Ontario announces gradual reopening plan as Manitoba’s COVID-19 surge prompts new restrictions

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A contrasting picture of COVID-19 in the neighbouring provinces of Manitoba and Ontario on Thursday highlights the see-saw nature of the continuing battle against the virus and its variants.

A contrasting picture of COVID-19 in the neighbouring provinces of Manitoba and Ontario on Thursday highlights the see-saw nature of the continuing battle against the virus and its variants.

On Thursday, Manitobareported 603 new coronavirus cases — a single-day record — and three additional deaths.

The provincial test positivity rate was 13.8 per cent, up from 13.5 the day before. That rate rose to 15.3 per cent in Winnipeg, up from 15.1.

"I think we're in the darkest days," Premier Brian Pallister said during a Thursday news conference, hours before health officials introduced new restrictions that will come into effect ahead of the long weekend.

"We've been suffering through this pandemic because we can't get together … We need to suffer a little longer so that we can turn this curve."

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced Thursday that Manitobans will be prohibited from gathering outdoors with people from outside their household and that only one person per household will be permitted to enter a business at a given time.

Rousin said it's critical that Manitobans follow the public health orders and only leave their homes for essential reasons.

Meanwhile, science advisers in Ontario said Thursday that maintaining some public health restrictions until mid-June and continuing progress on vaccinations will ensure the province has a "good summer."

The findings come in new projections released today by Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

The group says COVID-19 cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations are declining due to public health measures, which include a stay-at-home order and the closure of schools to in-person learning.

Ontario on Thursday reported 2,400 new cases of COVID-19 and 27 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 1,320, the province reported, with 721 people in intensive care.

The province also unveiled a three-step reopening plan that will lift public health restrictions based on vaccination rates and other indicators starting in mid-June.

The province also said it will reopen outdoor recreational facilities on Saturday with some restrictions.

Premier Doug Ford says the province can start gradually loosening restrictions because COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining while vaccination rates increase.

"This has to be done slowly and with extreme caution," Ford said. "That is the only way it will work."

Workers unload a shipment of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Thursday.(Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)


What's happening in Canada around the world

As of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 1,347,445 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 59,968 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,111.

In Quebec, health officials on Thursday reported 662 new cases and eight additional deaths.

Quebec schoolchildren between the ages of 12 and 17 will be bused to vaccine centres or given shots at school over two weeks in June, the province's health minister said Thursday.

Across the North, Nunavut on Thursday reported two new cases of COVID-19, while both Yukon and the Northwest Territories did not report any.

Four new cases were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday, as New Brunswick reported seven and Nova Scotiareported 65. An update was not expected from Prince Edward Island, which reported five new cases on Wednesday.

In the Prairie provinces on Thursday, Saskatchewanreported 146 new cases and no additional deaths, while Alberta reported 812 new cases and four additional deaths.

Health officials in British Columbia reported 357 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and three additional deaths.


What's happening around the world

A soldier gives instructions as people wait to receive second doses of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a pagoda in Phnom Penh on Thursday as part of the Cambodian government's campaign to halt the rising number of cases of the virus.(Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images)

As of Thursday evening, more than 165.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, a tracking dashboard from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University said. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.4 million.

In Europe, Spain will allow people under 60 with a first dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine to receive their second inoculation with vaccines from either AstraZeneca or Pfizer.

The European Union commissioner for health said Thursday she was looking toward the summer with optimism as COVID-19 vaccinations picked up speed.

"Over 20 million vaccinations are taking place every week in the EU, compared to a few hundred thousand per week in January," Stella Kyriakides told a news conference.

Also Thursday, the EU reached a deal on COVID-19 certificates designed to open up tourism across the 27-nation bloc this summer as a rapid pick-up of vaccinations allows widespread easing of coronavirus restrictions.

In Africa, the UN Security Council is calling for accelerated availability of coronavirus vaccines for Africa, expressing concern that the continent has received only about two per cent of all vaccines administered globally.

Central African Republic, one of the last countries in the world to receive COVID-19 vaccines, launched its immunization campaign Thursday.

The government received 80,000 doses of AstraZeneca from COVAX and started vaccinating health workers, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. The country's World Health Organization representative says a second shipment of vaccines will follow to the nation of nearly six million people.

Medical health workers leave a house as they visit door-to-door to deliver the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people who live far from health facilities in Siaya, Kenya, earlier this week.(Brian Ongoro/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt will extend measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, including early shop closures, until the end of May.

In the Americas, Brazil's health minister said he had spoken with Moderna about buying its vaccine, as the country scrambles for shots from producers passed over last year.

In Argentina, the government on Thursday imposed a strict lockdown for the first time this year after more than 35,000 coronavirus infections were reported for the third straight day and the death toll skyrocketed — with the country seeing a record 745 deaths in a single day earlier this week.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Philippine officials have been ordered not to disclose in advance the COVID-19 vaccine brands to be administered in immunization sites after those offering newly arrived Pfizer shots drew big crowds in what could be an indication of public preference for Western vaccines.

Soldiers in protective suits disinfect a metro station Thursday following a surge of COVID-19 infections in Taipei, Taiwan. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Taiwan's worst outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic grew Thursday, with a worrisome 63 new cases not having a clear connection to existing cases.

The island raised its alert level this week, banning indoor gatherings of more than five people and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people. Schools are shut for two weeks, and many people are working from home.

In the Middle East, Dubai Airports' chief executive urged wealthy nations to better help poorer states in accessing COVID-19 vaccines, saying global travel was unlikely to reach previous heights without most people being vaccinated.

With files from The Canadian Press, Reuters and The Associated Press

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