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

The latest:

Alberta has marked a new record for reported deaths from COVID-19 in a single day, as the province confirmed a fourth health-care worker has died from the disease after she was infected at work.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, called it “a difficult day” as she reported 652 new cases and 38 more deaths at a news conference Tuesday. A total of 1,345 Albertans have now died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

“We must always remember that these figures are not just numbers but lives,” Hinshaw said.

Deaths from the illness are reported as Alberta Health compiles data, meaning not all 38 happened on the same day. The latest report includes deaths reported to the province from Dec. 30 to Tuesday.

But provincial numbers released over the last two days show that at least 21 people died from COVID-19 on Sunday alone.

One of those people was health-care aide Rose Vandelannoite, who worked for more than 10 years at Summerwood Village Retirement Home in Sherwood Park, outside Edmonton.

Vandelannoite died of complications from the disease on Sunday, her union wrote in a memorial post on Twitter. She was 63.

“Never too shy to stand up and speak her mind, she was a fighter and made sure that every worker and resident was treated compassionately, fairly and with respect,” her union, LiUNA Local 3000, wrote in the thread.

Alberta Health confirmed in a statement to CBC News that Vandelannoite was infected at work and is the fourth health-care worker in the province to die due to the disease.

While the number of active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta has slowly declined over the past four weeks, the hospitalization numbers are higher now than they were a month ago. On Tuesday, there were 819 COVID-19 patients in hospital — up from 716 on Dec. 13 — including 132 patients in intensive care.

WATCH | How close are Alberta’s ICUs to the breaking point?

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospitals including what happens if ICUs run out of space and what restrictive measures might help. 2:54

In the face of the concerning numbers, Hinshaw said Alberta Health is extending the interval between first and second vaccine doses from three or four weeks, as it had been doing, to as many as 42 days so as many Albertans as possible get the protection of those first doses.

By end of day Monday, a total of 52,318 vaccine doses had been administered in the province.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 677,434 cases of COVID-19, with 80,288 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,307.

The Canada-U.S. border will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least Feb. 21, after Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on Tuesday announced the latest extension to international travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Canada-U.S. agreement bars entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons. It took effect in late March.

(CBC News)

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 17 new COVID-19 infections and two new deaths on Tuesday. Health officials said the deaths involve one person in their 70s and one in their 80s who were residents of a retirement facility in Saint John.

Nova Scotia announced one new case in the province on Tuesday. The province also announced mandatory testing for rotational workers returning to Nova Scotia after working in another part of the country. 

The high number of cases, especially in Alberta where many Nova Scotians work, is concerning, Premier Stephen McNeil said at a press briefing.

Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Along with one new recovery, the number of active cases in the province stayed at eight. Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases.

In Quebec, Premier François Legault stood by his decision to impose an overnight curfew, as well as to reopen elementary schools on Monday in spite of the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations.

“It’s a calculated risk,” Legault said. “It’s part of my job to make decisions, and I think there are more disadvantages than advantages to leaving children at home.”

Quebec reported 1,934 new cases and 47 new deaths on Tuesday. The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 rose to 1,497 people, including 221 in intensive care.

Ontario reported 2,961 new cases and 74 new deaths on Wednesday, a day after the province declared a state of emergency and issued a stay-at-home order that takes effect Thursday after midnight.

There were 1,674 patients in hospitals with COVID-19, down from a record 1,701 on Tuesday. Of those, 385 were being treated in intensive care and 276 required a ventilator to breathe.

The province is expected to provide more details this afternoon on the “legal parameters” of the stay-at-home order.

WATCH | Ontario lockdown measures don’t go far enough, respirologist says:

After tweeting Ontario needs, ‘a leader with the guts to rip off the bandage and just do what needs to be done,’ Dr. Samir Gupta told the CBC’s Heather Hiscox new COVID-19 lockdown rules don’t address some key drivers of infection, and would like to see measures such as more paid sick leave for essential workers. 8:41

Manitoba public health officials announced 90 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the fewest daily cases reported since Oct. 19, along with eight new deaths.

One of the province’s newest COVID-19 deaths is longtime folk musician and activist Curtis (Shingoose) Jonnie, who died Tuesday morning at the age of 74 after testing positive, his daughter said.

Shingoose, who is Ojibway from Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation, had been living at the Southeast Personal Care Home in Winnipeg for the last decade, Nahanni Shingoose said.

Saskatchewan announced 248 new cases and five more deaths on Tuesday. The provincial government also announced that it is extending its COVID-19 public health rules, which include a ban on household visitors and reduced capacity for businesses, until at least Jan. 29.

According to data from Health Canada, Saskatchewan’s rate of active COVID-19 cases is now the highest in the country at 319 per 100,000 population on Tuesday. The national average rate currently sits at 215.

In British Columbia, health officials announced 446 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths on Tuesday.

Nineteen more COVID-19 cases linked to the Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna were confirmed by Interior Health, bringing the total to 162 cases.

In the North, a Dawson-area woman has been ordered to pay a $ 500 fine after failing to complete a declaration form, a requirement under Yukon’s COVID-19 measures for anyone entering the territory.

None of the three territories reported any new cases on Tuesday.

WATCH | Nunavut premier fights vaccine misinformation:

Premier Joe Savikataaq of Nunavut urged residents not to listen to ‘gossip’ and ‘untruth’ about the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and pleaded with people to get the shot. ‘This vaccine is safe,’ he said. 1:12

What’s happening around the world

As of Wednesday morning, more than 91.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 50.7 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 1.9 million.

A global team of scientists, led by the World Health Organization, tasked with investigating the origins of the novel coronavirus will spend around a month in the Chinese city of Wuhan, including two weeks in quarantine, a team member said on Wednesday.

Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese biologist, told Reuters that he did not expect any restrictions to the 10-member team’s work in China as they prepared to fly on Thursday from Singapore to Wuhan, where the first human cases were detected in late 2019.

WATCH | WHO delegate to China says this trip may not reveal coronavirus origin:

A member of the World Health Organization’s team heading to Wuhan, China, to try to find the origin of the novel coronavirus said he doesn’t see limitations on research, but also doesn’t expect this trip will reveal the source of the coronavirus. 1:33

While Hung said he hoped the mission would reveal new details about the origins of the virus, he cautioned against finding firm answers. “We want to find something, to find new information,” he said. “But, myself, I don’t expect personally after this trip everything will be clear. But that is really a necessary step forward.”

In the Americas, California is lifting a stay-at-home order for 13 northern counties because of improving hospital conditions, but most of the state’s population remains under tight restrictions because of the deadly coronavirus surge.

The state lifted a December ban on outdoor dining, hair and nail salons and other services for the Sacramento region. But three of five state regions — the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California — remain under the stay-at-home order because their hospitals’ intensive care capacity is severely limited.

Meanwhile, nearly all air travellers will need to present a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States under expanded testing requirements announced on Tuesday.

Under the rules set to take effect on Jan. 26, nearly all travellers, including U.S. citizens, must show a negative test within three days of departure or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

All travellers aged two and older must comply except passengers who are only transiting through the United States. The CDC will also consider waivers of testing requirements for airlines flying to countries with little or no testing capacity, including some places in the Caribbean.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations are prepared for administration at University of Nevada in Las Vegas on Tuesday. UNLV officials established the vaccination centre on campus on Monday. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Mexico posted another high for its daily increase in coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with 14,395 newly confirmed infections and a near-record of 1,314 more deaths.

In Europe, Germany’s Health Ministry says the states of Berlin and Brandenburg can start coronavirus vaccinations with newly received Moderna doses, which had been put on hold over concerns they may have been stored at temperatures that weren’t cold enough to prevent spoilage during transportation.

The ministry told the dpa news agency Wednesday that “the quality of the vaccines was not affected by the transport and the vaccines can be used safely.” The two states had each received 2,400 doses of the vaccine.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency for seven more prefectures Wednesday, affecting more than half the population amid a surge in infections across the country. Prime Minister Yoshide Suga’s announcement comes less than a week after he declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures.

Two women walk on an unusually empty street in Kyoto, Japan, on Wednesday. The government has expanded a coronavirus state of emergency for seven more prefectures, including Kyoto. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Suga also said Japan will suspend fast-track entry exceptions for business visitors or others with residency permits, fully banning foreign visitors while the state of emergency is in place.

In Africa, a continental official said Tuesday the African Union has secured close to 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the largest such agreement yet for Africa.

The 300 million doses are being secured independently of the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, said Nicaise Ndembi, senior science adviser for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Middle East, Jordan has begun administering coronavirus vaccines with the goal of inoculating 10,000 people in the first two days.

Wael Hayajneh, the Health Ministry official in charge of combatting the virus, said Wednesday that the first doses will go to medical personnel, the elderly and those with chronic diseases. The country hopes to vaccinate 20 per cent of its population of 10.5 million by the end of the year.

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