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

Manitoba, Ontario and much of Newfoundland are enjoying relaxed pandemic restrictions this weekend.

Provinces see relaxed restrictions as Canada's vaccine drive 'accelerating fast'

Patrons enjoy a meal on a restaurant patio in Ottawa on Saturday. Ontario relaxed some COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, now allowing for patio dining of up to four people per table. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

Several provinces are enjoying relaxed pandemic restrictions this weekend as the country's drive to fully vaccinate Canadians from COVID-19 is "accelerating fast."

In Manitoba, residents can once again gather in small groups outdoors starting this weekend, a small reprieve from strict pandemic rules brought in as the province battled a surge in infections.

As of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, up to five people are now allowed to gather in outdoor public spaces. Outdoor gatherings on private property are also allowed with up to five visitors from no more than two different households, in addition to residents.

All other current restrictions remain in place, which means indoor private gatherings are still prohibited. Retail businesses are still capped at 10 per cent capacity or 100 occupants, whichever is lower, and restaurants are still limited to takeout or delivery service only.

WATCH | Manitoba launches vaccine lottery in effort to boost uptake:

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Manitoba is doling out $1.9 million in cash and scholarships as a way to encourage more people to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The slight easing of restrictions comes as provincial health officials say they expect daily COVID-19 case counts to continue to drop but warn the number of people in ICU remains "extremely high."

The province on Saturday reported 294 new COVID-19 infections and five deaths.

In neighbouring Ontario, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people and patio dining of up to four people per table are among the activities now permitted as of Friday.  Non-essential stores can also reopen, with capacity limits, and outdoor fitness classes are allowed.

One region in northern Ontario, the Porcupine health unit, is holding off on easing restrictions for now amid a spike in infections.

Overall, new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the province have dropped in recent weeks. Ontario on Saturday reported 502 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths.

WATCH | Ontario enters Stage 1 of reopening after several months of lockdown:

Ontario enters Stage 1 of reopening after several months of lockdown

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Ontario starts to reopen after one of the longest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world. People can now shop inside street-facing stores at 15 per cent capacity, eat on restaurant patios and attend fitness classes outdoors. Plus, Dr. Susy Hota on whether the spread of the delta variant and breakthrough cases pose a threat to summer reopening plans across the country.

In the Atlantic, Newfoundland and Labrador moved all health units back to Alert Level 2 on Saturday. 

Many regions in the province's Western region were moved to Alert Level 4 on May 30 due to a cluster of cases with an unknown origin. While the source of the cluster hasn't been found, health officials say the risk to the public is low.

N.L. also said it registered six new infections on Saturday, of which five are tied to the cluster. Including Saturday's new cases, there are 41 confirmed cases from that group.

The easing of restrictions come as daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped dramatically across Canada to levels not seen since the fall, while the country's vaccination drive plows steadily forward.

The country is expected to receive million of doses next week. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said more than 28 million shots have been administered so far.

"First dose coverage is looking great and 2nd dose coverage is accelerating fast," Tam tweeted on Saturday, while again urging Canadians to get their shots if they haven't already.

What's happening across Canada

As of 5:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 1,401,006 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 17,599 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,914. More than 28.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered so far across the country, according to CBC's vaccine tracker.

In British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there has been a "dramatic drop" in daily case numbers since April, and said the province is on track to ease more restrictions on Tuesday as planned.

Alberta registered 179 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Saturday. The percentage of residents administered at least one vaccine dose stands at 69 per cent, just shy of the 70 per cent mark set by the province to trigger Stage 3 of its reopening plan.

In Saskatchewan, two field hospitals set up in the province in the early days of the pandemic — meant to be used in case of overwhelming surges of COVID-19 cases but were never used — will be decommissioned, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says. Essential medical equipment, such as hospital beds, will be distributed in the province where they're most needed, the SHA news release said.

A COVID-19 field hospital is seen in Regina's Evraz Place. (Submitted by the Saskatchewan Health Authority)

In Ontario, the provincial government announced Saturday that the wait between the first and second doses of the Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccine can be shortened to eigh weeks from 12 weeks.

The new policy on Astrazeneca doses comes into effect on 8 a.m. on Monday. All of the new options will be provided with the "informed consent" of a patient, the Ontario government said.

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recently recommended that a shot of Astrazeneca can be followed by an mRNA vaccine. They also found that dosing intervals between eight and 12 weeks are safe and demonstrate a beneficial immune response, although a longer wait provides more protection. 

Quebec confirmed 182 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and three new deaths.

New Brunswick recorded another related death and seven new cases, but inched closer to its 75 per cent vaccination target that would trigger the first phase of reopening in the province and create a bubble with other Atlantic provinces such as Nova Scotia, which saw 10 new infections on Saturday.

In Nunavut, the territory identified three new cases, including two individuals connected to Iqaluit's Aqsarniit Middle School. Parents, students and staff who have been identified through tracing are being contacted, according to a statement posted to the government of Nunavut's Facebook page.

What's happening around the world

As of Saturday, the COVID-19 case tracking tool from Johns Hopkins University showed a total of more than 175.3 million cases reported worldwide.The global death toll stood at more than 3.7 million.

In the Americas, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro led a throng of motorcyclist supporters through the streets of Sao Paulo on Saturday and got hit with a fine for failure to wear a mask.

PHOTOS | Brazil president fined for not wearing a face mask at motorcycle rally:

In Europe, Russia's national coronavirus task force reports the country's tally of daily new infections has risen by almost half over the past week and more than doubled in Moscow.

In Asia, Saudi Arabia says this year's hajj pilgrimage will be limited to no more than 60,000 people, all of them from within the kingdom, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In Africa, Kenya has received a $750 million US loan from the World Bank to support its budget and help the East African economy recover from the effects of the pandemic, the multilateral lender said.

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters

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