The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
12:31 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 as case numbers continue to mount in Atlantic Canada.
Health officials say all four of the cases announced Saturday are in the Fredericton region, with three of those infected between the ages of 20 and 29 and one under the age of 19.
All four of the latest patients are self-isolating, and health officials are investigating how they contracted the novel coronavirus.
The most recent cases bring the total number of active diagnoses in New Brunswick to 118.
The province pulled out of the Atlantic bubble on Friday amid rising COVID-19 cases across the region.
All visitors to New Brunswick — including from the Atlantic region — now must register before entering the province and isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
12:16 p.m.: Italy’s coronavirus infections have levelled off after nearly a month of new restrictions, with another 26,323 new positive cases and stabilizing numbers in hospital intensive care units.
But public health officials warned Saturday that the second wave of the outbreak is hardly under control, with 10 regions still declared high risk and the daily number of dead — 686 on Saturday — likely to be the last number to fall.
At a briefing, members of Italy’s government scientific advisory committee said it would be unthinkable to relax restrictions over Christmas or reopen shuttered ski slopes, saying the risk of contagion is particularly high when far-flung extended families get together.
As a result, Italians’ typical Christmas Eve dinner en famille “is something we have to give up this year,” said Dr. Franco Locatelli.
Italy, the springtime European epicenter of the pandemic, has seen a sharp resurgence in infections this fall that pushed its COVID-19 death toll to 54,363, the second highest in Europe after Britain. The government opted against second nationwide lockdown, instead imposing restrictions on a regional basis based on caseload and the ability of the health system to respond.
11:53 a.m.: The latest COVID-19 figures from Quebec show the province has surpassed the 7,000 COVID-19 death plateau and set a new single-day record for new infections. The 1,480 new cases reported today exceeds the previous high of 1,464 new infections reported Thursday.
The province also recorded 37 further deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, including 10 in the past 24 hours and another 23 recorded over a five-day period ending Thursday. The province has now reported 139,643 COVID-19 cases and 7,021 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, along with 1,179 new recoveries for a total of 120,906.
The number of hospitalizations rose as well, with nine more patients seeking care for a total of 678. The number of patients in intensive care increased by three to 93.
The province conducted 29,652 tests on Thursday, the last day for which numbers were available.
11:15 a.m.: Quebec has surpassed the 7,000 COVID-19 death plateau, reporting 37 further deaths linked to the novel coronavirus as well as 1,480 new infections.
The Health Department says 10 of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours. Hospitalizations and intensive care cases are also up today.
The province has now reported 139,643 COVID-19 cases and 7,021 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic
10:55 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:52 a.m. EST on Nov. 28, 2020:
There are 360,877 confirmed cases in Canada.
Quebec: 138,163 confirmed (including 6,984 deaths, 119,727 resolved)Ontario: 113,038 confirmed (including 3,624 deaths, 95,876 resolved)Alberta: 53,105 confirmed (including 519 deaths, 38,369 resolved)British Columbia: 30,884 confirmed (including 395 deaths, 21,304 resolved)Manitoba: 15,632 confirmed (including 280 deaths, 6,487 resolved)Saskatchewan: 7,691 confirmed (including 44 deaths, 4,384 resolved)Nova Scotia: 1,257 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,078 resolved)New Brunswick: 477 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 356 resolved)Newfoundland and Labrador: 331 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 296 resolved)Nunavut: 159 confirmed (including 8 resolved)Prince Edward Island: 70 confirmed (including 68 resolved)Yukon: 42 confirmed (including 1 death, 29 resolved)Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)Total: 360,877 (0 presumptive, 360,877 confirmed including 11,923 deaths, 288,010 resolved)
10:30 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 1,822 new cases of COVID-19 today, a slight decrease from yesterday’s record high of 1,855.
The province also recorded 29 more deaths related to the virus since its last daily update.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 566 of the new cases are in Toronto, and 516 are in Peel Region.
Both regions were placed in the grey or “lockdown” stage of the province’s pandemic plan on Monday, but officials have said it could take at least two weeks to see any improvements related to the tougher restrictions.
Another 145 of the new infections are in York Region, with 105 and 102 in Waterloo and Hamilton, respectively.
Today’s numbers show that 595 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, an increase of 54 since yesterday.
The province says 155 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units at this time, and 99 are on ventilators.
It says nearly 55,100 tests were completed since the last report, and 1,510 more cases are considered resolved.
9:34 a.m.: South Korea reported more than 500 new coronavirus cases for the third straight day on Saturday, the fastest spread of infections the country has seen since the early days of the pandemic. The 504 cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention brought the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 33,375, including 522 deaths.
Around 330 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions linked to hospitals, schools, saunas, gyms and army units.
9:34 a.m.: India’s coronavirus infections dipped further with 41,322 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, and there was no signs of a resurgence as a result of a major festival two weeks ago. The high point of new infections this week was 44,739 on Wednesday. Single-day cases have remained below the 50,000-mark for three weeks. The Indian capital also saw a drop in daily cases with 5,482 after recording an all-time high on Nov. 11. The federal government blamed state authorities’ inability to ramp up testing and enforce social distancing for the surge in New Delhi. On Saturday, India’s death toll rose by 485 to to 136,200.
9:18 a.m.: Considered one of the few ways to finally bring the pandemic under control, the search for a COVID-19 vaccine is moving fast.
Teams around the world are at work on dozens of potential vaccines in the hopes that one — and possibly more — will crack the code in the coming months: passing clinical testing and gaining regulatory approval.
Thousands of people are already rolling up their sleeves for clinical testing, while debates are underway about issues such as: Who should get a vaccine first? How will it be distributed? How do we make sure parts of the world aren’t left out?
Read more from the Star’s Alex Boyd here: COVID-19 vaccine news: Canada’s spot in line, AstraZeneca’s setback and Denmark’s dead minks return. Here’s what you need to know this week
8:21 a.m.: The British government appointed a vaccines minister on Saturday as it prepares to inoculate millions of people against the coronavirus, potentially starting within days.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Conservative lawmaker Nadhim Zahawi will oversee the country’s biggest vaccine program in decades.
The U.K. medicines regulator is currently assessing two vaccines — one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the other by Oxford University and AstraZeneca — to see if they are safe and effective. The Guardian newspaper reported that hospitals have been told they could receive the first doses of the Pfizer shot the week of Dec. 7, if it receives approval.
The U.K. says frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by older people, starting with those over age 80.
Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, enough for 20 million people, and 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
In all, the U.K. government has agreed to purchase up to 355 million doses of vaccine from seven different producers, as it prepares to vaccinate as many of the country’s 67 million people as possible.
Decisions about which, if any, vaccines to authorize will be made by the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Pfizer and BioNTech say their vaccine is 95% effective, according to preliminary data. It must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit).
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at conventional refrigerator temperatures, and is also cheaper than its main rivals. But some scientists have questioned gaps in its reported results.
Oxford and AstraZeneca reported this week that their vaccine appeared to be 62% effective in people who received two doses, and 90% effective when volunteers were given a half dose followed by a full dose. They said the half dose was administered because of a manufacturing error, and they plan a new clinical trial to investigate the most effective dosing regimen.
The British government hopes a combination of vaccines and mass testing will end the need for restrictions on business and everyday life it imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Britain has had Europe’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 57,000 confirmed virus-related deaths.
The prime minister said this week that officials hope to inoculate “the vast majority of the people who need the most protection by Easter.” But he warned that “we must first navigate a hard winter” of restrictions.
A four-week national lockdown in England is due to end Wednesday, and will be replaced by three-tiered system of regional measures that restrict business activity, travel and socializing. The vast majority of the country is being put into the upper two tiers.
Johnson faces opposition to the measures from dozens of his own Conservative Party’s lawmakers, who say the economic damage outweighs the public health benefits.
Bur Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the restrictions were “grimly” necessary to avoid the health system being overwhelmed this winter.
Writing in The Times of London, Gove said there are currently 16,000 coronavirus patients in British hospitals, not far below the April peak of 20,000. A rise in infections would mean coronavirus patients would “displace all but emergency cases. And then even those.,” he said.
“If, however, we can keep the level of infection stable or, even better, falling, and hold out through January and February, then we can be confident that vaccination will pull the plug on the problem,” Gove wrote.
7:52 a.m. When Howard Levitt’s downtown Toronto law firm had to send employees home during the pandemic’s first lockdown in March, he saw a 30 per cent dip in the practice’s billable hours.
“Employees may genuinely believe they’re being productive, but that doesn’t mean they’re being productive,” Levitt says.
As an employment lawyer, Levitt says he would expect to see similar drops in any business that has employees working from home, pandemic or not.
The reason, he says, is not only because of the difficulties co-ordinating teams remotely, but also due to what a recent column he wrote for the National Post called the “insidious trend” of time theft, a trend he says is rising in the move to remote working.
Read the full story here: Are workers ‘stealing’ time from their companies when working from home? Some employers say yes — but studies say just the opposite
7:41 a.m.: Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials still face a conundrum that’s as vexing as it was at the beginning of the outbreak: pinning down how cases are being spread in the community.
In Ontario, as many as 60 per cent of cases have unknown sources of transmission.
The lack of data has, in part, led to our current lockdown, as government advisers look to the U.S. for information on how far it is necessary to go in shutting down parts of the economy.
Read the full story by Star reporters Kenyon Wallace and Patty Winsa here: Where are people catching COVID-19? Community transmission still a puzzle in Ontario
7:22 a.m.: Teams from Britain and the European Union resumed face-to-face talks on a post-Brexit trade deal Saturday, with both sides sounding gloomy about striking an agreement in the little time that remains.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier returned to London to meet his U.K. counterpart David Frost. Talks have been held virtually for the past week as Barnier completed a spell of self-isolation after a member of his team tested positive for the coronavirus.
COVID-19 is just one complication in negotiations that remain snagged over key issues including fishing rights and fair-competition rules. Barnier said Friday that the remote talks had made little progress and the “same significant divergences persist.”
The U.K. left the EU early this year, but remained part of the bloc’s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect Jan. 1. Talks have already slipped past the mid-November date long seen as a deadline to secure a deal in time for it to be approved and ratified by lawmakers in Britain and the EU.
If there is no deal, New Year’s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to U.K.-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU.
While both sides want a deal, they have fundamental differences about what it entails. The 27-nation EU accuses Britain of seeking to retain access to the bloc’s vast market without agreeing to abide by its rules, and wants strict guarantees on “level playing field” standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU.
The U.K. claims the EU is failing to respect its independence and making demands it has not placed on other countries with whom it has free trade deals, such as Canada.
To reach a deal the EU will have to curb its demands on continued access to U.K. fishing waters, and Britain must agree to some alignment with the bloc’s rules — difficult issues for politicians on both sides.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Irish leader Micheal Martin on Friday that he remained committed “to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the U.K.,” Johnson’s office said.
7:07 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 5:00 a.m. EST on Nov. 28, 2020:
There are 359,055 confirmed cases in Canada.
Quebec: 138,163 confirmed (including 6,984 deaths, 119,727 resolved)Ontario: 111,216 confirmed (including 3,595 deaths, 94,366 resolved)Alberta: 53,105 confirmed (including 519 deaths, 38,369 resolved)British Columbia: 30,884 confirmed (including 395 deaths, 21,304 resolved)Manitoba: 15,632 confirmed (including 280 deaths, 6,487 resolved)Saskatchewan: 7,691 confirmed (including 44 deaths, 4,384 resolved)Nova Scotia: 1,257 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,078 resolved)New Brunswick: 477 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 356 resolved)Newfoundland and Labrador: 331 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 296 resolved)Nunavut: 159 confirmed (including 8 resolved)Prince Edward Island: 70 confirmed (including 68 resolved)Yukon: 42 confirmed (including 1 death, 29 resolved)Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)Loading…
Total: 359,055 (0 presumptive, 359,055 confirmed including 11,894 deaths, 286,500 resolved)
7:05 a.m.: The federal government is laying plans for the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, inking contracts with seven potential manufacturers and saying six million doses could arrive in the country in the first quarter of 2021.
The most recent development from Ottawa came Friday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead the national distribution effort. But various provinces have started spelling out their plans as well.
Here’s a look at what they’ve said so far:
Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health says he will release a detailed plan for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once Ottawa shares more information.
Dr. Robert Strang said Friday there is no certainty yet about the availability of a vaccine, but expressed hopes an initial supply will trickle into Nova Scotia early in the new year.
Strang said a detailed provincial plan, to be released once the federal government has shared more specifics on its end, will include tight control of the supply and clear rules dictating who can be first in line for immunization.
He said he’s waiting for more federal guidance on issues ranging from priority groups to transportation and storage logistics.
Quebec will be ready to start rolling out its vaccine plan as of Jan. 1, say senior politicians.
Premier Francois Legault said Thursday that public health officials have already settled on the list of priority vaccine recipients, but did not release details.
Legault said the province is also working to put the necessary infrastructure in place to support a vaccine rollout. That includes obtaining fridges capable of maintaining the extremely low temperatures needed by one of the most promising potential vaccine options, currently in development through pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Quebec has also tasked assistant deputy health minister Jerome Gagnon
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is among those leaders calling on Ottawa to provide more clarity as officials scramble to develop a provincewide vaccination strategy.
Early speculation on the number of doses the province could receive was put to rest earlier this week when federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said such details were still in the works.
But Ford has forged ahead, naming former chief of national defence Gen. Rick Hillier to oversee the province’s vaccine rollout.
Hillier said on Friday he hopes to have a plan developed by year’s end, while Ford urged Ottawa to provide detailed information on potential vaccine delivery.
“We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments,” Ford said.
Alberta’s top medical official has said she expects to receive 680,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year, a figure not yet confirmed by the federal government.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw has also said a number of hurdles and unknowns remain as the province works to devise its vaccination scheme.
“These (vaccine) numbers, of course, depend on many factors,’’ Hinshaw said on Nov. 18. “They depend on the final pieces of the trials that are underway going well. They depend on ensuring that the safety and the effectiveness of the early vaccines can be assured. All of those checks and balances must be cleared.”
On Friday, Hinshaw said the province is working with Ottawa to get vaccine, but it is “a bit of a moving target” on when vaccines might be available.
“But our goal is that whenever vaccine is available, we will be ready to start immunizing individuals on that highest priority list.”
Provincial health officials in British Columbia announced on Wednesday that a vaccine strategy for the province is already in the works.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor, said Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics around the distribution of vaccines.
Henry said front-line workers as well as those in long-term care homes will likely have priority for vaccinations.
She cautioned that while the province has contracts with vaccine makers, there can be challenges with offshore manufacturing.
“It’s very much focused on who is most at risk and how do we protect them best,” Henry said. “There’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen.”
Henry said the province hopes to have vaccines in hand by January.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver told the legislature on Wednesday that the territory has been in discussions with various levels of government on a vaccine rollout plan.
He said the goal will be to provide vaccines to elderly people and health-care providers.
Silver said rural and remote communities should also get priority status in northern regions, a fact he said he’s emphasized with federal authorities.
The premier said he has joined the other provincial and territorial leaders in pushing for a national strategy to distribute the vaccine.
“How confusing would it be for 13 different strategies right across the nation?” he said.
Silver said the Pfizer vaccine could cause logistical problems for remote communities because of its cold-storage requirements, but those issues may not apply to other vaccines under development.
6:46 a.m. Saturday: South Korea reported more than 500 new coronavirus cases for the third straight day on Saturday, the fastest spread of infections the country has seen since the early days of the pandemic.
The 504 cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention brought the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 33,375, including 522 deaths.
Around 330 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers are struggling to stem transmissions linked to hospitals, schools, saunas, gyms and army units.
Infections were also reported in other major cities including Daegu, which was the epicenter of the country’s previous major outbreak in late February and March.
The recent spike in infections came after the government eased social distancing restrictions to the lowest levels in October to support a weak economy, allowing high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and spectators to return to sports.
Officials reimposed some of the restrictions this week and could be forced to clamp down on economic activities further if transmissions don’t slow.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— Health authorities in northern Thailand have traced and tested more than 300 people who were in contact with a Thai women who returned from Myanmar and tested positive for the coronavirus after somehow avoiding a mandatory quarantine. The director-general of the Department of Disease Control said Saturday it was the 10th case in the last two months where it could not be ascertained with certainty where the patient caught the virus. The 29-year-old woman had been in Myanmar for a month during a coronavirus surge before entering Thailand on Nov. 24. She then spent three days in Chiang Mai, including visits to a nightclub and department store, before going to a hospital. Health officials traced and tested 326 people who had been in contact with her and quarantined the 105 judged most at risk. Thailand since January has had 3,966 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 60 deaths.
— India’s coronavirus infections dipped further with 41,322 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, and there was no signs of a resurgence as a result of a major festival two weeks ago. The high point of new infections this week was 44,739 on Wednesday. Single-day cases have remained below the 50,000-mark for three weeks. The Indian capital also saw a drop in daily cases with 5,482 after recording an all-time high on Nov. 11. The federal government blamed state authorities’ inability to ramp up testing and enforce social distancing for the surge in New Delhi. On Saturday, India’s death toll rose by 485 to to 136,200. In an effort to stop the virus from spreading, the Home Ministry has allowed states to impose local restrictions like night curfews but has asked them to consult before imposing lockdowns at state, district or city levels.
10:43 p.m. Friday: Nunavut’s COVID-19 active caseload edged upward Friday but was almost offset by news that three people previously diagnosed have recovered.
Eight people in total have recovered since the territory’s first case was reported on Nov. 6.
The territory had 151 active cases as of Friday, including four new ones reported in Arviat, the community hardest-hit since the new coronavirus was first detected in Nunavut in early November. No deaths have been reported in Nunavut.
Friday’s single-digit increase followed the first day in several weeks that no new cases were reported. Nunavut had been adding double-digit increases in confirmed cases in mid-November.
The territory reported its first case on Nov. 6 in Sanikiluaq, but after that the caseload grew quickly with cases confirmed in Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Whale Cove.
Nunavummiut who were initially infected with COVID-19 had been visiting Winnipeg. As cases continue to rise in southern jurisdictions, Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said on Friday at a news conference that his office is “taking a closer look at every exemption request, whether critical worker or compassionate.”
Patterson said it would be harmful to increase the isolation period in southern hotels beyond 14 days. However, he did say that when the resources are available, that isolation period will also include tests.
The increase of COVID-19 cases across Canada reinforces the need for Nunavummiut to “really consider if travel is essential before they go south,” Patterson said.
“The more people who go south, the higher the risk of introducing COVID-19 back into the territory is going to be.”
Nunavut is heading into the second weekend of a government-imposed lockdown that took effect on Nov. 18 and is to remain in place until Dec. 2.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, the GN has enacted a public health emergency every two weeks. It allows the government to limit the sizes of gatherings and close businesses, gyms and schools. It’s also what allowed the GN to impose a lockdown across the territory for two weeks, starting on Nov. 18.
Patterson emphasized the public health emergency is not the same as the current lockdown, but it is what allows the GN to order the lockdown.
As the lockdown draws to an end next week, the GN will adjust measures for each community based on the level of COVID-19 in the community at the time.
Even once the territory-wide lockdown ends, strict measures will remain in place in locations with evidence of community transmission, which has so far only included Arviat.
For the rest of the territory, businesses will be open and gathering sizes will be limited — similar to restrictions that were in place in June and July, Patterson said.
Patterson was to meet with the Department of Education Friday afternoon to discuss how schools will reopen after the lockdown.
Schools will be in a different position when reopening happens, he said, “based on what we know of the increased risk of COVID-19 coming into the territory in all communities.”
The school reopening plan will likely be announced on Monday, Patterson said.
Along with nearly $19 million in federal funds to help with COVID-19 relief, Nunavut is also getting support in other ways.
Four infection experts with the Red Cross were to arrive in Arviat Friday or Saturday, Patterson said. They will help with assessments. They are not isolating before entering the territory, and Patterson said they will wear masks and isolate when they’re not working.
There will also be a liaison officer in Iqaluit from the Public Health Agency of Canada, who will “help streamline requests for support from the federal government and provide additional assistance on the ground,” Patterson said.
Across Canada, as of Nov. 26, more than 353,000 cases have been reported since March when the pandemic began. More than 11,700 people have died.
Read about Friday’s developments here.