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

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday a new COVID-19 lockdown is not in the cards, as advisers warned that acting early with lighter measures to cut rising case numbers would reduce the need for tougher restrictions later.

Johnson says fresh COVID lockdown not in the cards as U.K. reports 49,298 new cases on Friday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches as 88-year-old Nitza Sarner receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster vaccine at a London vaccination centre on Friday. (Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

The latest:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday a new COVID-19 lockdown is not in the cards, as advisers warned that acting early with lighter measures to cut rising case numbers would reduce the need for tougher restrictions later.

Johnson's government has said there is no need yet to introduce a "Plan B" involving mask mandates, work from home orders and vaccine passports, though such measures could be introduced if more people do not come forward for COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots.

Johnson scrapped England's COVID-19 restrictions in the summer and said that, while case numbers were rising, the trend was in line with what was expected.

WATCH | Infections in line with expectations, Johnson says: 

Boris Johnson says no plans for new U.K. COVID lockdown

2 years ago
Duration 0:54
While COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the trend is in line with what was expected and reiterated that a new lockdown is not in the cards.

The U.K. on Friday reported 49,298 new cases of COVID-19, government data showed, down from more than 52,000 reported on Thursday, which was the highest figure since the previous wave of new cases in mid-July.

A further 180 people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test, also below a recent peak.

Johnson said earlier that the widespread deployment of vaccines this year means the link between cases and deaths has been disrupted, in contrast with earlier stages of the pandemic.

Asked on Friday about the possibility of another lockdown this winter, the Conservative prime minister said, "at the moment … we see absolutely nothing to indicate that that is on the cards at all."

While Johnson has scrapped the legal requirement to wear masks, he said they should still be worn in confined spaces, especially when meeting strangers.

Britain has recorded an average of 47,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day in the past week, up 18 per cent from the week before, according to figures released on Friday. There was an average of 135 deaths a day, a 16 per cent rise from the previous week.

"In the event of increasing case rates, earlier intervention would reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive and longer-lasting measures," the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said in minutes from a Oct. 14 meeting, published Friday.

"SAGE advises that policy work on the potential reintroduction of measures should be undertaken now so that it can be ready for rapid deployment if required."

People walk along a platform after departing from a train at King's Cross Station in London on Thursday. England lifted virtually all COVID-19 restrictions in July, including mask requirements and physical distancing. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

SAGE said that among Plan B measures, reintroduction of work-from-home guidance would have the biggest impact to cut transmission, and warned that "presenteeism" might become an increasing reason for contagion in the workplace.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday said the prevalence of COVID-19 was at its highest level since January, when England had just entered a third national lockdown, although deaths are much lower.

The current rise in cases has been fuelled by high levels of infections in secondary schools, where 7.8 per cent of children were infected in the latest week, according to ONS statistics. Though young people are less likely to fall seriously ill, ONS figures show rising cases are now feeding through into older age groups.

Johnson has said the government will rely on vaccines rather than lockdowns to navigate a difficult winter, and SAGE said things were unlikely to be as bad as last winter.

— From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 5 p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador, led by Premier Andrew Furey, is rolling out its vaccine passport program. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccine passport came into effect Friday. The passport system must now be used at places like restaurants, bars, bingo halls and performance spaces. The system uses a QR code containing a person's vaccination status, which can be downloaded and stored in an app.

Businesses can use another app to scan the code and permit entry.

The province on Friday reported 30 new cases of COVID-19 over two days. At a surprise afternoon coronavirus briefing, Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health said there is an emerging COVID-19 cluster in the Marystown area made up of mostly students under 12.

As of Friday, Nova Scotians will also be able to use VaxCheckNS — a tool that lets organizations check a person's vaccine status through a QR code that yields a green check mark or red "X" when scanned. The provincial government, which has required proof of vaccination in many settings since early October, said the digital tool will make it faster for people to show proof of vaccination while protecting personal health information.

Nova Scotia on Friday reported 23 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases in the province stood at 160.

— From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 5 p.m. ET

What's happening around the world

A resident is tested for COVID-19 on Thursday in Zhangye in China's northwestern Gansu province. (AFP/Getty Images)

As of Friday afternoon, more than 242.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a case-tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, a new COVID-19 outbreak has spurred parts of China to increase restrictions on movement, with the capital Beijing sealing off some areas and northwestern regions imposing a range of transport curbs and closing public venues.

New Zealand will end its strict lockdown measures and restore more freedoms only when 90 per cent of its eligible population are fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday. Some 68 per cent of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and 86 per cent have had one dose.

In the Middle East, Iraq's Transportation Ministry announced on Thursday a resumption of direct flights to and from Saudi Arabia after a 19-month suspension, according to the state news agency INA.

A municipal worker sprays disinfectant as mask-clad Iranians gather in a mosque in the capital of Tehran to perform Friday prayers for the first time after authorities eased some restrictions. (AFP/Getty Images)

In Iran, meanwhile, mass Friday prayers resumed in Tehran after a 20-month hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, state TV reported.

In Europe, Romanian authorities have approved tighter restrictions, set to take effect on Monday, in the face of record-high death and infection numbers slamming the country's creaking health-care system.

Vaccination certificates will be required for many day-to-day activities, such as going to the gym, the cinema, or a shopping mall. There will be a 10 p.m. curfew, shops will be shuttered at 9 p.m., bars and clubs will close for 30 days, and schools will close for an additional week over half-term starting Monday. Masks will be mandatory for everyone in public.

Ukraine attained a second successive daily record of new infections and deaths, the Health Ministry said, despite tighter curbs last month as infections have risen for weeks.

In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Thursday reported 520 new cases of COVID-19 and 81 additional deaths, bringing the number of reported deaths in the country to 88,835, according to a tweet from the health ministry.

In the Americas, U.S. drugmaker Pfizer says kid-sized doses of its COVID-19 vaccine developed with BioNTech appear safe and nearly 91 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in five- to 11-year-olds.

Details of Pfizer's study were posted online on Friday. The Food and Drug Administration was expected to post its own review of the company's safety and effectiveness data later in the day.

Advisers to the FDA will publicly debate the evidence next week. If the agency itself authorizes the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make the final decision on who should receive them.

— From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 9 p.m. ET

With files from The Canadian Press, CBC News and The Associated Press

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