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

Dr. Anthony Fauci says a lack of candour and facts about the coronavirus pandemic under former U.S. president Donald Trump "very likely" cost lives because it delayed getting sound scientific advice to the country.

Global COVID-19 cases surpass 98 million

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wears a lab equipment-themed mask as he arrives for a COVID-19 briefing with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The latest:

Dr. Anthony Fauci says a lack of candour and facts about the coronavirus pandemic under former U.S. president Donald Trump "very likely" cost lives because it delayed getting sound scientific advice to the country.

"You know, it very likely did," the top U.S. infectious disease expert said on CNN's New Day on Friday. "When you start talking about things that make no sense medically and no sense scientifically, that clearly is not helpful."

Fauci didn't single out failings by any individual or administration official, saying he didn't want that to "be a sound bite." But Trump frequently dismissed the advice of his administration's scientists and claimed the virus would "fade away."

The pandemic has killed 410,000 people and infected more than 24.6 million in the United States, the highest numbers anywhere in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Allyson Black, a registered nurse, cares for COVID-19 patients in a makeshift intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., on Thursday. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

At a White House briefing Thursday, Fauci praised U.S. President Joe Biden's willingness to "let the science speak."

"The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is ... it is somewhat of a liberating feeling," he said. 

At the same briefing, Fauci said coronavirus infections may be about to hit a plateau in the United States based on recent seven-day averages, though he cautioned the country was still in a "very serious situation" with the virus.

He also said that if 70 to 80 per cent of Americans are vaccinated by the end of summer, the country could experience "a degree of normality" by the fall.

U.K. variant in at least 20 states: Fauci

Fauci said coronavirus vaccines can be modified to account for new variants of the virus, and that while the variant first identified in South Africa is concerning, it does not appear to be in the United States.

Another highly transmissible variant of the virus first discovered in the United Kingdom has spread to at least 20 U.S. states, Fauci said.

Fauci said he expects current vaccines will be effective against the recently discovered virus mutations.

A woman receives the Moderna coronavirus vaccine from a nurse at the mass vaccination clinic at the New Braunfels Civic/Convention Center in New Braunfels, Texas, on Thursday. (Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung/The Associated Press)

"Bottom line: We're paying very close attention to it for our alternative plans if we have to ever modify the vaccine," he said. "But right now, from the reports we have ... it appears that the vaccines will still be effective against them."

The United States still has a limited ability to track the presence of new variants in its population, he noted.

Biden sets COVID-19 plan into motion

Fauci stood by Biden's side earlier Thursday as the president unveiled sweeping measures to battle COVID-19 on his first full day in office.

"This is a wartime undertaking," the Democratic president said at a White House event where he signed executive orders to establish a COVID-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address supply shortfalls, establish protocols for international travellers and direct resources to hard-hit minority communities.

WATCH | Biden implements COVID-19 travel restrictions:

Biden implements COVID-19 travel restrictions on first full day in office

The National

2 months ago
2:38
On U.S. President Joe Biden's first full day in office, he signed an executive order for new international travel restrictions, which will make it tougher for Canadians to cross the border. Biden is expected to lay out more details tomorrow, during his phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 2:38

Biden also made a personal plea to all Americans to wear masks over the next 99 days to stop the spread of the virus. "The experts say, by wearing a mask from now until April, we'd save more than 50,000 lives," he said.

Among other actions signed by Biden on Thursday was an order requiring mask-wearing in airports and on certain public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses.

The administration will expand vaccine manufacturing and its power to purchase more vaccines by "fully leveraging contract authorities, including the Defence Production Act," according to the plan.

Members of the West Virginia National Guard monitor statewide efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines at the National Guard Joint Forces headquarters in Charleston, W.Va., on Jan. 14. West Virginia has used 72 per cent of the doses it has received to date, a relative success amid a sluggish vaccine rollout in the U.S. (John Raby/The Associated Press)

The Trump administration had invoked the law, which grants the president broad authority to "expedite and expand the supply of resources from the U.S. industrial base" for protective gear, but never enacted it for testing or vaccine production.

The president has pledged to provide 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine during his first 100 days in office. His plan aims to increase vaccinations by opening up eligibility for more people such as teachers and grocery clerks.

As of Friday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 19.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine out of some 39.8 million distributed.


What's happening across Canada

As of 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 737,407 cases of COVID-19, with 65,750 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,828.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the CEO of Pfizer has personally assured him that "hundreds of thousands" of doses of its COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped to Canada "the week of February 15 and in the weeks to follow."

Pfizer's move to slow deliveries to Canada and other countries as it upgrades its plants has prompted concern over the effect on Canada's vaccination efforts. At a briefing on Friday, Trudeau reiterated that Pfizer still expects to get Canada its four million promised doses by the end of March.

Trudeau also said the government is considering mandatory quarantine in hotels for travellers returning to Canada from abroad, repeating that it's not the time to travel.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 30 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The Edmundston region in the northwest will go into lockdown Saturday at midnight amid climbing case numbers and a series of outbreaks.

Nova Scotia reported four new cases — and Premier Stephen McNeil said the province also detected two variants of the virus in cases previously reported in December. Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Friday; there is currently one person hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the province.

Quebec reported 1,631 new cases and 88 additional deaths on Friday, 18 of which occurred in the last 24 hours.

There were 1,426 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 212 in intensive care. Premier François Legault said on Thursday that there were still too many COVID-19 patients in hospital to consider lifting the provincewide curfew.

Ontario reported 2,662 new COVID-19 cases and 87 more deaths on Friday as its seven-day average of daily cases dropped to 2,703, marking 11 straight days of decreases.

While epidemiologists told CBC News that public health measures seem to be working as Ontario nears four complete weeks under "lockdown" conditions, they cautioned that the province is still far from ready for a return to normalcy.

WATCH | Research into coronavirus variants still early, epidemiologist says: 

Don't 'over interpret' information on new variants of COVID-19, says epidemiologist.

World

1 month ago
1:38
Dr. Christopher Labos says research on mutated strains of the virus is too preliminary to draw firm conclusions. 1:38

Meanwhile, local public health officials are expressing concern about a yet-to-be identified variant of COVID-19 at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said the unusually rapid spread of the virus at Roberta Place earlier this month, with 55 people at the nursing home becoming ill within 48 hours of the first COVID-19 case being identified, prompted officials to start testing for a variant strain.

The variant was identified in six cases and further results are expected in the coming days, the unit said.

At least 122 of 130 residents at Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home have tested positive for COVID-19, the home said in a statement to CBC Toronto on Thursday. Since the outbreak, 19 residents have died and 69 staff are infected.

WATCH | Ontario criticized for delaying vaccine rollout for long-term care homes:

Ontario criticized for delaying vaccine rollout for nursing-home residents

The National

2 months ago
1:58
An Ontario panel says the province failed residents of long-term care homes by not prioritizing them for COVID-19 vaccinations and the decision cost hundreds of lives. 1:58

Manitoba reported 173 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Friday. The province also announced it will immediately halt bookings of new appointments at its immunization supersites in Winnipeg and Brandon after the federal government advised of another reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Saskatchewan reported 312 new cases and eight deaths on Friday while Alberta reported 643 new cases and 12 deaths.

British Columbia reported 508 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths on Friday. Earlier, the province rolled out its timeline for residents to receive vaccinations over the coming months, with an aim of immunizing roughly 4.3 million people by the end of September.

B.C.'s oldest residents will be able to pre-register to receive a vaccine starting in March after the most vulnerable groups have been immunized. Those aged 75 to 79 will be able to start being vaccinated in April, and the process will continue backward in five-year increments.

The province said it will use everything from stadiums and convention halls to mobile clinics in transit buses to vaccinate communities across B.C.

In the North, Nunavut reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday, the territory's first case since Dec. 28.

The positive result is in Arviat and was part of followup surveillance testing in response to the earlier outbreak, said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer.

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


What's happening around the world

As of Friday evening, more than 98 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 54 million of the cases considered resolved or recovered, according to the coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, more than 50,000 people have died after contracting the coronavirus in Germany, a number that has risen swiftly over recent weeks even as infection figures are finally beginning to fall amid a lockdown.

The country's disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that another 859 deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 50,642.

The near-empty Pariser Platz square in front of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate is reflected in a shop window on Friday. Germany this week extended COVID-19 lockdown measures until Feb. 14. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany had a relatively small number of deaths in the pandemic's first phase, but that has changed this winter. Among other European countries, the U.K., Italy, France and Spain, all of which have smaller populations, still have higher death tolls.

The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in England decreased slightly in the latest week but prevalence overall remained high, the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

The ONS estimated that around one in 55 people had COVID-19 within the community population in England in the week ending Jan. 16, a lower prevalence than the estimate of one in 50 people in the last full infection survey published two weeks ago.

WATCH | CBC goes inside unique inoculation site in U.K:

An inside look at Britain's mass vaccination program

Canada

1 month ago
1:51
CBC News gains access to a unique inoculation site in the U.K., where vulnerable groups are being prioritized. 1:51

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea reported 346 new cases on Friday, its smallest daily increase in coronavirus infections in two months as officials express cautious hope that the country is beginning to emerge from its worst wave of the pandemic.

Health authorities have clamped down on private social gatherings since late December, including setting fines for restaurants if they accept groups of five or more people. The 1,241 infections reported on Christmas Day were the country's largest 24-hour jump of the pandemic.

Bottles of hand sanitizer are displayed for use at a park in Goyang, South Korea, on Friday. Daily infections have slowed in the country after tougher rules were imposed in December to slow a virus surge that erased months of hard-won gains. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)

In Africa, Mali plans to buy more than 8.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccine and expects to start a vaccination campaign in April, the council of ministers said in a statement on Thursday.

The sprawling country of about 20 million has recorded just over 7,900 COVID-19 cases and 320 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins.

In the Middle East, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that China had approved delivery of a second consignment of the CoronaVac vaccine and 10 million doses could arrive in Turkey by this weekend.

A woman receives a shot of Sinovac's CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine at a nursing home in Ankara, Turkey, on Tuesday. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Turkey has already received an initial consignment of three million doses of the vaccine, produced by Sinovac Biotech, and has so far vaccinated more than 1.1 million people, mostly health workers and elderly people.

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

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