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

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British Columbia is imposing a three-week "circuit breaker" lockdown in the province that includes restrictions on indoor gathering and dining. The province also became the latest to suspend use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for people under 55.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, pictured earlier this month, announced Monday that she is imposing a three-week 'circuit breaker' on some activities in British Columbia.(Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

British Columbia is imposing a three-week "circuit breaker" lockdown in the province that includes restrictions on indoor gatherings and dining.

"We have seen the start of exponential growth," Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. "Gathering indoors is what is the greatest risk to all of us right now."

The new public health orders go into effect at midnight and will be in place until April 19. During that time, indoor dining and activity at fitness centres are paused, while the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort will be closed as cases spread in the community.

Only last week, Henry eased restrictions on indoor religious services, but that has also been reversed. She said the province will also be updating its mask-wearing mandate in all schools for children from grades 4 to 12.

B.C. recorded 2,518 new COVID-19 cases over the last three days, including a record high 936 on Saturday, along with six related deaths.

Provinces pausing AstraZeneca-Oxford use

The province also became the latest to adjust its plans involving the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends a pause in the use of the vaccine on those under the age of 55.

The move by NACI, which provides guidance to the federal government on vaccinations, follows reports out of Europe of rare blood clots in some immunized patients, the majority of whom were women under the age of 55.

B.C. is suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 55, while Alberta's top public health doctor announced that the province will temporarily stop offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under age 55.

"This is a precautionary measure that is being taken across Canada," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Monday afternoon.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health, announced during an unscheduled briefing that the province plans to pause giving the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to people under the age of 55.

Earlier, Prince Edward Island suspended use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for those aged 18 to 29 who had appointments for shots in pharmacies. Health officials said in a brief statement the appointments are on hold pending further information from Health Canada and NACI.

P.E.I. announced on March 9 that it would offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 18 to 29 who work in gas stations and convenience or grocery stores. The move was a response to COVID-19 outbreaks on the Island that were concentrated among young people.

Manitoba health officials said at a briefing on Monday that they are pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on people under the age of 55.

Dr. Joss Reimer, head of the province's vaccine task force, said that there has been no overall increased risk of blood clots linked to the vaccine detected in Manitoba, but although associated risks are probably rare, "I'm not comfortable with 'probably.'"

Reimer said the province will revise its guidelines as more evidence surfaces. Meanwhile, the disruption could lead to the cancellations of vaccine appointments at pharmacies and doctors' offices, she said.

In Quebec, the Health Ministry said it has also temporarily stopped administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under the age of 55.

The ministry did not detail how many people under the age of 55 have received the vaccine, but it's thought to be mainly health-care workers. So far, only people older than 60 in the general public are eligible to be vaccinated.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé receives the AstraZeneca vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal on March 18.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

In Ontario, meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford said he "won't hesitate" to stop the use of the vaccine for people under 55 years of age.

"I would rather wait if it means one or two months for Pfizer, Moderna and [Johnson & Johnson] than roll the dice on this AstraZeneca," he said.

At the same time, he stressed that guidance from the federal government is that the vaccine is safe for people over 55.


What's happening across Canada

As of 6:15 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 971,693 cases of COVID-19, with 46,813 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,900.

In Quebec, health officials reported 891 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths on Monday. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province stood at 477, with 120 in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard. On Saturday, the province reported more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since mid-February.

Premier François Legault has said he doesn't have immediate plans to step up restrictions, but he cautioned that a third wave of COVID-19 is at the province's doorstep as he urged people to follow existing guidelines.

In Ontario, stricter public health measures are in place in two regions as the province expands vaccine eligibility to people aged 70 and up in several public health regions.

Hamilton was moving into the strictest grey-lockdown phase of Ontario's pandemic response plan on Monday, while the Eastern Ontario Health Unit was to enter the second-strictest red zone. But as of Monday, those who live in grey zones will be able to attend fitness classes outdoors.

Premier Doug Ford made that announcement on Friday, when he also revealed that hair salons and other personal care services will be able to reopen in grey zones on April 12.

Ontario on Monday reported 2,094 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths. According to data released by the province, 841 COVID-19 patients were in hospital, with 382 of those listed as being in intensive care units.

In Atlantic Canada, health officials in New Brunswick reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. Health officials placed the health zone in the province's northwest under temporary "circuit-breaker" restrictions last week as health officials tried to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the region.

Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia reported no new cases on Monday. Prince Edward Island has yet to provide updated case numbers.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 53 new cases of COVID-19. Health officials also said another 136 cases of the more contagious coronavirus variants of concern have been identified in the province.

Saskatchewan reported 202 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.

In Alberta, health officials reported 545 new cases and no new deaths. There were 288 patients being treated in hospital for the illness, including 64 in intensive care.

The province is expanding its vaccine rollout on Tuesday to Phase 2B, which opens the door of eligibility to Albertans born between 1957 to 2005 with certain high-risk underlying health conditions. Those born in earlier birth years will be able to book appointments first, with additional birth years in Phase 2B becoming eligible as more vaccine doses arrive.

Across the North, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories all reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.


What's happening around the world

France's national cycling team trains as people get a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the indoor Vélodrome National de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, southwest of Paris, last week.(Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

As of Monday afternoon, more than 127.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.

In Africa, Johnson & Johnson will supply up to 220 million doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine to the African Union's 55 member states from the third-quarter of 2021, the drugmaker said on Monday.

South Africa plans to administer coronavirus vaccines to up to 200,000 people a day beginning around May.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong will ease some coronavirus restrictions, the government said on Monday, allowing swimming pools and beaches to open and shortening the quarantine period for some international arrivals to 14 days from 21.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told a media briefing that local infections had come down considerably, giving the administration room to relax some measures. Beaches and swimming pools would reopen beginning April 1, while religious gatherings could resume with maximum capacity of 30 per cent. Cinemas and theme parks would be able to increase capacity to 75 per cent from 50 per cent. Bars, karaoke parlours and bathhouses would stay closed.

"We want to keep containing the epidemic and not undo the efforts we have made. We must continue to enforce stringent measures," she said.

A police officer checks the identity document of a driver at a quarantine checkpoint along a highway in Cainta town, on the boundary between Rizal province and suburban Manila, on Monday.(Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images)

Philippine officials placed Metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, back into lockdown on Monday at the height of the Lenten and Easter holiday travel season as they scrambled to control an alarming surge in coronavirus infections.

Only workers, government security, health personnel and residents on urgent errands would be allowed out of homes during the week-long restrictions, which prohibit leisure trips and religious gatherings that forced the dominant Roman Catholic church to shift all of its Holy Week and Easter activities online. The renewed lockdown brought President Rodrigo Duterte's administration under fire for what critics say was its failed handling of the pandemic.

Pakistani authorities, meanwhile, imposed a partial lockdown in several more high-risk areas in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the country after the positivity rate from coronavirus infections jumped to more than 11 per cent.

Pakistan is facing another surge in coronavirus infections that officials say is worse than last year's outbreak, when Pakistan had to impose a nationwide lockdown. On Monday, authorities in the eastern Punjab province also announced a two-week-long partial lockdown in high-risk cities starting April 1 in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

So far, Pakistan's government has avoided a countrywide lockdown to spare the country's ailing economy from more damage.

People arrive at a vaccination centre administering the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Lahore, Pakistan, on Monday.(K.M. Chaudary/The Associated Press)

In the Americas, a delivery of 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine from the United States landed in Mexico City, Mexico's Foreign Affairs Ministry said, following an accord that U.S. President Joe Biden made with Mexico this month.

In the U.S., CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made an impassioned plea to Americans not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, warning of a potential "fourth wave" of the virus as cases in the U.S. rose 10 per cent over the last week.

Speaking during a White House briefing, Walensky grew emotional as she reflected "on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom."

She added: "We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now, I'm scared."

Walensky appealed to elected officials, community leaders and everyday Americans to maintain physical-distancing measures and to continue to wear masks. She said, "Just please hold on a little while longer."

In New York, meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed a "monumental step forward" as he announced state residents over 30 will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Tuesday, and everyone over 16 will be eligible starting April 6.

Brazil announced its first two domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine candidates for human trials, which, although months away from use, should eventually help tame the pandemic.

A gravedigger wearing a protective suit prepares to receive coffins arriving for the first night burial as spotlights illuminate the graves at Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last week.(Amanda Perobelli/Reuters)

In the Middle East, a new factory in Abu Dhabi will start manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm later this year under a joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has received a shipment of 100,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by China. Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said the Sinopharm vaccines that arrived in Ramallah will "greatly contribute to speeding up the community vaccination campaign."

In Europe, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that health conditions were worsening during a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in France, and "all options are on the table" to protect the public. Le Maire also told France Info radio that the country should avoid adopting stricter COVID-19 restriction measures for as long as it could and ruled out changing the list of shops and businesses that have been allowed to stay open.

"This list will not change," Le Maire said. "Today sending the signal that we would reopen some businesses while the situation deteriorates, it's not in the country's interest."

Under COVID-19 restrictions in place in 19 high-risk zones, including Paris, stores allowed to stay open include those selling food, books, flowers and chocolate, and hairdressers.

Clothes, furniture and beauty shops are not allowed to open. This has led to frustration among the so-called non-essential shop owners forced to stay closed.

President Emmanuel Macron last week defended his decision not to impose a third full lockdown and to keep schools open but said further restrictions would probably be needed.



    With files from CBC News, Reuters and The Associated Press

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