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

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U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday decisions to end the required wearing of masks — such as those by the governors of Texas and Mississippi — amounted to “Neanderthal thinking,” given the rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked if he had a message for Texas and Mississippi, Biden told reporters, “I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference.”

Cases in the U.S. have declined from peaks seen earlier this year, but remain above 50,000 a day — even after the government has distributed more than 100 million doses of vaccine, putting shots into more than 50 million arms, according to federal data.

The U.S. alone has seen more than 28.7 million reported cases of COVID-19 and more than 518,000 recorded deaths, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Biden’s comments about masks came as the Senate delayed the start of debate on the president’s $1.9-trillion US COVID-19 relief bill until at least Thursday after reaching a deal to phase out $1,400 payments to higher-income Americans in a compromise with moderate Democratic senators.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is hoping for a final vote later in the week on passage of Biden’s top legislative priority. Before the bill hits the chamber floor, Democrats are negotiating limits to a measure Republicans have attacked as wasteful.

The bill would pay for vaccines and medical supplies, boost jobless assistance and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses, and state and local governments. Democrats aim to get it to Biden to sign into law before March 14, when some current benefits expire.

“The plan that we are going to vote on this week is going to provide real, robust relief for all of us,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have denounced the bill.

On Wednesday, McConnell called it a “vast catalogue of liberal spending” and a partisan “smorgasbord of borrowed money” packed with “crazy provisions” unrelated to the pandemic, which has killed more than 517,000 Americans and left millions more jobless.

-From Reuters, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | The science behind delaying the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccines:

Federal government scientists have put their support behind delayed second doses of COVID-19 vaccines — which several provinces were already doing — and ongoing research shows some of the benefits of the adapted strategy. 2:04

As of 11:20 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 877,268 cases of COVID-19, with 29,884 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,134.

Ontario on Thursday reported 994 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province stood at 649, with 281 people in intensive care units.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — but health officials also reported the most recoveries ever recorded in a single day in the province, bringing the number of active cases to 149.

There were also three new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday in New Brunswick, with one new case reported in Prince Edward Island.

In Quebec, health officials reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 20 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 626, a COVID-19 dashboard said, with 115 people in intensive care units.

The update came a day after officials announced next steps around easing restrictions, saying the province will be moving more regions into the lower “orange” pandemic-alert level, including Quebec City and the Eastern Townships, starting on March 8.

Premier François Legault said the greater Montreal area will remain in the highest “red” level, because of fear of novel coronavirus variants.

WATCH | How businesses and schools use rapid COVID-19 tests:

Many businesses and schools across Canada are utilizing rapid COVID-19 tests and onsite testing technology to help catch asymptomatic cases and prevent spread of the virus. 7:41

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 51 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths on Wednesday. In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 121 new cases and two additional deaths.

In Alberta, meanwhile, health officials reported 402 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional deaths. The province said there were 251 people in hospital with the illness, with 48 in intensive care units.

British Columbia on Wednesday reported 542 new cases of the illness, along with seven more deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 246, with 64 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

The update came as health officials in the province said it was pleased with a national vaccine panel’s endorsement of its approach to wait up to four months before a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine is offered.The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health has also given its nod to the province’s four-month interval between shots, up from 42 days.

Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut on Wednesday.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:50 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A French Urgent Medical Aid Service member walks past stretchers in an Air Austral company’s plane in Sainte-Marie on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion on Thursday before evacuating four COVID-19 patients to Paris. (Richard Bouhet/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 115.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with more than 65.1 million listed on the Johns Hopkins University tracking site as recovered. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million.

In the Americas, Brazil’s second-biggest city of Rio de Janeiro will be the latest to adopt new COVID-related restrictions on Friday, including a night curfew, in a bid to slow a deadly second wave that is ravaging the South American country.

The city of 6.7 million people will impose a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and order restaurants to close at 5 p.m., while certain businesses, such as clubs, will be shut altogether, according to information published in the city’s official bulletin on Thursday.

While COVID-19 deaths and infections are falling globally, that is not the case in Brazil, where a record 1,910 people died from the virus on Wednesday. In response, various states and cities have adopted new restrictions on commerce in recent days, including the Federal District, home of capital Brasilia, and Sao Paulo state, Brazil’s most populous.

The new restrictions in Rio are due to last through March 11.

In Europe, the medicines regulator said on Thursday it has started a real-time review of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute for possible approval in the region.

Germany’s health minister says the country’s independent vaccine committee has formally approved giving the AstraZeneca shot to people age 65 and over.

Minister Jens Spahn said the decision was, “good news for older people who are waiting for a vaccination. They will get vaccinated faster.”

The vaccine made by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca is one of three authorized for use in the 27-nation European Union. But several countries, including Germany, initially restricted it to people under 65, or in some cases under 55, citing a lack of data on its effectiveness in older people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is seeing a resurgence of cases in central and eastern Europe as well as a rise of new cases in several western European countries, the head of its European office said.

Caretaker Paul Bascombe marks safety signs for physical distancing at The Prince of Wales School on Thursday in Dorchester, England. England’s schools will reopen to pupils from March 8. (Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

Chancellor Angela Merkel and German state leaders have agreed to a phased easing of coronavirus curbs along with an “emergency brake” to let authorities reimpose restrictions if case numbers spike again, while France is preparing for a possible easing of restrictions from mid-April.

Italy will administer a single vaccine dose to those who have already been infected with COVID-19, the health ministry said.

In Africa, Kenya received over a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week, while Rwanda said it was the first in Africa to secure shots from Pfizer.

Egypt, meanwhile, expanded its vaccination rollout to include the elderly and people with chronic diseases after several weeks of vaccinating medical staff.

An Egyptian medical worker checks people’s temperatures on the first day of vaccination against COVID-19 in Cairo on Thursday. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Middle East, Iran remained the hardest-hit country in the region, with more than 1.6 million cases COVID-19 and more than 60,000 reported deaths.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Sri Lanka’s drug regulatory body has approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine as the second available for use in the Indian Ocean island nation.

South Korea’s central bank says the country’s economy shrank for the first time in 22 years in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic destroyed service industry jobs and depressed consumer spending.

Preliminary data released by the Bank of Korea on Thursday showed that the country’s gross domestic product last year contracted 1 per cent from 2019. It marked the first annual contraction for the country’s economy since 1998, when it was in the midst of a crippling financial crisis.

The economy would have been even worse if not for the country’s technology exports, which saw increased demand driven by personal computers and servers as the pandemic forced millions around the world to work at home.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:20 a.m. ET

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

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Hospitals across much of Ontario will start ramping down elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures Monday to ensure they have the capacity to treat more COVID-19 patients. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Friday that could increase intensive-care unit capacity in Ontario by up to 1,000 patient beds.

The province reported on Sunday that there were 1,513 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 605 people in intensive care “due to COVID-related illness.”

Ontario also said that there were 4,456 new COVID-19 cases in the province on Sunday, marking a new single-day high for new infections.

Hospitals in northern Ontario are exempt from cancelling non-urgent procedures, but a memo from Ontario Health on Thursday night said they should prepare to ramp down quickly in the near future.

The memo also asked hospitals to identify staff who may be redeployed to other sites if necessary.

Meanwhile, more than 700 pharmacies are joining Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the province races to slow the spread of the virus. Government officials say the move will rapidly expand availability of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 55 and over this week.

-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

WATCH | Many educators still waiting for access to COVID-19 vaccine:

Educators are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in several provinces, but many are still waiting for access to the shots. 2:01

As of early Monday morning, Canada had reported 1,060,163 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 73,446 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,315.

Across Atlantic Canada, health officials reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, including:

  • 9 new cases in the Edmundston area of New Brunswick, which entered a lockdown on Sunday.
  • 5 new cases in Nova Scotia, which brought the number of active cases in the province to 40.
  • 1 new case in Newfoundland and Labrador, putting the number of active cases in the province at 10.

Prince Edward Island, which did not report any new cases on Sunday, is as of Monday allowing people aged 55 and up to get the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at 12 pharmacies on the island.

In Central Canada, Quebec health officials on Sunday reported 1,535 new cases and five new deaths. Hospitalizations in the province, as reported on a provincial dashboard, stood at 608, with 139 people in intensive care.  The province, which has moved up its curfew in Montreal and Laval, on Sunday night saw hundreds of protesters gather in Old Montreal.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 112 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while neighbouring Saskatchewan reported 321 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.

Health officials in Alberta, meanwhile, reported 1,183 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death. The province’s chief medical health officer said 50.5 per cent of the active cases in the province are variants of concern.

In British Columbia, health officials have decided that all adults who live or work in Whistler are eligible as of Monday for a COVID-19 vaccine as the region struggles with increasing cases.

Across the North, there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported on Sunday in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or Yukon.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

Women take a selfie with their drinks on Monday at The Fox on the Hill pub after its reopening as coronavirus restrictions ease in London. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

As of early Monday morning, more than 136.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking site run by Johns Hopkins University in the United States. The reported global death toll stood at more than 2.9 million.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to “behave responsibly” as shops, gyms, hairdressers, restaurant patios and beer gardens reopen after months of lockdown. Monday sees the easing of restrictions that have been in place in England since early January to suppress a surge in coronavirus infections linked to a more transmissible new variant of the virus.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following their own, broadly similar plans to ease lockdown. Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths.

Meanwhile, in France, more than 10 million people have received a first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Jean Castex said.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the hard-hit Philippine capital and four nearby provinces have been placed under a lighter coronavirus lockdown to avoid further damage to an already battered economy despite a continuing surge in infections and deaths. The Philippines has long been a Southeast Asian coronavirus hot spot, with about 865,000 confirmed infections and nearly 15,000 deaths.

“Our emerging strategy is to increase our bed capacities instead of closing the economy,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque  who spoke in a televised news briefing from a Manila hospital after contracting COVID-19 like many cabinet members.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees flocked to take a holy bath in India’s Ganges river, even as the nation racked up the world’s highest tally of new daily coronavirus infections.

Thai workers prepare a field hospital for COVID-19 patients in Bangkok on Monday. Thailand’s Health Ministry warned Sunday that restrictions may need to be tightened to slow the spread of a fresh coronavirus wave as the country hit a daily record for new cases. (Somchai Chanjirakitti/The Associated Press)

In the Middle East, Iran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country on Saturday.

In the Americas, the United States had administered 187,047,131 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and distributed 237,796,105 doses as of Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Venezuela has secured the funds to fully pay for coronavirus vaccines via the COVAX system, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday, a day after a surprise announcement that the country had paid more than half the amount due.

In Africa, Tunisia approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and will soon receive 1.5 million doses of the vaccine under an African Union plan.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET


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Myanmar military sentences 19 to death, says anti-coup protests dwindling

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(Reuters) – Nineteen people have been sentenced to death in Myanmar for killing an associate of an army captain, the military owned Myawaddy TV station said on Friday, the first such sentences announced in public since a Feb. 1 coup and crackdown on protesters.

The report said the killing took place on March 27 in the North Okkalapa district of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. Martial law has been declared in the district, allowing courts martial to pronounce sentences.

The military rulers who overthrew an elected government said on Friday that a protest campaign against its rule was dwindling because people wanted peace, and that it would hold elections within two years, the first timeframe it has given for a return to democracy.

Troops fired rifle grenades at anti-coup protesters on Friday in the town of Bago, near Yangon, witnesses and news reports said. At least 10 people were killed and their bodies piled up inside a pagoda, they said.

Myanmar Now news and Mawkun, an online news magazine, said at least 20 people were killed and many wounded. It was not possible to get a precise toll because troops had cordoned off the area near the pagoda, they said.

Junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the country was returning to normal and government ministries and banks would resume full operations soon.

More than 600 people have been killed by security forces cracking down on protests against the coup, according to an activist group. The country has ground to a standstill because of the protests and widespread strikes against military rule.

“The reason of reducing protests is due to cooperation of people who want peace, which we value,” Zaw Min Tun said. “We request people to cooperate with security forces and help them.”

He said the military had recorded 248 deaths and he denied that automatic weapons had been used. Sixteen policemen had also been killed, he said.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group has said 614 people, including 48 children, had been killed by security forces since the coup, as of Thursday evening. More than 2,800 were in detention, it said.

“We are humbled by their courage and dignity,” a group of 18 ambassadors in Myanmar said of the protesters in a joint statement.

“We stand together to support the hopes and aspirations of all those who believe in a free, just, peaceful and democratic Myanmar. Violence has to stop, all political detainees must be released and democracy must be restored.”

The statement was signed by the ambassadors of the United States, Britain, the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland and several other European nations.

“The suggestions from neighbouring countries and big countries and powerful people in politics, we respect them,” Zaw Min Tun said. He also accused members of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy of arson and said the protest campaign was being financed by foreign money, but gave no details.

Suu Kyi and many of her party colleagues have been in custody since the coup.

Zaw Min Tun said reports that some members of the international community did not recognise the military government were “fake news”.

“We are cooperating with foreign countries and working together with neighbouring countries,” the spokesman said.

Ousted Myanmar lawmakers urged the United Nations Security Council on Friday to take action against the military.

“Our people are ready to pay any cost to get back their rights and freedom,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted lawmakers. She urged Council members to apply both direct and indirect pressure on the junta.

“Myanmar stands at the brink of state failure, of state collapse,” Richard Horsey, a senior adviser on Myanmar with the International Crisis Group, told the informal U.N. meeting, the first public discussion of Myanmar by council members.

The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, had wanted to visit the country but said she has been rebuffed by the generals.

She said on Friday she had arrived in Bangkok, the capital of neighbouring Thailand.

“I regret that Tatmadaw answered me yesterday that they are not ready to receive me,” Schraner Burgener said on Twitter, referring to the Myanmar military. “I am ready for dialogue. Violence never leads to peaceful sustainable solutions.”

 

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Grant McCool; Editing by Nick Macfie and Daniel Wallis)

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Australia abandons COVID-19 vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

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By Paulina Duran

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.

Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination programme, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” Morrison said.

Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.

Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.

Australia’s hardline response to the virus largely stopped community transmissions but the vaccination rollout has become a hot political topic – and a source of friction between Morrison and state and territory leaders – after the country vaccinated only a fraction of its four million target by the end of March.

About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison added, noting the speed of Australia’s vaccination programme was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other nations, partly because of its low number of infections, which stand at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.

(GRAPHIC – Global COVID tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/)

 

(Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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