Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Jan. 8

The latest:

Canada’s chief public health officer is urging those who have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to take that step as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to strain health-care systems across the country.

“Currently, we still need millions more Canadians to increase their protection with #COVID19 vaccines, including almost 7 million eligible people who need a 1st or 2nd dose,” Dr. Theresa Tam tweeted on Saturday.

Tam also urged those who have had both shots to book a booster dose if they’re eligible, citing “accumulating evidence” that a third shot provides protection against severe illness from Omicron.

“This may feel like a double marathon we didn’t sign up for, but we can draw strength knowing the ground we’ve covered so far to stay on track and work together to get where we need to go,” Tam said.

Her comments come as provinces struggle with Omicron-driven surges.

In Ontario, the number of people hospitalized continued its upward trend, reaching a new pandemic high of 2,594 on Saturday.

Health officials reported 13,362 new lab-confirmed cases, although the actual daily count is likely much higher given that the province has reduced access to PCR testing for most people.

The province also reported 31 additional deaths related to COVID-19 on Saturday.

A total of 385 people were undergoing treatment for the illness in intensive care units, up by 47 from the previous day.

People leave with COVID-19 antigen test kits after lining up at a mall in Ottawa on Friday. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

New Brunswick also saw a record for hospitalizations, with that figure reaching 80 on Saturday, up 11 from the day before.

In Quebec, the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by 163 for a total of 2,296 on Saturday. Health officials reported 245 patients in intensive care, an increase of 16 from Friday.

The province also reported 44 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Saturday, the highest daily death toll in nearly a year.


What’s happening across Canada

With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.

For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.

You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.

A person checks in at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

In British Columbiaofficials announced children will return to in-class learning on Monday, despite a surge in transmission caused by Omicron. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said there will be enhanced safety measures in place and schools will have access to three-layered masks, despite calls from the B.C. Teachers Federation to distribute N95s instead.

In the Prairies, the Saskatchewan government is declining to limit gatherings despite a warning from the chief medical health officer; more than 900 health-care workers in Manitoba tested positive over the holidays, according to the provincial health organization; and projections from Alberta Health Services’ early warning system suggest the current wave could, within a couple of weeks, send more people to hospital than at any point in the pandemic.

In the Atlantic provinces, visitor restrictions have been expanded to in-patients and long-term care residents at several hospitals in Nova Scotia‘s northern zone, as the province continues to report high daily COVID-19 case counts. The new restrictions in N.S. come as Prince Edward Island announced an outbreak at a care facility in Miscouche that has so far affected three staff and eight residents. Meanwhile, labour groups in Newfoundland and Labrador are demanding 10 days of mandatory paid sick leave for workers as thousands across the province are sick with COVID-19 or self-isolating.

In the North, there’s a mixture of relief, resignation and disappointment from students, parents and teachers as schools across the Northwest Territories return to online learning this week.


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 303.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.4 million.

In Europe, U.K. government advisers have recommended against giving a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home residents and people over 80 because data shows that a third shot offers lasting protection against admission to the hospital.

PHOTOS | Britain surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths: 

In the Americas, Mexico set a new record for daily cases on Saturday with 30,671, according to official data. Mexico has confirmed more than 4.1 million cases since the start of the pandemic and has the world’s fifth highest confirmed death toll at more than 300,000.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the United States has agreed to impose stricter COVID-19 measures at its military bases in Japan, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Sunday, amid concerns that outbreaks at bases have fuelled infection in local communities. Japan reintroduced coronavirus restrictions in three regions that host U.S. military bases, the first such emergency controls since September.

In Africa, the African Cup of Nations — the continent’s top soccer tournament — will finally open in Cameroon on Sunday after a three-year delay, with only fully vaccinated fans and those with proof of a negative test allowed to attend.

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