Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on March 1

British Columbia is extending the time between first and second doses of three different COVID-19 vaccines to four months — a decision that amounts to a "population-level experiment," according to Canada's chief science adviser.

B.C. extending time between 1st, 2nd doses of vaccine to 4 months, prompting warnings

Gisella Greschner, 97, has a bandage applied after receiving her COVID-19 vaccination at the super site in Winnipeg on Monday, March 1, 2021. (Kevin King/Pool/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

British Columbia is extending the time between first and second doses of three different COVID-19 vaccines to four months — a decision that amounts to a "population-level experiment," according to Canada's chief science adviser, Mona Nemer.

The government says it expects the change, and Health Canada's recent approval of a third vaccine, to result in every eligible person in B.C. receiving the first dose of their vaccine by mid- to late July. The two-dose vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca was approved late last week.

"This gives us a very real and important benefit to everybody here in B.C.,"  said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer.

"That means we can move everybody up the list and more people will be protected sooner."

Health officials announced the accelerated timeline Monday as the province moved into the second, seniors-focused phase of its vaccination campaign.

Nemer told CBC News Network's Power & Politics that the data provided so far by Moderna and Pfizer on their vaccines was gathered when the first and second doses of the vaccines were being spaced three to four weeks apart, not three to four months apart. 

"I think it's really important that we stick with the data and with the great science that give us these fantastic vaccines, and not tinker with it," she told host Vassy Kapelos. 

"I think that it's possible to do it. But it amounts right now to a basically population-level experiment. And I think it needs to be done as we expect clinical trials to be carried out.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) and Health Canada also appear to be at odds over whether people age 65 and older should receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

WATCH | Infectious diseases expert on why Health Canada, NACI disagree:

Why Canadian committee and Health Canada differ on Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

1 year ago
Duration 4:59
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario's COVID-19 immunization task force, explains why the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is not recommending the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for people 65 and older, even though Health Canada has authorized its use for adults of all ages.

Health Canada has authorized its use for adults of all ages. But the NACI, which makes recommendations to governments on the use of newly approved vaccines for humans, said Monday it does not recommend the vaccine for seniors "due to limited information on [its] efficacy" in that age group.

The NACI said its recommendations are based on independent advice and reflect the best current available scientific knowledge.

B.C. expects to receive its first shipment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine — likely 60,000 doses — next week.

- From CBC News, last updated at 7:45 p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

As of 7:55 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 868,628 cases of COVID-19, with 30,616 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,009.

As of late last week, the Public Health Agency of Canada had reported 1,010 cases of variants of concern, including:

  • 964 cases of the B117 variant first reported in the U.K.
  • 44 of the B1351 variant first reported in South Africa.
  • two of the P1 variant, first identified in travellers from Brazil.

British Columbia is moving into the second phase of its four-step vaccination plan, which is based on age.

Starting next Monday, seniors aged 90 and over — or an advocate — can call to book their appointment for a vaccine, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those aged 80 and over. Vaccinations will start as early as March 15 for the first group.

Alberta is also taking a step forward by moving into Step 2 of its own plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Premier Jason Kenney said the health-care system is seeing a sharp decline in hospital admissions. The number of cases in long-term care facilities also has declined by more than 95 per cent since a peak in December, he said.

"This is encouraging data," Kenney said told an afternoon news conference.

"And this data speaks to both the sacrifices that millions of Albertans have made, as well as the huge impact of COVID-19 vaccination since we've delivered the second dose to all the residents of those facilities."

The decision means libraries will be allowed to reopen at limited capacity, and that some low-intensity group fitness activities can resume indoors. Other reopening measures have been delayed, however, such as the easing of restrictions on retail businesses.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, reported 291 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Monday.

Nunavut reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, but with 11 reported recoveries the number of active cases in the territory stood at eight. All of the cases are in the hamlet of Arviat, the premier said.

Yukon and the Northwest Territories both reported no new cases. On Monday, Whitehorse became the first capital city in the country to open its COVID-19 vaccination clinic to all citizens aged 18 and older.

The clinic at the Yukon Convention Centre is now accepting residents from the general public in Whitehorse, along with people from Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake, Mendenhall and Mount Lorne.

In Quebec on Monday, health officials reported 613 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths. An update posted to the provincial dashboard put the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 at 612, with 122 of those in intensive care units.

Ontario reported 1,023 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and six additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 659, with 280 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

With case numbers on the rise in some regions and with growing worry over variants of concern, two regions — Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka — were being sent back to lockdown as of Monday.

But seven other regions were relaxing some public health restrictions on Monday amid declining COVID numbers. They include Niagara Region, Chatham-Kent, Middlesex-London, Southwestern, Haldimand-Norfolk, Huron Perth and Grey Bruce.

A man wearing a mask skates past the iconic 'Toronto' sign in Nathan Phillips Square on Monday. Toronto is reporting 280 new cases of COVID-19. (Sam Nar/CBC)

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday. In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and said the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in the province's hospitals stood at 11.

The number of active cases in Newfoundland and Labrador is declining, officials said, but they urged people to stay cautious and keep following the rules.

Prince Edward Island, meanwhile, moved to close schools and ban gatherings for 72 hours as health officials try to stop the growth of two clusters of cases. 

Speaking to Island Morning host Mitch Cormier on Monday, Premier Dennis King said health officials are working to gather details on how the outbreaks in Summerside and Charlottetown originated.

"All of us should take this very seriously and act accordingly," the premier said. 

Health officials in P.E.I. on Monday reported no new cases of COVID-19, leaving the number of active cases on the island to 18.

WATCH | P.E.I. tightens rules amid concern about COVID-19 outbreaks:

P.E.I. moves into red phase over COVID-19 outbreaks

1 year ago
Duration 3:30
Prince Edward Island has shut down much of the province and ramped up testing for the coronavirus as it tries to trace the source of outbreaks in two communities.

There was an influx of testing over the weekend, with a total of 6,632 COVID-19 tests completed on Saturday and Sunday, after the province asked all Islanders aged 19 to 29 who work in a range of sectors — including food service, transportation and call centres — to get tested.

New Brunswick reported one new case on Monday. As the number of active cases drops, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, has said that the entire province could be moved back to the less-restrictive yellow phase in a week.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 35 new cases — its lowest daily case count since Oct. 7 — and one new death on Monday. The province is expected to release information on the further loosening of pandemic restrictions on Tuesday.

Saskatchewan reported 154 new cases and no new deaths on Monday. 

- From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:55 p.m. ET

What's happening around the world

People queue up to register themselves to be inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine at MS Ramaiah Hospital in Bangalore on Monday. India has opened up the shots to anyone over age 60, as well as anyone over 45 with some serious illnesses. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

As of 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday, more than 114.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 64.5 million cases listed as recovered on a global tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million.

The number of new coronavirus infections rose last week for the first time in seven weeks, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday. Tedros said the rise was "disappointing but not surprising" and urged countries not to let up in measures to fight the spread of the disease.

At the same time, Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergency expert, said the global fight against the coronavirus was in a better state now than it was 10 weeks ago before the rollouts of vaccines had begun.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines launched a vaccination campaign on Monday but faces supply problems and public resistance, which it hopes to ease by inoculating top officials.

Cabinet officials, along with health workers and military and police personnel, were among the first to be vaccinated in six hospitals after 600,000 doses donated by China were received on Sunday.

WATCH | WHO eyes reining in COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths by end of 2021:

Hospitalizations, deaths from COVID-19 may cease by end of 2021: WHO

1 year ago
Duration 1:25
The World Health Organization says a combination of coronavirus suppression and vaccinations could put an end to the most tragic outcomes of the pandemic, although the novel virus will not be gone altogether.

The Philippines has reported more than 576,000 infections, including 12,318 deaths, the second-highest totals in southeast Asia after Indonesia.

Aside from China's donated vaccine from Sinovac Biotech Ltd., the government has separately ordered 25 million doses from the China-based company, but no date has been set for the deliveries. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the delivery of an initial 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine that was initially scheduled for Monday would be delayed by a week due to supply problems.

The government has been negotiating to secure at least 148 million doses from Western and Asian companies to vaccinate about 70 million Filipinos for free in a massive campaign funded by foreign and domestic loans.

In the Americas, Brazil's capital has entered a two-week lockdown, joining several states in adopting measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as intensive care beds begin to fill in some important cities.

At least eight Brazilian states adopted curfews over the past week due to the rise in cases and deaths from COVID-19. Thursday was Brazil's deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic, with 1,541 deaths confirmed from the virus. So far more than 254,000 people have died overall.

Brasilia Gov. Ibaneis Rocha decreed the total closure of bars, restaurants, shopping malls and schools until March 15 and prohibited gatherings of people. Sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited after 8 p.m. In the federal district, 85 per cent of hospital beds were occupied on Sunday, according to the local health ministry.

A health worker receives a shot of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine during the first day of coronavirus vaccination at the Lung Center of the Philippines Hospital on Monday in Quezon City, Metro Manila. (Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

President Jair Bolsonaro again criticized such measures, saying on his Twitter account: "The people want to work." He threatened on Friday to cut off federal emergency pandemic assistance to states resorting to lockdowns.

In Europe, health officials in Britain have identified six cases of the P1 variant — including one in a person who has not been traced. Direct flights from Brazil to the U.K. have been halted, but the newly identified cases have been linked to people who came to the U.K. from Brazil through other European cities in early February. The arrivals came days before the U.K. imposed a 10-day hotel quarantine on people arriving from high-risk countries, including Brazil. 

In the Middle East, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions in dozens of provinces categorized as low- or medium-level infection risks.

Erdogan said on Monday cafés and restaurants will be allowed to reopen at half-capacity between 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. apart from those located in 17 regions that have been categorized as "very high-risk." Nighttime curfews during weekdays will continue across Turkey as part of the government's "controlled normalization" program, he said.

Schools will reopen for face-to-face education in low- and medium-risk regions, Erdogan said. In other regions, only students preparing for high-school or university entrance exams will attend schools full-time.

In Africa, Ivory Coast has begun giving shots to inoculate against COVID-19 with vaccines delivered last week by the global COVAX initiative, which was created to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to doses.

A shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility arrives in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Friday. Ivory Coast was the second country in the world after Ghana to receive vaccines acquired through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative. (Diomande Ble Blonde/The Associated Press)

The West African country's mass vaccination campaign started with jabs being given to health workers, teachers and members of the armed forces in the commercial capital, Abidjan, where 95 per cent of the country's cases have been recorded. According to WHO and UNICEF, some 24 other African countries are expected to start receiving vaccines via COVAX this week in what they say is the world's largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.

South Africa remained the hardest-hit country in Africa, with more than 1.5 million reported cases of COVID-19 and nearly 50,000 deaths. With fewer new cases being reported, South Africa is easing some restrictions — but President Cyril Ramaphosa urged people to stick with measures like physical distancing.

Have a question about the ongoing pandemic? We're engaging in the comments below and will answer as many questions as we can.

- From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press and CBC News

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