 days. Schools in the three communities will close, Legault said, as will non-essential businesses. The curfew in those areas will move up to 8 p.m. ET.

Montreal is not among the communities affected by the stepped-up restrictions, but the premier didn’t rule out further action.

WATCH | Quebec response to spike in cases:

The Quebec government has implemented an emergency shutdown in three regions, Levis, Gatineau and Quebec City, after a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases over the last week. 2:01

“The third wave is here,” said Legault, who noted during his briefing that hospitalizations are expected to increase in the coming weeks. “I ask you not to gather in homes and please get vaccinated as soon as you can.”

Quebec on Thursday reported 1,271 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 487, with 119 people in the province’s intensive care units (ICUs), according to a provincial dashboard.

Health officials in Ontario reported 2,557 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 23 additional deaths. According to data released by the province to the public, hospitalizations stood at 1,116, with 433 people listed as being in ICUs.

Figures from Critical Care Services Ontario posted on Twitter by the president of the Ontario Hospital Association Thursday morning put the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care at 430. (Provincial officials have previously said the data published to the dashboard doesn’t include cases in which patients are no longer testing positive for COVID-19.)

WATCH | Ontario ICUs under pressure:

Critical care specialist Dr. Jamie Spiegelman says Ontario’s intensive care units are under pressure as COVID-19 cases spike. ‘We’re definitely seeing a younger population coming into the ICU,’ he says. 5:45

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 4:15 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada


A pedestrian walks past signs on a construction site fence in Ottawa Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

As of 1:10 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 985,954 cases of COVID-19, with 49,106 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,991.

Health officials in Nova Scotia reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Premier Iain Rankin announced that people aged 70 and older can now book for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported one new travel-related case of COVID-19 on Thursday.


A pedestrian walks past a mural featuring a masked health-care worker on Ottawa’s Rideau Street on Thursday. (CBC / Radio-Canada)

In New Brunswick, health officials reported 10 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, while Prince Edward Island reported a single new case.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 59 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and two additional deaths.

In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 199 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and no additional deaths.

In Alberta, health officials reported 871 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths on Wednesday. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 301, with 63 patients reported to be in intensive care.

WATCH | Alberta doctor says tighter measures needed: 

Alberta needs more strict measures to curb a ‘beast’ of a coronavirus variant that is making young people much sicker, says Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician in Edmonton. 6:09

In British Columbia, health officials reported three additional deaths Wednesday and 1,013 daily COVID-19 cases — breaching the 100,000 mark of total cases since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 304, with 80 in intensive care.

Across the North, there was one new case of COVID-19 reported in a Yukon resident (though the individual was out of the province at the time.) There were no new cases reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 3:35 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world


Medical workers put on personal protective gear before entering the room of a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit of the Andre-Gregoire intercommunal hospital on the outskirts of Paris on Thursday, as the country adopted new measures to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Thursday afternoon, more than 129 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.8 million.

The COVAX facility, which is a key part of the effort to get COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, faces a “serious challenge” to meet demand, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Thursday.

“Last week, I made an urgent request to countries, with doses of COVID-19 vaccines that have WHO Emergency Use Listing, to share 10 million doses immediately with COVAX,” he said.

“I requested manufacturers to help ensure that the countries that step up can rapidly donate those doses. This challenge has been heard but we’re yet to receive commitments for these doses. I’m still hopeful that some forward looking and enlightened leaders will step up,” he said.

Tedros’s remarks came after Pfizer said its vaccine continues to show efficacy against COVID-19 up to six months later. The drug company and its German partner, BioNTech, announced updated results Thursday from their ongoing late-stage study of more than 44,000 volunteers.

The companies said the vaccine showed efficacy of 91 per cent against symptomatic disease and was even more effective in preventing severe disease. Of 927 confirmed COVID-19 cases detected through March 13, 77 were among people who received the vaccine and 850 were among people who got dummy shots.

There were no serious safety concerns and the vaccine also appeared to work against a variant first detected in South Africa, the companies said.

This week, the companies said the vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12, based on a study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers.

In Africa, Nigeria hopes to receive up to 70 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this year through the African Union, its primary health-care chief told Reuters, amid concerns about delayed deliveries of AstraZeneca shots.

Egypt received 854,400 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine as part of the global COVAX agreement, the health ministry said.

In Europe, a senior WHO official said Thursday that immunization campaigns against COVID-19 in European nations had been “unacceptably slow” to date and risk prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said vaccines “present our best way out of this pandemic,” but noted that to date, only 10 per cent of Europe’s population has received one dose and only four per cent have been fully protected with two doses.


People paint hearts along a wall beside a hospital in London, England, on Thursday as a memorial to all those who have died of COVID-19 so far in the U.K. during the pandemic. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

“As long as coverage remains low, we need to apply the same public health and social measures as we have in the past, to compensate for delayed schedules,” Kluge said.

In Germany, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot, a signal of confidence in the vaccine after the country restricted its use in people under 60. The presidential office said the 65-year-old Steinmeier received his first shot at a hospital in Berlin on Thursday.

In Belgium, police used tear gas and water cannons on Thursday to disperse thousands of young people who gathered in a Brussels park for a party in defiance of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown, an event that began as an April Fool’s joke on Facebook.

Belgium entered a third COVID-19 lockdown last weekend, with groups limited to four people meeting outside, but this week’s sunny weather had already brought thousands out to the park.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong will resume administering the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday following a 12-day suspension over packaging defects detected in one batch, officials said.


A man throws a bottle towards police during protests in Brussels on Thursday. Belgian police have clashed with a large crowd in one of the city’s biggest parks. Thousands of revelers had gathered for an unauthorized event despite coronavirus restrictions. (Fran Seco/The Associated Press)

India opened up its coronavirus inoculation program to people above 45 as infections surge, in a move that will delay vaccine exports from the world’s biggest vaccine maker.

South Korea is reviewing whether to approve rapid coronavirus tests that can be taken at home and produce near-immediate results as another tool to fight the pandemic.


People receive their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre set up for people over 75 years old in Seoul. (Chung Sung-Jun/AFP/Getty Images)

Kwon Jun-wook, director of South Korea’s National Health Institute, said Thursday there’s a need to provide convenient and accessible tests that people can use regularly because the virus is often transmitted by people with no or mild symptoms.

Health officials in China say six more people have become ill with COVID-19 in a southwestern Chinese city on the border with Myanmar. That brings the confirmed total in the Yunnan province city of Ruili over the past two days to 12, including three Myanmar citizens.

In the Middle East, Israel plans to administer the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents upon FDA approval, the health minister said.


A health worker prepares a Sinovac’s CoronaVac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine for senior citizens, at the Museu do Amanha in the port of Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

In the Americas, Brazil health regulator Anvisa said it approved emergency use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while it rejected a request from the government to import doses of Covaxin, citing a lack of safety data and documentation.

Also Thursday, WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told a briefing that a number of states in Brazil are in critical condition and hospitals are overwhelmed, with many intensive care units more than 90 per cent full.

Chile closed its borders and tightened an already strict lockdown further Thursday to slow the spread of the coronavirus and stop the influx of contagious new variants as cases climbed past one million despite one of the world’s fastest vaccination rates.

The dramatic move came as hospitals warned they were close to saturation with victims of the disease who are middle-aged and younger as cases have spiked in recent weeks following the Southern Hemisphere summer holidays.


A Chilean police officer checks people’s transit permits amid the coronavirus pandemic outside a market where shoppers wait to buy fish for Holy Week in Santiago, Chile, on Thursday. (Esteban Felix/The Associated Press)

Chile struck early deals with vaccine makers Pfizer and Sinovac and has already vaccinated more than 35 per cent of its population, ranking it third in the world for inoculations per capita, according to a Reuters tally.

But a second wave hit before the country could reach a goal of herd immunity by July.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

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CBC | World News

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Monday

The latest:

Stricter public health measures come into force in two Ontario regions today as the province continues ramping up its vaccine drive.

Hamilton is going into the strictest grey-lockdown phase of Ontario’s pandemic response plan today, while the Eastern Ontario Health Unit enters the second-strictest red zone.

But as of today, those who live in grey zones will be able to attend fitness classes outdoors.

Premier Doug Ford made that announcement Friday, when he also revealed that hair salons and other personal care services will be able to reopen in grey zones on April 12.

Ontario reported 2,448 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 19 additional deaths. Data released by the province put the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at 917, with 366 people listed as being in Ontario’s intensive care units.


Nurse Tahani McDonald from Humber River Hospital administers the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at a Toronto Community Housing seniors building in the northwest end of Toronto on March 25. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Meanwhile, the government lowered the minimum age for vaccine eligibility in several public health units. In a news release issued Sunday night, the province said as of 8 a.m. ET on Monday, all people aged 70 and up in several public health units “will be eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment at a mass immunization clinic through the provincial online booking system and call centre.” The listed regions include:

  • City of Hamilton Public Health Services
  • Grey Bruce Health Unit
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
  • Lambton Public Health
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
  • Niagara Region Public Health
  • Ottawa Public Health
  • Peel Public Health
  • Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit
  • Timiskaming Health Unit
  • York Region Public Health

Two more mass vaccination sites will also open in Toronto, where people as young as 70 started getting vaccinated on Saturday. But the city is also grappling with COVID-19 outbreaks that have forced Toronto Public Health to shutter three schools.

Vaccination efforts have been ramping up across the country, and as of Sunday evening more than 5.1 million doses had been administered, according to a CBC News vaccine-tracking tool, including more than 1.9 million doses in Ontario.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | How can people reduce COVID-19 risks outdoors?

With new concerns about coronavirus variants, an infectious disease specialist answers questions about how safe it is outdoors and how to mitigate the risks. 2:17

As of early Monday morning, Canada had reported 965,409 cases of COVID-19, with 43,590 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,880.

In Atlantic Canada, health officials in New Brunswick reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — with five in the Edmundston region. Health officials placed the health zone in the province’s northwest under temporary “circuit-breaker” restrictions last week as health officials tried to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the region. 

Nova Scotia reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case. There were no new cases reported on Prince Edward Island.

In Quebec, health officials reported 917 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province stood at 480, with 114 in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard. On Saturday, the province reported more than 1,000 cases for the first time since mid-February. 

Premier François Legault has said he doesn’t have immediate plans to step up restrictions, but he cautioned that a third wave of COVID-19 is at the province’s doorstep as he urged people to follow existing guidelines.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 55 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.

In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 248 new cases on Sunday and three additional deaths. In Regina, meanwhile, more students are moving to online learning as the city tries to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In Alberta, health officials reported 644 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths on Sunday. Alberta’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a tweet that there were 277 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 63 in ICU.

In British Columbia, health officials will provide updated figures to cover the weekend later Monday.

Across the North, there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world


France’s national cycling team trains as people get a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the indoor Velodrome National of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, southwest of Paris, last week. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

As of early Monday morning, more than 127.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.

In Africa, Johnson & Johnson will supply up to 220 million doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine to the African Union’s 55 member states from the third quarter of 2021, the drugmaker said on Monday.

South Africa plans to administer coronavirus vaccines to up to 200,000 people a day beginning around May.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong will ease some coronavirus restrictions, the government said on Monday, allowing swimming pools and beaches to open and shortening the quarantine period for some international arrivals to 14 days from 21.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told a press briefing that local infections had come down considerably, giving the administration room to relax some measures. Beaches and swimming pools would reopen from April 1, while religious gatherings could resume with maximum capacity of 30 per cent. Cinemas and theme parks would be able to increase capacity to 75 per cent from 50 per cent. Bars, karaoke parlours and bathhouses would stay closed.

“We want to keep containing the epidemic and not undo the efforts we have made. We must continue to enforce stringent measures,” she said.


A police officer checks the identity document of a motorist at a quarantine checkpoint along a highway in Cainta town, on the boundary between Rizal province and suburban Manila, on Monday. (Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images)

Philippine officials placed Metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, back into lockdown Monday at the height of the Lenten and Easter holiday travel season as they scrambled to control an alarming surge in coronavirus infections.

Only workers, government security, health personnel and residents on urgent errands would be allowed out of homes during the weeklong restrictions, which prohibit leisure trips and religious gatherings that forced the dominant Roman Catholic church to shift all its Holy Week and Easter activities online. The renewed lockdown brought President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration under fire for what critics say was its failed handling of the pandemic.

Pakistani authorities, meanwhile, imposed a partial lockdown in several more high-risk areas in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the country after the positivity rate from coronavirus infections jumped to over 11 per cent.

Pakistan is facing another surge in coronavirus infections which officials say is worse than last year’s outbreak when Pakistan had to impose a nationwide lockdown. On Monday, authorities in the eastern Punjab province also announced a two-week long partial lockdown in high-risk cities from April 1 in an effort aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

So far, Pakistan’s government has avoided a nationwide lockdown to spare the country’s ailing economy from more damage.

In the Americas, a delivery of 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from the United States landed in Mexico City, Mexico’s foreign ministry said, following an accord U.S. President Joe Biden made with Mexico this month.

Brazil announced its first two domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine candidates for human trials, which although months away from use, should eventually help tame the pandemic.


A gravedigger wearing a protective suit looks at the first coffin, not pictured, arriving for the first night burial as spotlights illuminate the graves at Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil last week. (Amanda Perobelli/Reuters)

In the Middle East, a new factory in Abu Dhabi will start manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm later this year under a joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 (G42).

In Europe, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that health conditions were worsening during a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in France and “all options are on the table” to protect the public. Le Maire also told France Info radio that France should avoid adopting stricter COVID-19 restriction measures for as long as it could, and ruled out changing the list of shops and businesses that have been allowed to stay open.

“This list will not change,” Le Maire said. “Today sending the signal that we would reopen some businesses while the situation deteriorates, it’s not in the country’s interest.”

Under COVID-19 restrictions in place in 19 high-risk zones, including Paris, stores allowed to stay open include those selling food, books, flowers and chocolate, and hairdressers.

Clothes, furniture and beauty shops are not allowed to open. This has led to frustration among the so-called non-essential shop owners forced to stay closed.

President Emmanuel Macron last week defended his decision not to impose a third full lockdown and to keep schools open, but said further restrictions would probably be needed.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET

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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday

The latest:

More than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Canada, according to CBC’s vaccine tracking tool.

As of Sunday at 10:35 a.m. ET, the number of doses administered across the country totals 5,032,269. Provincially, Ontario has given the most shots, with 1.98 million, followed by Quebec with 1.17 million and British Columbia with 637,856.

The proportion of people in Canada who have received the two doses of a vaccine to be fully protected against COVID-19, however, remains relatively low. Nationally, about 1.75 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. The proportion is highest in Yukon, where about one in four people (25.6 per cent) have received both doses. It’s lowest in New Brunswick, where 1.56 per cent of the population has received two shots.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said last week that 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine on loan from the United States are expected to arrive in Canada on Tuesday.

WATCH | Anand on arrival date of AstraZeneca doses from the U.S.:

Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced that 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in Canada by truck from the U.S. on Tuesday, March 30. 2:40

Those doses are part of a surge in vaccine deliveries set to take place over the coming weeks, she said.

Canada has distributed more than six million doses of COVID-19 vaccines overall.

On Saturday, Canada’s chief public health officer warned that current health orders are not enough to stop rapid growth of COVID-19 as provinces push ahead with plans to reopen their economies.

Longer-range forecast models predict a resurgence of COVID-19 infections unless public health measures are enhanced and strictly followed, Dr. Theresa Tam said in a written statement.

Tam said public health orders across Canada need to be stronger, stricter and sustained long enough to control the rise of variants of concern. High infection rates in the most populous provinces are driving up the country’s average daily case counts, she said.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 5:45 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 965,409 cases of COVID-19, with 43,890 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,880.

In British Columbia, the province has expanded the eligibility for vaccine appointments.

Resident 73 and older — or born in 1948 and before — are now able to book appointments, while those living on the Sunshine Coast or in Powell River, Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton and Bowen Island are able to book if they are aged 70 and up, or born in 1951 and before.

Indigenous people aged 55 and older, born in 1966 or earlier, are also eligible to book appointments.

Some vulnerable people who have received a letter from the province will also be able to begin booking vaccine appointments on Monday.


A person is administered a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a drive-thru clinic in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Alberta reported 644 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths on Sunday.

Saskatchewan recorded 248 new COVID-19 cases and three related deaths.

As of Sunday, restaurants and bars in Regina closed to indoor dining as variant cases surged in the city and surrounding areas. Other “non-essential indoor locations” — like museums, libraries and cinemas — also closed.

Manitoba saw 55 new cases and an additional death.

Ontario logged 2,448 new cases and 19 more deaths, marking the fourth consecutive day of new daily cases topping 2,000. 

The provincial government said Sunday its extending vaccination bookings for those 70 and older to 11 additional health units starting on Monday. The announcement comes after Toronto expanded vaccination eligibility in that age range on Saturday.

Also on Monday, two regions in the province will move into more restricted areas of its colour-coded reopening framework: Hamilton will move into the grey-lockdown zone, while the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will move into the red-control zone.


A person wearing a face shield and masks is seen in Toronto on Sunday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Quebec confirmed 917 new cases and two more deaths on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Collège des médecins du Québec — the professional body representing physicians in the province — asked the provincial government to reconsider its decision to relax some health measures as churches welcomed back larger crowds on Sunday and high school students in red zones prepared to return to class full time on Monday.

Premier Francois Legault said on Friday that he wasn’t considering reversing his decision to reopen gyms or to allow places of worship to welcome up to 250 people, even as he acknowledged that the province appeared to be at the beginning a third wave.


People wearing face masks attend mass in Montreal on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick registered six new cases, with most in the Edmundston region.

The province’s northwest remains under tightened restrictions following a spike in cases and a move to “circuit-breaker” red-phase restrictions earlier this week.

Prince Edward Island will open its first mass vaccination clinics on Monday. 

The clinics in Charlottetown and Summerside are for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, as opposed to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is being distributed in pharmacies to younger Islanders who must work with the public.


A mass vaccination clinic in Charlottetown is seen before its Monday opening. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Nova Scotia identified two new cases on Sunday, for a total of 25 active cases in the province.

Newfoundland and Labrador added one new infection, only the province’s second in the last 10 days. According to the Department of Health, the case is related to domestic travel.

Effective midnight Saturday, the entire province moved to Alert Level 2, allowing households to keep a “steady 20” group of consistent contacts.

In the North, both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories have no active active cases, while Yukon has just one.

What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 126.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, which runs a coronavirus case-tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.

In Europe, critical-care doctors in Paris are calling for a full lockdown and said softer new restrictions imposed this month on the French capital and other regions won’t quickly bring the the surging coronavirus under control. Lighter restrictions, doctors say, could soon overwhelm their ability to care for the sick in the French capital’s hospitals — possibly forcing them to choose which patients to treat.


Crowds of people, most appearing not to wear masks, gather at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris on Sunday. (Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images)

In Asia, India’s richest state, Maharashtra, is considering imposing a strict lockdown  this week after recording 40,414 new cases on Sunday — the highest one-day jump in coronavirus infections of any Indian state since last March.

In the Americas, Mexico’s government is acknowledging that — due to overwhelmed hospitals and people dying at home without being tested — the country’s true death toll from the coronavirus pandemic stands above 321,000, almost 60 per cent higher than the official toll of 201,429.

In Africa, 44 countries have received vaccines through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative, with more than 7.7 million doses administered so far, according to WHO Africa Region.

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60% higher risk of death from coronavirus variants, Ontario analysis finds: sources

Variants of the virus behind COVID-19 double the risk of someone being admitted to intensive care — and increase the risk of death by roughly 60 per cent — according to a new analysis of recent Ontario data from the province’s science advisory table, multiple sources tell CBC News.

A briefing note prepared by table members for the province, which is expected to be made public early next week, is based on an analysis of Ontario hospitalization and death data between December and March.

The analysis is expected to show that variants substantially increase the risk of serious illness when compared to the initial strain of SARS-CoV-2, including:

  • 60 per cent increased risk of hospitalization.
  • 100 per cent increased risk of being admitted to an ICU.
  • 60 per cent increased risk of death.

The data didn’t differentiate between variants, though most instances in Ontario right now are thought to be the B117 variant first identified in southeast England.

The Ontario figures were also pooled with data from Denmark and the U.K., two countries hit hard by B117, several sources explained, with local data falling in line with those earlier international findings. 

“Clearly, these variants are … more transmissible — so you’re more likely to become infected if you’re exposed to the virus — and also, you’re more likely to be admitted to hospital and to potentially die from the infection,” said critical care physician Dr. Kali Barrett, a member of the COVID-19 Modelling Collaborative, a separate group that was not involved in the science table’s upcoming briefing note.

Those health impacts are regardless of your age or pre-existing medical issues, she said of the international research.

People need to ‘protect themselves’

CBC News has not obtained a copy of the upcoming briefing note but did speak to multiple sources familiar with the expected contents. They asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak about the findings publicly.

Several sources said the analysis accounts for the fact that the age distribution of cases has shifted over time, and now skews younger, thanks in part to ongoing vaccinations of older populations.

It not only aligns with the growing body of international research suggesting variants such as B117 can have dire health impacts, but also the growing concern among Ontario clinicians that patients with COVID-19 are presenting both younger and more seriously ill.

“This is not just a disease that sort of strikes the older among us, it really strikes those in the prime of our lives,” Barrett said. “And we all have to be careful until everyone’s vaccinated.”

The overall risk of death from COVID-19 does remain fairly small, though it’s hard to pin down a precise figure given the evolving nature of the pandemic. 


Ontario residents attend a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in March. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Canada’s case fatality rate is currently thought to be roughly 2.4 per cent, but it’s a number based on confirmed cases and deaths among all age groups, which doesn’t reflect people who never got tested for the virus, and has proven to be a moving target depending on who’s falling ill and who’s getting vaccinated.

With variants now making up more than half of all recent COVID-19 cases in Ontario, experts stress it’s a risky numbers game: more people getting infected with a more dangerous variant could cause more serious illnesses and deaths, even among a younger, healthier cohort.

“Unless we have more stringent public health measures enacted,” Barrett said, “individuals really need to be doing everything they can at an individual level to protect themselves.”

Evidence points to higher risk

Health experts around the world have been ringing alarms for weeks about the potential for variants to take hold and wreak havoc.

As early as January, preliminary findings from the British government’s chief scientific adviser suggested B117 carries a higher risk of death than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain.

Two Ontario COVID-19 science advisory table members who spoke on the record to CBC News — though not about the expected briefing note — said the growing body of research that has since emerged suggests those early concerns were valid.

“It’s confounded by a bunch of different factors, including different ages, and different social situations, and how people have acquired the disease,” said Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist with Toronto’s Sinai Health System.

“But I think the majority — or the overwhelming majority — of evidence that we have right now is that it is substantially more, not only contagious, but severe in the disease that it causes.”

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Gerald Evans, a professor at Queen’s University’s faculty of medicine in Kingston, Ont., said without restrictions in place over the past few months, Ontario may have fared far worse in terms of serious cases and deaths. 

Restrictions loosening in various regions

Now, as Ontario is relaxing rules around indoor shopping, dining and other forms of gatherings in various areas, Evans and Morris both said some regions — and younger populations — largely spared in the first two waves of the pandemic could be harder hit the third time around.

“It’s hard for people to continue to just be holed up in their homes,” said Morris. “Perhaps the right thing to do is to just encourage people to spend as much of their time outdoors as possible.”

Indeed, in the Toronto area, for example, public health officials recently got their wish for a loosening of lockdown restrictions that now allow for outdoor dining

WATCH | Ontario allowing outdoor dining in grey zones:

Ontario will allow outdoor dining in grey-lockdown zones after modifying some of its COVID-19 restrictions. Restaurants in the red and orange zones of the province’s colour-coded guidelines will have their indoor dining capacity increased to 50 per cent — up to a maximum of 50 or 100 people, respectively. 2:56

But Morris cautioned that reopenings and reduced restrictions don’t necessarily mean there’s any reduced risk, though that might be the public perception. 

“In no way, shape or form should people be minimizing this pandemic. It still has legs, unfortunately,” Morris said.

“And where you may have had some estimate of risk to yourself six months ago, even three months ago — that estimated risk has now increased a bit.”

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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday

The latest:

British Columbia’s top doctor is again calling on people to follow the current guidelines and not gather inside, pointing to the increased transmissibility of the B117 variant and saying it is “much easier to spread it with even minimal contact in indoor settings.”

As of Monday evening, a tracking site maintained by federal officials showed 1,240 reported cases of the B117 variant in B.C. alone. Across the country, there have been 5,117 reported cases of the variant, which was first reported in the U.K.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said indoor gatherings of “any size” remain a risk and urged people to follow public health guidelines and only gather in small groups of up to 10 outside.

“The areas where we know it spreads most quickly and most dangerously are the same as they were last year — but now there’s even less a margin for error,” Henry said Monday as she provided updated COVID-19 figures for the weekend.

“This is a time where we need to take those little sacrifices — all of us — so that we can continue to keep those important workplaces open, we can continue to support our children to be in school, and we can continue to support our immunization programs so that we can all be safe very soon.” 

Under the current restrictions in place in B.C., social gatherings of any size aren’t allowed inside homes with “anyone other than your household or, if you live alone, your core bubble.”

Henry said that while more people are getting their shots every day, it’s important for people to understand that the risk “for all of us remains high.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Monday on Twitter that Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec are reporting the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases involving more transmissible variants.

Variants of concern are “moving quickly,” Henry said. “To counter that, we continue to be slow and steady and to find our balance, our path to get to those brighter days — which are not that far away now.” 

As of Monday, COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province stood at 303, including 80 in critical care, Henry said.


Adrian Dix, the province’s health minister, reiterated Henry’s call and said indoor gatherings remain a “major problem” in B.C.

“If you are thinking of going out for a birthday celebration or someone invites you to a wedding celebration somewhere — do not go right now.”

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET.


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | 3rd COVID-19 wave hitting young Canadians harder:

Many of the Canadians most vulnerable to COVID-19 have been vaccinated, but the majority of younger Canadians remain unprotected and hospitals are seeing the consequences. 2:05

As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 940,929 cases of COVID-19, with 36,100 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,729.

In Atlantic Canada,  Prince Edward Island reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, both in people under the age of 19. 


The island, which has not recorded any COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began, had eight active cases as of Tuesday, officials said.

In Nova Scotia, meanwhile, health officials reported one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Health officials in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador had not yet provided updated figures for the day.

Ontario on Tuesday reported 1,546 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths. According to provincial data, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 868, with 324 in intensive care units.

People aged 75 years and older in Ontario on Monday began booking their vaccine appointments through a provincial online portal and a call centre, while pharmacies in three public health units started administering the AstraZeneca shots to those aged 60 and older.

In Quebec, health officials reported 656 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and four additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 519, with 113 COVID-19 patients reported to be in intensive care units.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 66 new cases and one additional death on Monday.

WATCH | Should Canadians be wearing N95-style masks?

With more contagious COVID-19 variants on the rise, some experts believe the general public in Canada should be wearing N95-style masks, especially now that supply issues are less of a concern. 6:24

Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, health officials reported 205 new cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus and no additional deaths. Concerns about a growing number of the more infectious COVID-19 cases in the Regina area have prompted some school divisions to restart online learning.

In Alberta, health officials on Monday reported 456 new cases and five additional deaths. The update came as Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the province would not be moving into the next phase of its reopening, saying that will happen only when hospitalizations are under 300 and on a “clear downward trajectory.”

“Today, while hospitalizations are indeed below 300, they’ve risen in recent days,” he said Monday. “The decline that we saw in January and early February has stopped. Alberta now sits at 280 COVID hospitalizations, which is a rise of 16 from a week ago.”

Across the North, there were no new cases reported on Monday in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or Yukon.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world


Israeli electoral workers dressed in full protective gear wait as a COVID-19 patient casts his ballot at the Sheba Medical Centre in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, on Tuesday during Israel’s fourth national election in two years. (Yossi Zeliger/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 123.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.

In Europe, the French hospital system could face an “unprecedented violent shock” in about three weeks if the country fails to curb its vertiginous rise in cases, the president of the French hospital federation said.

A leading European Union official has lashed out at the AstraZeneca vaccine company for its massive shortfall in producing doses for the 27-nation bloc, and threatened that any shots produced by them in the EU could be forced to stay there.

Sandra Galina, the chief of the European Commission’s health division, told legislators on Tuesday that while vaccine producers like Pfizer and Moderna have largely met their commitments, “the problem has been AstraZeneca. So it’s one contract which we have a serious problem.”

The European Union has been criticized at home and abroad for its slow rollout of its vaccine drive to citizens, standing at about a third of jabs given to their citizens compared to nations like the United States and United Kingdom.

Galina said the overwhelming responsibility lies with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was supposed to be the workhorse of the drive, because it is cheaper and easier to transport and was supposed to be delivered in huge amounts in the first half of the year.

“We are not even receiving a quarter of such deliveries as regards this issue,” Galina said, noting that AstraZeneca could expect a response from the EU. “We intend, of course, to take action because, you know, this is the issue that cannot be left unattended.”

The EU already closed an advance purchasing agreement with the Anglo-Swedish company in August last year for up to 400 million doses.

Meanwhile, Germany is extending its lockdown until April 18 and calling on citizens to stay at home over the Easter holidays to try to break a third wave of the pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, as the country races to vaccinate its population.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has received his first shot of AstraZeneca’s vaccine as he plans to attend June’s Group of Seven meetings in Britain.

Moon on Tuesday received his shot at a public health office in downtown Seoul along with his wife and other presidential officials who plan to accompany him during the June 11-13 meetings.

Moon’s office said he was feeling “comfortable” after receiving the shot and complimented the skills of a nurse who he said injected him without causing pain. The office said Moon will likely receive his second dose sometime around mid-May.


South Korean President Moon Jae-in receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a health-care centre in Seoul on Tuesday. (Lee Jin-wook/Yonhap/The Associated Press)

South Korea launched its mass immunization program in February and plans to deliver the first doses to 12 million people through the first half of the year, including elders, front-line health workers and people in long-term care settings.

Officials aim to vaccinate more than 70 per cent of the country’s 51 million population by November, which they hope would meaningfully slow the virus and reduce risks of economic and social activity.

In the Americas, Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that a surge of coronavirus cases in Europe could foreshadow a similar surge in the United States. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, is urging Americans to remain cautious while the nation races to vaccinate its citizens.

In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Fauci said he is “optimistic” of the vaccines’ effectiveness and expressed hope that AstraZeneca’s vaccine could join the arsenal of inoculations.

He deemed it an “unforced error” that the company may have used outdated data in a clinical trial, perhaps casting doubt on its effectiveness. But he says Americans should take comfort knowing the FDA would conduct an independent review before it was approved for use in the United States.

Uruguay confirmed that it had detected the presence of two coronavirus variants that originated in neighbouring Brazil as the tiny South American nation faces a spike in cases and deaths.

In Africa, Nigeria suspended the airline Emirates from flying into or out of its territory last week after the carrier imposed additional COVID-19 test requirements on passengers from the country, the aviation minister said.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates said unvaccinated private sector workers in five industries must get a PCR test every two weeks, in a bid to encourage vaccine uptake.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:10 a.m. ET

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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Monday

The latest:

A cabinet committee of Alberta’s United Conservative government is expected to meet Monday to decide whether to further ease public health restrictions.

Premier Jason Kenney said last week that the key metric is the hospitalization rate, which has been well under 300 for three weeks, but the number of Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 has been climbing.

On Sunday, officials reported there were 282 people in hospital.

The 300 figure was announced in January as the benchmark needed before Alberta could move to the third phase of its reopening plan, which includes opening entertainment venues such as movie theatres and casinos, and also allows adult team sports.


The number of new COVID-19 cases per day in Alberta has also climbed to more than 500 each day since the middle of last week.

Currently, retailers, restaurants, youth sports, and in-person worship services are open with capacity restrictions, but indoor gatherings remain banned and outdoor get-togethers are capped at 10 people.

According to a federal website that tracks variant-of-concern cases, as of Sunday evening Alberta had 1,581 reported cases of the B117 variant — the most of any province. The updated figures showed more than 5,150 reported cases of variants of concern across Canada, including:

  • 4,807 cases of the B117 variant first reported in the U.K.
  • 243 cases of the B1351 variant first reported in South Africa.
  • 104 cases of the P1 variant first reported in travellers from Brazil.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

As of 10:15 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 935,489 cases of COVID-19, with 35,530 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,679.

In Ontario, people aged 75 and older can now book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. The change comes as the province on Monday reported 1,699 new cases and three additional deaths. According to provincial figures, there were 813 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 298 in intensive care.


In Atlantic Canada, health officials reported a total of seven cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — six in Nova Scotia and one in New Brunswick. 

Quebec health officials reported 648 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and five additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 501, with 102 COVID-19 patients reported to be in intensive care units.

Across the North, Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq tweeted on Saturday that the territory had no active cases.


Across the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 90 new cases and seven additional deaths on Sunday, while Saskatchewan reported 178 new cases and one additional death. 

British Columbia is slated to provide updated figures later Monday that cover the weekend. 

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world


People wait to receive the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines against COVID-19 at a hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Monday. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Monday morning, more than 123.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine performed better than expected in a major late-stage trial potentially paving the way for its emergency authorization in the United States and bolstering confidence in the shot after numerous setbacks.

In Europe, Germany is set to extend a lockdown to contain the pandemic into its fifth month, according to a draft proposal ahead of Monday’s video conference of regional and national leaders, after infection rates exceeded the level at which authorities say hospitals will be overstretched.

Bells tolled across the Czech Republic at noon Monday to honour those who have died of COVID-19 in one of the hardest-hit European Union countries.

In the Americas, officials in Miami Beach voted on Sunday to extend an 8 p.m. curfew and emergency powers for up to three weeks to help control unruly and mostly maskless crowds that have converged on the party destination during spring break.

Cuba announced on Sunday it would vaccinate 150,000 front-line workers as part of the final phase of a clinical trial of the country’s leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Brazil’s government has been in talks since March 13 about potentially importing excess COVID-19 vaccines from the United States, Reuters reported.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistani authorities banned sports, festivals, cultural events and indoor dining at restaurants as part of new measures aimed at containing the ongoing third wave of coronavirus, which has started flooding hospitals. The announcement was made after a high-level meeting in the capital Islamabad. The new measures will remain in force until April 11.

The latest development comes two days after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tested positive two days after he received his first vaccine dose. There has been a spike in COVID-19 in the capital and elsewhere in Pakistan in recent weeks.

India reported its most COVID-19 cases and deaths in months on the first anniversary of the start of a chaotic countrywide lockdown.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will announce a date for quarantine-free travel with Australia within two weeks, despite mounting pressure from businesses to open borders with neighbouring countries.

Health-care workers received the first shots in Taiwan’s COVID-19 vaccination drive Monday, beginning a campaign that won’t use supplies from China amid uneven distribution of the vaccines globally. Taiwan has on hand 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which it is distributing to health-care workers across 57 hospitals.

Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang launched the drive by receiving the first shot at National Taiwan University Hospital in the capital Taipei. “After 30 minutes of rest, there’s no signs of any discomfort,” he said. The rest period is for monitoring recipients for any adverse reactions.

Papua New Guinea on Monday stepped up pandemic restrictions, ordering pubs, clubs and gaming sites to close from Wednesday, after reporting another jump in COVID-19 cases. The new curbs came in addition to tighter internal border controls, bans on large gatherings, school closures and mask-wearing mandates imposed last week as infections spiked.

Health officials in Papua New Guinea on Monday reported 242 new cases as of Saturday, bringing total confirmed cases in the South Pacific nation to 3,359. The death toll remained at 36. Police Commissioner David Manning, who is running the country’s pandemic response, said part of the country’s challenge was that many of the cases were asymptomatic.

In Africa, South Africa has concluded the sale of AstraZeneca AZN.L COVID-19 vaccines it had acquired but did not use to other African Union (AU) member states, the health ministry said on Sunday.

In the Middle East, Lebanon has eased its nearly two-month lockdown because of coronavirus with restaurants opening to the public for the first time in two months amid strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Restaurants will be allowed to have a 50 per cent capacity indoor with a two-metre distance between each table while outdoors they will be allowed to have a 75 per cent capacity.

Many hope that opening restaurants will help Lebanon as it passes through its worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The food and beverage sector employs tens of thousands of people.

Restaurant employees will have to conduct regular PCR tests to make sure they are not infected while working. Restaurants will have to close by 7 p.m. as a countrywide curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. remains in place.

The lockdown went into affect in early January following a sharp increase of coronavirus cases after the country opened up for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. On Sunday, Lebanon registered 2,253 new cases, raising the total in the country to 436,575. The small country also reported 51 new deaths, raising the total of fatalities to 5,715.

In Iran, meanwhile, total reported COVID-19 case numbers have surpassed 1.8 million, with nearly 61,800 reported deaths.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 10:45 a.m. ET

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

The latest:

British Columbia’s provincial health officer is now allowing up to 10 people to meet outdoors after nearly four months of restrictions that barred in-person gatherings between people from different households.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday restrictions on indoor gatherings and rules for restaurants, bars, retail stores and other venues remain in place.

“This means your children can have a playdate with their friends over the March break, but with their same group of friends,” she said.

“You can meet friends outside and have a coffee, have a chat, have a connection, have a picnic in a park with your grandparents.”

It’s still important to practise physical distancing outside, she added.

“We can spend time with a maximum of 10 people, the same people, outside, but smaller continues to be better.”

While the COVID-19 infection curve is trending down on Vancouver Island and in the Interior and Northern health regions, said Henry, the illness is still circulating in communities, particularly in the Lower Mainland.

The province’s seven-day rolling average number of cases has increased in recent weeks, she said, though hospitalizations have levelled off and the number of deaths being linked to the illness has decreased significantly.

Henry presented modelling data on Thursday showing the number of contacts people have right now are 50 to 60 per cent of what’s normal.

“In the past, when we know we can get it down to 40, 45, 50 per cent, we can bend that curve back down,” she told a news briefing.

B.C. has not seen a rapid increase in cases of COVID-19 variants of concern, Henry said, but a small cluster of the variant associated with Brazil was recently detected in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Health officials have not seen additional transmission outside that group, she said.

There was a “slight increase” in B.C.’s mortality rate last year, Henry said, though B.C. has seen fewer “extra deaths” due to COVID-19 than other jurisdictions, including Ontario, Quebec and the United States.

The uptick is a result of both the novel coronavirus and the overdose crisis, said Henry, adding COVID-19 was the eighth most common cause of death in B.C. in 2020 and illicit drug toxicity was the fifth top cause.

“COVID-19 has had a profound impact on older people in our communities and the overdose deaths have had a profound effect on younger people.”

B.C. reported 569 new cases Thursday and three more deaths, pushing the death toll to 1,397. There are 4,912 active COVID-19 cases in the province, including 244 people who are hospitalized with the illness.

Thursday also marked one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

“I certainly recognize and acknowledge that we’ve all experienced losses this past year, some of them an accumulation of tiny losses of those joys, those things that we had in our lives. And for some people, it’s the tragic loss of a loved one, whether from COVID, or whether from other things in this uncertain time.”

-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton breaks down the biggest criticisms toward how the federal government handled the COVID-19 pandemic and what the next challenges will be:

CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton breaks down the biggest criticisms towards how the federal government handled the COVID-19 pandemic and what the next challenges will be. 2:18

As of early Friday morning, Canada had reported 899,762 cases of COVID-19, with 30,666 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,371.

In Atlantic Canada, there were a total of three new cases of COVID-19 reported on Thursday — two in New Brunswick and one in Newfoundland and Labrador.  No new cases were reported in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island, where health officials are now allowing people between 18 and 29 who work in food service and delivery to schedule their vaccination.

In Quebec, health officials reported 738 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths on Thursday. Hospitalizations ticked down to 563, with 111 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. Premier François Legault on Thursday praised essential workers for their efforts and urged people to remember the lives lost in the pandemic — more than 10,500 in Quebec alone. 

“We lost grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, and today Quebec remembers these people that left us too soon,” he said at an event marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic.

Ontario health officials, meanwhile, reported 1,092 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths on Thursday. Hospitalizations stood at 680, with 277 people with COVID-19 in the province’s intensive care units.

A new dashboard put out by the province’s Science Advisory Table on Thursday tracks information about variants of concern in the province — including information about new cases linked back to variants of concern and the reproduction number.


In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 91 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths on Thursday. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 165 new cases and no additional deaths. In neighbouring Alberta, health officials reported 364 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths. Hospitalizations in Alberta stood at 259, with 38 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or Yukon. Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said in a tweet that Thursday was the fourth day in a row for the territory having no new cases of COVID-19.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

WATCH | Benefits outweigh risks with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, experts say:

Despite some European countries temporarily halting use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after 30 cases of blood clots, experts maintain it is still safe to use in Canada. 2:01

A World Health Organization expert advisory committee is currently looking at the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine after some countries paused distribution of it, but there is no reason not to use it, a spokesperson for the committee said on Friday.

Health authorities in several countries, including Denmark, Norway and Iceland, have suspended the use of the vaccine following reports of the formation of blood clots in some people who have been vaccinated.

Margaret Harris told a briefing that it was an “excellent vaccine” and that no causal relationship had been established between the shot and the health problems reported, calling the pause in use “a precautionary measure.”

“It’s very important to understand that, yes, we should continue to be using the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said.

The WHO’s global advisory committee on vaccine safety is currently reviewing the reports and will report on its findings, as it does with any safety issues, she said, .

“It is very important we are hearing safety signals because if we were not hearing about safety signals, that would suggest there is not enough review and vigilance,” Harris said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is the main shot in the early phase of a WHO-led global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX that aims to distribute two billion doses this year, ensuring access for poorer countries.

Health Canada said on Thursday that it is aware of the reports out of Europe and “would like to reassure Canadians that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks.”

“At this time, there is no indication that the vaccine caused these events,” Health Canada said. “To date, no adverse events related to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, or the version manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, have been reported to Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

WHO data shows that more than 268 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from various developers have been administered worldwide, and no deaths have been found to have been caused by them, Harris said.


A nurse in Guatemala speaks with health workers that remain in observation after receiving a dose of the Covishield vaccine in Guatemala City earlier this week. (Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)

The Geneva-based body has given emergency use listing for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and versions of the AstraZeneca vaccines — a step that broadens access to those shots considerably.

Asked about the timing of emergency listings for China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech vaccines, Harris said reviews were now underway and approval would “probably” be given this month.

“We would expect by the end of March,” she said.

As of early Friday morning, more than 118.6 million people around the world had reported having COVID-19, according to a tracking tool maintained by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. Of those, more than 67.1 million were listed as recovered. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.

In Europe, Germany’s health minister said the country should prepare for “several very challenging weeks” amid a rise in coronavirus cases. Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that “the situation remains tense,” as the country’s disease control centre reported 12,834 newly confirmed cases in the past day, and 252 new COVID-related deaths.

The head of the agency, Lothar Wieler, said Germany is “at the beginning of the third wave” of infections following surges in cases last spring and in the fall.


German Health Minister Jens Spahn, left, speaks with Dr. Andreas Carganico in Berlin on Thursday, ahead of the country’s plan to offer the COVID-19 vaccine in doctors’ offices, starting next month. (Hannibal Hanschke/The Associated Press)

Spahn noted there has been a drop in serious illnesses and deaths among the elderly, as most people over 80 in Germany have now received a virus vaccine. He said Germany has managed to administer more than 200,000 first shots daily this week. As more supplies arrive, shots will be administered not just in special vaccine centres but, from mid-April, also in doctors’ practices, said Spahn.

In Africa, South Africa’s health minister has said the country’s rollout goals for vaccinations may need to be changed because of supply issues. The country had aimed to have 65 per cent of people vaccinated by the end of the year, the Mail & Guardian reported. The mass rollout effort is still set to begin in April, Dr. Zweli Mkhize said — though he did not offer a firm date.

Mozambique, meanwhile, expects to receive 1.7 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines by May from various bilateral sources.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India has registered its worst single-day jump in coronavirus cases since late December with 23,285. The sharp spike is being attributed to the western state of Maharashtra.

India has so far reported more than 11.3 million cases, the world’s second-highest after the United States. Infections have been falling steadily since a peak in late September, but experts say increased public gatherings and laxity is leading to the latest surge.

The increase is being reported in six states, including Maharashtra where authorities have announced a weeklong lockdown in the densely populated Nagpur city next week. The vaccinations there will continue.

India is in its second phase of its COVID-19 inoculation campaign and plans to vaccine 300 million people by August. The vaccination drive that began in January is still running way below capacity.

More than 26 million people have gotten a shot, though only 4.72 million are fully vaccinated with both doses.

WATCH | COVID-19 cases rise in India amid religious festival and vaccine hesitancy:

One of the world’s largest religious festivals is taking place in India and public health officials are worried. Not only is the country a COVID-19 hotspot, but vaccine hesitancy is high and experts say many people falsely believe the country has attained herd immunity. 2:17

Mayors have decided to reimpose a seven-hour night curfew in the Philippine capital region of more than 12 million people amid a spike in coronavirus infections, which forced dozens of villages to be placed back under police-enforced lockdowns.

Authorities would enforce the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for two weeks starting Monday in Metropolitan Manila, where most cases in a new surge of infections have been reported this week, said Benhur Abalos, who heads the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

The Philippines has reported the highest number of confirmed infections at more than 600,000 and more than 12,500 deaths among 24 pandemic-hit countries in the Western Pacific region, the World Health Organization said.

President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he did not know how he could considerably ease quarantine restrictions when cases continue to surge. He said he may be able to further reopen the economy when millions of Filipinos have been vaccinated. But the government’s vaccination campaign has faced supply problems and public reluctance.

“We cannot forever be in the strict protocols because we have to open the economy. People are hungry … they have to work, to eat, to survive,” Duterte said. “I am, I said, in a quandary of what to do.”

In the Americas, Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera has announced a raft of new measures aimed at helping middle class families stay afloat amid a new wave of coronavirus contagions that has sent swaths of the country back into lockdown.


A worker drives a car with flowers and the coffin of a person who died from COVID-19 at the Campo da Esperanca cemetery in Brasilia, Brazil, on Thursday. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Hospitals in Brazil’s main cities are reaching capacity, health officials warned, triggering tighter restrictions on Thursday in its most populous state.

In the Middle East, Iran remained the hardest-hit country, with more than 1.7 million recorded cases of the virus and a death toll of more than 61,000.

From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 8:45 a.m. ET

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