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

The latest:

Health Canada issued an advisory on Saturday for some people who may want the recently approved Pfizer-BioTech vaccine, as provinces prepared to receive their first doses next week in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The department said Canadians who have allergies to any of the ingredients in the vaccine should not receive it. Health Canada noted that two people in the U.K. reported severe allergic reactions to Pfizer–BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 8, the first day of Britain’s mass vaccination program.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, and the first doses are expected to arrive via UPS by Monday.

The first doses destined for Canada left a factory in the small town of Puurs, Belgium, on Friday. The shipment had stopovers scheduled in Germany and Kentucky.

WATCH | Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin on getting the COVID-19 vaccine to Canada:

Canada’s very first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are en route, via UPS. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin is in charge of all the details and logistics of the critical operation and he spoke to Nil Koksal about managing it all. 3:26

Also on Friday, top health officials warned Canadians against complacency in guarding against the respiratory illness as the wait for getting the vaccine continues.

Canada is still on a “rapid-growth” trajectory for COVID-19 cases, and the number of deaths from the respiratory illness could hit nearly 15,000 in another two weeks, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said. 

More than 13,250 deaths have been attributed to the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began. The current caseload of more than 448,000 could grow to an estimated 577,000 by Christmas Day, according to federal forecasts.

Tam said Canada could see an average of 12,000 new cases of infection daily, with increasing hospitalizations and deaths, by the beginning of January “unless significant reductions in contact rates are achieved.”

What’s happening across Canada

As of 2:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 453,257 with 73,112 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,337.

In British Columbia, a senior on Vancouver Island says she was kicked off a COVID-19 subsidy after going just $4 over the qualification threshold.

Sheila Chaisson, a 67-year-old from Courtenay, said she “can’t afford to go out and buy anything” after losing out on the monthly $300 relief, adding: “I’ve really had to stretch to afford masks and sanitizer and all the things I need through the pandemic.”

In Alberta, the number of positive COVID-19 tests in a pilot project for international travellers at the Calgary airport and a United States border crossing in southern Alberta has been reasonably low after its first six weeks.

Saskatchewan saw 274 new COVID-19 cases and a record 11 additional deaths on Saturday.

WATCH | Sask. woman on going from not feeling well to critically ill with COVID-19:

Hospitalizations continue to increase in our province. Kathy Ziglo is on the mend from the COVID-19 but she is still shocked about how quickly she became critically ill. Bonnie Allen delivers her story. 2:34

Manitoba reported 360 new cases and 18 more deaths. Of the deaths reported Saturday, eight are linked to outbreaks at personal care homes in Winnipeg, including three at Charleswood Care Centre, two at Oakview Place and three at Park Manor Care Home.

Ontario‘s health minister on Saturday reported 1,873 new cases, with a record 65,300 tests completed. The province also reported 17 additional deaths.

Quebec recorded 1,898 new cases and 40 more deaths.

A customer wearing a face mask leaves a bakery in Saint-Sauveur, Que., on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick reported one new case as the Edmundston region entered its first day in the orange phase of restrictions since the early days of the pandemic.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases, of which two are travel-related.

Nova Scotia added seven new cases on Saturday, but its caseload fell from 65 to 61.

Health officials also urged residents who live near the Eden Valley Poultry plant in Berwick to be tested for COVID-19 as a precaution it closed amid an outbreak of cases.

In Prince Edward Island, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison and Premier Dennis King said it is possible the so-called circuit-breaker measures could be eased earlier than Dec. 21 after the province reported no new cases for four straight days.


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 71.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 45.5 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 1.6 million.

WATCH | Hold on and stay safe while vaccinations begin, says WHO:

As vaccinations get underway, the World Health Organization’s technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, makes an impassioned appeal for people to protect themselves and loved ones from COVID-19 in 2021. 1:48

In Europe, the French government is allowing care-home residents to spend time with their families and receive visits — even if residents are positive for coronavirus — in what the country’s deputy health minister in charge of elderly affairs says is an effort to inject the spirit of Christmas into care homes.

Roughly one-third of France’s more than 57,500 virus deaths have occurred in care homes. Residents have been subjected to strict confinement measures, including being limited to their rooms, to curb infections. The relaxed rules will run from Tuesday to Jan. 3.

In Asia, South Korea has reported another 950 coronavirus cases, its largest daily increase since the emergence of the pandemic, as fears grow about overwhelmed hospitals in the greater Seoul area.

The government had eased its physical-distancing restrictions to the lowest tier in October despite experts warning about a viral surge during colder weather, when people spend longer hours indoors. Officials restored some restrictions in recent weeks, such as shutting nightclubs and allowing restaurants to provide only deliveries and takeout after 9 p.m., and could be forced to clamp down on economic activity further.

Medical workers wearing personal protective equipment are seen at a COVID-19 testing center in Seoul on Saturday. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

In the Americas, Peru suspended an advanced-phase trial of the coronavirus vaccine from Chinese state company Sinopharm after a 64-year-old volunteer developed muscle weakness.

Peru’s Health Ministry says that “the adverse event is under investigation to determine if it is related to the vaccine or if there’s another explanation.” Sinopharm began its Phase 3 trial in Peru in September. It includes 12,000 people aged 18 to 75.

In Africa, Nigeria may be on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the country’s health minister warned.

Osagie Ehanire attributed a recent spike in cases in Nigeria —  the continent’s most populous nation at 200 million people, which has seen 72,000 confirmed cases that resulted in more than 1,100 deaths — to an increase in infections within communities and, to a lesser extent, by travellers entering the country.

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