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.
6:45 p.m.: Alberta is reporting 556 new COVID-19 cases, including 99 which are variants of concern. It’s not as high as Friday’s jump of 696 new infections and 130 variants.
But the number of patients in Alberta hospitals today climbed to 279, with 47 of those patients in intensive care.
4:05 p.m.: Health officials are reporting 200 new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan.
The province says 91 are from the Regina area, where more infectious variants of the virus have been spreading for weeks. The Ministry of Health says 504 of the 590 presumed variant cases in the province have been found in the region.
There are 135 people in hospital provincewide with COVID-19, with 27 in intensive care.
3:20 p.m.: Gunfire at an illegal large gathering in Philadelphia killed one person, wounded four others and sent scores of people fleeing, authorities said.
The gunfire erupted around 3:45 a.m. Saturday inside and outside a rental hall adjacent to Hot Pot Cuisine in north Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighbourhood, police officials said.
A 29-year-old man was shot 14 times and was pronounced dead minutes later at Temple University Hospital, police said. Three men ages 33, 38, and 41 and a 30-year-old woman were also shot; all were stable at hospitals, police said.
1 p.m.: The White House Easter Egg Roll, the annual event organized by the first lady’s office, has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The news was announced Friday by Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for first lady Jill Biden, who urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Due to COVID-19 this year, unfortunately the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House will not take place,” LaRosa said in a statement to USA Today, adding the Bidens hope to continue this tradition in 2022.
The holiday falls on April 4 this year; the event is usually held the next day.
“The White House plans to send out thousands of the 2021 commemorative Easter Egg Roll eggs in the coming days to vaccination sites and local hospitals,” LaRosa said of the eggs that this year feature the Bidens’ dogs, Major and Champ. “We urge everyone this Easter to continue wearing masks, engage in social distancing and get the vaccine when it is your turn.”
12:25 p.m.: An interim audit has been released about why the federal government’s pandemic early warning system failed to send up a formal alert on COVID-19.
The audit was ordered by federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu after reports the Global Public Health Intelligence Network didn’t operate as intended at the onset of the pandemic.
The interim report concludes the news monitoring system did identify the outbreak of the pneumonia that would become COVID-19 on the night of Dec. 30, 2019, and included this information in a special report to Canadian public health officials the next day.
But the report notes that without sending up a formal alert, international partners that rely on Canada’s information were left in the dark.
The review says that prior to the pandemic, the alert system lacked standard operating procedures and senior managers didn’t fully understand the “purpose or audience” for alerts.
The panel will continue its review in the coming months by looking deeper into the context of how the system operates, which includes a high degree of staff turnover and a decline in the number of internal experts with public health credentials.
11:45 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 775 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one in the past 24 hours.
The province reports 6,894 active cases with a total 301,691 infections, 10,594 deaths and 284,203 recoveries.
Authorities say they administered 41,338 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, bringing the total to 915,653 doses — about 10.8 per cent of the population. Quebec is pushing to have all adults who want the vaccine to receive their first dose by June 24, the Fête nationale du Québec statutory holiday in the province.
11:30 a.m.: The U.K. says half of the country’s adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, a milestone in the government’s drive to reach everyone over age 18 by the end of July.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Saturday that more people received injections on Friday than any day since the country’s vaccination program began in early December.
“It’s a huge success,” Hancock said in a video posted on Twitter. “And I want to say many, many thanks to all those involved, including the half of all adults who have come forward. It’s so important because this vaccine is our way out of this pandemic.’’
But the celebration comes amid growing concerns about the failure of wealthy countries to share scarce vaccine supplies with developing nations.
While Britain should be proud of the success of its vaccination drive, it is time to start thinking about the rest of the world, said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, a London-based health policy think-tank.
10:20 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 1,829 COVID-19 cases, with 11 deaths. The seven-day average is up to 1,532 cases daily or 74 weekly per 100,000, and flat at 12.1 deaths/day.
Labs report 52,083 completed tests, the lowest Saturday since December 26, with 3.6 per cent positive — the most for a Saturday since January 23.
Locally, there are 593 new cases in Toronto, 287 in Peel 157 in York Region, 124 in Hamilton and 101 in Ottawa.
Ontario has administered 60,283 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 1,480,882 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night. The province says 297,134 people have completed their vaccinations, which means they’ve had both doses.
10:10 a.m.: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has tested positive for COVID-19, the latest world leader to be infected with the coronavirus as his country battles a new wave of infections.
Khan is experiencing mild symptoms and will continue to work from home, Sen. Faisal Javed Khan, a close aide, said in a post on Twitter on Saturday. The prime minister had received the first of two doses of a Sinopharm Group Co. vaccine on Thursday, according to the health ministry.
Pakistan initiated its inoculation campaign last month and had obtained more than a million free Sinopharm doses from China. Amid a rise in coronavirus cases, authorities imposed restrictions in most of the main urban areas. Limits on wedding halls, cinemas and outdoor dining have been extended until April 15, and lockdowns will continue in the worst-affected provinces.
8:55 a.m.: Former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, has been partially closed after staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.
That’s according to several people, including one familiar with club operations, who said Mar-a-Lago had “partially closed” a section of the club and quarantined some of its workers “out of an abundance of caution.” The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation by name.
An email sent to members said that service had been temporarily suspended in the club’s dining room and at its beach club because some staff members had recently tested positive. It said the club had undertaken “all appropriate response measures,” including sanitizing affected areas,” and that banquet and event services remain open.
“The health and safety of our members and staff is our highest priority,” it read.
8:53 a.m.: Starting today, restaurants in Toronto and Peel Region can offer customers outdoor dining.
Premier Doug Ford announced Friday that the province is loosening some COVID-19 restrictions to support economic recovery.
While Toronto and Peel will remain in the strictest “grey lockdown” category of Ontario’s colour-coded pandemic framework, restaurants in the two regions are being allowed to offer services outdoors.
In addition, food and drink establishments in regions in the second-strictest “red” category can increase capacity to 50 people indoors, up from the previous limit of 10. And establishments in “orange” zones can now have 100 people indoors, up from 50.
The loosening of restrictions comes with a caution from Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, who notes that Ontario has entered a third wave of infections with more contagious variants spreading. He says people must remain vigilant and continue to practice protocols such as mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing.
Ontario reported 1,745 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and 10 more related deaths. And more contagious variants linked to severe waves of infection around the world now make up about 40 per cent of cases in the province.
Ontario is responding by expanding its COVID-19 immunization campaign next week to include residents aged 75 and older.
It will also allow certain pharmacies and family doctors in select regions to give the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot to residents aged 60 and older as of Monday.
Eligible residents can contact a pharmacy directly to make an appointment. Participating pharmacies are currently located in the Toronto, Kingston and Windsor health units but Ford said the project will be expanding “across the province.”
7:44 a.m.: Spectators from abroad will be barred from the Tokyo Olympics when they open in four months, the IOC and local organizers said Saturday.
The decision was announced after an online meeting of the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee, and local organizers.
The move was expected and rumoured for several months. Officials said the risk was too great to admit ticket holders from overseas during a pandemic, an idea strongly opposed by the Japanese public. Japan has attributed about 8,800 deaths to COVID-19 and has controlled the virus better than most countries.
About 1 million tickets are reported to have been sold to fans from outside Japan. Organizers have promised refunds, but this will be determined by so-called Authorized Ticket Resellers that handle sales outside Japan. These dealers charge fees of up to 20% above the ticket price. It is not clear if the fees will be refunded.
7:39 a.m.: As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks.
The military commander handling logistics for Canada’s vaccine distribution program says there will be enough vaccine delivered to give a first dose before Canada Day to every adult who wants one.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin says that’s if provinces follow the advice to delay second doses up to four months.
He also cautions that it is dependent on having no production delays again.
Health Canada anticipates a total of 36.5 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India by June 30.
There are approximately 31 million Canadians over 16, and no vaccines are approved for anyone younger than 16.
Here’s a list of some inoculation plans throughout Canada:
Newfoundland and Labrador
Health officials say vaccinations will begin this week for first responders. They say pre-registration for COVID-19 vaccines has opened for people aged 70 or older and for home-support workers.
Newfoundland and Labrador announced March 3 it was extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months.
Public health officials said the change will help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey said the decision is a game changer for the province’s vaccination prospects.
Health officials say people aged 60 to 62 became eligible to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine starting March 18.
Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021.
The province is planning to use mobile van clinics to vaccinate about 900 people who work at or use homeless shelters in the Halifax area.
Public health is partnering with pharmacists and doctors to provide the vaccines at 25 locations.
Nova Scotia, meanwhile, has added front-line police officers to the list of people eligible for vaccination during the second phase of the province’s rollout plan, joining groups such as long-haul truck drivers and hospital workers over the age of 60.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 20, 2021.
There are 927,069 confirmed cases in Canada, 927,069 confirmed cases 33,399 active, 871,053 resolved, 22,617 deaths. The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.
There were 4,221 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 87.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 23,853 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 3,408.
There were 27 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 215 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 31. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 59.51 per 100,000 people.
There have been 26,371,885 tests completed.