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

Russia on Friday reported another record of daily coronavirus deaths as authorities hoped to stem the contagion by keeping most people off work.

Russia, Ukraine struggling with surging COVID-19 cases

The Russian capital has started a non-working period intended to stem coronavirus infections as daily cases and deaths from COVID-19 surged to all-time highs. Kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores are closed, and restaurants and cafés can provide only takeout or delivery service (Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)

The latest:

Russia on Friday recorded another record of daily coronavirus deaths as authorities hoped to stem contagion by keeping most people off work.

The government's coronavirus task force reported 1,163 deaths in 24 hours, the largest daily number since the pandemic began. The latest deaths brought the total toll to 236,220, by far the highest in Europe.

The task force counts only deaths directly caused by the virus. The state statistics service Rosstat, which counts COVID-19 deaths by wider criteria, released figures on Friday indicating a much higher toll.

Rosstat counted 44,265 deaths in September directly caused by the virus or in which it was a contributing cause. That would bring Russia's pandemic-long death toll to about 461,000 as of the end of September, nearly twice the task force's count.

Either death figure places Russia among the worst-hit countries in the world during the pandemic.

To contain the spread of infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a non-working period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when most state organizations and private businesses are to suspend operations. He encouraged Russia's worst-hit regions to start sooner, and some ordered most residents off work earlier this week.

Moscow introduced the measure starting from Thursday, shutting kindergartens, schools, gyms, entertainment venues and most stores, and restricting restaurants and cafes to only takeout or delivery. Food stores, pharmacies and companies operating key infrastructure remained open.

Access to museums, theatres, concert halls and other venues is limited to people holding digital codes on their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, a practice that will remain in place after Nov. 7. Unvaccinated people older than 60 have been ordered to stay home.

A museum security officer, right, scans a QR code to confirm visitors' vaccination status at the entrance of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow on Thursday. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)

The number of new daily cases in Russia rose by 39,849 on Friday, just below an all-time record reported the previous day. The government hopes that by keeping most people out of offices and public transportation, the non-working period would help curb the spread, but many Russians rushed to use the surprise time off for a seaside vacation in the country's south or to take a trip to Egypt or Turkey.

Record case numbers in Ukraine

Ukraine's president, meanwhile, on Friday pleaded with citizens to get vaccinated quickly as daily infections soared to another all-time high, fuelled by a slow vaccine uptake.

The Health Ministry reported 26,870 new confirmed infections in 24 hours — the highest level since the start of the pandemic. It recorded 648 daily deaths to bring the pandemic death toll to 66,852.

Authorities blamed the surge in infections and deaths on a low level of vaccination. Just 16.4 per cent of people in the nation of 41 million are fully vaccinated — the second-lowest rate in Europe after Armenia's seven per cent.

The slow pace of vaccinations in Ukraine and other countries of Eastern Europe has been blamed on public distrust of authorities that has contributed to the broad spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines.

People wait to receive an injection of vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination centre in a shopping mall in Kyiv, Ukraine, earlier this week. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

"I'm strongly asking you to switch off social networks and switch on your brains," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainians. "The only way to prevent a collapse is to increase the share of vaccinated people. I'm asking regional authorities to wake up and go to bed with that thought."

In a bid to stem contagion, Ukrainian authorities have required teachers, government employees and other workers to get fully vaccinated by Nov. 8 or face having their salary payments suspended. In addition, proof of vaccination or a negative test is now required to board planes, trains and long-distance buses.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 3:35 p.m. ET

What's happening in Canada

A Canadian decision on whether to approve Pfizer Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccine for those aged 5 to 11 will not come before the middle or end of November, a senior official said on Friday.

"I think we're still at least a few weeks away from a final decision," Health Canada Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said Friday at a public briefing on COVID-19 in Canada.

-From Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:55 a.m. ET

What's happening around the world

People line up outside a vaccination site in Beijing on Friday after the city started offering COVID-19 booster shots to vaccinated residents. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

As of Friday evening, more than 245.9 million COVID-19 cases had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's online coronavirus database. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.

The World Health Organization said Friday that its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is running unopposed for a second five-year term. The UN health agency made the announcement after the deadline for candidacies for the next term expired on Sept. 23. The formal selection of the next director general takes place at the WHO's next assembly in May.

Tedros, an Ethiopian national who is the first African to head WHO, has overseen the agency's complex response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has overshadowed his tenure. Trained in biology and infectious diseases with a doctorate in community health, he is also the first WHO chief who is not a medical doctor.

In Europe, health officials in Poland on Friday reported 9,387 new cases — the highest figure the country has seen since April — with 102 deaths. The government will have to consider tighter curbs if average daily cases exceed 7,000 at the end of the month, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski was quoted as saying earlier this week.

In the Americas, 10 states filed a lawsuit on Friday to stop U.S. President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors, arguing that the requirement violates federal law. Attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming signed on to the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal district court in Missouri. The states asked a federal judge to block Biden's requirement that all employees of federal contractors be vaccinated against the coronavirus, arguing that the mandate violates federal procurement law and is an overreach of federal power.

Demonstrators carry placards during a protest by New York City Fire Department union members, municipal workers and others against the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandates, on Manhattan's Upper East Side on Thursday. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

In Africa, Kenya's Health Ministry on Thursday reported 80 new cases and four additional deaths. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, the island nation of Tonga has reported its first-ever case of COVID-19 after a traveller from New Zealand tested positive. Tonga is among the few remaining nations in the world that have avoided outbreaks of the virus. Like many of its neighbours, Tonga's isolation has helped keep it safe, but it faces big challenges should the virus take hold due to an under-resourced health system. The traveller has been isolating at a quarantine hotel. 

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 tourists visiting China's Inner Mongolia region have been sent to hotels to undergo two weeks of quarantine. The move follows reports of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the vast, lightly populated region that attracts visitors with its mountains, lakes and grasslands. 

In the Middle East, Iran on Thursday reported 159 additional deaths and 11,409 additional cases of COVID-19.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 8:10 p.m. ET

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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