Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Aug. 20

The latest:

The World Health Organization has issued a call for experts to join a new advisory group to address the agency’s attempts to further investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Friday, the UN health agency said the new scientific group would provide WHO with an independent analysis of the scientific work done to date to pinpoint the origins of COVID-19 and to advise the agency on necessary next steps.

Meanwhile, In the U.S., millions of students in Florida, Texas and Arizona were being required to wear masks in class, as school boards in mostly Democratic locales impose anti-COVID mandates in defiance of their Republican governors.

A recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida led the mayor of Orlando to ask residents to stop watering their lawns and washing their cars for a least a week, saying water treatment needed to be preserved for medical usage.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was reported to be preparing to give full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, according to the New York Times.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 5:37 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Vaccination key to avoiding the worst from delta variant, experts say: 

Vaccination key to avoiding the worst from delta variant, experts say

With the delta coronavirus variant making up more than 80 per cent of cases in Canada, experts say most people will encounter it. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent the worst outcomes. Correction: At 1:30 in this story, Dr. Mike Nayak is incorrectly identified as Mark Nayak. 2:44

What’s happening around the world

A student wearing a mask attends class on the first day of school at St. Lawrence Catholic School in North Miami Beach, Fla., earlier this week. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

As of Friday afternoon, more than 210 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide. According to the Johns Hopkins University tracking database, more than 4.4 million deaths had been reported worldwide.

In Jamaica, the prime minister has announced a lockdown to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 as the Caribbean country faces a strong surge, with more than 550 cases reported over the past 24 hours.

In India, the country’s drug controller has given emergency use approval to Zydus Cadila’s COVID-19 vaccine, the country’s first shot for adolescents in the 12-18 age group. 

In the Middle East, Israel has made COVID-19 vaccine booster shots available to people aged 40 and older, in an effort to fight a surge of the delta variant. About 5.9 million people of Israel’s 9.3 million population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. More than 5.4 million have received two doses, and 1.3 million have received a third dose.

In the Americas, Mexico is battling a new wave of coronavirus infections as daily cases hit record highs and the official death toll surpassed 251,000, one of the highest worldwide.

San Francisco became the first major city in the U.S. to require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 for people dining inside restaurants, working out in gyms or attending indoor concerts.

In Florida, officials threatened to withhold funds equal to the salaries of school board members if school districts in two counties didn’t immediately do away with strict mask mandates.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam will deploy troops in Ho Chi Minh City and prohibit residents from leaving their homes, authorities said, as its biggest city turns to drastic measures to slow a spiralling rate of coronavirus deaths.

Sri Lanka’s government imposed a 10-day lockdown across the island on Friday in an attempt to contain the rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases. The lockdown will be effective from 10:00 p.m. Friday until Aug. 30, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella tweeted.

Thailand, meanwhile, passed one million total coronavirus infections Friday, as its latest surge dropped below 20,000 daily cases for the first time in 10 days. Over 97 per cent of the cases counted since the pandemic began have been since April.

Health-care workers prepare to remove the body of a coronavirus patient who died in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Machakos, Kenya, on Friday. (Brian Inganga/The Associated Press)

South Africa has opened vaccine eligibility to all adults to step up the volume of inoculations amid a coronavirus surge fuelled by the delta variant. 

The country started offering shots to everyone aged 18 and older Friday as the number of vaccinations stalled to less than 200,000 a day, down from 250,000 earlier this month. It’s significantly lower than the target of 300,000 the government had hoped to achieve by this time. 

The update comes a day after the Africa director for the World Health Organization warned that “as some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery of vaccine equity.”

Matshidiso Moeti and other African health officials, including the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had recently warned against offering booster shots in countries further advanced in their vaccination rollouts, such as the U.S., as less than two per cent of the population on the continent of 1.3 billion people is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In Europe, Germany is declaring Crete and other Greek islands as a “high-risk area” for COVID-19, meaning that many people coming from those spots who haven’t been vaccinated will need to quarantine upon arrival in Germany.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

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