As of next week, every Albertan over the age of 12 will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday, a day after he announced tighter public health restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Kenney’s update came after Health Canada announced that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for use in people 12 and up. The vaccine was initially authorized for use in Canada last December for people aged 16 and older.
Appointments are to be staggered to avoid overwhelming booking systems, with every Albertan born in 1991 or earlier able to book appointments starting Friday. On Monday, appointments will be offered to anyone born between 1992 and 2009.
“If we don’t want widespread delays or cancellations of surgeries and other health care, we have to stop the spike right now,” Kenney said as he announced the rules Tuesday.
“If we want to guarantee a staffed hospital bed for every Albertan that may need one — for any reason, COVID-19 or otherwise — then we have to stop the spike right now.”
The updated measures include a temporary suspension of in-class learning from kindergarten to Grade 12 across the province.
The changes also impose restrictions limiting retail capacity to 10 per cent and closures of personal services like barbershops and hair salons.
Restaurant patios will also shut down as of Sunday. Under the new rules, most workplaces with “transmission of three or more cases” will be required to shut down for 10 days.
As of Tuesday, Alberta’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 671 people were in hospital, with 150 in intensive care.
The Opposition NDP said Kenney is doing too little, too late — with little warning to those affected.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 12:50 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
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As of 11:35 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,253,823 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 81,238 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 24,445.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 2,941 new cases of COVID-19 and 44 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 2,075, with 882 people in intensive care because of COVID-related illness.
In Quebec, meanwhile, health officials on Wednesday reported 915 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 588, with 152 people listed as being in intensive care.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as health officials provided more detail on expanded vaccine rollout.
In New Brunswick, which had not yet provided updated COVID-19 figures for the day, health officials on Wednesday reported the province’s first death of someone who developed a rare blood clot after receiving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
Health officials in Nova Scotia — which is currently in a lockdown as it deals with rising COVID-19 cases — and Prince Edward Island had not yet provided updates for the day.
Across the North, Nunavut on Wednesday reported five new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 82. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided any additional information for the day.
A three-step plan to reopen Saskatchewan’s economy is in the works and Step 1 could be launched by the end of the month. Officials said three weeks after 70 per cent of residents aged 40 and up get their first shot, Step 1 goes into effect with rules similar to what were in place last summer. The other two steps are also based on vaccination targets.
In British Columbia, health officials on Tuesday recorded 697 new cases of COVID-19, along with one new death.
–From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 11:45 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 154.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been recorded around the world, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.2 million.
In the Americas, the White House says President Joe Biden is setting a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one dose to 70 per cent of adult Americans by July 4. This comes as the administration pushes to make it easier for people to get shots and to bring the country closer to normalcy. The new goal includes fully vaccinating 160 million adults by Independence Day.
The U.S. is currently administering first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day — half the rate of three weeks ago, but nearly twice as fast as needed to meet Biden’s target.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India accounted for nearly half of the COVID-19 cases reported worldwide last week, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, as the country’s coronavirus deaths rose by a new high of 3,780 during the last 24 hours.
The WHO said in its weekly epidemiological report that India accounted for 46 per cent of global cases and 25 per cent of global deaths reported in the past week. Daily infections in the country rose by 382,315 on Wednesday, health ministry data showed, the 14th straight day of more than 300,000 cases.
Meanwhile, in Nepal, authorities extended a lockdown in the capital Kathmandu and surrounding districts by another week on Wednesday as the Himalayan nation recorded its highest daily tolls of COVID-19 infection and death.
The lockdown notice also said neighbourhood grocery stores would be allowed to open only two hours in the morning and there would be further restrictions imposed on movement of vehicles to curb the spiking number of cases.
Malaysia imposed movement restrictions in the capital Kuala Lumpur, adding to lockdowns that have been implemented across the country.
In the Middle East, Iraq’s health minister has resigned over a week after a deadly fire ripped through a Baghdad hospital for coronavirus patients and killed dozens.
The United Arab Emirates has extended a ban on entry for travellers coming from India, the foreign ministry said.
In Europe, the medicines regulator said it has started a real-time review of Sinovac’s vaccine, based on preliminary results from animal and human trials.
Poland offered to buy Johnson & Johnson vaccines from Denmark after Copenhagen excluded the shots from its vaccination program.
In Africa, a variant of COVID-19 first diagnosed in India has been detected in Kenya, days after the same variant was detected in neighbouring Uganda.
Tanzania has suspended flights to and from India, the country’s health ministry said.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:05 a.m. ET
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