Ontario’s control over the pandemic remains “precarious” at the moment, health officials said Thursday as they released updated COVID-19 projections and the province reported a record-high 1,983 new cases.
More than 1,000 of those are in hard-hit Toronto and Peel Region, which moved into a lockdown level of restrictions more than two weeks ago.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet that the province had completed more than 61,800 tests, also a single-day high for the province.
Ontario is reporting 1,983 cases of #COVID19 and over 61,800 tests completed. Locally, there are 515 new cases in Peel, 496 in Toronto and 208 in York Region. There are 1,804 more resolved cases.
Today’s numbers will be available at 10:30 a.m. at https://t.co/ypmgZbVRvn.
The newly released provincial figures show Ontario’s current lockdown measures have not had nearly as much of an impact on people’s mobility — and therefore likely their contacts — as it did during the first wave of the pandemic.
According to the latest provincial modelling, relaxation of current public health interventions would likely lead to even higher case growth.
“There is a lot of people on the move. We have to get that down and limit that somehow,” said Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
Williams said he will be recommending some parts of the province move up in Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 response framework, with announcements coming Friday.
The province also reported 35 additional deaths on Thursday. Hospitalizations increased yet again, with 829 COVID-19 patients in hospital. Of those, 228 were in intensive care units, according to a provincial health dashboard.
In positive news, the province confirmed it will administer its first COVID-19 vaccines next Tuesday at two hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa.
The first vaccines will go to health-care workers at long-term care homes and other high-risk places, Premier Doug Ford said in a news release, with more details to come Friday.
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What’s happening across Canada
As of 3:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 439,780, with 73,066 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,068.
Quebec on Thursday reported 1,842 new cases of COVID-19 and 33 additional deaths, bringing the death toll in the province to 7,382.
Hospitalizations in the province increased to 848, with 113 in intensive care, according to figures released by the province.
Premier François Legault warned on Wednesday that people who don’t adhere to public health restrictions will face fines.
“We cannot allow a minority of people to put the majority at risk,” he said.
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In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, while New Brunswick reported four new cases and Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case.
There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.
Manitoba health officials reported 293 new COVID-19 cases and 13 more deaths on Thursday. The most recent deaths include nine linked to outbreaks at care homes.
Across the province, there are now 298 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 43 in intensive care.
In Saskatchewan, health officials reported 324 new cases and four deaths on Thursday. The seven-day average of daily new cases is now 283, a record high for the province.
There are now 138 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in the province, 31 of whom are in intensive care, another record high.
Alberta reported 1,460 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 13 additional deaths, which brings the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in the province to 653. The province reported having 685 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 121 people in intensive care units.
The province imposed tough new restrictions earlier this week, including a mask mandate and a ban on social gatherings, in a bid to get control on rising case numbers.
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In British Columbia, health officials reported 619 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 16 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 559. The province reported 338 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 75 in intensive care.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday that the upcoming vaccination rollout will be the “most complex and comprehensive immunization program ever delivered in B.C.”
Vaccines will save lives and ease the “immense pressure” on the province’s health-care system, she said.
In the North, Nunavut reported no new cases on Thursday. After six recoveries, the number of active cases in the territory now stands at 42, all of them in the small community of Arviat on the western shore of Hudson Bay.
There were no new cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories. But the government of N.W.T. said it has found COVID-19 in wastewater in Yellowknife.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said this means there is likely an undetected case of COVID-19 in the capital. The virus was detected through a wastewater monitoring program, which analyzed samples taken between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.
As a result, the government asked anyone self-isolating in Yellowknife since Nov. 30 to get a COVID-19 test, even if they don’t have symptoms. Essential workers who have been in Yellowknife since Nov. 30 should also get a test.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 3:15 p.m. ET
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 69.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with more than 44.5 million of those cases considered resolved or recovered, according to Johns Hopkins. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday pledged an additional $250 million US to support the development of low-cost and easier to deliver treatments and vaccines against COVID-19.
The Gates Foundation’s latest contribution, its largest to date, comes on top of the $70 million in funding that it added in November. This brings its total commitments to the global pandemic response to $1.75 billion, the foundation said. The contribution will also support the delivery of tests and vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.
In the Americas, the United Parcel Service and FedEx Corp. in the United States plan to deliver millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines before holiday gifts — giving them VIP handling that includes GPS tracking, special labels and first-loaded status on planes and trucks.
The largest U.S. package delivery companies are partners in the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine program and each has specialized capabilities to handle fragile medical products — including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that requires shipment at sub-Arctic temperatures.
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“We’re giving priority to all the vaccine shipments,” Wesley Wheeler, president of the global health-care unit at UPS, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Thursday.
A panel of outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is meeting on Thursday to weigh whether to recommend that the agency authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, one of the last steps before vaccinations could begin.
The COVID-19 daily death toll surpassed 3,000 in the U.S. on Wednesday.
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South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the country is seeing a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases. The country, the hardest hit in Africa, recorded 6,700 new cases on Wednesday, the country’s highest number since August.
Mkhize warned that South Africa is in a second wave that could overwhelm hospital capacities in some regions.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said South Africa’s spike in infections highlights that a second surge in cases is beginning on the continent of 1.3 billion people.
He urged the United Nations to summon a special session to discuss the ethical, fair distribution of vaccines — calling it a “moral issue” — to avoid “this North-South distrust in respect to vaccines, which is a common good.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, the governor of South Korea’s most populous province called for mass testing for coronavirus.
An employee disinfects subway train handles as a precaution against the coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)
South Korean officials were scrambling to build hospital beds in shipping containers to ease strains on medical facilities stretched by the latest coronavirus wave.
Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus infections in Japan’s capital topped 600 in a day for the first time. Experts on Tokyo’s virus task force said the surge in infections has placed an added burden on hospitals, making it difficult for many of them to carry out treatment for ordinary patients.
Tokyo reported 602 new cases Thursday, while the daily tally for the entire nation was 2,810. Japan has reported 168,573 infections since the pandemic began, with 2,465 deaths.
In Europe, Italy reported 887 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, a steep rise from 499 the day before, the Health Ministry said. The first Western country hit by the virus, Italy has seen 62,626 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain.
England’s COVID test and trace system is making a £500 pound (roughly $845 Cdn) support payment available for people who self-isolate after receiving a notification via its app, it said on Thursday.
The money was already available for people told to self-isolate by contact tracers via phone, email or test message, but not previously through the app due to its anonymous nature. Any individual who receives a self-isolation alert in the app is now able to register their details to receive the payment, the service said.
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Germany has reported its highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases, while the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 has climbed above 20,000.
The national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said Thursday that 23,679 new cases were confirmed over the previous 24 hours. That’s just above the previous record of 23,648 from Nov. 20.
A partial shutdown that started Nov. 2 has succeeded in keeping the surge from picking up speed, but the number of daily new cases has remained around the same high level in recent weeks rather than falling. Momentum is building for a harder lockdown over Christmas and New Year’s, and some regions already are introducing new restrictions.
That’s partly because deaths, which have been relatively low in Germany compared with several other European countries, have increased markedly. Another 440 deaths were reported on Thursday, following a single-day record of 590 on Wednesday. That brought the total so far to 20,372. Germany has reported some 1.24 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
In the Americas, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa decided on Thursday to allow temporary emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines and set rules for companies to apply for the option that did not exist in the country now facing the world’s third worst coronavirus outbreak.
The decision will potentially allow emergency use of vaccines that are being tested in Brazil by AstraZeneca, Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen and China’s Sinovac Biotech.
Mexico on Wednesday signed an agreement to buy 35 million doses of Chinese firm Cansino Biologics’ COVID-19 vaccine.
In the U.S., the usually stoic health director of Los Angeles County became emotional while describing “a devastating increase in deaths,” with the total hitting 8,075. Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that this week the county recorded an average of 43 daily deaths — up from about 12 a day in mid-November.
Test specialist Lester Gopar works at a COVID-19 testing site in Los Angeles on Dec. 9. Most of California entered a new lockdown this week in an effort to curb spiralling coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)
Ferrer fought back tears as she called the deaths “an incalculable loss to their friends and their family and the community.”
Hospitals in Los Angeles are dealing with a surge in COVID-19 patients, with new admissions running near 500 a day. Officials anticipate that number will increase to 700 a day by next week.
In the Middle East, Israel received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines on Wednesday and a distributor predicted the country would have enough for about a quarter of the population by the end of the year.
Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, said it will resume economic, tourist and entertainment activity within two weeks, while Oman said it will exempt nationals of 103 counties from needing an entry visa for a stay of up to 10 days.