Some provinces are taking tentative steps toward reopening amid a promising decline in COVID-19 cases, while one has asked for additional support from the federal government 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.
As well, people aged 12 and up in the province will be eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment as of 8 a.m. ET on Sunday through the provincial booking system and call centre — as well as at select pharmacies, according to a news release issued Friday evening.
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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In Manitoba, meanwhile, Premier Brian Pallister said he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday morning and asked for up to 50 critical care nurses and 20 respiratory therapists to help fight rising COVID-19 numbers.
Pallister is also seeking up to 50 contact tracers from Statistics Canada. The province is in the grip of the third wave of the pandemic and is seeing record numbers of new cases and people in intensive care.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, who spoke separately with Trudeau, said he is disappointed with the provincial government’s pandemic response to date. “Every week [the government is] reacting to rising case counts, when doctors and many in our community, myself included, have said we need strong proactive measures,” Bowman said.
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The mayor reiterated calls to increase fines for people who break public health orders and said non-essential retail businesses should be closed. Stores are currently allowed to remain open at 10 per cent capacity.
Provincial health officials said the increase in hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care has meant five COVID-19 patients were transferred to hospitals in Ontario this week.
Schooling differences in Alberta and Nova Scotia
Alberta, which is seeing an overall decline in COVID-19 case numbers and set a new daily high for the number of vaccine doses administered on Thursday, 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.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:35 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada around the world
As of 6:15 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 1,352,121 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 57,970 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,162.
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As of Thursday, Canada has vaccinated a larger share of its population with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine than the United States. Statistics from Our World in Data show that 48.52 per cent of Canada’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of May 20, compared to 47.89 per cent of the U.S. population.
However, the U.S. has fully vaccinated 37.86 per cent of its total population as of May 20, compared to 4.05 per cent of Canada’s population, according to Our World in Data.
Nova Scotia reported 84 new COVID-19 cases and two related deaths on Friday. New Brunswick reported 15 new COVID-19 cases, while chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced that a second person in the province has died from a rare blood clot associated with the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported 10 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, while Prince Edward Island reported one new case.
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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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.
Manitoba reported 594 new COVID-19 cases and three related deaths on Friday. This comes one day after chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced 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.
Saskatchewan reported 173 new cases of COVID-19 and two related deaths on Friday.
In the North, Nunavut on Friday reported one new case of COVID-19.
Alberta recorded 732 new COVID-19 cases and two related deaths on Friday, while British Columbia recorded 420 new cases and six related deaths.
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– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:35 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday evening, more than 165.7 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.
WATCH | Vaccine makers pledge billions of COVID shots to developing world:
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, Zimbabwe’s vice-president has announced the government is imposing a two-week lockdown on the central city of Kwekwe because the COVID-19 variant dominant in India has been detected there.
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 6:35 p.m. ET
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