Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday


The latest:

  • Ontario reports 5,839 new cases of COVID-19 over 2 days.
  • U.K. sees record new cases as hospital receive doses of newly OK’d vaccine.
  • Funeral homes in Southern California running out of space as deaths mount.
  • Have a question about COVID-19? Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca.

India tested its COVID-19 vaccine delivery system with a nationwide trial on Saturday, as it prepares to roll out an inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

The trial included data entry into an online platform for monitoring vaccine delivery, along with testing of cold storage and transportation arrangements for the vaccine, the health ministry said in a statement.

The massive exercise was followed by India’s drug regulator recommending the emergency-use approval of two vaccines for COVID-19 — one developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by the Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech.

Both the vaccines will now have to wait for final approval from the Indian regulator.

WATCH | Inside the scramble to mass produce a COVID-19 vaccine:

A major vaccine manufacturer in India scrambling to mass produce the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine so it can get into the arms of billions opened its doors to CBC News. 3:01

Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company, has been contracted by AstraZeneca to make 1 billion doses for developing nations, including India. On Wednesday, Britain became the first to approve the shot.

The vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech is based on an inactivated form of the coronavirus. It is being made in collaboration with agencies of the Indian government. Early clinical studies showed that the vaccine doesn’t have any serious side effects and produces antibodies for COVID-19. The company said in November that it was starting late clinical trials.

The government plans to inoculate 300 million people in the first phase of the vaccination program, which will include healthcare and front-line workers, police and military troops, and those with comorbidities who are over the age of 50.

The government is expected to initially lean on the vaccine produced by Serum Institute of India, which doesn’t require the ultra-cold storage facilities that some others do. Instead, it can be stored in refrigerators. This makes it a feasible candidate not just for India but also for other developing nations.

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample at a COVID-19 testing centre in Hyderabad on Saturday. (Mahesh Kumar A./The Associated Press)

Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed the preparedness for the vaccination drive at a government hospital in New Delhi on Saturday and urged the public not to pay heed to anti-vaccine rumours.

“We will not compromise on any protocol before approving a vaccine,” he told reporters.

Pooja Moriya, a health worker in the capital who will be one of the first to be inoculated, said hospital staff has had several meetings about the vaccine and how it works. “Our seniors have told us to not be scared at all,” Moriya said.

India has confirmed over 10.3 million coronavirus cases, second in the world behind the U.S. More than 149,000 people have died from the virus in India.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 2:45 p.m. ET Saturday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 590,280, with 79,483 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 15,714.  

In British Columbia, families are demanding answers after 38 residents at the Little Mountain Place long-term care home in Vancouver have died from COVID-19.

Alberta saw an estimated 900 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, according to the province’s chief medical officer of health. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said tweeted Saturday that Alberta’s hospitalization and ICU totals remained stable, and no additional deaths were reported.

Saskatchewan recorded 495 new cases and three more deaths.

WATCH | High number of COVID-19 cases could last until mid-January, experts say:

Ontario has set records for new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions, as the consequences of Christmas gatherings start to set in and the province still has a few weeks before numbers start coming down. 3:31

Manitoba announced 327 new cases and 11 deaths in the past two days.

Ontario reported a two-day total of 5,839 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday after the provincial health ministry did not release daily figures on Jan. 1. The province saw 2,476 cases on Friday and a new single-day high of 3,363 cases on Saturday. 

In Quebec, three physicians and three other employees in Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital’s emergency room in Laval have tested positive, according to the regional health board. A union representing staff at the hospital is concerned about hospital staff’s ability to deal with a potential influx of patients in the new year.

The province will release its first COVID-19 update of 2021 on Sunday.

A person wearing a face mask leaves the emergency department of a hospital in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Nova Scotia announced 13 new cases, including five cases connected to a Dartmouth school. The province says all the new cases are close contacts of previously reported cases or linked to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador‘s active caseload dropped to 11 after the province reported no new cases and six recoveries Saturday.

New Brunswick registered 10 new infections.

WATCH | Why Canada has been slow to get COVID-19 vaccines in arms:

The provinces are behind targets of getting COVID-19 vaccine into Canadians’ arms, and experts say logistical challenges are largely to blame but are hopeful the arrival of the Moderna vaccine will help speed things up. 3:22

On Prince Edward Island, testing clinics are open in Charlottetown and Summerside after clinics were closed New Year’s Day.

Yukon added four new cases, which they say are “close or household contacts” of an out-of-territory traveller.

In the Northwest Territories, a non-resident worker in Yellowknife has tested positive. The territory says the individual travelled to Yellowknife by air, is asymptomatic and “safely isolating” in the city.

Here’s a look at what’s happening with COVID-19 across the country:


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 84.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 47.4 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.

In Europe, the U.K. has registered a record 57,725 daily coronavirus cases as hospitals in Britain have started receiving batches of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which was approved by British regulators this week.

WATCH | Virus variant 1st reported in U.K. spreads quicker than original strain:

A new study from Imperial College London has found that the U.K. coronavirus variant is much more transmissible than the original strain. 2:17

In Asia, South Korea is extending stringent distancing rules for two more weeks as authorities seek to suppress a viral resurgence, while confirming its first case of an apparently more contagious coronavirus variant detected in South Africa.

In the Americas, funeral homes in Southern California are turning away bereaved families because they’re running out of space for the bodies. Los Angeles County has surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths.

In Africa, Chad has locked down its capital N’djamena for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic and has declared a dusk to dawn curfew due to a rise in infections.

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