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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Feb. 2

To date, Canada's provinces have reported more than 135 cases of the B117 variant first reported in the U.K. and at least 13 cases of the B1351 variant first reported in South Africa.

Sask., New Brunswick report variant cases, Canada signs deal to manufacture vaccine domestically

Vaccines still powerful tool against COVID-19, even with variants, says specialist

News

6 months ago
3:33
The COVID-19 variant found in South Africa may make vaccines somewhat less effective, but they still help to stop severe illness and death, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla. 3:33

The latest:

  • Quebec businesses, hair salons can open on Monday, curfew to remain in place.
  • New Brunswick, Saskatchewan confirm their first cases of the coronavirus variant initially discovered in the U.K.
  • Canada inks deal to produce millions of COVID-19 shots domestically.
  • Data issues mean just 745 new COVID-19 cases officially logged in Ontario.
  • Capt. Sir Tom Moore, who raised millions to fight pandemic, has died, family says.
  • Biden administration will begin providing COVID-19 vaccines to U.S. pharmacies, part of its plan to ramp up vaccinations.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration announced Tuesday that it is moving to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, freeing up more doses for states and beginning to distribute them to retail pharmacies next week.

The push comes amid new urgency to speed up vaccinations to prevent the spread of potentially more serious strains of the virus that has killed more than 445,000 Americans.

Starting next week, one million doses will be distributed to some 6,500 pharmacies across the country, the White House said. The administration is also boosting by 500,000 the weekly allocation of vaccines sent directly to states and territories for the coming weeks, up to 10.5 million. It is allowing state and local governments to receive additional federal dollars to cover previously incurred expenses relating to the pandemic.

Coronavirus co-ordinator Jeff Zients announced the moves on a call with the country's governors on Tuesday morning and then detailed them to the public at an afternoon news conference.

A woman walks past a COVID-19 vaccination site, closed due to the inclement weather, in New York on Tuesday. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

Drugstores have become a mainstay for flu shots and shingles vaccines, and the industry is capable of vaccinating tens of millions of people monthly. "This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities," Zients said.

"This is a critical step to provide the public with convenient trusted places to get vaccinated in their communities," he added.

The number of participating pharmacies and the allocation of vaccines are expected to accelerate as drug-makers increase production. The White House said the ultimate goal was to distribute the vaccines through more than 40,000 pharmacies nationwide. State and local guidelines will determine who is eligible to get a shot at their neighbourhood pharmacy. Availability will be limited initially.

The partnership with drugstores was originally announced by the Trump administration in November. At that time, no coronavirus vaccines had been approved. Participating are major chains such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid, big-box stores such as Walmart and Costco and supermarket pharmacies. CVS said it will receive 250,000 doses initially, to be distributed to pharmacies in 11 states.

People wait in their vehicles after receiving their shot at the Dodger Stadium COVID-19 vaccination site in Los Angeles on Monday. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

The pharmacy doses will be distributed to states by population, but a priority will be to get the vaccine to minority communities that have suffered a disproportionately high toll of disease and deaths from the virus, Zients said.

The vaccine is free to Americans, thanks to legislation passed by Congress. To date, the government has distributed nearly 50 million doses, of which about 32 million have been administered, or more than 60 per cent. That's a marked improvement from just a few weeks ago.

Even with the massive snowstorm that has hit the Northeast, Zients said that "all vaccine doses have been available to the states on schedule." But he acknowledged some vaccination centres have had to temporarily close due to the weather.

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


What's happening in Canada

WATCH | Some say travel restrictions are not enough to prevent COVID-19 spread:

Experts worry travel restrictions leave holes in preventing COVID-19 spread

The National

6 months ago
2:48
New federal travel restrictions take effect this week, including mandatory quarantine in a hotel and a temporary suspension on Canadian airline flights to Mexico and the Caribbean, but some experts already say the plan has too many holes to be truly effective. 2:48

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government has inked a deal that will see COVID-19 vaccines churned out on home soil. Trudeau said the federal government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Novavax to start producing immunization doses at the Royalmount facility in Montreal.

The Novavax vaccine is currently under review by Health Canada. If approved, it would eventually leave Canada less reliant on foreign production for the most sought-after product in the world.

Trudeau also said the government is investing $25 million in Vancouver-based biotechnology company Precision NanoSystems to build a manufacturing centre, with the ultimate goal of producing up to 240 million vaccine doses per year.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said at a briefing on Tuesday that national daily case counts have been declining over the past two to three weeks, but she cautioned that communities need to remain vigilant and follow public health measures aimed at slowing transmission.

"We must hold fast to these measures to prevent re-acceleration of the epidemic and limit the spread of more infectious virus variants," Tam said.

WATCH | Variants could change Canada's COVID-19 situation 'rapidly,' experts say:

Variants could change Canada’s COVID-19 situation ‘rapidly’: experts

The National

6 months ago
2:05
Even as overall COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward across Canada, health officials are increasingly concerned about the spread of two variants: one first detected in the U.K. and another in South Africa, which experts say could ‘rapidly’ change the situation in Canada. 2:05

To date, provinces have reported more than 135 cases of the B117 variant first reported in the U.K. and at least 13 cases of the B1351 variant first reported in South Africa, Tam said.

"We're in a very delicate period right now, where vaccines are just beginning to roll out," she said. "So I think the message is really, 'Hang on in there for a bit longer,' so that the vaccine programs can accelerate."

Relaxation of restrictions needs to happen "very cautiously" and take into account the public health system's capacity and the local health-care system's capacity, she said.

As of 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 786,419 cases of COVID-19 — with 49,562 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 20,215.

Testers at Toronto’s Pearson airport wait for passengers who are among the first to get mandatory COVID-19 tests to disembark from international flights on Monday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario saw a substantial drop in its reported COVID-19 numbers on Tuesday, but officials said a data migration by Toronto Public health had an impact on the numbers. Health Minister Christine Elliott reported just 745 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Hospitalizations stood at 1,192, with 341 people in intensive care units.

"Please note that Toronto Public Health has now migrated all of their data to the provincial data system, CCM," Elliott said in a tweet. "This migration has impacted today's daily counts, resulting in an underestimation of cases. We anticipate fluctuations in case numbers over the next few days."

The province on Monday recorded its first case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa, saying a case was detected in Peel Region.

Meanwhile, New Brunswick has reported its first cases of the coronavirus variant initially detected in the U.K. Two cases were detected in the Saint John region and one in the Miramichi region. Two of the cases are related to international travel and one is related to travel in Canada.

"The arrival of the variant will put more pressure on our health system," Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said. "It is a very fast-moving strain and it will be difficult to get ahead of it."

The province reported 25 new cases on Tuesday, the majority of them in the Edmundston region.

Saskatchewan reported 223 new cases and eight new deaths as it, too, confirmed that the COVID-19 variant first discovered in the U.K. has arrived in the province.

The variant was detected in two residents in the Regina zone. The province said one of the cases had travelled from the U.K. to Canada, while the second variant case is a close contact of the traveller.

In Quebec, Premier François Legault announced Tuesday that businesses, museums and hair salons will be allowed to open starting Monday, but a provincewide curfew will remain in place.

Though hospital cases are declining, Legault said, 34 per cent of surgeries and other treatments are delayed, and he does not want to put more pressure on medical staff. The province reported 1,053 new cases on Tuesday and 38 more deaths. 

Quebec public health officials announced last week they are setting aside more resources and money to test for COVID-19 variants.

A pedestrian walks down Saint-Catherine Street during a snowstorm in Montreal on Tuesday. Quebec reported 1,053 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday for a total of 264,526 since the pandemic began. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta is also addressing concern over possibly more transmissible strains by changing self-isolation rules for those infected with COVID-19 variants. In some cases people may end up in quarantine for up to 24 days, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said at a briefing Tuesday.

The province reported 268 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 13 more deaths.

In other provincial updates, Nova Scotia reported one new case on Tuesday, Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases and P.E.I. did not provide an update. Manitoba reported 83 new cases, with the majority in the Northern health region. British Columbia announced 429 new cases and eight more deaths.

In the North, the Northwest Territories reported two new cases, and Nunuvat and Yukon reported none. 

Here's a look at what's happening across the country:

- From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 p.m. ET


What's happening around the world

As of Tuesday evening, more than 103.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 57.5 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.2 million.

In Europe, Britain began a door-to-door COVID-19 testing of 80,000 people on Tuesday in a bid to stem the spread of a variant of the novel coronavirus first identified in South Africa.

Public Health England said it had identified a total of 105 cases of the variant since Dec. 22, and to contain new outbreaks, residents in eight areas of the country will now be tested whether or not they are showing symptoms, a process known as "surge testing."

People get tested in Walsall, England, as local authorities prepare to deploy more testing in a bid to track down a COVID-19 variant found in the area. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Children in classes up to fourth grade will return to school Feb. 8 in Denmark after the country saw a steady reduction in new COVID-19 infections in recent weeks. Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said it was "a careful reopening," noting the Scandinavian country is still dealing with the virus variant first reported in Britain that has been spreading in Denmark despite overall declining numbers of new infections.

Staff at schools will undergo regular testing and parents will be required to wear face masks on school sites. Denmark has recorded 2,145 deaths and 198,960 cases.

In the Middle East, Dubai will start vaccinating people with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the state media office said on Tuesday, as the United Arab Emirates battles its biggest outbreak since the pandemic began.

The first shipment has arrived from India, the state media office said in a tweet. It did not provide details on how many doses were received or when inoculations would start.

In Africa, Zimbabwe will have access to a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine soon, China's ambassador in Harare said, as Beijing ramps up its availability to developing nations.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Malaysia's government extended a lockdown and broad movement restrictions by two weeks as a surge in infections has pushed the cumulative total past 200,000 cases.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Tuesday that he is extending a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and nine other areas through March 7, amid growing uncertainty over the national rollout of vaccines and the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

People walk along Nakamise Shopping Street near Sensoji Temple, normally a hugely popular destination for foreign tourists, on Tuesday in Tokyo. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Under the state of emergency, the government has issued non-binding requests for people to avoid crowds and eating out in groups, and for restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m.

New cases have declined in Tokyo and nationwide since early January, but experts say hospitals remain flooded with serious cases and that preventive measures should remain in place.

World Health Organization experts have visited an animal disease centre in the Chinese city of Wuhan as part of their investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. A team member said they met with staff in charge of the health of livestock in Hubei province, toured laboratories and had an "in-depth" discussion with questions and answers.

Meanwhile, WHO officials in Geneva were pushing back against suggestions the team was not getting enough access or data. The officials said the agency was continuing to ask for more data. They also said the team planned to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology, considered among the major sources of information about the origins of the coronavirus.

China reported the fewest new COVID-19 cases in a month as imported cases overtook local infections, official data showed on Tuesday, suggesting its worst wave since March 2020 is being stamped out ahead of an important holiday.

In the Americas, an official with the Pan American Health Organization said on Tuesday that at least 1.4 million vaccines have been set aside for Venezuela in the COVAX coronavirus vaccine program, but Caracas will need to pay for them within a week.

PAHO said last month that lack of payment would prevent Venezuela from participating in COVAX, which is meant to ensure that developing nations get timely access to coronavirus vaccines.

- From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press and CBC News

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