The latest:

  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in Quebec again surpass 1,000.
  • Sweden adopts more restrictions as cases rise but decides against full lockdown.
  • Ontario to hold emergency meeting with hospital heads as 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases hits another high.
  • COVAX program doubles global vaccine supply deals to 2 billion doses.
  • U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence gets COVID-19 vaccine live on television.
  • Canada reports more than 7,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time.
  • Alberta sees its deadliest day of the pandemic with 30 new deaths.
  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca

With the largest mass immunization effort in Canadian history now underway in almost every province, health authorities are urging members of the public to keep up their efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, especially as the holiday season approaches.

Case counts, hospitalizations and deaths are still increasing in many parts of the country, with Canada reporting more than 7,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Thursday.

In Ontario, where more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases are being reported for a fourth straight day, Premier Doug Ford is set to hold an emergency meeting with top hospital officials this afternoon.

 This comes a day after the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) called on the provincial government to “implement and robustly enforce” a four-week lockdown in every public health unit where there is an infection rate of 40 per 100,000 people or higher.

The OHA said that its member hospitals are struggling to keep up with current needs while working to catch up on about 150,000 procedures that were postponed during the pandemic’s first wave in the spring.

“We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals,” the OHA statement said.

Ontario on Friday reported 2,290 new cases — pushing the seven-day average to a new high of 2,089 — and 40 more deaths. There were 877 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 261 of whom were in intensive care.

Meanwhile, Alberta recorded a single-day record of 30 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, a figure the province’s chief medical officer of health called “heartbreaking.”

“If anyone still needs reminding of the seriousness of this virus, of the importance of the restrictions that are currently in place, and the importance of doing everything possible to limit our interactions and break the chains of transmission, this is it,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

The province also reported 1,571 new cases of the virus, with 763 people being treated in hospitals for COVID-19, including 138 in intensive care.

WATCH | Alberta’s top doctor says no safety concerns with COVID-19 vaccinations:

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says that the new vaccination against COVID-19 is safe and it works. 1:54

Hinshaw said there have been many examples of people attending gatherings when they have mild symptoms such as headaches or stuffy noses that they didn’t connect with COVID-19, or were infectious and didn’t know it.

She stressed that the safest way for people to celebrate the holidays this year is within their own household, or with two designated close contacts for those who live alone.

“This year we can and must celebrate differently,” she said. “Holiday gatherings with people outside of your household are not only against the restrictions that are in place, they are also the wrong thing to do right now.”

Quebec and Ontario administered Canada’s first doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, with other provinces following suit throughout the week.

As of Friday, New Brunswick is the only province that has yet to begin vaccinations, which Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell attributed to “logistical and human resource reasons.” The province is scheduled to hold its first vaccination clinic at the Miramichi Regional Hospital this weekend.

The territories are not receiving the initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because its ultra-low temperature requirements for storage have been deemed too challenging logistically for northern, rural and remote communities.

Instead, they expect to receive the Moderna vaccine, which has less stringent temperature requirements, when it is approved by Health Canada.


What’s happening across Canada

As of noon ET on Friday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 492,701, with 76,433 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,992.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported no new cases on Friday.

The province’s chief medical officer of health has said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the Edmundston region, the only part of the province still in the orange phase of recovery, could move into a less restrictive yellow phase in time for the holidays.

WATCH | N.B. chief medical officer urges residents to follow rules during holidays:

The province’s chief medical officer says she worries gatherings and non-essential travel could lead to a rise in cases of COVID-19. 2:51

Meanwhile, Prince Edward Island has eased COVID-19 restrictions, including allowing larger gatherings, more visitors in long-term care homes and a resumption of organized sports. The province reported one new case on Thursday.

Nova Scotia recorded six new cases on Thursday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases.

In the North, the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to slow in Nunavut, which reported no new cases on Friday after recording one on Thursday and none on Wednesday. All 34 active cases in the territory are in Arviat.

The Northwest Territories recorded one new case on Thursday. Meanwhile, Yukon announced that the territory has added more school buses and will implement new mask rules during bus rides in order to facilitate safe transportation for students in the upcoming school year.

Quebec reported 1,773 new cases of COVID-19 and 36 more deaths on Friday.

For the second day in a row, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations broke the 1,000 mark, with 1,011 patients in hospital, including 141 in intensive care.

The province is getting ready to ramp up its vaccination campaign, by expanding it to a total of 21 sites spread across 15 regions starting next week.

Pedestrians are bundled up to face the cold weather during the COVID-19 outbreak in Montreal on Thursday. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province has shot up in the last week. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba reported 221 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the lowest single-day increase in infections since 103 were registered on Nov. 3, as well as 14 more deaths related to the virus.

Its provincial test positivity rate, which has been among the highest in Canada, fell to 13 per cent, its lowest level since Nov. 15.

Despite the signs of improvement, health leaders say medical and intensive care units are still strained by the number of patients they’re seeing. There were 384 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 48 in intensive care.

In Saskatchewan, new restrictions took effect on Thursday as the province reported 238 new cases and seven deaths.

Under the new measures, which are in place until at least Jan. 15, residents can no longer have guests in their homes and outdoor socializing is capped at 10 people.

Starting Saturday, bingo halls and casinos must also close, and personal care services, such as hairdressers, must reduce their capacity to half. Retailers have until Christmas Day before they also need to drop to 50 per cent capacity. Larger stores will be limited to 25 per cent.

WATCH | Sask. hospitals overloaded even as cases decline:

Daily COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan are declining, but hospitals and ICUs in the province are overloaded. All the while, many residents are growing frustrated with what they call mixed messages and contradictory restrictions. 2:02

British Columbia reported 673 new COVID-19 cases and 21 additional deaths on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna has fired some of its employees for breaking a social responsibility contract after health officials announced that 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been linked to the resort.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET

As of 9:45 a.m. ET on Friday, more than 75.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 42.4 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a COVID-19 tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.6 million.

The COVAX alliance that aims to secure COVID-19 vaccines for the world’s most vulnerable people said on Friday it had gained access to nearly two billion doses, roughly doubling its supply, with the first deliveries expected in the first quarter of 2021.

The initiative run by the Gavi vaccine alliance and World Health Organization said that it aimed to deliver 1.3 billion doses of approved vaccines next year to 92 eligible low- and middle-income economies.

“Today’s announcements offer the clearest pathway yet to end the acute phase of the pandemic by protecting the most vulnerable populations around the world,” it said in a statement.

New agreements announced on Friday include an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca for 170 million doses, and a memorandum of understanding for 500 million doses from Johnson & Johnson.

In the Americas, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was vaccinated for COVID-19 on Friday in a live-television event aimed at reassuring Americans the vaccine is safe. He celebrated the shot as “a medical miracle” that could eventually contain the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Pence, the highest-profile official yet to receive the vaccine, has taken an increasingly visible role in highlighting the safety of the shot, including touring a vaccine production facility this week.

WATCH | U.S. vice-president receives COVID-19 vaccine:

The vice-president of the United States, Mike Pence, has received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, saying he was ‘more than happy’ to take this ‘safe and effective’ coronavirus vaccine. 0:16

Pence’s wife, Karen, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams also received shots during the televised White House event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Adams, who is Black, emphasized the “the importance of representation” in outreach to at-risk communities and encouraged Americans to avoid disinformation around the vaccines.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Thursday that they will get vaccinated in the next few days. President-elect Joe Biden expects to receive his shot as soon as next week.

Brazil’s Supreme Court says coronavirus vaccination can be made mandatory, delivering a blow to the nation’s nascent anti-vaccine movement.

However, the court also says Brazilians may not be vaccinated against their will. A court statement says Thursday’s ruling does pave the way for state and municipal governments to approve laws imposing fines or restrictive measures for anyone refusing to take a vaccine.

In Europe, Spain’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered an investigation into the deaths of elderly people in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of protective gear for health workers.

Magistrates were asked to find out if deaths at nursing homes “were associated with political, administrative or management decisions and whether those decisions are criminally reproachable.”

Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia attend the unveiling of a monument to honour health-care workers who have died from COVID-19 in Madrid on Friday. (Manu Fernandez/Reuters)

Sweden is tightening nationwide coronavirus restrictions by requiring many people to work from home and reducing the number who can gather in restaurants, shops and gyms starting next week. But the government decided against ordering the country’s first full lockdown to control a recent spike in virus cases, the prime minister said Friday.

Sweden has stood out among European nations for its comparatively hands-off response to the pandemic. It has not gone into lockdowns or closed businesses, relying instead on citizens’ sense of civic duty to control infections. However, the country has seen a rapid increase in confirmed cases that is straining the health-care system.

French President Emmanuel Macron is suffering from fever, cough and fatigue as he rides out the coronavirus in a presidential retreat at Versailles, officials with the presidency said Friday.

Macron’s positive test on Thursday has prompted contact tracing efforts across Europe following meetings he had with EU heads of government.

 In Asia, South Korea has reported 1,062 new cases of coronavirus infections, its third straight day above 1,000 as the virus continues to slam the greater capital area where hospital beds are in short supply. 

The viral resurgence has put pressure on the government to raise social distancing restrictions to maximum levels, something policymakers have resisted for weeks out of economic concerns.

A shop owner displays Christmas items at a store at the Namdaemun market in Seoul on Friday. South Korea reported 1,062 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, its second-highest ever daily tally, as the government agonized over tighter restrictions. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

In Africa, a second wave of infections is hitting the continent’s West and Central regions, and experts are warning it could be worse than the first as cooler weather descends on a region where most countries cannot afford a vaccine.

Nigeria, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo and Democratic Republic of Congo are all at or near record levels of infection, data compiled by Reuters shows. Infections in Senegal are also rising fast.





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