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

Health-care providers in multiple provinces are struggling to keep up with demand for the flu vaccine, as Canadians hope to fend off a "twindemic" of influenza and COVID-19.

Demand for flu vaccine high as Canadians look to avoid a 'twindemic'

Cars line up at a drive-thru COVID test site in Winnipeg. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The latest:

Health-care providers in multiple provinces are struggling to keep up with demand for the flu vaccine, as Canadians hope to fend off a "twindemic" of influenza and COVID-19.

The online booking system in Montérégie, Que., crashed on Tuesday, the first day residents were able to book an appointment through the regional health authority.

A review of Montreal pharmacy locations shows that, in many cases, the first round of vaccinations is already booked up.

WATCH | 'Very important' to get flu shot this year, says expert:

It's vital to get the flu shot this year so hospitals aren't overwhelmed with flu cases during the pandemic, says epidemiologist and cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos. 4:00

"We're overwhelmed," said Fady Kamel, a pharmacist and owner of the Proximed branch in Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, Que. "We're getting a lot of people that are very anxious about their vaccine."

The province has ordered two million doses, which is about 400,000 more than in 2019.

Kamel says he is getting ready for a possible shortage. His pharmacy has ordered 1,000 doses, but he expects the first delivery to be less than half of that.

Experts say that even if the flu vaccine isn't perfect, giving it to as many people as possible will help limit the strain on a health system already burdened with the coronavirus pandemic.

"The system is stretched to the limit," said Dr. Karl Weiss, chief of the infectious diseases division at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital. "So imagine if we have the same season, but we add COVID on top of it."

In Toronto, Dr. Alisa Naiman's North York clinic has 7,000 patients, but she's only received 500 shots so far, including 150 high-dose shots for seniors that have already run out.

Other Ontario health-care providers, from family physicians to hospital workers, are also documenting the surge in demand and raising concerns that limited supplies of the flu vaccine are rapidly drying up.

Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth, a family physician in Ottawa, has 1,400 patients at her clinic but has only received 140 regular shots of the flu vaccine and 15 high-dose versions. That's not nearly enough, she said, to cover her more than 180 patients over the age of 65.

"Who do I give the high dose to, and who do I turn away?" she said.

The province is investing $70 million to purchase more than five million flu vaccine doses, which marks 700,000 more than the approximate usage last year. Ontario will also purchase additional doses if needed, according to the Ministry of Health.  "Broader community distribution of the flu shot, including to primary-care providers and pharmacies, is currently being rolled out and will continue in the coming weeks," the ministry said in a statement.

In British Columbia, some people trying to book flu shots are facing long wait times.

"It's like trying to win a lottery or get tickets to a concert or something," said Naomi McCormick, a mother of two young children in Victoria.

McCormick said her family doctor is not administering flu shots because of COVID-19. Her only option to vaccinate the whole family at once is a public flu clinic, and she's had no luck trying to book online.

In a statement, Vancouver Coastal Health says its flu vaccination program is "getting underway" and is urging residents to begin making appointments. However, its mass public flu clinics aren't yet up and running.

In Nova Scotia, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said there is usually a rush when the first round of flu shots arrive, but any time over the next eight weeks is a good time to get vaccinated.

"We're asking people to be patient," he said.

WATCH | Additional demand, precautions as flu shots become available in Canada:

Flu shot programs have started to roll out across Canada with higher demand and additional COVID-19 precautions. The programs are also being seen as a dry run for when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. 1:59

What's happening across Canada

As of 8:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 191,730 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 161,490 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 9,699.

New Brunswick, the only hot spot in the so-called Atlantic bubble, announced no new COVID-19 cases on Thursday for the first time since Oct. 4.

With one person recovered, the number of active cases dropped to 89 today. Five people remain in hospital, one in intensive care.

WATCH | WestJet slashes routes in Atlantic bubble:

WestJet has slashed its routes to Atlantic Canada by 80 per cent, putting much of the blame on quarantine restrictions in the Atlantic bubble. The Calgary-based airline has promised to restore service, but there are doubts about how quickly that will happen after the pandemic. 1:59

Nova Scotia reported no new cases and one recovery on Thursday, as the COVID Alert app became available in the province.

Eight provinces have now signed on to use the app, which is designed to send users a notification if they've recently spent at least 15 minutes in proximity to another user who tested positive for COVID-19.

Newfoundland and Labrador announced one new COVID-19 case Thursday afternoon.

The Department of Health said there was no risk of transmission to the community as the new confirmed case was identified previously as a close contact of a previous case and was already in quarantine throughout the infectious period.

Quebec on Thursday reported 969 new cases of coronavirus, as well as 30 newly reported deaths. The number of people in hospital is 493, with 83 in intensive care.

Premier François Legault also announced that children will be allowed to go trick-or-treating this year, but with some conditions in place

WATCH | Health minister urges Ontarians to stay within their own regions:

To reduce spread of COVID-19 in Ontario, Health Minister Christine Elliott is asking residents to stay within their own regions and take up home workouts instead of going to gyms. 1:04

Ontario reported 783 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, mainly concentrated in four public health units: Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa. Toronto has consistently seen the most new daily cases throughout the pandemic, but Ottawa currently has the worst per-capita rate of COVID-19 cases in the province, according to officials.

Manitoba reported 173 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the third day in a row the province has set a new record for a single-day increase in cases.

The province also announced another death linked to the illness, a man in his 40s who lived in the Winkler health district and had underlying health conditions.

Saskatchewan reported 33 new COVID-19 cases and 16 new recoveries on Thursday, bringing the total known active cases in the province to 271.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said 25 of those cases are linked to gatherings or as a result of "contact to known cases."

Alberta reported 244 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, as well as one more death.

The latest death is a man in his 80s who is linked to the outbreak at Millwoods Shepherds Care Centre in Edmonton. The outbreak has seen 60 residents and 31 staff test positive for COVID-19, with eight of the residents dying.

WATCH | Kids lacking physical activity during pandemic:

At one point in the pandemic, only five per cent of Canadian children were meeting the minimum requirements for physical activity. Now, school phys-ed programs face new challenges in keeping kids moving without most team sports because of distancing requirements. 4:10

In British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 142 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths.

Her update also included the first confirmed case of multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), a rare condition found in children, that has been linked to COVID-19 through laboratory tests. "The child is fully recovered," Henry said.

WATCH | COVID-19 surge could force more restrictions across Canada:

While the bulk of Canada's COVID-19 cases remain in Ontario and Quebec, other provinces are facing surging outbreaks of their own and could soon face more restrictions. 2:00

Officials in Yukon announced Wednesday that a previously identified "probable" case of COVID-19 was a false alarm.  An individual had tested positive Sunday in Whitehorse using a GeneXpert rapid test. However, a second test was sent to a B.C. lab for validation, and it was found to be negative. 

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the federal government knows of 209 active cases of COVID-19 on First Nations and in Indigenous communities.

He says the figures are troubling and a sign of the pandemic's resurgence across the country. Indigenous leaders worked hard to get the first wave under control and he says they can do it again with proper federal support.

WATCH | Remote First Nation community dealing with quarantine challenges:

A lack of infrastructure is making it hard for people to quarantine under proper guidelines in Kasabonika Lake First Nation in northern Ontario, according to local pandemic lead Keith Mason.   1:12

What's happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 38.8 million. Close to 1.1 million people have died, while more than 26.8 million have recovered.

In the United States, 10 states on Thursday reported record increases in new cases, including Wisconsin with 4,000 new cases. "Our numbers are high and they're growing rapidly," state health secretary-designate Andrea Palm told a news conference.

"We have now surpassed 1,000 COVID-19 patients who are in the hospital. In some regions of our state, our ICU beds are 90 per cent or more full. Over the course of the past six weeks, our average daily deaths have more than tripled," Palm said.

Daily new cases in the Midwest hit a record on Wednesday with over 22,000 new infections. The positive test rate tops 30 per cent in South Dakota and 20 per cent in Idaho and Wisconsin.

Hospitalizations in the Midwest also reached a record high on Wednesday for the 10th day in a row. Nationally, the United States reported nearly 37,000 hospitalizations, the highest since Aug. 28.

A field hospital known as an Alternate Care Facility has been set up at the state fairground near Milwaukee as COVID-19 cases spike in Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Department of Administration/Reuters)

Meanwhile, U.S. Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris will cancel her travel plans through Sunday after one of her staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the campaign said in a statement.

Harris was last tested on Wednesday and was negative, the campaign said. Her communications director, Liz Allen, had tested positive.

Brazil and Paraguay reopened their borders Thursday after more than six months. Brazil's Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement that international traffic on the Friendship Bridge between Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and Paraguay's Ciudad del Este is the first step in a gradual plan to lift restrictions.

Foz do Iguacu saw some 5,700 jobs lost as a result of the pandemic-driven border closings, while 18,000 positions were furloughed or had reductions in salaries or hours, according to the city's commercial and business association.

Record daily infection figures in Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy added to fears on Thursday that Europe is running out of chances to control its latest coronavirus outbreak. France has set a 9 p.m. curfew for many of its biggest cities as governments across the continent take increasingly tough action.

New infections have surged across Europe over recent weeks as the fall kicks in, prompting authorities in many places to start reimposing restrictions that were relaxed over the summer. The Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France and Britain are among the countries causing particular concern.

WATCH | Lockdowns and curfews as Europe fights 2nd wave:

As COVID-19 surges across much of Europe, many countries have taken action by instituting lockdowns or strict curfews while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under fire for not doing enough. 2:06

The British government on Thursday moved London and seven other areas up into its second-highest coronavirus risk tier, which means that more than 11 million people will be barred from meeting with anyone indoors from outside their households and will be asked to minimize travel starting this weekend.

The government is negotiating with the leaders of Manchester, Lancashire and other communities in northern England about moving into the top risk tier, which would require the closure of many businesses.

Speaking to reporters, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham once again rejected government pressure to accept the higher risk rating without further financial support, saying, "They are willing to sacrifice jobs and businesses here to try and save them elsewhere."

WATCH | Manchester mayor decries U.K. government's regional lockdown plan:

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham criticized a plan by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government to move the region to the 'very high' level of alert for coronavirus, vowing to fight back 'for fairness and for the health of our people.'   2:53

While Germany, the European Union's most populous nation, is still in comparatively good shape, alarm bells have started ringing there, too. On Thursday, the country's national disease control centre reported 6,638 cases over 24 hours — exceeding the previous record of nearly 6,300 set in late March, although testing in the country of 83 million has expanded greatly since then.

Hong Kong and Singapore say they have agreed to a bilateral air travel bubble, re-establishing travel links as coronavirus infections in both cities decline.

Under the air travel bubble, travellers from Hong Kong and Singapore will not be restricted on their travel purposes, Hong Kong Commerce Minister Edward Yau said at a news conference on Thursday. This means that tourists from each city will be able to visit the other.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore temporarily closed their borders earlier this year, banning short-term visitors from entering as they fought to reduce coronavirus infections.

Under the air travel bubble, travellers will also not be subject to compulsory quarantine, provided they have taken coronavirus tests mutually recognized by both cities, with a negative test result.

Additionally, travellers are required to fly on dedicated flights, which will only serve travellers between Hong Kong and Singapore.

India has reported its lowest daily increase in coronavirus deaths in nearly three months.

The Health Ministry on Thursday reported 680 fatalities in the past 24 hours, the lowest in 11 weeks, raising the country's death toll since the pandemic began to 111,266. The country was seeing more than 1,000 virus deaths per day last month.

The ministry also reported 67,708 new infections, raising India's total to more than 7.3 million.

According to the ministry, India's average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9, when the virus peaked. Over the last month, the country has been seeing a trend of declining cases on a week-to-week basis.

Health experts have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the religious festival season beginning later this month, which is marked by huge gatherings of people in temples and shopping districts.

Medical professionals release balloons as the last patients are discharged from the temporary field hospital at the Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia on Thursday after being treated for COVID-19. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

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

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