P.E.I. reintroduces COVID-19 restrictions; variant cases in Canada top 1,000 | CBC News

The latest:

More than 1,000 cases of coronavirus variants have been reported across Canada, the country’s chief public health officer said on Saturday.

In a statement, Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada has so far identified 964 cases of a variant first detected in the U.K.; 44 cases of a variant first detected in South Africa; and two cases of a variant first detected in Brazil.

“The narrower margin of error to control #VariantsOfConcern means slowing #COVID19 spread will be much more difficult if variants take hold,” she said on Twitter.

Tam reiterated the importance of following public health guidelines, touted the efficacy of vaccines and warned local jurisdictions to “not ease restrictions too fast or too soon” without proper safeguards such as testing and contact tracing in place.

“We can all do our personal best to succeed in #VaccinesVsVariants by having the FEWEST interactions with the FEWEST people, for the SHORTEST time, at the GREATEST distance possible, while wearing the best-fitting face-mask,” Tam tweeted.

Her comments come a day after Health Canada approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford University-AstraZeneca for use in Canada — clearing the way for millions more inoculations in the months ahead.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 864,201 cases of COVID-19, with 30,864 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,960.

In British Columbia, Fraser Health reported that an outbreak had been declared at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, where five patients in a medicine unit have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu is apologizing for the “frustration and worry” caused by the problematic launch of its online COVID-19 vaccine appointment booking system. The site repeatedly crashed and the 811 phone line jammed as Albertans tried for hours to book appointments.

The province registered 415 new cases and six additional deaths on Saturday.

Saskatchewan reported 162 new cases and five deaths.

First Nations in the province have continued to be hit hard by COVID-19 in the first two months of 2021, with Indigenous Services Canada saying there were 2,779 new cases on reserves in Saskatchewan so far this year — more than any other province in Canada.

Manitoba confirmed 90 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths.

With numbers continuing to decline, the provincial government is considering a broad swath of relaxed COVID-19 rules that could increase outdoor gathering sizes, let families form a “bubble” with another household and see almost all establishments allowed to reopen, including in the retail and indoor recreation sectors.

WATCH | Manitoba government considers relaxing COVID-19 rules:

Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Thursday, February 25, 2021. 28:23

Ontario reported 1,185 new cases and 16 new deaths.

The province also announced Friday it is activating an “emergency brake” in Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka, sending the regions back into lockdown to “immediately interrupt transmission and contain community spread.”The two regions will move into the grey lockdown level of Ontario’s COVID-19 restriction plan effective 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, March 1. 

Quebec reported 858 new cases and 13 new deaths.

Meanwhile, facilities like rinks, pools and cinemas in the province’s red zones are allowed to reopen. However, some cinema owners will keep their businesses closed, believing it makes no financial sense to reopen given the operating limits imposed by the Quebec government.

A worker cleans a self-service ticket kiosk at a reopened movie theatre in Kirkland, Que., on Saturday. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

New Brunswick residents can now travel and visit people in different regions after a series of changes to the orange phase took effect at midnight. The province also registered two new cases as the active total continues to drop.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases and one additional death, bringing its total death toll to six.

Nova Scotia announced four new cases on Saturday as tighter restrictions came into force to stem a recent spike.

Restaurants and bars in the Halifax area must now stop serving food and drinks by 9 p.m. and must close by 10 p.m. Restrictions are also being placed on sports, arts and culture events.

WATCH | Nova Scotia imposes new COVID-19 restrictions:

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, announced new COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, in hopes of limiting the spread of the virus. 4:10

Prince Edward Island announced it is implementing a two-week circuit breaker measure starting Sunday amid a cluster of new cases. Restrictions will include no in-restaurant dining, no sports games or tournaments and a limit on gym capacity.

On Friday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison urged anyone aged 14 to 29 in Summerside to get tested immediately, whether or not they have any symptoms, amid a cluster of cases there. The province said Saturday that five of its six new cases — all of whom are in their 20s — are linked to a previous case in the Summerside area.

Nunavut added six recoveries on Saturday. Active cases in the territory now stand at 20.

In the Northwest Territories, a Gahcho Kué mine worker who contracted COVID-19 is in critical condition, health authorities confirmed Friday. The territory has seen a total of four people hospitalized for complications related to COVID-19, with three connected to the Gahcho Kué mine. All but one have recovered.

What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday , more than 113.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 63.8 million of them listed as recovered on a tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million, according to the U.S.-based university. 

In Europe, the Lombardy region of Italy, which includes Milan, is heading toward a partial lockdown on Monday amid stubbornly high cases. Police vans blocked the entrance to Milan’s trendy Navigli neighbourhood on Saturday evening after the mayor announced increased patrols to prevent gatherings during a spring-like weekend.

Police officers patrol the Naviglio Grande canal in Milan on Saturday. (Luca Bruno/The Associated Press)

In Asia-Pacific, New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland is going back into a seven-day lockdown after a new unexplained coronavirus case was found. Auckland earlier this month was placed into a three-day lockdown after new cases of the more contagious variant first identified in the U.K. were found.

In the Americas, U.S. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine wants the Biden administration to reconsider U.S.-Canada border restrictions that were imposed a year ago because of the pandemic, writing in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security that an “equitable solution” is needed for border communities that recognizes lower risk levels.

In Africa, Ivory Coast has become the second country in the world, after Ghana, to receive a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the global COVAX initiative. It has received 504,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.

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