Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday she is feeling positive about Canada being able to fully emerge from the third wave of COVID-19 and prevent a fourth, with more than half of eligible Canadian adults now vaccinated with one dose, and declining overall case counts.
With the exception of some hot spots in Manitoba and parts of Alberta, case counts are largely falling. Tam said nationally the number of active cases is down 25 per cent from the peak of nearly 90,000 in mid-April during the second wave.
She has said if 75 per cent of eligible Canadians get one dose, and 20 per cent get two, planning for summer outdoor socializing and activities can resume. Currently, Canadians over 12 are eligible for vaccinations, with those between 12 and 18 only eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
Canada has given at least one dose to about 55 per cent of eligible people, and has to vaccinate almost 6.5 million more to get to that 75 per cent figure. Only 4.5 per cent of eligible Canadians have received the second dose so far and most provinces are still giving more than nine in 10 new doses to first-time recipients.
Also on Tuesday, Canada marked a total of 25,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the first fatality was reported on March 9, 2020. The country surpassed 20,000 deaths at the end of January.
Meanwhile, Quebec Premier François Legault announced a gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the province. Legault said life in the province will return to normal by the end of August but most restrictions will be lifted by the end of June, with a gradual process starting with the lifting of the curfew on May 28.
He said the vast majority of the province will be an “orange zone” as of May 31, opening restaurants and sending all kids back to school full time. By June 14, he said gatherings in homes will be allowed and bars will reopen.
Legault added that if 75 per cent of Quebecers over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated by the end of August, masks will no longer be required in most public places.
But he said this success relies on everybody doing their part by getting vaccinated. Quebec set a goal of administering the first vaccine dose to 75 per cent of adults by June 24, but now Legault said officials expect to reach that goal by June 15.
Earlier Tuesday, Quebec reported 549 new cases and nine additional deaths.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
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As of 6:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 1,338,141 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 64,749 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,018.
In Ontario — which opened up vaccine eligibility to all people aged 18 and up on Tuesday — health officials reported 1,616 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 additional deaths. According to the province, hospitalizations stood at 1,484, with 764 listed as being in ICUs due to COVID-related illness.
Manitoba reported 335 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and one related death.
Prince Edward Island announced two new travel-related cases of COVID-19, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported six new cases.
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Saskatchewan reported 129 new COVID-19 cases and three related deaths on Tuesday. The provincial government also released a tentative schedule for when people aged 45 and older may be able to book an appointment to receive their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. People aged 85 and older are already eligible, along with some vulnerable people such as patients with cancer.
Alberta reported 877 new COVID-19 cases and four new deaths on Tuesday. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the number of new cases is declining but that the positivity rate remains high. She said there are 691 people in hospital, with 187 of those patients in intensive care.
British Columbia health officials reported 411 new cases of COVID-19 and two related deaths on Tuesday.
Across the North, Nunavut on Tuesday reported six new cases. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided an update for the day.
–From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
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As of Tuesday evening, a tracking tool run by Johns Hopkins University had reported more than 163.7 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The reported global death toll was approaching 3.4 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India’s total virus cases since the pandemic began swept past 25 million as the country registered more than 260,000 new cases and a record 4,329 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
India has recorded nearly 280,000 virus deaths since the pandemic began. Both the number of deaths and total reported cases are thought to be vast undercounts.
Concern also continues to grows in India — and globally — over a potentially worrisome variant first detected there. The variant may spread more easily, but the country has lagged behind in doing the testing needed to track and better understand it.
India’s largest vaccine producer, Serum Institute, released a statement on Twitter on Tuesday saying “we continue to scale up manufacturing and prioritise India.” The company said it hopes to start delivering to COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative, and other countries by the end of 2021.
Dr. Gavin Yamey, director of the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health at Duke University in North Carolina, said wealthier nations should share vaccines for reasons of justice, fairness and equity.
“It’s just impossible to look at what’s happening in India and not act,” Yamey told CBC’s Heather Hiscox. “We should act because people are dying from a preventable illness.”
However, Yamey said, it’s also in the interest of rich nations to act on vaccine equity issues. He pointed to a saying that is common in public health: “An outbreak anywhere can become an outbreak everywhere.”
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In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to send at least 20 million more vaccine doses abroad by the end of June.
New York state, meanwhile, will no longer require masks in most public spaces for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Wednesday, adopting new federal health guidance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
In Africa, experts appointed by Tanzania’s new president have declared COVID-19 vaccines to be effective and recommended joining the COVAX facility.
In Europe, Italy approved a decree pushing back with immediate effect a nightly curfew to 11 p.m. from 10 p.m. and easing other restrictions in regions where infections are low.
In the Middle East, Iran‘s reported case number rose to more than 2.7 million, with 77,222 reported deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University case-tracking tool.
–From Reuters, The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET
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