- Long-term care workers, residents should be first in line for COVID-19 vaccine, committee says.
- Quebec reports 1,345 new COVID-19 cases and 28 more deaths, day after province cancels plans to allow holiday gatherings.
- Ontario expands restrictions to three new regions.
- Alberta records 15 more deaths, announces its positivity rate is above 10 per cent.
- First COVID-19 vaccine doses expected to be given in January, federal officials say.
- San Francisco issues stay-at-home order.
- Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca
Canada surpassed 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday as news emerged of who may receive the first vaccine doses to be administered in January.
As of 6:45 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 402,569, with 69,977 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,496.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, also warned Friday that daily new cases could top 10,000 by January. Alberta announced Friday its positivity rate for COVID-19 is now 10.5 per cent, which the province’s chief medical health officer called a “grim milestone.”
Meanwhile, federal officials are making plans for how to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says the first doses that arrive should be given to residents of long-term care homes, along with staff who work in the facilities.
The independent committee, which is charged with deciding how the vaccine should be distributed, released its final directive Friday.
NACI said that since the elderly residents of long-term care and assisted living facilities, retirement homes and chronic care hospitals face “severe outcomes” and a much greater chance of dying from the disease, they should be at the top of the list for the initial batch of roughly six million doses that will be made available in Canada in the first three months of 2021.
WATCH | Dr. Tam discusses COVID-19 vaccine priority groups:
The first batch will be enough for roughly three million Canadians. Pfizer’s vaccine, which is expected to be the first product approved for use in Canada, requires two doses.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Canada is expecting more product to arrive from the other drug companies that have developed promising vaccines — such as Massachusetts-based Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen — in the months to follow.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced today that Canada doubled its order with Moderna Inc. and will buy 40 million doses of its vaccine.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq who is leading vaccination logistics at a new national operations centre in the Public Health Agency of Canada, laid out the rollout plan at a press conference Thursday.
One of the principal challenges facing the immunization effort is the distribution of vaccines that must be kept at very low temperatures. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which are expected to be the first approved for use in the country, need to be kept at approximately -80 C and -20 C, respectively, to remain stable.
Eventually, there will be 205 “points of issue” locations across the country where health-care professionals can administer the vaccine, Fortin said.
It will be up to the provinces and territories to specify where and when individual Canadians will be inoculated.
At a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, the head of the World Health Organization said recent progress on vaccines is positive but the agency is concerned this has led to a growing perception that the pandemic is over.
“The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the COVID-19 virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive-care units and health workers,” said Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
WATCH | WHO’S Mike Ryan on the importance of continuing public health measures:
Tedros said the pandemic still has a long way to run and that decisions made by citizens and governments would determine its course in the short run and when it will ultimately end.
What’s happening across Canada
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Officials there have expressed hope that the Moncton and Frederiction regions could soon return to the yellow phase of recovery from the more restrictive orange phase.
“We are seeing some progress, people are following public health advice and measures,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health. However, the Saint John region, which is currently also in the orange phase, is a bit further behind, Russell said.
WATCH | N.B. officials on how residents can have a yellow Christmas:
Nova Scotia reported 15 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the province’s active case count to 117.
Prince Edward Island announced one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday, as Premier Dennis King said P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing its active caseload to 27.
Quebec reported 1,345 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 more deaths on Friday. The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 rose to 761 (up 24 from the day before), while the number in intensive care is at 97 (down two).
Starting Friday, inspectors and police will be more visible in malls and shops to make sure businesses are complying with public health measures including a maximum capacity of customers and signs about distancing rules.
The province has cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the December holidays in light of a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
WATCH | Quebec premier says no gatherings allowed over holiday season:
Ontario reported 1,780 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 new deaths on Friday, as the seven-day average of new daily cases dropped slightly to 1,759.
The province also said three more regions are moving into new levels of the province’s colour-coded restrictions framework for at least 28 days. York Region continued to avoid being placed in lockdown despite being among the hardest hit regions after Toronto and Peel.
As of Monday, Middlesex-London and Thunder Bay will be in the orange “restrict” tier, while the Haliburton, Kawartha and Pine Ridge District Health Unit will move into the yellow “protect” category.
“Over the last seven days we have seen the trends in key public health indicators continue to go in the wrong direction in these three regions,” Christine Elliott, Ontario’s health minister, said in a statement.
Manitoba reported nine new deaths linked to COVID-19 Friday. There are 320 new COVID-19 cases in the province, while two cases were removed from Manitoba’s total due to data correction. Some 361 people are in hospital, including 55 people in intensive care. Provincial officials say the numbers would be much higher were it not for broad restrictions that were put into place on Nov. 12.
Saskatchewan on Friday reported 283 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death related to the illness. There are 4,116 known active cases in the province, of which 126 are currently in hospital.
Alberta reported 15 more deaths at a Friday news conference, as well as 1,828 new cases of COVID-19. The positivity rate in the province has climbed to more than 10 per cent — a number Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, called a “grim milestone.”
Albertans are now one week into the latest round of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Last Friday, Premier Jason Kenney ordered junior and senior high schools to close, barred indoor social gatherings and capped capacity for businesses.
British Columbia reported 711 new COVID-19 cases and 11 new deaths in a written statement on Friday.
In the North, Nunavut reported eight new cases on Friday, all in the hamlet of Arviat, which remains under restrictions.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said the number of active cases of COVID-19 in the territory continues to fall, but it will be some time before community outbreaks are officially over. Nunavut lifted a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6:45 p.m. ET
As of Friday afternoon, there were more than 65.7 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 42.1 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.
In the Americas, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is trying to boost Americans’ confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines that are awaiting regulatory approval and distribution.
At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s main campus in Atlanta, Pence said Friday the Food and Drug Administration could approve the first vaccines “the week of Dec. 14” with the first wave of Americans being vaccinated “in all 50 states” within 48 hours of that approval.
“We’ve gone at record pace, but we’ve cut no corners in this,” Pence said, sitting beside CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “What we want to do is assure the American people that there’s been no compromise of safety or effectiveness in the development of this vaccine.”
Pence’s comments come the day after former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said they’d be willing to receive a vaccine on television to boost confidence.
The virus is raging in several parts of the country. Health officers in six San Francisco Bay Area regions issued a new stay-at-home order Friday as the number of virus cases surge and hospitals fill.
The changes will take effect for most of the area at 10 p.m. Sunday and last through Jan. 4. The counties have not yet reached Gov. Gavin Newsom’s threshold announced a day earlier requiring such an order when 85 per cent of ICU beds at regional hospitals are full, but officials said the hospital system will be overwhelmed before the end of December when Newsom’s order would apply.
“We don’t think we can wait for the state’s new restrictions to go into effect later this month. This is an emergency,” said Contra Costa Health Officer Chris Farnitano.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee has authorized medically trained National Guard soldiers to fill nursing roles, drive ambulances and perform coronavirus testing for overstretched hospitals. The state reports 2,485 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with only 14 per cent of floor beds and eight per cent of ICU beds available.
In Europe, Norway’s Health Minister Bent Hoeie said some 1.2 million people, chiefly those in high-risk groups and health workers, will get the vaccine when it becomes available. The remainder of Norway’s population of 5.4 million are expected to get the vaccine in the spring.
In Spain, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government hopes to vaccinate between 15 and 20 million people by next May or June, with more to follow. It hopes to begin vaccinating next month and receive more than 140 million vaccine doses in all.
Croatia has ordered 5.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines and will start giving shots to people as soon as the vaccines are authorized for use in the European Union, health officials said.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic has launched a coronavirus testing program for the country’s teachers as students gradually return to school. The program that started Friday and continues to Dec. 18 is designed to test up to 170,000 teachers. The free program is voluntary and uses rapid antigen tests.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has recorded 629 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily tally in about nine months.
After successfully suppressing two previous outbreaks this year, South Korea has been grappling with a fresh spike in infections since it relaxed stringent physical distancing rules in October. Last week, it toughened distancing restrictions in the greater Seoul area and other places.
In the Middle East, the island kingdom of Bahrain said Friday it has become the second nation in the world — after the U.K. — to grant an emergency-use authorization for the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
Bahrain, which had already granted an emergency-use authorization for a Chinese vaccine made by Sinopharm, did not immediately say how may vaccines it has purchased.
A partial lockdown will begin this weekend in the Gaza Strip after infections spiked in the densely populated territory.
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