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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada on Dec. 16, 2020 – The Tri-City News

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (All times Eastern):

7:35 p.m.

Alberta’s top doctor says an Edmonton arena is being set up as an alternate hospital with help from the Canadian Red Cross.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Alberta Health Services and the national charity are putting 100 patient beds in the Butterdome arena at the University of Alberta.

She says it will take a few weeks to set up the site, but there is no plan to staff it unless the beds are needed.

Another alternate site was previously set up at Calgary’s Peter Lougheed Centre.

6:50 p.m.

British Columbia’s death toll due to COVID-19 is surging with another two dozen deaths.

There have now been 692 deaths since the pandemic began.

A joint statement from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix says 409 doses of the COVID vaccine were administered on Tuesday and the province expects to see weekly vaccine deliveries starting next week.

There were 640 new cases of COVID, bringing the provincial total to 44,103.

5:40 p.m.

Alberta is reporting 1,270 new cases of COVID-19, one of its lowest daily infection counts in weeks.

The province also says another 16 people have died from the novel coronavirus.

There are 749 people in hospital, and 139 of them are in intensive care.

Alberta started vaccinating health-care workers yesterday.

5:30 p.m.

Health Canada is warning Canadians against buying COVID-19 vaccines online or from other unauthorized sources.

The federal regulator says these vaccines are counterfeit and might pose serious risks to one’s health, on top of being ineffective at protecting against COVID-19.

Health Canada says the only way to be immunized against COVID-19 safely is through clinics either organized or endorsed by a local public health authority, alongside other levels of government.

It says Interpol has issued a global alert to all of its 194 member countries to warn of the issue.

3:20 p.m.

Nunavut says it has no new cases of COVID-19 to report today.

There are still 41 active cases in Arviat, the only community that currently has infections.

The territory announced its first case of COVID-19 in early November.

So far, 217 people have recovered from the illness.

3 p.m.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says that he has been in discussion with neighbouring regions for a stricter lockdown.

Toronto and neighbouring Peel and York regions are already in Ontario’s highest level of restrictions.

Tory says that people are not staying home like they did in the spring and that one response would be to close all but the most essential businesses so there is nowhere to go.

Toronto reported 850 new cases of COVID-19 today and 19 more deaths linked to the virus.

2:40 p.m.

Saskatchewan is reporting 169 new COVID-19 cases.

There are 124 people in hospital, with 30 people in intensive care.

Health officials report the province’s weekly average of new daily cases is 243.

It’s the first time in weeks that figure has dropped below 250, which Premier Scott Moe says is too high.

He says comments made last week by Health Minister Paul Merriman, where he referenced an opinion poll when asked how the government measures its COVID-19 success, wasn’t appropriate.

Moe says he doesn’t know if there’s a way to measure success when it comes to tackling a new virus.

2:20 p.m.

After the province’s first vaccines against COVID-19 were administered, public health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported five new cases of the virus.

Officials say all five infections are travel-related.

Two cases affect residents of the province who returned home from work in Alberta, and three affect non-residents who came to the province from Asia.

Public health says all five are self-isolating and contact tracing is underway.

2:15 p.m.

Manitoba announced 15 more deaths and 292 cases as the province’s first vaccines were administered today. 

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, says 900 health-care workers will receive doses this week. 

He says it’s an important first step, but the risk in the province remains significant. 

High daily infections for months put pressure on the health-care system and led to restrictions in November. 

There are 328 people in hospital due to COVID-19, with 46 people in intensive care.

1 p.m.

Public health officials in New Brunswick are reporting eight new cases of COVID-19 today.

The eight cases are self-isolating and include one person in the Moncton region, five in the Fredericton region and two in the Edmundston area.

The province has 51 active cases and three people are in hospital, including two in intensive care.

New Brunswick has had 567 cases and eight deaths since the pandemic began.

12 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today and now has 55 active cases.

All of the new cases are in the Halifax area.

Health officials say three of the cases are close contacts of previously reported cases while the other case is under investigation.

No one is currently in hospital.

11:40 a.m.

Public health officials in Prince Edward Island have begun to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Front-line workers Heather Arsenault, Debbie Lawless and Dr. Chris Lantz, who all work at long-term care homes, were among the first people to receive the vaccine on the Island.

The vaccine is being administered at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.

The province received 1,950 doses of the vaccine in its first shipment.

11:35 a.m.

A public health nurse in St. John’s is the first person in Newfoundland and Labrador to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ellen Foley-Vick said she felt like she got an early Christmas present as the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, put a Band-Aid on her arm after administering the shot.

Premier Andrew Furey told a room full of masked and socially-distanced onlookers at Memorial University’s medical school that the province’s first vaccination marked a generational moment.

Newfoundland and Labrador received its 1,950 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine yesterday and health officials expect another delivery next week.

11:20 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 1,897 new COVID-19 infections and 43 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials said today hospitalizations increased by 16, to 975, and 128 people were in intensive care, a rise of three.

The province says 1,315 doses of vaccine were distributed yesterday, bringing the total number of people who have received the first dose of vaccine in the province to 1,613.

Quebec has reported a total of 168,173 COVID-19 infections and 7,613 deaths linked to the virus.

11:15 a.m.

The first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Manitoba was a doctor who says he’s grateful to keep his patients in the intensive care unit safe.

Dr. Brian Penner, who works at Health Sciences Centre, says he feels extremely lucky to be able to get the Pfizer vaccine at around 8:30 a.m. at the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne campus.

Health officials say Manitoba will receive enough of the vaccine to immunize about 900 health-care workers.

Premier Brian Pallister said yesterday that the initial vaccinations were a small but critical first step.

10:55 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 2,139 new cases of COVID-19 today, and 43 new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 780 cases were in Toronto, 528 in Peel Region, 148 in York Region, 143 in Durham, and 111 in Windsor-Essex.

The province says it has conducted over 49-thousand tests since the last daily report.

In total, 932 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 256 in intensive care.

10:20 a.m.

Frontline health workers in Halifax are the first people in Nova Scotia to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

A clinic is underway on the campus of Dalhousie University where Danielle Sheaves, a registered nurse, was the first recipient of a shot.

Among the first to receive the vaccine this month will be workers at COVID-19 hospital units, emergency departments, critical care units as well as birth and early labour units at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

Long-term care staff who are directly involved in patient care in the Halifax area will also receive the vaccine this month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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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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