Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his province is “losing the battle between the variants and vaccines” as his government introduced new pandemic-mitigation measures Friday that included extending a stay-at-home order and limiting interprovincial travel with Manitoba and Quebec.
Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the changes along the provincial borders would take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday. Jones said incoming travellers not meeting a list of prescribed exceptions will be turned back. Quebec has since signalled the province will be closed to travellers coming in from Ontario.
The province will also extend an existing stay-at-home order to last six weeks, instead of the planned four.
Ontario is also giving police new powers to enforce public health orders, allowing officers to ask anyone outside their residence to indicate their purpose for leaving home and to provide their address. That includes stopping vehicles. The new police measures drew immediate condemnation from civil liberties activists.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the measures the government announced appeared too weak to flatten the curve of coronavirus infections. She also expressed concern about the impact the restrictions, and the new enforcement powers, could have on “front-line essential heroes.”
Earlier Friday, Adalsteinn Brown, the co-chair of the expert group that advises the government on the pandemic, presented the table’s latest modelling — the same day officials reported a new daily record of 4,812 COVID-19 cases.
Brown urged Ontarians to strictly follow public health measures and to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.
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Also Friday, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) called for a “truly national approach” in fighting COVID-19 as the third wave of the pandemic wreaks havoc on the health-care system.
Health-care resources should be deployed “where they are most needed to save the most lives,” the CMA said.
More Pfizer doses
After word earlier Friday that Canada’s incoming vaccine supply from Moderna will be slashed in half through the rest of April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa signed an agreement with Pfizer for additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.
He said Pfizer will deliver four million additional doses in May, two million additional doses in June and two million more in July.
Trudeau said for next month alone, the number of Pfizer doses will be double what Canada was expecting.
–From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening elsewhere across Canada
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As of 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 1,106,068 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 86,279 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,541.
In Quebec, health officials reported 1,527 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths on Friday.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and one additional death. Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases and New Brunswick reported nine new cases.
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P.E.I. reported no new cases Friday, but the province saw its first COVID-19 hospitalization.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 127 new cases on Friday, as a health official warned that tighter restrictions were a possibility for the province amid the spread of highly contagious COVID-19 variants.
Saskatchewan reported 221 new cases Friday and two additional deaths, while Alberta reported 1,616 new cases and no additional deaths.
In British Columbia, 1,005 new cases and six additional deaths were reported Friday.
Nunavut reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, two days after Iqaluit’s first case was confirmed. Officials had identified 10 people as contacts of someone who became symptomatic. Premier Joe Savikataaq said all the additional cases are in Iqaluit, where all non-essential businesses, including government offices and schools, were ordered closed.
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No new cases were reported Friday in Northwest Territories or Yukon.
–From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday evening, more than 139.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. The reported global death toll approached three million.
Around the world, cases and deaths are increasing at “worrying rates,” the head of the World Health Organization said Friday.
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“Globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months. This is approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
He said some countries that had previously avoided widespread transmission are now seeing steep increases in infections — such as Papua New Guinea.
“Until the beginning of this year, Papua New Guinea had reported less than 900 cases and just nine deaths. It has now reported more than 9,300 cases and 82 deaths,” Tedros said.
In the Americas, it was announced Friday that the World Bank had approved additional financing of $50 million for El Salvador and $20 million for Honduras for COVID-19 vaccines and strengthen their health-care systems.
In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged legislators Friday to approve new powers that would allow her to force lockdowns and curfews on areas with high infection rates.
The legislation seeks to end the patchwork of measures that have characterized the pandemic response across Germany’s 16 states. Passing the bill is an uphill battle, with state governments reluctant to cede any authority over health care to the federal government.
“We are slamming on the brakes nationwide,” she told Germany’s parliament.
Her speech came as the country recorded 25,831 new cases of COVID-19 overnight and 247 additional deaths.
In Asia, India closed museums and tourist sites on Friday, including the iconic Taj Mahal, for a month to curb the country’s second coronavirus wave.
India’s 217,353 new cases marked the eighth record daily increase in nine days and took total cases to nearly 14.3 million. India’s case count is second only to the United States, which has reported more than 31 million infections.
Deaths from COVID-19 in India rose by 1,185 over the past 24 hours — the highest single-day rise in seven months — to reach a total of 174,308, the health ministry reported.
In Africa, South Africa took the first step in its mass vaccination campaign on Friday by starting online registrations for the elderly to receive shots beginning next month.
South Africa’s inoculation drive is dependent upon millions of Pfizer vaccine doses arriving in the country within weeks. So far, South Africa has vaccinated 290,000 of its 1.2 million health-care workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
–From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:45 p.m. ET
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