Some provinces are taking tentative steps toward reopening amid a promising decline in COVID-19 cases, while others are preparing for tougher restrictions to battle surging infections, as Canadians head into their second May long weekend of the pandemic.
In Ontario, outdoor recreational facilities will reopen with some restrictions on Saturday as outdoor gatherings of up to five people will be allowed again.
The province made the announcement Thursday as it unveiled a three-step reopening plan that will lift public health restrictions based on vaccination rates and other health indicators starting in mid-June.
The plan comes as health officials say the province’s control over the pandemic is improving due to current health measures. The current stay-at-home order will remain in place until June 2, with the exception of those newly announced changes to some outdoor activities.
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Meanwhile, Alberta, which is similarly seeing an overall decline in COVID-19 case numbers, will welcome back all K-12 students to classrooms next week, except those in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
At-home learning for schools in Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, will be extended for another week because case numbers there have not trended down at the same levels as other regions, according to the province.
Even with case numbers declining, it’s critical people stay as close to home as possible this weekend, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Thursday at a news conference.
“We are gaining momentum, but it is fragile and we cannot afford to take this weekend off from following the rules,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said as she urged residents to avoid in-person interactions with people outside their household, especially indoors, and avoid non-essential travel.
While Alberta’s students are headed back to class, Nova Scotia is sticking with online learning for the rest of the school year following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
The province’s chief medical officer of health said this week that the upcoming Victoria Day long weekend will have to be a quiet one similar to last year.
“The variants make this a very different and difficult situation right now,” said Dr. Robert Strang.
Provincial park campgrounds are closed and private campgrounds may be open only for seasonal campers. People can go to their cottage or seasonal campsite outside their community, but only if they are staying there for the next few months.
Manitoba officials are also urging residents to follow public health orders, with new restrictions coming on Saturday, amid what Premier Brian Pallister called the province’s “darkest days” of the pandemic.
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Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced Thursday that Manitobans will be prohibited from gathering outdoors with people from outside their household and that only one person per household will be permitted to enter a business at a given time.
The new public health restrictions came a day after Manitoba sent three COVID-19 ICU patients to hospital in Thunder Bay, Ont., because the recent spike of severe cases has put the local ICU capacity at risk.
At a video conference Friday, the head of Manitoba’s First Nations pandemic response team said First Nations people have made up 40 to 60 per cent of intensive care admissions during the second and third pandemic waves, despite making up only about 10 per cent of the province’s population.
Dr. Marcia Anderson noted that grim statistic as she announced that all Indigenous people in Manitoba can book a second COVID-19 vaccine shot starting Monday.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 12 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada around the world
As of 12 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 1,350,088 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 59,123 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,147.
Ontario reported 1,890 new cases and 27 new deaths on Friday. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to decline, with 1,265 in hospitals across the province, including 715 in the ICU, according to provincial data.
The province is moving ahead with providing a second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to some who received a first shot, officials said Friday. The province also tallied a record-high number of COVID-19 vaccine doses given out in a single day, with more than 158,000 shots administered since Thursday’s update.
Quebec reported 752 new cases and nine new deaths. The government is making a push to vaccinate people between the ages of 12 and 17, in time for a return to school under normal conditions next fall.
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In the North, Nunavut on Friday reported one new case of COVID-19. Yukon and the Northwest Territories have yet to provide updated figures for the day.
Four new cases were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday, as New Brunswick reported seven and Nova Scotia reported 65. Prince Edward Island last provided updated figures on Wednesday, when it reported five new cases.
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In the Prairie provinces on Thursday, Manitoba reported 603 new COVID-19 cases — a single-day record — and three additional deaths. Saskatchewan reported 146 new cases and no additional deaths, while Alberta reported 812 new cases and four additional deaths.
Health officials in British Columbia reported 357 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and three additional deaths.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 12 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday afternoon, more than 165.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, a tracking dashboard from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University said. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.4 million.
Pfizer and BioNTech pledged on Friday to deliver one billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to poorer nations this year and another one billion next year, Pfizer’s boss told a global health summit on Friday.
Meanwhile, the vaccines alliance Gavi has signed an agreement to buy 200 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a boost to the UN-backed initiative known as COVAX to distribute vaccines to poor countries.
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In the Asia-Pacific region, India’s confirmed coronavirus counts remained below record levels in the last 24 hours, but authorities are worried about a fungal infection that attacks those with weak immune systems. Doctors suspect that the sudden surge in mucormycosis, or “black fungus” infection, may be linked to the use of steroids to treat COVID-19. It can result in breathing problems and coughing blood.
India reported 4,209 COVID-19 fatalities in the past 24 hours and 259,591 new confirmed cases. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.
Taiwan reported 312 new confirmed cases on Friday as part of its worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung says most of the cases have a clear source, but 72 of the new ones were not apparently linked to the previous infections.
In the Americas, Argentina will tighten lockdown measures to combat a severe second wave, as daily cases and deaths have hit new highs over the last week.
In Europe, Spain is lifting its restrictions on travellers from the United Kingdom beginning Monday, saying British tourists play a key role in the Spanish economy. Spanish authorities published the rule change in the government gazette Friday. Restrictions on travel from Japan were also lifted.
In Africa, Kenya’s health ministry said it is in talks with vaccine manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson as it seeks alternatives to the AstraZeneca shot after shipment delays of the drug from India.
In the Middle East, U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE said on Thursday they would supply Turkey with 60 million additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine. The latest agreement also includes an option for 30 million extra doses, which would bring the total number of doses to be supplied to Turkey this year to 120 million, the drugmakers said in a joint statement.
– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 12 p.m. ET
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