Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on March 8

Quebec will move ahead with giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over age 65, going against guidelines from Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

In Ontario, stay-at-home order lifts in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay

COVID-19: What might the 2nd year of the pandemic look like?

The National

1 month ago
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger answers questions about how a second year of the COVID-19 pandemic might be different — and what’s been learned. 3:34

The latest:

Quebec has announced it will not follow recommendations from Canada's national vaccine expert panel regarding the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca inoculation.

The province said Monday that its provincial vaccine expert committee is recommending that all approved doses be used immediately — particularly for people in their 70s — to reduce deaths and hospitalizations.

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said the AstraZeneca vaccine is not recommended for people aged 65 years and over because of insufficient data.

Quebec says the fact that the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn't need to be kept frozen will help officials conduct more mobile vaccinations campaigns and reach patients at home.

LISTEN | Are all COVID-19 vaccines created equal?

How solid is the science behind delaying second COVID-19 vaccine doses? Are the shots from AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson effective enough? Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers our most pressing questions about the latest vaccine news. 21:55

Quebec was out in front of the rest of Canada in early January when it announced it would delay second doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. The move caused concern and at least one lawsuit.

But in the ensuing weeks, several provinces followed suit. Last week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) changed its recommendation for the timeframe between doses of COVID-19 vaccines from three weeks to an unprecedented four months.

What else is happening in Canada

As of 6:15 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 890,703 cases of COVID-19, with 30,332 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,276.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says March 11 will be a "national day of observance" for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The day is meant to commemorate the 22,000 people in Canada who have died from the disease and to acknowledge all the other ways lives have changed over the past year.

In a statement, Trudeau says that includes kids' missed birthday parties, seniors' increased isolation, lost jobs and failing businesses.

The day is also meant to honour workers in health care and other essential front-line services.

In Quebec, people in many parts of the province will be able to eat in restaurants and work out in gyms starting Monday as five regions are downgraded from red to orange on the province's colour-coded pandemic alert level system.

Quebec on Monday reported 579 new cases and nine additional deaths on Monday. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 590, the province reported, with 108 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

Across the North, Nunavut reported no new cases on Monday but added two additional recoveries, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 23. There were no new cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories.

WATCH | The community volunteers helping B.C. seniors get COVID-19 vaccines:

The community volunteers helping B.C. seniors get COVID-19 vaccines

The National

1 month ago
Several community and religious groups in British Columbia are armed with computers and phones, ready to help local seniors sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations. 2:03

Ontario reported 1,631 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 10 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 626, with 282 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. The provincial government said Monday's case count was higher than expected due to a "data catch-up process" in its system.

A stay-at-home order in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay lifted Monday as the province loosens pandemic restrictions. The three regions were the last ones still under the order, and are transitioning back to the government's colour-coded pandemic response framework.

Toronto and Peel enter the "grey lockdown" category, something local public health officials asked for in both regions.

WATCH | Peel's medical health officer says restrictions are still necessary with with variant cases on the rise:

Peel Region not ready for greater easing of restrictions, says medical health officer


1 month ago
Peel Region has a concerning amount of COVID-19 spread, says the region's medical health officer. Dr. Lawrence Loh will need to see greater control of the coronavirus before recommending more restrictions be loosened. 1:23

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported three new cases, and in New Brunswick there were five new cases reported Monday. 

Prince Edward Island reported two new cases, bringing to 28 the number of active cases in the province. 

In an interview with CBC's chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that aired on Sunday, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said the province has a "very robust" public health nursing system and is ready to go for the broader vaccine rollout. But the premier also noted that he is open to conversations about sharing some of the province's allocated vaccine supply with provinces dealing with higher caseloads.

King also said Sunday that he believes the so-called Atlantic bubble will be back in action by early spring.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 63 new cases Monday and one additional death, while Saskatchewan reported 97 new cases and one more death. 

Alberta reported 582 new cases Monday, including 304 from Sunday. There were six deaths. 

The province is lifting more restrictions, allowing more people to shop in retail stores and malls, and the opening of banquet halls, community halls and conference centres. 

Weddings of up to 10 people and funeral services with a maximum of 20 people are also allowed, while lessons and practices for youth and post-secondary sports can go ahead with a cap of 10 participants.

In British Columbia, health officials reported 1462 new cases Monday, which includes 385 new cases Monday, and 1,077 from the weekend. There were 11 more deaths. 

WATCH | Vaccines won't be the end of masks, physical distancing, Tam says:

Vaccines won’t be the end of masks, physical distancing, Tam says

The National

1 month ago
Dr. Theresa Tam says that a year into the pandemic, with COVID-19 vaccines helping Canada gain an upper hand, masks, physical distancing and travel restrictions won’t disappear immediately because vigilance is needed to beat the evolving virus. 1:53

Join us as experts answer some of your vaccine questions on a special CBC News National Town Hall on Tuesday, March 9. We'll discuss the differences between vaccines, how vaccine passports work and where you might be in the queue. The special starts at 8 p.m. ET on CBC Gem and CBC News Network, and 10 p.m. local time (10:30 p.m. NST) on CBC Television.

What's happening around the world

People in need wait to take a bag with free food at a non-profit association called 'Pane Quotidiano' in Milan, Italy, on Monday. The number of people in need has increased after the start of the pandemic. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

As of Monday evening, more than 117 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 66.2 million listed on the Johns Hopkins University tracking database as recovered. The global death toll was approaching 2.6 million.

In the Americas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said fully vaccinated people could gather in groups without masks or social distancing. The updated guidelines also said fully vaccinated people could also come together without masks with people from another household who are considered at low risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting a healthy child and grandchildren.

The update posted to the CDC website also said that fully vaccinated people who have been around someone with COVID-19 "do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms."

The release comes as more than 30 million Americans have completed their COVID-19 vaccine regimens, with tens of millions more set to reach that milestone this month. The CDC said people are not considered "fully vaccinated" until two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine.

Currently, three vaccines are approved for use in the United States. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-shot Moderna vaccine are approved for individuals 18 and older. Pfizer's vaccine is approved for 16 and up.

Trials are underway to determine the safety of vaccines on younger people. Teenagers contract the coronavirus almost twice as often as younger children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Ecuador and Paraguay have both received some 20,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from Chile.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam administered its first COVID-19 doses Monday to the front-line workers who made the nation's relative success in controlling the pandemic possible — health workers, contact tracers and security forces who handled quarantine duties.

The Southeast Asian nation of 96 million people has a goal to inoculate at least half of the population by the end of the year. Thousands of doctors, nurses and technicians working at hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients lined up in the morning and received the first jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"I have been waiting for this day for a long time," nurse Nguyen Thi Huyen said after she got her injection. Huyen has been caring for COVID-19 patients at a tropical disease hospital in Hanoi the past year. Health protocols have limited her time with family, among other challenges.

A health worker prepares a dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi on Monday. Vietnam has started the vaccination campaign with a hope to inoculate half of the population against COVID-19 by the end of the year. (Hau Dinh/The Associated Press)

The first batch of over 100,000 AstraZeneca doses in a 30 million order arrived two weeks ago. Separately, Vietnam expects to secure another 30 million doses of the same vaccine through the UN-backed COVAX program for vaccine equality.

The UN children's agency said Afghanistan has received nearly half a million coronavirus vaccine doses via the global COVAX initiative. War-torn Afghanistan received 468,000 AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, the first shipment through COVAX, UNICEF said in a statement.

The vaccines were made by the Serum Institute of India, and arrived in the capital of Kabul aboard an Emirates flight, UNICEF said. More vaccines will arrive in the coming weeks and months. India previously donated 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Afghanistan.

Thailand will reduce mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days starting in April for foreigners arriving in the country who have been vaccinated.

In the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president's office said Monday, with both having only mild symptoms of the illness.

In a statement, Assad's office said the couple did PCR tests after they experienced minor symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 illness. It said that Assad, 55, and his wife Asma, who is 10 years younger, will continue to work from home, where they will isolate for between two and three weeks.

Both were in "good health and in stable condition," the statement said.

Syria began a vaccination campaign last week, but no details have been given about the process, nor have local journalists been allowed to witness the rollout. The health minister said the government procured the vaccines from a friendly country, which he declined to name.

After delays, Israel started vaccinating Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements on Monday, more than two months after launching an immunization blitz of its own population.

Palestinian labourers who crossed into Israel at several West Bank checkpoints received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine from Magen David Adom paramedics. The vaccination drive orchestrated by COGAT, Israel's military agency co-ordinating government operations in the West Bank, had been beset by postponements.

Some 100,000 Palestinian labourers from the West Bank work in Israel and its settlements, which are widely seen internationally as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

Israel has administered over 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its population of 9.3 million. Over 3.7 million Israelis — more than 40 per cent — have received two doses of the vaccine. But until Monday, Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move that has underscored global disparities and drawn international criticism.

Israeli officials have said the priority is vaccinating Israel's own population first, while the Palestinian Authority has said it will obtain its own vaccines through a World Health Organization partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX.

To date, the PA has acquired enough vaccine doses for only 6,000 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are home to nearly five million Palestinians. It received 2,000 doses from Israel and acquired another 10,000 doses of a Russian-made vaccine. Each is given in two doses.

In Europe, British children returned to school on Monday after a two-month closure, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was a plan to get the country to "start moving closer to a sense of normality."

As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to U.K. classrooms will be tested for the first few weeks. Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.

"We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far," Johnson said as he urged people to get vaccinated. High schools and colleges can reopen in phases to allow for testing.

France could approve Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week, in line with the timetable for its broader European Union approval, the president of the country's health regulator said.

Hungarians on Monday awoke to a new round of strict lockdown measures aimed at slowing a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths powered by virus variants.

Germany is looking to ramp up the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after authorities last week gave the green light for it to be administered to people 65 and over.

Hundreds of thousands of doses have been gathering dust in recent weeks due to the restrictions on who could get the vaccine and misgivings among some who were eligible.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany has received 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot so far but administered just 721,000.

In Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is set to take a lead role in ferrying COVID-19 vaccines around the world and expects demand for the service to last for up to three years.

The deputy chief executive of South African bank ABSA died on Sunday due to COVID-19 complications, his family said.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:40 a.m. ET

With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press and CBC News

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