Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday

The latest:

U.K. regulators say people who have a “significant history” of allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine while they investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program.

Prof. Stephen Powis, national medical director for the National Health Service in England, said health authorities were acting on a recommendation from the Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the nation’s medicines regulator.

“As is common with new vaccines, the MHRA has advised, on a precautionary basis, that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday,” Powis said in a statement. “Both are recovering well.”

WATCH | Early COVID-19 vaccine recipients in U.K. put faith in science:

Two of the earliest recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Hari and Ranjan Shukla of Newcastle, U.K., believe scientists have made a safe vaccine and are encouraging their friends to take it too. 4:58

Dr. June Raine, head of the U.K.’s medical regulatory agency, reported the adverse reactions as she testified Wednesday to a Parliamentary committee. The U.K. began vaccinating elderly people and medical workers with a vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech on Tuesday, the world’s first rollout of the vaccine.

“We’re looking at two case reports of allergic reactions,” she said. “We know from the very extensive clinical trials that this wasn’t a feature.”

“But If we need to strengthen our advice, now that we have had this experience with the vulnerable populations, the groups who have been selected as a priority, we get that advice to the field immediately,” she said.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 6:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 429,035, with 71,968 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,867.

British Columbia reported 566 new cases and 16 more deaths on Tuesday. Hospitalizations rose to 352, the province’s highest point since the start of the pandemic.

WATCH | Canada needs to build vaccine registry as doses delivered:

Experts say Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout needs something it doesn’t currently have: a dynamic federal vaccine registry that can gather granular data about who has been vaccinated, who needs to be and how they reacted. There are only several, unlinked provincial databases in the country. 3:29

Alberta is imposing strict new measures in an effort to curb soaring COVID-19 infection rates, including a ban on outdoor and indoor social gatherings, a mandatory provincewide mask rule and the closure of dine-in service at restaurants and bars.

The province will also close all casinos and gyms, impose mandatory work-from-home measures and further limit in-person attendance at places of worship, among other measures.

The announcement came as Alberta reported 1,727 new cases and nine more deaths, and set another record with 20,388 active cases. There are 654 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 112 of whom are in ICU, both record highs for the province.

Saskatchewan reported 183 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, and six more deaths, the highest single-day increase in the province’s death toll since the pandemic began.

Five of the people who died were in their 80s and the sixth was in their 30s.

Saskatchewan now has 406 active cases per 100,000, which is the second-highest in the country, behind only Alberta’s 459 per 100,000.

Manitoba on Tuesday extended sweeping COVID-19 restrictions into the new year, which means holiday gatherings won’t be allowed. At the same time, officials added a number of exemptions to the provincial health order, including lifting a ban on drive-in church services, which some churches have flouted recently.

As well, thrift stores will be allowed to open and sell non-essential items, and acupuncture and osteopathy services will be permitted. The announcement came as the province reported 245 new cases, 13 more deaths and a test positivity rate of 13.3 per cent.

Ontario on Tuesday reported 1,676 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,808.

As of Tuesday, the province reported having 794 COVID-19 patients in hospital, with 219 in intensive care units.

The update from Health Minister Christine Elliott came a day after the province reported 1,925 new cases of COVID-19 — a new daily record. 

Elliot on Tuesday said the province is planning to issue some kind of proof-of-vaccination card to those who receive their shots.

Quebec on Tuesday reported 1,564 new cases of COVID-19 and 36 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,313.

Hospitalizations increased to 835, with 114 people in intensive care units, according to provincial data.

In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, leaving the number of cases in the province at 84. P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced four additional cases on Monday, all individuals in their 20s and 30s.

WATCH | P.E.I. official clarifies testing call for 20-somethings after ‘tremendous’ response:

P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison says the province is trying to prioritize and manage the high demand for COVID-19 tests after a ‘tremendous’ response to calls for widespread testing of 20-29 year old Islanders.   1:27

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Tuesday. Premier Andrew Furey said on Monday the province would not be rejoining the so-called Atlantic bubble for at least the next month. That means all visitors to the province will be required to self-isolate for 14 days whether they’re from Atlantic Canada or not.

New Brunswick reported five new cases on Tuesday, four of which are in the Fredericton region.

Nova Scotia reported seven new cases on Tuesday, including one at a Dartmouth school.

WATCH | COVID-19’s burden on health care extends outside hospitals:

COVID-19 isn’t just putting pressure on emergency rooms and ICUs. Family doctors are faced with diagnosing and treating patients using telemedicine instead of in person. They’re feeling the strain, and that pressure ends up impacting other parts of the health-care system. 1:54

Across the North, Yukon reported one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 58 — with 10 of those considered active.

Nunavut health officials reported one new case on Tuesday, in the community of Arviat.

There were no new cases reported Monday or Tuesday in the Northwest Territories.

What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET

As of 7:15 a.m. ET Tuesday, there were more than 68.3 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, with more than 44 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.

Deaths from COVID-19 in the United States have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the U.S.

“What we do now literally will be a matter of life and death for many of our citizens,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday as he extended restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, including a ban on indoor dining and drinking at restaurants and bars.

While the impending arrival of the vaccine is reason for hope, he said, “at the moment, we have to face reality, and the reality is that we are suffering a very dire situation with the pandemic.”

The United Arab Emirates said Wednesday a Chinese coronavirus vaccine tested in the federation of sheikdoms is 86 per cent effective, in a statement that provided few details but marked the first public release of information on the efficacy of the shot.

The announcement brought yet another shot into the worldwide race for a vaccine to end the pandemic, a scientific effort that has seen China and Russia compete with Western firms for an effective inoculation. While questions remain about the Sinopharm shot, already at least one country outside China plans to roll it out in a mass-vaccination campaign.

The U.A.E.’s Health and Prevention Ministry announced the results via a statement on the state-run WAM news agency, saying it has “reviewed Sinopharm CNBG’s interim analysis of the Phase III trials.”

“The analysis shows no serious safety concerns,” the statement said, without detailing whether any participant suffered side effects.

The number of households in Israel living under the poverty line has grown by nearly 50 per cent during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an anti-poverty organization’s report published Wednesday. Israel has seen unemployment surge to over 20 per cent since the country first imposed a nationwide lockdown at the start of the outbreak in March. The country’s vital tourism industry has shrunk to virtually nil and thousands of businesses have closed. To make matters worse, the Israeli government has been at loggerheads over passing a national budget, resulting in major cutbacks to social services.

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