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

The latest:

British Columbia reported 28 additional COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, a single-day high that Dr. Bonnie Henry described as “one of the most tragic days we have had yet.”

Speaking at a briefing, the provincial health officer said all but two of the deaths were seniors who were in long-term care homes. 

“These are family, these are friends, these are people who have had interesting and challenging lives,” she said as she offered condolences to families and those who lost loved ones.

With the additional deaths, the provincial death toll rose to 587. Hospitalizations stood at 346, with 83 people in critical care on intensive care units.

Henry said the upcoming COVID-19 immunization program is an “important, encouraging milestone” but cautioned that the province is “not yet through this storm.”

The province reported 723 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and Henry urged people not to gather beyond households during upcoming religious observances.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 442,069, with 73,225 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,109.

In Alberta, health officials reported 1,566 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 13 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 666. Hospitalizations stood at 682, with 124 in intensive care units.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, said the province completed roughly 16,800 new tests — for a positivity rate of approximately nine per cent.

“The messaging that we are clearly providing to Albertans is our health system is in trouble and we need to work together to save it,” Hinshaw said at a briefing Thursday in response to a question about public health restrictions and whether more needs to be done.

Saskatchewan reported 324 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths on Thursday, bringing the provincial death toll to 75.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said residents will have to wait until next week to learn what public health orders will be in place over the holidays. He said the Saskatchewan Party government is ultimately responsible for any decisions made, but it works with the chief medical health officer, who presents them with recommendations.

WATCH | Military arrives in Shamattawa First Nation amid COVID-19 crisis:

A military team has arrived to help deal with the escalating COVID-19 crisis in Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba, where some 300 people have tested positive in a community of about a thousand people. 1:39

In Manitoba, health officials reported 293 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 451.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief provincial public health officer, again urged people to follow the rules and not gather for the holidays — saying that case numbers will spike again if people ignore the restrictions.

Ontario hit a new single-day high on Thursday with 1,983 cases of COVID-19. The province also reported 35 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,871. Hospitalizations stood at 829, with 228 people in intensive care units.

New modelling released by Ontario health officials Thursday is forecasting that hospital intensive care unit occupancy will continue to rise above 200 beds for the next month, particularly if public health interventions are relaxed.

WATCH | 27-year-old Windsor, Ont., man dies from COVID-19:

Weng James, 27, of Windsor, Ont., died of COVID-19 on Monday, with no underlying health conditions. His family and friends remember him as a leader and a caregiver. 1:55

In Quebec, health officials reported 1,842 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 33 additional deaths, bringing the total death toll in the hard-hit province to 7,382. Hospitalizations stood at 848, with 113 people in intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard.

The province faced scrutiny Thursday for how its long-term care system handled the first wave of the pandemic. An ombudsperson’s report said Quebec’s long-term care system failed to ensure the safety and dignity of residents as the virus first spread last winter and spring.

In the report, Marie Rinfret said the system was disorganized and unprepared for the surge, with many homes lacking in personal protective equipment and some unable to provide basic care and services.

In Atlantic Canada, both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia reported four new cases of COVID-19, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case. There were no new cases in Prince Edward Island.

Across the North, there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in Yukon or Nunavut on Thursday. Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories, said in a news release late Thursday five travel-related cases had been reported in Yellowknife.

What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET

As of early Friday morning, more than 69.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 44.9 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.

In the Americas, a U.S. government advisory panel has endorsed widespread use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, putting the country just one step away from launching a widespread vaccination campaign against the outbreak that has killed close to 300,000 Americans.

Shots could begin within days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration signs off, as expected, on the expert committee’s recommendation. First in line for the vaccinations would be health-care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.

A staff member reacts near a table of appreciation gifts during a Christmas party at the Goodwin House senior living community centre in Arlington, Va., during the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Johns Hopkins, the U.S. has seen more than 15.6 million cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus and more than 292,000 deaths.

Besides the staggering human cost, the pandemic has taken aim at the U.S. economy, forcing millions out of work as state and local authorities imposed sweeping restrictions on social and economic activities to curb the virus. Many Americans, however, have resisted public health directives to wear face coverings in public and avoid large crowds.

On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a medical doctor, imposed a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew among other measures that will kick in on Monday and last until at least Jan. 31.

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio said he was extending his state’s 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew until Jan. 2, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week, announced new mitigation measures to take effect on Saturday.

In Europe, Denmark will expand lockdown measures announced earlier this week to more cities.

Worker Jan Loested cleans out a shed on Thursday that housed mink at the Semper Avanti mink farm in Moldrup, Denmark. The Danish government ordered a mink cull after hundreds of farms suffered outbreaks of coronavirus. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Meanwhile, calls were growing Friday for tougher lockdown measures in Germany as officials report record daily increases in both coronavirus cases and deaths.

The Robert Koch Institute said the country’s 16 states reported 29,875 new cases of COVID-19, breaking the previous daily record of 23,679 cases reported the day before. The number of deaths from the virus rose by 598, to a total of 20,970. The previous daily record of deaths was 590, set on Wednesday.

In Africa, Nigeria may be on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the health minister warned, as another official said the country expects to roll out a vaccine by April next year.

In the Middle East, Bahrain will provide the vaccine for free for all citizens and residents, state news agency BNA reported.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korean health officials reported another 689 new coronavirus cases on Friday.

Kim Young Sun, CFO of Korea Superfreeze, sprays water inside an ultra-cold storage facility at the Korea Superfreeze company in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on Thursday in preparation for vaccines. (Heo Ran/Reuters)

The country is expanding the use of rapid tests and deploying hundreds of police officers and soldiers to help with contact tracing as it deals with its worst surge of coronavirus cases since the early days of the pandemic

Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho said Friday that rapid antigen tests at emergency rooms, intensive-care units and remote-area hospitals will be covered by the national health insurance starting Monday,

In Japan, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said he wanted to see the government avoid issuing another state of emergency over the coronavirus.

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