Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday

The latest:

  • India begins ambitious COVID-19 vaccination drive.
  • Trudeau says delayed Pfizer vaccine deliveries will ramp up again in February.
  • New modelling shows roughly 2,000 more Canadians could die from COVID-19 over next 10 days.
  • Alberta’s Phase 1 vaccination rollout slowed over Pfizer supply issues.
  • Why playing arena hockey can be risky during the pandemic.
  • Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at

India began its mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 on Saturday, with plans to inoculate about 300,000 people on the first day of the drive.

The first recipients are to include doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. They are to be followed by people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to the respiratory illness.

The first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital of New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the campaign with a nationally televised speech.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumours about the safety of the vaccines.”

People will not be able to choose between the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine and a government-backed vaccine developed by India’s Bharat Biotech whose efficacy is not entirely known because it’s still undergoing Phase 3 trials. Both vaccines are being produced locally.

Canada’s vaccine supply, meanwhile, has hit a stumbling block. Pfizer is upgrading and expanding its European production line, so its vaccine deliveries to Canada and other countries will be temporarily disrupted, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand said on Friday.

Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by half for four weeks, said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the development will not thwart plans to have enough vaccine doses by September for every Canadian who wants to be inoculated and that deliveries will ramp up again in February.

The news came as the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released federal projections that suggested the pandemic’s impact may soon exceed levels seen in the first wave, rising to 19,630 cumulative deaths and 10,000 daily infections over the next 10 days.

WATCH | Pfizer delays will slow vaccine program, says Ontario’s task force leader:

Retired general Rick Hillier says Pfizer’s shipment delay means there will be adjustments to the vaccine program in Ontario. 2:23

PHAC said the modelling data showed that roughly 2,000 more people are expected to die from COVID-19 by Jan. 24, while as many as 100,000 more people could contract the novel coronavirus.

Given the recent emergence of COVID-19 virus variants, PHAC has been working with provinces, territories and international partners to enhance monitoring, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement Saturday.

As of Friday, provinces and territories had reported 23 cases of the variant first found in the U.K., called B117, and two cases of the 501Y.V2 variant, first found in South Africa, Tam said.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 2:45 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 701,466 cases of COVID-19, with 75,709 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,850.

In Saskatchewan, police in Regina fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.

Manitoba recorded 180 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths on Saturday. The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.

Ontario registered a record 3,056 new cases, along with 51 deaths, on Saturday. To add to the concern, there are now a record 420 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, new data from Critical Care Services Ontario shows. 

Children wears face masks as they play in the snow in Ottawa on Saturday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Quebec reported 2,225 new cases and 67 more deaths.

New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases.

Nova Scotia added four new cases. The figures come a day after mandatory testing for rotational workers came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.

Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new infections.

Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.

What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 94 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 51.8 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.

WATCH | WHO chief pleads for breaking of COVID-19 transmission:

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pushed past 2 million, the head of the World Health Organization urged people to use the tools they have to curb the virus and lift the burden on health workers. 1:40

In Africa, South Africa has delayed the start of its new school year by two weeks in order to prevent schools from becoming transmission centres for COVID-19, as new cases have hovered around 20,000 a day for the past week.

The country has so far confirmed more than 1.29 million infections and registered more than 35,000 deaths — leading the continent on both counts.

In Europe, Greece will loosen some lockdown restrictions on Monday, letting non-essential retail shops reopen for the first time in more than two months after signs that pressure on the public health system is easing.

The country, in a nationwide lockdown since November, has fared better than many other European states, despite its struggling health services, badly weakened by years of financial crisis.

An elderly woman is administered a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Athens on Saturday, when Greek health authorities started vaccinating people over 85 years of age. (Yorgos Karahalis/The Associated Press)

In Asia, Indonesia has logged a record daily high number of coronavirus cases for the fourth day in a row as the Health Ministry reported 14,224 new infections over the 24 hours.

Indonesia’s official tally 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.

In the Americas, members of an expert committee and former health officials condemned the Brazilian government’s unjustifiable delay in formulating a vaccination effort, in seeking syringe suppliers and months spent rejecting all but one possible vaccine manufacturer.

They also say President Jair Bolsonaro undermined the health ministry’s effectiveness, pointing to the removal of highly trained professionals from leadership positions, replaced by military appointees with little or no public health care experience.

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