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Confirmed cases of new COVID-19 variant in Canada are 'unsurprising', experts say – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that first surfaced in the U.K. has been detected in Canada, something health experts had already predicted.

Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, announced Saturday that there are two confirmed cases of the coronavirus variant in Durham region. The patients who tested positive are a couple, now in self-isolation.

“I’m not surprised,” Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, told CTV News Channel Saturday, in the wake of the news. “Obviously, this variant has been circulating for some time before it was actually recognized.”

In a news release announcing the cases, Dr. Yaffe said this “further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the provincewide shutdown measures beginning today.

Durham Region Health Department has conducted case and contact investigation and Ontario is working in collaboration with our federal counterparts at the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

The PHAC said in a statement Saturday that they believe there are more cases out there.

“As the monitoring continues, it is expected that other cases of this variant and other variants of concern may be found in Canada,” the statement reads. 

But even before today’s confirmation that this coronavirus variant is in Canada, health experts suspected it was already here. 

“It’s spread to other countries,” Ronald St. John, the former director-general of the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), told CTV News Channel earlier on Saturday.

“Since it’s been found since September, there’s no reason why people coming since September haven’t been able to bring that new strain to Canada.” 

The new variant that emerged from the U.K. has since been found in other countries around the world, including France, Japan, Israel and Sweden.

Only two days ago, PHAC said in a statement that there had been “no evidence of these variants in Canada to-date” and that it was enhancing screening and scrutiny of quarantine plans for inbound passengers.

The Ontario news release on Saturday thanked the “proactive work” of the PHAC in locating the two cases of the new variant.

Conway said that more measures need to be taken to understand how the variant made its way into Canada.

“We need to do much more testing, we need to understand where this couple became infected,” he said, adding that we can only interrupt the “transmission chains” if we understand them.  

On Dec. 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a restriction on flights from the U.K. to Canada in an effort to prevent the new variant from coming to Canada. That restriction has since been extended to Jan. 6.

According to the PHAC’s Saturday statement, travellers who arrive to Canada are also being asked “additional health screening questions to help identify if their travel itinerary included a country concern reporting this variant in the last 14 days.”

St. John said these measures may have come too little, too late.

The two cases announced today have no travel history, high-risk contacts or known exposure.

“It’s a question of if the horse is out of the barn already, and are we closing the doors too late?” St. John said. 

Kirsten Fiest, an epidemiologist at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, also said stopping flights from the U.K. may not be enough to prevent the new variant from spreading in Canada.

“Almost certainly, it’s spread even further than we know right now,” Fiest told CTV Calgary. “If something can spread really quickly and rapidly and it increases the likelihood of infection, then our biggest concern should be long-term care facilities.” 

PHAC said in their statement that the lack of a clear link to travel in the new cases in Durham Region underlines the importance of minimizing community transmission.

“As these two cases did not travel outside of Canada, it is important to follow public health measures and limit contacts with others, to reduce the transmission of the virus and any of its variants in communities,” the statement says.  

The new variant of the virus “may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original version of the disease,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a press conference on Dec. 19, though a new study from the London School of Hygiene And Tropical Medicine suggests the virus is about 56 per cent more contagious.

“While early data suggests that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that they cause more severe disease,” PHAC stated Saturday, adding that more research needs to be done. 

Two other variants of COVID-19 have also been found in Nigeria and South Africa, leading Canada to expand screening and monitoring measures on flights inbound from South Africa.

“We need to be on the lookout for other variants,” Conway said. 

St. John said both variants need further study to understand how variations in the genes could impact the behaviour of the virus and its effects on how the disease presents itself in the people who have contracted it, adding that the variant found in South Africa also appear, “at this point,” to be more contagious than the base strain of coronavirus already in Canada.

As to whether or not the vaccines already being delivered in Canada will be effective in defending against these new variants, St. John said he doesn’t believe the virus will mutate in the same way seasonal influenza does, and that the vaccines will likely be effective.

“So far, as near as I know, the vaccine targets many different parts of the virus,” St. John said. “So it’s a good thing that it does, and that the virus probably will not escape the vaccine.”

Conway added that there is “no evidence that the vaccine works less well,” on the variant that first emerged in the U.K. 

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin has also said he is “confident” his company’s vaccine, created with Pfizer, will be effective against the new U.K. variant of the virus.  

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Canadian snowbirds getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida face backlash from some residents – CBC.ca

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The story has made national headlines in the United States: Foreigners aged 65 and older in Florida, including Canadian snowbirds, are being offered the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Some snowbirds who made the journey to Florida this winter — despite Canada’s advisory not to travel abroad during the pandemic — are counting their lucky stars, as they could wait months to get the shot in Canada. But they also face a backlash from some locals who argue non-Floridians shouldn’t get early access to vaccines that are currently in short supply.

“We’re first. Get to the end of the line if they want to come,” Florida resident Judy Allen told a local NBC TV station on Friday at a vaccine clinic in Sanford, Fla., north of Orlando.

A week earlier, Canadian snowbirds Andrew Paton, 75, and his wife, Jill, 74, each got their first vaccine dose at a clinic in a gated community in Palm City, Fla., where they own a home. They’re set to get their followup shot on Feb. 4. 

“I’m just glad I got it,” said Andrew Paton, who is from Toronto. “Our American friends are thrilled. We’re part of this community. Let’s get everybody vaccinated if we can.”

But not everyone is on side. A few days after getting the shot, Paton said someone sent a letter to the board of his gated community, complaining that Canadian residents were offered the vaccine.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “We’re not taking it from anybody. Everybody in this community who wanted one could get one.”

Canadian snowbirds Andrew and Jill Paton each got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm City, Fla., on Jan. 7. (Andrew Paton)

Unlike Canada, Florida is offering COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone aged 65 and older during the first phase of its vaccine rollout. While the state discourages visitors from coming specifically to get the shot, seasonal residents are welcome to sign up. 

That policy has especially angered some Floridians who have yet to secure a vaccination appointment due to a slower-than-planned rollout.

“They’re taking it from people that are ahead of them … It’s not their stockpile,” said Clare Archer, 67, of Englewood Isles, Fla., south of Tampa.

Clare Archer, 67, of Englewood Isles, Fla., says she hasn’t managed to book an appointment because vaccines are in short supply. (CBC/Zoom)

Archer is a dual Canadian-American citizen who grew up in northern Ontario and has lived in Florida for the past 25 years. She said due to the short supply of vaccines in her region, both she and her husband have yet to snag an appointment.

And even though she has Canadian roots, Archer said she objects to snowbirds both travelling to Florida during a pandemic and getting the vaccine before some Floridians.

“They absolutely should not be here,” she said. “It’s beyond infuriating.”

WATCH | Why Canada’s vaccine rollout is so slow: 

The provinces are behind targets of getting COVID-19 vaccine into Canadians’ arms, and experts say logistical challenges are largely to blame but are hopeful the arrival of the Moderna vaccine will help speed things up. 3:22

Several Florida politicians are also angry. Last week, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced he’s trying to revise the rules so that non-permanent residents in Miami are last in line to receive the vaccine.

And on Jan. 10, Rick Scott, one of the state’s U.S. senators, declared on Twitter: “Vaccines must go first to Floridians.”

It’s up to each U.S. state to decide who gets priority during the vaccine rollout. In a news conference earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis explained why he’s not turning away seasonal residents who meet the current age requirement.

“We’re a transient state,” he said. “People who are here, four or five months a year, they have relationships with doctors, they get medical care in Florida.”

Canadian snowbirds on Good Morning America

Visitors in Florida getting the vaccine has become such a hot topic, the popular TV show Good Morning America covered the issue in a news segment on Friday. 

“Residents across America — even Canada and Argentina — flocking to Florida … leading to what some are calling vaccine tourism,” the segment said.

The story featured Canadian snowbirds Shelton and Karen Papple of Brantford, Ont. The couple travelled to their home in Fort Myers before Florida announced its vaccine plans, and are both scheduled to get their first dose on Monday.  

Papple, 66, told CBC News he has no qualms about getting vaccinated in Florida.

“We live here, we pay taxes,” he said. “We’re all in this together. It’s a world problem and everybody should be banding together.” 

Canadian snowbirds Shelton and Karen Papple were interviewed for a Good Morning America news segment on Friday that looked at vaccine distribution in the U.S., including in Florida. (ABC’s Good Morning America)

He said he also believes that reports of Canadians flocking to the state to get the vaccine are overblown, because there are plenty of hurdles. On top of securing a vaccine appointment, you must test negative for COVID-19 before travelling to Florida (effective Jan. 26); stay in Florida for up to a month to get the second dose; receive another negative COVID-19 test before returning to Canada; and quarantine for 14 days upon your return.

But some Canadians are still willing to make the trip.

Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone of Toronto’s Travel Secure said about 100 of his snowbird clients who originally decided not to head to Florida this winter due to the pandemic are now planning to travel to the state to get vaccinated.

But these aren’t cases of “vaccine tourism,” he said, because his clients plan to stay for the rest of the winter. 

“They all own property and are really just exercising their right, I guess, to head down to a state that is offering vaccines,” said Firestone.

Papple suggests that as Florida secures and doles out more doses, the backlash against foreigners like him getting the shot will calm down. 

“As things go along, the more and more people get vaccinated, I think that becomes a duller story.”

To help speed up the rollout, the state is now offering vaccine shots at a major pharmacy chain in the state. And more than a dozen federal lawmakers representing Florida, including Sen. Marco Rubio, have asked federal officials to beef up Florida’s vaccine supply to accommodate its large number of seasonal residents. 

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

With hospital intensive care units in parts of Ontario reaching capacity due to COVID-19, a new hospital will open in Vaughan, Ont., next month to help relieve pressure on other facilities in the Greater Toronto Area, the province announced Monday.

The Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, due to open Feb. 7, will be a “dedicated resource to support the province’s COVID-19 response,” taking in critical patients from other hospitals, Premier Doug Ford said.

“It’s like reinforcements coming over the hill,” Ford said, adding that the province is also adding 500 additional surge capacity hospital beds in Toronto, Durham Region, Kingston, Ont., and Ottawa.

Canada’s vaccination efforts against COVID-19 took a notable step forward on Monday with the opening of mass immunization centres in Toronto and Brandon, Man. This follows the opening of a similar immunization supersite in Winnipeg two weeks ago.

Toronto’s supersite is being described as a “proof-of-concept” clinic that will help the city fine-tune the operation of its future clinics, “ensuring safety and increasing efficiency in advance of wider immunization,” according to a city news release.

Retired general Rick Hillier, who heads the province’s vaccine distribution plan, told CBC News on Sunday that Ontario wants to have everyone vaccinated by late July or early August.

The Toronto site is not open to members of the public and will instead operate with a sample group of health-care workers, including those involved in harm reduction and Streets to Homes staff who support the city’s vulnerable populations. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, right, is given a tour of an ICU room at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital by Altaf Stationwala, CEO of Mackenzie Health in Vaughan, Ont., on Monday. The new hospital, which is set to open Feb. 7, will take patients from other hospitals that are strained by COVID-19. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The clinic aims to vaccinate 250 people per day. However, due to the delay in obtaining the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Europe, the clinic inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is set to close until further notice after the work day on Friday, said Matthew Pegg, head of the city’s immunization task force.

He said anyone who got a first dose of the vaccine at the clinic will be able to receive a second dose within the recommended time frame.

Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, which is the fewest logged on a single day in about two and a half weeks. However, the province’s labs processed just 40,301 test samples for the novel coronavirus, nearly 20,000 fewer than the day before.

The province also reported 24 new deaths and a total of 1,571 patients with COVID-19 in hospital. Of those, 394 were being treated in intensive care units and 303 were on ventilators — the first time the latter has climbed above 300 since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, vaccinations got underway at the mass vaccination site in Brandon on Monday morning, following an initial hiccup in which hundreds of health-care workers with immunization appointments were given the wrong address.

Joanna Robb, a cytotechnologist who works at Shared Health’s Westman Lab, which deals with COVID-19 specimens, was the first to receive a dose of the vaccine. 

“You hear the death tolls every day and the numbers, and it’s heartbreaking,” Robb said. “And we can do something.”

The Brandon site was slated to give out more than 550 shots on Monday alone, provincial officials said. The centre will be open 12 hour a day, seven days a week, for eligible health-care workers.

Manitoba registered 118 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Monday. Forty-six of the new cases are in the province’s North Health Region.

WATCH | Manitoba opens 2nd COVID-19 vaccination supersite:

The Keystone Centre in Brandon, Man., is now a supersite for COVID-19 vaccinations. It opened on time Monday despite incorrect information about its location originally being given out. 1:51

What’s happening across Canada

As of 6:40 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 715,073 cases of COVID-19, with 75,461 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,120.

Over the weekend, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand sought to allay Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international vaccine deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.

Anand said on Twitter she has been in touch with the drugmaker and was assured that it is “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible.” The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.

New Brunswick has rolled back the Edmundston and Grand Falls region to a more restrictive red phase, and other regions face the same prospect as the province continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The province reported 26 new cases on Monday. That follows a tally of 36 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — 24 of them in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, about 380 kilometres northwest of Saint John — marking its highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.

The move to red-phase restrictions, which took effect in the region at midnight, mean som businesses — including movie theatres, barbershops and hair salons — must close, while restaurants can only operate with takeout and delivery. However, schools will remain open with additional health measures in place.

The rest of Atlantic Canada has not seen the recent spread of COVID-19 infections to the extent that New Brunswick has. 

Nova Scotia reported no new cases on Monday, after reporting four additional cases on Sunday, all of which are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case on Sunday, in a person who returned home from work in Alberta.

P.E.I. reported four new cases on Monday, three of them linked to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and one involving someone who was in contact with a previously reported case, the province said in a news release.

In Quebec, high schoolers headed back to classrooms on Monday after a month at home, joining elementary students who returned to in-person instruction a week before the older kids. Among other health precautions, students must wear medical-grade masks and will be tested immediately if they show any COVID-19 symptoms.

The province reported 1,634 new cases on Monday, though it noted that a delay in the transmission of laboratory data caused a delay in the reporting of cases to public health departments on Sunday, as well as a drop in the number of new cases reported.

It also reported 32 deaths, nine of which occurred in the last 24 hours and 23 that occurred between Jan. 11 and 16.

Saskatchewan added 290 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Monday.

The province administered 2,449 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday. The total number of vaccines administered in the province has now reached 22,618.

Alberta will have no more COVID-19 doses available to administer by the end of Monday or early Tuesday due to the Pfizer supply disruption, Premier Jason Kenney has announced.

The premier told a news conference on Monday that the province is putting a temporary hold on the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure it has enough vaccine to provide a second dose to people who have already received their first shot.

Alberta reported 474 new COVID-19 cases and 11 new deaths on Monday. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said 739 people are in hospital with the respiratory illness, 120 of whom are in intensive care.

British Columbia on Monday reported 1,330 new cases of COVID-19 and 31 more deaths over the last three days. As of Monday, 87,346 people in B.C. had received at least one dose of vaccine.

WATCH | Risks of hockey arenas amid pandemic:

Air quality research and a growing understanding of how COVID-19 spreads are helping to explain why facing off in hockey arenas can be risky during the pandemic. 8:27

In the North, Northwest Territories health officials placed the hamlet of Fort Liard under a two-week containment order after three cases were discovered in the community.

A dozen employees of Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine in Nunavut are now in self-isolation after a worker at the mine tested positive for COVID-19, the company said in a news release on Friday. There have been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.

Meanwhile, members of Yukon‘s two mobile COVID-19 vaccination teams held one last dry-run at a Whitehorse high school on Friday before hitting the road.


What’s happening around the world

As of Monday, more than 95.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.5 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than two million.

The head of the World Health Organization says it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in rich countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people in poorer countries.

Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus kicked off WHO’s week-long executive board meeting — virtually from its headquarters in Geneva — on Monday by lamenting that only 25 vaccine doses have been provided in a single poor country, while more than 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer nations.

“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country — not 25 million, not 25,000 — just 25. I need to be blunt,” Tedros said. He did not specify the country.

Tedros again criticized “bilateral deals” between drug companies and countries that hurt the ability of the WHO-backed COVAX program, which aims to get vaccines to all countries based on need.

“Most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries, where the profits are highest, rather than submitting” data to WHO, he said, so it can approve vaccines for wider use.

In Europe, France on Monday began a campaign to inoculate people over 75 against the coronavirus, as its death toll rose past 70,000 over the weekend.

Robert Farquar of Westman Lab gets vaccinated by public health nurse Jennifer Cochrane in Brandon, Man., on Monday morning. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun/Pool)

The new variant of COVID-19 first detected in Britain is now starting to gain a foothold in Belgium, officials say, with cases reported in several northern schools on top of an outbreak in a nursing home.

Officials in the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz quarantined employees and guests of two luxury hotels, closed ski schools and kept schoolchildren home from class on Monday after a dozen positive tests for a highly infectious coronavirus variant.

In Asia, a Chinese province grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases is reinstating tight restrictions on weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, threatening violators with criminal charges.

The notice from the high court in Hebei province did not give specifics but said all types of social gatherings were now being regulated to prevent further spread of the virus.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions are ‘on the cusp’ of a return to red as the province moved the Edmundston and Grand Falls region back to the more restrictive phase. (Submitted by the Government of New Brunswick)

In the Americas, California became the first U.S. state on Monday to record more than 3 million known COVID-19 infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. California only reached 2 million reported cases on Dec. 24 and has the highest count of any state. Nearly 34,000 deaths in the state have been attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the coronavirus pandemic will get worse in the U.S. before it gets better, projecting another 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the first five weeks of president-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Klain said Biden was inheriting a dire situation, saying even with vaccines, “it’s going to take a while to turn this around.” Biden has set a goal of injecting 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a goal Klain said they were on pace to meet.

Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to months of delay and political disputes.

Brazil currently has six million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days and is awaiting the arrival of another two million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.

French singer and actress Line Renaud receives an injection of a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Rueil-Malmaison, west of Paris, on Monday. (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine, has been promised nine million doses by Johnson & Johnson, the Business Day newspaper reported.

South Africa has delayed reopening schools as it faces a rapid resurgence of COVID-19 overwhelming the country’s hospitals and driven by a more infectious variant of the virus.

Ghana’s president said Sunday that infection rates are skyrocketing and include variants of the virus not before seen in the country, filling treatment centres and threatening to overwhelm the health system.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

With hospital intensive care units in parts of Ontario reaching capacity due to COVID-19, a new hospital will open in Vaughan, Ont., next month to help relieve pressure on other facilities in the Greater Toronto Area, the province announced Monday.

The Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, due to open Feb. 7, will be a “dedicated resource to support the province’s COVID-19 response,” taking in critical patients from other hospitals, Premier Doug Ford said.

“It’s like reinforcements coming over the hill,” Ford said, adding that the province is also adding 500 additional surge capacity hospital beds in Toronto, Durham Region, Kingston, Ont., and Ottawa.

Canada’s vaccination efforts against COVID-19 took a notable step forward on Monday with the opening of mass immunization centres in Toronto and Brandon, Man. This follows the opening of a similar immunization supersite in Winnipeg two weeks ago.

Toronto’s supersite is being described as a “proof-of-concept” clinic that will help the city fine-tune the operation of its future clinics, “ensuring safety and increasing efficiency in advance of wider immunization,” according to a city news release.

Retired general Rick Hillier, who heads the province’s vaccine distribution plan, told CBC News on Sunday that Ontario wants to have everyone vaccinated by late July or early August.

The Toronto site is not open to members of the public and will instead operate with a sample group of health-care workers, including those involved in harm reduction and Streets to Homes staff who support the city’s vulnerable populations. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, right, is given a tour of an ICU room at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital by Altaf Stationwala, CEO of Mackenzie Health in Vaughan, Ont., on Monday. The new hospital, which is set to open Feb. 7, will take patients from other hospitals that are strained by COVID-19. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The clinic aims to vaccinate 250 people per day. However, due to the delay in obtaining the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Europe, the clinic inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is set to close until further notice after the work day on Friday, said Matthew Pegg, head of the city’s immunization task force.

He said anyone who got a first dose of the vaccine at the clinic will be able to receive a second dose within the recommended time frame.

Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, which is the fewest logged on a single day in about two and a half weeks. However, the province’s labs processed just 40,301 test samples for the novel coronavirus, nearly 20,000 fewer than the day before.

The province also reported 24 new deaths and a total of 1,571 patients with COVID-19 in hospital. Of those, 394 were being treated in intensive care units and 303 were on ventilators — the first time the latter has climbed above 300 since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, vaccinations got underway at the mass vaccination site in Brandon on Monday morning, following an initial hiccup in which hundreds of health-care workers with immunization appointments were given the wrong address.

Joanna Robb, a cytotechnologist who works at Shared Health’s Westman Lab, which deals with COVID-19 specimens, was the first to receive a dose of the vaccine. 

“You hear the death tolls every day and the numbers, and it’s heartbreaking,” Robb said. “And we can do something.”

The Brandon site was slated to give out more than 550 shots on Monday alone, provincial officials said. The centre will be open 12 hour a day, seven days a week, for eligible health-care workers.

Manitoba registered 118 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Monday. Forty-six of the new cases are in the province’s North Health Region.

WATCH | Manitoba opens 2nd COVID-19 vaccination supersite:

The Keystone Centre in Brandon, Man., is now a supersite for COVID-19 vaccinations. It opened on time Monday despite incorrect information about its location originally being given out. 1:51

What’s happening across Canada

As of 6:40 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 715,073 cases of COVID-19, with 75,461 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,120.

Over the weekend, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand sought to allay Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international vaccine deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.

Anand said on Twitter she has been in touch with the drugmaker and was assured that it is “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible.” The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.

New Brunswick has rolled back the Edmundston and Grand Falls region to a more restrictive red phase, and other regions face the same prospect as the province continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The province reported 26 new cases on Monday. That follows a tally of 36 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — 24 of them in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, about 380 kilometres northwest of Saint John — marking its highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.

The move to red-phase restrictions, which took effect in the region at midnight, mean som businesses — including movie theatres, barbershops and hair salons — must close, while restaurants can only operate with takeout and delivery. However, schools will remain open with additional health measures in place.

The rest of Atlantic Canada has not seen the recent spread of COVID-19 infections to the extent that New Brunswick has. 

Nova Scotia reported no new cases on Monday, after reporting four additional cases on Sunday, all of which are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case on Sunday, in a person who returned home from work in Alberta.

P.E.I. reported four new cases on Monday, three of them linked to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and one involving someone who was in contact with a previously reported case, the province said in a news release.

In Quebec, high schoolers headed back to classrooms on Monday after a month at home, joining elementary students who returned to in-person instruction a week before the older kids. Among other health precautions, students must wear medical-grade masks and will be tested immediately if they show any COVID-19 symptoms.

The province reported 1,634 new cases on Monday, though it noted that a delay in the transmission of laboratory data caused a delay in the reporting of cases to public health departments on Sunday, as well as a drop in the number of new cases reported.

It also reported 32 deaths, nine of which occurred in the last 24 hours and 23 that occurred between Jan. 11 and 16.

Saskatchewan added 290 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Monday.

The province administered 2,449 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday. The total number of vaccines administered in the province has now reached 22,618.

Alberta will have no more COVID-19 doses available to administer by the end of Monday or early Tuesday due to the Pfizer supply disruption, Premier Jason Kenney has announced.

The premier told a news conference on Monday that the province is putting a temporary hold on the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure it has enough vaccine to provide a second dose to people who have already received their first shot.

Alberta reported 474 new COVID-19 cases and 11 new deaths on Monday. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said 739 people are in hospital with the respiratory illness, 120 of whom are in intensive care.

British Columbia on Monday reported 1,330 new cases of COVID-19 and 31 more deaths over the last three days. As of Monday, 87,346 people in B.C. had received at least one dose of vaccine.

WATCH | Risks of hockey arenas amid pandemic:

Air quality research and a growing understanding of how COVID-19 spreads are helping to explain why facing off in hockey arenas can be risky during the pandemic. 8:27

In the North, Northwest Territories health officials placed the hamlet of Fort Liard under a two-week containment order after three cases were discovered in the community.

A dozen employees of Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine in Nunavut are now in self-isolation after a worker at the mine tested positive for COVID-19, the company said in a news release on Friday. There have been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.

Meanwhile, members of Yukon‘s two mobile COVID-19 vaccination teams held one last dry-run at a Whitehorse high school on Friday before hitting the road.


What’s happening around the world

As of Monday, more than 95.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.5 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than two million.

The head of the World Health Organization says it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in rich countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people in poorer countries.

Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus kicked off WHO’s week-long executive board meeting — virtually from its headquarters in Geneva — on Monday by lamenting that only 25 vaccine doses have been provided in a single poor country, while more than 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer nations.

“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country — not 25 million, not 25,000 — just 25. I need to be blunt,” Tedros said. He did not specify the country.

Tedros again criticized “bilateral deals” between drug companies and countries that hurt the ability of the WHO-backed COVAX program, which aims to get vaccines to all countries based on need.

“Most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries, where the profits are highest, rather than submitting” data to WHO, he said, so it can approve vaccines for wider use.

In Europe, France on Monday began a campaign to inoculate people over 75 against the coronavirus, as its death toll rose past 70,000 over the weekend.

Robert Farquar of Westman Lab gets vaccinated by public health nurse Jennifer Cochrane in Brandon, Man., on Monday morning. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun/Pool)

The new variant of COVID-19 first detected in Britain is now starting to gain a foothold in Belgium, officials say, with cases reported in several northern schools on top of an outbreak in a nursing home.

Officials in the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz quarantined employees and guests of two luxury hotels, closed ski schools and kept schoolchildren home from class on Monday after a dozen positive tests for a highly infectious coronavirus variant.

In Asia, a Chinese province grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases is reinstating tight restrictions on weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, threatening violators with criminal charges.

The notice from the high court in Hebei province did not give specifics but said all types of social gatherings were now being regulated to prevent further spread of the virus.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions are ‘on the cusp’ of a return to red as the province moved the Edmundston and Grand Falls region back to the more restrictive phase. (Submitted by the Government of New Brunswick)

In the Americas, California became the first U.S. state on Monday to record more than 3 million known COVID-19 infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. California only reached 2 million reported cases on Dec. 24 and has the highest count of any state. Nearly 34,000 deaths in the state have been attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the coronavirus pandemic will get worse in the U.S. before it gets better, projecting another 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the first five weeks of president-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Klain said Biden was inheriting a dire situation, saying even with vaccines, “it’s going to take a while to turn this around.” Biden has set a goal of injecting 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a goal Klain said they were on pace to meet.

Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to months of delay and political disputes.

Brazil currently has six million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days and is awaiting the arrival of another two million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.

French singer and actress Line Renaud receives an injection of a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Rueil-Malmaison, west of Paris, on Monday. (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine, has been promised nine million doses by Johnson & Johnson, the Business Day newspaper reported.

South Africa has delayed reopening schools as it faces a rapid resurgence of COVID-19 overwhelming the country’s hospitals and driven by a more infectious variant of the virus.

Ghana’s president said Sunday that infection rates are skyrocketing and include variants of the virus not before seen in the country, filling treatment centres and threatening to overwhelm the health system.

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