B.C.’s premier is urging people to “get with the program” and cut back on social interactions, warning that a return to tighter restrictions is possible if the province’s COVID-19 case numbers don’t come down.
“This is going to be challenging,” Premier John Horgan said Monday. “No one should be under any illusion based on what’s happening in British Columbia, in Canada, in North America — around the world — that we’re going to be out of this anytime soon.”
The province, which doesn’t publicly report COVID-19 case data on the weekend, on Monday reported 998 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths since Saturday. The province’s coronavirus dashboard put the number of hospitalizations at 133, with 43 in intensive care.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief public health officer, recently announced a two-week period of tighter restrictions for people living in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions. Henry said Monday that health officials are monitoring where people are contracting COVID-19 and the two-week order could change depending on what they learn.
What’s happening across Canada
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As of 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday, provinces and territories in Canada had reported a cumulative total of 268,735 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 218,400 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,564.
In Alberta, health officials reported 644 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday and seven deaths. The province reported that 192 people were in hospital, with 39 in ICU. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, expressed concern Monday about the hospitalization numbers and cautioned that Alberta has “not yet turned the corner that we must turn.”
With case numbers rising, a group of physicians in Alberta on Monday sent a letter to Premier Jason Kenney, the health minister and Hinshaw calling for swift moves to slow the spread of the virus.
“If the rate of COVID-19 spread continues, the consequences to the people of Alberta will be catastrophic,” the letter said. “The province should consider a two-week, short, sharp lockdown, or ‘circuit breaker’ to drop the effective reproductive number and allow contact tracing to catch up.”
Saskatchewan hit a new high in daily reported COVID-19 cases on Monday as officials announced 190 new cases. Health officials also reported one additional death, bringing the province’s death toll to 29.
In Manitoba concern is mounting over case numbers and the situation at some long-term care facilities dealing with outbreaks. Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said Monday he has spoken to Premier Brian Pallister about the possibility of stepped-up restrictions.
“We see these numbers going in the wrong direction, we see increasing demand on our health-care system,” Roussin said. “We’re at a critical point where we need to change these dynamics.”
WATCH | Frustrations grow along with Manitoba’s COVID-19 case numbers:
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories on Monday. In Nunavut, health officials said an individual at one of the territory’s isolation hubs in Winnipeg had tested positive for COVID-19.
Ontario on Tuesday reported 1,388 new cases of COVID-19, with 520 of them in Toronto and 395 in Peel Region.
Peel, northwest of Toronto, is the only region in Ontario currently listed as “red” in the province’s new colour-coded COVID-19 framework. Faced with mounting cases, the province on Monday announced it is setting up additional testing capacity in Brampton, with three new testing centres and a mobile unit.
WATCH | Peel Public Health implements further COVID-19 restrictions:
The province reported 13 additional deaths on Monday and reported 367 hospitalizations, with 84 in ICU. Updated figures on deaths and hospitalizations were expected later Tuesday.
In Quebec, a long-term care facility in Dorval that was hit hard in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is closing permanently.
Health officials said Monday that while the situation has improved in some parts of the province, such as Quebec City and Montreal, it is worsening in others — including the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean area, which currently has more than double the provincial rate of cases per 100,000 people.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, as did Nova Scotia. There were no new cases reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, and P.E.I. held steady with no active cases.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
As of early Tuesday morning, there have been more than 50 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, with more than 33 million listed as recovered on a coronavirus tracking dashboard maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The number of deaths recorded by the U.S.-based university stood at more than 1.2 million.
WATCH | What Pfizer’s vaccine trial means for the pandemic:
In the Middle East, Iran was to impose a nightly curfew on Tuesday on businesses in Tehran and other big cities and towns while Lebanon was preparing for a two-week nationwide lockdown later this week as both countries battle a major surge in coronavirus infections.
Restaurants and non-essential businesses in Tehran and 30 other cities were ordered to close at 6 p.m. local time for one month to keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and to slow the worsening outbreak, which has killed more than 39,000 — the highest toll in the Middle East. Iran has set single-day death records 10 times over the past month, a sign of how quickly the virus is spreading.
The announcement of new limits on Tehran’s bustling cafes and shops, the strictest since a brief nationwide business shutdown in April, reflects the growing sense of urgency among officials. In a first, Iranians’ phones lit up on Monday with a personal appeal from Saeed Namaki, the health minister.
“Do not leave your house for as long as you can and stay away from any crowded places,” his text read. “Coronavirus is no joke.”
Yet in the face of a steep economic decline, Iran continues to avoid a tougher lockdown. The country is already squeezed by unprecedented American sanctions reimposed in 2018 when the Trump administration withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers. Iran’s currency has plunged to new lows in recent weeks, hurting millions of destitute citizens.
Authorities may introduce other targeted measures, like a nighttime ban on through traffic on streets to keep Iranians from going to parties, Tehran Gov. Anoushiravan Bandpay said.
In Lebanon, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said a lockdown will begin on Saturday and last until the end of the month.
Lebanon has broken daily records in recent weeks, straining the country’s medical sector, where intensive care units are almost full and cannot take more cases. The World Health Organization says 1,527 health workers have tested positive since the first case was reported in Lebanon in late February.
The Lebanese announcement came despite harsh criticism from business sectors that have suffered for more than a year as the country passes through its worst economic and financial crisis. The head of the Lebanon workers union, Bechara el Asmar, warned on Monday the effects of a complete lockdown “will be catastrophic for workers and economic activities.”
Jordanians have begun voting to elect a new parliament amid the ongoing pandemic. The country’s economy has suffered from the virus and the repeated lockdowns, and the tourism industry, a key source of foreign currency, has all but dried up.
Israel said it had asked the U.S. government on Monday to help it get access to Pfizer’s potential COVID-19 vaccine.
In the Americas, Brazil’s health regulator has halted clinical trials of the potential coronavirus vaccine CoronaVac, citing an “adverse, serious event.” The decision posted on Anvisa’s website Monday night elicited immediate surprise from parties involved in producing the vaccine.
The potential vaccine is being developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac and in Brazil would be mostly produced by Sao Paulo’s state-run Butantan Institute. Sao Paulo state’s government said in a statement it “regrets being informed by the press and not directly by Anvisa, as normally occurs in clinical trials of this nature.”
Dimas Covas, who leads Butantan, said on TV Cultura late Monday that while a volunteer had died, it was not due to the shot.
Covas told reporters that the suspension of the trials by Brazil’s health regulator had caused “indignation” and had been done without discussion with the organizers.
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Monday unveiled the initial details of his plan to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in more than 10 million cases and more than 238,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistani authorities have imposed a mini-lockdown in some areas of the capital, Islamabad, sealing off hot spots to contain the surging coronavirus. The latest development comes hours after Pakistan on Tuesday reported 1,637 new COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths in the past 24 hours. The country has registered 346,476 confirmed cases and 7,000 deaths since February.
Authorities in China’s financial hub of Shanghai have quarantined 186 people and conducted coronavirus tests on more than 8,000 after a freight handler at the city’s main international airport tested positive for the virus.
No additional cases have been found, the city government said on its microblog Tuesday. It remains unclear how the 51-year-old man contracted the virus, which has largely spared the sprawling metropolis despite its dense population and strong international links.
In the northern port city of Tianjin, more than 77,000 people have been tested after a locally transmitted case was reported there on Monday. That case was believed to be linked to a cold storage warehouse, reinforcing suspicions that the virus may be spreading to victims from frozen food packaging.
In Europe, Dutch authorities warned on Tuesday that social distancing measures must remain in place despite a sharp fall in coronavirus cases, as hospitals remain under pressure due to heavy numbers of COVID-19 patients.
The National Institute for Health on Tuesday reported 43,621 cases in the week through Nov. 10, a decline of more than 30 per cent from the previous week. Deaths increased to 565 from 435.
Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said it was too soon to discuss relaxing rules from the country’s second partial lockdown, which began on Oct. 13.
“I think we have to realize that we as a society still have to make sure that we get much further into the green zone,” Grapperhaus said after a meeting with regional health and safety officials.
Sweden, whose soft-touch virus approach has sparked world-wide attention, has registered 15,779 coronavirus cases since the country’s previous update on Friday, Health Agency statistics showed on Tuesday.
The number compares with 10,177 cases for the corresponding period last week. Cases in the Nordic country, which does not publish updated COVID-19 data over the weekend and Mondays, have risen sharply, repeatedly hitting daily records over the last two weeks.
Sweden registered 35 new deaths, taking the total to 15,779 during the pandemic. Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than Nordic neighbours but lower than some larger European countries, such as Spain and Britain.
In Africa, Botswana has signed an agreement with the global vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the World Health Organization, giving it the option to buy coronavirus vaccines for 20 per cent of its population, a senior health official told Reuters.
The southern African country has registered a relatively low number of coronavirus cases, around 7,800, with 27 deaths, but its economy has been dealt a severe blow by the pandemic.
Unlike many other African countries, Botswana does not qualify for subsidized vaccines under the COVAX scheme because it is classified as an upper-middle income country like neighbours Namibia and South Africa.
“Twenty per cent coverage is the initial allotment guaranteed under the arrangement,” Moses Keetile, deputy permanent secretary in the health ministry, said.
South Africa remained the hardest-hit country in Africa, with John Hopkins putting the number of cases reported in the country at more than 738,000, with nearly 20,000 deaths.