Ontario tops 2,000 new COVID-19 cases, vaccination programs begin in Atlantic Canada

The latest:

Ontario reported more than 2,100 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as vaccination efforts got underway in Manitoba and several Atlantic provinces.

Health officials in Ontario reported 2,139 new cases of COVID-19 and 43 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 4,035. Hospitalizations climbed to 932, with 256 people in intensive care units.

With case numbers and hospitalizations on the rise, officials have instructed hospitals in the province to get ready for a surge in COVID-19 patients. Ontario Health CEO Matthew Anderson said in a memo to hospitals that the province has entered “a more critical phase of the pandemic where we are seeing widespread community transmission.”

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 1,897 new cases of COVID-19 and 43 additional deaths on Wednesday.

Hospitalizations in the province also increased, rising to 975, with 128 in intensive care units, according to a provincial tracking site.

Premier François Legault announced new restrictions on Tuesday, saying offices will be closed as of Thursday, with non-essential businesses closing for a period after Dec. 25.

The updates in Ontario and Quebec come as more provinces begin to roll out their vaccination efforts.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia offered their first doses on Tuesday. Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island are giving their first doses on Wednesday after receiving initial supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech product, the first — and so far only — COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in Canada.

Speaking ahead of the first vaccinations in the province, Premier Brian Pallister asked Manitobans to be patient and not let their guard down as the province readies a large, complex vaccination effort.

“This is a monumental challenge, a historic challenge,” he said Tuesday.

Danielle Sheaves, a registered nurse, was the first person to get the vaccine in Nova Scotia.

“It’s a little overwhelming this morning, but feels good, and I was honoured to be asked to be the first person to get the vaccine this morning,” said Sheaves, who works at the COVID-19 unit at the Halifax Infirmary.

Halifax nurse Danielle Sheaves receives the first COVID-19 vaccination given in Nova Scotia. (Robert Short/CBC)

As provinces dealt with the Pfizer-BioNTech rollout, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said that Canada has an agreement in place to get up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December, ahead of schedule. The Moderna vaccine has not yet been approved by Health Canada, but Trudeau said deliveries could begin within 48 hours of getting the green light.

“Doses of this vaccine will be directed to the North, as well as to remote and Indigenous communities,” Trudeau said Tuesday. 

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Infection control specialist warns of pressure on Ontario hospitals:

Ontario needs to really curb the spread of the coronavirus, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam. ‘We can’t keep getting more COVID patients’ in hospital, he said. 0:51

As of 11:10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 479,250, with 76,214 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,744.

In Atlantic Canada, COVID-19 vaccination efforts were set to begin Wednesday in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labradorand Prince Edward Island.

“In that plane represents hope for 2021,” Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said as the first doses arrived in the province on Tuesday.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said Tuesday that if all goes well, the province will have more people vaccinated Wednesday than have tested positive for COVID-19 on the island, which has seen just 89 positive cases since the pandemic began.

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have arrived in New Brunswick, but that province’s vaccination effort is not set to begin until the weekend.

In British Columbia, the Interior Health Authority said Tuesday that a cluster of cases has been linked to the Big White resort near Kelowna.

B.C. reported 522 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 additional deaths on Tuesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 668. Hospitalizations stood at 361, health officials said, with 93 in intensive care.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced new supports for some neighbourhoods in Calgary and Edmonton that have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. 

Health officials in Alberta reported 1,341 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 11 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 744. Hospitalizations stood at 742, with 137 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, according to a provincial tally.

Saskatchewan has administered its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to health-care workers in Regina. Nurses at the Regina General Hospital gave the province’s first shots to a critical care doctor and an emergency room nurse yesterday.

Health officials in Saskatchewan reported 194 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and seven additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 98.

The COVID-19 death toll in Manitoba passed the 500 mark on Tuesday as the province announced 272 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths. The province gave out its first vaccinations early Wednesday, beginning with select health-care workers.

Across the North, Nunavut reported two new cases of COVID-19 and there was one new case reported in the Northwest Territories. There were no reports of new cases in Yukon.

What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

As of late Wednesday morning, more than 73.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 41.7 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a case-tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.6 million.

In Europe, Germany hit a new record level of coronavirus deaths as it entered a harder lockdown Wednesday, closing shops and schools to try to bring down stubbornly high new cases.

Nearly 140,000 people in the United Kingdom have received their first COVID-19 shots in the first week of rollout of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the minister in charge of the program said on Wednesday.

The vaccine was approved for emergency use two weeks ago, with rollout commencing on Dec. 8, making Britain the first country to deploy the shot outside of clinical trials.

“A really good start to the vaccination program. It’s been seven days and we have done: England: 108,000, Wales: 7,897, Northern Ireland: 4,000, Scotland: 18,000. U.K total 137,897,” Nadhim Zahawi said in a tweet.

Britain’s easing of restrictions for family gatherings over Christmas looks like it’s still on despite a sharp spike in new coronavirus infections that’s raised fears of another wave of cases and deaths in the new year.

WATCH | New COVID-19 restrictions across Europe as U.K. allows small Christmas gatherings:

New COVID-19 restrictions have been introduced across Europe to combat the rise in cases, but the U.K. has also loosened rules around Christmas gatherings, leaving many people confused and health officials warning about the consequences. 1:58

Britain’s communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said U.K. leaders will have further discussions Wednesday about the planned relaxation. However, he gave no indication that a change would be announced, beyond urging people to think harder about their holiday plans.

“It could be counterproductive to produce overly restrictive rules rather than providing very clear and sober guidance and ask people to think carefully and come to their informed judgment,” he told BBC radio.

Medical staff in Poland, meanwhile, could start being vaccinated this month, the prime minister’s top aide, Michal Dworczyk, said.

In the Americas, daily U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 3,000 for the third time in a week as the country expanded its vaccination program and the U.S. Congress appeared to make progress toward approving financial relief for the pandemic-stricken country.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared set for regulatory authorization this week after U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff endorsed it as safe and effective.

California is distributing 5,000 body bags mostly to the hard-hit Los Angeles and San Diego areas and has 60 refrigerated trailers standing by as makeshift morgues in anticipation of a surge of coronavirus deaths. The precautions come from hospitalizations that now are double the summertime peak and threaten to soon overwhelm the hospital system.

Director of inpatient pharmacy David Cheng, centre, places trays of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine into a freezer at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in Los Angeles on Monday. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that the number of average daily deaths has quadrupled from a month ago.

In Kansas, a mayor announced Tuesday that she is resigning, effective immediately, because of threats she has received after she publicly supported a mask mandate. Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw said she was concerned about her safety after being met with aggression, including threats via phone and email, after she was quoted in a USA Today article on Friday supporting the mandate, The Dodge City Globe reported.

Costa Rican authorities and Panama authorized the use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia received its first shipment of vaccines on Wednesday and will begin distributing the shots in the next three days, the health minister said.

Oman’s Health Ministry has issued a licence to import the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Lebanon is expected to sign a deal this week for supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and is set to receive the first batch eight weeks after that.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea reported a record daily rise in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and the prime minister issued an urgent call for more hospital beds.

Indonesia will provide free vaccines to its citizens when it starts its inoculation program, President Joko Widodo said, adding that he would get the first shot to reassure people on safety.

Workers spray disinfectant in a catering shop as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 in Karachi on Monday. (Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images)

The number of daily COVID-19 deaths in Pakistan crossed 100 for the first time in months with the virus spreading quickly in the financial capital of Karachi.

Tokyo has reported 678 new cases of the coronavirus, a high for the Japanese capital, as Japan now struggles with another surge in the virus.

South Africa remained the hardest-hit country in Africa, with more than 873,000 cases and 23,600 deaths.

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