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

The Africa director for the World Health Organization has sharply criticized the decisions by some richer countries, including most recently the U.S., to roll out COVID-19 booster shots.

WHO Africa director laments 'mockery of vaccine equity' as richer countries go ahead with COVID booster shots

A South African woman receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Zwartkops Raceway drive-thru vaccination site in Centurion, near Pretoria, on Aug. 13. The country has so far only fully vaccinated less than eight per cent of its population of 60 million. (Luca Sola/AFP/Getty Images)

The latest:

The Africa director for the World Health Organization has sharply criticized the decisions by some richer countries to roll out COVID-19 booster shots.

Matshidiso Moeti told journalists on Thursday that the decisions "threaten the promise of a brighter tomorrow for Africa."

"As some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery of vaccine equity," Moeti said.

African health officials, including the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had warned against booster shots in recent weeks as less than two per cent of the African continent's population of 1.3 billion people is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Moeti noted that the latest resurgence in confirmed coronavirus cases across Africa is levelling off but that "Africa is encountering headwinds" as rich countries decide to roll out booster shots.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday that he and Jill Biden would receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to boost their immunity, as his administration announced booster shots would be offered to Americans in September.

Moeti told reporters she couldn't say with any accuracy whether the doses the U.S. plans to use for booster shots will come from stocks that had been planned for Africa, but "hopefully not."

A Kenyan soldier guards a shipment of 182,000 AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines donated by the Greek government via the COVAX global vaccine sharing initiative at Kenya Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi on Aug. 6. (Brian Inganga/The Associated Press)

In Canada, Ontario has announced it will offer third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable, including transplant patients and people in long-term care, while the Alberta government on Thursday said it expects to make a decision next month on boosters.

The situation in Africa remains "very fragile" as the more infectious delta variant is now dominant in most of the continent's 54 countries, Moeti said. More than 7.3 million cases, and more than 186,000 deaths, have been confirmed across the continent, and health systems are straining to provide medical oxygen and other care.

Moeti pointed out that rich countries have on average administered more than 103 vaccine doses per 100 people, while in Africa it's just six.

Meanwhile, South Africa will open up COVID-19 vaccinations to those between 18 and 35 years old from Friday, the government said in a statement Thursday, as it tries to ramp up its immunization drive.

The country has recorded the most coronavirus infections and deaths on the African continent, but it has so far only fully vaccinated less than eight per cent of its population of 60 million.

The government has set a target of reaching at least 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations a day by the end of this month, but in the latest 24-hour period it managed just 195,000, according to a health department website.

From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

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What's happening around the world

People wear masks as they shop at Pak'nSave supermarket in Albany after mandatory mask use took effect for entry to essential services in Auckland, New Zealand, on Thursday. (Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 209.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's case-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at nearly 4.4 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Sydney's lockdown was extended throughout September on Friday and tougher pandemic restrictions were imposed, including a curfew and compulsory mask wearing outdoors. Australia's largest city has been locked down since June 26, 10 days after the delta variant was first detected in an unvaccinated limousine driver who became infected while transporting a U.S. cargo aircrew from Sydney Airport. 

At the same time, New Zealand's first virus outbreak in six months has spread from the largest city of Auckland to the capital, Wellington. Health authorities said Friday that three people in Wellington who recently visited Auckland had tested positive. 

The government hurriedly put the entire nation into a strict lockdown earlier this week after the first community case was found in Auckland. Genome testing has linked the outbreak to an infected traveler who returned from Sydney earlier this month and was quarantined, although health authorities say they don't yet know how the virus escaped quarantine.

Japan has reported a record for daily coronavirus cases at more than 25,000 on Thursday — likely an undercount in a nation where coronavirus testing hasn't been widespread

In Europe, thousands of people took to the streets of Latvia's capital of Riga late Wednesday to protest mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. The Baltic News Service, the region's main news agency, said the number of people exceeded the maximum allowed for public protests, people did not observe distance and many didn't wear face masks.

People gather in front of the government building during a protest against the government's vaccination policies in Riga, Latvia, on Wednesday. The sign reads, 'Stop forced vaccination.' (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

Meanwhile, Romania reported 595 coronavirus cases, its highest daily number in three months, amid one of the European Union's slowest vaccination campaigns. So far Romania has vaccinated 26 per cent of its population — the EU's second-slowest vaccine campaign after Bulgaria — as concerns grow there over vaccine hesitancy.

In Africa, Tunisia will relax its nightly curfew and cafés and restaurants will be allowed to remain open until 10 p.m., as part of an easing of pandemic restrictions.

The World Health Organization warned that on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Africa is facing new outbreaks of the viral hemorrhagic fevers Marburg and Ebola, risking huge strains on ill-equipped health systems.

In the Middle East, Iran's death toll from COVID-19 exceeded 100,000 with 564 fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours, state TV said, as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spread through the region's worst-hit country.

The head of Israel's medical association is calling on the government to postpone the planned start of the school year because of the surging number of coronavirus infections. Despite a world-leading vaccination campaign, Israel has seen new COVID-19 cases skyrocket in recent weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett looks on as Jawad Masarwa, the local imam of Taibeh, receives a vaccine jab during Bennett's visit to the COVID-19 vaccination centre at the Atid al-Najah High School for the Sciences in Taibeh, northern Israel, on Thursday. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Americas, Mexico is set to receive the first batch of 1.75 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine from the United States this weekend, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Wednesday, shortly after Mexico authorized its emergency use.

The Mexican government last week said that U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris had promised to send 3.5 million Moderna and five million AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines. The country on Wednesday posted a record 28,953 new confirmed infections.

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

With files from CBC News and Reuters

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