Today’s coronavirus news: Canada passes 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases; Ontario reports 3,056 cases, 51 deaths; India starts world’s largest vaccination drive

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.10:22 p.m.: Mexico posted its second straight day of more than 20,000 coronavirus cases Saturday, suggesting a surge in a country already struggling in many areas with overflowing hospitals.There were 20,523 newly confirmed cases Saturday after 21,366 infections were reported Friday. That was about double the daily rate of increase just a week ago. Reporting normally declines on weekends, suggesting next week may bring even higher numbers.The country also recorded 1,219 more deaths, a near-record. The country has now seen almost 1.63 million total infections and has registered over 140,000 deaths so far in the pandemic.In Mexico City, the current centre of the pandemic in Mexico, 88% per cent of hospital beds are full.10:00 p.m.: China on Sunday reported 109 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.China had largely contained the virus that first was detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.China’s death toll stands at 4,653 out of 88,227 total cases.9:00 p.m.: Toronto police have arrested three participants of two separate anti-lockdown protests downtown Saturday afternoon, the same day the province saw 3,056 new COVID-19 cases and a record number of 420 patients in intensive care units.Videos surfacing on social media show hundreds of protestors gathered at Nathan Phillips Square and Yonge-Dundas Square defying public health measures and denouncing the provincial stay-at-home mandate.According to the mandate, no more than five people can gather outdoors, and then only if they wear masks and stay a distance of six feet or two metres away from each other.Police issued a statement on Twitter addressing the gathering, saying, “While we recognize the right to lawful protest, the existing emergency orders prohibit large gatherings of more than five people.”Officers were dispatched to the scene shortly after, issuing tickets and dispersing the crowd.Organizers of the protest were criminally charged.Lamont Daigle, 49, and Kelly Anne Farkus (Wolfe), 38, were arrested at Nathan Phillips Square and Yonge Dundas Square. Both were charged with common nuisance.A 22-year-old man was also arrested after allegedly assaulting an officer. Conor Chappell has been charged with one count of assaulting a police officer and obstructing justice.8:00 p.m.: Canada's national COVID-19 case count has surpassed 700,000, according to The Canadian Press.Seven provinces recorded more than 6,400 new infections today, pushing the country's tally above 702,000 since the onset of the global pandemic.It took less than two weeks for Canada to add 100,000 cases to the overall count, a timeframe that took months during the pandemic's first wave.Canada reached the 600,000-case threshold on Jan. 3.6:25 p.m.: Alberta is reporting 717 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional virus-related deaths today.Chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw tweeted that 765 people are in hospital with COVID-19, 122 of whom are in intensive care.Hinshaw says the provincial test positivity rate is 5.6 per cent.6:10 p.m.: In a dig at the outgoing Trump administration, President-elect Joe Biden introduced his slate of scientific advisers Saturday with the promise that they would summon “science and truth” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, climate crisis and other challenges.“This is the most exciting announcement I’ve gotten to make,” Biden said after weeks of Cabinet and other nominations and appointments. “This is a team that is going to help restore your faith in America’s place in the frontier of science and discovery.”Biden is elevating the position of science adviser to Cabinet level, a White House first, and said that Eric Lander, a pioneer in mapping the human genome who is in line to be director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is “one of the most brilliant guys I know.”The president-elect, Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, Lander and other top science advisers never mentioned Trump's name, but they framed the inauguration Wednesday as a clean break from a president who downplayed the threat of COVID-19 and declared the science behind climate change to be a hoax.“The science behind climate change is not a hoax. The science behind the virus is not partisan,” Harris said. “The same laws apply, the same evidence holds true regardless of whether or not you accept them.”Biden emphasized how scientific research leads to practical progress a

Today’s coronavirus news: Canada passes 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases; Ontario reports 3,056 cases, 51 deaths; India starts world’s largest vaccination drive

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

10:22 p.m.: Mexico posted its second straight day of more than 20,000 coronavirus cases Saturday, suggesting a surge in a country already struggling in many areas with overflowing hospitals.

There were 20,523 newly confirmed cases Saturday after 21,366 infections were reported Friday. That was about double the daily rate of increase just a week ago. Reporting normally declines on weekends, suggesting next week may bring even higher numbers.

The country also recorded 1,219 more deaths, a near-record. The country has now seen almost 1.63 million total infections and has registered over 140,000 deaths so far in the pandemic.

In Mexico City, the current centre of the pandemic in Mexico, 88% per cent of hospital beds are full.

10:00 p.m.: China on Sunday reported 109 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.

There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.

China had largely contained the virus that first was detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.

China’s death toll stands at 4,653 out of 88,227 total cases.

9:00 p.m.: Toronto police have arrested three participants of two separate anti-lockdown protests downtown Saturday afternoon, the same day the province saw 3,056 new COVID-19 cases and a record number of 420 patients in intensive care units.

Videos surfacing on social media show hundreds of protestors gathered at Nathan Phillips Square and Yonge-Dundas Square defying public health measures and denouncing the provincial stay-at-home mandate.

According to the mandate, no more than five people can gather outdoors, and then only if they wear masks and stay a distance of six feet or two metres away from each other.

Police issued a statement on Twitter addressing the gathering, saying, “While we recognize the right to lawful protest, the existing emergency orders prohibit large gatherings of more than five people.”

Officers were dispatched to the scene shortly after, issuing tickets and dispersing the crowd.

Organizers of the protest were criminally charged.

Lamont Daigle, 49, and Kelly Anne Farkus (Wolfe), 38, were arrested at Nathan Phillips Square and Yonge Dundas Square. Both were charged with common nuisance.

A 22-year-old man was also arrested after allegedly assaulting an officer. Conor Chappell has been charged with one count of assaulting a police officer and obstructing justice.

8:00 p.m.: Canada's national COVID-19 case count has surpassed 700,000, according to The Canadian Press.

Seven provinces recorded more than 6,400 new infections today, pushing the country's tally above 702,000 since the onset of the global pandemic.

It took less than two weeks for Canada to add 100,000 cases to the overall count, a timeframe that took months during the pandemic's first wave.

Canada reached the 600,000-case threshold on Jan. 3.

6:25 p.m.: Alberta is reporting 717 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional virus-related deaths today.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw tweeted that 765 people are in hospital with COVID-19, 122 of whom are in intensive care.

Hinshaw says the provincial test positivity rate is 5.6 per cent.

6:10 p.m.: In a dig at the outgoing Trump administration, President-elect Joe Biden introduced his slate of scientific advisers Saturday with the promise that they would summon “science and truth” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, climate crisis and other challenges.

“This is the most exciting announcement I’ve gotten to make,” Biden said after weeks of Cabinet and other nominations and appointments. “This is a team that is going to help restore your faith in America’s place in the frontier of science and discovery.”

Biden is elevating the position of science adviser to Cabinet level, a White House first, and said that Eric Lander, a pioneer in mapping the human genome who is in line to be director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is “one of the most brilliant guys I know.”

The president-elect, Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, Lander and other top science advisers never mentioned Trump's name, but they framed the inauguration Wednesday as a clean break from a president who downplayed the threat of COVID-19 and declared the science behind climate change to be a hoax.

“The science behind climate change is not a hoax. The science behind the virus is not partisan,” Harris said. “The same laws apply, the same evidence holds true regardless of whether or not you accept them.”

Biden emphasized how scientific research leads to practical progress and better quality of life, from the COVID-19 vaccines and new cancer treatments to clean energy expansion that reduces carbon emissions.

“Science is discovery. It’s not fiction,” Biden said. “It’s also about hope.”

And, again without naming Trump, the president-elect said one of his team’s tasks will be to gird public faith in science and its usefulness.

Lander added that Biden has tasked his advisers and “the whole scientific community and the American public” to “rise to this moment."

Biden and Harris also veered from their prepared texts to hold up the scientists as examples to children across the country.

“Superheroes aren’t just about our imagination,” Harris said. “They are walking among us. They are teachers and doctors and scientists, they are vaccine researchers ... and you can grow up to be like them, too.”

Lander is the founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and was the lead author of the first paper announcing the details of the human genome. He would be the first life scientist to have that White House job. His predecessor is a meteorologist.

The president-elect is retaining the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, who worked with Lander on the human genome project. Biden also named two prominent female scientists to co-chair the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Frances Arnold, a California Institute of Technology chemical engineer who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry, and MIT vice-president for research and geophysics professor Maria Zuber will lead the outside science advisory council. Lander held that position during Obama administration.

Biden picked Princeton’s Alondra Nelson, a social scientist who studies science, technology and social inequality, as deputy science policy chief.

The president-elect noted the team's diversity and repeated his promise that his administration's science policy and investments would target historically disadvantaged and underserved communities.

Nelson celebrated that commitment.

“As a Black woman researcher, I am keenly aware of those who are missing from these rooms,” she said. “I believe we have a responsibility to work together to make sure that our science and technology reflects us ... who we truly are together.”

Science organizations were quick to praise Lander and the promotion of the science post to Cabinet level. The job as director of science and technology policy requires Senate confirmation.

Elevating the position "clearly signals the administration's intent to involve scientific expertise in every policy discussion,” said Sudip Parikh, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society.

Lander, also a mathematician, is a professor of biology at both Harvard and MIT and his work has been cited nearly half a million times in scientific literature, one of the most among scientists. He has won numerous science prizes, including a MacArthur “genius” fellowship and a Breakthrough Prize, and is one of Pope Francis' scientific advisers.

“As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I saw America go to the moon,” Lander said, adding that “no nation is better equipped than America to lead the search for solutions” that “advance our health, our economic welfare and our national security.”

5:20 p.m.: Louisiana has identified the state’s first case of a coronavirus variant believed to be more transmissible than the original.

The governor's office said Saturday the case was detected in a person in the New Orleans area.

The variant, first detected in Britain, has alarmed officials in many nations because studies indicate it may spread more easily than other viral strains, though it it is not believed to be more deadly and appears to be vulnerable to vaccines.

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement saying it is urgent “that everyone double down on the mitigation measures that we know are effective in reducing the spread of the virus.”

Edwards noted that the variant has been detected in at least 15 other states.

In neighbouring Texas, health officials in Dallas County on Saturday reported the state's third case of the variant, this one in a Dallas man in his 20s with no history of travel outside the United States.

Texas reported a Houston-area man as its first case of a person infected with the new variant on Jan. 7.

5:00 p.m.: Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand is urging drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to get COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Canada back on track.

She says in a series of tweets that she understands Canadians' concerns about the company's decision to delay international deliveries.

She says she's been in touch with Pfizer-BioNTech, and that they've told her they're trying to get things back on schedule.

Anand notes that the government does not expect vaccine distribution to be affected in the coming week.

4:22 p.m.: A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government not to pursue plans to ban domestic travel in their efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The coalition of tourism and accommodation associations from Vancouver, Richmond and Greater Victoria says the government must steer away from an outright ban and work instead with the industry and communities to better educate travelers on health and safety protocols.

Vivek Sharma, chair of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., says a non-essential travel ban would heighten unnecessary fears and misperceptions toward visitors and further cripple the already struggling sector.

Premier John Horgan said earlier this week his government is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel.

Sharma says the Association has a legal opinion stating a travel ban would be difficult to implement due to Canada's mobility rights provisions, but the industry is not looking for a legal confrontation with the province.

Sharma says the spread of COVID-19 is not tied to where people live but how they behave.

3:03 p.m.: Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, say a decision by drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to slow vaccine shipments in the coming weeks will mean changes to their respective game plans.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said the company's decision to delay international vaccine shipments to upgrade production facilities will likely have an effect on the province, though the full impact of the move is not yet known.

Williams said in a statement today that long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer's vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week longer than originally planned.

But that time frame will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday the reduced shipments mean that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the vaccine expected until Feb. 8 won't be delivered as planned.


Health officials are establishing a new distribution plan, but the Quebec Health Department said the strategy to immunize as many people as possible within priority groups will be maintained.

2:10 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting 27 new cases of COVID-19 today and now has 267 active cases.

Public health says there are seven new cases in both the Moncton and Edmundston regions, four in both the Saint John and Fredericton areas, three in the Campbellton region and two in the Bathurst area.

All of the patients are self-isolating and the origin of their infections are under investigation, while there are three patients currently in hospital.

New Brunswick has had a total of 911 confirmed cases with 631 recoveries and 12 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

11:30 a.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today, including two cases involving university students.

Health officials say the one case in the eastern zone is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada -- a student at Cape Breton University in Sydney who lives off campus and is self-isolating.

The three other cases are in the Halifax area, with one a contact of a previously reported case and the other two related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada, including a student at Dalhousie University who lives off campus.

The province now has 30 active cases of the virus, with no one currently in hospital.

11:16 a.m.: The Winnipeg Jets have cancelled the team’s practice schedule for Saturday due to a potential exposure to COVID-19.

In a team news release, the Jets announced the cancellation of their practice, stating it was “made out of an abundance of caution.”

No other details were released by the Jets, who are scheduled to play the Leafs Monday evening at Scotiabank Arena.

But, the Jets did say in their release that more information about the team’s schedule Sunday would be available “at a later time.”

Winnipeg opened their season Thursday with an overtime win over Calgary, but scratched winger Nik Ehlers from Thursday’s morning skate due to COVID-19 protocols, the team said. Ehlers was cleared to play in the team’s win over Calgary later Thursday.

On Jan. 8, the province of Manitoba cleared the Jets to play their NHL schedule, granting the team an amendment to allow professional hockey games in the province.

11:15 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 2,225 new COVID-19 cases and 67 further deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

The number of hospitalizations dropped for a second day, this time by 22 for a total of 1,474 patients, and four fewer patients in intensive care for a total of 227.

The province added 2,430 more recoveries, for a total of 210,364.

The province has now reported 240,970 confirmed infections and 9,005 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

11:14 a.m.: Ontario is reporting another 3,056 of COVID-19 cases, and 51 more deaths, according to its latest report released Saturday morning.

The seven-day average for new cases fell slightly to 3,218 cases daily, or 155 weekly per 100,000. Ontario’s seven-day average for deaths rose to 59.7 daily, a record for the second wave.

Ontario’s reported infection rate is down somewhat this week while the rate of fatal cases continues to near the highest levels seen so far — that daily average is just shy of the province’s worst period in the first wave in early May, when it hit nearly 62 deaths daily.

There are 1,632 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, including 397 patients in intensive care. There are 281 people on ventilators.

Locally, Health Minister Christine Elliott says 903 new cases are in Toronto, 639 in Peel, 283 in York Region, 162 in Durham and 152 in Ottawa.

Meanwhile, 27 more residents in long-term care have died for a total of 3,112 since the pandemic began, in the latest report released by the province.

10:55 a.m.: Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says the province will delay giving second doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to some patients after the pharmaceutical giant announced a production delay will cut deliveries to Canada by half early next month.

Staff and residents of long-term-care homes and high-risk retirement homes who have already received their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine will receive their second dose within 27 days, Dr. David Williams said in a statement Saturday. Everyone else who has been given their first dose will now get their booster shot between 21 and 42 days later, he said.

On Friday, Pfizer said it was cutting promised vaccine deliveries to several countries, including Canada, amid efforts to expand a production facility in Belgium. The move means that in the week of Jan. 25, Canada will see deliveries fall to about a quarter of the more than 200,000 doses it had expected, and to about half the schedule in early February.

The federal government on called the news a “temporary” reduction, and a “bump in the road” Friday, saying Pfizer has assured Canada it will boost deliveries back up in the last week in February and in March.

Anyone receiving does of the vaccine produced by Moderna will still get their second shot at the existing schedule of 28 days, Williams said.

“We understand that this change in supply could see deliveries reduced by at least half for Canada in the coming weeks,” Williams said in the statement, adding that the adjustments align with recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) which “has indicated that while efforts should be made to vaccinate according to the recommended schedules, some jurisdictions may maximize the number of individuals benefiting from a first dose of vaccine by delaying the second dose until further supplies of the vaccine become available, preferably within 42 days of receipt of the first dose.”

“Vaccination of residents, staff and essential caregivers of all long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes in Ontario will continue, with the goal of having the first dose administered in all homes no later than mid-February,” Williams said.

As of Friday, Ontario had administered 189,000 doses to Ontarians, with plans to vaccinate approximately 61,500 nursing home residents, staff and essential caregivers in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex by Jan. 21.

10 a.m.: Health professionals who work in community settings say they have been forgotten in Ontario’s vaccine strategy when it comes to both giving and getting inoculations against COVID-19.

The government should get vaccines into the hands of community providers including nurses, physicians and pharmacists immediately, says Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

Ontario could “rapidly accelerate” its vaccine rollout if it took advantage of an already existing infrastructure of community health-care providers who annually administer the flu shot, she said, explaining there is “no need to reinvent the wheel.”

Read the rest of the story by the Star’s Theresa Boyle.

9:29 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021.

There are 695,707 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Canada: 695,707 confirmed cases (76,068 active, 601,910 resolved, 17,729 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 6,812 new cases Friday from 133,443 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.1 per cent. The rate of active cases is 202.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 51,358 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 7,337.

There were 147 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 976 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 139. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.37 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.17 per 100,000 people.

There have been 16,396,962 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 395 confirmed cases (eight active, 383 resolved, four deaths).

There was one new case Friday from 194 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.52 per cent. The rate of active cases is 1.53 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been three new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 76,022 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 104 confirmed cases (nine active, 95 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Friday from 436 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 5.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 85,412 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,550 confirmed cases (32 active, 1,453 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were two new cases Friday from 1,168 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.17 per cent. The rate of active cases is 3.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 193,733 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 884 confirmed cases (257 active, 615 resolved, 12 deaths).

There were 25 new cases Friday from 1,008 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 33.08 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 149 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 21.

There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of three new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.06 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.54 per 100,000 people.

There have been 126,091 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 238,745 confirmed cases (21,873 active, 207,934 resolved, 8,938 deaths).

There were 1,918 new cases Friday from 8,471 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 23 per cent. The rate of active cases is 257.79 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 15,639 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,234.

There were 62 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 332 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 47. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.56 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 105.34 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,637,674 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 231,308 confirmed cases (28,825 active, 197,194 resolved, 5,289 deaths).

There were 2,998 new cases Friday from 74,248 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 197.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 22,914 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 3,273.

There were 54 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 361 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 36.31 per 100,000 people.

There have been 8,504,186 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 27,145 confirmed cases (2,907 active, 23,478 resolved, 760 deaths).

There were 191 new cases Friday from 1,913 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 10 per cent. The rate of active cases is 212.27 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,182 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 169.

There were five new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 34 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.35 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 55.5 per 100,000 people.

There have been 436,236 tests completed.

_ Saskatchewan: 19,715 confirmed cases (4,010 active, 15,495 resolved, 210 deaths).

There were 382 new cases Friday from 1,466 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 26 per cent. The rate of active cases is 341.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,240 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 320.

There were four new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 26 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.32 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 17.88 per 100,000 people.

There have been 319,186 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 115,370 confirmed cases (12,189 active, 101,779 resolved, 1,402 deaths).

There were 785 new cases Friday from 39,788 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 278.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,718 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 817.

There were 13 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 161 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 23. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.53 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.07 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,979,663 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 60,117 confirmed cases (5,955 active, 53,115 resolved, 1,047 deaths).

There were 509 new cases Friday from 4,493 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 11 per cent. The rate of active cases is 117.42 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,485 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 498.

There were nine new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 59 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is eight. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.17 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 20.65 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,017,546 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 70 confirmed cases (two active, 67 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Friday from 115 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.9 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,256 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 25 confirmed cases (one active, 24 resolved, zero deaths).

There was one new case Friday from 62 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.6 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.23 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been one new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 8,323 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 266 confirmed cases (zero active, 265 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Friday from 81 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.58 per 100,000 people.

There have been 6,558 tests completed.

9:29 a.m.: An inspection blitz of big-box stores is set to begin today as the Ontario government moves to enforce its new, more stringent public health rules.

The province said earlier this week it would send 50 inspectors to stores in five regions -- Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Durham.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton has said inspectors will focus on compliance with masking and physical distancing rules, as well as other health guidelines.

He said they'll have the authority to temporarily shut down facilities found to be breaching the rules, and to disperse groups of more than five people.

8 a.m.: Mexico posted a record spike in coronavirus cases on Friday, with 21,366 newly confirmed infections, about double the daily rate of increase just a week ago. The country also recorded 1,106 more deaths.

It was unclear if the spike was due to the presence of the U.K. virus variant, of which only one case has so far been confirmed in a visiting British citizen.

The country has now seen almost 1.61 million total infections and has seen registered over 139,000 deaths so far in the pandemic.

The country’s extremely low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000. So little testing is done that 8% of all those who got a test later died during recent weeks; normally, only people with severe symptoms are tested.

7:07 a.m.: Serbia has received 1 million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, becoming the first European state to get such substantial quantities of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate 500,000 people.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic greeted the shipment at Belgrade airport on Saturday, saying he will take the jab to show people that the Chinese vaccine is safe.

Serbia has so far imported lesser quantities of the American and German-made Pfizer-BioNTech and Russian Sputnik V vaccines. Serbian government officials have publicly received shots of both in order to increase interest in the country, which has a strong anti-vaccination sentiment.

7:06 a.m.: Indonesia has logged a record daily high number of coronavirus cases for the fourth day in row as the Health Ministry reported 14,224 new infections over the 24 hours to Saturday.

The country’s daily virus count first topped 11,000 cases on Wednesday, then climbed to 11,557 on Thursday and 12,818 cases on Friday.

Indonesia’s official COVID-19 tally nationwide reached 896,642 on Saturday, making it the largest number in Southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s 10.5 million cases. The figure includes 25,767 deaths.

Jakarta remains the worst-hit province in the country with nearly 224,000 cases and 3,705 deaths, followed by neighbouring West Java province with more than 111,000 cases and 1,336 deaths.

7:05 a.m.: Spain’s health minister said Saturday that his government is standing by its pledge to vaccinate a large part of its population by the summer despite the delay in the distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Minister Salvador Illa said that even though Spain will only receive 56 per cent of the expected doses next week from Pfizer, Spain’s vaccination program has reached “cruising speed.”

U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced Friday it will temporarily reduce deliveries to European countries of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity.

Illa said that despite this hiccup “there is no change to our supply calendar. Between now and the summer we will ensure that 70 per cent of Spaniards receive the vaccine.” He said that the following week the allotment of the Pfizer-BioNTech should return to 100 per cent of the expected amount.

Spain has administered 768.000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It is also rolling out the Moderna vaccine, with fewer than 500 doses administered so far.

5:28 a.m.: A new U.N. report estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of international migrants by 2 million by the middle of 2020 because of border closings and a halt to travel worldwide — an estimated 27 per cent decrease in expected growth.

Clare Menozzi, principal author of the report by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, told a news conference Friday that for the second half of 2020 “we have a sense that it will be probably comparable, if not more so.”

She said international migration had been projected to grow by 7 to 8 million between mid-2019 and mid-2020.

5 a.m.: Hospitals in Greater Toronto are transferring critically ill patients further and further away and in ever greater numbers to cope with the ongoing crush of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care.

This past week, Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital transferred patients to Burlington. Peel’s William Osler Health System sent patients to Kitchener. And Scarborough Health Network was forced to transport patients more than 100 kilometres east to Peterborough — and is exploring options as far away as Kingston — as critical care units overflow with COVID-19 cases.

Pressures on GTA hospitals are now so great that some are telling patients admitted through emergency departments that they may be transferred to another hospital at some point during their stay solely due to capacity issues.

Read the full story by the Star’s Megan Ogilvie.

1:45 a.m.: China on Saturday finished building a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients in five days to fight a surge in infections in a city south of Beijing, state media reported.

The hospital is one of six with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong in Hebei province, the Xinhua News Agency said. All are due to be completed within the next week.

China, which largely contained the spread of the coronavirus, has suffered hundreds of infections this month in Nangong and the Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, southwest of the Chinese capital.

12:46 a.m.: India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway.

The country is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the challenge.

Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the U.S and several times more than its existing program that targets 26 million infants. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers to be followed by 270 million others, who are either aged over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

Health officials haven’t specified what percentage of the nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally.

12:44 a.m.: President-elect Joe Biden is proposing a $1.9 trillion plan to expand coronavirus vaccinations, help individuals and jump-start the economy. The plan, which would require congressional approval, is packed with proposals on health care, education, labour and cybersecurity. On Friday, he outlined a five-step approach to getting the vaccination to the American people, and to ensure that it is distributed equitably. “Equity is central to our COVID response,” he said.

Click here to read more of Friday’s COVID-19 coverage.

Source : Toronto Star More