Several provinces are tightening public health measures today to curb rising COVID-19 infections, with British Columbia officials set to announce new provincial travel restrictions and two Ontario hot spots poised to see workplace closure orders to control outbreaks come into effect.
Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s solicitor general, is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel while the province considers using roadblocks to discourage people from leaving their health authority region.
However, the National Police Federation, which represents front-line RCMP officers, has pushed back against the roadblocks, saying it puts more pressure on limited resources and exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections.
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In Ontario, which is similarly dealing with rising cases, Toronto and Peel Region could begin today to order the temporary closure of some businesses to control workplace COVID-19 outbreaks.
The orders from the top doctors in both regions were expected to come into effect today, a measure they both said was designed to protect tens of thousands of essential workers from the virus.
Both regions said the orders would close businesses with recent outbreaks of five or more linked cases in the past two weeks. The shutdowns will last for 10 days and workers will have to self-isolate during that time.
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Meanwhile, new “circuit breaker” measures are now in effect for four weeks for Halifax Regional Municipality and surrounding areas, a day after the province reported its highest daily case count in a year.
Under the new measures announced Thursday, restaurants will be open for takeout only, retail stores will remain open but at 25 per cent capacity, and some schools will be moved to online learning.
Nova Scotians are also urged to avoid all non-essential travel into or out of the Halifax area.
– From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 1,155,840 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 86,768 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,822.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia on Thursday reported 38 new cases of COVID-19, the highest figure the province has seen since late April last year.
New Brunswick reported 19 new cases, Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases and Prince Edward Island reported one new case.
In Quebec, health officials on Thursday reported 1,248 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths.
The province is wading into uncharted territory as it plans to give some long-term care residents a different COVID-19 vaccine — in this case, Pfizer-BioNTech — for their second shot because of a shortage of the Moderna vaccine they first received.
Ontario reported 3,682 new cases of COVID-19 and 40 additional deaths on Wednesday. Hospitalizations in the province — which is facing a massive strain on the health-care system — stood at 2,350, while the number of patients in the province’s intensive care units with COVID-19-related illness stood at 806.
Across the North, Nunavut reported three new cases on Thursday, while Yukon and the Northwest Territories each added one new case.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 261 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one additional death.
Saskatchewan reported 254 new cases and one additional death.
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Alberta reported 1,857 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and six new deaths. There are 1,326 cases involving variants of concern in the province, including a first case of the B1617 variant driving cases up in India.
British Columbia reported 1,006 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths on Thursday. Hospitalizations stood at 502, a new record high, with 161 in intensive care.
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 9:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday morning, more than 144.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than three million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India reported the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus cases for a second day on Friday, surpassing 330,000 new cases, while deaths in the past 24 hours also jumped to a high of 2,263. Officials across northern and western India warned most hospitals were full and running out of oxygen.
Japan declared a third state of emergency for Tokyo and three western prefectures on Friday amid skepticism it will be enough to curb a rapid coronavirus resurgence ahead of the Olympics in July. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo from April 25 through May 11.
The measures this time are to include shutdown orders for bars, department stores, malls, theme parks, theatres and museums. Restaurants that do not serve alcohol and public transportation services are asked to close early. Schools will stay open, but universities are asked to return to online classes.
In Europe, Hungary will allow outdoor terraces at restaurants and bars to open Saturday and plans further openings next week, even as the COVID-19 death rate in the country remains among the highest in the world.
The number of people who have received at least a first dose of a vaccine in Hungary surpassed 3.5 million Friday, a threshold earlier set by the government for when outdoor seating areas could reopen.
In Africa, South Africa remains the hardest hit by COVID-19 among countries on the continent, with more than 1.5 million reported cases and more than 53,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
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In the Americas, Texas health officials say the U.S. government has reported that a Texas woman is hospitalized with possible blood clots associated with Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine.
The announcement by Texas quotes the FDA and CDC as saying the adult woman has “symptoms that appear to be consistent with those few other reported cases” of a rare blood-clotting disorder developed after receiving the J&J vaccine. No other information is being released, because of patient privacy and confidentiality.
Federal and state agencies have paused the J&J vaccine rollout due to concerns about blood clots. Federal officials already were examining six reports of the unusual clots, including a death, out of more than 6.8 million Americans given the one-dose vaccination so far.
In the Middle East, Israel and Bahrain say they have reached an agreement to recognize each other’s coronavirus vaccination certificates, allowing travellers between the countries to forgo quarantine and other restrictions.
The agreement builds on a U.S.-brokered normalization accord reached last year and marks a further improvement of ties between Israel and the small Arab country in the Persian Gulf.
– From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
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