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

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The latest:

British Columbia reported a record high COVID-19 case number on Tuesday as neighbouring Alberta declared a public health emergency and put forward targeted measures aimed at slowing transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Alberta — which reported 1,115 new cases and 16 additional deaths on Tuesday — is temporarily banning indoor private social gatherings and moving all students in Grade 7 and above to at-home learning.

Premier Jason Kenney opted to keep businesses, including retail and clothing stores, open with 25 per cent capacity. Casinos will be allowed to run their slot machines at 25 per cent capacity and churches will still be allowed to hold services with one-third their normal audience. Restaurants can still offer in-person dining.

Kenney, who has not ruled out the possibility of further restrictions in the weeks ahead, said Tuesday’s measures were needed to keep the province’s health-care system from being “overwhelmed” and to protect the vulnerable.

“They are also needed to protect Albertans from the health, social and economic damage that a crushing lockdown would inflict.”

But some in the province were quick to criticize Tuesday’s orders, saying they didn’t go far enough. Mike Parker, president of a major union of health-care workers, called the measures “inadequate” and took issue with Kenney’s leadership, saying the premier “continues to put business interests ahead of the well-being of all Albertans.”

As of Tuesday, Alberta had 13,349 active cases of COVID-19 and 348 people in hospital, with 66 in intensive care.

British Columbia, meanwhile, reported 941 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — a new daily high in the province, which also announced a new public health measure.

Health officials in B.C. had already introduced a mask requirement for indoor public spaces and new rules around social gatherings, but on Tuesday they also moved to temporarily ban indoor group fitness activities.

“We need to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our province and that needs to happen now,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement. “That is why we have paused all gatherings, events and indoor group fitness activities.”

The vast majority of the new cases in B.C. were in the Fraser Health region, which includes major cities like Surrey and Burnaby. As of Tuesday there were 7,732 active cases of COVID-19 in the province and 284 people in hospital, with 61 in intensive care.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 343,817, with 57,298 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,653.

Saskatchewan reported 175 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 2,927. Premier Scott Moe and the province’s chief medical health officer are expected to hold a briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Ontario is expected to provide guidance Wednesday on how people should handle the upcoming holiday season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Toronto and Peel Region are currently under the grey, or lockdown, level in the province’s tiered COVID-19 alert system, with those restrictions to stay in place at least until the week of Christmas.

The tough new rules have sparked outcry from some small business owners, who argue they unfairly clamp down on small retailers while big-box stores that sell essentials like groceries are still allowed to sell “non-essential” products.

Ontario reported 1,373 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with 445 in Toronto and 415 in Peel Region. Health officials reported 35 additional deaths, bringing the cumulative death toll in the province to 3,554.

The number of people with COVID-19 in the province’s hospitals stood at 523, with 159 in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard.

Quebec, which has seen the most cases of any province to date, recently provided its own guidance around Christmas.

Premier François Legault has said that people in that province can attend up to two social gatherings (with a maximum of 10 people in attendance at each event) from Dec. 24 to 27. People who plan on attending these gatherings are also asked to quarantine a week before and a week after.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, meanwhile, urged people to be “very, very observant” of the province’s public health guidelines over the holidays. He waded into the broader debate about how to handle the holiday season this week, calling Quebec’s plan “dangerous.”

Manitoba reported 476 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 12 additional deaths, bringing the province’s death toll to 248.

In Atlantic Canada, where a travel bubble that tied the provinces together has been temporarily popped, Nova Scotia‘s premier is once again urging people to “stay the blazes home.”

After announcing 37 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday — the most the province has seen since late April — health officials put forward new regulations that will see a range of closures in the Halifax area beginning later this week. Restaurant dining rooms will close, as will public spaces like libraries, casinos and recreation centres.

“If you haven’t woken up to the second wave, this is your wake-up call,” Premier Stephen McNeil said.

WATCH | N.S. cracks down on Halifax to stop COVID-19 surge:

Nova Scotia is responding to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases with new restrictions focused on the Halifax area and a massive push for rapid testing regardless of symptoms. The goal is to find every case and preserve the relative safety the province has enjoyed for months. 1:57

New Brunswick reported five more cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases. There were no new cases in Prince Edward Island.

Across the North, Nunavut reported 10 new cases, and there were no new confirmed cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

As of early Wednesday morning, there were more than 59.9 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 38.3 million of those listed as resolved or recovered, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.

In the Americas, U.S. president-elect Joe Biden will give a speech on Wednesday highlighting the challenges facing Americans as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and the country faces a surge in coronavirus infections.

Although White House officials are pushing Georgia to do more to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday that the responsibility rests with individual Georgians, as he implored them to take precautions over Thanksgiving.

In Minnesota, a surge of COVID-19 cases throughout the state is affecting staffing levels at many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. That’s forcing the state to send the National Guard to help out in some homes, while the administration is also asking state employees to consider volunteering in facilities with critical staff shortages.

The Star Tribune reported Wednesday that Minnesota Department of Health data shows 90 per cent of the state’s nursing homes and 58 per cent of assisted-living facilities have active outbreaks.

Robert Lugo, left, helps manage Zoom calls as Santa Larry, right, speaks with a virtual visitor at the Santa Experience in the Mall of America on Tuesday in Bloomington, Minn. The owners had initially set up a socially distanced set, featuring a cabin with a plexiglass window, but moved completely online after new COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that 47 long-term care facilities are in “a crisis staffing situation” and are receiving active support from the state, including help from federal health nurses.

Gov. Tim Walz’s administration is also taking the unusual step of emailing all state employees and asking them to consider volunteering for two-week stints in long-term care facilities, particularly in greater Minnesota.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore, which once had the highest COVID-19 rate in Southeast Asia, said it was nearly virus-free and Australia’s most-populous state eased restrictions, while Tokyo will urge bars and restaurants to operate with shortened hours.

WATCH | Some Canadians in Australia favour an aggressive approach to COVID-19:

While Canada’s goal in managing the COVID-19 pandemic has been to ensure the medical system is not overwhelmed, Australia has gone with aggressive lockdowns to largely eradicate the virus. For some Canadians living in Australia, it is the preferable approach, even if it has cost a million jobs and thousands of businesses. 5:13

South Korea said 60 new army recruits at a boot camp have tested positive for the coronavirus, the military’s largest cluster infection. The Defence Ministry said in a statement the recruits had been taking basic training at an army unit in Yeoncheon, a town near the tense border with North Korea, at the start of their 18 months of mandatory military service.

It said more tests are underway to determine whether 860 other recruits and troops at the Yeoncheon unit have been infected with the virus too.

In Europe, Germany reported a record 410 COVID-19 deaths over 24 hours just before federal state leaders and Chancellor Angela Merkel were due to discuss an extension of pandemic-related restrictions into December and for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

France will start easing curbs this weekend so people will be able to spend the holiday with their families, and said a vaccine could start being administered by the year-end if approved by regulators.

An employee works to prepare orders for Christmas at JoueClub toys shop in Paris as non-essential stores prepare to reopen after weeks of lockdown to combat a resurgence of the coronavirus in France. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

In the Middle East, Iran registered on Wednesday a daily record high of 13,843 new cases, the health ministry said, pushing the national tally to 894,385 in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.

The World Health Organization said the coronavirus pandemic has “slowed down” in the past week although death rates continued to rise, with more than 67,000 new deaths reported.

The UN health agency said in its latest epidemiological update Wednesday that even though there was a “downward trend” in the number of cases in Europe, the region still has the biggest proportion of new cases and deaths globally. WHO noted that Africa reported the highest increase in new cases and deaths, driven by South Africa, Algeria and Kenya.

In the past week, WHO said, the number of new cases reported in Europe dropped by about six per cent after a 10 per cent decline the previous week, suggesting that lockdowns across the continent are effectively slowing transmission. Still, the region accounts for about half of new global deaths.

In Asia, WHO noted that Japan reported the largest number of daily cases since the beginning of the outbreak, with more than 2,000 reported every day for five consecutive days, a 41 per cent increase from the previous week. Myanmar reported a 74 per cent jump in cases last week, with more than 11,000 new cases and a 36 per cent increase in deaths, at 188.

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Canadians leaving big cities at record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas. 

Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent. 

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city. 

“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.

Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties. 

This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical. 

“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.

Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.

And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions. 

Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.

“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue. 

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Canadians leaving big cities at record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas. 

Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent. 

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city. 

“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.

Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties. 

This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical. 

“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.

Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.

And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions. 

Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.

“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue. 

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Canada surpasses 700000 confirmed COVID-19 cases – CTV News

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Canada’s procurement minister urged drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to get the country’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule back on track as soon as possible as cases of the novel coronavirus surged past the 700,000 mark on Saturday.

The country hit the milestone less than two weeks after recording 600,000 cases of the virus on Jan. 3 — a feat that took months during the pandemic’s first wave.

Seven provinces recorded 6,479 cases on Saturday, pushing the national tally over 702,000.

Nationwide inoculation efforts had resulted in more than half a million residents receiving a vaccine dose as of Friday night, though the pace of immunizations is set to decrease as Pfizer-BioNTech upgrades its production facilities in Europe.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision to delay international vaccine shipments for four weeks during the upgrades.

“We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said on Twitter Saturday. “Pfizer assured us that it is deploying all efforts to do just that.”

She noted that shipments for the upcoming week will be largely unaffected, and said Ottawa will provide updates as they become available.

Ontario became the latest province to adjust its vaccination rollout plans in light of Pfizer’s announcement.

Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued a statement on Saturday saying officials do not yet know the full impact the delay will have on Ontario’s immunization strategy.

“We understand that this change in supply could see deliveries reduced by at least half for Canada in the coming weeks,” Williams said in a statement Saturday.

“We will assess and take appropriate action to ensure we can continue providing our most vulnerable with vaccines.”

In Ontario, long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine will get their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week beyond what was originally planned.

But that time frame will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday the reduced shipments mean that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the vaccine expected by Feb. 8 won’t be delivered on schedule.

Officials are establishing a new distribution plan, but the Quebec Health Department said it still intends to immunize as many people as possible within priority groups, with a delay of up to 90 days for the second dose.

Officials in Saskatchewan said COVID-19 vaccinations will continue as doses are received, with Premier Scott Moe telling reporters Friday that the province’s strategy for the two-dose regime depends on steady shipments.

Canada’s top doctor continued her push for strict adherance to public health guidelines as Saturday’s case count inched closer to levels forecasted in bleak federal projections released earlier in the week. Modeling released on Thursday indicated Canada could see 10,000 daily cases by the end of January if current infection rates continue.

“If we ease measures too soon, the epidemic will resurge even stronger,” Dr. Theresa Tam said in a tweet. “This is double-down time!!”

Tam said Hospitalizations and deaths across the country, which tend to lag one to several weeks behind a spike in cases, are still on the rise.

Canada averaged 4,705 hospitalizations across the country with 875 patients requiring intensive care treatment For the seven-day period ending Jan. 14.

During the same period, an average of 137 deaths were reported daily.

Ontario topped 3,000 cases in a 24-hour period once again on Saturday and added another 51 deaths linked to the virus.

In Quebec, 2,225 new infections were reported along with 67 deaths attributed to the virus, pushing the province over the 9,000 death mark since the beginning of the pandemic.

New Brunswick continued to report the highest daily COVID-19 case counts in Atlantic Canada, with 27 new diagnoses reported Saturday. Nova Scotia, by contrast, reported just four.

Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two further deaths on Saturday. Alberta logged 717 new infections, while Manitoba reported 180.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

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