Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday
Ontarians are waking up under a new stay-at-home order today, but questions remain over how exactly the rules will be enforced.
The province announced the order earlier this week, part of a series of new restrictions as it declared a state of emergency over rising cases and hospitalizations. The restrictions took effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and will remain in place until at least Feb. 11.
On Wednesday evening, the Ontario government released the full text of the order outlining the conditions under which residents may leave their homes. The list includes: work, school and child care; obtaining goods and services deemed necessary such as groceries, health care and financial services; and exercise.
People who live alone can gather with members of a single household. The order also does not apply to homeless people. The full text of the order can be found here.
While the province has said police and bylaw officers will have the power to enforce the stay-at-home order and issue tickets, it has not provided details on how that would play out in practice.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Toronto fire Chief Matthew Pegg, who is overseeing the city’s emergency management response, said the city still didn’t know how it was supposed to enforce the new rules.
“We are sitting right now in a position where we have … not even seen a draft of the regulations,” he said.
WATCH | Toronto fire chief on uncertainty around stay-at-home order:
The new restrictions come two days after the province released updated modelling indicating that deaths from COVID-19 will surpass those in the pandemic’s first wave unless people dramatically reduce their contact with others.
The province reported another 2,961 cases of COVID-19 and 74 new deaths on Wednesday, pushing the official death toll to 5,127.
There were 1,674 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 385 being treated in intensive care. At Tuesday’s modelling briefing, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said about one quarter of Ontario’s hospitals have no ICU capacity left, while another quarter have only one or two beds available at any given time.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 681,328 cases of COVID-19, with 79,293 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,383.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick added 19 more cases on Wednesday, as a third death was recorded at the Shannex Parkland care home in Saint John. The home is now reporting 25 active cases, involving 14 residents and 11 employees.
Nova Scotia reported eight new cases, including three university students.
Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases for the third day in a row and, with one new recovery, the province’s active caseload has now dropped to three — its lowest level since Nov. 4.
Prince Edward Island last reported one new case on Tuesday, bringing its total number of active cases to eight.
WATCH | Bird’s-eye view of Quebec City’s empty roads during curfew:
Quebec reported 2,071 new cases and 35 more deaths on Wednesday. The province also said more than 1,500 residents are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.
In Manitoba, the acting deputy chief public health officer said a daily case tally below 200 and Manitoba’s lowest test positivity rate since early November were “encouraging” signs, but the province isn’t in the clear yet. The province announced 158 new cases and five deaths on Wednesday.
Saskatchewan recorded 247 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths on Wednesday. Data from Health Canada showed that the province had the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country on Tuesday, at 319 per 100,000 population.
WATCH | Saskatchewan not adding restrictions despite rising cases:
Alberta reported 875 new cases and another 23 deaths. Meanwhile, two more United Conservative Party MLAs have confirmed to CBC News that they left the province during the holidays despite their own government’s warnings against non-essential travel, bringing the total to nine.
British Columbia announced 519 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Health Minister Adrian Dix says an investigation in underway after it was revealed some doctors in Vancouver jumped the queue to get a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In the North, the Yukon government says the territory could achieve herd immunity within three months “as long as our vaccine supplies come in as scheduled.”
Northwest Territories health officials released more details about when residents in the territory can start receiving doses, with inoculations in some of the territory’s larger hubs — Yellowknife, Inuvik and Fort Smith — to start next week.
In Nunavut, the hard-hit community of Arviat is offering cash incentives for people who get vaccinated, with anyone receiving a dose being entered into a draw to win one of five prizes of $2,000 each.
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 92.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 51 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.9 million.
In Asia, a global team of researchers arrived Thursday in the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic was first detected to conduct a politically sensitive investigation into its origins amid uncertainty about whether Beijing might try to prevent embarrassing discoveries.
The group sent to Wuhan by the World Health Organization was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of WHO.
WATCH | WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins:
Scientists suspect the virus jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest. The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints it allowed the disease to spread, says the virus came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, but international scientists reject that.
Fifteen team members were to arrive in Wuhan on Thursday, but two tested positive for coronavirus antibodies before leaving Singapore and were being retested there, the WHO said in a statement on Twitter.
The team includes virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.
In the Middle East, Turkey has rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program starting with health-care workers in hospitals across the country.
Thursday’s start of the nationwide inoculation program came a day after Turkish authorities gave the go-ahead for the emergency use of the vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech.
In the Americas, Mexico has begun broad vaccination efforts, with teams spreading out to vaccinate front-line health-care workers across the country on Wednesday, administering about 94,400 shots. That is compared to daily averages of about 4,000 shots in preceding days.
The vaccination campaign ramped up a day after Mexico received a shipment of almost 440,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, its biggest shipment to date.
Officials reported a new high of 15,873 confirmed infections in the previous 24 hours, putting the country’s caseload for the pandemic above 1.57 million. There have been almost 137,000 deaths.
In Europe, Pope Francis and former pope Benedict have received the first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus, the Vatican said on Thursday. The 84-year-old Pope and the 93-year-old former pope got their jabs as part of a Vatican vaccination program that began on Wednesday.
Germany’s disease control agency has reported the highest single-day death toll from COVID-19. The Robert Koch Institute said Thursday that 1,244 deaths from coronavirus were confirmed in Germany until midnight, taking the total number to 43,881 since the start of the pandemic.
Data showed there were also 25,164 new cases confirmed in Germany by midnight. German officials are considering tougher restrictions to curb the continued rise in infections in the country.
Vaccines are not yet Africa’s antidote to the coronavirus pandemic, a regional health official said on Thursday, after the African Union (AU) secured 270 million doses for the continent where a second wave is infecting about 30,000 people a day.
Africa has not started vaccinations and there is concern that more prosperous regions will get an unfair head start in the global fight against COVID-19. But there was heartening news on Wednesday when AU chair South Africa said doses would be supplied this year by Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through the Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson.
The 270 million shots, however, if administered two per person, would only cover around 10 per cent of Africa’s roughly 1.3 billion people.
“We should not see vaccines as a magic bullet for now, it will take time for vaccines to be rolled out in a way that we have herd immunity,” said John Nkengasong, director of the AU’s Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, WHO says a coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa, which health officials in the country have said is possibly more transmissible, has been confirmed in three other African countries.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said Botswana, Gambia and Zambia have the new variant. It already has been confirmed in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.