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

Melbourne joined other regions of Australia Thursday in removing pandemic restrictions for the vaccinated, in contrast to Europe where deaths rose five per cent in the last week, making it the only region in the world where COVID-19 deaths increased.

Melbourne approaches 'back to normal' while Europe grapples with increasing COVID-19 deaths

Life in Melbourne may soon feel 'back to normal' as restaurants and bars welcome a lifting of pandemic restrictions on Thursday. File photo shows people dining outdoors on Lygon Street in Melbourne, on Oct. 28, 2020. (Getty Images)

The latest:

In Australia, Melbourne's pubs and cafes were preparing to open to unlimited patrons starting Thursday night, and stadiums could return to full capacity as authorities lifted nearly all remaining COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated residents.

Victoria, the state that is home to Melbourne, has been gradually easing restrictions as the percentage of fully-vaccinated residents increases, with the latest relaxations part of a shift in strategy toward living with the coronavirus.

The percentage of fully vaccinated residents is expected to reach 90 per cent over the weekend.

In the seventh consecutive week, Europe continued to increase its COVID-19 cases across the 61 countries and territories that the World Health Organization counts in its European region, which stretches through Russia to Central Asia.

The WHO says coronavirus deaths in Europe rose five per cent in the last week, making it the only region in the world where COVID-19 deaths increased.

Within Europe, WHO said the highest numbers of new cases were in:

  • Russia, with 275,579 reported cases of COVID-19, similar to a week earlier.
  • Germany, with 254,436 cases, up roughly 50 per cent from a week earlier.
  • United Kingdom, with 252,905 cases, similar to a week earlier.

The countries with the most reported deaths were Russia and Ukraine, with 8,572 new deaths reported in Russia and 4,621 reported deaths in Ukraine.

The strain of surging COVID-19 cases is being felt in several countries, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which both saw record-high daily case numbers on Wednesday.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the government is considering several options, including following neighbouring Austria in ordering a lockdown for unvaccinated residents. Another measure under review is no longer allowing people to attend public events or go to bars and restaurants based on coronavirus test results.

Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger said his cabinet would vote Thursday on recommendations from an advisory group of medical experts. Among the proposals, which would be instituted for three weeks, are banning unvaccinated individuals from non-essential stores, shopping malls, gyms, pools, hotels and mass public gatherings.

A woman holds an oxygen mask over the face of her baby suffering from COVID-19 in a ward of a Ukraine children's hospital in Kyiv on Tuesday. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

The health agency previously described Europe as the epicentre of the ongoing pandemic and warned that there could be 500,000 more deaths by February if urgent actions aren't taken on the continent.

In the last week, Austria has put tight restrictions on the movement of unvaccinated people, the Netherlands and some other European countries have reintroduced lockdown measures to try to slow infections, and the U.K. decided to roll out booster doses to everyone over 40.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 11:00 p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

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What's happening around the world

An employee of the Public Health Service of the Netherlands carries out a test for COVID-19 in the Hague on Wednesday. (Ramon Van Flymen/ANP/AFP/Getty Images)

As of late Wednesday evening, more than 254.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.12 million, the database showed.

In Europe, Austrian coronavirus infections hit a new daily record on Wednesday, the third day of a lockdown for those not fully vaccinated aimed at halting the surge. Roughly 65 per cent of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against the virus, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Austria also has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence rate of 925 per 100,000 people.

In the Americas, a judicial panel on Tuesday consolidated 34 lawsuits challenging the Biden administration's workplace COVID-19 vaccine rule in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a venue favoured by opponents of the rule.

In the Middle East, Britain advised against all but essential travel to Lebanon due to ongoing instability, a fresh blow to the country in the middle of a financial and economic meltdown.

In Africa, health officials in Kenya on Tuesday reported 75 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths.

Austrian officers monitor compliance with the lockdown earlier this week in Innsbruck's old town. (Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea plans to cut to four months from six the gap for booster doses given to senior citizens as it looks to dampen a spike in serious cases, authorities said.

The Philippines has approved the emergency use of a vaccine by Novavax, its food and drug agency chief said, the ninth vaccine approved in the country.

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

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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