As Canada gears up to receive millions more COVID-19 vaccines this coming week, individual provinces are taking steps to boost their vaccination drives. Alberta is offering millions in cash to encourage more people to get inoculated and Ontario is poised to accelerate second dose eligibility for some residents in hot spot areas on Monday.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the launch of the province’s “Open for Summer” vaccine lottery on Saturday. Three $1-million prizes will be available for Albertans aged 18 and over who have had at least one dose.
In a video on Twitter, Kenney thanked Albertans who have already gotten at least their first dose of vaccine for helping the province overcome the spring spike of COVID-19 but noted demand for the vaccine has waned.
He said the lottery will “pay for itself” if more people are vaccinated, citing billions of dollars spent on health-care and support due to the pandemic over the past 16 months.
Announcing the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpenForSummer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#OpenForSummer</a> lottery!<br><br>If you were putting off booking your first vaccine dose, or waiting for a reason to book, here it is:<br>Your shot is your shot at $1 million.<br><br>Book now! <a href=”https://t.co/oY4ZqAeg1j”>https://t.co/oY4ZqAeg1j</a> <a href=”https://t.co/kSzWCoWz9z”>pic.twitter.com/kSzWCoWz9z</a>
Alberta’s announcement follows a similar move by Manitoba, which is doling out $1.9 million in cash and scholarships to people 12 and older who get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The percentage of Alberta residents aged 12 and older who have received at least one vaccine dose stands at 69 per cent, just shy of the 70 per cent mark set by the province to trigger Stage 3 of its reopening plan.
Meanwhile, Ontario announced Saturday that the wait between the first and second doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine can be shortened to eight weeks from 12 weeks.
The new policy on AstraZeneca doses comes into effect on 8 a.m. ET on Monday. All of the new options will be provided with the “informed consent” of a patient, the Ontario government said.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recently recommended that a shot of AstraZeneca can be followed by an mRNA vaccine. They also found that dosing intervals between eight and 12 weeks are safe and demonstrate a beneficial immune response, although a longer wait provides more protection.
This comes as the country’s vaccination drive plows steadily forward, with 5.3 million mRNA vaccine doses set to arrive this coming week. Moderna is expected to ship 2.9 million doses, while Pfizer has promised to send 2.4 million shots.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 9 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 1,401,006 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 17,599 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,914. More than 28.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
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In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador moved all health units back to Alert Level 2 on Saturday as it registered six new infections.
New Brunswick recorded another COVID-related death and seven new cases on Saturday, but inched closer to its 75 per cent vaccination target that would trigger the first phase of reopening in the province.
Nova Scotia reported 10 new infections on Saturday, while Prince Edward Island did not report any new cases.
Quebec confirmed 182 new cases of COVID-19 and three new deaths on Saturday.
Ontario reported 502 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths on Saturday, a day after it eased restrictions around outdoor gatherings, patio dining and non-essential businesses.
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In the Prairies, Manitoba reported 294 new COVID-19 infections and five deaths on Saturday, Saskatchewan reported 106 new cases and one new death, and Alberta registered 179 new cases and four more deaths.
British Columbia does not provide updated COVID-19 figures on the weekend, but Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the province is on track to ease more restrictions on Tuesday as planned.
In the North, Nunavut was the only territory to report any new COVID-19 infections on Saturday as it identified three new cases, including two individuals connected to Iqaluit’s Aqsarniit Middle School.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, the COVID-19 case tracking tool from Johns Hopkins University showed a total of more than 175.7 million cases reported worldwide.The global death toll stood at more than 3.7 million.
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In the Americas, the airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than two million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since early March 2020.
The 2.03 million travellers announced by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Saturday were only 74 per cent of the volume compared to the same day in 2019. However, it was 1.5 million more travellers than the same day last year, according to the TSA.
In Europe, the Russian capital recorded 7,704 new COVID-19 infections — an increase of more than 1,000 from the previous day’s tally — as Moscow heads into a week in which many businesses will be closed under a mayoral order.
In the Asia-Pacific region, a fleet of 60 drones has been deployed in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou to encourage people to take COVID-19 precautions amid a flare-up of the more infectious delta variant of the virus, initially discovered in India.
The police-operated drones carry cameras and broadcast messages to people venturing outdoors that they and others are best protected by staying inside, while reminding those going out to wear masks.
South Korea will exempt some travellers who have received their COVID-19 vaccine shots overseas from its mandatory two-week quarantine starting July 1, health authorities said on Sunday. As of May 5, the quarantine exemption was only applicable to people fully vaccinated in South Korea.
In the Middle East, about two-thirds of people eligible for inoculation against COVID-19 have now received two doses of the vaccine in Dubai, the tourist and business hub of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said.
In Africa, South African health inspectors on Sunday said they will not release Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines that may have been contaminated during production at a U.S. plant.
The decision came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised concerns over manufacturing practices at the Baltimore plant. The FDA findings would impact two million vaccines that are awaiting release at Aspen Pharmacare’s Gqeberha manufacturing site, acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said.