Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Jan. 18
B.C. to gradually open gyms but extends gathering restrictions; P.E.I. closes dining rooms, gyms
- Alberta making 4th vaccine doses available to some immunocompromised people.
- B.C. to gradually reopen gyms, but organized gatherings still prohibited.
- P.E.I. closes dining rooms, gyms, along with other new restrictions.
- Some patients go in for COVID-19, others are infected alongside another issue. In hospitals, those lines blur.
- ANALYSIS | Pfizer's COVID-19 pill could have real impact in Canada — if we can roll it out fast enough.
- Federal nurses, contact tracers on the way as Nunavut reports another death related to COVID-19.
- Some Canadian travellers want to know why those entering from the U.S. face less stringent rules.
British Columbia is gradually reopening gyms and fitness centres, but extending restrictions on organized gatherings and certain venues, as health officials say COVID-19 hospitalizations are at their highest point since the pandemic began.
"We are still in a pandemic, as much as we would like to be over it," Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news conference Tuesday announcing the updated measures.
She said she made the decision to extend gathering restrictions based on the current rate of transmission and hospitalizations. A ban on gatherings like wedding and funeral receptions will stay in place until Feb. 16. Bars, nightclubs and lounges must also stay closed.
- B.C. fitness industry expresses frustration over provincial health orders
- School in B.C.'s Interior closes after teachers refuse to work due to high number of unmasked students
However, gyms and fitness centres across the province will be allowed to start gradually reopening as of Jan. 20.
They will be required to have COVID-19 safety plans in place; masks are still encouraged for people who are working out and required for trainers and instructors. Proof of vaccination will be required to use the facilities.
B.C. health officials reported 854 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 112 in intensive care, as the province recorded two more deaths from the disease and 1,975 new lab-confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, Prince Edward Island announced new restrictions will take effect at midnight, including strict limits to personal gatherings, the continued shutdown of schools and no inside dining at restaurants.
Gyms and all recreations facilities will be closed, and retail stores are limited to 50 per cent capacity with physical distancing.
At a press conference, Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison and Premier Dennis King offered condolences to the families of the two people who died last week from COVID-19, the province's first deaths from the illness.
"Those losses on Friday should bring home why we're doing what we're doing," King said.
The province reported eight COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, with the number of those in ICU rising to four. Island health officials also reported an additional 407 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, a pandemic high for the province.
— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 8 p.m. ET
What's happening across Canada
With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.
Alberta is making fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccine available to people aged 18 and up who have specific immunocompromising conditions and received their third dose at least five months ago.
Giving these individuals a fourth dose "is equivalent to a third dose for others" given that immunocompromised people don't develop the same levels of immunity after vaccination, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said at a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.
The update came as the province reported a total of 1,089 people in hospital with COVID-19, 104 of them in the intensive care unit. The province also reported nine new COVID-related deaths and 3,279 new lab-confirmed cases.
- Alberta-run jails have the highest COVID-19 rate in the country
- Saskatoon, Regina to hit Omicron peak in 1 to 2 weeks: health official
- Students in Manitoba walk out of class to protest lack of COVID-19 safety measures
In the rest of the Prairies provinces, Saskatchewan reported no new deaths on Tuesday, but COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 189, with 18 in ICU. There were 1,089 additional lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Health officials in Manitoba on Tuesday reported three new COVID-19-related deaths. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 620, with 48 in ICU. The province also reported 847 new lab-confirmed cases, as its five-day positivity rate dipped slightly to 34.2 per cent.
As Manitoba students returned to in-class learning yesterday, the Winnipeg School Division said it was still waiting for some of the promised pandemic prevention supplies. The province has promised more masks and rapid tests, and asked schools to create more space so students can stay distanced from each other.
In Ontario, some students were back in classrooms after a planned return Monday was delayed by a powerful winter storm. Schoolchildren had been learning remotely since the end of the holiday break amid high COVID-19 transmission.
However, some in the Toronto area continued remote education, while others had a snow day before an expected return on Wednesday.
The province reported 4,183 hospitalizations, with 580 people in intensive care. It also reported 37 additional deaths and 7,086 additional lab-confirmed cases.
- Toronto's two major school boards will open for in-person learning Wednesday
- 4-year-old girl dies of COVID-19 in Quebec City
In Quebec, many students also returned to classrooms following COVID- and storm-related delays. The province on Tuesday reported 3,417 COVID-19 hospitalizations — a pandemic high — with 289 people in intensive care units. It also reported 89 additional deaths and 5,143 additional lab-confirmed cases.
Officials say the province will begin receiving the sought-after antiviral drug Paxlovid, though Health Minister Christian Dubé said the treatment isn't expected to affect the number of hospitalizations immediately and it is too soon to relax pandemic measures.
The briefing came as Quebec expanded its proof-of-vaccination system to liquor and cannabis stores.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador health officials on Tuesday reported two additional COVID-19 deaths. The province also reported 14 hospitalizations, including three people receiving critical care. The update came as the province reported 295 additional lab-confirmed cases.
Health officials in Nova Scotia on Tuesday reported one additional death and 73 COVID-19 hospitalizations, including 15 in intensive care. The province also reported an additional 415 lab-confirmed cases.
- N.B. teachers seek investment in COVID measures for safe return to in-person classes
- N.L. truck driver says there's confusion over COVID-19 regulations — and no rapid testing upon arrival
In New Brunswick, three deaths were reported on Tuesday. The province, which is currently under tight restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19, reported a total of 113 hospitalizations — including 15 people receiving intensive care. The province also reported an additional 330 lab-confirmed cases.
In the North, Nunavut on Tuesday reported one additional COVID-19 death, along with 27 new lab-confirmed cases. The update came as Premier P.J. Akeeagok announced the federal government would be deploying three nurses and nine contact tracers to assist with the current COVID-19 wave. The contact tracers will work from outside the territory.
Yukon reported 27 new lab-confirmed cases, while the Northwest Territories added 367.
- Yukon University sticks with online learning for most
- Nunavut cuts down COVID-19 isolation times as some lockdown measures lift
- First COVID-19 death reported in N.W.T. since Omicron outbreak began
— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET
What's happening around the world
As of Tuesday evening, roughly 333.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.5 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong authorities said they will kill about 2,000 small animals, including hamsters, after several tested positive for the coronavirus at a pet store where an employee was also infected. They said the city will also stop the sale of hamsters and the import of small mammals.
The pet shop employee tested positive for the Delta variant on Monday, and several hamsters imported from the Netherlands at the store tested positive as well. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said animals do not appear to play a significant role in spreading the coronavirus. But Hong Kong authorities said they are not ruling out transmission between animals and humans.
Japan's government is preparing restrictions in Tokyo and other regions as the Omicron variant infects more people. The order will be finalized this week and is likely to take effect Friday, a government spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Australia reported a record high of 74 COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, and its second-largest state declared an emergency in hospitals to cope with surging patient admissions and a staffing shortage.
In the Middle East, Abu Dhabi is requiring people entering the city to show proof of booster shots as the United Arab Emirates faces a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases.
The government's health app said earlier this week that people entering the capital must show a "green pass," confirming their vaccination status. The app says that visitors are no longer considered fully vaccinated unless they have received a booster at least six months after their second dose.
Those wishing to enter Abu Dhabi also must have have tested negative for the virus within the last two weeks to maintain their "green" status.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Monday reported 1,691 new cases of COVID-19 and 87 additional deaths — though officials noted that the majority of those deaths had not occurred in the past 48 hours.
Due to the ongoing audit exercise by the National Department of Health (NDoH), there may be a backlog of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a> mortality cases reported. Today, the NDoH reports 87 deaths and of these, 25 occurred in the past 24 - 48 hours. This brings the total fatalities to 93 451 to date.—@HealthZA
In the Americas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday advised against travel to 22 nations and territories because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases, including for Israel, Australia, Egypt, Albania, Argentina and Uruguay.
Those countries, along with Canada, are among the roughly 100 countries and territories at the CDC's highest level of warning for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the White House said the U.S. government's new COVIDTests.gov website, set up for American households to order four free COVID-19 tests amid the Omicron surge, is up and running ahead of its official launch on Wednesday.
In Europe, Russian authorities are shortening the required isolation period for people infected with COVID-19 from 14 to seven days as the country faces another surge of COVID-19 cases, this time driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who runs the country's coronavirus task force, said Tuesday that health officials were "optimizing our approaches to quarantine and testing of our citizens, including shortening the quarantine period to seven days."
Golikova added that other policy changes will be adopted in the coming days, without elaborating. She also didn't explain the rationale for cutting the isolation period. Earlier rules required a two-week isolation period for those who test positive, with a mandatory follow-up test on day 11.
Russia already has by far Europe's worst death toll in the pandemic at over 322,000 deaths by its official tally, a number that other statistics suggest is a significant undercount.
The daily number of coronavirus infections confirmed in Russia has doubled over the past week, going from over 15,000 on Jan. 10 to 31,252 on Tuesday. Officials say the surge could end up as the country's biggest yet but so far haven't announced any major restrictions to stem it.
— From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 p.m. ET
With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters