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

The latest:

  • Calgary doctor worried lack of shelter space could hamper pandemic efforts over winter.
  • Quebec to ban karaoke after event linked to 80 cases of COVID-19.
  • UN warns worst impacts from pandemic on poverty yet to come.
  • India edges closer to recording nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours.
  • Reproduction number of infections in U.K. has risen above 1. 

A doctor who has been working with some of Calgary’s most vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic is worried homeless shelters won’t have enough space to keep everyone safe once the cold weather hits.

“Currently — at least in Calgary, and I expect it’s reflected in other parts of the province — there just simply isn’t enough space for people to be much more than, in the peak of winter, inches apart,” said Dr. Richard Musto, a retired public health officer who is volunteering during the pandemic.

Beds, cots and mats are to be spaced two metres apart if there is enough room, says the Alberta government’s guidelines for shelters. But, acknowledging space limitations, the document says it’s acceptable for people to sleep one-metre apart head-to-foot when there isn’t an outbreak.

Musto said the rules mean staff may have to scramble to move people if cases arise.

WATCH | Bonnie Henry says ‘the optimist’ in her sees COVID-19 vaccine by next summer:

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie says she’s monitoring the development of at least eight possible vaccines for COVID-19. The “optimist” in her hopes at least one of them will be available, at least to some of the population, by summer 2021. 0:54

“That’s very, very difficult to do and can’t happen instantaneously,” he said.

“Better to anticipate that there’s going to be more outbreaks and make sure we’ve got the spacing for that now.”

Eight COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed at the Calgary Drop-In Centre, one of the largest homeless shelters in North America, as of Wednesday night. Three have recovered, Alberta Health said.

Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said last week that the head-to-foot configuration with one-metre spacing means peoples’ faces are far enough apart while they sleep.

She said it appears the shelter outbreaks originated from outside, such as people sharing cigarettes or drinks during the day.

“If there turns out to be transmission patterns that indicate that one metre of distance between sleeping mats is not sufficient, we will absolutely look at that evidence and adjust guidance if needed,” Hinshaw said.

WATCH | Is the future of COVID-19 testing at home?

Instead of waiting in a long line for a COVID-19 test that involves getting a swab stuck up the nose and sometimes waiting days for results, scientists are developing saliva-based tests and produce results in minutes. Is the future of testing more comfortable and done at home? 5:58

The Alberta government committed $48 million last month to support shelters and community organizations through winter, but it has not yet detailed how the money is being split or how much shelter space it may free up.

Ryan Hastman, a senior adviser to Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney, said there’s currently enough capacity.

“As we head into the colder months and continue to support those experiencing homelessness, we will work with our community partners to ensure access to supports during the day and night for those who need it most.”

In August, Sawhney said her ministry was working with municipalities to explore potential overflow spaces.


Here’s what’s happening around the rest of Canada

As of 5 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 134,924 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 118,990 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,205.

Quebec will soon ban karaoke across the province after one karaoke event in a Quebec City bar was linked to more than 80 cases of COVID-19.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepared for the likelihood that there will be COVID-19 cases at schools and will alert the public when there’s an outbreak. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Radio-Canada has confirmed that the Quebec government is preparing to announce the banning of karaoke in the province’s bars.

Jean-Jacques Beauchamp, CEO of the Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec, told CBC News in an interview the association is extremely disappointed.

“Why only us? What’s the problem with karaoke?” Beauchamp said.

Universities across Saskatchewan began largely remote fall semesters this week. Now, students at the University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Polytechnic have learned they will not be returning to campus in the new year. 

Universities have announced their intention to continue delivering most classes online through winter 2021 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. A small number of labs, studios and seminars will continue to be taught in person. 

University of Regina interim president and vice-chancellor Thomas Chase said this plan, while disappointing to many members of the university community, was necessary for public health.

Health officials in British Columbia say they’re prepared for the likelihood that there will be COVID-19 cases at schools and will alert the public when there’s an outbreak.

WATCH | Back-to-school questions and answers on Instagram Live:

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said if there are exposures at school, learning groups or individual schools could be closed.

However, Henry said she does not foresee a scenario where the entire public school system shuts down again as it did at the outset of the pandemic.

Schools across British Columbia reopened yesterday, as the province set a new daily record of COVID-19 cases with 139.


Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 27.9 million. More than 906,000 people have died, while over 18.8 million have recovered.

The United Nations independent expert on poverty is warning that the worst impacts from the coronavirus pandemic on poverty are yet to come, and that measures taken by governments to protect people so far have been insufficient.

“Current measures are generally short-term, the funding is insufficient and many people will inevitably fall between the cracks,” said Olivier De Schutter, a Belgian legal scholar appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

WATCH | Russia begins mass testing of expedited COVID-19 vaccine:

Russia has started inoculating 40,000 volunteers with its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine as part of its accelerated trials. The scientific community has concerns about the vaccine, but the Kremlin says the vaccine is safe, citing results published in a respected medical journal that said the treatment had a strong safety profile. 2:04

De Schutter said the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic is unprecedented in times of peace since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

India edged closer to recording nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours as it ordered retesting of many people whose first results were from the less reliable rapid antigen tests being widely used.

There were a total of 96,551 confirmed cases, taking the tally to over 4.56 million. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported another 1,209 deaths for a total of 76,271.

Myanmar on Friday reimposed tough measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, banning travel out of the country’s biggest city, Yangon, and grounding all domestic flights. Both measures, announced just hours before taking effect, will be in place until Oct. 1.

People wearing face masks cross a road in Seoul. South Korea largely overcame an early COVID-19 outbreak with extensive tracing and testing, but is now battling several outbreaks. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

An upsurge in coronavirus cases that began in August in the western state of Rakhine has since spread to other parts of the country. Health authorities had already ordered partial lockdowns in 29 of Yangon’s 44 townships, and roadblocks were set up Friday closing some smaller streets in the city.

South Korea posted a slight rise in daily coronavirus cases on Friday, as infections eased from a church and political rally that sparked a second wave of outbreaks, and new cases emerged in religious and sporting groups and a university hospital.

The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 176 new cases as of midnight Thursday, which brought the total infections to 21,919, with 350 deaths.

The fresh wave of infections is being blamed on a church whose members attended a large protest in downtown Seoul last month, which drove the number of daily cases to its peak in months of 441 in mid-August.

WATCH | Be concerned about outbreaks in schools, not individual cases, says expert:

Infectious diseases researcher Craig Jenne says he expects to see cases of COVID-19 appear in schools, but the real concern is cases becoming outbreaks. 1:06

Thai health authorities on Friday confirmed another coronavirus infection had been detected in the country, in an Uzbek professional soccer player, eight days after the virus resurfaced following a more than three-month absence.

The man was positive after a mandatory pre-match test on Tuesday, despite having completed quarantine on Aug. 27 after three prior negative tests, health officials told a news conference. The man, 29, arrived in Thailand on Aug. 13.

Yong Poovorawan, a virology expert from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said the virus incubation period in the man would have been longer than 14 days and it was unlikely to have been domestically transmitted.

The reproduction (R) number of COVID-19 infections in the United Kingdom has risen above 1, the Government Office for Science said on Friday, indicating a risk that the overall epidemic is growing.

A woman reads a newspaper as she stands aboard a London Underground Tube train. The U.K. The reproduction number of COVID-19 infections in the United Kingdom has risen and may be above 1. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.K. R number, which represents the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to, is believed to be between 1.0 and 1.2, the government said, up from 0.9 to 1.1 last week.

An R number above 1 can lead very rapidly to exponential growth, although the figures are driven by local outbreaks, and scientists have said that the estimates are less reliable when overall incidence of the virus is low.

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