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

Canada now has confirmed cases of the more infectious COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. News of the new variant arriving in Canada comes as a provincewide lockdown meant to bring down COVID-19 case counts takes effect Saturday in Ontario.

1st cases of U.K. coronavirus variant seen in Canada; Ontario's provincewide lockdown begins

Dr. Bernhard Ellendt, left, injects a nursing home resident in Halberstadt, Germany, with the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday. The first shipments have arrived across the European Union as authorities prepare to begin administering the first shots to the most vulnerable people in a co-ordinated effort on Sunday. (Matthias Bein/DPA via The Associated Press)

The latest:

  • Canada sees 1st cases of U.K. COVID-19 variant.
  • Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising COVID-19 case counts.
  • Most Boxing Day shopping expected to happen online.
  • Worldwide cases surpass 80 million.
  • Vaccination campaigns begin in Europe. 
  • Millions of Americans lose jobless benefits as Trump refuses to sign aid bill.
  • Have a question about COVID-19 in Canada? Send your questions to

Canada now has confirmed cases of the more infectious COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K.

The confirmed cases identified are from a couple from Durham Region with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, said in a news release on Saturday. Durham Region is located just east of Toronto.

Both individuals have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols, it said.

The variant has now been detected in multiple countries beyond Britain, including Denmark, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.

WATCH | Ontario identifies U.K. COVID-19 variant in province:

Ontario identifies U.K. COVID-19 variant in province

1 year ago
Duration 2:45
A couple was found to be carrying the virus, but neither had travelled or been in contact with a known case, officials say. 2:45

Modelling and epidemiological studies suggest that the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. can spread easier and faster, but there is no evidence that it is more likely to cause severe illness or to suggest that Health Canada-approved vaccines will be any less effective against the new variant, it said.

News of the new variant arriving in Canada comes as a provincewide lockdown meant to bring down COVID-19 case counts takes effect Saturday in Ontario.

The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23 but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

WATCH | Provincewide lockdown comes into effect in Ontario:

Provincewide lockdown comes into effect in Ontario

1 year ago
Duration 4:18
New restrictions came into effect Saturday, placing the entire province of Ontario in lockdown. In some regions, the measures will stay in place until at least Jan. 23. 4:18

The move was announced on Monday after the provincial government took part in emergency talks last weekend.

Under the new rules, restaurants can only provide takeout, drive-thru and delivery, including the sale of alcohol.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers that primarily sell food can stay open for in-person shopping but with distancing and limits on capacity.

When the holiday break is over, children enrolled in publicly funded elementary and secondary schools will participate in remote learning from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8, and some longer depending on their age and area.

WATCH | Health-care workers reflect on difficult year, unite in holiday message:

Health-care workers reflect on difficult year, unite in holiday message

1 year ago
Duration 1:58
Health-care workers have spent a year working through the pandemic and several ER doctors shared a united message while working during a difficult holiday season. 1:58

The lockdown began with Ontario reporting a two-day total of 4,301 cases of COVID-19.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 2,142 new cases of the virus were reported on Saturday and 2,159 new cases were logged on Christmas Day.

The 4,301 new infections bring Ontario's COVID-19 case total to 169,411, including deaths and recoveries. There are nearly 20,000 active cases of novel coronavirus infection across the province.

Families enjoy tobogganing in fresh snowfall at Riverdale Park East in Toronto on Christmas Day. Ontario's provincewide lockdown begins Saturday (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

There were 38 deaths reported on Saturday. Forty-three people died on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths reported since the pandemic began to 4,359.

What's happening in Canada

As of 8:30 p.m. ET, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 541,647, with 78,623 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,801.

Aside from Ontario, the only provinces to release new numbers so far on Saturday are New Brunswick and Alberta. 

New Brunswick announced two new cases, which means the province now has 38 active cases. There have been eight deaths and one person is in hospital, in the intensive care unit.

In Alberta, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw released a modified update on Saturday. The province saw an estimated 1,200 new cases on Dec. 24 and 900 new cases on Dec. 25. There was a small increase in the number of patients in the province's ICU, Hinshaw said on Twitter. 

Boxing Day is supposed to be the post-Christmas shopping day that deal hunters have been waiting for, but with non-essential retail shuttered or restricted across much of the country, the usual crowded malls and long lineups are expected to be replaced with internet searches and online orders.

Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba have all closed non-essential retail, while much of the rest of the country has curtailed in-store capacity.

People wear face masks as they make their way through a shopping mall in Montreal in December. In-person shopping for Boxing Day is expected to be sharply down compared with previous years. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, says there will be fire-sale prices on some items.

She said retailers don't want to get stuck with a backlog of holiday and seasonal inventory and also need to shore up their balance sheets in the face of mounting lockdowns and restrictions.

WATCH | Pfizer, Moderna vaccines can be modified to tackle variants, expert says:

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines can be modified to tackle variants: expert

1 year ago
Duration 1:42
According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, vaccines that use mRNA technology can be reverse engineered quite quickly to take on variants — such as the recent U.K. variant of the coronavirus. 1:42

What's happening around the world

As of 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, more than 80.1 million coronavirus cases had been reported worldwide, with more than 45.1 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.

In the Americas, millions of people in the U.S. saw their jobless benefits expire on Saturday after U.S. President Donald Trump refused to sign into law a $2.3 trillion US pandemic aid and spending package, protesting that it did not do enough to help everyday people.

WATCH | Is one COVID-19 vaccine better than another?:

COVID-19: Is one vaccine better than another?

1 year ago
Duration 6:35
Infectious disease physicians answer viewer questions about COVID-19 vaccines, including if one is better than another and how vaccinations will impact the health-care system. 6:35

Trump stunned Republicans and Democrats alike when he said this week he was unhappy with the massive bill, which provides $892 billion in badly needed coronavirus relief, including extending special unemployment benefits expiring on Dec. 26 and $1.4 trillion for normal government spending.

Without Trump's signature, about 14 million people could lose those extra benefits, according to Labor Department data. A partial government shutdown will begin on Tuesday unless Congress can agree on a stop-gap government funding bill.

Brazil has registered 307 new COVID-19 deaths, and 17,246 new cases of coronavirus, the health ministry said on Saturday, as President Jair Bolsonaro said he was not worried about delays in rolling out vaccinations in Latin America's biggest country.

In Europe, Hungary and Slovakia began vaccinating their citizens against COVID-19 on Saturday, a day ahead of rollouts in several other European countries. Mass vaccination across the European Union, home to almost 450 million people, would be a crucial step toward ending the pandemic.

People walk through a deserted check-in hall at the airport in Munich on Saturday, as Germany continues its second lockdown to avoid further spread of the coronavirus. A new, more infectious strain has appeared in Canada for the first time, Ontario health authorities said Saturday. (Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press)

Hungary administered the vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, to front-line workers at hospitals in the capital, Budapest, after receiving its first shipment of enough doses to inoculate 4,875 people.

The rollout came a day before countries including France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Portugal and Spain are planning to begin mass vaccinations, starting with health workers.

In the Middle East, Lebanon's health authorities are planning an increase in testing around the country amid a surge of positive cases during the holiday season and after the first case of the new coronavirus variant was reported there.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced late Friday that a passenger arriving from London a few days earlier tested positive for the new variant. Lebanon has not banned flights from the United Kingdom but asks travellers returning to test at the airport.

In Asia, South Korea posted its second-highest daily number of coronavirus cases on Saturday as outbreaks at a prison, nursing homes and churches continued to grow, prompting authorities to plead for a halt to all year-end gatherings. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said there were 1,132 new coronavirus cases on Friday, not far off the record 1,241 logged a day earlier.

A pastor wearing a face mask sits among empty pews during an online Christmas service at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul on Christmas Day. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, China's capital has urged residents not to leave the city during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays, implementing fresh restrictions after several coronavirus infections last week. Two domestic cases were reported on Friday — a convenience store worker and a Hewlett Packard Enterprise employee. Another two asymptomatic cases were discovered in Beijing earlier in the week.

Beijing is conducting testing on a limited scale in the neighbourhoods and workplaces where the cases were found. To contain any new outbreaks, the Beijing government cancelled big gatherings such as sports events and temple fairs.

Coronavirus infections in Tokyo hit a record daily high of 949 cases on Saturday as Japan heads into the New Year holiday, which normally sees people stream from the capital into the provinces. Serious cases were unchanged from a day earlier at 81. Local media reported subdued scenes at Tokyo transport hubs a day after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, under pressure as daily cases continue to climb, urged the nation to stay home and avoid social mixing.

With files from The Canadian Press, Reuters and The Associated Press

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