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Trudeau says any approved COVID-19 vaccine will be free for all Canadians

The latest:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday any COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada will be free for all Canadians through the health-care system.

Trudeau made the statement in the House of Commons after being questioned by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who said Canadians are worried about whether they will have free and timely access to a vaccine against the coronavirus once one becomes available.

But it remains unclear exactly who would receive the vaccines first or how they would be distributed. The government has indicated the plan is to ensure the most vulnerable and essential workers have ready access.

Trudeau told the Commons a committee of experts will counsel the government on how to fairly distribute vaccines to everyone.

Meanwhile, Dr. Theresa Tam says the country’s average daily count of new COVID-19 cases hit 2,052 over the last seven days.

That’s up 40 per cent over the previous week and is nearly 10 times the low it reached last July.

Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada is also seeing an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalized.

In a statement, Tam said the increasing number and variety of COVID-19 tests available in Canada is a good step but that testing cannot replace basic health measures like physical distancing and wearing face masks.

What’s happening in the rest of Canada

As of 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 173,123 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 145,666 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,541.

Quebec reported 900 new cases and 17 more deaths on Wednesday.

In Montreal, a growing share of new cases are people aged 65 and older, leading the city’s director of public health on Wednesday to ask Montrealers to keep their distance from their older family members — even if they live in the same home.

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People wait in line in the pouring rain outside a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal on Wednesday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

British Columbia health officials announced 115 new cases and no new deaths on Wednesday.

Ontario reported another 583 cases, while the number of resolved infections outpaced new daily cases for the first time in months.

At a news conference, Premier Doug Ford urged Ontarians to spend the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with people in their own household.

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Students sanitize their hands after a morning snack at a Toronto school on Wednesday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is set to unveil additional voluntary measures for Edmonton after the province said 1,085 of its 1,910 active cases are in that region.

Manitoba reported three more COVID-19-related deaths and 32 more cases of the illness on Wednesday. Public health officials are also advising about possible exposures at two Winnipeg schools.

New Brunswick says there are 17 new cases connected to an outbreak at a special care home in Moncton.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said 13 Manoir Notre-Dame residents, four staff and two family members have tested positive for COVID-19. Russell said the source of the outbreak remains under investigation. 

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Home oxygen machines are delivered to the coronavirus-hit Manoir Notre-Dame special care home in Moncton, N.B., on Wednesday. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador is asking workers who returned to the province in the last two weeks from certain work sites in Nunavut and Alberta to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19.

The Health Department issued three warnings on Wednesday about outbreaks at the Hope Bay gold mine in Nunavut; at Syncrude Canada’s Aurora mine site, close to Fort McMurray, Alta.; and at Methanex’s methanol plant in Medicine Hat, Alta.

Nova Scotia reported no new cases on Wednesday.

Saskatchewan health officials declared a “multi-jurisdictional community transmitted outbreak” after a large number of people who recently attended events at a gospel centre in Prince Albert tested positive for the virus. 

What’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 35.9 million. More than 1.052 million people have died, while more than 25 million have recovered.

In Europe, a number of countries reported grim records. France reported more than 18,700 new cases in the past 24 hours; the Czech Republic surpassed 4,000 new infections in one day for the first time; and Slovakia tallied another record daily increase with nearly 900.

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A health-care worker conducts a COVID-19 test at a drive-in sampling station in Prague, Czech Republic, on Wednesday. (Petr David Josek/The Associated Press)

In Africa, 15 clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines are underway across the continent, according to a comment published in the journal Nature by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five trials are occurring in South Africa and four in Egypt, with a single trial each in Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

African nations have teamed up to combat the pandemic, with painful memories of millions of Africans dying in the decade it took for affordable HIV drugs to become available on the continent.

In the Americas, the U.S. state of Wisconsin announced Wednesday that a field hospital will open next week at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

Wisconsin has become a hot spot for the disease over the last month, ranking third in the U.S. this week in daily new cases per capita. Health experts have attributed the spike to the reopening of colleges and K-12 schools, as well as general fatigue over wearing masks and physically distancing.

In Asia-Pacific, New Zealand has again eliminated COVID-19 in the community after the last six active cases associated with a minor outbreak in Auckland have recovered. From midnight Wednesday, limits on public gatherings and activities in the city will be lifted, though physical distancing is advised.

Iranian state TV on Wednesday reported 239 new deaths in the country, the highest number of daily deaths from the coronavirus. The previous high was 235 daily deaths.

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