Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

December 10, 2021
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

The latest:

New coronavirus infections in South Korea have exceeded 7,000 for the third consecutive day in a record-breaking surge that has crushed hospitals and threatens the country’s goals to weather the pandemic without lockdowns.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the country could be forced to take extraordinary measures if the virus doesn’t slow soon. Officials issued administrative orders requiring hospitals around the country to designate 2,000 more beds combined for COVID-19 treatment.

Kim said the government will also speed up the administration of booster shots by shortening the interval between the second and third vaccine injections from the current four or five months to three months. The official said measures so far have not slowed down the rise in infections.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Public health agency didn’t track most quarantine hotel stays, auditor general says: 

Public health agency didn’t track most quarantine hotel stays, auditor general says

A new auditor general’s report says the Public Health Agency of Canada failed to keep track of most travellers assigned to quarantine hotels earlier this year. It also found one-third of COVID-19 test results were missing or not matched to a returning traveller. 2:00

What’s happening around the world

A nasal swab is taken to test for COVID-19 at a site near Johannesburg earlier this week. (Denis Farrell/The Associated Press)

As of early Friday morning, more than 268.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking tool. The reported death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.

In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Thursday reported 22,391 new cases of COVID-19 and 22 additional deaths. The country, which raised the alarm about a new variant of the coronavirus that has since been named omicron, has been dealing with an increase of cases.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday again took aim at the travel restrictions countries — including Canada — imposed on southern Africa after the variant was reported, saying on Twitter that “we should be concerned that some decisions are no longer informed by science.”

“This pandemic has shown how we respond to a truly global crisis. It has shown several shortcomings and weaknesses,” Ramaphosa said in Tweet as he attended a meeting focused on accelerating equitable access to vaccines.

South African scientists see no sign that the omicron variant is causing more severe illness as officials announced plans to roll out vaccine boosters with daily infections approaching an all-time high.

Meanwhile, officials in Ghana announced returning citizens and residents will be vaccinated against COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport from next Monday if they have not already received shots, its health service said, amid concerns over low take-up of vaccinations.

In the Americas, dozens of U.S. Navy medics have deployed to New Mexico to treat a delta variant-fuelled surge in patients as part of a military operation to treat virus hotspots across Western and Midwest states.

In Europe, tighter restrictions to curb the coronavirus came into force in Britain on Friday, as the government faced new allegations that officials flouted rules they had imposed on the nation with lockdown-breaking parties last Christmas.

Face masks are once again compulsory in indoor public spaces in England under the measures British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week to slow the spread of the new omicron virus variant. Vaccination passes will be needed for nightclubs and large events starting next week, and residents will be told to work from home, if possible.

The emergence of omicron, which is spreading quickly in Britain, has shaken the government’s hopes that vaccinations would be enough to keep the virus in check. British scientists and officials say omicron spreads more quickly than the currently dominant delta variant and likely is more resistant to current vaccines. It is not yet clear whether it causes more severe, or milder, cases of COVID-19.

Along with the new restrictions, the British government is offering everyone 18 and up a third, booster dose of vaccine to try to slow the spread of the virus. The return of restrictions is unwelcome for many, and revelations of apparent rule-breaking by government officials during tough lockdowns last winter have heightened opposition to the new measures.

In the Middle East, health officials in Jordan on Thursday reported detecting two cases of the omicron coronavirus variant.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore has detected its first locally transmitted case of the omicron variant in a member of staff at the city state’s airport, authorities said, warning that more omicron cases are likely to be detected.

-From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 6:40 a.m. ET

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