New restrictions will be taking effect in Manitoba on Saturday to curb the spread of COVID-19, a day after federal health officials said the third wave of the pandemic is subsiding across Canada.
A ban on social gatherings that was due to expire Saturday will now continue for another two weeks. Hundreds of Manitoba schools will remain in remote learning until at least June 7.
In addition, a new public health order compels businesses in the province to allow employees to work from home, whenever possible.
A document circulating among public health officials, obtained by CBC News, states that 72 Winnipeg workplaces had suspected COVID-19 clusters from March 1 to May 19.
No fewer than 39 of those clusters came to light during the first three weeks of May alone, according to the document.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said at a briefing on Friday that the increasing number of vaccinations across the country, at more than 22 million, has helped to beat back the third wave of COVID-19.
She noted “strong and steady” declines in disease trends, with average case counts at less than half of what they were at the peak of the third wave in mid-April.
However, Tam said now is not the time to loosen public health measures. She also pointed out that hospitalizations due to the illness are still too high in Manitoba.
Manitoba reported 497 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, 200 more than Thursday’s daily increase. The latest number of confirmed cases pushes the province’s total number of cases since the start of the pandemic past the 50,000 mark.
WATCH | Quebec loosens COVID-19 restrictions, lifts curfew:
Tam was careful in her assessment of Quebec’s decision to lift curfews and reopen outdoor spaces such as restaurant patios Friday, allowing that the moves were “not unreasonable” in light of regional epidemiology.
However, she warned that hasty reopenings could lead to “pockets of resurgences” among under-immunized populations.
“We’ve had a few experiences in the past that has led us to wanting to be more precautionary,” said Tam.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday that the province is shortening the current 16-week interval between vaccine doses.
WATCH | Ontario moves up schedule for 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
Starting Monday, those 80 years and older in Ontario can book their second dose. People 70 and up can book theirs the starting the week of June 14.
For everyone else, eligibility will be based on when they got their first shot. Those bookings could start at the end of June.
“Of course this depends on the vaccine supply and the availability of appointments in your region,” the premier said. “So while not everyone will be able to get their second dose shot four weeks after their first, we want to ensure you’re fully immunized as soon as possible.”
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Provinces shorten timelines for 2nd vaccine dose:
As of 7 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 1,374,275 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 39,903 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,440.
Nova Scotia reported 40 new COVID-19 cases and one related death on Friday, and officials announced the province’s gradual COVID-19 reopening plan is set to begin on June 2.
WATCH | Nova Scotia announces reopening plan that includes some schools:
Prince Edward Island, which reported two new cases on Friday, is proceeding with a five-step plan, which is tentatively set to begin on June 6. As with New Brunswick, the plan requires certain thresholds to be met around vaccination and case rates before proceeding to the next stage.
Newfoundland and Labrador, meanwhile, reported 14 new cases on Friday.
Ontario on Friday reported 1,273 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 1,023, with 645 people in ICU due to COVID-related illness, according to the provincial health ministry.
In Quebec, health officials reported 419 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths on Friday as a range of restrictions — including the provincewide curfew — were being lifted
Saskatchewan reported 122 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and two related deaths.
Alberta reported 512 new COVID-19 cases and seven related deaths. The province, meanwhile, could move to Stage 2 of its reopening plan as early as June 10 after it was announced Friday that more than 60 per cent of eligible Albertans had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The provincial government also announced it is providing up to $45 million to help young students whose learning may have been set back by the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be available for the upcoming fall school year for up to 50,000 students in Grades 1 to 3.
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British Columbia health officials reported 317 new cases of COVID-19 and two related deaths on Friday.
Nunavut reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday, according to Premier Joe Savikataaq.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 169.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a database from Johns Hopkins University in the United States. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.5 million.
Malaysia reported 9,020 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic and the fifth straight day of record new infections.
The country’s health ministry also reported 98 deaths of people who had tested positive for COVID-19, another daily record. The latest figures took the total number of cases in Malaysia to 558,534 and deaths to 2,650.
In China, nearly 603 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in the country’s mainland as of Friday, the National Health Commission said Saturday.
The country’s vaccine production capacity is growing, meeting the domestic demand of over 20 million doses per day, the NHC said.
China aims to vaccinate 70 to 80 percent of its population between the end of this year and the middle of next year, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The health-care system is collapsing in China’s Taiwan amid a spike in COVID-19 infections, a TV anchor in the region said in an interview on Friday.
“The medical situation in Taiwan is more than tense; it is collapsing as I see it,” said Lu Xiufang of Taiwan’s CTi News, during an interview with China Central Television (CCTV).
She also said pointed to a severe lack of COVID-19 vaccines, with fewer than 900,000 doses for a region with a population of 23.5 million people.
Taiwan confirmed 5,989 new cases of COVID-19 from May 15 to 28.
Afghanistan’s health ministry announced the shutdown of all public and private universities and schools in the country’s 16 provinces, including Kabul, for at least two weeks starting Saturday.
The decision follows a surge in COVID-19 cases. On Friday, 977 people tested positive for COVID-19 and 18 died, most of them in Kabul. Only 3,800 were tested.
Over 600,000 people in Afghanistan have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the ministry said, without counting the armed forces. The vaccination drive has been put on hold due to shortages and the remaining stocks are reserved for those who got the first shot.