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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for Thursday, March 11, 2021 – Times Colonist



The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):

5:55 p.m.

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it’s dropping the eligible age for seniors to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments to 80, down from 85.

Thursday was the launch of the province’s booking system, announced after people raised concerns about waiting to be contacted by public health to receive their shots.

The health authority says around 4,300 appointments were made by phone or online.

It was only open to residents 85 and older, but the authority says the age will drop to 80, starting Friday, after a successful first-day rollout.

5:50 p.m.

Yukon’s chief medical officer of health is warning residents to avoid all non-essential travel during the upcoming March break to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Brendan Hanley says in a statement that non-essential travel out of Yukon is not recommended, and those who do so will have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

He says the designated quarantine facility in Whitehorse is not available for those who travel for recreation, entertainment or tourism purposes.

5:30 p.m.

Alberta has recorded 364 new COVID-19 infections and five more deaths.

Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says about four per cent of tests in the past day came back positive.

There are 259 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 38 in intensive care.

The province also reported 41 more variant cases over the past day, bringing its total to 775.

5:30 p.m.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer is allowing up to 10 people to meet outdoors after nearly four months of restrictions that barred social gatherings between people from different households.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says restrictions on indoor gatherings and rules for restaurants, bars, retail stores and other venues remain in place.

She says while the infection curve of the pandemic is trending down on Vancouver Island and in the Interior and Northern health regions, COVID-19 is still circulating in communities, particularly in the Lower Mainland.

Henry announced 569 new cases today and three more deaths, pushing the death toll in the province to 1,397.

More than 360,000 doses of COVID-19 have been administered in the province so far.

3:05 p.m.

Health officials in Saskatchewan announced another 165 new cases of COVID-19.

In Regina, the Ministry of Health reports an increase in community transmission of variants of concern.

To date, many of the cases connected to the B.1.1.7 strain, first detected in the United Kingdom, have been found in and around the capital city.

There are 137 people in hospital with COVID-19 provincewide, with 27 in intensive care.

Officials say so far, the province has given nearly 96,000 doses of vaccine.

1:35 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting three COVID-19 deaths and 91 new cases.

However, three cases from unspecified dates have been removed due to data corrections, bringing the net increase to 88.

1:15 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19.

The case involves a man in his 50s in the eastern region, where officials beat back an outbreak that spread through the metro region last month.

Officials say the outbreak initially spread through high school students, ultimately affecting at least 185 staff and students in 22 different schools.

The Department of Education announced today that St. John’s-area schools will reopen next week for students in kindergarten through Grade 9, but remote learning will continue for high school students across the province.

1:05 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say the two cases are in the Moncton area.

Officials are also announcing that starting today, residents aged 85 and older can set up COVID-19 vaccine appointments at pharmacies, which will begin administering doses March 17.

New Brunswick has 34 active reported cases of the disease.

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton’s mayor says flags on municipal buildings will fly at half-mast to honour those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Don Iveson says the city’s iconic High Level Bridge across the North Saskatchewan River will be lit in white to mark the national day of observance.

There have 810 deaths from COVID-19 recorded in the Alberta capital, which has a population of just under a million people.

Nearly 2,000 people have died from COVID-19 across the province.

11:15 a.m.

Ontario reported 1,092 new cases of COVID-19 today and has surpassed a million total vaccine doses administered.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 293 new cases are in Toronto, 199 are in Peel Region, and 79 are in York Region.

More than 40,000 vaccine doses were administered since Wednesday’s update, taking Ontario past the million-dose milestone.

Ten more deaths were linked to the virus in Ontario.

11 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 738 new COVID-19 cases and 15 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said today hospitalizations dropped by 18, to 563, and 111 people were in intensive care, a drop of one.

Officials say they administered 18,659 vaccine doses on Wednesday, for a total of 619,060.

Quebec has reported a total of 295,390 COVID-19 cases and 10,518 deaths linked to the virus; there are 7,134 active reported infections in the province.

10:35 a.m.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is using a white rose in the House of Commons to remember those who have died from COVID-19 over the past year.

Blanchet is also calling for Canada to address the inequality and shortcomings in the national health-care system that were exposed during the pandemic.

He is also marking the sacrifices of health-care and other front-line workers, many of whom are women.

10:20 a.m.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is using an address in the House of Commons marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by listing the many ways in which Canadians have suffered over the past year.

He’s also criticizing the Liberal government for what he describes as the slow pace of vaccinations to date.

O’Toole says many Canadians have lost their jobs over the past year, while many others are struggling with mental-health challenges, domestic violence and opioid addictions.

The Conservative leader says most Canadians remain unsure when they will get vaccinated, and Canada must learn from the past 12 months and ensure the country is not caught by surprise again in the future.

10:10 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic by remembering the more than 20,000 people who have died from the illness.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Trudeau also praised the health-care workers, military personnel and others who have stepped up over the last year to help Canadians through the pandemic.

The prime minister describes the past 12 months as “a tough year, a heartbreaking year, but it is a year we have faced together.”

10 a.m.

U.S.-based vaccine maker Moderna says it has now started giving doses of a B.1.351 COVID-19 variant booster shot to 60 people who have already been vaccinated with the company’s original shot.

The phase two trial is testing various combinations, including two different sizes of doses of just the booster shot that has adjusted the original vaccine to account for the changes seen in the variant first identified in South Africa.

A third version combines both the original vaccine and the booster shot, attempting to see if one jab can cover the original virus and the new variant.

Lab tests showed Moderna’s original vaccine did produce antibodies when put up against multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, but the level of response against B.1.351 was as much as six times less than that against the original virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.

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Are you planning to get a flu shot this year? –



Canada’s top doctor warns the country could be heading for its first typical flu season since the pandemic began, even as health systems are still battling the fourth wave of COVID-19.

Last year Canada was spared the brunt of flu season thanks to strict public health measures to protect against COVID-19.

Surveillance data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows higher rates of infection than expected for some of Canada’s most common seasonal viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says a heavy flu season could put extra pressure on already fragile health-care systems.

She says this is definitely not the year to have influenza wreak havoc.

That’s why public health says it will be more important than ever that people get flu shots to avoid complications like pneumonia and protect hospitals from becoming overloaded.

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10,000 in Waterloo region eligible to get 2nd COVID-19 shot right now, official says –



More than 90 per cent of eligible residents in Waterloo region have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

People who are 12 and up are eligible to get vaccinated, and able to get the second dose 28 days after the first, the Ontario government’s website says.

“To get second doses to 90 per cent, 20,683 second doses must be given. Out of those 20,000 people, approximately 10,000 are eligible now for their second dose and the remaining people will become eligible over the next month,” Vickie Murray, the region’s vaccine lead, said in a media briefing on Friday.

Murray said regional officials are pleased to see single doses reach the 90 per cent milestone, but they want to see second doses, which are at nearly 86 per cent, get there, too.

“Our goal is to continue to aim for the highest vaccination rates possible to protect our community from the spread of COVID,” she said.

As well, the region has given 5,854 third doses, offered to all people living in long-term care in the region.

Murray also announced Friday that as of Oct. 31, the vaccination at the Boardwalk in Waterloo will move to operating only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. because those are the busiest times.

Vaccination bus motors on

The vaccination bus continues to be effective, Murray said. On Wednesday, she said 47 per cent of the doses given were first ones.

The bus will maked scheduled stops:

  • Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Cambridge Farmer’s Market.
  • Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 150 Main St. in Cambridge.
  • Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kitchener Public Library.
  • Thursday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Region of Waterloo International Airport in Breslau.
  • Sunday, Oct. 24 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Sunrise Shopping Centre at 1400 Ottawa St. S., Kitchener.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s medical officer of health, said Friday that case rates have been “stable or slowly decreasing trend in the last few weeks.”

“We need to continue our efforts to increase our community immunity over the coming weeks and months,” she said, adding the highly transmissible delta variant remains a risk in the region and could be easily spread between people, especially the unvaccinated.

Murray encouraged anyone who is eligible to get the second dose to do so as soon as they can.

“That is going to be the best way to ensure that you’re fully vaccinated,” Murray said.

If regional staff find that a lot of people are delaying the second dose, they will reach out to them directly through emails and phone calls — something staff also did over the summer.

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Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown



Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.

Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.

New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.

“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.

The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.

Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.

Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.

“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.

The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.

Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.

(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

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