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

The latest:

Ontario students will not be returning to school for the remainder of this academic year, Premier Doug Ford confirmed Wednesday. 

He said while many of the stakeholders he consulted last week suggested reopening schools on a regional basis, he said the medical input he got could not guarantee that sending kids back to in-person learning wouldn’t lead to thousands of new COVID-19 cases in the province. He said the focus instead would be to get kids outdoors. 

“I want schools to host in-person outdoor graduation events and other opportunities for you to meet with your friends and reconnect outside before the end of the year,” he said.

“It is unequivocally a wrong decision,” said Dr. Barry Pakes of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, following the announcement. Pakes told the CBC’s Andrew Nichols that schools have never been a primary source of virus transmission in the population.

WATCH | Pakes reacts to Ford’s decision:

Dr. Barry Pakes, of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, says Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s decision to keep schools closed is ‘unequivocally a wrong decision.’ 2:15

Ford said he is also hopeful that the province might be able to enter Stage 1 of reopening before mid-June as currently planned, depending on what public health officials advise. 

Ontario health officials on Wednesday reported 733 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 708, with 576 people in ICU due to COVID-19.

Ontario’s stay-at-home order lifted Wednesday, but most other public health measures remain in place.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 1:10 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Variant 1st seen in India a ‘major concern’ for Canada, respirologist says: 

The coronavirus variant that was first detected in India, and is now known as the delta variant, is a ‘major concern’ for Canada due to its transmissibility and for how quickly that has allowed it to spread in Europe and the U.K., says Toronto respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta. 1:10

As of 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,384,675 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 29,893 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,605. More than 24.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.

Nova Scotia entered the first phase of its reopening plan on Wednesday, just hours before Newfoundland and Labrador residents learned the details of that province’s plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions.

The first step in Nova Scotia reopens schools in most of the province and allows retail stores to operate at 25 per cent capacity and restaurant patios to reopen at maximum capacity. Schools in the Halifax and Sydney areas are set to open their doors on Thursday.

The province reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and two additional deaths. The province has also confirmed its first case of a rare blood-clotting condition known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia — a man in his 40s who received his first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in early May.

Officials say he developed symptoms about two weeks after vaccination and is recovering after receiving treatment.

Grade 9 student Arryan Rao is pictured at home on March 10, 2021. Ontario students will finish out the school year learning from home. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Nova Scotia’s five-step plan is based on vaccination rates and other health indicators, including case numbers and hospitalizations, but a spokesperson for hotel operators is urging the government to add a “little bit of clarity” around timelines.

The shift in Nova Scotia came just hours before health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador outlined their plan for reopening.

Newfoundland and Labrador — which will move through a multi-phase reopening plan tentatively set to begin with a transition period on June 15 —  reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

New Brunswick health officials reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The province had 140 active reported cases of the infection with seven patients in hospital, including two in intensive care, officials said.

Health officials Prince Edward Island had not yet provided updated COVID-19 figures Wednesday.

In Quebec, health officials reported 288 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths on Wednesday.

Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or in the Northwest Territories on Wednesday. Health officials in Yukon had not yet provided updated figures for the day.

The Northwest Territories said visitors from Yukon are now exempt from its isolation requirements. 

Northwest Territories residents and non-residents need to submit an exemption request to the public health office. Travellers applying for the exception must have been in Yukon or the Northwest Territories for at least 14 days.

In Manitoba, where dozens of critical care patients have been transferred out of province for treatment, health officials on Wednesday reported 267 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths.

Alberta has also offered to help ease some of the stress on Manitoba’s health-care system, and said it will take up to 10 patients at ICUs in Edmonton or Calgary. Forty-six patients have already been sent to Ontario and Saskatchewan.

Manitoba Health announced Wednesday that a 30-year-old man from the province who had been treated in an Ontario ICU since May 20 died of COVID-19

Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 130 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and one additional death. The update came one day after Premier Scott Moe said that the province’s mandatory mask order could be lifted as early as July 11.

Health officials in Alberta, where the first step of reopening began on Tuesday, reported one new death and 209 new cases of COVID-19.

British Columbia health officials reported no new deaths and 184 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — the lowest daily case number the province has seen since last fall.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 4 p.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

Kelly Clark receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Kevin Orrell at Nova Scotia’s first drive-thru vaccination clinic at the Dartmouth General hospital in Dartmouth, N.S., on May 10. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 171.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a database from Johns Hopkins University that tracks the pandemic. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.5 million.

In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden is set to update the nation on the vaccination rollout and his plans to get 70 per cent of adults partially vaccinated by Independence Day — essential to his goal of returning the nation to a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy this summer. 

Mexico says a clinical review of past deaths has led officials to raise the country’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll by 4,272, to a total of 227,840. The adjustment announced Tuesday is largely one of record keeping, because even government officials acknowledge the true death toll is far higher.

Because the country of 126 million people does so little testing, many Mexicans have died at home or never got a test. So the government searches death certificates for mentions of symptoms related to COVID-19. Those analyses of excess deaths related to COVID-19 now stand at over 348,750, which gives Mexico one of the highest per capita rates in the world.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan’s top medical adviser said hosting the Olympics during the current state of infections was “not normal,” in one of the strongest warnings about the planned Games.

People wait to receive the second dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination effort in Mexico City on Tuesday. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

Taiwan reported a rise in domestic infections after six days of falls, and unveiled details of a mass vaccination plan that aims to eventually cover 1.7 million people a week.

In the Middle East, Israel’s Health Ministry said it found the small number of heart inflammation cases observed mainly in young men who received Pfizer’s vaccine in Israel were likely linked to their vaccination.

In Africa, Egypt aims to vaccinate 40 per cent of its population against coronavirus by the end of 2021, the prime minister said in a televised address on Wednesday. By the end of Wednesday, 2.5 million people will have been vaccinated from a total of six million people who signed up on the government’s registration platform, Mostafa Madbouly said.

In Europe, Greece, Germany and five other European Union nations introduced a vaccination certificate system for travellers on Tuesday, weeks ahead of the July 1 rollout of the program across the 27-nation bloc.

Wu Hsieng-i, a retired doctor, collects a swab sample during a volunteer training program in Hsinchu on Wednesday as the Taiwanese government called for medical background specialists to assist amid an outbreak of COVID-19. (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images)

The other countries starting early were Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Croatia and Poland, according to the European Commission.

The European Medicines Agency has recommended approving two additional manufacturing and finishing sites for the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The EU drug regulator said Tuesday that the additional vaccine production and filling sites were at Pfizer’s factory in Puurs, Belgium. The EMA said its decision, based on a review of manufacturing data submitted by BioNTech, is expected to have “a significant and immediate impact” on the supply of the vaccine for the 27 countries in the EU made by Pfizer and BioNTech.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:10 a.m. ET

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