Nfld. & Labrador

More vaccines coming in regular shipments, with 'positive news' on horizon: Haggie

Of five new cases reported Friday, four are travel-related, while the fifth is under investigation.

N.L. reports 5 new cases; 4 are travel-related, while the 5th is under investigation.

More shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are on the way, says Health Minister John Haggie.

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 as the province prepares for more shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

There are three new cases in the Central Health region and two in the Eastern Health region. Four of the new cases are travel-related, while one of the cases in Eastern Health is still under investigation by public health officials, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald on Friday during the Department of Health's COVID-19 briefing. 

One person remains in hospital due to the virus. The total number of cases in Newfoundland and Labrador is now 372.

As a result of two of the new cases in the Central Health region health officials are asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 8862 from Halifax to Gander arriving Dec. 7 to call 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing.

The health department is also asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada flight AC 8862 from Halifax to Gander that arrived Tuesday to get tested.

Two new recoveries were also reported, bringing the total number of recoveries to 341 with four deaths since the pandemic hit the province. There are 27 active cases.

Health Minister John Haggie said higher daily numbers of cases are expected as people return to the province this time of year, but that's not a reason to be complacent. 

"The concern from our point of view is simply that everyone follows the rules about quarantine and listens to Dr. Fitzgerald's advice," he said. 

In total, 69,461 people have been tested. That's an increase of 663 in the last day, the second-highest single-day total since testing began.

Watch the full Dec. 18 update:

Fitzgerald said new cases have been "fairly well contained," as the majority are travel-related. She said there hasn't been much spread of the virus outside households, and when there has been, they've been able to get control of it and prevent further spread.

Haggie said every cluster the province has seen can be traced back to a travel source, even though the traveller might not have been the first person to test positive.

In a media release the Department of Health provided an update to Thursday's three cases, which had been under investigation. The department said one case is related to international travel, the second case is a person returning to Newfoundland and Labrador from the United States, while the third case is a close contact of the second case.  

Vaccine rollout continues

Haggie said the province has received a vaccine delivery schedule from Pfizer-BioNTech, and there will be another shipment to take the province through until the new year.

Another two trays of the vaccination are expected to be delivered to the province early next week, he said, with another four expected between Christmas and the end of the month. From there, the province should receive four trays on a weekly or 10-day schedule, Haggie said. Each tray holds 975 doses, and each shipment is 1,950 doses.

"That will allow us to plan for rolling it out. At the moment, though, they have not relaxed their restrictions that it has to be dispensed or used from the point of arrival," said Haggie. 

"So once we get our ultra-low freezers across the province, then the vaccine will be taken there directly rather than necessarily coming into St. John's."

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says new COVID-19 cases have been contained, and more are expected as people return to the province for the holidays. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Haggie said the next location to receive a freezer will be Happy Valley-Goose Bay, possibly within the next 10 days. Three more will follow, one in Labrador West, one in western Newfoundland and one in central Newfoundland.

The health minister also said Moderna, whose vaccine is waiting for approval by Health Canada, is changing some restrictions on how its vaccine can be transported to make it easier to ship to rural areas. 

Fitzgerald said anyone who receives a vaccine will be told which one they are getting. 

Roughly 160 doses were administered to front-line health-care workers on Thursday, Haggie said, with the same number on Friday. 

Haggie said vaccinations will continue through the weekend and more accurate figures will be available by Monday or Tuesday. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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