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

Over one million people in the Americas have now died from complications from COVID-19, the head of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne, said on Wednesday.

Ontario reports 1,670 new cases of COVID-19, Quebec reports 1,328 new cases

Tighter travel controls, vaccine diversification needed, says immunity task force co-chair

1 year ago
Duration 7:27
Canada needs tighter travel restrictions to protect Canadians from COVID-19 variants and should also have a variety of vaccine options as some countries fight over tight supply, says Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of Canada's Immunity Task Force. 7:27

The latest:

  • Ontario reports 1,670 new COVID-19 cases — fewest since late November.
  • Quebec reports 1,328 new cases, B.C. reports 485 cases and Alberta reports 459.
  • More than 1 million dead in the Americas from complications from COVID-19, head of Pan American Health Organization says.
  • Trudeau says European official assured him vaccines from Europe won't be affected by new export requirements.
  • Canada's procurement department scrambling to source syringes.

Over one million people in the Americas have now died from complications from COVID-19, the head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, said on Wednesday.

There is growing pressure on hospital capacity throughout North America as, in some U.S. states, nearly 80 per cent of ICU beds are being used to treat COVID-19 patients, and similar rates are seen in many Mexican states, she warned.

The hospital situation in Brazil is particularly worrisome, with three-quarters of ICU beds occupied in many Brazilian states, she said. 

WATCH | Brazil struggles to keep up with rising infections:

Brazil struggles to keep up with rising COVID-19 infections

1 year ago
Duration 2:28
Brazil has the world's second-highest COVID death toll, and the health care system cannot keep up with new infections. Doctors on the ground say they're exhausted and desperate for more equipment. 2:28

As of 6:20 p.m. ET Wednesday, more than 100 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 55.6 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million. A CBC News tally of deaths in Canada stands at 19,533.

As many as 90,000 U.S. residents are projected to die from the coronavirus in the next four weeks, the Biden administration warned Wednesday in its first science briefing on the pandemic, as experts outlined efforts to improve the delivery and injection of COVID-19 vaccines.

The hourlong briefing by the team charged with ending the pandemic by U.S. President Joe Biden was meant to deliver on his promise of "levelling" with the American people about the state of the outbreak that has already claimed more than 425,000 U.S. lives. It marked a sharp contrast from the Trump administration, when public health officials were repeatedly undermined by a president who shared his unproven ideas without hesitation.

Lila Blanks holds the casket of her husband, Gregory Blanks, 50, who died after contracting COVID-19, ahead of his funeral in San Felipe, Texas, on Tuesday. (Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters)

Wednesday's briefing was conducted virtually, rather than in person at the White House, to allow for questions from health journalists and to maintain a set timing no matter the situation in the West Wing.

The Biden administration said it was examining additional ways of speeding vaccine production, a day after the president announced the U.S. plans to have delivered enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end of summer.

Emergency debate in Parliament

Canada is facing its own struggles with vaccine rollout, as provinces call for more supply from Ottawa to meet demand.

No doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive in Canada this week, and there will be a reduction in deliveries next week, too, as the company retools a production facility in Europe.

During an emergency debate Tuesday night, Procurement Minister Anita Anand told the House of Commons that Pfizer has assured her it will ramp up its deliveries once its plant is upgraded and will still meet its contractual obligation to supply Canada with four million doses by the end of March. Another two million doses are scheduled from Moderna by that time.

With those two vaccines alone, Anand said the country remains on track to meet the government's goal of vaccinations for every willing Canadian by the end of September. If Health Canada authorizes any of the other five vaccine candidates for which the government has contracts, she said that schedule could be accelerated.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for suggesting earlier in the day that Canada is "in good shape" when it comes to the vaccine supply.

"He thinks we're in good shape when Canadians will only receive eight per cent of the vaccines his government promised Canadians just last month," O'Toole said. "If this is what the prime minister considers good shape ... what does he consider terrible shape? Three per cent?"

Trudeau said Wednesday that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen assured him that new export requirements on COVID-19 vaccines won't affect shipments of Canada's vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Trudeau said in question period that he spoke to von der Leyen by phone earlier in the day.

On Tuesday, von der Leyen said they were enacting an export transparency mechanism to ensure European countries were made aware of how many doses of vaccines made in Europe were being exported, as the continent is not getting as many doses of vaccines as it had expected.

The vaccine rollout across the 27-nation European Union has run into roadblocks and been criticized as too slow. Pfizer is delaying deliveries while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase capacity. And AstraZeneca disclosed that its initial shipment will be smaller than expected.

The EU, with 450 million citizens, is demanding that the pharmaceutical companies meet their commitments on schedule.

-From The Associated Press, The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

What's happening in Canada

As of 6:15 p.m. ET, Canada had reported 761,226 cases of COVID-19, with 57,742 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stands at 19,533.

Canada's procurement department is scrambling to source smaller syringes for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, anticipating that Health Canada will agree to change the label to say each vial of the precious substance contains six doses instead of five.

Pfizer formally requested the change on Jan. 22, and Health Canada's regulatory team that approved the vaccine for use on Dec. 9 is now considering the new material.

If the label is amended, Pfizer will ship fewer vials to Canada overall because Canada's contract with the vaccine-maker is based on 40 million doses, not vials.

That sixth dose was a surprise find by medical professionals, who found using special syringes could extract the extra dose.

But those syringes are not common and have become the latest COVID-19 hot commodity after both Europe and the United States agreed to the label change earlier this month.

WATCH | The challenges facing a Canadian COVID-19 vaccine to be mass produced in Calgary:

The challenges facing this Canadian COVID-19 vaccine to be mass produced in Calgary

1 year ago
Duration 7:55
A made-in-Canada vaccine to protect against COVID-19 is now in human clinical trials in Toronto. Providence Therapeutics CEO Brad Sorenson says they’ve purchased a site in Calgary to mass produce the vaccine. He spoke with Rob Brown about the project on CBC Calgary News at 6. 7:55

Ontario reported 1,670 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 49 additional deaths. According to a provincial site, hospitalizations stood at 1,382, with 377 patients in intensive care units.

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 1,328 new cases and 53 additional deaths. The province on Wednesday reported having 1,290 COVID-19 patients in hospital, with 221 people in intensive care units.

Saskatchewan health officials are reporting 149 new cases of COVID-19. Six more residents have died and there are 220 people in hospital, with 36 patients in intensive care.

B.C. announced 485 new cases and four more deaths. There are 303 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 74 in intensive care.

Alberta reported 459 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths. The province now has 8,203 active cases, down from 8,652 on Tuesday.

Manitoba is reporting 94 additional COVID-19 cases and four deaths. The percentage of people testing positive continues to drop, and the Manitoba government recently relaxed some of its restrictions on social gatherings and store openings.

WATCH | Manitoba premier announces changes for travellers:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announces changes for travellers

1 year ago
Duration 29:00
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says Manitoba is worried about variants of COVID-19 which have been detected in B.C. and Alberta. Starting Friday, anyone entering Manitoba, including people coming from Western Canada, will have to self-isolate for 14 days. 29:00

New Brunswick is reporting two more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus and 14 new COVID-19 infections. Six people are in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care. New Brunswick has 327 active reported cases.

Nova Scotia is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 and a total of 12 active cases. All the new cases are close contacts of previously reported cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases, bringing the number of active cases to five.

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

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

What's happening around the world

In the Asia-Pacific region, China has given more than 22 million coronavirus vaccine shots to date as it carries out a drive ahead of next month's Lunar New Year holiday, health authorities said Wednesday. The effort, which began six weeks ago, targets key groups such as medical and transport workers and has accelerated vaccinations in China. About 1.6 million doses had been given over several months before the campaign began.

"The carrying out of vaccination has been ongoing in a steady and orderly manner," Zeng Yixin, vice-chairman of the National Health Commission, said at a news conference.

He said that 22.76 million doses had been administered as of Tuesday. It's not clear how many people that represents since the vaccine is given in two doses, and some may have received their second shot.

China, which largely stopped the spread of the virus last spring, has seen fresh outbreaks this winter in four northern provinces. About 1,800 new cases have been reported since mid-December, including two deaths. Authorities are strongly discouraging people from travelling during the Lunar New Year holiday, a time when Chinese traditionally return to their hometowns for family gatherings.

Health workers in protective gear spray disinfectant in a blocked-off area in Shanghai's Huangpu district on Wednesday after residents were relocated following the detection of a few cases of COVID-19 in the neighbourhood. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

South Korea has reported 559 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily increase in 10 days, as health workers scrambled to slow transmissions at religious facilities, which have been a major source of infections throughout the pandemic. The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday brought the national caseload to 76,429, including 1,378 deaths.

Nearly 300 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country's 51 million people, where infections have been tied to various places, including churches, restaurants, schools and offices.

Bangladesh started vaccinations against coronavirus in the nation's capital, with the hope of administering more than 30 million doses over next few months.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated Wednesday that the coronavirus lockdown in England will remain in place until at least March 8 as he ruled out any imminent return to school for most students.

In a statement to lawmakers, Johnson also confirmed new restrictions for travellers arriving in England from countries where the government thinks there is a risk of known variants of the coronavirus.

He said the U.K. remains in a "perilous situation" with more than 37,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, nearly double the number during the country's previous peak in April.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leads a virtual news conference on the pandemic in London on Tuesday. (Justin Tallis/Associated Press)

Hundreds of Holocaust survivors in Austria and Slovakia got their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine Wednesday, an acknowledgement of past suffering and a tribute to resilience 76 years after Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. 

More than 400 Austrian survivors, most in their 80s or 90s, were expected to get shots at the convention centre in Vienna. The Jewish Community of Vienna, the Austrian Health Ministry and Vienna city officials organized the vaccination drive. Twelve doctors, all members of the Viennese Jewish community, volunteered to administer shots to older Jews. 

While the event took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, vaccinations were not limited to survivors of the Shoah. All Jews in the area older than 85 were eligible to receive them during the special tribute drive. 

Health authorities in Spain said they are running short of COVID-19 vaccines due to delays in deliveries by pharmaceutical companies. Northeast Catalonia, home to Barcelona, said 10,000 people who had received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine won't be able to get their required second dose administered as planned 21 days later.

Regional authorities for the territory surrounding the capital of Madrid also said they were halting the administration of the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine to ensure that those awaiting a second shot could get it as scheduled.

Spain has administered 95 per cent of the 1.3 million vaccines it has received as part of the EU plan, according to its health ministry.

A couple wearing face masks walk along a promenade in Barcelona on Wednesday. With more than 2.6 million infections and more than 56,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, Spain ranks among the worst-hit countries in Europe. (Emilio Morenatti/The Associated Press)

Norway will close its borders to all but essential visitors, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday, tightening further some of the toughest travel restrictions in Europe.

Portugal's government was urged to transfer COVID-19 patients abroad as deaths hit a record high and the oxygen supply system of a large hospital near Lisbon partly failed from overuse.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that the global COVID-19 pandemic could drag on unless millions of people receive protection from the virus. He made the comments while speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

In Africa, South Africa has approved AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and is reviewing applications by rival manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, the medicines regulator said on Wednesday.

In the Middle East, Bahrain said it's discovered a mutated strain of the coronavirus on the island kingdom and will send students home for remote schooling for the next three weeks. The island in the Persian Gulf off Saudi Arabia also said it would stop dine-in service at restaurants and cafés during that time period. The restrictions are set to begin Sunday.

Iran urged the new U.S. president this week to lift sanctions that it said were hampering Tehran's fight against the pandemic, and approved the import and production of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

WATCH | Israel vaccinates residents, closes borders to curb COVID-19:

Israel vaccinates residents, closes borders to curb COVID-19

1 year ago
Duration 1:01
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country is pressing ahead with its huge vaccination program and closing its borders in a race against a mutating coronavirus. 1:01

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 4:15 p.m. ET


With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press and CBC News

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