Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Oct. 19
New infections in U.K. have averaged more than 44,000 a day over past week, a 16% increase on week before
Most MPs required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when Parliament returns on Nov. 22.
Premier Scott Moe admits Sask. could have responded faster to 4th wave of COVID-19.
The WHO hopes its new panel can determine the origin of COVID-19. Some experts are skeptical.
- Pfizer asks Health Canada to approve COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 to 11 years old.
- Ontario sees 328 new COVID-19 cases as province finalizes plan to vaccinate 5 to 11 year olds.
- Ottawa sending more help to N.W.T. to deal with COVID-19 surge.
- Track how many people have been given the COVID-19 vaccine across Canada.
Many scientists are pressing the British government to reimpose social restrictions and speed up booster vaccinations as coronavirus infection rates rise still further.
The U.K. recorded 43,738 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, slightly down from the 49,156 reported Monday, which was the largest number since mid-July. New infections have averaged more than 44,000 a day over the past week, a 16 per cent increase on the week before.
Britain has Europe's highest rate of infection, but that can misleading: Britain has had free rapid testing available consistently since April, unlike most other European countries. Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told British MPs later in October: "We do have a lot of transmission at the moment but it's not right to say that those rates are really telling us something that we can compare internationally."
In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government lifted all the legal restrictions that had been imposed more than a year earlier to slow the spread of the virus, including face coverings indoors and social distancing rules. Nightclubs and other crowded venues were allowed to open at full capacity, and people were no longer advised to work from home if they could.
Some modellers feared a big spike in cases after the re-opening. That didn't occur, but infections remained high, and recently have begun to increase — especially among children, who remain largely unvaccinated.
Also rising are hospitalizations and deaths, which have averaged 130 a day over the past week, with 223 reported Tuesday alone. This is far lower than when cases were last this high, before much of the population was vaccinated, but still too high, critics of the government say.
Some say Britons have been too quick to return to pre-pandemic behaviour. Masks and social distancing have all but vanished in most settings in England, including schools, though Scotland and other parts of the U.K. remain a bit more strict. Even in shops, where masks are recommended, and on the London transit network, where they are mandatory, adherence is patchy.
A plan to require proof of vaccination to attend nightclubs, concerts and other mass events in England was dropped by the Conservative government amid opposition from lawmakers, though Scotland introduced a vaccine pass program this month.
Some scientists say a bigger factor is waning immunity. Britain's vaccination program got off to a quick start, with shots given to the elderly and vulnerable starting last December, and so far almost 80 per cent of eligible people have received two doses. The early start means millions of people have been vaccinated for more than six months, and studies have suggested vaccines' protection gradually wanes over time.
Millions of people in Britain are being offered booster shots, but critics say the program is moving too slowly, at about 180,000 doses a day. More than half of the people eligible for a booster dose haven't yet received one.
The U.K. also waited longer than the U.S. and many European countries to vaccinate children ages 12-15, and only about 15 per cent in that age group in England have had a shot since they became eligible last month.
- COVID-19 is rising again in the U.K., but many shrug it off
- INTERACTIVE | Where is the coronavirus pandemic getting better or worse?
- Why doctors in Canada say COVID booster shots aren't for everyone — yet
"It's critical we accelerate the booster program," said epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
Ferguson said one factor influencing the U.K.'s high case numbers was that it has relied heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine, "and, while that protects very well against very severe outcomes of COVID, it protects slightly less well than Pfizer against infection and transmission, particularly in the face of the delta variant."
He also noted that "most Western European countries have kept in place more control measures, vaccine mandates, mask-wearing mandates, and tend to have lower case numbers and certainly not case numbers which are going up as fast as we've got."
"But at the end of the day this is a policy decision for government to make," he told the BBC.
'Plan B' on hold
A report by lawmakers released last week concluded that the British government waited too long to impose a lockdown in the early days of the pandemic, missing a chance to contain the disease and leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths. Critics say it is repeating that mistake.
Last month, the prime minister said the country might need to move to a "Plan B" — reintroducing measures such as mandatory masks and bringing in vaccine passes — if cases rose so high in the fall and winter that the health system came under "unsustainable" strain.
For now, the government says it won't change course, but will try to boost vaccination rates with a new ad campaign and an increased number of sites outside of schools where kids can receive their shots.
Johnson's spokesperson, Max Blain, said "we always knew the next few months would be challenging." But he said the government was trying to protect "both lives and livelihoods."
"Clearly we are keeping a very close eye on rising case rates," Blain said. "The most important message for the public to understand is the vital importance of the booster program.
But, he added: "There are no plans to move to Plan B."
— From The Associated Press, last updated at 1:45 p.m. ET
What's happening across Canada
- About 92% of all Alberta Health Services staff have submitted proof of full vaccination.
- B.C. will lift indoor capacity limits next week as 2-dose vaccine requirement takes effect.
- Kids' pandemic art drives Royal Ontario Museum's first ever crowdsourced exhibition.
- Quebec premier plans to lift provincewide state of emergency once youth are vaccinated.
- N.B. to offer booster doses to health-care workers, First Nations communities starting next week.
- Sask. government, chief medical health officer won't detail what COVID recommendations he has made.
- Booster COVID-19 shots coming soon for long-term care residents in N.S.
- All N.W.T. gov't employees will have to show proof of vaccination by Nov. 30.
- No big staffing holes at southern Manitoba care homes as worker vaccine deadlines kick in.
What's happening around the world
As of Tuesday evening, more than 241.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a case-tracking site maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.
In Africa, the South African drug regulator has rejected the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, citing some safety concerns the manufacturer wasn't able to answer.
Burundi is booking appointments for people who want COVID-19 vaccines, months after most African countries embarked on vaccination campaigns.
In Europe, Latvia announced a lockdown from Oct. 21 until Nov. 15 to try to slow a spike in infections in one of the least vaccinated European Union countries.
In the Americas, Mexico's capital returned to the lowest level on its COVID-19 pandemic warning system Monday for the first time since June.
In practice, the shift from the yellow to green category changes meant only small changes to daily life. Mask wearing is still common on streets of the city of 9 million, but the rhythm of life in the capital has long since regained a high degree of normalcy.
Massive outdoor events, which had been operating at 75 per cent capacity, now face no capacity restrictions, though attendees will still be required to wear masks. The move comes just weeks ahead of Mexico City hosting a Formula 1 race.
Meanwhile, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said its decision to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those competing at next year's Beijing Olympics has been met with some resistance.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore reported 3,994 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, its highest since the beginning of the pandemic, as well as seven new deaths. A recent spike in infections after the relaxation of some restrictions has prompted the country to pause further reopening and tighten curbs that limit gatherings.
India's vaccination campaign has slowed despite amassing record stockpiles of vaccine, health ministry data showed.
In Europe, Bulgaria will make a COVID-19 "green certificate" mandatory for indoor access to restaurants, cinemas, gyms and shopping malls, the health minister said on Tuesday, as the country struggles with a rising number of coronavirus infections.
The health pass — a digital or paper certificate showing someone has been vaccinated, tested negative or recently recovered from the virus — was originally conceived to ease travel among European Union states.
- Moscow mayor asks unvaccinated seniors to stay home over next 4 months as part of new restrictions
- Romania's ICUs in crisis as COVID-19 cases rise
Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands jumped 44 per cent in the week through Tuesday, forcing several hospitals in the country to cut back on regular care to deal with a rising number of COVID-19 cases.
In the Middle East, Iran on Monday reported 181 additional deaths linked to COVID-19 and 11,844 additional cases. The country, which has struggled to contain the virus, is seeing cases trend downward after hitting record highs over the summer.
— From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:45 p.m. ET
- A previous version of this article said infection rates in Britain are among Europe's highest. It has been amended to note that the rate should not be compared internationally because of different testing protocols.Nov 12, 2021 3:55 PM ET
With files from Reuters and CBC News