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



The latest:

Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay-Parry Sound will remain under the current stay-at-home order for at least another two weeks, according to a statement released by the Ontario government on Friday.

York Region, located just north of Toronto, will transition to Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 restriction system, the release said. This transition to the red level will take effect on Feb. 22 at 12:01 a.m. ET. The extension for Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay-Parry Sound will be in effect until at least March 8.

“Our government’s number one priority is the safety of all individuals and families, and that’s why we are taking a gradual, cautious approach to returning regions to the framework,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said in the release. “These are difficult but necessary decisions, in order to protect against COVID-19 variants and maintain the progress we have all made together.

“Until vaccines are widely available, we continue to urge all Ontarians to follow public health advice and measures, and stay home, stay safe and save lives.”

Earlier, Ontario health officials reported 1,150 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with 47 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 689, with 269 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units.

WATCH | How vaccines can keep up with coronavirus variants:

New coronavirus variants won’t necessarily mean new vaccines or vaccine boosters are needed. And if adjustments are needed, they would take less time to develop than the original vaccines. 2:01

Alberta, meanwhile, announced the next steps in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Premier Jason Kenney said all seniors age 75 and older will be able to book appointments for vaccines beginning next Wednesday.

Kenney also announced that residents of lodges and other continuing care facilities will be offered the vaccine as of Friday. He said all residents in long-term care and designated supportive living have received their second shot.

Previously, vaccines in the province were offered to residents of public long-term care and designated supportive-living facilities.

Kenney said Phase 2 is expected to begin in April, pending vaccine availability. It will include anyone aged 50 to 74, anyone with high-risk underlying health conditions, First Nations and Métis people 35 or older and residents and staff of congregate-living settings and eligible caregivers. According to a news release, details about qualifying underlying health conditions will be released before Phase 2 begins.

The province reported 325 new cases of COVID-19 and seven related deaths.

What’s happening in Canada

As of 6:25 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 840,591 cases of COVID-19, with 32,241 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,576.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will extend the period of time claimants can receive several pandemic income benefits.

Trudeau told reporters Friday afternoon that the Canada recovery benefit (CRB), the Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB), the Canada recovery caregiving benefit (CRCB) and employment insurance (EI) will all see extensions in the number of weeks eligible recipients can receive them.

WATCH | Who is keeping track of thousands of private COVID-19 tests?

A CBC News investigation into the growing and largely unregulated private sector of COVID-19 tests and found a hodge-podge industry of inconsistent prices, and sometimes, test results. 2:39

At a briefing earlier on Friday, top federal health officials pointed out that the country has seen a steady decline in COVID-19 activity in Canada, but expressed worry about so-called variants of concern.

Health officials said Friday that variants of concern had been reported in all 10 provinces. According to figures provided at the briefing, as of Friday there had been:

  • More than 660 cases of the B117 variant first identified in the U.K.

  • 39 cases of the B1351 variant first identified in South Africa.

  • One case of the P1 variant first traced to travellers from Brazil.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, officials reported 60 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday and nine new presumptive cases on Friday.

WATCH | COVID-19 testing ramps up as N.L. struggles to contain outbreak:

Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of health for Newfoundland and Labrador, says labs are now processing more than six times the number of tests every 24 hours than they were two weeks ago. 1:08

New Brunswick reported six new COVID-19 cases on Friday, while Nova Scotia reported two new cases.

In Quebec, health officials reported 800 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 14 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 723, with 127 of those patients in intensive care.

Manitoba health officials reported 92 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and two related deaths. Dr. Jazz Atwal, the deputy chief provincial public health officer, also said three more cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K. have been identified in Manitoba. All three are linked to international travel and have since recovered, Atwal said.

Saskatchewan reported 146 new cases of COVID-19 and three related deaths on Friday.

British Columbia announced 508 new COVID-19 cases and six related deaths on Friday. Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson also announced that 12,250 vaccine doses were administered over the last 24 hours — a record for the province.

“This is very good news because every individual protected through vaccination makes us all safer,” Gustafson said.

In Nunavut, the territorial government confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 Friday in Arviat. It’s the seventh day in a row new cases have been reported in the hamlet of 2,650 people, and it brings the total number of active cases in the territory to 29, all in Arviat.

What’s happening around the world

A coffee and sandwich vendor walks amid empty oxygen cylinders while people rest waiting for a shop to open to refill their tanks, in the Villa El Salvador neighbourhood of Lima on Thursday. (Martin Mejia/The Associated Pres)

As of Friday evening, more than 110.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 62.2 million of those cases listed as recovered on a tracking site run by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.4 million.

In the Americas, the United States has a backlog of six million COVID-19 vaccine doses due to inclement weather, White House officials said at a media briefing on Friday, adding that the federal government expects to catch up with vaccine distribution by next week.

All 50 states are impacted, according to Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House’s COVID-19 response team. He said delays were due to road closures, shipping company employees unable to get to work and power outages in certain locations.

Venezuela started vaccinating health workers with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, adding that it hopes to inoculate 70 per cent of the country’s population by the end of the year.

In Africa, an African Union-created task force working to secure COVID-19 vaccines says Russia has offered 300 million doses of the country’s Sputnik V vaccine. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said in a statement Friday that the body is “tremendously proud” to offer the doses to Africa’s 54 countries. The statement says the Sputnik V doses will be available in May.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan confirmed a new variant of COVID-19, and an infection cluster emerged at a Tokyo immigration facility.

South Korea may consider a fifth round of COVID-19 cash handouts, the prime minister said, even as the details of a planned fourth cash payout have yet to be completed.

China’s Sinovac delivered 1 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac to Hong Kong on Friday evening. Government officials approved Sinovac’s two-dose vaccine on Thursday. The semi-autonomous city is relying on three vaccines and has purchased 22.5 million doses in total.

Priority groups include health-care workers and those above the age of 60, as well as essential workers. Online appointments will begin on Tuesday.

In Europe, the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned Friday that the drop in new coronavirus cases has levelled off even as the share of more contagious variants is rising. Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, said Germany may be heading toward another “turning point” in the pandemic after weeks of falling infections.

His agency reported 9,113 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past day and 508 deaths. Germany has recorded almost 2.4 million cases and 67,206 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Earlier this week Health Minister Jens Spahn said the share of the more contagious variant first detected in Britain has reached about 22 per cent in Germany, from six per cent two weeks ago.

Students get food during a distribution organized by the French charity Restaurants of the Heart at a student residence in Paris earlier this week. (Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters)

A Dutch appeals court will rule next Friday in a case against the government’s coronavirus curfew, the judge said on Friday. The court is weighing an appeal against the ruling by a lower court, which found on Tuesday that the government measure lacked legal justification and must be scrapped.

Hungarian health authorities issued final approval to a COVID-19 vaccine produced in China, clearing the way for the first inoculations with a Chinese vaccine in the European Union.

Ireland will remain under significant restrictions until the end of April, the prime minister was quoted as saying.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia this week approved the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

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FDA vote expected on Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster shots – CNN



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13 more die of COVID-19 in B.C. as 667 new cases confirmed –



British Columbia announced 667 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths on Friday, the most deaths in one day since Feb. 3.

In a written statement, the provincial government said there are currently 5,128 active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A total of 367 people are in hospital, with 152 in intensive care.

Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by 1.9 per cent from last Friday, when 360 people were in hospital with the disease and about 27 per cent from a month ago when 288 people were in hospital.

The number of patients in intensive care is up by about 11 per cent from 137 a week ago and by the same percentage from a month ago when 137 people were also in the ICU.

The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,055 lives lost out of 196,433 confirmed cases to date.

As of Friday, 89 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83 per cent a second dose.

So far, eight million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 3.8 million second doses.

There are a total of 19 active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term and acute care. There has been one new outbreak at GR Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel. The outbreak at Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre has been declared over.

The acute care hospitals currently affected by COVID outbreaks are Mission Memorial Hospital, University Hospital of Northern B.C., GR Baker Memorial Hospital, and Tofino General Hospital. 

More than 90 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and three people have died as a result of an outbreak at a care home in Burnaby, and officials say the death toll is expected to grow. 

The majority of cases at the Willingdon Care Centre are among residents, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday he expects the number of deaths will rise to 10 over the next several days due to a delay in data reporting.

New northern restrictions

More restrictions for the northern part of the province came into effect Thursday at midnight and will last until at least Nov. 19 in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

Restrictions in the region now include limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to fully vaccinated people only, capping the number of people who can gather in any setting, moving worship services online, cutting off alcohol sales earlier at night and mandating masks and safety plans at organized events.

Health officials are strongly recommending people stay in their community unless it is essential for work or medical reasons. 

Restrictions are also in place in the Interior Health region and communities in the eastern Fraser Valley.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry continues to reiterate the importance of immunization to reduce the risk of illness and death due to COVID-19.

From Oct. 7 to 13, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 68.3 per cent of cases and from Sept. 30 to Oct. 13, they accounted for 76.3 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province. 

Anyone who has not yet received a shot is encouraged to do so immediately. Appointments can be made online through the Get Vaccinated portal, by calling 1-833-838-2323, or in-person at any Service B.C. location. 

People can also be immunized at walk-in clinics throughout the province.

B.C. health officials are awaiting a federal review of COVID-19 vaccines for five- to 11-year-olds and are encouraging families to register their children now as they anticipate doses being available for this group by early November.

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U.S. border town welcomes back fully vaccinated B.C. visitors, but travel hurdles remain –



Businesses in northern Washington state are welcoming back Canadian customers once the United States reopens its land borders, but a B.C. mayor says travellers may face hurdles.

The U.S. is allowing fully vaccinated travellers from Canada to enter the United States by air, land and ferry for non-essential travel starting Nov. 8.

Those entering the U.S. at a land border will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or attest to their vaccination status upon request by a border agent. Land travellers do not need to show a negative COVID-19 test, a requirement for air travellers. 

Karen Frisbie, Chamber of Commerce president in Oroville, Wash. — a town of more than 19,000 residents bordering Osoyoos in B.C.’s South Okanagan — says her community has been quiet without Canadians travelling south to shop during the pandemic.

“We definitely miss our Canadian neighbours and look forward to having them back,” Frisbie said Friday to host Chris Walker on CBC’s Daybreak South.

Many border towns in Washington state struggled due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing Canadians from travelling across the border. The city of Blaine, for instance, said last August their finances were hit hard after several months without Canadian visitors.

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff says she can feel the happiness of Canadians who know they’ll be able to visit Oroville.

“A lot of the people in Osoyoos love to go to Oroville — they have their special places [and] restaurants [in Oroville], and they love to go down there for American milk and cheese and beer, and gas sometimes,” McKortoff said on Daybreak South.

But the mayor also strikes a cautious note.

“You still need a PCR test to come back to Canada,” she said, referring to a type of molecular testing. Molecular COVID-19 tests involve methods such a nose swab, or providing a saliva sample.

“You’re not going to go down there for a day, and [you] have to worry about having a PCR test in order to get back through the border.”

Canada still requires arriving travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their entry to Canada, regardless of their point of entry — but labs could take more than 72 hours to issue a test result.

“We need to wait until all of those things have been solved a little bit better before people will even take the chance to go across,” McKortoff said.

LISTEN |  Karen Frisbie and Sue McKortoff share their hopes and concerns about U.S. border reopening to Canadians:

Daybreak South5:24What will opening the U.S. border to Canadians mean to border communities? We go to Oroville, Washington and Osoyoos to hear more about the impacts on those cities.

What will opening the U.S. border to Canadians mean to border communities? We go to Oroville, Washington and Osoyoos to hear more about the impacts on those cities. 5:24

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