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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Jan. 4

Canadians are seeing surgeries postponed, access to COVID-19 testing reduced and a return to classes delayed as provinces continue to struggle with a sustained wave of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Armed Forces personnel being deployed to Quebec to help with vaccination efforts

Staff shortages, rising COVID-19 admissions add strain on Canadian hospitals

5 months ago
Duration 4:22
Hospitals across Canada are bracing themselves for rising admissions as Omicron-related staff shortages add extra pressure to the variant's wave.

The latest:

Canadians in some parts of the country saw surgeries postponed, access to COVID-19 testing reduced and a return to classes delayed as provinces continued to struggle on Tuesday with a sustained wave of cases and hospitalizations.

Ontario health officials said the province would delay all surgeries deemed non-urgent starting Wednesday as Ontario deals with the dual pressures of rising admissions and increased staff absences.

Chris Simpson of Ontario Health, the agency overseeing the health system, said staff need to be redeployed to hospital wards dealing with shortages or to help admit people who are sick with COVID-19.

While fewer people are experiencing COVID pneumonia during the Omicron wave, many are being hospitalized for short stays or with chronic illnesses worsened by a COVID-19 infection, Simpson said.

In British Columbia, hospitalizations from COVID-19 infections are up by more than 54 per cent from last week, when 193 people were in hospital with the disease, and about 7.97 per cent from a month ago when 276 people were in hospital.

The number of patients in intensive care is up by about 30.3 per cent from 66 a week ago and down by 9.47 per cent from a month ago when 95 people were in the ICU.

Quebec on Tuesday announced it was limiting access to PCR tests to "high risk" individuals, and was asking the general public to stay home and isolate if they have symptoms instead of seeking a test.

The decision is intended to ensure there are enough tests for vulnerable people such as hospital patients and care home residents amid unprecedented demand and expected supply shortages, a health official said.

The province also became the latest to reduce the recommended minimum isolation time for vaccinated individuals to five days, down from 10. Health-care workers in direct contact with patients must stay home for seven days before returning to work.

Quebec has reduced the recommended minimum isolation time for vaccinated individuals to five days, down from 10. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan, meanwhile, said it was opening up fourth doses to people who are immunocompromised, provided it has been three months since their third shot.

Many provinces have also chosen to delay the beginning of in-person schooling in the new year in an effort to limit the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. 

Manitoba, which had already pushed back the post-holiday return to Jan. 10 from Jan. 6, announced that it was delaying that by another week. Remote classes are to begin next week, Premier Heather Stefanson said.

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Alberta, which also delayed in-person classes until Jan. 10, made no further changes since its school announcement Thursday.

Prince Edward Island announced that it will extend public health measures, including online learning in schools, until at least Jan. 17.

British Columbia delayed the return to school by one week after the winter break and the provincial health officer said that will not be extended.

"We know that schools are safe and are essential for emotional and intellectual development," Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:20 p.m. ET


What's happening across Canada

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COVID-19: What are the new symptoms?

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Infectious diseases specialists Dr. Danielle Martin and Dr. Zain Chagla answer questions about COVID-19, including how to recognize and respond to new and evolving symptoms.

With testing capacity strained, 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 begin to report more precise data that separates the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also happen to test positive for COVID-19. For more detail on what is happening in your community, click through to the regional coverage below.

In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said on Tuesday that students would not be back inside classrooms until at least Jan. 17, as his province became the latest to shift to remote learning.

The update came as provincial health officials reported 198 new cases of COVID-19. Dr. Heather Morrison said there were three patients in hospital being treated for COVID-19.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported 493 new cases on Tuesday. The province is in "Alert Level 4," with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald noting active cases in the province have increased from 30 to nearly 3,000 in the last two weeks. New restrictions, which include further capacity restrictions at gyms and restaurants, will be re-assessed on Jan. 17.

Health officials in New Brunswick reported 746 new cases and three additional deaths Tuesday. The province's Public Health department said in a release that 16 people are in intensive care and another 40 are in hospital for a total of 56 people hospitalized. Of those in hospital, 37 are over the age of 60, with 11 people on a ventilator. New PCR testing restrictions come into effect tomorrow

Nova Scotia reported 1,020 new cases Tuesday, matching the number reported the day before. 

Quebec is reporting another jump in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, as well as 21 more deaths linked to the pandemic. Health authorities say 1,592 people are currently in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 196 from the previous day. The number of people in intensive care rose by four to 185, according to details posted by the provincial health ministry on Twitter.

Quebec reported 14,494 new cases of COVID-19 today, with 28.1 per cent of tests analyzed in the previous 24 hours coming back positive.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced a shift to remote learning on Monday — less than a week after his government insisted in-person classes would resume after only a two-day delay. The update came as the province announced thousands of hospital procedures would be delayed as the province tightened restrictions in the face of a wave of Omicron cases.

The province on Tuesday reported 11,352 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths.

Across the North, health officials in the Northwest Territories reported there have been at least 200 new cases diagnosed since New Year's Eve, with exact numbers expected later in the day. 

"COVID-19 infections are now in multiple communities, and for the first time, there are COVID-19 infections in every region of the territory," Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer for the territory, said during a briefing Tuesday.

The mayor of the small community of Arviat, in Nunavut, says resources are "stretched right to the limit" by contact tracing as officials try to stay on top of COVID-19 cases. The territory reported nine new cases Tuesday, while Yukon reported 31. The total case count in Yukon is now 269, with results pending for more than 200 tests.

In the Prairies, Manitoba's number of active COVID-19 infections has swelled by thousands since the last update on New Year's Eve. The province reported 1,757 new cases on Tuesday and two additional deaths. A total of 251 people are in Manitoba hospitals with COVID-19, up from 228 on Monday, with 32 of them in intensive care units.

The province is shifting to one week of remote learning after the extended holiday break with kids not back in class until Jan. 17. 

Health officials in Saskatchewan reported a total of 1,954 new cases over the past four days, along with five additional deaths. Both the premier and health minister announced they are self-monitoring for symptoms after a possible COVID-19 exposure Dec. 30.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday that the province is dealing with more than 30,000 confirmed active COVID-19 cases — but he says the actual number is much higher because not every one with symptoms is able to get a PCR test anymore. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported Tuesday a total of 12,965 new COVID-19 cases since New Year's Eve. The breakdown was 4,570 on Dec. 31, 3,323 on Jan 1, 2,059 on Jan. 2, and 3,013 for Jan. 3. There were also 12 additional deaths, including a child. 

Hinshaw said the positivity rate over the four days was 28-36 per cent — the highest it's been since the pandemic began.

In British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that the province is in a "a different race" with the pandemic, given the ongoing surge of the Omicron variant, which has become the dominant strain in the province. 

"A lot of people will get sick, and we are seeing that now. But your vaccine will protect most people from serious illnesses and from hospitalizations," she said during a briefing. "All of us have to be proactive in how we prevent ourselves from getting sick and how we prevent transmission to others." 

There were 2,542 new COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday, along with four additional deaths. 

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6 p.m. ET


What's happening around the world

As of Tuesday evening, there were nearly 295 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.4 million.

In the Americas, the United States set a global record of almost one million new coronavirus infections reported on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, nearly double the country's peak of 505,109 hit just a week ago as the highly contagious Omicron variant shows no sign of slowing.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has risen nearly 50 per cent in the last week and now exceeds 100,000, a Reuters analysis showed, the first time that threshold has been reached since the winter surge a year ago.

WATCH | U.S. President Joe Biden urges Americans to get vaccinated amid Omicron surge:

U.S. reports more than 1 million COVID-19 cases in a single day

5 months ago
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Shattering records, the U.S. recorded more than one million cases of COVID-19 in a single day. Experts warn that testing backlogs mean the real number of Americans infected with COVID-19 is likely much higher.

Thousands of U.S. schools delayed scheduled return to classrooms, while the U.S. Congress experienced an unprecedented jump in infections as the seven-day positivity rate at a congressional test site surged to 13 per cent from just one per cent in late November.

COVID-19 infections are rising across Mexico, especially in two states that are major tourism destinations on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.

Quintana Roo, where tourists flock to Cancun, Tulum and other spots along the Mayan Riviera, and Baja California Sur, which draws beachgoers to the twin Pacific resorts that make up Los Cabos, are both experiencing some of their highest infection totals since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the federal government.

A nurse prepares a COVID-19 booster vaccine during a vaccination campaign for people 60 and over in Mexico City on Tuesday. (Fernando Llano/The Associated Press)

In the Asia-Pacific region, authorities in India's capital have imposed a weekend stay-at-home order because of a surge in coronavirus infections triggered by the Omicron variant.

Residents must remain at home this Saturday and Sunday except to obtain essentials such as food or medicine, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said. All government workers except for those providing essential services will work from home. He emphasized, however, that very few people were extremely sick, with 124 people requiring oxygen support and seven on ventilators.

The capital recorded over 4,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and its test positivity rate surged to 6.5 per cent. A week earlier, the capital detected 300 infections and the test positivity rate was less than one per cent.

The reported number of infections does not accurately reflect the true spread of the virus because it only includes recorded cases.

A health worker administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination drive for people in the 15 to 18 age group in New Delhi on Monday. (Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Middle East, Israel's prime minister says preliminary data on the fourth vaccine dose shows that it safely brings about a five-fold increase in antibodies that battle the coronavirus. 

Naftali Bennett spoke Tuesday during a visit to the Sheba Medical Center, where Israel launched a trial of a second booster early last week. It is now offering fourth doses of the Pfizer vaccine to people over 60 years old and those with weakened immune systems — becoming the first country to do so.

Israel will admit foreigners with presumed COVID-19 immunity from countries deemed medium-risk next week, partially reversing a ban imposed in late-November in response to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

In Africa, Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi and his wife, Isaura, have tested positive for COVID-19 and are isolating, the president's office said on Monday.

Meanwhile, South Africa on Monday reported 3,232 new cases of COVID-19 and 87 additional deaths.

In Europe, Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia have tested positive for COVID-19, the palace said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The King and Queen, who are fully vaccinated with three injections, have mild symptoms and are feeling well, given the circumstances," the palace said in a statement.

Meanwhile, France reported 271,686 daily COVID-19 infections Tuesday, the highest recorded tally, confirming France's position as Europe's most-hit country as the Omicron wave is sweeping across the continent.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

With files from CBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters

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