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

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The latest:

  • Alberta reports 1,100 new cases of COVID-19, highest daily total in months
  • Non-essential travel a low risk for the vaccinated, CDC says in new guidance for Americans.
  • Christians in the Holy Land are marking Good Friday without mass pilgrimages due to COVID-19.
  • Quebec reports 1,314 new cases of COVID-19, 5 additional deaths.
  • Saskatchewan is reporting 254 new cases, and 1 death.
  • California to allow indoor concerts, vaccinations for older teens as of April 15.
  • Doctors monitor how Alberta’s variant-driven 3rd wave could impact children.
  • Essential but forgotten? Youth working in grocery stores, cafés feel the strain.
  • ANALYSIS | Did the political art of compromise fail Canada during the pandemic?
  • ANALYSIS | What’s behind Quebec’s targeted approach to 3rd wave and could it work?
  • Have a question about the COVID-19 pandemic? Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca

Canada’s two most long-standing coronavirus hot spots marked their second Good Friday in the COVID-19 era by either ushering in or preparing to impose new public health measures to curb resurgent case numbers.

Friday’s tally showed there were 990,620 COVID-19 cases in the country, including 51,174 active cases. Canada’s coronavirus death toll stood at 23,008.

Three regions of Quebec issued a 10-day lockdown that took effect hours before the province reported its highest daily case load since late January.

The province says 1,314 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, marking the third day in a row Quebec reported more than 1,000 new cases.

The news comes as residents of Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau begin a 10-day shutdown that will shutter schools, gyms and most non-essential businesses.

Ontario did not share new case data today, but residents are trying to take advantage of one last day of loosened public health measures before a provincewide shutdown takes effect on Saturday at 12:01 a.m.

Most Canadians are being asked to spend yet another holiday isolated from family and friends, as case counts surge and hospitals are being pushed to the brink.

WATCH | Expert warns of health-care overload across Canada:

Ontario is already experiencing health-care overload due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to infectious diseases specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, and other provinces are headed in that direction. 5:58

Atlantic Canada is the notable exception, where case loads are low.

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick reported nine new infections a piece on Friday.

Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says the Easter weekend in his province “is looking very different” than in most other jurisdictions, but said people still need to be careful.


Ontario’s provincewide shutdown will see personal care services such as hair salons close — or remain closed — and restaurants restricted to takeout only.

WATCH | ICUs across Canada seeing younger COVID-19 patients:

The third wave of COVID-19 is putting a lot of strain on ICUs across the country and doctors say this cohort of patients is significantly younger than in previous waves. 2:02

But the Progressive Conservatives stopped short of replicating the stay-at-home order that came into effect in early January, even as they touted its success at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re not going to be producing a stay-at-home order, because we saw the last time that it had tremendous ill effect on both children and adults,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “We of course have to balance any measures that we take with people’s mental health as well.”

Empty pews are seen in 2020 at St. Mary’s Parish Catholic church in Ottawa as Father Mark Goring celebrates the Easter Sunday mass last year in front of an iPhone broadcasting live on YouTube. Many churches across Canada will again offer online services this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Quebec, too, found itself tightening restrictions in some regions — a measure announced Wednesday evening.

Schools and non-essential businesses were closed and the curfew moved to 8 p.m. in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau. Premier François Legault said the lockdown would last for at least 10 days.

People enjoy the recently opened Robson Square plaza in Vancouver on Wednesday. B.C. health officials recently gave churches latitude to open, only to revoke it after a surge in COVID-19 cases. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe stopped short of changing any rules, instead asking people to follow public health advice. Still, at least one Saskatoon church is opting for virtual Easter services to be safe.

– From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:25 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported Thursday that nearly 15 per cent of adult Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander in charge of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, said about 7.4 million doses have been distributed so far to the provinces and territories. He said he expects that number to rise to 9.5 million by the weekend.

New Brunswick reported nine new COVID-19 cases on Friday. Recently it has led Atlantic Canada in active COVID cases and daily case reports.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia also reported nine new cases, a day after Premier Iain Rankin announced that people aged 70 and older can now book for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new travel-related case of COVID-19 on Thursday and Prince Edward Island also reported a single new case.

Ontario will not update its COVID-19 figures on Friday due to the Good Friday holiday. On Thursday, health officials 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.

WATCH | Ontario announces 4-week ‘shutdown’ as ICUs near limit:

Ontario announced a 4-week provincewide shutdown after ICUs neared their limit and COVID-19 cases surged, but some doctors say the restrictions aren’t enough to control the third wave. 2:43

Quebec on Friday reported 1,314 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 503, including 121 people in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba won’t provide a COVID-19 update on Friday. It reported 59 new cases on Thursday and two additional deaths. Experts there are warning that the province could see a third wave of COVID-19 as cases surge elsewhere in Canada.

In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials are reporting 254 new cases, and 1 death, an increase from 199 new cases and no additional deaths on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Alberta reported 1,100 new cases on Friday, bringing the total of COVID-19 cases to 150,307 in that province, and 1,994 deaths. 

WATCH | Kenney pleads with Albertans to follow health guidance:

Premier Jason Kenney says the province is seeing a new wave of COVID-19 infections and it’s up to Albertans to follow health guidance to bring cases down. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says vaccines offer hope, but Albertans need to keep cases low until more people can be vaccinated. 2:20

In British Columbia, health officials reported 832 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths on Thursday, but were not reporting new numbers on the Good Friday holiday.

Across the North on Thursday, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories. Yukon did not have any new cases to report on Thursday, but a case was reported overnight on Wednesday.

– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:25 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of Friday, more than 130.1 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 2.83 million.

The United States has reported 30.6 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 100 million Americans — or about 30 per cent of the U.S. population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

California announced Friday it would allow indoor concerts, theatre performances and other private gatherings starting April 15 because the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the state is nearing a record low.

Also starting April 15, young adults aged 16 and over will be eligible for the vaccine.

To attend gatherings, people will have to either be tested or show proof of full vaccination. California has administered nearly 19 million doses and nearly 6.9 million people are fully vaccinated in a state with nearly 40 million residents. 

Also Friday, the CDC updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward.

In the Middle East, Christians in the Holy Land marked Good Friday without the mass pilgrimages usually seen in the days leading up to Easter because of the coronavirus. Worshippers in many other predominantly Christian countries where the virus is still raging observed their second annual Holy Week with tight restrictions on gatherings.

In Jerusalem, many holy sites were open, thanks to an ambitious Israeli vaccination campaign. It was a stark contrast to last year, when the city was under lockdown.

In neighbouring Lebanon, Christians observed Good Friday under a lockdown in sparsely-attended church services and heavy rain ahead of a three-day curfew starting Saturday to discourage family get-togethers over the Easter holiday.

.In Latin America, penitents from Mexico and Guatemala to Paraguay carried tree branches covered with thorns and large crosses in Passion Plays reenacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis presided over a torch-lit Way of the Cross ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, foregoing for a second year the traditional Colosseum procession that draws thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Filipinos marked Good Friday, one of the most solemn holidays in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, with deserted streets and churches following a strict lockdown to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

Major highways and roads were eerily quiet after religious gatherings were prohibited in metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces. The government placed the bustling region of more than 25 million people back under lockdown this week as it scrambled to contain an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.

Police patrol as Roman Catholic devotees gather in front of Quiapo church during Good Friday in Manila, Philippines, on Friday, after the government imposed strict lockdowns to cope with a surge in COVID-19 infections. (Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images)

In Africa, Namibia will for the first time receive $271 million from the International Monetary Fund to address its deteriorating fiscal position, which has been worsened by the pandemic, its Finance Ministry said on Thursday.

In Europe, the British government is adding four more countries — Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines — to its travel ban list amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus. The Department for Transport said the latest restrictions will take effect in England from April 9.

Under the terms of the travel bans, international visitors who have departed from or travelled through through the countries in the preceding 10 days will be refused entry into England.

British and Irish nationals, and those who have residence rights in the U.K., can enter but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days, at their own expense.

When the four countries are added, there will be a total of 39 nations on the government’s so-called “red list.” They include Brazil and South Africa, where two of the variants of the virus have been identified.

The other nations of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have similar lists to those that apply in England.

Coronavirus infections and deaths in Ukraine reached new records on Friday, with health authorities reporting 19,893 cases and 433 confirmed deaths.

Ukraine began vaccinations in late February after receiving 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. However, reluctance to take the shots has been strong despite the influx of new infections and the strain on the health-care system.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, the government says it is temporarily halting AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccinations for people under age 60, following reports of a very small number of people suffering unusual blood clots after receiving the shot.

The Dutch decision comes three days after authorities in Germany also stopped using AstraZeneca’s vaccine in under-60s.

In the Americas, Brazil has been grappling with a surge in cases that has left the hospitals and health care system struggling to keep up, the WHO said on Thursday. There are currently 12,839,844 active cases and 553,980 deaths. In March alone, over 66,000 Brazilians died of the virus, and cemeteries extended services to all hours to accommodate burials. 

Brazil’s cemeteries struggle to keep up with record COVID-19 casualties, extend services to all hours and attempt to accommodate new caskets. 1:23

Chile has closed most of its borders to control surging coronavirus cases despite a region-leading vaccine campaign.

The government says Chilean citizens would be unable to come and go through April. Truck drivers bringing essential goods would need to show a negative test for the coronavirus. Domestically, Chileans will be limited to permits for a single trip out of the home per weekend to buy essential goods.

Passengers who just landed wait to be transferred to designated facilities to comply with a 10-day quarantine imposed on travellers at Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, on Thursday. (Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:39 p.m. ET

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What the rise of the PPC says about Canada in 2021 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
While the People’s Party of Canada did not manage to gain any seats this federal election, its accruing of the popular vote has experts saying the rise of the far-right populist party cannot be ignored.

Maxime Bernier, who failed to win his own riding of Beauce, Que., said Monday that he will remain as party leader despite the defeat, telling CTV News’ Genevieve Beauchemin at his Saskatoon rally that he views the election outcome as “a huge victory.”

The PPC won over 820,000 votes and more than five per cent of the popular vote this time around, a marked increase from the 1.6 per cent of the vote it got in 2019.

POPULISM FINDS A HOME

The party that ran on an anti-immigration, anti-lockdown platform that has been endorsed by white nationalists, Neo-Nazis and other far-right groups has become a home for anti-vaxxers, anti-government protesters and gun rights activists, showing that populism on the left or right may be more about a movement than a traditional political party, said University of Guelph professor of political science Tamara Small.

“I think the only leader who is ecstatic about last night’s results is Bernier,” said Small in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca after the election. “I don’t think they’re going anywhere… it seems that he’s taken that populism and attached it to far-right politics.”

The idea of Canadian exceptionalism from far-right and populist movements needs to be dispelled, Small said.

“The idea used to be that Canada was immune to sort of far-right populism…this idea that Canadians were sort of going to be free from the populism that we saw in Europe, like Nigel Farage is to the U.K.,” Small said. “But I think lots of people are wondering, if he’s [Bernier] just going to say ‘I’m not here to form government…I’m more here to challenge the system’” as a way of gaining support.

Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, said it makes sense to call the PPC a populist party, and that the party takes “an extremist position on things like immigration and diversity.”

“They’re extreme in terms of their anti-Trudeau or anti-state positioning. They’re extreme in terms of their anti-lockdown and anti-tax standpoints as well. So, yeah, I think they absolutely might be considered extremists,” Perry said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca.

“As is calling them a populist group or populist party, because that’s really what he’s done so effectively is absorbed some of those broad concerns around COVID-19 and freedom and even the more mainstream concerns about economic anxieties, loss of jobs, loss of businesses… and managed to roll them all up.”

Some who support the PPC bristle at the implication that the party is a hotbed of far-right rhetoric or white nationalist supporters, with many online saying they simply support a party that is dedicated to their freedoms.

In an email to CTVNews.ca, PPC candidate for the riding Parkdale-High Park Ont., Wilfried Danzinger, denied that the party is aligned with extremist values, writing that “love was the guiding principle of his campaign,” and that his supporters come from all “different sexual preferences, all ages and religions.”

When CTVNews.ca emailed the PPC for comment on this story, party spokesperson Martin Masse sent back a one-line response: “I don’t respond to requests from leftist activists masquerading as journalists. Get lost.”

COVID-19 WAS A ‘GIFT’ TO THE PPC

The rise of the PPC in the polls can be attributed partially to the “gift” of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

Balgord said that “the COVID-19 pandemic was a gift to the far-right” in general as it allowed them to infiltrate conspiracy theory spaces and begin attracting new followers.

“The rise of the party kind of fit into this because these people didn’t really have a political party. If they voted for any party, they would vote Conservative,” he said. “But they weren’t particularly happy about voting Conservative either because they’re the most fringe. So when the PCC started as a party in 2019, Bernier, right from day one was using their language, their talking points, and the words of the far-right in several spaces. We saw them actually say ‘Bernier is dog whistling to us.’”

But Small questioned whether the end of the COVID-19 pandemic would stop the drip of followers to the PPC and spell a marked decline in the party.

“My sense is that a lot of this anger and concern is tied up in a particular type of anger about lockdowns and vaccine mandates and overreach of the state,” Small said. “I’m not too sure whether or not once the pandemic is done, to what extent the party still exists.”

It is a sentiment echoed by extremism researcher and assistant professor at Queen’s University, Amarnath Amarasingam.

“In early 2020, with COVID-19, the kind of conspiratorial thinking and angst around the pandemic went through the roof, and a lot of these movements coalesced around similar ideas,” Amarasingam said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca, noting that traditionally conspiracy movements generally operate separately from each other.

Amarasingam said the COVID-19 pandemic “gave them all a common cause and they all were playing in the same playground.”

Amarasingam said the question now surrounding the PPC is whether its rise is solely due to the “catch-all” the party provided surrounding anger around lockdowns, quarantine and the pandemic, “or whether it’s a sign of something bubbling beneath the surface that a lot of everyday Canadians actually held secretly anti-immigrant views, anti-refugee groups, all the things that are part of the PPC platform.”

“If that’s the case, I mean, it’s going to be a longer concern of ours,” he continued. “So that’s kind of the big question is whether this is just a blip because of the pandemic or whether it kind of speaks to something else going on that we should be concerned about.”

HATE WAS ON THE BALLOT

Bernier has always denied ties or affiliations to any of the far-right, white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rhetoric he is accused of platforming with his stance on things like reduced immigration and scrapping the Multiculturalism Act.

However, Balgord said known Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups endorse the party, and that the party is populated with a litany of candidates, insiders and supporters who have been documented by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as members of far-right groups.

“There’s so many examples,” he said. “This isn’t a few isolated incidents, this is a pattern. This is what the PPC is.”

Balgord referenced more than 10 incidents of PPC candidates or people associated with the party who have engaged in far-right rhetoric or have been exposed by work done by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as being part of white nationalist groups.

“One of his very first riding executives was a guy [who] ran a USA Neo-Nazi organization and actually did time in the United States for organizing racially motivated assaults,” he said.

Balgord noted that the man charged with throwing gravel at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while he was campaigning as the Liberal leader was a riding director for the PPC, and that his organization had previously exposed him for “posting white power music on social media accounts with lyrics about killing immigrants.”

Another example listed by Balgord was the PPC candidate for the Ontario riding of Vaughn-Woodbridge who was exposed by Press Progress this month for allegedly having touted and created a video game where users can re-enact the 1999 Columbine shooting massacre and partake in their own shooting of caricatures of minorities and LGBTQ2S+ people.

Bernier himself has been featured on what Balgord describes as an “anti-Semitic blog collective,” which endorses a book full of terrorist Nazi ideologies. 

The PPC platform itself is also chock-full of “dog whistles” to the far-right, Balgord, Amarasingam and Perry said, referencing the sections on refugees, immigration and “Canadian identity.”

“I think the Canadian identity is tied to the anti-immigration, anti-refugee stuff,” Amarasingam said. “But I know when someone says Canadian identity, especially with all the other things that are at play in the platform, what that likely means for the PPC, is basically kind of ‘The Great Replacement,’ but around Canadian values.”

The Great Replacement theory is a conspiracy prevalent in white nationalist and far-right groups that posits that a shadowy cabal is behind demographic changes in a country or area, and that “white identity” or “Western values” are in decline because of it.

Balgord said it is known to have spurred terrorist attacks like the Christchurch mosque shooting of 2019.

“When we talk about the PPC, it’s necessary to talk about their ties to white supremacy and white nationalism and how dangerous the thing is, they’re not just another political party, right?” Balgord said. “They’re the white nationalist and the hate movement in Canada. It’s their way of trying to get a foothold into mainstream Canadian politics.”

Perry noted the language Bernier has used in his campaigns, in tweets and even in his speech on election night, in particular his word choices of “government overreach, tyrannies and authoritarian government.”

“Look at some of the language. It’s drawn from groups like three percenters…in particular in the militia movement,” Perry said. “So, yeah, there’s a very direct line. It’s not a dotted line. It’s a direct line.”

But when asked about the PPC and Bernier’s denial of allegations of extremist views, Balgord was unimpressed.

“The PPC is the party of plausible deniability,” he said. “But when you really scratch the surface, you find that it’s a party for white nationalists.”

WHERE DOES CANADA GO FROM HERE?

For the single-issue voters who chose to vote for Bernier’s party because of their views on lockdowns or COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the end of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions may tempt them away from the party, but Amarasingam says they cannot deny that their vote is still an endorsement of what the PPC represents.

“I think if you’re a single-issue voter on the vaccine, and you can find common cause with the PPC that doesn’t necessarily make you far-right, that just means that you’re unfortunately willing to sell a whole host of Canadian communities down the river to hold up this one value,” he said.

Amarasingam said that education on extremism may be what people need to make informed choices moving forward.

“I think everyone basically has to become an extremism watcher now that it’s no longer just some of us who live in these bizarre online communities paying attention to things, because as things become mainstream, people need to understand extremism and how these dynamics work and how these movements work,” he said.

As for the PPC’s presence in mainstream politics, Perry and Small said it’s a fine line to walk between exposing and identifying extremist views and providing too much of a platform for them to gain more followers.

“I think people feel very differently. I think there’s a lot of people who would say you should just ignore these people and never give them any platform,” Small said. “But I’m of the belief that not being aware in some ways is like throwing a match into a forest and then just not worrying about it.”

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

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The latest:

Alaska, which led most U.S. states in coronavirus vaccinations months ago, took the drastic step on Wednesday of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system, declaring that a crushing surge in COVID-19 patients has forced rationing of strained medical resources.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and health officials announced the move as the tally of newly confirmed cases statewide reached another single-day record of 1,224 patients amid a wave of infections driven by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant among the unvaccinated.

The delta variant is “crippling our health-care system. It’s impacting everything from heart attacks to strokes to our children if they get in a bike accident,” Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference with Dunleavy.

Alaska’s health and social services commissioner, Adam Crum, announced that he signed an emergency addendum extending to the whole state standards of crisis care announced last week at the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The new document limits liability faced by providers for crisis-level medical care in all Alaska hospitals.

Moreover, it acknowledges the realities of rationed care statewide, with scarce medical supplies and staff prioritized in a way that denies normal levels of care to some patients for the sake of others, depending on how sick they are and their chances for recovery.

To cope with the COVID-19 influx, Alaska has signed an $87 million US contract to enlist hundreds of health-care workers from out of state, officials said.

About one-fifth of Alaska hospital patients are infected with COVID-19, according to state data. But that figure understates the burden placed on the system as a whole as it “squeezes out” capacity to treat victims of car accidents, strokes, heart attacks and other ailments, Dunleavy said.

Paradoxically, back in April, Alaska had ranked among the top states getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of residents, helped in large part by efforts of the state’s pandemic-conscious Indigenous population.

Alaska has since slipped below the national average, with just 58 per cent of residents aged 12 and older fully vaccinated, according to the state database. The vaccination slump coincided with significant political resistance to public health requirements.

-From Reuters, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Record number of COVID-19 cases further strain Saskatchewan’s hospitals: 

Growing calls for lockdown as COVID-19 strains Sask. hospitals

13 hours ago

There are growing calls for tighter restrictions in Saskatchewan, including a lockdown, as the record number of COVID-19 cases further strain the province’s hospitals. 2:20

Saskatchewan’s only children’s hospital is opening its pediatric intensive care unit to younger adults with COVID-19.

Those under the age of 40 are getting admitted to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Wednesday that so far two adults are in the pediatrics ICU, and space is being made for more.

Dr. Susan Shaw, the health authority’s chief medical officer, said critical care capacity is under strain.

The province has recently been reporting record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations — mostly unvaccinated patients.

-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:40 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a private school in Quito, Ecuador, earlier this month. (Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 230.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization has warned that countries in the region could continue to face localized COVID-19 outbreaks well into 2022, even while deaths have fallen from their peak in January.

In the Middle East, Syria is facing a new surge in infections in both government-held areas and territory outside state control that could overwhelm the war-ravaged country’s fragile health system.

In Africa, Uganda’s president has eased restrictions, allowing the resumption of education for universities and other post-secondary institutions, citing a decline in infections.

Police patrol along St. Kilda Beach in Melbourne on Thursday. The city has seen recent protests from construction workers and others against COVID-19 regulations. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Asia-Pacific region, police in the Australian city of Melbourne prepared for a fourth day of anti-lockdown protests on Thursday while a vaccination hub closed after protesters abused staff, the operator said, while COVID-19 cases across the state of Victoria hit a daily record. Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in the city of five million since officials this week ordered a two-week closure of building sites and made vaccines mandatory for construction workers to limit the spread of the virus.

Japan plans to give other countries 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, doubling the target from the previous pledge of 30 million doses.

Thailand pushed back plans to reopen Bangkok and some other major cities to foreign arrivals until November.

In Europe, Italy plans to give other countries 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year, three times its original pledge, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 6:35 a.m. ET


Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments. 

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New Zealand’s Ardern says lockdowns can end with high vaccine uptake

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday the country should aim for a 90%-plus rate of inoculation, and could drop strict coronavirus lockdown measures once enough people were vaccinated.

New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 last year and remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in August led to a nationwide lockdown.

With its biggest city Auckland still in lockdown and new cases being reported every day, Ardern said vaccinations will replace lockdowns as the main tool against the virus, allowing authorities to isolate only those who are infected.

“If that rate (of vaccinations) is high enough then we will be able to move away from lockdowns as a tool,” she said.

The highest possible vaccine rates will give the most freedoms, Ardern said, adding that the country should be aiming for a 90% plus rate of vaccination.

After a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, some 40% of adult New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and about 75% have had at least one dose.

Authorities reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 1,123.

The Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield warned earlier this week that New Zealand may not get to zero COVID cases again.

 

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)

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