Alberta is expected to outline its reopening plan later Wednesday, a day after officials in British Columbia presented a four-step plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions as vaccination rates increase and case counts and hospitalizations decline.
The province reported nine additional deaths on Tuesday and 387 new cases of COVID-19 — the lowest one-day case count reported in Alberta since mid-March. Hospitalizations stood at 565, with 158 people in intensive care, the province reported.
“With cases declining and more vaccines being administered every day, we are rapidly approaching a point when we can safely begin to ease measures,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday. “It’s close and getting closer every day.”
British Columbia’s restart plan, which was unveiled on Tuesday, moves through several phases with a goal of returning to “normal social contact” in early September.
“The way we do that is we make sure our vaccination rates continue to go up,” Premier John Horgan said at a briefing about the plan, noting that “going forward and slamming back again is not what we want to do.”
Health officials in British Columbia reported one new death on Tuesday and 289 new cases of COVID-19.
In Step 1, British Columbians are seeing a range of changes, including expanded gathering sizes and “low intensity” indoor fitness. (You can see all the changes and estimated timelines for restriction changes in B.C. here.)
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province will be monitoring case counts, clusters and outbreaks.
“It is a plan to go forward,” Henry said of the phased approach, noting that the province may need to slow down at some points if there are challenges or “concerning” signs. But she said she remained confident that the province could push ahead.
“I don’t see a situation where we’re going backwards unless things change very dramatically,” she said.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:10 a.m.ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of early Wednesday morning, Canada had reported 1,365,516 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 47,866 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,324. More than 21.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In Quebec, Premier François Legault said Tuesday that he anticipates the 10 remaining regions still in a code-red health order will be moved to orange by June 7. The update from Legault came as the province reported six additional deaths and 346 new cases — the lowest single-day total the province has seen since September.
Ontario reported 1,039 cases Tuesday, its lowest daily report since early March. The province loosened some restrictions over the weekend, opening outdoor sports facilities like golf, tennis and skate parks, and allowing people to gather with up to five people outdoors.
In the Prairie provinces on Tuesday, Manitoba saw two additional deaths and 259 new cases of COVID-19. The province, which is experiencing massive strain on its health-care system, has already transferred patients to Ontario for ICU care and is now making plans to send more to Saskatchewan if needed.
In Saskatchewan, meanwhile, health officials reported no new deaths and 111 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Across the North, there was one new case of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut on Tuesday, with no new cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories. Many COVID-19 restrictions in Yukon were lifted Tuesday as vaccination rates for the first shot surpassed 75 per cent of eligible residents, and almost as many have had their second dose of a vaccine.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 167.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a compilation of cases from Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.4 million.
In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates said vaccinations against COVID-19 will be mandatory for people attending all “live events” from June 6.
In the Americas, port workers in Argentina said they would hold a 48-hour strike over demands of getting vaccinated.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan is offering vaccines to its entire adult population in hopes of boosting COVID-19 vaccination rates, with only five per cent of the population inoculated so far. Pakistan has reported a steady decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19 in recent days, but the vaccination response has been sluggish. The only shots given are three Chinese-made vaccines.
South Korean officials say they plan to allow people to drop their masks from July if they have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, as they mull incentives to promote inoculation.
In Africa, South African athletes due to participate in this year’s Tokyo Olympics will receive shots during a vaccination rollout that has so far prioritized the elderly and front-line workers
In Europe, the number of new cases, patients and deaths in France continued on a downward trend as the gradual further unwinding of France’s third nationwide lockdown showed no signs of leading to a resurgence of the pandemic.
-From Reuters and the Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET