Manitoba’s premier is again calling on the United States government to let states ship surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada, as the province contends with surging case numbers that have pushed the health-care system to its limits.
At a rare Saturday morning news conference, Brian Pallister said the province was working on a plan with North Dakota to ship thousands of vaccine doses from that state up to Manitoba, but it was “kiboshed” by the White House, which needs to approve such requests.
“I’m advocating for the United States and the White House in particular to get out of the way and let the states and provinces co-operate on getting vaccines that are in freezers in the United States up into Canada, into arms,” Pallister said.
The province has asked Ottawa to send critical care nurses, respiratory therapists and contact tracers to help battle its rising third wave of COVID-19.
Five intensive care patients from Manitoba have been transferred to hospitals in northern Ontario to free up space, with plans to move as many as 15 more if needed, officials said.
Pallister’s comments came as the province reported 476 new cases and six new deaths on Saturday, including what appears to be the first person in Manitoba to die after contracting the P1 coronavirus variant associated with Brazil.
There are now 298 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the province, including 74 in intensive care units.
To combat the surge in infections, the province has brought in new restrictions starting this long weekend. Manitobans are prohibited from gathering outdoors with people from outside their household, and only one person per household will be permitted to enter a business at a given time.
Restrictions ease in some provinces
But it’s not all bad news across the country.
People across Ontario are getting ready to spend more time outdoors this holiday weekend now that the province has eased some of its COVID-19 restrictions. Golf courses and other outdoor recreational facilities, including tennis and basketball courts, can reopen.
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Alberta, which, like Ontario, is seeing an overall decline in new COVID-19 cases, will welcome back all K-12 students to classrooms next week, except those in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
And starting early next week, Yukon will begin lifting some of its COVID-19 restrictions because of the territory’s high uptake in vaccinations, with about 76 per cent of eligible residents receiving their first dose.
Canadians are making “steady progress” in bringing down COVID-19 numbers, but they must remain vigilant this long weekend to prevent a resurgence, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement on Saturday.
Tam said there are now more than 30 per cent fewer active cases in Canada compared with the peak of the pandemic’s third wave in mid-April.
“However, as COVID-19 activity remains elevated in many jurisdictions, strong public health measures must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating, and individual precautions are important everywhere to drive infection rates down to low and manageable levels, while getting our vaccination rates as high as possible,” she said.
“Further, as resurgences have followed social gatherings during past long weekends and holidays, maintaining precautions this long weekend remains critical for sustaining our progress.”
What’s happening in Canada around the world
As of 2:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 1,354,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 56,979 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,195.
WATCH | Canadians urged to follow COVID-19 restrictions during long weekend:
Ontario reported 1,794 new cases and 20 new deaths on Saturday. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to decline, with 1,207 patients hospitalized across the province, including 706 in the ICU, according to provincial data.
Premier Doug Ford tweeted that the province hit a new milestone on Friday, delivering more than 190,000 doses of vaccine in one day.
Quebec reported 505 new cases on Saturday — its lowest single-day increase since Sept. 23 — along with seven new deaths.
New Brunswick reported two new COVID-19 cases on Saturday. The update came a day after the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, announced that a second person in the province has died from a rare blood clot associated with the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine.
Nova Scotia reported 64 new cases and one new death, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases. Prince Edward Island had yet to provide an update.
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In the North, Nunavut on Saturday reported one new case of COVID-19. There are 39 active cases in the territory — 38 in Iqaluit and one in Kinngait, Premier Joe Savikataaq tweeted. Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided updated figures for the day.
Saskatchewan reported 173 new cases of COVID-19 and two related deaths on Friday.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday afternoon, more than 166.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, a tracking dashboard from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University said. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.4 million.
The Swiss government has flown $8 million in equipment and medical supplies to combat COVID-19 to help Nepal, which is struggling with a failing health system and acute shortages of hospital beds, medication and oxygen for patients.
The aid was handed over to Nepalese Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi at Kathmandu’s airport on Saturday. The Swiss Embassy in Nepal said the shipment contained 40 ventilators, oxygen concentrators, 1.1 million coronavirus test kits, face masks, gloves and protective suits.
Nepal has been appealing for help from the international community since the COVID-19 situation worsened sharply this month. A lockdown has been imposed in most parts of the country since last month to curb the spiking cases.
Nepal has recorded nearly 500,000 COVID-19 confirmed cases, and 6,024 people have died.
In Sri Lanka, officials halted passenger trains and buses for four days as part of a fresh travel ban imposed across the country in an effort to curb an escalating number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
The ban is effective from Friday night until Tuesday morning. However, it will not apply to those engaged in essential services such as the health, food and power sectors, as well as those seeking medical treatment.
The move comes as the island’s key medical associations demand that the government lock down the country for two weeks. The associations say the actual number of coronavirus infections is more than three times the number detected.
Sri Lanka has already banned public gatherings, parties and weddings, and closed schools and universities.
WATCH | Vaccine makers pledge billions of COVID-19 shots to developing world:
In the United States, Oregon officials are betting that the desire to win $1 million in a lottery will boost the percentage of Oregonians who are vaccinated against COVID-19.
With only half of the people living in Oregon either fully or partially vaccinated, Oregon Lottery officials approved a plan on Friday to hold a lottery. Those who have been vaccinated by June 27 will be eligible.
“It’s never been easier to get a vaccine, so don’t miss your shot to enter,” Gov. Kate Brown said.
She told reporters this is an effort to raise the percentage of adult Oregonians who get vaccinated to 70 per cent in order to fully reopen the state.
If Oregonians have received at least a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, they are automatically entered to win through the state’s vaccine database.
Other states are also trying the tactic, including New York, Maryland and Ohio.