Canada·Coronavirus Brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for June 18

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for June 18.
A woman wearing a mask passes by the Santa Justa Lift, the famous elevator in downtown Lisbon. The Portuguese government will limit travel to and from the greater Lisbon area during the weekend following an increase in coronavirus cases in the region. (Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images)

Canadians who received AstraZeneca urged to read the fine print on U.S.-hosted events

New York's reopening has progressed due to a reduction in infections and the progress of the state's vaccination goals, and tourists are again starting to trickle in again to New York City, one of the world's biggest tourist destinations.

But Canadians who've received an AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine dose might want to double-check ticket-buying and venue websites before considering attending a Broadway show, concert or sporting event. The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, making recipients of those doses ineligible to attend a number of New York-based events for the time being.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that discussions are ongoing with other countries concerning how to treat the various vaccines in circulation around the world. He hopes for a resolution in "the coming weeks."

In the meantime, events including the Foo Fighters show this weekend at Madison Square Garden, the upcoming Springsteen on Broadway series of shows in the autumn and live tapings of TV shows including Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert are out of reach for AstraZeneca recipients.

The last three events occur in small theatres and don't easily allow for physically distanced, unvaccinated sections, as some American sports teams are currently allowing.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, urged Canadians on Thursday to look carefully at requirements in other countries and be prepared for shifting rules.

The vaccines that the FDA has authorized are from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician in Hamilton, Ont., said he isn't surprised to see some private and public institutions begin enacting vaccine passports. But he noted the "very arbitrary line" given that there have been troubling but rare blood clot side effects in both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccine recipients.

Chagla said Canadian AstraZeneca recipients may not face the same problems in Europe due to widespread use of the jab there.

He called for world leaders to establish a "benchmark" of potential vaccine requirements.

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Restrictions at U.S. border extended well into July, public safety minister says

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Friday that the Canadian and American governments are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel until July 21.

The measures at the border have been in place since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The pressure to relax the restrictions has been building from businesses on both sides of the border — and increasingly from lawmakers from both American political parties — as vaccination rates climb in Canada.

"We're still seeing cases across the country and we want to get them down," Trudeau said Friday.

The prime minister has said that 75 per cent of Canadians would have to be vaccinated before restrictions could be lifted. Trudeau added the caveat that the outbreak needs to be at a stage where minor flare-ups can be handled without the risk of wider spread.

Trudeau said the government needs to ensure that the communities to which fully vaccinated travellers return are not at risk.

"Even though they are protected from hospitalization, the people around them might not be," Trudeau said.

Blair added in a tweet that the government will provide details Monday of plans to let fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents enter the country.

The federal government has said it anticipates fully vaccinated Canadian citizens who test negative for COVID-19 will be exempt from two weeks of quarantine when returning to the country in early July.

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Delta variant needs to be taken more seriously by provincial government, group of Manitoba doctors says

Manitoba will almost certainly face a fourth COVID-19 wave by fall if it follows through with its current reopening plan, said a group of doctors who expressed worry about the dangers of the delta coronavirus variant.

The modelling the province has used as the basis for its reopening plan has not factored in the delta variant, say the doctors, who held a news conference Friday to make their case.

There were seven delta cases in Manitoba on June 4. As of Friday, there were 130 — a jump of 41 from the day prior — and the doctors expect it to be the dominant strain in the province by mid-summer. Two vaccine doses remain highly effective against delta, but at this point, just over 20 per cent of Manitobans are fully vaccinated, said Dr. Dan Roberts, a critical care physician at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

"We're not in the business of hyperbole or spinning the facts. Our health-care system is on its knees," said Roberts. "The impact of a fourth wave would be catastrophic."

The Manitoba government has predicated its reopening framework on the three summer holidays and the vaccination rates as those dates draw closer.

The doctors are not looking for a lockdown but they are pleading for more caution before reopening and urging the government to vaccinate aggressively.

Read the latest on COVID-19 in Manitoba

Canada expects to have enough doses by the end of July to fully vaccinate everyone eligible

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced Friday that Canada will have enough product on hand by the end of July to fully vaccinate every person eligible for a shot.

That's because the federal government is expecting some 69 million does of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to be delivered to the country over the next six weeks. That figure is an upgrade from the expectation of 55 million shots the federal government promised just last week.

The boosted projection is thanks in large part to Moderna offering a firmer commitment on deliveries in the last two weeks of this month and into July. Pfizer expects to meet its July commitment of 9.1 million doses, though it has told Ottawa to expect more doses in the second half of the month than the first.

With roughly 32 million people over the age of 12 eligible for a vaccine, the country needs 64 million shots to administer the necessary two doses — a threshold the country could hit sometime in July. Vaccines are not yet authorized for those under the age of 12, though both Pfizer and Moderna are conducting trials concerning COVID-19 vaccines and young children.

For several months, Trudeau and federal government officials promised enough product on hand to fully vaccinate all Canadians by the end of September, meaning the country is on track to finish the two-dose regimen roughly two months earlier than planned.

In Ontario, new vaccination records have been set almost daily this week as the province has opened up eligibility to residents in several designated hot spot regions. The 210,638 shots administered Thursday were the new milestone, and now 20 per cent of Ontarians aged 18 and older have received two shots — one of the primary criteria laid out by the province for advancing into the next phase of reopening.

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Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.


Top medical adviser says Tokyo Olympics would be safest with no fans in the stands

A view of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. It has already been determined that spectators from outside of Japan will not be permitted at Olympic stadiums, but a decision is forthcoming regarding Japanese residents. () (Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters)

The 2020 Summer Olympics, delayed a year due to the pandemic, are five weeks away as of Friday. But it's still not clear which way organizers will go when it comes to having domestic spectators.

Fans from abroad were banned several months ago, and organizers are to announce early next week if some local fans should be allowed.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, the top medical adviser for the government, is firmly in the No camp.

"Regardless of holding the Olympics or not, Japan has continuing risks of a resurgence of the infections that puts pressure on the medical systems," he said Friday at a news conference.

Omi, formerly with the World Health Organization, also led a group of 26 experts who've submitted their views in a report.

"We believe the risks of infections inside venues would be lowest by holding the event with no fans," said the report.

Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the local Olympic organizing committee, said that the final decision on fans is likely to be made Monday in a meeting with organizers, the IOC, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Japanese government and the International Paralympic Committee.

Hashimoto said if Tokyo decides to allow fans, the rules will have to be much stricter than for half-filled stadiums in Japan for baseball or soccer, events that are taking place in several cities.

Organizers say about 3.7 million tickets are held by residents of Japan. Opting to stage the Games without fans would likely substantially reduce the number of volunteers that need to be employed.

Emergency measures in Tokyo and other prefectures are being lifted on Sunday, although "quasi-emergency" restrictions will remain in place that may limit bar and restaurant hours.

Read more about the situation

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With files from The Associated Press