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

December 12, 2021
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday

The latest:

Austria ended lockdown restrictions for vaccinated people across most of the country on Sunday, three weeks after reimposing strict rules to combat a rising wave of coronavirus infections.

The rules, which vary by region within the country, largely allow for the reopening of theatres, museums and other cultural and entertainment venues on Sunday. Shops will follow on Monday.

Some regions are reopening restaurants and hotels on Sunday, while others will wait until later in the month. In all cases, there will be an 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants, and masks will still be required on public transit and inside stores and public spaces.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer last week called the move an “opening with a seatbelt,” giving each of Austria’s nine regions the ability to loosen or tighten restrictions based on the local situation.

Unvaccinated people will still be subject to the lockdown restrictions and should remain at home for all but a handful of specific reasons, such as buying groceries, going to the doctor or exercising.

A protester wears a hat spiked with syringes reading ‘Peace — Freedom — Self-Rule’ during a demonstration against the Austrian government’s COVID-19 measures in Graz on Sunday. (Erwin Scheriau/APA/AFP/Getty Images)

Since the start of the lockdown, new case numbers have plummeted in the small Alpine country. On Friday, Austria reported 367.5 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, down from 1,102.4 on the first day of the lockdown in November.

However, hospitalizations from the virus have not dropped as sharply as new case numbers. There are currently 567 coronavirus patients in intensive-care units across the country, only slightly down from 572 on the first day of the lockdown last month.

Austrian officials have stressed that high rates of vaccination are necessary to control the virus. Just 67.7 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, a relatively low rate for western Europe, and the government has introduced measures to put increasing pressure on unvaccinated individuals to get the vaccine.

Among those measures are a countrywide vaccine mandate, which will go into effect in February for all residents aged 14 and over. Those who do not comply will face fines of up to 3,600 euros (about $5,200 Cdn).

Tens of thousands of people have protested across the country in recent weeks, both against the lockdown restrictions and the coming vaccine mandate. Police said a Saturday demonstration in the capital city, Vienna, drew 44,000 people.

— The Associated Press, last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Modelling suggests omicron poses threat, but worst could be avoided:

COVID-19 modelling suggests omicron poses threat, but worst could be avoided

New modelling data presented by federal officials is projecting a rise in COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant. But there’s optimism hospitalizations and ICU admissions won’t surge if more kids get vaccinated and booster shots are rolled out for more age groups. 3:34

What’s happening around the world

A Palestinian medical worker vaccinates a man against COVID-19 in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

As of Sunday morning, more than 269.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking tool. The reported death toll has surpassed 5.3 million.

More than half a billion people globally were pushed into extreme poverty last year as they paid for health costs out of their own pockets during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization and the World Bank said on Sunday.

The pandemic disrupted health services globally and triggered the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, making it even more difficult for people to pay for health care, according to a joint statement from both organizations.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia said on Sunday it will shorten the wait time for people to receive a COVID-19 booster to five months, following a rise in cases of the omicron variant. Australia had previously said it would offer the booster to everyone over 18 who had had their second dose of the vaccine six months earlier.

A flight crew member and a traveller arrive at the international terminal at Sydney Airport last month. Australia is shortening the wait time for people to receive a COVID-19 booster. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

In the Americas, the United States on Sunday was approaching 800,000 coronavirus-related deaths. The country has lost more lives to the virus this year than in 2020, even as vaccines became widely and freely available, due to the more contagious delta variant and people refusing to get inoculated against COVID-19.

Roughly 60 per cent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, CDC data showed. The deaths this year were mostly in unvaccinated patients, health experts say.

In Europe, the number of registered COVID-19 cases in Russia now exceeds 10 million, data from the government’s coronavirus task showed on Sunday. However, the latest wave of the pandemic has lost its momentum, and the number of new cases and deaths is declining.

Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Gamaleya Research Institute that produced the Sputnik V vaccine, said 10 days would be enough to test the efficiency of Russia’s most popular vaccine against the omicron variant, RIA news agency reported on Sunday.

In the Middle East, Israeli researchers said on Saturday they found that a three-shot course of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine provided significant protection against the new omicron variant.

The findings were similar to those presented by BioNTech and Pfizer earlier in the week, which were an early signal that booster shots could be key to protect against infection from the newly identified variant.

In Africa, South Africa on Saturday reported 17,154 new COVID-19 cases and a further 36 deaths.

— From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET

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