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

January 12, 2022
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday


The latest:

The number of new coronavirus infections in the last week jumped by about 55 per cent, although the number of deaths remained stable, the World Health Organization said in its latest pandemic report.

In the report covering Jan. 3 to 9, the UN health agency said there were about 15 million new COVID-19 cases last week and more than 43,000 deaths. Every world region reported a rise in COVID-19 cases except for Africa, where officials saw an 11 per cent drop.

According to the WHO weekly situation report, the highest number of reported cases were in:

  • The United States, with more than 4.6 million recorded cases.
  • France, with nearly 1.6 million recorded cases.
  • The United Kingdom, with more than 1.2 million recorded cases.

The update comes a week after the WHO recorded a pandemic high of 9.5 million new infections in a single week.

WHO said the extremely contagious Omicron variant continues to define the pandemic globally and is now crowding out the previously dominant Delta variant. Early studies also show Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous Delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

The Geneva-based health agency said Omicron has now proven to have a shorter doubling time compared to previous variants, with “increasing evidence that this variant is able to evade immunity.” The report also noted there is “growing evidence that the Omicron variant is less severe as compared to other variants.”

After a steep rise in Omicron cases in South Africa after the variant was first detected, the epidemic quickly dropped and experts believe the wave has now passed. WHO said this week that after a continuous rise of COVID-19 across Africa, cases fell this week for the first time.

Scientists in Britain and the U.S. say there are early signs the crush of Omicron may have peaked, but they are still uncertain how the next phase of the pandemic might unfold. WHO noted the Americas reported the highest-ever number of COVID-19 cases this week, with a 78 per cent spike, mainly driven by the U.S. The Americas also reported 14,000 additional deaths, a 25 per cent increase as compared to the previous week.

The updated information comes as many nations — including the hard-hit U.S. and Canada — struggle with limited testing capacity, prompting many to rely on rapid tests outside the lab-based system.

The number of new cases in Europe rose by 31 per cent, with the highest numbers of new cases recorded in France, the U.K. and Italy.

“However, the number of weekly deaths continued to decline with over 20 000 new deaths reported, a 10 per cent decrease as compared to the previous week,” the report said.

The biggest jump in COVID-19 infections was noted in Southeast Asia, where cases increased by more than 400 per cent. The numbers of deaths in the region fell by six per cent.

-From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 9:10 a.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Homeless shelters struggle with extreme cold, Omicron: 

Homeless shelters struggle with extreme cold, Omicron

Homeless shelters across Canada have seen more people seek a place to stay during extreme cold temperatures, but dealing with crowded spaces is even more challenging with the spread of the Omicron variant. 1:40

In Atlantic Canada, health officials in New Brunswick urged people to reduce their contacts and step up their precautions in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. The update came as the province’s chief epidemiologist said if current trends continue, the province could see 5,500 people testing positive each day for COVID-19 by the end of the month and nearly 220 people in hospital.

As of Tuesday, the province was reporting 88 hospitalizations — a pandemic high for the province. Fourteen of those people were being treated in intensive care units. Health officials also reported one additional death and 191 lab-confirmed cases.

Nova Scotia on Tuesday reported one additional death, with 58 hospitalizations — including four people who are in ICU. The province, which recorded 616 lab-confirmed cases, is still in a period of online learning. Premier Tim Houston and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang are expected to hold a briefing at 3 p.m. local time.

In Prince Edward Island, the province’s top doctor said Tuesday there were six people in hospital, with one person in intensive care. The province also recorded 304 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Newfoundland and Labrador health officials said Tuesday that COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at five. The province reported 750 lab-confirmed cases, though officials noted that more than 300 of those tests came from swabs that were sent out of province over the holidays as local labs hit capacity.

In Central Canada, Quebec Premier François Legault introduced his new public health director on Tuesday. The province, which has been facing enormous strain on its health-care system in recent weeks, on Tuesday reported 62 new deaths and 2,742 hospitalizations — with 255 people in intensive care. The province also reported 8,710 new lab-confirmed cases.

In Ontario, the education minister and top doctor are set to hold a news conference today on preparations for schools reopening. 

The province on Tuesday reported a total of 3,220 hospitalizations, with 477 people in ICUs. The province also recorded 21 additional COVID-linked deaths. Like many other jurisdictions, Ontario is limiting access to lab-based PCR tests, but health officials still reported an additional 7,951 cases on Tuesday.

Across the North, students in Nunavut will begin the new year with remote instruction, the education minister said.

“Whether it’s provided through our online platform … or through take-home learning packages, remote instruction beginning on Jan. 17 will be assessed and will count toward the final grades,” Education Minister Pamela Gross said.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba health officials on Tuesday reported that there were 418 people in hospital due to COVID-19, with 42 people in ICUs. The province, which reported  2,012 additional lab-confirmed deaths, did not report any additional COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday.

In Saskatchewan, health officials on Tuesday reported a total of 121 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 11 in intensive care units. The province, which reported no additional COVID-linked deaths, recorded 1,027 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Alberta on Tuesday reported eight additional deaths on Tuesday and said there were 708 people in hospital with COVID-19 —  including 80 people in intensive care. Health officials also reported an additional 4,704 lab-confirmed cases.

The update comes as leaders of Alberta’s largest public and private sector unions are calling for drastic lockdown measures immediately to fight the spiralling COVID-19 Omicron variant.

In British Columbia, the health ministry on Tuesday reported three additional deaths linked to COVID-19. The province also reported 469 hospitalizations, with 97 patients in intensive care units. B.C., which recently saw students return to in-person education, also recorded an additional 2,239 lab-confirmed cases.

From CBC News, last updated at The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:35 a.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

Medical workers put on protective gear at the COVID-19 ward at a Veterans Affairs health system campus and medical centre in West Roxbury, Mass. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Wednesday morning, roughly 313.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.5 million.

In the Americas, the Biden administration is increasing federal support for COVID-19 testing for schools in a bid to keep them open amid the omicron surge. The White House said Wednesday the administration is making a dedicated stream of five million rapid tests and five million lab-based PCR tests available to schools starting this month.

The goal is to ease supply shortages and promote the safe reopening of schools. The White House says states can request the tests immediately and the tests will be available for use by the end of the month. The initiative comes after Chicago public schools closed for days amid an impasse between teachers and officials over reopening policies.

The new crop of tests is enough to cover only a small fraction of the more than 50 million students and educators in the nation’s schools. 

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to release new guidance later this week to help schools implement “test-to-stay” policies, in which schools use rapid tests to keep close contacts of those who test positive in the classroom.

Meanwhile, some members of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s family and cabinet were isolating and taking COVID-19 tests on Tuesday after he announced he was diagnosed with COVID-19 a day earlier for the second time .

In Africa, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi has left isolation just over a week after testing positive for COVID-19 without symptoms, the government said.

South Africa, meanwhile, on Tuesday reported 5,668 additional cases and 119 deaths.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has registered its highest daily number of new infections so far, breaking through 5,000 cases on Wednesday.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the northern Chinese city of Tianjin ordered a second round of COVID-19 testing of all 14 million residents Wednesday following the discovery of 97 cases of the omicron variant during initial screenings that began Sunday.

Residents were asked to remain where they are until the results of all the nucleic acid tests are received, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Xinhua said authorities have carried out almost 12 million tests so far, with 7.8 million samples returned. Infections were first reported on Saturday in the city that is only about an hour from Beijing, which is to host the Winter Olympics from Feb. 4.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, officials are turning to additional pharmaceutical tools, authorizing the use of Novavax’s vaccine and preparing to distribute the first of Pfizer’s antiviral pills.

In Europe, Germany reported 80,430 new infections on Wednesday, the highest recorded in a single day since the pandemic began, while Bulgaria also saw record daily cases.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:35 a.m. ET


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