Quebec Premier François Legault says the province will not allow gatherings over the December holidays after all in light of a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Legault announced last month that people would be allowed to gather over a four-day period, from Dec. 24 through Dec. 27, if they isolated for a week prior and after.
But on Thursday, Legault said that holiday gatherings in the province’s “red zones” involving people from different addresses will be prohibited altogether.
“When we look at the situation, we are forced to realize that it is not realistic to think that we are going to succeed in reducing the progression of the virus in a satisfactory way by Christmas,” he said at a news conference Thursday.
“I know we would all like to see our family, but it is not a good idea. The virus is very dangerous. We need to stay home and get some rest and we have to take care of one another.”
WATCH | Gatherings not allowed over holidays, Legault says:
Quebec reported more than 1,500 daily cases for the first time ever on Wednesday, and more than 1,400 again Thursday. The province has reported more than 100 deaths from COVID-19 in the past three days.
Visits to the province’s long-term care homes and seniors’ residences will be prohibited. Quebec has also tightened the health guidelines for stores and malls for the holiday shopping season.
Meanwhile, federal officials explained how they plan to distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks as Ottawa launches its mass inoculation campaign.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday that the regulatory review of Pfizer’s vaccine is “progressing really well” and her department has the “majority of information” it needs from the company to certify that it’s safe and effective.
The initial supply of the vaccine doses will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get a shot in the first three months of 2021.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq, is leading vaccination logistics and operations at a new national operations centre in the Public Health Agency of Canada. While the country is facing unprecedented “logistical complexities,” he said, the military and its partners will be ready to deploy vaccines as soon as they are approved in Canada. A countrywide vaccine delivery “dry run” is planned for next week.
A senior official, speaking to CBC News on a not-for-attribution basis, said Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec will get two such delivery sites each, with one in each of the other provinces. A plan for the territories is still being finalized, the official said.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 8:40 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 396,270, with 69,255 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,407.
In British Columbia, chief provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 12 more deaths from COVID-19 Thursday and 694 new cases of the disease. The number of active cases across the province has risen to 9,103, but the number of patients in hospital has dipped slightly to 325, with 80 in critical condition.
In Alberta, the province is planning for the creation of field hospitals to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients, while B.C. has introduced new restrictions on indoor group activities. Alberta announced 1,854 new cases and a positive-test rate of 9.5 per cent — both record highs.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, told a Thursday afternoon news conference that she is particularly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 into rural areas. Among the 15 geographic areas with the highest active case rates in Alberta, one-third of them are outside Calgary and Edmonton.
WATCH | Alberta reaches out for field hospitals:
“While infection rates in Edmonton and Calgary make up the majority of cases in the province, we are seeing increased spread in many rural communities,” she said. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or an Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within the context of a global problem.”
Alberta health officials recently met to discuss a plan for two or more indoor field hospitals to treat 750 COVID-19 patients, with 375 beds each in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, according to an internal government document obtained by CBC News.
Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths on Thursday. However, the number of new cases was inflated due to a processing error that resulted in the Middlesex-London public health unit recording three days’ worth of case data, the provincial health ministry said.
The number of patients confirmed to have COVID-19 in the province’s intensive care units has risen to 203, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario.
Public health officials have said that 150 is the threshold for when unrelated surgeries and procedures may be postponed or cancelled to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a day after reporting 17 new COVID-19 cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on Thursday and one recovery, bringing its number of active cases down to 29.
New Brunswick reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 111.
Prince Edward Island, which announced one new case of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing its total number of active cases to five. Premier Dennis King also said P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.
Manitoba reported 12 more COVID-19 fatalities and 368 new cases Thursday, which is lower than the province’s average for the previous seven days. Authorities say there are 357 people in hospital with the virus, a record high.
Saskatchewan reported 259 new cases on Thursday, which is below the province’s seven-day average of 276. Saskatchewan health authorities are also reporting one additional death.
WATCH | Nunavut lifts territory-wide lockdown but restrictions remain in Arviat:
In the North, Nunavut moved out of a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday, with restrictions easing for all communities except for Arviat, where community transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring. The territory reported five new cases in Arivat on Thursday, bringing its active case count to 75.
Yukon confirmed one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday. Wearing a mask in public indoor places became mandatory in the territory this week, following a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:40 p.m. ET
As of Thursday afternoon, there were more than 65 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 41.6 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in the United Kingdom is advising against all but essential travel to Canada based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks. It’s also advising British citizens already travelling in Canada to return the U.K. and self-isolate upon their return.
In the Americas, the United States again led the world in total COVID-19 deaths, with more than 275,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. This marks the first time the U.S. has seen more than 100,000 deaths than second-place Brazil, where some 174,000 have died.
In Europe, tributes poured in from France and around the world on Thursday, a day after former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing died of complications from COVID-19 at age 94.
Coronavirus infections in Russia have hit a new record, as the country’s authorities reported 28,145 new confirmed cases — the highest daily spike in the pandemic and an increase of 2,800 cases from those registered the previous day.
Russia’s total number of COVID-19 cases — nearly 2.4 million — remains the world’s fourth-highest. The government coronavirus task force has reported 41,607 deaths in the pandemic.
The country has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Japanese city of Osaka is urging residents to stay home as much as possible until mid-December because of a resurgence of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Osaka reported 386 new cases Thursday, and with overcrowding hospitals, some patients were sent to neighbouring areas for treatment.
Cases have been expanding rapidly across the country, including the Tokyo region, Aichi in central Japan and Hokkaido in the north.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 35 COVID-19 patients, are taking the country’s highly competitive university entrance exam despite a viral resurgence that has forced authorities to toughen physical distancing rules.
The Education Ministry says about 493,430 students began taking the one-day test at about 1,380 test sites across South Korea on Thursday. It says the test sites include hospitals and other medical facilities where the 35 virus patients and hundreds of others placed under self-quarantine will take the exam.
Africa’s top public health official says 60 per cent of the continent’s population needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the next two to three years. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that if it takes four to five years, “the virus will be endemic in our communities.”
Concerns are growing that the continent of 1.3 billion people will be near the end of the line in obtaining doses. Nkengasong isn’t sure whether vaccines will be available in Africa before the second quarter of next year. But he pushed back against vaccine misinformation, saying that “if I had my way today to take a flight to the U.K. and get that vaccine, I would be doing it right now.”
The continent now has well over 2.1 million confirmed virus cases and more than 52,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
South Africa on Thursday tightened some COVID-19 rules in the Eastern Cape province where infections are rising the most, curbing movement and gatherings, but decided against reinstating a nationwide lockdown.
In a televised address President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an enhanced curfew in the eastern Nelson Mandela Bay area, while indoor gatherings would be limited to 100 people and alcohol consumption in public is prohibited.
Iran, the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East, passed one million total COVID-19 cases on Thursday with 13,922 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.
Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 358 people had died from the coronavirus since Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 49,348.
Iran has introduced tougher measures to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel restrictions.
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