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Jim Crow 2.0 or no big deal: Here’s what’s in that hotly debated Georgia voting law

It seems the one basic fact everyone can agree on with respect to Georgia’s controversial new voting law is that an outrageous injustice has been committed.

What that outrage is depends on who you talk to.

Opponents of the just-passed bill call it a modern-day version of racist old laws that enforced segregation in the U.S. for decades. “Jim Crow 2.0,” is how Park Cannon, a state lawmaker arrested while protesting the bill, described it to CBC News.

Its defenders call that a fact-free calumny not based on anything in the actual law. “It’s unfairly criticized,” says Gabriel Sterling, a Republican Georgia state official who made international news a few months ago for publicly reprimanding Donald Trump.

“What it definitely isn’t is Jim Crow 2.0.”

Georgia thus finds itself at the epicentre of a national battle over voting rights, with racial overtones. 

Republican lawmakers in dozens of states have rushed to introduce hundreds of bills with voting restrictions following last year’s election loss.

The early attention has gone to Georgia because it’s the first major state to pass such a law, it’s a swing state and it will host a key U.S. Senate race next year.


State lawmaker Park Cannon is seen here being arrested after trying to knock on the governor’s office door to protest the law last month. She calls it a throwback to the racist Jim Crow era. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

What the law does

Headlines have been dominated by reaction to Georgia’s law: President Joe Biden has called it “Jim Crow on steroids,” there was a corporate outcry, lawsuits, the removal of baseball’s all-star game, and now conservative boycotts against corporations criticizing it.

One academic who studies election administration has watched with incredulity as a cascade of negative attention crashes into his state.

In Trey Hood’s view, this criticism is way over the top. He blames the press for doing a poor job explaining the law, which in his view has allowed people to distort and exaggerate it.

“I don’t think this is going to impede anyone’s access to the ballot box,” said Hood, a University of Georgia researcher and contributor to MIT’s Election Lab network.


The law’s defenders include non-Trump-style Republicans, such as Gabriel Sterling, an official in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office seen here, and Sen. Mitt Romney. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

In its most controversial provision so far, the law makes it a crime to hand someone food or water in a voting line — punishable by a maximum $ 1,000 fine or year in prison. Local poll officials can provide water.

Democrats have focused on that part in fundraising messaging: “[That’s] one thing in particular that gets my blood boiling,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in a party fundraising message this week.

But defenders of the bill say this merely reinforces existing Georgia laws — which already made it illegal to give voters presents, or to campaign within 25 feet of a voting line. For example, Starbucks was forced to cancel a national promotion in 2008 where it offered voters coffee, after an uproar in Georgia and elsewhere.

Sterling said people have been using food and refreshments to approach voters in line and to campaign there, which he called illegal.  

Other provisions:

  • ID will be required for voting by mail. Previously, officials checked signatures against the one on file, and rejected ballots in the event of a mismatch. Now voters can use a driver’s licence — or other common state-issued ID, or a social-security number, or utility bill. Hood said this is hardly restrictive, and is in fact fairer than leaving it up to election workers to analyze signatures.
  • There will be fewer drop-box locations where absentee voters can deposit ballots. Before last year, these boxes were not used in Georgia but were temporarily allowed during the pandemic. The new law confirms drop-box locations can be used in the future — though at a reduced number per county compared to 2020.
  • Mobile voting centres are banned. Last year, thousands of people in Atlanta voted in polling stations on wheels. 
  • It will be harder to extend voting hours in polling locations that encounter service interruptions.
  • Absentee ballot applications can no longer be mass-mailed; if someone wants to vote by mail, they have to download their own application.
  • It guarantees between 17 and 19 days of early in-person voting. 
  • It gives the state legislature, controlled by Republicans, far more power in election administration. 

On that last point, some observers fear this is the true time bomb ticking in this bill — a threat to fair elections that risks detonating when American democracy is already vulnerable.

You might recall how Sterling’s boss, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, stood up to Trump in a tense phone call, defending his state’s certification of the 2020 election.

Raffensperger is now stripped of his role as chair of the state elections board. A majority of the board will now be appointed by the Republican-controlled legislature. 

In addition to that, the board has been given power to suspend local election officials if they violate election procedure. 

This raises the prospect of power struggles between Democratic officials in Atlanta and Republican state-level officials.


Bill critics say the context is part of what makes these bills dangerous. They fear a loss of non-partisan guardrails, after an election so many Republican voters tried to overturn, leading to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol seen here. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

“I think it’s important to remember the context here,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. 

“The Georgia legislation is built on a lie [that the election was stolen].… What we’re seeing here is, for politicians who didn’t like the outcome, they’re not changing their policies to win more votes; they’re changing the rules to exclude more voters.”

WATCH | Critics say Georgia’s new voting law targets voters of colour:

Critics say Georgia’s new voting law, put in place after former president Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, is aimed at voters suppression. 2:02 

Could this law have changed the 2020 election?

Recall the post-election aftermath last year.

State officials came under sweltering pressure from angry Republican voters who demanded the results be overturned. Animated by a steady diet of conspiracy theories, these voters wanted Trump declared the winner.

There were even death threats against officials in control of state institutions.

It took individual acts from independent-minded officials to ensure the results got certified. And now some of these bills, including Georgia’s, take aim at such officials.


Georgia has some big races next year for the U.S. Senate and for state governor. Stacey Abrams, seen speaking at last year’s Democratic convention, is expected to run for governor after nearly winning in 2018. She is a leading critic of the new law. (Gabriela Bhaskar/Reuters)

Michigan is another example. A single Republican there bucked his own party to certify the results in a crucial county that encompasses Detroit, a Democratic stronghold where 78 per cent of the population is Black.

Now, the Republicans who control Michigan’s legislature are moving to make sure that can’t happen again. They want to make it harder for canvassing boards in larger counties — meaning Detroit — to certify an election unless multiple members of each party agree.

The change is in one of dozens of bills being proposed in that state alone, and, once any such bills are inevitably vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, Republicans hope to override her veto by collecting the required 340,000 signatures in a petition.

Arizona and Florida are other large states with bills in the works.

Andrea Young, the daughter of civil-rights leader and politician Andrew Young, said she can’t believe these battles are taking place now, 56 years after she and her family attended the bloody voting-rights march at Selma, Alabama in 1965.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. This sort of tsunami of bills,” said Young, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

The reason it’s happening now is obvious, she says: Voters of colour have new demographic power, and white conservatives want to halt that by changing the rules.

“These [efforts are an] attempt to prevent majority rule in Georgia,” she said at a recent press conference.

Atlanta’s history of corporate activism

The bill’s opponents don’t have the numbers to fight back in the legislature. So they’re turning to other avenues: economic pressure, and courtrooms.

Activists interviewed in recent weeks said they intended to pressure companies to speak out and said there’s a strong history of corporate activism in Atlanta.

Several mentioned the most famous example: when Martin Luther King won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and city leaders initially resisted holding a celebratory event for him.

King’s prize had been disparaged by former president Harry Truman, who called the civil-rights leader a troublemaker; one Alabama hotel even refused to serve guests from Norway, home of the Nobel Prize.

But the head of Coca-Cola, Paul Austin, had worked in apartheid South Africa and saw the damage that racism could do to a place’s reputation. He told local business leaders it would be an embarrassment for Coca-Cola to continue being headquartered in a city, Atlanta, that refused to honour a Nobel Prize winner.


Atlanta has a history of corporate activism, which opponents of this bill are aware of. Coca-Cola, headquartered in the city, demanded that local officials throw a celebration for Martin Luther King winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Here he receives the prize in Norway. (Getty Images)

The celebration dinner went ahead; tickets became a hot commodity.

In the modern-day struggle, a number of companies have spoken out against the law, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines; Major League Baseball has moved its all-star game to Colorado, which votes almost entirely by mail.

Now Trump and others are calling for boycotts of all those companies.

Quelling the Republican base

Ultimately, this struggle will likely play out in court. Several groups are suing, claiming the bill targets Black voters, including the NAACP, which says the voting methods under attack are disproportionately used by people of colour.

Sterling, for his part, dismisses some of the complaints as a political marketing slogan, being used by Georgia Democrats to raise money and galvanize voters.

So, he was asked: why was this bill necessary? If Sterling, and other officials, said the last election was fair, and the fraud concerns ill-founded, why make all these changes?

He cited a few reasons — the need to update old administrative procedures, and the need for permanent standards for mail-in voting which was previously rare in Georgia.

He appeared to acknowledge, however, that it was partly about the internal politics of the Republican Party, and about quelling a backlash from the base if something hadn’t been done.

“There would have been millions of Georgians screaming their ever-loving heads off, ‘Y’all didn’t do anything when we told you you had to do something,'” Sterling told CBC News.

“So when a lot of these representatives get … hundreds and thousands of phone calls and emails and stuff, guess what? They tend to respond to that, whether it comes off of the basis of reality or not.”

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CBC | World News

What’s behind Quebec’s targeted approach to the 3rd wave, and could it work?

The month of March featured considerable swings in Quebec’s messaging and action around the pandemic. If you’ve been having trouble keeping track, it’s understandable.

This week, the provincial government ordered schools and businesses in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau to close, only days after gyms in Montreal were allowed to reopen and churches allowed to welcome a maximum of 250 people.

On Tuesday, Premier François Legault said his government was watching the situation closely in select areas but insisted changes weren’t necessary — even as top experts, the province’s order of nurses and public health officials were questioning the lack of restrictions.

A day later, he called a 5 p.m. news conference and ordered three regions into lockdown, abruptly shifting them from an orange zone in the province’s colour-coded ranking system to a darker, more restrictive shade of red than in other red zones, including Montreal.  

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, meanwhile, ordered English school boards to comply with a decree to have high school students return to class full time, even as students held protests saying they didn’t feel safe. And organizers of recreational hockey in Montreal are planning to restart in early April.

Health Minister Christian Dubé acknowledged the government’s decisions can seem confusing, but he insisted there is a logic in the chaos. 

“It can sometimes look inconsistent, but I tell you that we’re making all our decisions based on many factors, and I believe we are staying ahead of the game,” Dubé  told Radio-Canada on Thursday. 

So, what is the government trying to do? And is it the right move?

More targeted approach

In an interview Thursday, Dubé said the government is closely watching regions and sub-regions and acting as soon as its experts see transmission on the rise. The contagiousness of the variants means cases can spike much more quickly than in the second wave, he said.

Cases in Quebec City are now doubling every day, he said, and that region went from being a source of worry to a major concern overnight. (A single gym is now linked to more than 140 cases and 21 workplace outbreaks.)

“We act at the moment we’re certain of the trend, and before a major impact on hospitals,” Dubé told Radio-Canada.


Quebec is in a better situation than some other jurisdictions when it comes to vaccinations. More of the population has received one dose (roughly 16 per cent) than Ontario or France, both of which are seeing a more dramatic spike in cases.

Such a plan isn’t foolproof.

France tried a similar, targeted approach. But, with hospitals at risk of being overrun, President Emmanuel Macron reluctantly shut down schools for three weeks as part of another round of nationwide restrictions.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, as well, ordered new provincewide restrictions on Thursday, including the closure of gyms and stricter limits on gatherings.

Dr. Karl Weiss, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Montreal, said Quebec once again finds itself at a “critical point” — and that the vaccination campaign needs to move quickly to be able to fend off the rising number of variant cases.

He noted that Quebec is in a better situation than some other jurisdictions. More of the population has received one dose of vaccine (roughly 16 per cent) than Ontario or France, both of which are seeing a more dramatic spike in cases.

Why not tighten restrictions sooner?

Legault, Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, have frequently used the word “balance” when explaining the province’s approach.

They’ve made it clear their public health decisions involve keeping the virus in check, but also factor in the impact of disruptions to the education of school-age children, the mental health of the population and the effect on the economy.

WATCH | What’s the outlook for Montreal?

Prativa Baral discusses the outlook for Montreal in light of the government’s tightened restrictions in some other Quebec regions. 0:56

The government is also seeking to keep people onside, an increasingly difficult task as the pandemic drags on. Officials closely watch survey data from the province’s public health institute, which documents whether enthusiasm for restrictions is rising or falling among specific age groups and in specific regions.

“We have to find that balance because if we act too fast, we’ll lose co-operation from the public,” Dubé said Thursday, echoing past statements by Legault.

“We need the balance with mental health. We did everything we could so people could go to school and play sports.”

But is that helpful, if less than a month later those measures are back in place?

Dominique Anglade, head of the opposition Liberals, suggested that “playing the yo-yo” can be even harder on morale.

“Go to a restaurant here in Quebec City, you have people who are crying because they didn’t see it coming,” she said Thursday, a day after the restrictions were announced.


Premier François Legault has been reluctant to close schools, but he ordered them shut in three cities this week. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

“The other regions are asking themselves the same question today. If you are in Lac-Saint-Jean today, if you are in Abitibi today, if you are in Montreal today, you’re asking yourselves the question, what’s next? We’re asking the government to tell us what’s next.”

Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist and doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., says government messaging is crucial.

“Part of making sure people trust the government and trust the public health guidelines that are being put in place is the transparency aspect, but also thinking of things in the long term and not mixing that messaging,” he said.

Why would Montreal be any different?

As Legault has pointed out, Montreal has, so far, resisted a spike in cases.

The daily case tally has remained consistent for the past several weeks. But with looser restrictions, including the reopening of gyms and high schools back at full capacity, that may not last.

Baral said Legault’s categorization of Montreal as “stable” is worrisome.

“The rate of increase has not been as substantial as other regions that are going to be shut down, but we’re still averaging 300, 350 cases a day in Montreal,” she said.

“Because of the variants of concern, the 350 could very easily turn into a larger number of cases very quickly.”

Baral called the relaxation of restrictions in Montreal “incredibly premature,” and said the cause and effect is well understood: when restrictions are lifted, cases go up, as they did in the regions now in lockdown.

“There is no reason to think that the same thing won’t happen to Montreal, unfortunately.”

The city’s public health director, Dr. Mylène Drouin, has said repeatedly she expects to see a rise in cases — the goal now is to delay that to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Earlier this week, Drouin said she expects variants to begin to make up more cases after Easter and it will be crucial to keep them under control.

“Every day we win against the variant is a day when thousands of people are vaccinated.”


People wear face masks as they wait for the start of a performance Centaur Theatre in Montreal, where a limited audience is now allowed. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

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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

What’s happening with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine around the world

Canada’s vaccine advisory committee on Monday recommended suspending the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in people under 55 because of safety concerns, the latest setback for a vaccine seen as crucial in tackling the coronavirus pandemic across the globe.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its guidelines to provinces and territories following reports out of Europe of very rare instances of blood clots in some immunized patients — notably among younger women.

Clinical and real-world data have suggested the vaccine, which is easier and cheaper to transport than rival shots, is highly successful in reducing serious illness and death connected to COVID-19. But it has been dogged by poor communications and questions about possible side-effects.

Here’s the latest on the vaccine’s status in other countries:

Germany

German health officials agreed Tuesday to only give the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 60 or older, unless they belong to a high-risk category for serious illness from COVID-19 and have agreed with their doctor to take the vaccine despite the small risk of a serious side-effect.

The move follows the recommendations of Germany’s independent vaccine expert panel and comes after the country’s medical regulator released new data showing a rise in reported cases of an unusual form of blood clot in the head — known as sinus vein thrombosis — in recent recipients of the vaccine.

The Paul Ehrlich Institute said its tally of the rare blood clots reported by March 29 had increased to 31, out of some 2.7 million doses of AstraZeneca administered in Germany so far. Nine of the people died and all but two of the cases involved women, who were aged 20 to 63, the regulator said.


A man gets an injection of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Ebersberg near Munich on March 22. (Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press)

Spain

Spain has decided to remove an upper age limit of 65 years on the AstraZeneca vaccine, Cadena Ser radio reported on Tuesday.

A public health commission approved the change at a meeting on Tuesday, the broadcaster said, citing a document it had seen. That comes a week after Spain decided to reintroduce the AstraZeneca shot for people aged 18 to 65.

Like Germany and several other European countries, Spain had suspended administering the shot over blood clot concerns but resumed its use after the EU’s drug regulator deemed the vaccine “safe and effective.”

Italy

Italy resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine on all age groups on March 19 after briefly pausing usage earlier this month.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his wife Maria Serenella Cappello, who are both 73, received their first doses of the vaccine at a large vaccination centre set up at Rome’s main railway station, the prime minister’s office said.

The head of the health panel advising the government has said that Italians who decline to be inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine will be “reconsidered later for another type of vaccine.”


People wait to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Clinique de l’Estree-ELSAN private hospital in Stains, France, on March 5. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

France

France’s medical regulator approved the resumed use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on March 19 but said it should only be given to people aged 55 and older, breaking with guidance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

France said the decision was based on evidence that the clotting affected younger people.

Denmark

Denmark was among the first countries in Europe to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month over concerns about the rare cases of blood clots. On March 25, it extended its suspension for another three weeks, pending further investigation.

Authorities said they still could not rule out a connection between the vaccine and the very unusual illness in two local cases, which are still being analyzed, and cases elsewhere in Europe.

Approximately 150,000 people in Denmark had received AstraZeneca’s shot before it was suspended.

WATCH | Why Canada’s vaccine committee recommended pausing AstraZeneca:

‘It has been very challenging as a committee to make recommendations on these vaccines and to be nimble and change recommendations when the data merits it,’ says Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. 7:03

Norway 

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 11. On March 26, health officials said they would delay a decision on whether to resume its use until April 15.

Norway had reported five cases in which healthy recipients of the vaccine were admitted to hospital with a combination of blood clots, bleedings and low platelets, three of whom died.

Sweden

The country’s health agency said on March 25 it will resume use of the vaccine for people aged 65 and older, but keep the pause in place for younger Swedes.

Thailand

Thailand began using the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 16, after it delayed rollout the week before over safety concerns.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was the first in the country to be inoculated with the vaccine.

“Today I’m boosting confidence for the general public,” Prayuth, who was soon to turn 67, told reporters at Government House before he received the shot.

South Korea

South Korea authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for people 65 and older earlier this month after delaying its use for that age group, citing a lack of clinical data.

President Moon Jae-in received the vaccine at a community clinic on March 23, a day after authorities reaffirmed they had found no evidence of health risk.

Cameroon

Cameroon’s Health Ministry suspended administration of the batch of AstraZeneca vaccines it was scheduled to receive on March 20 as part of the global vaccines-sharing initiative COVAX.

The ministry said in a statement March 18 that the suspension was due to precaution and prudence. It gave no further reasons for the decision or say if it will go ahead and take delivery of its share of the vaccine.

WATCH | Should people who’ve had the AstraZeneca vaccine be concerned?

Infectious disease experts take questions about the changing advice for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine including if those who’ve had a shot should be concerned. 4:22

United Kingdom

The U.K. was the first country in the world to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, on Dec. 30. On March 18, Britain’s medicines regulator gave its continued backing to the vaccine, saying the benefits outweighed the risks after finding there had been five cases of a rare brain blood clot among 11 million administered shots.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that use of the vaccine should continue while the five reports were investigated.

At a new conference that day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was receiving a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine himself the following day.

“The Oxford jab is safe and the Pfizer jab is safe,” he said. “The thing that isn’t safe is catching COVID, which is why it’s so important that we all get our jabs as soon as our turn comes.”


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts after receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in London on March 19. (Frank Augstein/Reuters)

United States

While the AstraZeneca vaccine has been authorized for use in more than 50 countries, it has not yet been given the green light in the U.S.

U.S. health officials had publicly rebuked the drugmaker for not using the most up-to-date information when it published an interim analysis of its major U.S. trial on March 22 that said the vaccine had a 79 per cent efficacy rate at preventing symptomatic illness. An updated analysis showed a 76 per cent efficacy rate, AstraZeneca said a few days later.

AstraZeneca said it plans to seek U.S. emergency use authorization in the coming weeks and that the latest data has been presented to the independent trial oversight committee, the Data Safety Monitoring Board.

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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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CBC | Health News

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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CBC | Health News

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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CBC | Health News

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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What’s causing N.B.’s mystery neurological disease? Worried residents want answers

News this week that a cluster of more than 40 cases of an unknown neurological disease have been identified and found only in New Brunswick has residents of several communities on edge.

The mystery illness has similarities to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal brain disease.

First diagnosed in 2015, according to an internal Public Health memo sent this month to medical professionals, the disease affects all age groups and appears to be concentrated in the Acadian Peninsula in northeast New Brunswick and the Moncton region in the southeast.

Forty-three cases have been identified, and five people have died.

Since that news was reported on Wednesday, people in those communities have been wondering how alarmed they should be.  

“People are wondering, what is it? Why is it only here? We are hoping that somebody will tell us,” Anita Savoie Robichaud, the mayor of Shippagan, a town on the peninsula, said Friday.


Bertrand Mayor Yvon Godin says residents are ‘very, very worried’ about the disease identified in the Acadian Peninsula and Moncton area. (Radio-Canada)

Yvon Godin, the mayor of Bertrand, a village further north on the peninsula, who also chairs the Forum of Acadian Peninsula Mayors, agrees.

“We are very, very worried about it,” Godin said. “Residents are anxious, they’re asking ‘Is it moose meat? Is it deer? Is it contagious?’ We need to know, as fast as possible, what is causing this disease.”

Dr. Neil Cashman understands the concern.

Cashman, a professor in the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, is a neurologist with a special expertise in prion diseases — a group of neurodegenerative diseases caused by proteinaceous infectious particles, or prions — including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

When Cashman first heard about the cases in New Brunswick, he says his first thought was, “We have a problem on our hands.”

Clearly, he said, “this was a call to arms to identify the cause.”

Those efforts are already underway.

Teams of researchers, scientists and epidemiologists began assembling about a year ago, both at the national level at Health Canada’s Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance System, to which Cashman is acting as an adviser, and at the provincial level with a research team headed by Moncton neurologist Dr. Alier Marrero.

Having this news put under “the active scrutiny of the public” this week has been a good thing, Cashman said, because it has pulled in clinical and scientific expertise from across Canada.

“There are people offering to help, and these people would not be doing that unless they were aware of this cluster.”

But their work is just beginning.

‘This is something new’

Cashman has a pretty good idea what this mystery disease is not.

All the evidence, he said, points to this not being a prion disease such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. 

“There is no evidence, not a hint — even in the three autopsies that have been performed — of a human prion disease. That came as a surprise to me, frankly,” he said. “So in essence, this is something new, and we need to get on the stick and figure out what this is.”

Cashman said he’s tapping into his expertise in neurology and environmental toxins to look for other explanations.

The fact that the cases are limited to certain regions “fits with the notion of an environmental toxin,” he said.

A possible culprit might be B-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), an environmental toxin made by certain bacteria that can accumulate in fish and shellfish.

Domoic acid, another toxin produced by bacteria and that accumulates in shellfish, sardines and anchovies, is another possibility. So is lead, which can be responsible for clusters of neurodegeneration.


Dr. Neil Cashman, an expert in neurology, says an environmental toxin could be the cause. (Submitted by Neil Cashman)

“All of these are speculation at this point,” Cashman stressed. “A lot of scientific acumen will be required to pin it down to a cause.”

That will take time, and no one can say for sure how long.

“It’s possible ongoing investigations will give us the cause in a week, or it’s possible it will give us the cause in a year,” he said.

“There’s no sensible timeline I can provide on when we’ll have an answer. It’s just something that has to be the focus of scientific attention, and as rapidly as possible.”

In the meantime, he said, he’d advise residents to continue doing what they have been doing, try not to be consumed by anxiety and have faith that a solution will be found.

“I know it sounds like a tired statement, but I would say stay calm, carry on,” he said. “We’ve got to figure it out and the Public Health Agency of Canada is in a good position to do that and come up with a cause … and then of course it can be ameliorated.”

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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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