- Amazon warehouse near Toronto closed amid an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.
- Premier John Horgan supports vaccine passports for international travel but lukewarm for B.C.
- Trudeau cool to the idea of vaccine ‘passports’ for the post-pandemic world.
- China hopes to ‘take the lead in achieving herd immunity,’ health agency director says.
- Italy set to go back into lockdown next week.
- Have a question about the coronavirus pandemic? You can reach us at COVID@cbc.ca
Health officials ordered the warehouse in Brampton close, effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, after 240 of its workers tested positive for the virus that causes the respiratory illness.
Peel Public Health said it’s possible that everyone working there was at high risk for exposure to the coronavirus. It said all workers must self-isolate until March 27, unless they have tested positive in the last 90 days and completed quarantine.
Amazon said in a statement it has taken measures to keep workers safe during the pandemic, including providing buses to transport them to the warehouse.
All employees at the Heritage Road facility have been tested for COVID-19 twice in the past three weeks, the company said.
As more Canadians get their COVID-19 vaccines, B.C. Premier John Horgan on Friday said he backs the concept of a so-called COVID-19 vaccine passport for international travellers.
However, he said he’s not sold on a similar system for British Columbia residents to attend local events like sports or entertainment.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday he’s reluctant to introduce a system of vaccine passports to show proof of immunization because of lingering concerns about inequities — but such a system might be necessary for international travel.
Trudeau said he’s uneasy with the idea of a national program to document vaccination status as it could marginalize people who, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t get a vaccine.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 11:50 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 905,481 cases of COVID-19, with 31,112 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,424.
Meanwhile, it was a second consecutive day of record-high vaccinations, with 43,503 doses administered yesterday. A total of 1,062,910 doses of vaccine have been administered in the province so far.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported no new cases on Saturday.
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Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories on Friday.
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In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 104 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Friday, which was the one-year anniversary of the first cases of coronavirus in the province. This is the first time in more than three weeks that Manitoba has had a daily case count above 100.
Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 176 new cases and three new deaths. The province is recommending that residents of Regina and area, particularly those older than 50, limit interactions with others amid an increase in community transmission of variants of concern in the region.
Alberta reported 425 new cases and two new deaths Friday, as the province continued to lower the age range of those able to get COVID-19 vaccinations in a staggered rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine for Albertans who don’t have a severe chronic illness.
There were two new groups eligible to book on Friday: all Albertans born in 1959 and 1960, and all First Nations, Métis and Inuit born in 1974 and 1975.
The update comes a day after the provincial health officer said she is now allowing up to 10 people to meet outdoors after nearly four months of restrictions that barred in-person gatherings between people from different households.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said restrictions on indoor gatherings and rules for restaurants, bars, retail stores and other venues remain in place.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 119.2 million people around the world had been reported to having COVID-19, according to a tracking tool maintained by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. Of those, more than 67.5 million were listed as recovered. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.
China is aiming to vaccinate 70 to 80 per cent of its population by mid-2022, the head of the country’s Center for Disease Control said Saturday.
With four approved vaccines, China will vaccinate 900 million to 1 billion people, Gao Fu, the CDC head, said in an interview with Chinese state media broadcaster CGTN. “We hope that China can take the lead in achieving herd immunity in the world,” he said.
China had administered 52.5 million vaccine doses through the end of February. It has been slower in its vaccination campaign than many other countries, including the U.S., government health experts have acknowledged.
China has committed roughly 10 times more doses abroad than it has distributed at home.
In Europe, Italy is set to enter a near-nationwide lockdown in the coming week. Officials have ordered schools, museums, bars and restaurants and non-essential shops to close on Monday in most regions.
The restrictions will remain in place at least until Easter. People are urged to remain home, except for essential trips. The rules will apply to all of Italy over the Easter weekend, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office confirmed on Friday.
The move is a repeat of one year ago this past week when all of Italy went into a strict lockdown, the first of the pandemic in Europe.
Italian health officials say new hospital admissions to ICUs due to COVID-19 this week were well over 200 a day, twice the number they were as the second wave of the respiratory illness began last fall.
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Elsewhere in Europe, Poland reported 21,049 daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, health ministry data showed, the highest figure since November 2020.
The health ministry said there were a further 343 coronavirus-related deaths. In total, Poland has reported 1,889,360 cases and 47,068 deaths.
In the Middle East, Jordan has become the first country in the region to receive coronavirus vaccines through the global COVAX initiative.
A plane carrying 144,000 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine landed in Amman’s airport late Friday and was greeted by representatives of the agencies supporting the COVAX program — the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the European Union.
The COVAX alliance aims to share COVID-19 vaccines with more than 90 lower and middle-income nations. However, the program is facing delays, underfunding and limited supply.
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The EU has allocated 8 million euros to support Jordan’s purchase of vaccines. A second shipment from COVAX is expected in April.
Jordan launched its vaccination drive in mid-January with plans to inoculate over 4 million residents in 2021, according to Health Minister Nathir Obeidat.
The kingdom, home to nearly 10 million people, has approved five vaccine types, including Russian and Chinese ones. The vaccination campaign also targets some of the 650,000 Syrian refugees.
The country is struggling to contain the surge of infections. It has reported over 465,000 cases and more than 5,200 deaths.