The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada

·7 min read

The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

6:30 p.m.

Health officials in B.C. are reporting 622 new cases of COVID-19, pushing the total over 90,000 since the pandemic began, while eight more people have died due to the illness.

A joint statement from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix says B.C. has confirmed 136 new variant cases for a total of 1,132, of which 143 remain active.

The latest numbers come after the province announced that more than 300,000 front-line workers, including grocery staff, police, firefighters, teachers and others, will be eligible to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming weeks.

Henry and Dix add that under the current trajectory for B.C.’s age-based immunization plan, everyone who is eligible for vaccination will have access to a shot before July 1.

More than 21,000 doses of three approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C. in the last day for a total of 465,584.

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3:40 p.m.

Saskatchewan has expanded its age limit for who can get vaccinated against COVID-19 at its drive-thru clinic in Regina.

The Ministry of Health says those who are 68 and 69 can now get a shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a national committee recommended it can be used on people 65 and older.

People aged 60 to 64 are currently eligible for a shot at the drive-thru clinic.

Establishing the clinic was part of the province's strategy to deal with a rise in variant cases in Regina.

Health officials say there are 433 presumed cases from more infectious COVID-19 strains provincewide.

It reports 368 of these cases coming from in and around the capital.

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1:40 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 91 new COVID-19 cases and one death.

However, two cases from unspecified dates have been removed due to data correction for a net increase of 89.

Health officials have also confirmed 12 cases that involve variants of concern first detected overseas.

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1:35 p.m.

Saskatchewan has announced people will get paid time off from work to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

The province says it has amended its occupational health and safety regulations to allow an employee to get a special leave from their job to get inoculated.

The change takes effect immediately, and means an employee is entitled to take three consecutive hours off to receive a shot without losing any pay or benefits.

Starting at noon, the province opened its vaccination bookings to people aged 67 and older, down from the cutoff age of 70.

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1 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19.

Officials say the case involves a man between 20 and 39 years old and his infection is related to international travel.

Public health says there are now 34 active cases in the province.

Many children in the Avalon region, where an outbreak swept through the capital last month, went back to school today after lockdown measures eased up last weekend.

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12:45 p.m.

The European Medicines Agency says the benefits of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine still outweigh any risks, even though it hasn't been able to fully rule out a link between the vaccine and a small number of patients who developed two specific types of rare blood clots after getting it.

EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke says the risk committee of the EMA has reached a clear and scientific conclusion that this is a safe and effective vaccine.

She says the shot is not associated with an increase in the "overall risk" of blood clots.

But she says the agency is amending the warning label on the product because there is not yet conclusive evidence of what role the vaccine may have played either in blood clots that developed in the brains of 18 people or tiny clots that developed in veins of seven others.

Cooke says those cases were out of more than 20 million people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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12:30 p.m.

The Manitoba government may allow concert halls and theatres to reopen and ease self-isolation rules for some travellers.

The government is launching public consultations on what future public health orders might look like, as case numbers remain low and more people are vaccinated.

Among the options is allowing big indoor venues, such as concert halls, theatres and casinos, to reopen with capacity limits.

The province may no longer require domestic travellers to self-isolate for 14 days if they do not have symptoms and are travelling for business.

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12:25 p.m.

The Atlantic travel bubble is reopening by April 19 if COVID-19 infections in the region remain low.

The premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador made the announcement today following a joint meeting Wednesday evening.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s participation will depend on continued progress in easing its restrictions following an outbreak last month in the St. John's region.

The Atlantic travel bubble allows residents of the region to travel between the four provinces without having to isolate for 14 days.

The bubble opened last summer but was closed in November following an increase of COVID-19 cases in the region.

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11:25 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 702 new COVID-19 infections and seven more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, none of which occurred in the past 24 hours.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 13 to 519, and 101 people were in intensive care, a decline of six.

The province says it administered 26,225 vaccine doses Wednesday, for a total of 832,469.

Officials say that figure represents about 9.8 per cent of the population.

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11:20 a.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting its first COVID-19-related death since last August.

Health officials said today the death involved a woman over the age of 80 in the health region that includes Halifax.

Nova Scotia has reported 66 deaths linked to the virus since the onset of the pandemic.

The province is also reporting three new COVID-19 infections today.

Two involve close contacts of previously reported infections, while the other is travel-related.

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11:10 a.m.

Ontario says there are 1,553 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today along with 15 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 404 of those new cases are in Toronto, 294 are in Peel Region and 176 are in York Region.

More than 58,000 vaccine doses were administered in Ontario since the last daily update.

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9:30 a.m.

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.

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9:12 a.m.

Canada's deputy chief public health officer says almost seven per cent of Canadians have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.6 per cent have received two doses.

Dr. Howard Njoo says 42 per cent of Canadians over the age of 80, and 12 per cent of those between 70 and 79, are now vaccinated.

He calls it "encouraging news."

In all, Canada has received 4.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and about 73 per cent have been administered.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press