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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday

Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, issued assurances on Saturday that all Canadians will eventually have access to the COVID-19 vaccine but warned that inoculations on their own are not enough to stop the spread of the virus.

Vaccine rollout will face 'range of logistical and operational challenges,' Tam says

A child wearing a Santa hat and a face mask looks for a Christmas tree at a farm in Harrowsmith, Ont., on Saturday. (Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest:

Canada's chief public health officer said Saturday that although Ottawa is making preparations for a COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the operation will face a "range of logistical and operational challenges," and Canadians should continue to fight the coronavirus with established public health measures before and after.

"An initial supply of vaccines is expected to become available in early 2021, and although supply will be limited at the outset, Canada is well positioned to provide access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for all Canadians," Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement.

A panel of health experts on Friday released updated guidelines on who should be vaccinated first against the illness, saying provinces and territories should prioritize long-term care home residents and staff, Canadians over 80, health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities where infections can have disproportionately more serious consequences.

The first batch will be enough for roughly three million Canadians. Pfizer's vaccine, which is expected to be the first product approved for use in Canada, requires two doses.

WATCH | CBC medical contributor answers your COVID-19 questions:

CBC medical contributor answers your COVID-19 questions

CBC News

2 months agoVideo
10:43
The CBC'S John Northcott puts your coronavirus-related questions to family physician and CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin. 10:43

Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Friday said Canada has increased its order with Moderna and now expects at least 40 million doses from the U.S. company in 2021 — twice as much as was previously guaranteed.

Anand said Canada is exercising its option to obtain more of Moderna's two-dose candidate, which should be enough to vaccinate almost 20 million people.

Tam offered assurances on Saturday that all Canadians will eventually have access to the COVID-19 vaccine but warned that inoculations on their own are not enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

"As we continue to prepare the way for widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through safe and effective vaccines, Canada must continue with the collective effort of individuals and public health authorities to sustain the response," she said, reiterating her call for Canadians to practise physical distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing.

Her comments come as cases and hospitalizations spike across Canada.


What's happening across Canada

As of 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 408,921, with 71,450 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,589.

In British Columbia, the Vancouver Canucks have parted ways with their longtime national anthem singer, Mark Donnelly, in response to reports he will be singing at a rally organized by COVID-19 deniers and anti-mask advocates.

Alberta reported a record 1,879 new cases on Saturday. The province also said 563 people are being treated in hospital, including 101 in ICU.

Meanwhile, Premier Jason Kenney said tougher restrictions will likely be aimed at Calgary and Edmonton, just hours after Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, reported a concerning rise in rates in rural areas. She stressed that even one case can move like wildfire, and COVID-19 doesn't respect geographical boundaries.

WATCH | Hinshaw asks rural Albertans to follow restrictions:

Dr. Hinshaw asks rural Albertans to follow restrictions

CBC News Edmonton

2 months agoVideo
1:31
Dr. Deena Hinshaw pleaded with Albertans in rural areas to wear masks and follow public health orders, warning them that their distance from ICUs will make COVID-19 “even more daunting.” 1:31

Saskatchewan reported 202 new COVID-19 cases. Nearly 4,200 cases are considered active, 116 of which are in hospital and 25 of which are receiving intensive care. Provincial officials haven't reported any new virus-related deaths on Saturday, leaving that total at 55.

Manitoba said a record 19 more people have died of COVID-19. The province also announced 354 new cases and said there are now 349 people in hospital, including 51 in intensive care.

Also on Saturday, a court ruled that a Winnipeg church will not be exempt from public health orders and is not permitted to hold drive-in worship services. Springs Church and two of its pastors have been fined more than $32,000 for allowing the services, which are banned under Manitoba's current public health order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

In northern Manitoba, the Canadian Armed Forces says it will be on hand to support the Shamattawa First Nation as cases skyrocket in the community.

Ontario reported a record 1,859 new cases, along with 20 more deaths. The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with the novel coronavirus has climbed to 709. Of that number, 202 are being treated in intensive care. Some 116 are on ventilators.

Quebec reported a record 2,031 new cases, as well as 48 more deaths. Hospitalizations decreased slightly to 754, while patients in intensive care dropped by one to 96. The number of new cases appears to be driven by increases in Montreal (630 cases) and Quebec City (304 cases).

People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported two new casesNewfoundland and Labrador posted four new cases; Nova Scotia added six infections; and Prince Edward Island saw its caseload rise by three.

In the North, Nunavut reported eight new cases — all in the hard-hit community of Arviat. The territory has recorded a total of 214 cases, of which 158 have recovered, and no deaths so far.


What's happening around the world

As of Saturday, there were more than 66.1 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 42.5 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.

In Europe, Prime Minister Antonio Costa of Portugal said current restrictions against the coronavirus may be eased during the Christmas holidays if numbers continue a downward trend. If cases grow again, he said, the government will "apply the handbrake."

People are seen wearing face masks in Lisbon on Saturday. (Pedro Nunes/Reuters)

In Asia, India's Ministry of Home Affairs has allowed states to impose local restrictions, such as night curfews. It has asked state officials to consult before imposing lockdowns at state, district or city levels.

In the Americas, infections continue to spread at record levels in the United States, reaching a new daily high of nearly 228,000 cases on Friday. There were 2,607 deaths reported.

In Africa, the continent has seen more than 2.2 million confirmed cases and more than 53,000 deaths. South Africa leads the continent on both counts, with more than 805,000 infections and nearly 22,000 fatalities.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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