As GPU prices have increased, cryptocurrency miners and gamers have resorted to once-unusual tactics for buying video cards, like paying monthly fees to bot subscription services or paying thousands of dollars on eBay.
It’s always fun to watch the cost of something explode until you can play games calculating whether the street price of various illegal substances is more or less per ounce than your average GPU. The illegal substances are generally still winning, but the skyrocketing price of cryptocurrency has had a similar impact on the cost of video cards. Driving up the cost of video cards has made them rarer and more-desired commodities, which is how we arrive at the point in this story where Hong Kong customs officials are chasing smugglers in speed boats to crack down on illicit GPU sales.
There’s a certain dark hilarity in imagining drug dealers across the world offering their clientele multiple ounces of weed or an RTX 3060, but in this case, the haul consisted of low-end 30HX CMP cards. Nvidia offers a range of CMP cards, with performance ranging from 26MH/s to 86MH/s.
The 30HX and 40HX are believed to be based on Turing silicon — the GTX 1660 Super and RTX 2070, respectively. The 50X and 90HX are harder to pin down. The 50HX is a touch faster than the known mining performance of the RTX 2080 Ti, while the 90HX is about 10 percent slower than the known mining performance of an RTX 3080. If the 50HX is based on the RTX 2080 Ti, it’s fielding a smaller amount of VRAM; the RTX 2080 Ti offered 11GB, while the 50HX has just 10GB.
We’re hoping they just took the cards *out* of the boxes rather than thinking the entire lot was shipped this way. Seawater exposure is not known to enhance overclocking performance.
At the moment there’s mixed messaging on when semiconductor shortages could ease, depending on which parts you care about. CPU shortages might ease by the back half of the year, but we’re still hearing that GPU shortages could drag on into 2022. Whether they do is going to depend on which factors are starving the market today and whether the companies responsible for them can meaningfully improve the situation in the next few months. If you’re looking for a card, we’ve written a guide to the most affordable GPU options available today.
Admissions of COVID-19 patients to Ontario’s intensive care units (ICUs) have surpassed the previous pandemic high, a government agency that tracks hospitalizations said Wednesday, as the province reported another 2,333 cases of the virus.
There are now 421 patients with the virus in ICUs across the province, according to Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO), which puts together daily internal reports for hospitals and health organizations. That number includes 32 people admitted Tuesday, CCSO said, after a single-day record of 46 Monday.
The previous peak of 420 came in mid-January, during the height of the second wave of the pandemic.
At a news conference Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he is “extremely concerned” about both rising ICU admissions and daily case counts.
Asked by a reporter about the possibility of any further restrictions coming into effect to help curb current trends, Ford said “stay tuned” and added that an announcement is coming Thursday.
WATCH | Ford promises an announcement Thursday on possible new restrictions
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, responding to a reporter’s question Wednesday about the high number of COVID-19 patients in critical care in the province, promised an announcement tomorrow. 0:53
Ford again urged Ontarians to forgo any plans to gather in large groups over the Easter weekend and to follow public health advice closely.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel here folks,” he said, referring to the ongoing vaccination campaign. The Ministry of Health said 89,873 doses were administered provincewide Tuesday, a new record high.
“We only have a little ways to go. It’s still going to be a tough haul but we’re getting there,” Ford continued.
Meanwhile, hospital officials are expecting that the number of COVID-19 patients in ICU will continue to surge past Wednesday’s record, as the daily number of new cases has grown steeply in recent days.
‘Most serious than it’s ever been’
“The situation is the most serious than it’s ever been,” said Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association. “Our critical care system in Ontario is not built for a mass-casualty event like this.”
Dale likened the situation in the province’s hospitals to an airplane about to crash land.
“Right now, the air crew is out instructing the passengers on the best way to protect themselves and prepare for impact,” he said in an interview.
“That is what our health care system is trying to do right now: prepare for impact and make sure that there’s the maximum probability that people who need access to life-saving care can get it.”
(You may notice ICU figures reported by CCSO often differ from those the Ministry of Health posts on its public COVID-19 dashboard. That’s because the ministry removes a patient from its count once they have stopped testing positive for the virus, even if that patient remains in critical care with complications. As such, CCSO’s count is regarded as the more accurate accounting of the situation in hospitals.)
The rise in ICU admissions is being driven largely by the continued spread of variants of concern in the province. Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, a group of experts that advises the government on its pandemic response, projects that variants currently account for about 69 per cent of all new infections.
In a report published this week, the table said that variants of concern are associated with a 63 per cent increase in risk of hospitalization, a 103 per cent increase in the risk of needing intensive care and a 56 per cent rise in the risk of death from COVID-19.
WATCH | Medical professionals discuss Ontario’s third wave of COVID-19
As COVID-19 case counts increase and hospitals across Ontario prepare for overcapacity, Premier Doug Ford said he “won’t hesitate” to “lock things down” if he has to. But some health-care providers say the province’s third wave of the pandemic could be even worse than the second, and they’re urging people to stay home as Easter approaches. Jessica Ng has the story. 1:56
Emergency physicians and infectious disease experts have repeatedly said that the spread of variants, particularly the B117 variant first found in the United Kingdom, is dangerously outpacing the province’s immunization campaign.
To date, Ontario has received 2,820,495 doses of vaccines from the federal government and administered 2,192,253, or about 77.8 per cent, of those.
In an email Tuesday, Ford’s office outlined the current status of expected deliveries of vaccines until the end of April.
Ontario is awaiting the delivery of 396,630 Pfizer doses expected on April 5; 395,460 doses on April 12; 395,460 doses on April 19 and 396, 970 doses on April 26.
The province is still waiting for a second shipment of Moderna doses. The first 97,600 doses arrived the week of March 22, while the second shipment of 225,400 doses, which was expected the week of March 29, has been delayed and is now expected April 7.
7-day average of daily cases climbs to 2,316
The new cases reported Wednesday include 785 in Toronto, 433 in Peel Region, 222 in York Region, 153 in Hamilton, 124 in Ottawa and 120 in Durham Region.
They come as labs completed 52,532 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 4.8 per cent.
The seven-day average of new daily cases climbed to 2,316, its highest point since January 26.
Public health units recorded the deaths of 15 more people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 7,366.
The Ministry of Education also reported another 332 school-related cases, including 282 students and 50 staff members. As of Wednesday morning, 63, or about 1.3 per cent of Ontario’s publicly-funded schools, were closed due to COVID-19.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has said this week that families will get further guidance about the week-long break currently scheduled to begin on April 12 by the end of the work week.
At a news conference on Wednesday Lecce said the province intends to keep the April break as is. When children return to school there will be “heightened vigilance” like new screening protocols and higher quality masks, he said. Also a deep clean of all schools is promised over the break.
Lecce was on hand to announce a boost to the Ontario COVID-19 Child Benefit payment. The money is set to double for each child — $ 400 per child and $ 500 for a child with special needs. The payments are part of the Support for Learners program, which aims to help parents who may need to hire childcare or stay home from work due to virtual schooling.
The United Kingdom won’t access its share of vaccine doses from the COVAX program, says British High Commissioner to Canada Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque.
In an interview with Power & Politics, d’Allegeershecque told host Vassy Kapelos that while the United Kingdom is one of the biggest contributors to COVAX, it still doesn’t see the need to access its share of the vaccine doses.
“I don’t think there are any plans for us to access the doses, but we were in a slightly different position from Canada,” she said.
In a media statement, Green Party leader Annamie Paul said she was “embarrassed” by Ottawa’s decision to access vaccines from a program primarily designed to help developing countries.
But the federal government defended its action, saying COVAX has always been part of the government’s efforts to procure vaccines.
“COVAX has two streams. It has the self-financing stream for countries like Canada to purchase vaccines through and then it has the advance market commitment for donations to be made for countries who can’t purchase them,” said International Development Minister Karina Gould in a Power & Politics interview.
The high commissioner also noted that Britain’s vaccine rollout is more advanced that Canada’s program.
“We’ve already vaccinated 15 and a half million people, which is something like 23 per cent of the population,” said d’Allegeershecque. “So at the moment, we’re able to access the doses that we need without having to draw from the COVAX facility.”
Britain also has the capacity to manufacture its own vaccines domestically.
As it stands, Canada could receive up to 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX program by the end of March.
Bitcoin hit a new all time high on Monday morning after electric car maker Tesla revealed that it has stockpiled more than $ 1.5 billion US worth of the cryptocurrency, and will soon start accepting it as a form of payment for its products.
Tesla revealed in a regulatory filing on monday that it converted $ 1.5 billion US into bitcoin in January, as part of its investment strategy for funds not currently needed to maintain operations,” and may acquire and hold digital assets from time to time or long-term.”
“Moreover, we expect to begin accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for our products in the near future, subject to applicable laws and initially on a limited basis, which we may or may not liquidate upon receipt,”the automaker said.
That lit a fire under bitcoin’s price, which jumped about nine per cent to more than $ 43,000 US.
The price of the cryptocurrency has risen by 50 per cent this year, on the heels of a 300 per cent spike in 2020.
Bitcoin enthusiasts are drawn to the cryptocurrency as a store of value, partly because governments around the world have been spending exorbitant amounts of borrowed cash in a bid to stimulate the economy through the pandemic. That has raised fears that inflation will at some point be a major problem, which would devalue fiat currencies such as U.S. and Canadian dollars.
“Whether there is someone out there that would actually buy a Tesla with bitcoin now is another thing but this is a big move by the company,” said Craig Erlam with foreign exchange firm OANDA.
BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, and payment firms Square and PayPal are already among those who either currently hold bitcoin, or accept it as payments, and speculation is rising that more could soon, too, as it gains legitimacy.
“If this becomes a trend in corporate treasuries the downside of staying on the sidelines will only become costlier over time,” said Maya Zehavi, a blockchain consultant.
“Some other companies may be tempted to follow but the vast majority will be far too cautious to expose themselves to the volatile world of cryptos. Musk isn’t one to shy away from bold moves though and has now put his money (well, Tesla’s) where his mouth is,” said Erlam, adding that he could see the bitcoin hitting $ 50,000 US soon if momentum continues. “Either way, it’s off to the moon we go.”
Dennis Mitchell, CEO of Toronto-based money manager Starlight Capital, says his company doesn’t hold bitcoin in any of its funds, but he does say he expects the volatility to continue.
“Personally I have zero of my own personal assets in bitcoin and that’s not going to change any time soon [but] when Musk tweets the signal being sent is that demand is going to increase,” he told CBC News in an interview.
“I would anticipate greater demand going forward.”
That seems to be already the case in the short term, as a number of cryptocurrency exchanges reported having difficulty processing orders amid sudden demand.
San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Kraken said it had temporarily disabled sign-ups after heavy traffic led to connectivity issues with its website, while peers Gemini and Binance said their systems were currently experiencing difficulties.
Masks are now mandatory for students and staff inside high schools and middle schools in British Columbia.
Non-medical grade masks must be worn in all indoor areas, the province announced Thursday, including while students are in their learning cohorts.
A statement from the B.C. Ministry of Education said masks can come off while students are at their workstation in the classroom, while they’re eating and drinking, or while a barrier — like a sheet of Plexiglas — is in place.
Wearing masks indoors is still optional for elementary students. Staff in elementary schools, however, are now also required to wear a mask.
$ 900K for rapid response teams
The province also announced the creation of six regional rapid response teams — one in each health authority — to support independent schools.
The teams, created with $ 900,000 in funding, “will continue to improve the speed of school exposure investigations so health authorities can inform school districts and families more quickly.”
The teams will conduct physical and virtual inspections to ensure health and safety guidelines are being followed consistently in K-12 schools.
If there is a serious exposure or in-school transmission, the teams will be sent out to conduct a review and make recommendations to prevent the situation from happening again.
Results released Wednesday of a survey commissioned by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation suggested more than half of teachers felt unsafe in the classroom during the pandemic and the vast majority wanted to see masks become mandatory.
The push increased this week after news of possible exposure to a new coronavirus variant at Garibaldi Secondary School in Maple Ridge, B.C.
Officials confirmed Wednesday someone at the school was infected with a more transmissible form of the virus, but has since recovered. A total of 81 students and eight staff members who are in that person’s cohort were all tested to see if the virus had spread, and all of them tested negative.
Ontario reported a single-day record of 3,328 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and 56 new deaths related to the illness.
The figure marks the first time the province has reported more than 3,000 cases in a single day, and the third consecutive day Ontario has recorded a record-breaking case count.
A record number of patients were also hospitalized and admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) on Thursday. Currently, there are 1,235 patients in hospital. Of those, 337 are in intensive care.
Forty-five patients were admitted to Ontario ICUs on Wednesday, another record during the pandemic.
The number of ICU patients being treated for COVID-19 has doubled since the last day of November, when hospitals were treating 168 patients.
Residents of long-term care homes accounted for 28 of the newly tallied deaths. There are now active COVID-19 outbreaks in 187 LTC facilities, a decrease of five since Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s network of labs processed 63,858 test samples for the novel coronavirus while another 72,283 tests are in the queue waiting to be completed.
The province’s test positivity rate now sits at 5.7 per cent.
Of Thursday’s newly confirmed infections, there were 888 in Toronto, 431 in Peel Region, 418 in York Region, 257 in Windsor-Essex, and 194 in Ottawa.
Ontario’s cumulative case count now sits at 182,159. The province’s seven-day average has also reached a new record-high, climbing to 2,436.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
Simcoe Muskoka: 83
Eastern Ontario: 58
Brant County: 26
Huron Perth: 19
Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington: 13
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark: 10
[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.]
ICUs nearing capacity, hospitals say
Ontario hospitals continue to warn that intensive care units are reaching maximum capacity and threatening to overwhelm the wider health-care system.
In a statement to CBC Toronto on Wednesday, Anthony Dale, CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association said the situation grows “ever more serious by the day.”
“Do not celebrate the holidays with people outside your own household. It would be the ultimate tragedy if the worst consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic happened just as vaccines arrived on Canadian soil,” Dale said.
Health Minister Christine Elliott is also urging people to celebrate New Year’s Eve only with people in their own households.
This <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NewYear?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NewYear</a>, only celebrate at home with the people you live with. Connect virtually to keep in touch with extended family and friends. If you live alone, consider exclusively celebrating with one additional household. Learn more at <a href=”https://t.co/ZRCURjRGfW”>https://t.co/ZRCURjRGfW</a>.
LTC residents receive first shots of Moderna vaccine
A small number of Ontario long-term care (LTC) residents were the first people in Ontario to be inoculated with Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
A shipment of approximately 50,000 doses arrived in Ontario Wednesday. A select number of long-term care homes are participating in a pilot project that aims to iron out logistical challenges as the province begins rolling out the vaccine.
Today, <a href=”https://twitter.com/UHN?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@UHN</a>, through Family Health team physicians and nurses, gave some of the first Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to Long-Term Care (LTC) residents in Ontario. The vaccine was given by UHN physician Dr. Camille Lemieux and RN Eugena Bryan. <a href=”https://t.co/emIepFDkOE”>pic.twitter.com/emIepFDkOE</a>
Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Ontario received earlier this month, the Moderna vaccine does not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, making it more suitable for transportation to LTC facilities.
Ontario has now administered 23,502 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. Both vaccines it has in stock require two doses to achieve maximum protection from the virus.
Ontario reported single-day highs of 1,983 new COVID-19 cases and nearly 62,000 tests on Thursday.
The additional cases include 515 in Peel Region, 496 in Toronto, 208 in York Region and 112 in Windsor-Essex.
There are currently 16,233 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide, the most at any point during the pandemic.
Moreover, hospitalization figures all hit second-wave highs in today’s update. There are now 829 patients with cases of COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals. Of those, 228 are being treated in intensive care units, while 132 people require the use of a ventilator.
Ontario also recorded 35 more deaths linked to the illness, pushing the official toll to 3,871.
Quebec Premier François Legault says the province will not allow gatherings over the December holidays after all in light of a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Legault announced last month that people would be allowed to gather over a four-day period, from Dec. 24 through Dec. 27, if they isolated for a week prior and after.
But on Thursday, Legault said that holiday gatherings in the province’s “red zones” involving people from different addresses will be prohibited altogether.
“When we look at the situation, we are forced to realize that it is not realistic to think that we are going to succeed in reducing the progression of the virus in a satisfactory way by Christmas,” he said at a news conference Thursday.
“I know we would all like to see our family, but it is not a good idea. The virus is very dangerous. We need to stay home and get some rest and we have to take care of one another.”
WATCH | Gatherings not allowed over holidays, Legault says:
Saying there is not enough time before Christmas to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec, Premier François Legault backtracked on a previous commitment. He now says gatherings in the province’s red zones will not be allowed over the holiday season. 2:10
Quebec reported more than 1,500 daily cases for the first time ever on Wednesday, and more than 1,400 again Thursday. The province has reported more than 100 deaths from COVID-19 in the past three days.
Visits to the province’s long-term care homes and seniors’ residences will be prohibited. Quebec has also tightened the health guidelines for stores and malls for the holiday shopping season.
Meanwhile, federal officials explained how they plan to distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks as Ottawa launches its mass inoculation campaign.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday that the regulatory review of Pfizer’s vaccine is “progressing really well” and her department has the “majority of information” it needs from the company to certify that it’s safe and effective.
The initial supply of the vaccine doses will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get a shot in the first three months of 2021.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq, is leading vaccination logistics and operations at a new national operations centre in the Public Health Agency of Canada. While the country is facing unprecedented “logistical complexities,” he said, the military and its partners will be ready to deploy vaccines as soon as they are approved in Canada. A countrywide vaccine delivery “dry run” is planned for next week.
A senior official, speaking to CBC News on a not-for-attribution basis, said Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec will get two such delivery sites each, with one in each of the other provinces. A plan for the territories is still being finalized, the official said.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 8:40 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 396,270, with 69,255 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,407.
In British Columbia, chief provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 12 more deaths from COVID-19 Thursday and 694 new cases of the disease. The number of active cases across the province has risen to 9,103, but the number of patients in hospital has dipped slightly to 325, with 80 in critical condition.
In Alberta, the province is planning for the creation of field hospitals to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients, while B.C. has introduced new restrictions on indoor group activities. Alberta announced 1,854 new cases and a positive-test rate of 9.5 per cent — both record highs.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, told a Thursday afternoon news conference that she is particularly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 into rural areas. Among the 15 geographic areas with the highest active case rates in Alberta, one-third of them are outside Calgary and Edmonton.
WATCH | Alberta reaches out for field hospitals:
The Alberta government is in talks with Ottawa and the Canadian Red Cross for help in setting up field hospitals, as the number of COVID-19 patients continues to surge. 2:42
“While infection rates in Edmonton and Calgary make up the majority of cases in the province, we are seeing increased spread in many rural communities,” she said. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or an Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within the context of a global problem.”
Alberta health officials recently met to discuss a plan for two or more indoor field hospitals to treat 750 COVID-19 patients, with 375 beds each in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, according to an internal government document obtained by CBC News.
Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths on Thursday. However, the number of new cases was inflated due to a processing error that resulted in the Middlesex-London public health unit recording three days’ worth of case data, the provincial health ministry said.
The number of patients confirmed to have COVID-19 in the province’s intensive care units has risen to 203, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario.
Public health officials have said that 150 is the threshold for when unrelated surgeries and procedures may be postponed or cancelled to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a day after reporting 17 new COVID-19 cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on Thursday and one recovery, bringing its number of active cases down to 29.
Prince Edward Island, which announced one new case of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing its total number of active cases to five. Premier Dennis King also said P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.
Manitoba reported 12 more COVID-19 fatalities and 368 new cases Thursday, which is lower than the province’s average for the previous seven days. Authorities say there are 357 people in hospital with the virus, a record high.
Saskatchewan reported 259 new cases on Thursday, which is below the province’s seven-day average of 276. Saskatchewan health authorities are also reporting one additional death.
WATCH | Nunavut lifts territory-wide lockdown but restrictions remain in Arviat:
Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, warns Arviat needs to keep its tight restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19. 1:04
In the North, Nunavut moved out of a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday, with restrictions easing for all communities except for Arviat, where community transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring. The territory reported five new cases in Arivat on Thursday, bringing its active case count to 75.
Yukon confirmed one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday. Wearing a mask in public indoor places became mandatory in the territory this week, following a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:40 p.m. ET
As of Thursday afternoon, there were more than 65 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 41.6 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in the United Kingdom is advising against all but essential travel to Canada based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks. It’s also advising British citizens already travelling in Canada to return the U.K. and self-isolate upon their return.
In the Americas, the United States again led the world in total COVID-19 deaths, with more than 275,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. This marks the first time the U.S. has seen more than 100,000 deaths than second-place Brazil, where some 174,000 have died.
In Europe, tributes poured in from France and around the world on Thursday, a day after former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing died of complications from COVID-19 at age 94.
Coronavirus infections in Russia have hit a new record, as the country’s authorities reported 28,145 new confirmed cases — the highest daily spike in the pandemic and an increase of 2,800 cases from those registered the previous day.
Russia’s total number of COVID-19 cases — nearly 2.4 million — remains the world’s fourth-highest. The government coronavirus task force has reported 41,607 deaths in the pandemic.
The country has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Japanese city of Osaka is urging residents to stay home as much as possible until mid-December because of a resurgence of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Osaka reported 386 new cases Thursday, and with overcrowding hospitals, some patients were sent to neighbouring areas for treatment.
Cases have been expanding rapidly across the country, including the Tokyo region, Aichi in central Japan and Hokkaido in the north.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 35 COVID-19 patients, are taking the country’s highly competitive university entrance exam despite a viral resurgence that has forced authorities to toughen physical distancing rules.
The Education Ministry says about 493,430 students began taking the one-day test at about 1,380 test sites across South Korea on Thursday. It says the test sites include hospitals and other medical facilities where the 35 virus patients and hundreds of others placed under self-quarantine will take the exam.
Africa’s top public health official says 60 per cent of the continent’s population needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the next two to three years. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that if it takes four to five years, “the virus will be endemic in our communities.”
Concerns are growing that the continent of 1.3 billion people will be near the end of the line in obtaining doses. Nkengasong isn’t sure whether vaccines will be available in Africa before the second quarter of next year. But he pushed back against vaccine misinformation, saying that “if I had my way today to take a flight to the U.K. and get that vaccine, I would be doing it right now.”
The continent now has well over 2.1 million confirmed virus cases and more than 52,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
South Africa on Thursday tightened some COVID-19 rules in the Eastern Cape province where infections are rising the most, curbing movement and gatherings, but decided against reinstating a nationwide lockdown.
In a televised address President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an enhanced curfew in the eastern Nelson Mandela Bay area, while indoor gatherings would be limited to 100 people and alcohol consumption in public is prohibited.
Iran, the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East, passed one million total COVID-19 cases on Thursday with 13,922 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.
Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 358 people had died from the coronavirus since Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 49,348.
Iran has introduced tougher measures to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel restrictions.
Manitoba reported 16 additional deaths on Tuesday, a new daily high in a province that has been struggling with growing COVID-19 case numbers.
“This is a tragedy for all Manitobans,” Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday after reading a list with the ages and communities of those who died.
“We know that these are much more than numbers. These are people who are missed right now.”
Manitoba, which has seen a total of 328 deaths, reported 283 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday — the first time in more than a week that the new case number in the province dropped below 300.
Roussin said that while numbers aren’t “climbing rapidly,” they still aren’t where the province needs them to be.
“These numbers are still too high for us to sustain.”
The province’s health-care capacity is “being pushed” he said, noting that hospitals are reaching capacity and health-care workers are overwhelmed.
As of Tuesday, there were 338 people hospitalized, with 48 in intensive care.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 11:20 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 386,716, with 66,834 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,287.
British Columbia also reported 16 additional deaths on Tuesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 457. Health officials in the province reported 656 new cases of COVID-19 and said there were 336 people in hospital, including 76 in intensive care.
Faced with rising case numbers, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix reiterated their plea for people to follow rules put in place to try and slow the spread of the virus.
“Without exception, follow the provincial health officer’s orders in place,” the pair said in a statement. “Remember that events, which refer to anything that gathers people together — whether on a one-time, regular or irregular basis — are not allowed for now.”
WATCH |COVID-19 returns to B.C. nursing homes, death toll rises:
British Columbia has seen more COVID-19 deaths over the past two weeks than the preceding two months because the virus has found its way back into nursing homes. And with long-term care workers exhausted and families frustrated, it’s not clear what can be done. 1:54
In Alberta, health officials announced 10 additional deaths and 1,307 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Hospitalizations stood at 479, with 97 people in intensive care.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said a decision around what sort of restrictions will be in place over the holidays is expected later in the month.
“However, in the past we have seen holiday gatherings lead to increases in cases and outbreaks as one case spreads to many,” Hinshaw said, pointing to the ongoing impact of Thanksgiving gatherings.
“This is not going to be the year for in-person office parties,” she said. “This is not going to be the year for open houses, or large dinners with friends and extended family.”
In Saskatchewan, health officials reported 181 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 51.
The province’s minister of corrections said she doesn’t know how COVID-19 arrived in the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, which is dealing with a growing outbreak that has led to well over 100 cases among inmates, as well as several infections among staff.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 1,723 new cases of COVID-19, with 500 cases in Peel Region and 410 in Toronto. Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet that 44,200 tests had been completed.
Health officials also reported 35 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,698.
Hospitalizations increased to 656, with 183 people in intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard.
Hospitalizations increased to 740, with 99 patients being treated in intensive care units.
Premier François Legault warned Tuesday that the province’s plan to allow gatherings for four days around Christmas is at risk as the number of hospitalizations in the province reached their highest level since June.
“We’re not going in the right direction,” Legault said at a press conference in Quebec City. “If hospitalizations continue to increase, it will be difficult to take that risk.”
WATCH | What doctors are learning about COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’:
Researchers are learning more about why some people who get a mild case COVID-19 end up experiencing other symptoms for months. Doctors say these so-called known as long-haulers often have symptoms that resemble a common blood circulation disorder known as POTS. 4:10
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, New Brunswick reported seven cases and Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case. There were no new cases in Prince Edward Island.
There were 11 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Wednesday in Nunavut, which is at the end of a two-week lockdown period that covered the entire territory. All of the new cases were reported in Arviat, where tight public health restrictions are still in effect.
Nunavut reports 11 new cases of COVID-19, all in Arviat.<br><br>Meanwhile, the total number of active cases continues to drop, now down to 80.<br><br>GN to hold a news conference at the top of the hour. <a href=”https://t.co/hcz7NmmAs7″>pic.twitter.com/hcz7NmmAs7</a>
The Northwest Territories and Yukon had no new cases on Tuesday.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:55 a.m. ET
WATCH | COVID-19 vaccine rollout — What the experts say:
As of early Wednesday morning, there were nearly 64 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide with more than 41.1 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.
In Europe, British regulators insisted that “no corners have been cut” during the assessment of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, which was cleared for emergency use on Wednesday.
In a briefing after the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency became the first regulator worldwide to approve the vaccine, its chair, Dr. June Raine, said the public can be “absolutely confident” that its standards are equivalent to those anywhere around the world.
Regulators also revealed the order by which the vaccine will be rolled out across the country over the coming weeks and months, beginning next week. The U.K. has ordered around 40 million doses of the vaccine, which can potentially immunize 20 million people as two doses are required.
Residents in nursing homes and their care givers will be offered the vaccine first, followed by those 80 and over and front-line health- and social- care workers. From there, the priority plan largely follows age groups.
According to Munir Pirmohamed, chair of a medicines panel, immunity begins seven days after the second dose.
British lawmakers approved new coronavirus restrictions in England that take effect Wednesday but many Conservative lawmakers are unhappy about the economic consequences.
Russia and Germany both reported record numbers of daily coronavirus deaths, with 580 deaths reported in Russia and 487 in Germany.
With more than 2.3 million infections, Russia has the fourth-largest number of COVID-19 cases in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil.
President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian authorities on Wednesday to begin mass voluntary vaccinations against COVID-19 next week as Russia recorded 589 new daily deaths from the coronavirus. Russia will have produced two million vaccine doses within the next few days, Putin said.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korean officials are urging people to remain at home if possible and cancel gatherings large and small as around half a million students prepared for a crucial national college exam.
Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom says the 490,000 applicants so far include 35 virus carriers who will take exams Thursday at hospitals or treatment shelters. Education authorities have also prepared separate venues for some 400 applicants currently under self-quarantine.
Applicants will be required to wear masks and maintain distance from each other. They will be screened for fever and take exams separately if they have symptoms.
Pakistan reported 75 new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, one of the highest fatalities from coronavirus in recent months, prompting government to launch a week-long campaign beginning Saturday to urge people to wear masks.
The government, however, has ruled out re-imposing a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed 8,166 people and infected 403,311 in Pakistan.
Pakistan flattened the curve in August but currently it is facing a lethal new surge of infections.
In the Americas, U.S. health officials are pleading with Americans to follow their recommendations.
In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis joined the nation’s top infectious disease expert Tuesday and urged people to wear masks and physically distance to help prevent stay-at-home orders and overwhelmed hospitals as cases of the coronavirus surge during the holidays.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, warned during a virtual news conference that Colorado is not alone in seeing a spike in cases and pleaded with people not to travel or gather in large groups.
“If you look across the United States, we are really in a public health crisis right now because we are having a surge the likes of which is worse than the surges that we all saw in the late winter, early spring,” Fauci said.
He noted that “we are likely going to see a surge upon a surge” of cases, based on the number of people who travelled and gathered for Thanksgiving and on those who are expected to shop and attend holiday parties before celebrating Christmas and New Year’s in large groups.
Colorado has been hit with a substantial spike in COVID-19 cases, with one in 41 residents believed to be contagious.
Indigenous people, health workers and those aged 75 years and older will be at the front of the line to be vaccinated, Brazil’s Health Ministry said as it unveiled a four-stage preliminary plan for national immunization.
In Mexico, the government was expected to sign a contract on Wednesday with pharmaceutical company Pfizer for the delivery of its vaccine.
In Africa, South Africa’s reported COVID-19 case numbers stood at more than 792,000 on Wednesday. The country, which has seen more reported cases than any other nation in Africa, has seen more than 21,000 deaths.
Iran, the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East, was approaching 990,000 cases of COVID-19 and 49,000 deaths.
Following a seven-month pandemic layoff, Jessica Klimkait needed just 81 seconds to get the validation she needed.
The Canadian judoka’s quick and decisive win over Helene Receveaux of France at Grand Slam Budapest in late October propelled her to the top spot in the world rankings for the 57-kilogram category.
In the process, Klimkait, 23, leap-frogged fellow Canadian and reigning world champion Christa Deguchi in the standings as judo made its return to competition.
“To probably do one of the best tournaments that I’ve done in a very long time was a lot of validation to what I was thinking and the kinds of things that I was doing throughout the last four or five months,” Klimkait told CBC Sports, putting aside any concerns over being prepared to fight athletes from other countries who didn’t face the same level of training restrictions during the pandemic.
WATCH | Klimkait reaches top of podium in Budapest:
23-year-old Jessica Klimkait of Whitby, Ont,, defeated Helene Receveaux of France to capture gold in the 57-kilogram category at the judo Grand Slam competition in Budapest. 8:44
A silver lining had already materialized for Klimkait when the sports world hit the pause button in March.
The Whitby, Ont., native and Deguchi, 25, who lives and trains in Japan, were just months away from a fight-off for Canada’s lone Olympic quota spot in their category when Klimkait suffered a knee injury.
“It honestly was [good timing] because I needed those two or three months to fully recover and if the year continued as normal, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to train as normal,” Klimkait said. “I wouldn’t have been able to compete and I had a fight-off with [Deguchi] that I don’t think I would have been able to prepare for.”
Due to the Olympics being postponed until 2021, Klimkait, now fully recovered, and Deguchi are back on the same collision course to have that fight-off no later than early July — a winner-take-all scenario that will see one of them qualify for the Tokyo Games and the other left behind.
A matter of depth
Judo Canada high-performance CEO Nicolas Gill — himself a two-time Olympic medallist — acknowledges this is a good problem to have, but at the same time, his expectation is for one of them to be standing on the podium.
“[Those are] great stories both ways. At the end for us — and what I keep repeating — whoever goes needs to medal,” Gill said. “If not, we would have sent the wrong one. Whoever goes, still has to be our best chance of medalling.”
Gill dismissed the suggestion of having one of either Klimkait or Deguchi change weight classes so that both might compete in Tokyo. He said he would never put the organization ahead of the athlete.
“We would do that only if it helps the state of making weight,” Gill said. “That’s the only time we would force somebody to move up — if we feel there is danger for the athlete, but not for strategic positioning.”
Fight-off will determine Olympic fate
Other than meeting on the world stage in numerous important matches (5-0 in favour of Deguchi), the compatriots might as well be strangers — occasionally training together throughout the year, but mainly seeing each other at competitions.
Klimkait says this makes Deguchi as dangerous as any other top opponent.
“It’s a bit of a mental battle every time I do step on the mat [with Deguchi] because I know what it means to win against her and I know what it means to lose against her,” Klimkait said. “In the end, only one of us is going, so that’s always been in the back of my mind when I’m competing against her.”
Given that countries can only send one athlete per category, Judo Canada has no choice but to sit back and watch who wins.
“The idea to have a head-to-head matchup is to really pick who’s better in the month leading into the Olympics,” Gill said. “Putting our best athlete at that time in the Olympic field to increase the chance of performance.”