Quebec Premier François Legault is expected to announce updated COVID-19 restrictions later Wednesday that will apply after March 8.
Quebec reported the lowest daily number of new COVID-19 infections since September on Tuesday morning.
Health Minister Christian Dubé, however, told reporters on Tuesday that he is scared about the spread of new coronavirus variants, particularly in the Montreal area, and that it may be the calm before the storm.
Quebec allowed movie theatres, arenas and some indoor swimming pools to reopen last Friday, a move intended to offer activities for families during the province’s spring break week, which began Monday.
An 8 p.m. curfew and a ban on private gatherings remain in effect in southern Quebec — including in Montreal and Quebec City. A 9:30 p.m. curfew applies in the rest of the province, except the northern region of Nunavik.
-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:40 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Some provinces won’t give AstraZeneca to seniors, could change rollout plans:
As of early Wednesday morning, Canada had reported 872,752 cases of COVID-19, with 30,252 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,045.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported five new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including one in a health-care worker. There were four new cases reported Tuesday in both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Health officials in Nova Scotia, meanwhile, reported one new case.
Health officials in Quebec reported 588 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths on Tuesday. Hospitalizations stood at 628, with 121 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
Ontario reported 966 new COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths from the virus on Tuesday. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 677, with 284 people in intensive care.
WATCH | Industrial workplaces remain a concern as COVID-19 variants spread:
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 64 new cases and eight additional deaths. The Manitoba government is loosening some of its COVID-19 restrictions as its case numbers continue to drop. Starting Friday, people will be allowed to have another entire household visit in their home, and outdoor public gatherings can increase to 10 people from five.
In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 134 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths.
Alberta reported 257 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Tuesday. Hospitalizations stood at 261, with 54 people in intensive care units.
British Columbia, meanwhile, reported 438 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as well as two more deaths. The update came as the province’s top doctor said the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence as well as real-world data.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said the data shows protection from a single dose is upwards of 90 per cent and lasts for several months, and delaying second doses will maximize the benefit of vaccines for everyone while reducing mortality and severe illness for those most at risk.
Across the North, Nunavut reported one new case of COVID-19 in Arviat on Tuesday. There were no new cases reported in Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 114.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 64.9 million cases considered recovered, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the first batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Taiwan.
Taiwan has signed contracts securing 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 4.76 million doses of vaccines through COVAX. Wednesday’s delivery had 117,000 doses, which was transported from the airport with a police escort.
Health-care workers, especially those who have direct contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, will be the first to get the shots, Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said at a news briefing. The island has yet to announce a mass vaccination campaign for the general public.
Indonesia has detected two cases of the more infectious COVID-19 variant first discovered in Britain, marking a potential new complication for the country.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden is directing states to prioritize vaccinating all teachers during the month of March, and announced that the federal government will help in the effort through its partnership with retail pharmacies.
Biden said his goal is for every pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educator, school staff member and child-care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of March. To achieve this, Biden announced that qualifying individuals will be able to sign up this month to be vaccinated at a pharmacy near them.
Biden said that while schools are safe to reopen even before staff have been vaccinated, “time and again, we’ve heard from educators and parents that have anxieties about that,” so to “accelerate” the safe reopening teachers should be prioritized.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine had arrived in the South American country, along with protective material for medical personnel.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has ruled that only people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to attend the hajj this year, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported.
In Europe, Spain revised downward its tally of coronavirus cases on Tuesday after eliminating those registered twice in the region of Catalonia.
German leaders are looking for ways to ease the country out of a long-running coronavirus lockdown, which they are expected to extend on Wednesday while also opening the door to relaxing some restrictions.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors, who in highly decentralized Germany have the power to impose and lift restrictions, are expected to extend the shutdown in principle by three weeks until March 28. But they are looking for ways to balance concern over the impact of more contagious coronavirus variants with a growing clamour for a return to a more normal life.
The first measures already have been taken: many elementary students returned to school a week ago. And on Monday, hairdressers opened after a 2½-month break.
Some German states also allowed businesses such as florists and hardware stores to open on Monday. Most stores have been closed nationwide since Dec. 16. Restaurants, bars, and sports and leisure facilities have been closed since Nov. 2 and hotels are allowed only to accommodate business travellers.
When they last conferred on Feb. 10, Merkel and the governors set a target of 35 weekly new cases per 100,000 inhabitants before letting small stores, museums and other businesses reopen. The aim is to enable reliable contact tracing.
But reaching that target soon has appeared increasingly unrealistic as cases of the more contagious variant first detected in Britain increase, with overall infections creeping slightly higher. The cases-per-week number, which peaked at nearly 200 per 100,000 inhabitants just before Christmas, has been stalled above 60 in recent days.
Governors and others have called for Wednesday’s video conference to produce step-by-step opening plans that would allow some, albeit cautious, relaxation of restrictions on a regional basis well above the target of 35 — possibly with the help of rapid tests.
Germany has seen the number of deaths from COVID-19 and people in intensive care decline in recent weeks. But it has been struggling to ramp up its vaccination drive, which has drawn widespread criticism for being too slow, even as the supply of vaccines improves. German lawmakers have ditched plans for hefty fines for people who skip the vaccine queue.
Portugal had its fewest COVID-19 patients in hospital in four months on Tuesday, as its prime minister warned that enforcing lockdown curbs remained essential in a country that topped global death rates a month ago.
In Africa, more countries received the long-awaited first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, with Kenya and Rwanda benefiting from the global COVAX initiative that aims to ensure doses for the world’s low- and middle-income nations.
African and other health officials have been frustrated with the sight of a handful of rich countries rolling out vaccines after snapping up large amounts for themselves.
“We will be known as the continent of COVID,” if Africa doesn’t quickly reach its target of vaccinating 60 per cent of its population of 1.3 billion people, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said last week. The continent last month surpassed 100,000 confirmed deaths.
So far Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Angola and Congo also have received their first vaccine doses via COVAX, with several other countries including Mali, Senegal, Malawi and Uganda set to receive them this week.
Rwanda is becoming the first African nation to receive the Pfizer vaccine via COVAX. The vaccine needs storage at ultra-cold temperatures, making rollout complex in hot countries and rural areas, for example. COVAX has faced delays related to the severely limited global supply of vaccine doses as well as logistical issues.
And COVAX alone will not supply Africa’s 54 countries with the doses needed to reach the 60 per cent population coverage for achieving so-called herd immunity, when enough people are protected through infection or vaccination to make it difficult for a virus to continue to spread.
That’s why some countries such as South Africa, the hardest-hit African nation, are also pursuing COVID-19 vaccines via bilateral deals or via the African Union’s bulk-purchasing program.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:45 a.m. ET