The World Health Organization says COVID-19 vaccine shipments have ground to “a near halt” in Africa while coronavirus cases have spiked 20 per cent over the last two weeks.
South Africa, the country with the highest coronavirus caseload in Africa, continued to face delays in its effort to roll out the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than one million J&J doses remain on hold at a pharmaceuticals plant in South Africa because of contamination concerns at a U.S. factory.
The head of the Africa CDC said he expects an announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on those contamination issues soon.
South Africa alone has seen more than 1.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 and more than 56,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker.
But South Africa isn’t the only country dealing with an uptick in COVID-19 cases, the WHO cautioned in a statement released Thursday.
“As the risk of a surge in COVID-19 cases increases, African countries must urgently boost critical care capacity to prevent health facilities from being overwhelmed,” the statement said, noting that the pandemic is “trending upwards in 14 countries” across the continent.
“The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said, adding that more vaccines are urgently needed.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of early Friday morning, Canada had reported 1,387,445 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 27,790 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,644.
More than 24.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In Atlantic Canada on Thursday, Nova Scotia reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death — including a man in his 30s in the central zone, which includes Halifax.
Health officials in New Brunswick reported 16 additional cases of COVID-19 Thursday and one death, saying a person in their 70s from the Fredericton area died.
Quebec reported 267 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and six additional deaths.
In Ontario, people who received a first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have the choice to book a second dose of the same vaccine or an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna starting Friday. The province on Thursday reported 870 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 729, with 546 people in ICU due to COVID-19.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba on Thursday reported 360 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths.
Saskatchewan on Thursday reported 131 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths.
In Alberta, health officials reported 296 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or Yukon.
British Columbia residents who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be able to choose if they want to stay with the same shot or take one of the other options, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. Health officials reported 199 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday — the third day in a row with fewer than 200 cases — with two new deaths.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday morning, more than 172.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been recorded around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.7 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India reported another 132,364 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a declining trend with recoveries exceeding new cases this week, and prompting several state governments to ease some restrictions.
The latest update from the Health Ministry on Friday raised the nation’s total cases to more than 28.6 million, the second-highest in the world after the United States. The ministry said 2,713 more people died in the past 24 hours, driving the overall toll to 340,702. These numbers are certain undercounts.
In the Americas, White House officials say U.S. producers of vaccine materials and ingredients will no longer have to prioritize orders from three companies working on COVID-19 shots. The change is expected to ease global shortages of key vaccine materials for overseas companies and governments.
In the Middle East, The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have made the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available as a booster shot to those initially immunized with a vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group, Sinopharm.
In Europe, France is putting itself back on the menu as a destination for international tourists who are vaccinated, removing the need for coronavirus tests for vaccinated Europeans and allowing vaccinated tourists from most of the rest of the world, including the United States, to also come back but still with a negative test.
The relaxed rules will kick in from Wednesday, offering a boost for France’s tourism sector. Tourism will not be possible, however, from countries wrestling with virus surges and worrisome variants. This “red list” for the moment has 16 countries, including India, South Africa and Brazil.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7 a.m. ET