The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021

·7 min read

The latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada (all times eastern):

6:25 p.m.

Alberta is reporting 399 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths due to the illness.

It says there are 280 people in hospital with the virus, with 56 of them in intensive care.

Another 32 variant cases have also been detected, bringing that total so far in Alberta to 355.

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6 p.m.

Prince Edward Island’s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, has confirmed a cluster of three new COVID-19 cases.

The cases, involving three men in their 20s, are under investigation and contact tracing is underway.

Health officials are urging anyone in the Summerside area with any COVID-19 symptoms to get tested Friday and self-isolate until they receive results.

The province has six active cases of COVID-19 and has had a total of 120 cases since the onset of the pandemic.

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5:25 p.m.

The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as early as March 5.

The proposed changes include raising capacity limits at stores and restaurants to 50 per cent from the current 25 per cent.

Outdoor public gatherings would be capped at 10 people instead of the current five, and people could invite an entire other household into their home.

The province says there will be public feedback before things are finalized next week.

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4:15 p.m.

B.C. is reporting 395 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths today, pushing the death toll in the province to 1,348.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news briefing there are 4,489 active cases, including nine cases of virus variants of concern.

She says B.C. is ramping up its screening for the variants, aiming to test 100 per cent of COVID-positive samples by next week to determine whether it’s likely they are variant cases and should be sent for further study.

Henry is also warning that weekly average case counts and test positivity rates have ticked up in recent weeks, particularly in the Lower Mainland.

Close to 240,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. so far, including more than 68,000 people who received their second shot.

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3:45 p.m.

Starting March 1, Nunavut is loosening some restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Nunavut's Qikiqtani and Kitikmeot regions, all schools can reopen for full-time learning.

Some schools have been operating on a part-time basis since November.

Also as of March 1, theatres, bars, restaurants, conference spaces and places of worship can operate at 75 per cent capacity, up from 50 per cent.

Gyms, libraries, museums and galleries can operate at 50 per cent capacity.

Schools in Arviat, the only community in Nunavut with active cases, remain closed.

There are 25 active cases of cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, all in Arviat.

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3:25 p.m.

Experts advising the Ontario government say a risky period of the pandemic lies ahead as more contagious variants of COVID-19 are expected to make up 40 per cent of cases by the second week of March.

The province's science advisory group says the government needs to be very careful with loosening public health measures.

The group says declines in cases and hospitalizations that followed strict lockdown measures have begun to slow.

Projections show hospitalizations will likely rise as variants spread, and intensive care capacity will be strained over the next month.

The group says vaccinating high-risk communities and older people will drive down hospitalizations and deaths.

It also says the province will need to react quickly with strong public health measures when flare-ups happen.

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2:40 p.m.

Saskatchewan is reporting 211 new cases of COVID-19.

Health officials say there are 156 people in hospital, with 18 people in intensive care.

Another resident who was 80 and older also died.

The province says it's given around 65,000 vaccinations to date.

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1:40 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say the case is in the Edmundston region and involves a person in their 30s who is a close contact of a previously reported case.

Officials say the number of active reported cases in the province is 49 and two patients are hospitalized with the disease, including one in intensive care.

New Brunswick has reported a total of 1,427 COVID-19 infections and 26 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

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1:40 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 67 additional COVID-19 cases and one death.

The province's numbers have been trending lower in recent days, although there are still high numbers, per capita, in some northern communities.

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1:40 p.m.

Pfizer-BioNTech says it has officially requested that Health Canada change the label on the COVID-19 vaccine to reflect that it is now safe to store it for up to two weeks in regular freezers.

The vaccine has until now been shipped and stored in ultra-low-temperature freezers until just before it is injected.

Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow said the English paperwork was submitted Thursday and the French paperwork required to complete the application will follow soon.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration agreed to make the change this week.

Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander in charge of the federal vaccine distribution program, said if Health Canada follows suit it will give the provinces more flexibility in where they can use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It has been limited to a smaller number of sites because there are only so many freezers capable of keeping it at the right temperature.

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1:15 p.m.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander in charge of the federal vaccine distribution program, says he understands that provinces may not have a lot of confidence in the vaccine deliveries after the disappointing shipments in February.

But he says he has much more confidence in the situation now that Moderna has confirmed deliveries until the end of March and Pfizer-BioNTech into the middle of April.

Fortin says provincial, territorial and federal governments are planning a virtual exercise March 9 to go over what is in place for provinces and territories to handle the increased deliveries that are starting to come now and will get even bigger in April.

Pfizer has confirmed it will send more than 3.7 million doses between March 1 and April 15, and Moderna confirmed 1.3 million doses will be shipped in March.

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12:45 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador health officials are reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19.

Authorities say all of the new infections are in the eastern region of the province, where officials have been battling an outbreak in the metro area of St. John’s.

The regional health authority says the outbreak affected students and staff in 22 different schools in the St. John’s area.

Eastern Health says that number includes 145 infections among staff and students of a high school in Mount Pearl, where officials say the outbreak began.

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12:15 p.m.

Nunavut is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

All the new cases are in Arviat, the only community in the territory with active COVID-19 cases.

Because of the rise in cases, Arviat's hamlet council has imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day.

There are 25 active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

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11:15 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 858 new COVID-19 infections and 16 more deaths due to the novel coronavirus.

Health authorities say the number of patients requiring hospitalization has declined by 22 to 633, with eight fewer patients in intensive care.

The latest numbers come as the province began accepting appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations for those 85 and older.

Officials also say primary school students in Quebec's red pandemic-alert zones -- which includes the greater Montreal area -- will be required to wear a mask at all times beginning March 8.

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10:40 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 1,138 new cases of COVID-19.

The province is also reporting 1,094 cases have been resolved since yesterday's update and there have been 23 more deaths linked to the virus.

Ontario is set to release new COVID-19 projections this afternoon.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario's science advisory group, is presenting the data.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.

The Canadian Press