Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday
50% of Canadians have now received 1st COVID-19 vaccine shot; Manitoba premier calls for surplus U.S. vaccines
- 50 per cent of Canadians have now received their 1st shot, according to CBC's vaccine tracker.
- Manitoba premier repeats call for surplus U.S. vaccines to be shipped to Canada.
- Ontario reports 1,794 new cases of COVID-19 as restrictions ease for some outdoor activities.
- How letting vaccine recipients remain seated while served gets more doses in arms.
- Austrian guide reports large COVID-19 outbreak at Mount Everest base camp.
- Canada gaining in race for vaccine distribution, but other countries aren't so lucky.
- Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: Covid@cbc.ca
Canada marked a pandemic vaccination milestone on Saturday, as half of the population has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
An accelerated vaccine rollout in Ontario has helped drive up numbers, with Premier Doug Ford tweeting that the province delivered a record daily high of 190,129 doses on Friday.
Despite the milestone, CBC's vaccination tracker and federal figures show that less than five per cent of the national population is fully vaccinated against the virus.
In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister is again calling on the United States government to let states ship surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada, as the province contends with surging case numbers that have pushed the health-care system to its limits.
At a rare Saturday morning news conference, Pallister said the province was working on a plan with North Dakota to ship thousands of vaccine doses from that state up to Manitoba, but it was "kiboshed" by the White House, which needs to approve such requests.
"I'm advocating for the United States and the White House in particular to get out of the way and let the states and provinces co-operate on getting vaccines that are in freezers in the United States up into Canada, into arms," he said.
The province has asked Ottawa to send critical care nurses, respiratory therapists and contact tracers to help battle its rising third wave of COVID-19.
As of Saturday afternoon, health officials were reporting that seven intensive care patients from Manitoba have been transferred to hospitals in Ontario to free up space.
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Pallister's comments came as the province reported 476 new cases and six new deaths on Saturday, including what appears to be the first person in Manitoba to die after contracting the P1 coronavirus variant associated with Brazil.
There are now 298 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the province, including 74 in intensive care units.
To combat the surge in infections, the province has brought in new restrictions starting this long weekend. Manitobans are prohibited from gathering outdoors with people from outside their household, and only one person per household will be permitted to enter a business at a given time.
Restrictions ease in some provinces
But it's not all bad news across the country.
People across Ontario are getting ready to spend more time outdoors this holiday weekend now that the province has eased some of its COVID-19 restrictions. Golf courses and other outdoor recreational facilities, including tennis and basketball courts, can reopen.
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Alberta, which, like Ontario, is seeing an overall decline in new COVID-19 cases, will welcome back all K-12 students to classrooms next week, except those in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
And starting early next week, Yukon will begin lifting some of its COVID-19 restrictions because of the territory's high uptake in vaccinations, with about 76 per cent of eligible residents receiving their first dose.
Canadians are making "steady progress" in bringing down COVID-19 numbers, but they must remain vigilant this long weekend to prevent a resurgence, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement on Saturday.
Tam said there are now more than 30 per cent fewer active cases in Canada compared with the peak of the pandemic's third wave in mid-April.
"However, as COVID-19 activity remains elevated in many jurisdictions, strong public health measures must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating, and individual precautions are important everywhere to drive infection rates down to low and manageable levels, while getting our vaccination rates as high as possible," she said.
"Further, as resurgences have followed social gatherings during past long weekends and holidays, maintaining precautions this long weekend remains critical for sustaining our progress."
What's happening in Canada around the world
As of 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 1,355,765 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 55,277 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,203.
WATCH | Canadians urged to follow COVID-19 restrictions during long weekend:
Ontario reported 1,794 new cases and 20 new deaths on Saturday. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to decline, with 1,207 patients hospitalized across the province, including 706 in the ICU, according to provincial data.
Quebec reported 505 new cases on Saturday — its lowest single-day increase since Sept. 23 — along with seven new deaths.
New Brunswick reported two new COVID-19 cases on Saturday. The update came a day after the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, announced that a second person in the province has died from a rare blood clot associated with the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine.
Nova Scotia reported 64 new cases and one new death, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases. Prince Edward Island had yet to provide an update.
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In the North, Nunavut on Saturday reported one new case of COVID-19. There are 39 active cases in the territory — 38 in Iqaluit and one in Kinngait, Premier Joe Savikataaq tweeted. Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided updated figures for the day.
Saskatchewan reported 180 new cases and two new deaths on Saturday, while Alberta recorded 621 cases and six new deaths.
British Columbia on Friday reported 420 new cases and six related deaths.
What's happening around the world
As of Saturday afternoon, more than 166.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, a tracking dashboard from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University said. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.4 million.
In the United States, new coronavirus cases have decreased to rates not seen since last June, sparking optimism that vaccination campaigns are stemming both severe COVID-19 cases and the spread of the virus.
The seven-day average for new cases dropped below 30,000 per day this week. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says cases haven't been this low since June 18.
The average number of deaths over the last seven days also dropped to 552, a rate not seen since July.
Health experts credit the rollout of vaccines to a dramatic turnaround since January. But they also caution that not enough Americans have been vaccinated to completely extinguish the virus. More than 60 per cent of people over 18 have received at least one shot, and almost half are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
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In the Netherlands, high schools will be allowed to fully reopen starting May 31 as coronavirus infections decline in the country.
After months of closure, students started going to class for one day a week from March 1. The government on Saturday announced a full return to school with infection rates and hospitalizations dropping sharply over the last two weeks.
Students won't have to observe physical distancing but must administer self-tests twice a week and keep a safe distance from school staff.
The Swiss government has flown $8 million in equipment and medical supplies to combat COVID-19 to help Nepal, which is struggling with a failing health system and acute shortages of hospital beds, medication and oxygen for patients.
The aid was handed over to Nepalese Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi at Kathmandu's airport on Saturday. The Swiss Embassy in Nepal said the shipment contained 40 ventilators, oxygen concentrators, 1.1 million coronavirus test kits, face masks, gloves and protective suits.
Nepal has been appealing for help from the international community since the COVID-19 situation worsened sharply this month. A lockdown has been imposed in most parts of the country since last month to curb the spiking cases.
Nepal has recorded nearly 500,000 COVID-19 confirmed cases, and 6,024 people have died.
In Sri Lanka, officials halted passenger trains and buses for four days as part of a fresh travel ban imposed across the country in an effort to curb an escalating number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
The ban is effective from Friday night until Tuesday morning. However, it will not apply to those engaged in essential services such as the health, food and power sectors, as well as those seeking medical treatment.
The move comes as the island's key medical associations demand that the government lock down the country for two weeks. The associations say the actual number of coronavirus infections is more than three times the number detected.
Sri Lanka has already banned public gatherings, parties and weddings, and closed schools and universities.
With files from The Canadian Press, Reuters and The Associated Press