Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Dec. 9

On the same day Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, hard-hit Alberta announced it will begin rolling out the first doses to acute-care staff next week.

More provinces release details on how they will roll out COVID-19 vaccines next week

A pedestrian wearing a mask walks through an empty downtown Calgary on Wednesday, a day after Alberta announced new public health measures in an effort to curb soaring COVID-19 infection rates. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

On the same day Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, hard-hit Alberta announced it will begin rolling out the first doses to acute-care staff next week.

To protect those caring for the vulnerable, "the first 3,900 doses will go to ICU doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and long-term care workers throughout the province," Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Wednesday at a news conference.

The acute-care staff members who will be the first to receive the two-dose vaccines will come from the Foothills Hospital and the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, and the University of Alberta and Royal Alexandra hospitals in Edmonton.

The news comes as Alberta grapples with soaring COVID-19 infection rates. The province reported 1,460 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, as well as 13 additional deaths.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has risen to 685, with 121 of those patients in intensive care.

The province on Tuesday imposed strict new measures, including a ban on outdoor and indoor social gatherings, a mandatory provincewide mask rule and the closure of dine-in service at restaurants and bars.

WATCH | ICU doctor praises Alberta's tough new restrictions:

Intensive care doctor in Alberta lauds tough new restrictions to curb COVID-19

2 years ago
Duration 3:39
Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician in Edmonton, says widespread closures are key to cutting the spread of the coronavirus.  'I think this will work,' he said.

Meanwhile, British Columbia has provided more details on its own vaccination strategy, with plans to dispense just under 4,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of next week.

The province plans to immunize 400,000 people against COVID-19 by March, with priority given to residents and staff of long-term care homes and health-care workers.

 At a news conference Wednesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged patience with an immunization program she said will be the "most complex" in the province's history.

"Eventually, everyone who can and wants to get a vaccine will get access. This will not happen right away. We need to continue to take measures to protect one another," she said.

B.C. reported 619 new COVID-19 cases and 16 more deaths on Wednesday. There are 338 people in hospital due to the illness, 75 of whom are in intensive care.

Earlier in the day, Canada became the third country after the U.K. and Bahrain to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, after scientists finished a two-month review of the clinical trial data.

"The data provided supports favourably the efficacy of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as well as its safety," the department said in its report authorizing use of the vaccine in Canada for those over the age of 16.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said 249,000 doses of the vaccine will be on hand by year's end.

What's happening across Canada

As of 7:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 435,330, with 72,336 of those considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,983.

    Ontario reported another 1,890 cases of COVID-19 and 28 more deaths linked to the illness on Wednesday.

    The number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed infections climbed to 811. Of those, 221 are being treated in intensive care and 129 require the use of a ventilator.

    The newly confirmed cases include 517 in Toronto, 471 in Peel Region and 187 in York Region — where hospital CEOs said this morning that their facilities have reached a "tipping point" in COVID-19 admissions.

    Health Minister Christine Elliott on Tuesday said the province is planning to issue some kind of proof-of-vaccination card to those who receive their shots.

    Quebec on Wednesday reported 1,728 new cases and 37 new deaths, with seven of those having occurred in the last 24 hours. Hospitalizations have risen to 844, with 121 in intensive care. 

    Premier François Legault has said he isn't ruling out the possibility of implementing further restrictions if necessary.

    The province expects to begin vaccinating residents of long-term care homes against COVID-19 next week.

    WATCH | Health Canada official on how Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved:

    Dr. Sharma discusses allergic reactions to Pfizer's vaccine and how it was approved

    2 years ago
    Duration 2:38
    Health Canada chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma briefed reporters on the vaccine's approval during a briefing on Wednesday.

    In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Wednesday, in the Eastern Health region.

    The province's chief medical officer of health is cutting the maximum number of people allowed for gatherings to 20, down from 50. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the change takes effect 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

    New Brunswick reported one new case on Wednesday, in the Saint John region. There are now 74 active cases in the province, with three people in hospital, all of whom are in intensive care.

    Nova Scotia reported six new cases on Wednesday. There are currently 71 active cases in the province, though none are in hospital, according to provincial data.

    Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, leaving the number of cases in the province at 84.

    WATCH | Pfizer Canada addresses concerns over Bell's palsy in vaccine trials:

    Pfizer Canada addresses concerns over Bell's palsy in U.S. vaccine trials

    2 years ago
    Duration 0:18
    Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow said the four occurrences of facial paralysis among close to 22,000 subjects in U.S. clinical trials who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine represented a frequency not above what is expected in the general population.

    Manitoba reported 280 new cases and 18 new deaths on Wednesday. It is the province's second-highest daily death toll, after the 19 deaths reported on Dec. 5.

    At a news conference, Premier Brian Pallister said health-care workers in critical care units will be the first people in the province to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once the first doses — enough for about 900 people — arrive next week.

    The province on Tuesday extended sweeping COVID-19 restrictions into the new year, which means holiday gatherings won't be allowed. At the same time, officials added a number of exemptions to the provincial health order, including lifting a ban on drive-in church services.

    Saskatchewan reported 302 new cases and five new deaths on Wednesday.

    The province says vaccine doses for about 1,950 people are expected to arrive by Dec. 15. A pilot program will see the vaccine administered to health-care workers at Regina General Hospital.

    WATCH | Canada needs to build vaccine registry as doses delivered:

    Canada will need to build vaccine registry as doses delivered

    2 years ago
    Duration 3:29
    Experts say Canada's COVID-19 vaccine rollout needs something it doesn't currently have: a dynamic federal vaccine registry that can gather granular data about who has been vaccinated, who needs to be and how they reacted. There are only several, unlinked provincial databases in the country.

      In the North, the Northwest Territories has reported zero active cases of the virus since Nov. 24, but on Wednesday the territory's government said the wastewater COVID-19 surveillance program has detected the virus in Yellowknife, suggesting there are undetected cases.

      Therefore, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola is advising anyone who was self-isolating in Yellowknife from Nov. 30 until the present to get a COVID-19 test.

      Nunavut reported nine new cases on Wednesday, all in Arviat, bringing the community's total number of active cases to 48.

      Yukon reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, leaving the total number of cases in the territory at 58 — with 10 of those considered active.

      What's happening around the world

      From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 5 p.m. ET

      As of 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, there were more than 68.6 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, with more than 44.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.

      In the Americas, deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April. Meanwhile, cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

      Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the U.S.

      Indiana's governor is re-imposing restrictions on hospitals from performing elective surgeries to free up hospital capacity with the state's recent steep increases in serious COVID-19 illnesses.

      Meanwhile, Alabama's governor has extended a statewide mask mandate until Jan. 22 but declined to order additional restrictions.

      WATCH | U.K. warns those with severe allergies to avoid vaccine for now:

      U.K. warns those with severe allergies should avoid COVID-19 vaccine for now

      2 years ago
      Duration 3:24
      The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine caused an allergic reaction in two health-care workers in the U.K. prompting warnings from health officials there for people with severe allergies to hold off taking the vaccine.

      In Europe, British regulators warned Wednesday that people who have a history of serious allergic reactions shouldn't receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as the regulators investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country's mass vaccination program.

      The U.K.'s Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is looking into whether the reactions were linked to the vaccine.

      The two people affected were staff members with the National Health Service (NHS) who had a history of allergies, and both are recovering. Authorities have not specified what their reactions were.

      In the meantime, the regulator has issued the warning for anyone who has had a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food. That includes anyone who has been told to carry an adrenaline shot or others who have had potentially fatal allergic reactions.

      Paula McMahon prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as the mass public vaccination program gets underway at the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. (Jeff J Mitchell/The Associated Press)

      Ukraine announced tighter lockdown restrictions in January as it registered 12,585 new cases and 276 deaths — the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.

      Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said restaurants, bars, malls, gyms, theatres, cinemas and other non-essential businesses will be closed between Jan. 8-24. Mass public events will be banned, and schools and other educational facilities, except daycare centres, will be on vacation.

      Italy's coronavirus infections are levelling off, with 12,756 new cases reported in a sign that monthlong restrictions are having an impact.

      There were 499 deaths in the past day, a much lower daily increase than last week when Italy hit a pandemic-record 993 deaths. Overall, Italy has 61,739 confirmed deaths, nearly eclipsing Britain as the European country with the highest death toll.

      Officials hope the downward trend continues through Christmas and New Year's. The government has imposed travel restrictions during the holidays and maintained curfews and restaurant closures at night.

      In Africa, South Africa's health minister said the country has officially entered a second wave as it reported more than 6,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

      South Africa has been the hardest-hit country on the continent, with more than 828,000 confirmed cases and more than 22,000 deaths so far.

      In Asia, a Royal Caribbean "cruise-to-nowhere" from Singapore confined nearly 1,700 passengers to their cabins in port for more than 16 hours after a COVID-19 case was detected on board, before allowing some to disembark on Wednesday.

      All passengers aboard the Quantum of the Seas vessel had cleared a mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for the virus up to three days before the four-day cruise began on Monday.

      Authorities said close contacts of the COVID-19 patient among the 1,680 guests and 1,148 crew members on board had so far tested negative. The passengers had been stuck in their rooms while contact tracing was being conducted.

      The Quantum of the Seas returned to Singapore at 8 a.m. local time, and a Reuters witness saw some passengers disembarking at about 8 p.m. All passengers will undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing before leaving the terminal.

      The Quantum of the Seas cruise ship is docked at the Marina Bay Cruise Center in Singapore on Wednesday. Royal Caribbean said in a statement that a guest on the Quantum of the Seas tested positive for coronavirus while on board. The ship returned to port in accordance with government protocols. (Danial Hakim/The Associated Press)

      In the Middle East, the number of households in Israel living under the poverty line has grown by nearly 50 per cent during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an anti-poverty organization's report published Wednesday.

      Israel has seen unemployment surge to over 20 per cent since the country first imposed a nationwide lockdown at the start of the outbreak in March. The country's vital tourism industry has shrunk to virtually nil and thousands of businesses have closed.

      To make matters worse, the Israeli government has been at loggerheads over passing a national budget, resulting in major cutbacks to social services.

      With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press and Reuters

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