Canada has reached a grim new milestone in its fight against COVID-19, with the country’s case count surging well past 700,000, ahead of an expected reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Saturday said she understands Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.
She said she has been in touch with the drugmaker and been assured it’s “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible,” Anand said on Twitter. The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.
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Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said on Friday that Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by 50 per cent for four weeks.
Pfizer said it hopes the upgrade will allow it to produce two billion doses per year, up from 1.3 billion doses. The company said in an email to CBC News on Saturday that it will increase its vaccine deliveries beginning the week of Feb. 15.
As of Friday night, more than half a million Canadians had received inoculations against the virus that causes COVID-19.
As of 12 35 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 707,354 cases of COVID-19, with 75,558 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,984.
In British Columbia, the B.C. Hotel Association said implementing an inter-provincial travel ban would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators and urged Premier John Horgan — who sought legal advice on such an action — to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19.
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Alberta saw 717 new cases and 15 new deaths on Saturday.
Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.
In Regina, police fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.
Manitoba recorded 180 new cases and two additional deaths.
The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.
Ontario reported 3,422 new cases on Sunday, after registering 3,056 new cases the previous day. Locally, there are 1,035 new cases in Toronto on Sunday, 585 in Peel Region, 254 in Windsor-Essex County, 246 in York Region and 186 in Niagara Region, Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.
In east-end Montreal, a group of protesters braved a snowstorm on Saturday to denounce the province’s COVID-19 curfew, which has been in place for a week.
The protest took place in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough and was organized by a group called “No police solution to the health crisis.” Montreal police were present at the protest and asked that everyone present wear masks and respect physical-distancing guidelines.
New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases on Saturday.
Nova Scotia added four new cases on Sunday, after reporting the same number the previous day. Last week, mandatory testing for rotational workers in the province came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.
Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.
Meanwhile, officials confirmed the first positive case in Fort Liard, a hamlet nearly 545 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife.
In Nunavut, a worker at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, located about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, has tested positive, the company said. There have now been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.
As of Sunday, more than 94.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.
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Brazil‘s health regulator on Saturday said it’s seeking further data on Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use.
Regulator Anvisa wants assurances on Phase 3 clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine by drugmaker Uniao Quimica.
Moscow has approved Sputnik V for Russian domestic use, though clinical trials there have not yet been completed.
The Brazilian regulator was expected to make a decision on Sunday about authorizing emergency use of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca.
In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that despite the U.K. government’s confidence about its coronavirus vaccination plan, the public needed to stay home as the country’s health service was “on the cusp” of being overwhelmed.
Raab told broadcaster Sky News that the U.K. was a “global leader” in its vaccination rollout, and he was confident that the government’s roadmap would meet targets.
In China, officials reported 109 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.
There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.
China had largely contained the virus that was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.