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

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The latest:

  • Quebec announces 4-week curfew as part of ‘shock therapy’ lockdown.
  • U.S. tops 21 million COVID-19 cases with record hospitalizations.
  • New federal rule on COVID-19 tests for air passengers kicks in tonight.
  • New Brunswick reports record 31 new COVID-19 cases as province steps up restrictions.
  • Manitoba reports 176 new cases, including 60 definitively linked to holiday gatherings, says health official.
  • Ontario now offering free, voluntary COVID-19 testing for international arrivals at Pearson airport.
  • Are you a Canadian struggling to get a COVID-19 test abroad? Or do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us COVID@cbc.ca

Quebec is imposing a four-week curfew starting Saturday and extending other restrictions, the premier announced Wednesday, in an effort to curb rising COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the hard-hit province.

Premier François Legault described the lockdown measures for Quebec, which has seen more cases and deaths than any other province during the pandemic, as “shock therapy.”

“We are in a race against time,” he said. “Unfortunately, we seem to be losing the race right now.”

The provincewide curfew will be for the hours of 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., with those who break curfew risking a $1,000 to $6,000 fine. Under the public health orders, non-essential businesses will be closed, though curbside pickup will be allowed. Restaurants, gyms and theatres will remain closed.

A health-care worker talks with people as they wait outside a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal on Jan. 3. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

For students, elementary schools will open as planned on Jan. 11, but children in Grades 5 and 6 will be required to wear a mask. High schools will remain closed for another week, opening Jan. 18.

The new restrictions come as Quebec reported 2,641 new cases and 47 additional deaths on Wednesday. Hospitalizations increased to 1,393 with 202 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, Quebec health officials reported.

Prior to the announcement, Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease physician at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and an assistant professor at McGill’s department of medicine, told CBC News Network that something needed to be done to reduce the number of “face-to-face contacts the average citizen is having,” given the rates of community transmission and hospitalizations.

Ontario, which reported 3,266 new cases of COVID-19 and 37 additional deaths on Wednesday, is also dealing with increased stress on the health-care system. Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet on Wednesday there were 805 new cases in Toronto, 523 new cases in Peel Region, 349 in York Region, 208 in Windsor-Essex and 206 in Waterloo.

Hospitalizations in Ontario increased to 1,463, with 361 COVID-19 patients in the province’s ICUs, the province said in data released Wednesday.

At a news conference Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford announced that the province is now offering free, voluntary COVID-19 testing for international travellers arriving at Pearson airport.

“We need to do everything possible to stop this virus from coming into Canada,” Ford said.

For months, however, travel-related cases have been among the lowest-reported causes of COVID-19 cases in Ontario. According to the province’s website, there were eight travel-related cases in Ontario on Jan. 5, while there were 221 cases attributed to community spread on that date, as well as 672 attributed to close contact, and 177 in outbreak settings.

WATCH | Ontario offers voluntary COVID-19 test for incoming travellers at Pearson:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s introducing a volunteer test for some passengers at Toronto’s Pearson airport to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. 0:59

The premier’s announcement about the Pearson initiative comes just ahead of a new federal rule on COVID-19 tests for air passengers that goes into effect tonight. As of midnight, every traveller — with very limited exceptions — must show a negative test result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before boarding a plane destined for Canada.

Ford also said the province will consider tougher lockdown measures, including possibly keeping schools closed.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) released a statement Wednesday calling on the province not to send kids back while the province is under lockdown measures.

– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

As of  7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 626,800, with 79,204 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 16,369.  

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick set a new single-day record on Wednesday with 31 new cases of COVID-19. The update came on the first day of the entire province being back at the stricter orange level of its pandemic response.

Ninety-seven health-care workers are also off the job for COVID-19-related reasons, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health. “As grim as it looks today, things will likely get worse before they get better,” she warned.

WATCH | N.B. rolls entire province back to orange phase of COVID-19 recovery:

Public Health announced a record number of COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick on Tuesday and a rollback of every zone in the province to the orange phase. 4:22

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey has extended the Atlantic bubble hiatus for another month, which means anyone travelling from any other province in Canada must still self-isolate for 14 days. The province reported no new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

Prince Edward Island has now removed some of the pandemic restrictions it introduced in early December, including allowing spectators back at some sporting events. The province reported one new case on Wednesday. 

Nova Scotia reported 12 new cases on Wednesday. 

In the North, Nunavut launched its vaccination effort on Wednesday by offering doses of the Moderna vaccine to elders in Iqaluit. Vaccination efforts have already started in Yukon, while the Northwest Territories offered details Tuesday on how it plans to roll out the vaccine.

Yukon reported one new case on Wednesday, while Nunavut and N.W.T. both reported no new cases.  

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 176 new cases and 10 more COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. Sixty of the new cases have been definitively linked to holiday gatherings, and more are likely, said Dr. Jazz Atwal, the acting deputy chief provincial public health officer.

Atwal said the full impact of the holidays remains to be seen, and as such, it is too early to make a call on relaxing the restrictions in public health orders set to expire on Jan. 8. 

Saskatchewan reported 277 new cases and nine new deaths on Wednesday. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 172, including 29 in intensive care.

In Alberta, more than 200 doctors have signed an open letter calling on the province to prioritize the vaccination of all health-care workers caring for patients in the province’s dedicated COVID-19 wards.

In the letter addressed to Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday, the physicians say Alberta’s vaccination schedule has passed over critical workers on the front lines of the province’s battle against the virus.

Alberta reported 1,123 new cases and 25 deaths on Wednesday. Across the province, 911 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, including 141 in ICU beds.

British Columbia reported 625 new cases and eight new deaths on Wednesday. Health officials put the number of hospitalized patients at 381 people, 78 of whom are in intensive care.

A public health alert remains in effect for the Revelstoke region in southeastern B.C., where community transmission and new cases have increased substantially, surpassing 85 total cases in recent days.

– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 p.m. ET


What’s happening in the U.S.

More Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday than at any time since the pandemic began, as total coronavirus infections crossed the 21-million mark, deaths soared across much of the country, and a historic vaccination effort lagged.

U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record of 130,834 late on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally of public health data, while 3,684 reported fatalities was the second-highest single-day death toll of the pandemic.

That toll on Tuesday translates to someone dying from COVID-19 roughly every 24 seconds in the U.S. With total deaths surpassing 357,000, one in every 914 U.S. residents has died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to a Reuters analysis.

WATCH | COVID-19 cases overwhelm California hospitals:

COVID-19 is hitting California so hard that hospitals and funeral homes are overwhelmed. Health officials in Los Angeles County say someone is dying there every 15 minutes and paramedics are being told not to bring people to hospitals if it doesn’t seem likely they’ll survive. 1:50

In hard-hit California, public health authorities ordered hospitals in more than a dozen southern and central counties overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients to suspend elective surgeries for at least three weeks.

The order, issued late on Tuesday by the state’s Department of Public Health, applies to 14 counties, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, where hospital critical care capacity has been severely stretched.

With many health-care systems approaching a breaking point, pressure mounted on state and local officials to speed up distribution of the two authorized vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The lack of a federal blueprint for the crucial final step of getting the vaccines into tens of millions of arms has left state and local officials in charge of the monumental effort, creating a patchwork of different plans across the country.

Some states have summoned extra resources to help speed up the rollout. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday mobilized the state’s National Guard to “provide support to local health providers” to more quickly distribute the vaccines. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also announced that emergency support teams from the state’s National Guard will lend a hand to local health departments in their vaccination efforts.

In New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have sparred over slow vaccine administration, officials said on Wednesday the city was ramping up its vaccine hubs to include 15 locations by Jan. 16, including five “mega sites.” The sites will have the capacity to vaccinate 100,000 New Yorkers a week, officials said.

The ambitious goal comes as the city administered roughly 10,000 shots on Tuesday, according to data posted on Wednesday.

– From Reuters, last updated at 4 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

Tape is shown on shelves preventing the sale of certain products at a pharmacy in Montreal, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

As of late Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 86.9 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 48.6 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.

In Africa, millions of South Africans will have their vaccinations subsidized by medical schemes that pool health insurance premiums through an agreement with the government, a top medical scheme administrator said.

In Senegal, President Macky Sall has put the country’s capital and surrounding region on curfew as coronavirus cases surge. While the country has been commended for its handling of the pandemic, it experienced a December surge with some 3,200 confirmed cases, and the president said the number of deaths increased sixfold between November and December.

In Europe, the European Union’s medicines agency has given approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The decision Wednesday gives the 27-nation bloc a second vaccine to use against the coronavirus rampaging across the continent. The approval recommendation by the European Medicines Agency’s human medicines committee, which must be OK’d by the EU’s executive commission, comes amid high rates of infection in many EU countries.

There’s also been strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region of some 450 million people

Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said on Wednesday he would self-isolate after being in contact with someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The 72-year-old is campaigning to win a second term as the country’s president in an election on Jan. 24. He has several presidential debates scheduled before then.

Norway is preparing legislation that would allow it to introduce curfews after new cases hit record levels, its justice minister said.

Switzerland, meanwhile, plans to extend its lockdown restrictions by five weeks to the end of February.

In the Asia-Pacific region, authorities in Thailand say they plan to expand coronavirus testing to thousands of factories in a province near Bangkok as they reported 365 new cases around the country and one new death.

A row of ambulances is seen outside the Royal London Hospital on Tuesday in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

South Korea rolled out mass testing for 52 prisons in the country after a massive prison outbreak and may extend flight suspensions from Britain, the health minister said.

Chinese authorities imposed travel restrictions and banned gatherings in the capital city of Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, to stave off another coronavirus wave.

The Philippines is negotiating with seven vaccine manufacturers to procure at least 148 million COVID-19 shots as it seeks to inoculate close to two-thirds of its population this year, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Carlito Galvez, a former general in charge of the country’s strategy to fight the coronavirus, said the government hopes to close deals with Novavax, Moderna, AstraZeneca , Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac Biotech and the Gamaleya Institute this month, although availability could be a challenge amid stiff competition.

In the Americas, the critical-care wards of major hospitals in Peru and Bolivia stand at or near collapse after end-of-year holidays, reflecting wider concerns as much of Latin America struggles to secure adequate vaccine supplies.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused syringe makers of pushing up their prices after the government failed to buy hundreds of millions of syringes via auction for its vaccination drive, leading it to requisition surplus supplies.

An employee of the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority sprays water as part of cleaning and disinfection activities at the Yodpiman Flower Market in Bangkok on Wednesday, after the government imposed further restrictions due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazil has seen more than 7.8 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins, with more than 197,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s regulator has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use.

In the Middle East, Lebanon has shattered its single-day record of coronavirus infections on the eve of the country’s third full lockdown, with 4,166 cases reported on Wednesday.

The country also reported 21 new COVID-19 deaths. First responders say they have been transporting nearly 100 patients a day to hospitals that are reporting near-full occupancy in beds and ICUs.

Meanwhile, Iran and Oman have now registered their first two cases of a highly contagious coronavirus variant that emerged in Britain.

– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 4 p.m. ET

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Canada's coming month of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipments will be reduced by half – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Over the next month Canada will be experiencing a “temporary” delay in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to the pharmaceutical giant’s expansion plans at its European manufacturing facility, with the shortage resulting in an average of 50 per cent of coming doses delayed each week.

While shipments will continue in the coming weeks, the amount of doses in them will be lessened, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of doses.

“Pfizer has confirmed that Canada’s deliveries will be impacted for the next four weeks. We will see an average reduction over this timeframe of 50 per cent of expected deliveries. There will minimal impact next week… The most profound impact will be in the week of January 25,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout. 

This setback to Canada’s short-term COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule means the number of doses going to each province and territory will have to be readjusted. Fortin said that the allocations will begin to scale back up in the first two weeks of February, before returning to the size of doses originally anticipated. 

Canada was planning on receiving between 124,800 and 366,600 Pfizer doses every week between now and the end of February, as part of the plan to have six million doses total from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March when Phase 1 ends.

The delivery for the week of Jan. 25, which Fortin said is likely to see the largest reduction, was set to be 208,650 doses. If that’s reduced by half, Canada will receive 104,325 Pfizer doses that week, which is fewer than the forecasted allocation received this week.

“In my conversation this morning with Pfizer, it was very clear that we’re are still correct in our planning assumption to receive approximately four million doses of Pfizer by March 31,” Fortin said,

Fortin said that knew the company would at some point need to scale-up their manufacturing to ramp-up its mass production, but the news of the looming construction project was brought to the federal government’s attention in the last 24 hours, according to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.  

Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced the delay on Friday, saying all nations who are receiving vaccines from this Pfizer facility will be receiving fewer doses.

“It is a temporary reduction, it’s not a stoppage… We will make up those doses,” Anand said.

Addressing the setback during his Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that shipments have largely been ahead of schedule so far, but that “with an undertaking this historic, it’s only to be expected that there will be a few bumps along the way.”

Norway, which is also receiving Pfizer doses from its Europe facilities has announced that “for some time ahead” their deliveries will be reduced. In the coming week their shipment will be reduced by approximately 18 per cent.

“The reduction is due to a reorganisation at Pfizer in connection with an upgrade of production capacity… It is not yet clear how long it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again,” said the statement published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

The government sought to ensure that all countries who will be impacted, will be “equitably treated” in terms of delivery reductions, according to Anand. Fortin confirmed later Friday that this will be the case, with all seeing deliveries reduced by 50 per cent on average.

Anand said that while Canada is expecting to be able to catch up, the delay is “unfortunate.”

“However such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.

By end of the day Friday, the federal government will have distributed a total of 929,000 doses of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines, around 84 per cent of which have been administered.

WON’T IMPACT PHASE 2  

The plan is to receive “more than” one million doses of approved vaccines every week, on average, starting in April with Phase 2. 

Trudeau said that while this issue is out of Canada’s hands, the country “must still get ready for the ramp-up,” in Phase 2. 

Fortin said the delays “will not change our second quarter goals,” though he could not guarantee future delays. He said he understands and feels the “disappointment,” but “we need to move forward.”

He committed to keep all key stakeholders, and Canadians appraised of any future delivery schedule changes. 

The ongoing initial vaccination stage has seen Canada pushing to properly allocate and prioritize key groups like residents and staff in long-term care homes as well as front-line health-care workers. 

In this first stage of the vaccine campaign, Canada has seen both doses sitting in freezers as well as provinces saying they are running short, while those on the front line have sought to sort out who should and shouldn’t be receiving shots at this time.

“It was with precisely these types of issues in mind that Canada pursued the aggressive procurement strategy that we did,” Anand said. “This approach of ensuring diversity and volume months ago is what now gives us flexibility and margins to remain on track in difficult times.” 

Asked whether Canada will be looking to revisit their decision to not procure additional Moderna doses to make up the shortage over the next few weeks, Fortin said the amount scheduled to arrive from that company will stay the same.

As previously reported, the additional 16 million Moderna doses that the federal government left on the table in talks with that company would not be arriving until late 2021. 

As for whether Canada looked into being able to receive Pfizer shipments from the  United States facility, Fortin said that the federal government looked into it, but for now Canada’s line of doses will continue to come exclusively from the European facility.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu added that because as part of the regulatory approval granted to Pfizer, Health Canada approves the manufacturing sites as well as the vaccine itself.

“So, should we procure from even the same company a different site, then there would need to be review of the manufacturing data,” she said. 

Several federal officials sought to reassure Canadians Friday that the country remains on track to vaccinate everyone who wants to be, by the end of September.   

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Canada's coming month of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipments will be reduced by half – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Over the next month Canada will be experiencing a “temporary” delay in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to the pharmaceutical giant’s expansion plans at its European manufacturing facility, with the shortage resulting in an average of 50 per cent of coming doses delayed each week.

While shipments will continue in the coming weeks, the amount of doses in them will be lessened, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of doses.

“Pfizer has confirmed that Canada’s deliveries will be impacted for the next four weeks. We will see an average reduction over this timeframe of 50 per cent of expected deliveries. There will minimal impact next week… The most profound impact will be in the week of January 25,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout. 

This setback to Canada’s short-term COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule means the number of doses going to each province and territory will have to be readjusted. Fortin said that the allocations will begin to scale back up in the first two weeks of February, before returning to the size of doses originally anticipated. 

Canada was planning on receiving between 124,800 and 366,600 Pfizer doses every week between now and the end of February, as part of the plan to have six million doses total from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March when Phase 1 ends.

The delivery for the week of Jan. 25, which Fortin said is likely to see the largest reduction, was set to be 208,650 doses. If that’s reduced by half, Canada will receive 104,325 Pfizer doses that week, which is fewer than the forecasted allocation received this week.

“In my conversation this morning with Pfizer, it was very clear that we’re are still correct in our planning assumption to receive approximately four million doses of Pfizer by March 31,” Fortin said,

Fortin said that knew the company would at some point need to scale-up their manufacturing to ramp-up its mass production, but the news of the looming construction project was brought to the federal government’s attention in the last 24 hours, according to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.  

Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced the delay on Friday, saying all nations who are receiving vaccines from this Pfizer facility will be receiving fewer doses.

“It is a temporary reduction, it’s not a stoppage… We will make up those doses,” Anand said.

Addressing the setback during his Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that shipments have largely been ahead of schedule so far, but that “with an undertaking this historic, it’s only to be expected that there will be a few bumps along the way.”

Norway, which is also receiving Pfizer doses from its Europe facilities has announced that “for some time ahead” their deliveries will be reduced. In the coming week their shipment will be reduced by approximately 18 per cent.

“The reduction is due to a reorganisation at Pfizer in connection with an upgrade of production capacity… It is not yet clear how long it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again,” said the statement published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

The government sought to ensure that all countries who will be impacted, will be “equitably treated” in terms of delivery reductions, according to Anand. Fortin confirmed later Friday that this will be the case, with all seeing deliveries reduced by 50 per cent on average.

Anand said that while Canada is expecting to be able to catch up, the delay is “unfortunate.”

“However such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.

By end of the day Friday, the federal government will have distributed a total of 929,000 doses of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines, around 84 per cent of which have been administered.

WON’T IMPACT PHASE 2  

The plan is to receive “more than” one million doses of approved vaccines every week, on average, starting in April with Phase 2. 

Trudeau said that while this issue is out of Canada’s hands, the country “must still get ready for the ramp-up,” in Phase 2. 

Fortin said the delays “will not change our second quarter goals,” though he could not guarantee future delays. He said he understands and feels the “disappointment,” but “we need to move forward.”

He committed to keep all key stakeholders, and Canadians appraised of any future delivery schedule changes. 

The ongoing initial vaccination stage has seen Canada pushing to properly allocate and prioritize key groups like residents and staff in long-term care homes as well as front-line health-care workers. 

In this first stage of the vaccine campaign, Canada has seen both doses sitting in freezers as well as provinces saying they are running short, while those on the front line have sought to sort out who should and shouldn’t be receiving shots at this time.

“It was with precisely these types of issues in mind that Canada pursued the aggressive procurement strategy that we did,” Anand said. “This approach of ensuring diversity and volume months ago is what now gives us flexibility and margins to remain on track in difficult times.” 

Asked whether Canada will be looking to revisit their decision to not procure additional Moderna doses to make up the shortage over the next few weeks, Fortin said the amount scheduled to arrive from that company will stay the same.

As previously reported, the additional 16 million Moderna doses that the federal government left on the table in talks with that company would not be arriving until late 2021. 

As for whether Canada looked into being able to receive Pfizer shipments from the  United States facility, Fortin said that the federal government looked into it, but for now Canada’s line of doses will continue to come exclusively from the European facility.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu added that because as part of the regulatory approval granted to Pfizer, Health Canada approves the manufacturing sites as well as the vaccine itself.

“So, should we procure from even the same company a different site, then there would need to be review of the manufacturing data,” she said. 

Several federal officials sought to reassure Canadians Friday that the country remains on track to vaccinate everyone who wants to be, by the end of September.   

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

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The latest:

The global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed two million Friday, according to a tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as vaccines developed at breakneck speed are being rolled out around the world in an all-out campaign to vanquish the threat of the virus.

The milestone was reached just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and the many fatalities that were inaccurately attributed to other causes, especially early in the outbreak.

It took eight months to hit one million dead. It took less than four months after that to reach the next million.

“Behind this terrible number are names and faces — the smile that will now only be a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He said the toll “has been made worse by the absence of a global co-ordinated effort.”

“Science has succeeded, but solidarity has failed,” he said.

WATCH | WHO chief pleads with weary world to help break COVID-19 transmission:

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pushed past 2 million, the head of the World Health Organization urged people to use the tools they have to curb the virus and lift the burden on health workers. 1:40

What’s happening across Canada

As of 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 693,835 cases of COVID-19, with 76,149 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,698.

Pfizer will temporarily reduce shipments of its vaccine to Canada as it expands long-term manufacturing capacity, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday. 

“This expansion work means that Pfizer is temporarily reducing deliveries to all countries receiving vaccines manufactured at its European facility, and that includes Canada,” Anand told reporters at a public health briefing.

Anand stressed that Canada remains on track to have enough approved vaccines for everyone who wishes to be vaccinated by the end of September this year.

In the same briefing, the Public Health Agency of Canada released new modelling that showed roughly 2,000 more people are expected to die from COVID-19 over the next 10 days, while as many as 100,000 more people could contract the virus.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick recorded 25 new cases on Friday, continuing a recent surge in cases that has seen provincial officials warning of new restrictions.

At a livestreamed update Thursday, Premier Blaine Higgs said that while the vast majority of New Brunswickers are following the rules, “we still don’t see the compliance we need to.” He said moving back to the red level “is indeed a possibility” if that doesn’t change.

Nova Scotia reported two new cases and two new recoveries on Friday, leaving its number of active cases at 32. In Truro, a mobile health unit has been set up in response to an increase in the number of potential exposures in the area during the last week.

Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case on Friday. Prince Edward Island saw one new case on Thursday.

WATCH | Montreal ICU doctor on triage protocol as COVID-19 cases surge:  

Dr. François Marquis, an intensive care chief at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal, explains how his hospital’s triage tool will work. But he said he is also concerned about the need to use it. 6:52

Quebec announced 1,918 new cases and 62 deaths on Friday. There are 1,496 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 231 in intensive care.

On Thursday, the province pledged to deliver second vaccine shots within “a maximum” 90 days after the first, after its decision to delay second doses prompted consternation and at least one lawsuit.

Ontario reported 2,998 new cases and a record 100 deaths on Friday, though 46 deaths reported by Middlesex-London Health Unit occurred earlier in the pandemic. There are 1,647 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 387 in intensive care.

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford has kicked an MPP out of the Progressive Conservative caucus for sending an open letter asking for the province’s lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions to end.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Ford called the comments from York Centre MPP Roman Baber’s two-page letter “irresponsible,” saying Baber will not be allowed to seek re-election as a PC member.

WATCH | Uncertainty around how to enforce Ontario’s stay-at-home order:  

The 29 exemptions in Ontario’s provincewide stay-at-home order has many officials and residents confused and authorities with serious questions about how to do their jobs. 1:52

A provincewide stay-at-home order and other new restrictions took effect on Thursday and are slated to remain in place until at least Feb. 11. They come as Ontario deals with surging COVID-19 numbers that threaten more deaths than seen during the first wave.

Manitoba reported 191 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths on Friday. The update comes a week before provincewide restrictions that ban most gatherings and the sale of non-essential goods expire. The provincial government is now considering reducing some of those restrictions, and is asking for input from the public in an online survey.

Saskatchewan, which reported 312 new cases on Thursday, released its latest modelling forecast, showing the province could see around 900 new infections a day by Jan. 25 even if residents closely follow public health guidelines.

Dr. Ryan Warshawski, president of the Yukon Medical Association, receives a COVID-19 vaccination in Whitehorse on Wednesday. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

In Yukon, a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for physicians and high-risk hospital staff has inoculated about 300 people.

Northwest Territories health officials say wastewater testing suggests there may be one or more undetected cases of COVID-19 in Hay River.

In Nunavut, more than 600 people are estimated to have received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine so far, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said.


What’s happening around the world

As of Friday afternoon, more than 93.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 51.5 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.

In the Americas, U.S. health officials say by March, a new and more infectious strain of coronavirus — first found in the United Kingdom — will likely become the dominant strain in the United States.

The variant is currently in 12 states, but has been diagnosed in only 76 of the 23 million U.S. cases reported to date. However, it’s likely that version of the virus is more widespread in this country than is currently reported, according to scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it’s considered more infectious than the virus that’s been causing the bulk of U.S. cases so far, there’s no evidence that it causes more severe illness or is transmitted differently. Therefore, mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing and other prevention strategies can still work, the CDC said.

In Europe, Belgium is strengthening its rules for travellers entering the country by train or bus in a bid to limit the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.

In a statement Friday, Belgium’s Interior Ministry said travellers arriving from a country outside the European Union or the Schengen space with a high contamination rate will now be subject to the same rules as those coming by boat or plane.

In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has signed a new series of restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus resurgence. The new rules, which run through Feb. 15, extend the ban on travelling between regions and maintains a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew.

As well, the opening of ski lifts has been postponed for a second time, and — in a rule hotly contested by regional leaders — bars must close completely at 6 p.m., and cannot offer take-away or delivery as is permitted by restaurants.

In Asia, China said it is now treating more than 1,000 people for COVID-19 as numbers of cases continue to surge in the country’s north.

The National Health Commission said Friday that 1,001 patients are under care for the disease, 26 of them in serious condition. It said 144 total new cases were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

The province of Hebei, just outside Beijing, accounted for 90 of the new cases, while Heilongjiang province farther north reported 43 new cases.

A medical worker monitors patients after they received the coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination facility in Beijing on Friday. (Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press)

Pakistan’s education minister said authorities will start reopening schools in phases from Jan. 18 despite a steady increase in deaths and infections from the coronavirus.

Schools were closed in November when data showed that the country’s positivity rate had jumped to about seven per cent. The rate has since come down to 5.9 per cent, which is still high, according to experts.

In Africa, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday that millions of coronavirus vaccine doses secured by the African Union (AU) will be allocated according to countries’ population size.

Street vendors wearing masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus sell vegetables in Thokoza, east of Johannesburg, on Thursday. (Themba Hadebe/The Associated Press)

Ramaphosa, who is the current AU chairman, said on Wednesday that vaccines from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca would be available this year, but he did not specify how much each African country would get.

No African countries have begun large-scale coronavirus vaccination campaigns and the AU’s 270 million shots, if administered two per person, would still only cover around 10 per cent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.

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