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

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The latest:

Quebec has recorded its first case of a new variant of COVID-19, the health minister said Tuesday, making it the fourth province in Canada to confirm the arrival of a new variant.

A statement from officials in Quebec said the person had been in contact with a family member who had returned to the province from the United Kingtom, where the new variant was first reported.

Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta had already reported cases of a new variant that health officials in England have said is more readily transmissible.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said that the arrival of the new variant doesn’t change the usual isolation measures.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Monday that the person with the new variant, who had recently arrived from the U.K., did “everything they were supposed to do” by following quarantine and other public health measures. 

“At this point, there is no evidence that there has been any further spread,” Hinshaw said.

A new variant has also been identified in South Africa. The Public Health Agency of Canada has said that while early data suggests the new variants “may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe disease symptoms or have any impact on antibody response.”

The health agency said more research is needed to confirm the findings.

As of 12:40 p.m. ET Tuesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 562,085, with 74,457 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 15,263.

In Ontario, vaccinations were expected to return to full operations today after being scaled down over the holidays. The province, which did not report case numbers on Monday, reported 4,492 cases for a two-day period on Tuesday. 

In an update published on Tuesday, the province said there were 864 COVID-19 patients in hospital, with 304 in intensive care.

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 2,381 new cases, and 64 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 1,131, with 148 COVID-19 patients in ICU.

Yukon‘s Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said the territory has received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine and the arrival marks a turning point in Yukon’s fight against COVID-19.

On Monday, the health minister of the Northwest Territories said the first batch of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine — which was approved by Health Canada last week — had arrived in the territory. Julie Green said in a tweet that 7,200 doses had arrived in Yellowknife.

In Alberta, health officials on Monday said the province’s COVID-19 death toll had surpassed 1,000 as health officials reported 112 additional deaths over a five-day period.

Manitoba, which reported 107 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths, said Monday that it would slightly expand the criteria for health-care workers eligible to get the vaccination.

Here’s a look at some other COVID-19 developments from across Canada:


What’s happening in the U.S.

In California, officials said hospitalizations for COVID-19 have stabilized in parts of the state but still overwhelm hospitals elsewhere, and Gov. Gavin Newsom is warning of a new surge in coronavirus cases following heavy holiday travel in defiance of recommendations to avoid gatherings.

ICU units in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley have no capacity remaining. Newsom said the state has prepared for a new surge in cases by setting up hospital beds in arenas, schools and tents, though it is struggling to staff them.

California has been regularly breaking records for case counts, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, while officials say models used for planning predict hospitalizations more than doubling in the next month from about 20,000 to more than 50,000.

The United States has seen more than 19.3 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and nearly 335,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

WATCH | U.S. sees record COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations in December:

CBC Toronto’s Chris Glover asks the chair of Ontario’s vaccine task force, retired general Rick Hillier, to justify the holiday stoppage of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program. 8:33

President Donald Trump’s push for $2,000 US COVID-19 relief cheques now rests with the Senate after the House voted overwhelmingly to meet the president’s demand to increase the $600 stipends, but Republicans have shown little interest in boosting spending.

The outcome is highly uncertain heading into Tuesday’s session. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to publicly address how he plans to handle the issue. But Democrats, sharing a rare priority with Trump, have seized on the opportunity to force Republicans into a difficult vote of either backing or defying the outgoing president.

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

People wait for their turn to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at the makeshift vaccination centre erected at the Kuwait International Fairground in the Mishref suburb south of Kuwait City on Tuesday. (Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 81.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 46 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to the Johns Hopkins tracking database. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.

In South Africa, the hardest-hit nation in Africa, officials have tightened COVID-19 restrictions, banning alcohol sales and extending a nationwide curfew, as infections shot through the one million mark, owing to a faster-spreading variant of the disease discovered in the country.

In the Middle East, Dubai is planning to inoculate 70 per cent of its population with the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech by the end of 2021, a health official said.

Israel’s health ministry said the country has vaccinated more people in nine days than have been infected with the coronavirus since the pandemic began. The ministry said Tuesday that nearly 500,000 people, or about five per cent of Israel’s population of 9 million, have already received the vaccine since the country began its inoculation drive last week. More than 407,000 people have caught the virus in Israel, and over 3,200 have died.

Edna Halup, a staff member at a private nursing home, receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Ganei Tikva, Israel. (Ariel Schalit/The Associated Press)

Israel is hoping a mass vaccination campaign will help bring its current outbreak under control and ultimately wipe out the virus entirely. This week the country entered its third national lockdown, with much of the economy shut down to help bring down surging infection numbers.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea said 40 more coronavirus patients have died in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number since the pandemic began.

Officials also reported 1,046 new confirmed coronavirus infections Tuesday, taking the total caseload to 58,725, with 859 deaths. South Korea’s previous daily high for COVID-19 deaths was 24, reported on both Dec. 21 and Dec. 22.

Some observers have said surging fatalities reflect an increase in cluster infections at nursing homes and long-term care centres where elderly people with underlying health problems stay.

China has reported seven new cases of coronavirus infection in Beijing, where authorities have ordered the testing of hundreds of thousands of residents.

Cases have been clustered largely in villages on Beijing’s northeastern edge, but authorities are wary of any spread in the capital that could hurt claims it has all but contained local spread of the virus.

India has found six people who returned from the United Kingdom in recent weeks infected with a new variant of the coronavirus.

A health-care worker wearing personal protective equipment collects a swab sample from a Border Security Force soldier during a rapid antigen testing campaign for COVID-19 in Gandhinagar, India on Tuesday. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

The health ministry in a statement on Tuesday said that all the six patients were isolated and their fellow travellers were tracked down. Close contacts of the infected patients were also put under quarantine.

Health officials in southern Pakistan say they have detected the country’s first three cases of the virus variant that prompted strict new lockdown measures in Britain and global travel restrictions.

In Europe, more people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in England than at the first peak of the outbreak in the spring, official figures show.

There were 20,426 patients in hospitals as of Monday morning — the last day for which figures are available — compared to the previous high of 18,974 on April 12.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of Britain’s National Health Service, said health-care workers are back in “the eye of the storm” as they had been in the spring.

Ambulances line up outside Britain’s Royal London Hospital on Tuesday. England Health Service figures show hospitals now have more COVID-19 patients than during April’s first-wave peak, with fears of increased figures because of a Christmas social spread. (Dominic Lipinski/PA/The Associated Press)

British authorities are blaming a new variant of the coronavirus, first identified in southeast England, for soaring infection rates. Almost half of England’s population is under tight restrictions on movement and on everyday life in an attempt to curb the spread.

Stevens said vaccines provide hope, and estimated all vulnerable people in Britain could be inoculated against the coronavirus by late spring 2021.

German authorities said the coronavirus variant found in Britain has been detected in samples from two patients who were infected in northern Germany in November.

The health ministry in Lower Saxony state said late Monday that the samples were tested more thoroughly after news of the new variant emerged in Britain, regional public broadcaster NDR reported. They were taken in November from an elderly man with other medical conditions who later died and from his wife.

The ministry said the man’s daughter had been in England in mid-November and likely was infected there.

In the Americas, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said a vaccine would be available in the country within five days of being approved by federal health regulator Anvisa.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:50 a.m. ET

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Canada's top judge is now acting Governor General, but expert urges speedy replacement – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Julie Payette’s resignation amid allegations of workplace harassment means that the chief justice of the Supreme Court will now assume the governor general’s powers, but a Crown expert says this temporary appointment should be as brief as possible as it presents potential conflicts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted Payette’s resignation on Thursday following reports of a workplace harassment investigation that sources described to CTV News as “damaging.”

Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner will fulfill the role of administrator on an interim basis until Trudeau recommends a new governor general to the Queen, something Trudeau says he will do “in due course.”

Philippe Lagasse, a Carleton University expert on the Westminster system and the Crown, described Payette’s resignation as “a bit sad, really,” and stressed the importance of limiting the amount of time Wagner stays in this role.

“I have to say, as somebody who is concerned about how offices appear in public, it’s really not ideal to have the chief justice of the Supreme Court act as an administrator for any long period of time,” Lagasse told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday.

The reason: the Governor General is in charge of turning bills into law through royal assent. Having an active Supreme Court judge in this role could be potentially problematic down the road, Lagasse said.

“We can think in our constitutional metaphysics that they’re wearing a different hat when they’re providing royal assent, you can imagine that it could create discomfort on the part of the judge who wants to be seem completely and utterly impartial if ever that legislation appears before them in a constitutional or legal challenge,” he said.

Asked about the timeline to replace Payette, intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said “obviously it’s not a question of months.”

“The constitutional role can be fulfilled as of tonight by Chief Justice Wagner and until a successor is sworn in,” LeBlanc told CTV’s Power Play.

“We obviously haven’t turned our attention to the details of how that successor would be recommended to Her Majesty, but we’ll have more to say about that in the coming days. But it’s not a circumstance that can go on for months and months.”

The Governor General holds the second-highest office in Canada after the Queen, with the role out-ranking even the prime minister. That’s because the Governor General can be called on to make decisions related to the formation of government, such as to prorogue Parliament or dissolve Parliament on the advice of a prime minister to trigger an election.

The Governor General also plays a key role in minority governments, as is the current case. If a minority government loses a confidence vote in the House of Commons, the prime minister would then have to request Parliament be dissolved. The Governor General then has the discretion whether to agree to that, and call an election, or allow another party in the House to attempt to form a government that would have the confidence of the House.

For example, in 2008, Stephen Harper asked then-Governor General Michaelle Jean to prorogue Parliament to avoid a non-confidence vote that he was expected to lose, which she allowed.

Everything considered, Lagasse said it’s in the country’s best interests to appoint a new Governor General pronto.

“To the extent possible, we should have a full-on governor general appointed as soon as possible, given the possibility of an election on the horizon,” he said.

“And ultimately, I would imagine the chief justice is not really keen on the idea of having to make some of these decisions and make some of the calls, particularly if another election returns another hung Parliament, and if there’s controversy around a dissolution of Parliament in the middle of a pandemic. These are all things that I imagine the chief justice doesn’t want to be particularly involved with either.”

CTV royal commentator Richard Berthelsen said that the Governor General plays a critical constitutional role in Canada as a representative of the Queen, but is also seen as a moral leader.

“So this really was a day that, in a lot of ways, had to happen. It’s sad that it has happened, but the report has left everyone with no alternative,” Berthelsen told CTV News Channel.

With files from CTV’s Rachel Aiello in Ottawa and The Canadian Press

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

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The latest:

Coronavirus infections may be about to hit a plateau in the United States based on recent seven-day averages, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, though the top U.S. infectious disease expert cautioned the country was still in a “very serious situation” with the virus.

At a White House briefing Thursday, Fauci also said that if 70 to 80 per cent of Americans are vaccinated by the end of summer, the country could experience “a degree of normality” by the fall.

The pandemic has killed 410,000 people and infected more than 24.6 million in the United States, the highest numbers anywhere in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

Fauci said coronavirus vaccines can be modified to account for new variants of the virus, and that while the variant first identified in South Africa is concerning, it does not appear to be in the United States.

People are processed at the entrance to an empty department store being used as a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Chula Vista, Calif., on Thursday. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Another highly transmissible variant of the virus first discovered in the United Kingdom has spread to at least 20 U.S. states, Fauci said.

Fauci said he expects current vaccines will be effective against the recently discovered virus mutations.

“Bottom line: We’re paying very close attention to it for our alternative plans if we have to ever modify the vaccine,” he said. “But right now, from the reports we have … it appears that the vaccines will still be effective against them.”

The United States still has a limited ability to track the presence of new variants in its population, he noted.

Biden sets COVID-19 plan into motion

Fauci praised U.S. President Joe Biden’s willingness to “let the science speak” in contrast to the previous Trump administration, standing by his side earlier Thursday as Biden unveiled sweeping measures to battle COVID-19 on his first full day in office.

“This is a wartime undertaking,” the Democratic president said at a White House event where he signed executive orders to establish a COVID-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address supply shortfalls, establish protocols for international travellers and direct resources to hard-hit minority communities.

WATCH | Biden implements COVID-19 travel restrictions:

On U.S. President Joe Biden’s first full day in office, he signed an executive order for new international travel restrictions, which will make it tougher for Canadians to cross the border. Biden is expected to lay out more details tomorrow, during his phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 2:38

Biden also made a personal plea to all Americans to wear masks over the next 99 days to stop the spread of the virus. “The experts say, by wearing a mask from now until April, we’d save more than 50,000 lives,” he said.

Among other actions signed by Biden on Thursday was an order requiring mask-wearing in airports and on certain public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses.

The administration will expand vaccine manufacturing and its power to purchase more vaccines by “fully leveraging contract authorities, including the Defence Production Act,” according to the plan.

The Trump administration had invoked the law, which grants the president broad authority to “expedite and expand the supply of resources from the U.S. industrial base” for protective gear, but never enacted it for testing or vaccine production.

Members of the West Virginia National Guard monitor statewide efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines at the National Guard Joint Forces headquarters in Charleston, W.Va., on Jan. 14. West Virginia has used 72 per cent of the doses it has received to date, a relative success amid a sluggish vaccine rollout in the U.S. (John Raby/The Associated Press)

The president has pledged to provide 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine during his first 100 days in office. His plan aims to increase vaccinations by opening up eligibility for more people such as teachers and grocery clerks.

As of Thursday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 17.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine out of some 38 million distributed.

Biden has also rescinded Trump’s planned withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

The new president has put fighting the disease at the top of a daunting list of challenges, including rebuilding a ravaged economy and addressing racial injustice, and has proposed a $1.9-trillion US COVID-19 package that would enhance jobless benefits and provide direct cash payments to households to alleviate the financial pain from the coronavirus.

The House of Representatives is planning to bring the bill to a vote the first week of February, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.

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


What’s happening across Canada

As of 7 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 725,495 cases of COVID-19, with 68,413 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,462.

In Ontario, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases continues to fall as the province reported 2,632 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, along with 46 more deaths.

While epidemiologists told CBC News that public health measures seem to be working as Ontario nears four complete weeks under “lockdown” conditions, they cautioned that the province is still far from ready for a return to normalcy.

WATCH | Research into coronavirus variants still early, epidemiologist says: 

Dr. Christopher Labos says research on mutated strains of the virus is too preliminary to draw firm conclusions. 1:38

Meanwhile, local public health officials are expressing concern about a yet-to-be identified variant of COVID-19 at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said the unusually rapid spread of the virus at Roberta Place earlier this month, with 55 people at the nursing home becoming ill within 48 hours of the first COVID-19 case being identified, prompted officials to start testing for a variant strain.

The variant was identified in six cases and further results are expected in the coming days, the unit said.

At least 122 of 130 residents at Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home have tested positive for COVID-19, the home said in a statement to CBC Toronto on Thursday. Since the outbreak, 19 residents have died and 69 staff are infected.

WATCH | Ontario criticized for delaying vaccine rollout for long-term care homes:

An Ontario panel says the province failed residents of long-term care homes by not prioritizing them for COVID-19 vaccinations and the decision cost hundreds of lives. 1:58

Alberta, like Ontario, has seen its long-term care homes particularly hit hard during the pandemic.

To date, 988 of the province’s 1,500 COVID-19 deaths have been in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Thursday.

CapitalCare Lynnwood in west Edmonton is the site of Alberta’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, with 55 lives lost. A total of 262 cases have been linked to the outbreak, Alberta Health said in a statement to CBC News.

WATCH | Other COVID-19 vaccines awaiting approval could mean more choice:

The federal government is still evaluating other COVID-19 vaccines, including from AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson, which could be approved within weeks. The vaccines in the pipeline work differently and some Canadians hope that might give them a choice about which vaccine to get. 2:05

New Brunswick continues to see a spike in COVID-19 infections, reporting 32 new cases on Thursday as officials declared an outbreak at another Edmundston care home.

At a COVID-19 briefing, the province’s chief medical officer of health said the situation in the Edmundston region remains “gravely concerning.”

There are now 113 cases in that area, “the largest number of any zone in the province,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell.

Premier Blaine Higgs said that a complete lockdown of the Edmundston region has been discussed and looks “likely” to happen in the days ahead.

Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:

– From CBC News, last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of early Friday morning, more than 97.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 53.8 million of the cases considered resolved or recovered, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than two million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea reported 346 new cases on Friday, its smallest daily increase in coronavirus infections in two months as officials express cautious hope that the country is beginning to emerge from its worst wave of the pandemic.

Health authorities have clamped down on private social gatherings since late December, including setting fines for restaurants if they accept groups of five or more people. The 1,241 infections reported on Christmas Day were the country’s largest 24-hour jump of the pandemic.

Bottles of hand sanitizer are displayed for use at a park in Goyang, South Korea, on Friday. Daily infections have slowed in the country after tougher rules were imposed in December to slow a virus surge that erased months of hard-won gains. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)

In Africa, Mali plans to buy more than 8.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccine and expects to start a vaccination campaign in April, the council of ministers said in a statement on Thursday.

The sprawling country of about 20 million has recorded just over 7,900 COVID-19 cases and 320 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins.

In the Middle East, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that China had approved delivery of a second consignment of the CoronaVac vaccine and 10 million doses could arrive in Turkey by this weekend.

A woman receives a shot of Sinovac’s CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine at a nursing home in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Turkey has already received an initial consignment of three million doses of the vaccine, produced by Sinovac Biotech, and has so far vaccinated more than 1.1 million people, mostly health workers and elderly people.

In the Americas, Mexico has posted new one-day highs for the pandemic, with 22,339 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,803 deaths related to COVID-19.

Mexico has recorded over 1.71 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 146,000 test-confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. However, official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000.

Officials also said Thursday that hospitals remained at 89 per cent capacity in Mexico City, which is the current centre of the pandemic in Mexico.

A man walks through a disinfection chamber while pulling oxygen tanks for his relatives infected with COVID-19, as part of a city government free refill program, at the municipality of Iztapalapa in Mexico City on Monday. (Toya Sarno Jordan/Reuters)

In Europe, the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in England decreased slightly in the latest week but prevalence overall remained high, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

The ONS estimated that around one in 55 people had COVID-19 within the community population in England in the week ending Jan. 16, a lower prevalence than the estimate of one in 50 people in the last full infection survey published two weeks ago.

– From The Associated Press, last updated at 8:45 a.m. ET

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Trudeau spoke with Pfizer CEO amid concerns of vaccine delays – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with the CEO of Pfizer Global on Thursday and was assured that, despite an ongoing delay in vaccine deliveries, the company will follow through on millions of vaccine shipments due in March.

News of Trudeau’s conversation with CEO Dr. Albert Bourla comes as officials overseeing the vaccine rollout release new projections as they work to assure Canadians that the current shipment slowdown won’t hamper the country’s long-term schedule.

“Today, I spoke with the CEO of Pfizer Global, Dr. Bourla, about the timely delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada,” Trudeau tweeted Thursday. “He assured me that we’ll receive 4 million doses by the end of March. We’ll keep working together to ensure Canadians can get a vaccine as soon as possible.”

Officials overseeing the vaccine rollout say Canada remains on schedule, although the country will see a short-term drop in supply in the coming weeks.

Projections released Thursday by federal health officials suggest that Canada will be able to vaccinate 3 million people by the end of March, accounting for eight per cent of the entire population. Even if Canada doesn’t approve any more vaccines by the fall, estimates suggest that doses from Pfizer and Moderna will cover 13 million Canadians, or 34 per cent, by June and 36 million, or 95 per cent, by September 30.

While the long-term plan remains on track, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout, said Canada is only getting about one-third of the expected deliveries between this week and Feb. 7. Canada is set to receive no new deliveries of doses next week and 79,000 Pfizer doses in the first week of February.

This delay will impact Canada’s short-term vaccine supply, but Fortin said future shipments are expected to make up for the shortage.

“To that end, we expect a rapid scale-up of deliveries in the upcoming weeks following this current supply disruption,” Fortin said at a press conference.

Pfizer advised Canada last week that upgrades to its plant in Belgium would temporarily slow production and reduce doses delivered to every country except the United States, which has its own production facility. Canada can expect to see its deliveries cut in half over four weeks, the company initially said, with the factory returning to full production on Feb. 15.

The next shipment of Moderna vaccines is due in the first week of February and will include an estimated 230,400 doses. Overall, Canada expects to receive 6 million doses of both vaccines by the end of March.

Canada’s vaccine rollout could happen faster if more vaccines are approved. The projections suggest that, based on all vaccines Canada has procured but have yet to be approved, as many as 23 million Canadians could be vaccinated between April and June, accounting for 61 per cent of the population. Canada could have enough doses for up to 73 million people between July on September. In such a scenario, there would be more than enough vaccines for everyone who wants one.

Fortin described those estimates as “planning data” meant to give provinces and territories an idea of what to expect if everything goes better than expected.

“The last thing we want to do is put jurisdictions in a place where we have additional doses coming and we hadn’t factored that in early to our planning,” he said.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that, while the government’s overall timeline for vaccines hasn’t changed, there is always the possibility of unexpected supply issues or new vaccine approvals.

In the meantime, the best thing Canadians can do while they wait for the vaccine is to follow public health guidelines, Dr. Njoo said.

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