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



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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Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.

Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.

“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.

Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”

In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.

Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.

“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.

Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis



More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.

The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.

But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”

At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.

Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.

“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.

In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.

($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)

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Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants



Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.

Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.

“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.

Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.

Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.

“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.


(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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