Ontario is reporting its first case of the more infectious variant of the novel coronavirus first discovered in South Africa, as new rules take effect in the province for international air travellers and officials announce expanded testing at schools.
The variant, also known as B1351, was found in Peel Region. The person infected had no history of travel and had no contact with a person who has been out of the country, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams at a briefing on Monday.
Alberta reported Canada’s first case of the B1351 variant last month.
Williams said the discovery of the variant in Ontario, which has also reported 69 cases of the B117 variant first detected in the U.K., is a reminder for continued vigilance in health measures, while noting the province is seeing some positive trends.
“We’re encouraged by the data right now; we’re encouraged that maybe our stay-at-home directions and our measures are holding the U.K. variants, and maybe some of these other variants, at bay,” Williams said.
Ontario reported 1,969 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 36 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 6,224. Hospitalizations in Ontario stood at 1,158, according to a provincial dashboard, with 354 COVID-19 patients listed as being in intensive care units.
Ontario is reporting 1,969 cases of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> and nearly 30,400 tests completed. Locally, there are 886 new cases in Toronto, 330 in Peel and 128 in York Region.<br><br>As of 8:00 p.m. yesterday, 341,900 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
Changes for travel, schools
Starting today, international air travellers touching down in Ontario have to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Toronto.
Premier Doug Ford announced the plan on Friday, saying it was the latest effort to stop new, more contagious variants of the virus from further infiltrating the province. The initial airport testing program will eventually be expanded to land-border entries.
The federal government recently announced its own travel rules, saying last week that airlines were suspending flights to major sun destinations until the end of April.
Ottawa’s measures will also include mandatory PCR testing for travellers returning to Canada, and a hotel quarantine of up to three days to be paid for by the traveller.
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Meanwhile, as more schools reopen in Ontario, the province is expanding COVID-19 testing for students and will allow boards to tap into teacher candidates to fill supply roles in the face of teacher shortages, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Monday.
The targeted testing will be available in all public health units where students have returned to class, officials said. It will be voluntary and available to both students and staff.
The officials said they expect that Ontario has enough capacity to complete up to 25,000 laboratory processed and 25,000 on-site, rapid antigen tests per week but offered no timeline on how long it could take to get to that level.
Elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa and some surrounding areas resumed in-person learning on Monday. The next wave of students, from Toronto, Peel, York Region, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton, are scheduled to return on Feb. 10.
– From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 5 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
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As of 7:15 p.m. ET, Canada had reported 783,589 cases of COVID-19, with 51,745 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 20,136.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam noted in a tweet on the weekend that two weeks of “falling case counts across most jurisdictions tells us strong community-wide public health measures are working,” but she noted that in areas with “renewed activity” measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus must be strong and sustained.
2/2 Given added concerns re: emergence and spread of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SARSCoV2?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SARSCoV2</a> virus variants, the breadth and stringency of public health measures/restrictions may be tested further. Hold tight on: <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WashMaskSpace?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WashMaskSpace</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/EssentialsOnly?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#EssentialsOnly</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/AVOID3Cs?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#AVOID3Cs</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NowIsNotTheTime?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NowIsNotTheTime</a> for travel; <a href=”https://t.co/w27G7rHASE”>https://t.co/w27G7rHASE</a>
In Quebec, health officials reported 890 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the lowest single-day figure reported by the province since November. The province reported 32 additional deaths, bringing its death toll to 9,826.
Hospitalizations in Quebec stood at 1,144, according to provincial data, with 183 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
Radio-Canada reported over the weekend that Premier François Legault is considering easing some restrictions on businesses later this month amid a slowing in new COVID-19 cases.
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New Brunswick reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, down from 26 new cases on Sunday.
Nova Scotia reported one new case. The province also announced it has cancelled the 2021 sailing season for ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbour, Maine, due to the pandemic.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases, as public health officials continued their investigation into a cluster of five COVID-19 cases in the Eastern Health region.
P.E.I. reported two new cases of COVID-19.
Manitoba reported 89 new cases, nearly half of them in the Northern Health Region, and three new deaths on Monday.
Saskatchewan reported 147 new cases and two more deaths. January was the province’s deadliest month of the pandemic so far, with 153 deaths reported since Jan .1 as of Monday, half of the province’s total 306 COVID-19 deaths.
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Alberta reported 355 new cases and 10 more deaths, with the province’s top doctor noting that cases and hospitalizations are trending down, but “we still have work to do.”
At a briefing Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province now has 51 cases of COVID-19 variants, marking an increase since Friday of 14 such cases.
Meanwhile, in British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said a total of 18 people have been identified with infections of new COVID-19 variants. She said B.C. health officials are stepping up surveillance to track the spread of these more infectious versions.
In its first update since Friday, the province reported 1,158 new cases and 21 new deaths over the past three days.
Nunavut saw no additional cases on Monday, a day after recording 10 new cases, all in the community of Arviat. Yukon also reported no new cases, while the Northwest Territories did not provide an update.
Here’s what else is happening across Canada:
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 8:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday afternoon, more than 103.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 57.2 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.2 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is expected to extend a state of emergency to fight the spread of COVID-19 this week for Tokyo and other areas as hospitals remain under pressure despite a decline in cases from their peaks.
South Korea will extend its physical distancing curbs by two weeks until the end of the Lunar New Year holidays as new COVID-19 infection clusters emerge in the country.
China reported the lowest daily increase in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks on Monday, reversing a sharp uptick a day earlier.
Western Australia state reported no new local COVID-19 cases on Monday, a day after it recorded its first case in 10 months that prompted authorities to enforce a five-day lockdown in the capital city of Perth.
In the Americas, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is “doing well” in his recovery from COVID-19, the country’s interior minister said on Monday. Olga Sanchez said the president is expected to return to a regular morning news conference next Monday.
Meanwhile, Mexico City’s international airport will set up facilities to perform COVID-19 tests to help passengers who need to show they are free of the virus to enter other countries.
In the U.S., White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt says the government awarded a $231-million US contract to scale up production of a COVID-19 home test recently authorized by U.S. regulators.
For months, health experts have stressed the need for fast, widespread home testing so that people can screen themselves and avoid contact with others if they have an infection. But the vast majority of tests still require a nasal swab performed by a health worker that must be processed at high-tech laboratories.
The test kit from Australian manufacturer Ellume allows users to swab themselves at home and check their status in about 20 minutes. It’s one of only three tests that consumers can use themselves, and the only one available without a doctor’s prescription. Ellume said Monday it would use the contract to construct a U.S. manufacturing plant and deliver 8.5 million tests for federal use. It did not specify a timeframe for delivery.
In Africa, South Africa has acquired 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that are expected to arrive in the second quarter of the year, the government has confirmed.
The purchase is a significant boost to the government’s efforts to acquire vaccines to reach its goal of inoculating 40 million people, representing 67 per cent of the country’s population, this year.
The cost of the Pfizer vaccines will be announced at a later date by Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, said Lwazi Manzi, spokesperson for the health ministry.
Ghana, meanwhile, said it plans to procure 17.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June with the first doses arriving in March.
In Europe, much of Italy gingerly reopened from pre-Christmas coronavirus closures, with the Vatican Museums welcoming a trickle of visitors to the Sistine Chapel and locals ordering their cappuccinos at outdoor tables.
While many European countries remain in hard lockdowns amid surging COVID-19 infections and variants, most Italian regions graduated to the coveted “yellow” category of risk starting Monday. That has allowed museums to reopen, sit-down restaurant and bar service to resume and many high-schoolers to return to class.
Italy, the onetime European epicentre of the outbreak, is averaging around 12,000 to 15,000 new confirmed cases and 300 to 600 COVID-19 deaths each day. But it appears to have avoided the severe post-Christmas surges in Britain and elsewhere thanks to tightened restrictions on travel and socializing over the holiday.
The European Union, meanwhile, said vaccine maker AstraZeneca has agreed to supply nine million additional doses to the 27-nation bloc during the first quarter. The new target of 40 million doses by the end of March is still only half what the company had originally aimed for, triggering a spat between AstraZeneca and the EU last week.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said late Sunday that the British-Swedish pharmaceutical maker will also begin deliveries one week sooner than scheduled and expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.
The EU is far behind Britain and the United States in getting its population of 450 million vaccinated against the virus. The slow rollout has been blamed on a range of national problems as well as slower authorization of the vaccines and an initial shortage of supply.
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In the Middle East, Israel said it has shipped the first batch of the Moderna vaccine to the Palestinians.
The unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, said Monday that it co-ordinated a first shipment of 2,000 doses out of 5,000 doses for use by medical teams under the Palestinian Authority.
The transfer at Beituniya Crossing took place a day after Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s office announced the vaccinations had been approved for Palestinians. Israel is leading one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns after securing millions of doses from major drug makers Pfizer and Moderna.
International human rights groups and UN experts have urged Israel to assist with the vaccination of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel says under the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinians have responsibility for the vaccination effort. The Palestinians have not publicly requested vaccines from Israel.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, said the Palestinian Authority will begin receiving tens of thousands of coronavirus vaccines later this month pending agreements with manufacturers and regulatory approval.
The WHO said Monday that the PA would receive 37,440 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from mid-February “subject to approvals of supply agreements with manufacturers.” Those would go to frontline medical workers. It said the PA would receive another 240,000 to 405,600 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from mid- to late-February subject to WHO emergency use approval.
The vaccines are being provided through COVAX, a WHO program to help poor countries acquire vaccines.
Saudi Arabia’s health minister, meanwhile, said complacency around coronavirus restrictions had led to a notable increase in daily cases in the kingdom.
– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last update at 5 p.m. ET