New Brunswick has rolled back the Edmundston and Grand Falls region to a more restrictive red phase and other regions face the same prospect as the province continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The province reported 36 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — 24 of them in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, about 380 kilometres northwest of Saint John — marking its highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic. There are now 292 active cases in the province and one person is in the hospital.
“We’re at the maximum of what we can deal with in the short term,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer, said at a media briefing on Sunday.
Russell said 11 cases in the Edmundston region are linked to an outbreak at Nadeau Poultry in Saint-François de Madawaska.
The move to red-phase restrictions, which took effect in the region at midnight, mean some businesses including movie theatres, barbershops and hair salons must close, while restaurants can only operate with takeout and delivery. However, schools will remain open with additional health measures in place.
Zone 4 going to Red level at midnight / 36 new cases<a href=”https://t.co/tLo93VfVpZ”>https://t.co/tLo93VfVpZ</a><br><br>Details on cases and testing can be found on the GNB website.<br>Mobile and most browsers: <a href=”https://t.co/oIqIZSv1av”>https://t.co/oIqIZSv1av</a><br>IE users: <a href=”https://t.co/1X3Tc1hCRa”>https://t.co/1X3Tc1hCRa</a> <a href=”https://t.co/tM0iUwQ3Ji”>pic.twitter.com/tM0iUwQ3Ji</a>
Premier Blaine Higgs warned that the Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton regions are “on the cusp” of a return to red.
“We need to take this seriously because the next step, after the red phase, is a total lockdown,” he said.
As of the province’s last update on Jan. 11, 7,732 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province, with 1,862 people fully vaccinated with the required two doses several weeks apart.
The rest of Atlantic Canada has not seen the recent spread of COVID-19 infections to the extent that New Brunswick has.
Following the outbreak of cases in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia announced on Jan. 8 that it would tighten its border restrictions with the province.
Nova Scotia reported four new cases on Sunday, all of which are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada, while Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case in a person who returned home from work in Alberta.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 712,831 cases of COVID-19, with 74,293 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,070.
Over the weekend, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand sought to allay Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international vaccine deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.
Anand said on Twitter she has been in touch with the drugmaker and was assured it’s “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible.” The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.
Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, which is the fewest logged on a single day in about two and a half weeks. However, the province’s labs processed just 40,301 test samples for the novel coronavirus, nearly 20,000 fewer than the day before.
The province also reported 24 new deaths and a total of 1,571 patients with COVID-19 in hospital. Of those, 394 were being treated in intensive care units and 303 were on ventilators — the first time the latter has climbed above 300 since the pandemic began.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s first mass vaccination site opened Monday — though not to the general public — at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the downtown core.
Mass vaccinations haven’t started yet as long-term care and health-care settings are being prioritized, but the facility is serving as a blueprint for what could be coming to other locations in the coming months.
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Retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine distribution plan, told CBC News on Sunday that Ontario wants to have everyone vaccinated by late July or early August.
In Quebec, high schoolers headed back to classrooms on Monday after a month at home, joining elementary students who returned to in-person instruction a week before the older kids. Among other health precautions, students have to wear medical-grade masks and will be tested right away if they show any COVID-19 symptoms.
The province reported 1,634 new cases on Monday, though it noted that a delay in the transmission of laboratory data caused a delay in the reporting of cases to public health departments on Sunday, and a drop in the number of new cases reported.
It also reported 32 deaths, nine of which occurred in the last 24 hours and 23 that occurred between Jan. 11 and 16.
Manitoba registered 189 new COVID-19 cases and eight additional deaths on Sunday. Just over half of the new cases — 95 — were in the province’s Northern health region, which has seen cases skyrocket this week in connection with outbreaks in several communities, health officials have said.
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Saskatchewan added 287 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths. The province said there were 3,232 doses of vaccine administered Saturday, the highest one-day total to date.
Alberta is easing some public health restrictions on Monday, allowing personal and wellness service businesses to reopen by appointment only. The province reported 750 new COVID-19 cases and 19 new deaths on Sunday.
In British Columbia, Kelowna RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the organizer of a protest in the city’s downtown area on Saturday that contravened provincial public health orders related to COVID-19. Police did not name the organizer but say this is the third time they have issued a fine to this person for organizing a large gathering of people opposed to measures meant to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
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In the North, Northwest Territories health officials placed the hamlet of Fort Liard under a two-week containment order after three cases were discovered in the community.
A dozen employees of Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine in Nunavut are now in self-isolation after a worker at the mine tested positive for COVID-19, the company said in a news release Friday. There have been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News Saturday via email.
Meanwhile, members of Yukon’s two mobile COVID-19 vaccination teams held one last dry-run at a Whitehorse high school Friday before hitting the road.
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 95.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.3 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than two million.
The head of the World Health Organization says it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in rich countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people in poorer countries.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus kicked off WHO’s week-long executive board meeting — virtually from its headquarters in Geneva — on Monday by lamenting that only 25 vaccine doses have been provided in a single poor country, while over 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer nations.
“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest income country — not 25 million, not 25,000 — just 25. I need to be blunt,” Tedros said. He did not specify the country.
Tedros again criticized “bilateral deals” between drug companies and countries that hurt the ability of the WHO-backed COVAX program that aims to get vaccines to all countries based on need.
“Most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries, where the profits are highest, rather than submitting” data to WHO, he said, so it can approve vaccines for wider use.
In Europe, France on Monday began a campaign to inoculate people over 75 against coronavirus, as its death toll rose past 70,000 over the weekend.
The new variant of COVID-19 first detected in Britain is now starting to gain a foothold in Belgium, officials say, with cases reported in several northern schools on top of an outbreak in a nursing home.
Officials in the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz quarantined employees and guests of two luxury hotels, closed ski schools and kept schoolchildren home from class on Monday after a dozen positive tests for a highly infectious coronavirus variant.
In Asia, a Chinese province grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases is reinstating tight restrictions on weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, threatening violators with criminal charges.
The notice from the high court in Hebei province did not give specifics, but said all types of social gatherings were now being regulated to prevent further spread of the virus.
In the Americas, incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the coronavirus pandemic will get worse in the U.S. before it gets better, projecting another 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the first five weeks of president-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, Klain said Biden was inheriting a dire situation, saying even with vaccines, “It’s going to take a while to turn this around.” Biden has set a goal of injecting 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a goal Klain said they were on pace to meet.
Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to months of delay and political disputes.
Brazil currently has six million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days, and is awaiting the arrival of another two million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.
In Africa, South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine, has been promised nine million doses by Johnson & Johnson, the Business Day newspaper reported.
The country has delayed reopening its schools as it faces a rapid resurgence of COVID-19 overwhelming the country’s hospitals and driven by a more infectious variant of the virus.
Ghana’s president said Sunday that infection rates are skyrocketing and include variants of the virus not before seen in the country, filling treatment centres and threatening to overwhelm the health system.