Canada’s procurement minister urged drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to get the country’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule back on track as soon as possible as cases of the novel coronavirus surged past the 700,000 mark on Saturday.
The country hit the milestone less than two weeks after recording 600,000 cases of the virus on Jan. 3 — a feat that took months during the pandemic’s first wave.
Nationwide inoculation efforts had resulted in more than half a million residents receiving a vaccine dose as of Friday night, though the pace of immunizations is set to decrease as Pfizer-BioNTech upgrades its production facilities in Europe.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision to delay international vaccine shipments for four weeks during the upgrades.
“We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said on Twitter Saturday. “Pfizer assured us that it is deploying all efforts to do just that.”
She noted that shipments for the upcoming week will be largely unaffected, and said Ottawa will provide updates as they become available.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 702,183 cases of COVID-19, with 76,233 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,865.
In British Columbia, the B.C. Hotel Association said implementing an inter-provincial travel ban would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators and urged Premier John Horgan — who sought legal advice on such an action — to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19.
WATCH | British Columbia mulls how to keep visitors out:
Alberta saw 717 new cases and 15 new deaths.
Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Saturday.
In Regina, police fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.
Manitoba recorded 180 new cases and two additional deaths.
The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.
Ontario registered a record 3,056 new cases, along with 51 deaths, on Saturday. To add to the concern, there are now a record 420 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, new data from Critical Care Services Ontario shows.
Quebec reported 2,225 new cases and 67 more deaths.
New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases.
Nova Scotia added four new cases.
The figures come a day after mandatory testing for rotational workers came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.
Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new infections.
Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.
Meanwhile, officials confirmed the first positive case in Fort Liard, a hamlet nearly 545 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife.
In Nunavut, a worker at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, located about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, has tested positive, the company said. There have now been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News Saturday via email.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday, more than 94 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 51.8 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.
WATCH | WHO chief pleads for breaking of COVID-19 transmission:
In Africa, South Africa has delayed the start of its new school year by two weeks in order to prevent schools from becoming transmission centres for COVID-19, as new cases have hovered around 20,000 a day for the past week.
The country has so far confirmed more than 1.29 million infections and registered more than 35,000 deaths — leading the continent on both counts.
In Europe, Greece will loosen some lockdown restrictions on Monday, letting non-essential retail shops reopen for the first time in more than two months after signs that pressure on the public health system is easing.
The country, in a nationwide lockdown since November, has fared better than many other European states, despite its struggling health services, badly weakened by years of financial crisis.
In Asia, Indonesia has logged a record daily high number of coronavirus cases for the fourth day in a row as the Health Ministry reported 14,224 new infections over the 24 hours.
Indonesia’s official tally reached 896,642 on Saturday, making it the largest number in Southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s 10.5 million cases. The figure includes 25,767 deaths.
In the Americas, members of an expert committee and former health officials condemned the Brazilian government’s unjustifiable delay in formulating a vaccination effort, in seeking syringe suppliers and months spent rejecting all but one possible vaccine manufacturer.
They also say President Jair Bolsonaro undermined the health ministry’s effectiveness, pointing to the removal of highly trained professionals from leadership positions, replaced by military appointees with little or no public health care experience.