As provinces prepare to receive the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine next week, top health officials have warned Canadians against complacency in guarding against the respiratory illness.
Canada is still on a “rapid-growth” trajectory for COVID-19 cases and the number of deaths from the respiratory illness could hit nearly 15,000 in another two weeks, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam said on Friday.
More than 13,250 deaths had been attributed to the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began. The current caseload of more than 448,000 could grow to an estimated 577,000 by Christmas Day, according to federal forecasts.
Tam said Canada could see an average of 12,000 new cases of infection daily, with increasing hospitalizations and deaths, by the beginning of January, “unless significant reductions in contact rates are achieved.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said, “A vaccine in a week or in a month won’t help you if you get COVID-19 today.”
WATCH | Tam talks about the strain on the health-care system:
Tam said over the past week, an average of 2,900 patients with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals on any given day, including 565 people in intensive care.
Canada is expected to receive up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine before the end of the year.
The co-chair of the federal task force studying COVID-19 immunity is warning that the arrival of vaccines in Canada doesn’t guarantee protection against the novel coronavirus, or signal that peoples’ lives will soon return to normal.
Dr. Catherine Hankins told CBC’s The House that there are still too many unknowns about COVID-19 immunity and the effectiveness of vaccines to quickly move beyond the pandemic measures now in place, such as mask mandates and limits on social and business activities.
What’s happening across Canada
As of Saturday morning, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 448,841, with 73,297 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,251.
Health officials in British Columbia reported on Friday reported 737 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths. Friday’s report comes a day after B.C. reported 28 COVID-19 deaths — a single-day high for the province that Dr. Bonnie Henry described as “one of the most tragic days we have had yet.”
WATCH | Hospitals in northern B.C. fill up as COVID-19 cases surge:
Alberta reported 1,738 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, along with 18 deaths. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said on Thursday that new restrictions brought in this week should serve as a warning to Albertans about how serious the pandemic has become.
The health system “is in trouble and we need to work together to save it,” Hinshaw said.
Public health officials in Saskatchewan announced 246 new cases on Friday. The total of known active COVID-19 cases in the province has now dropped to 4,547, after public health officials deemed another 387 cases as recovered.
WATCH | University students grapple with how to return home for the holidays safely:
The province said the number of known active cases could be inflated due to a backlog of data review.
Manitoba’s chief public health officer on Friday said the provincial death rate from COVID-19 has increased by more than nine times since Thanksgiving. Dr. Brent Roussin also announced 447 more infections and 14 deaths.
Ontario announced that two more regions will enter lockdown on Monday. Bars, shopping malls and gyms in Windsor-Essex and York Region will be closed, and indoor dining at restaurants will be banned.
WATCH | 2 more regions in southern Ontario set to go into lockdown:
The move comes three weeks after Toronto and Peel Region, the other hardest-hit parts of the province, were placed into the “grey” or lockdown-level zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework. The case counts in those regions have continued to climb steadily since.
The provincial government also said Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will move into the red “control” zone. Ontario reported 1,848 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday along with 45 additional deaths.
In Quebec, health officials reported 1,713 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 53 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,435. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased to 871, with 123 people in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island on Friday.
New Brunswick reported eight new cases on Friday, along with one more death. Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the Edmundston region is being moved into the more restrictive “orange” level of restrictions at midnight due to a growing outbreak.
Across the North, Nunavut reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. All are in the community of Arviat, bringing the total number of active cases there to 56.
Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories, said in a news release late Thursday five travel-related cases had been reported in Yellowknife.
Yukon reported no new cases on Thursday and had not yet provided an update on Friday.
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday evening, more than 70 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 45 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.
The United States on Friday authorized the use of a vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, with the first inoculations expected within days, marking a turning point in a country where the pandemic has killed nearly 300,000 people.
Health-care workers and elderly people in long-term care facilities are expected to be the main recipients of a first round of 2.9 million doses this month.
In Europe, another 761 people died of COVID-19 on Friday in Italy, bringing the country’s death toll from the virus to 63,387, just behind Britain’s toll of 63,603 dead, according to Johns Hopkins University.
France registered 13,406 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 2.35 million and the number of hospitalizations continued the downward trend, data released by the health authorities showed on Friday.
Hospitalizations fell by 256 to 24,975 and the number of patients in intensive care units dropped by 75 to 2,884, maintaining a running slowdown first recorded on Nov. 14.
Several tourists attractions in Paris, including iconic Louvre and Eiffel Tower, will remind closed during the nation’s second stage of lifting lockdown, which will start from Dec. 15.
In Africa, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune marks a year in office Saturday but he is nowhere in sight since his evacuation to Germany more than six weeks ago for treatment of COVID-19.
The president’s office issued a statement on Nov. 30 saying Tebboune had left a “specialized” medical facility, was continuing his convalescence and should be returning home “in the coming days.”
The statement compounded the growing mystery surrounding the 75-year-old Tebboune, his whereabouts and his health. The clinic where he was treated was never made public.
Tebboune left for Germany Oct. 28.