People arriving in Britain must quarantine in hotels starting Monday as the government tries to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from derailing its fast-moving vaccination drive.
On Sunday the government reached its goal of giving the first of two doses of vaccine to 15 million of the most vulnerable people, including health-care workers and those over the age of 70.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the vaccination drive is now being extended to people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
Health officials are concerned that vaccines may not work as well on some new strains of the virus, including one first identified in South Africa.
People arriving in England from 33 high-risk countries must stay in quarantine hotels for 10 days at their own expense. In Scotland the rule applies to arrivals from any country.
Critics say the move comes too late, with the South African variant already circulating in the country.
PM to set out reopening plan next week
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday spoke about his plan to lift the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We’ve got to be very prudent and what we want to see is progress that is cautious, but irreversible,” Johnson told reporters. “If we possibly can, we’ll be setting out dates.”
He went on: “If because of the rate of infection, we have to push something off a little bit to the right — delay it for a little bit — we won’t hesitate to do that.”
Johnson, who will set out his plan to lift lockdown on Feb. 22, said the rates of infection were still very high and that too many people were still dying.
“The risk is that if you have a large, as it were, volume of circulation, if you’ve got loads of people, even young people getting the disease, then a couple of things happen: First of all, you have a higher risk of variants and mutations within the population, where the disease is circulating,” he said.
“Secondly, there will also be a greater risk of the disease spreading out into the older groups again.”
What’s happening in Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 825,790 cases of COVID-19, with 35,984 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,293.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, all students will make the switch to online learning by Thursday, as the English School District set out a staggered schedule to get children into virtual classrooms until at least Feb. 26.
Alert Level 5 was triggered late Friday with the confirmation that the B117 coronavirus variant, the variant initially detected in the United Kingdom, is now circulating in the province.
The province saw a massive spike in COVID-19 cases last week, with reported daily new cases reaching as high as 100 on Feb. 11. New cases has since declined, with 26 cases and 11 cases reported on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
WATCH | Calls to pause reopening as variants detected across Canada:
In Ontario, widespread testing for all residents at a Mississauga condominium is set to start Monday after five cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa were identified at the location.
The province on Sunday identified the next groups in line to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with adults aged 80 and over among them.
The Ontario government has nearly finished offering a first dose to all residents of long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes in the province, retired general Rick Hillier, chair of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, said in a memo to medical officers of health and hospital CEOs.
Here’s a look at what else is happening across Canada:
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 108.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 61.1 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved in a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.4 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia and New Zealand have received their first vaccine deliveries and will begin rolling out inoculations in the coming week, while Melbourne and Auckland remained locked down following the emergence of new cases.
“The eagle has landed,” Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Monday as the first shipment of 142,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech touched down.
In Africa, Zimbabwe has received its first COVID-19 vaccines with the arrival early Monday of an Air Zimbabwe jet carrying 200,000 Sinopharm doses from China. It is one of China’s first shipments of vaccines to Africa, after deliveries to Egypt and Equatorial Guinea.
The first Sinopharm vaccines are a donation from China to the southern African country. President Emmerson Mnanagagwa’s government has purchased an additional 600,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine that are expected to arrive early next month, according to state media.
The first batch of vaccines for Zimbabwe has been successfully delivered. We start vaccinating Zimbabweans this week!<br><br>The faster our country is protected against this virus, the faster Zimbabwe’s economy can flourish.<br><br>God bless you all, god bless Zimbabwe! 🇿🇼 <a href=”https://t.co/u2noXMWcnR”>pic.twitter.com/u2noXMWcnR</a>
In the Middle East, Israel’s largest health-care provider reported on Sunday a 94 per cent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in the country’s biggest study to date.
Health maintenance organization Clalit, which covers more than half of all Israelis, said the same group was also 92 per cent less likely to develop severe illness from the virus.
“It shows unequivocally that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is extremely effective in the real world a week after the second dose, just as it was found to be in the clinical study,” said Ran Balicer, Clalit’s chief innovation officer.
In the Americas, Brazil has confirmed cases of the variant of the novel coronavirus first discovered in the U.K. in two states and in the federal district of Brasilia, according to a statement from the health ministry on Sunday. The government said it has not yet confirmed cases of the variant first identified in South Africa.
Brazil has the world’s highest number of coronavirus deaths after the United States and more than 9.8 million confirmed cases. The variant of the virus first discovered in Brazil is circulating in 10 states, the health ministry said.
In Europe, a French medical team is due to start work Monday at a hospital in Portugal, which for more than three weeks has been the country in the world with most COVID-19 deaths by size of population.
The French doctor and three nurses arrived amid signs that a month-long lockdown, which is being extended to at least March 1, is paying off. On Sunday, just over 4,800 COVID-19 patients were in hospital, down from a Feb. 1 peak of close to 7,000.