As Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout continues to pick up speed, the country’s chief public health officer is reiterating the importance of receiving a full two-dose series, especially with the latest variant of concern now detected in several provinces.
Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that the recently dubbed delta variant, which was first detected in India and also known as B.1.617, has been found “essentially across Canada.”
The variant, believed to be behind recent spikes in COVID-19 cases in parts of the United Kingdom, has shown itself to be more transmissible than previous versions of the novel coronavirus, Tam said.
Preliminary data released last week from Public Health England suggested that COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford were effective against the delta variant after two doses, but less efficacy was shown with only one dose.
Sixty-five per cent of eligible Canadians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday, but vaccine trackers show roughly seven per cent of the eligible population were fully vaccinated.
Tam said the heightened transmissibility of the delta variant was “obviously a characteristic of concern.”
“[It] means in under-vaccinated populations, or if we let go [of] public health measures … in the context of a transmissible variant, that variant could well take off and replace other viruses in the communities,” she said.
“So it is very important to get that second dose when variants such as the delta variant is in our community.”
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Several provinces are speeding up their second-dose rollouts as more vaccine supply pours into the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that large shipments of vaccines will continue through the summer, with more than two million Pfizer doses expected each week until the end of August.
Trudeau said nine million Pfizer doses will arrive in July, with another 9.1 million expected in August. He added that Canada has also negotiated an option for three million more Pfizer doses to be delivered in September.
Trudeau said he’s been encouraged by the country’s vaccine rollout, adding that Canadians have “reason to be hopeful about this summer and fall.”
“The more people vaccinated, the safer we all are … so let’s start looking forward to more of what we love, from camping to dinner with friends,” he said.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 10 a.m. ET Saturday, Canada had reported 1,390,252 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 26,053 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,703.
About 65 per cent of all Canadians have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Over the past three months, the number of doses administered across the country has gone from about a million to more than 25 million. About 29 million doses of vaccines have been delivered to Canada, most of them the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.
Trudeau said Canada’s current order of 48 million Pfizer doses will be fully delivered by August.
British Columbia reported 183 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Friday. It was the fourth day in a row that the province had a new daily case count below 200.
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Alberta reported 244 new cases and seven additional deaths, while in neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 89 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.
Manitoba reported 329 new cases and four additional deaths. Dozens of COVID-19 patients remained in intensive care units in other provinces in a bid to free up beds.
In Ontario, the province reported 744 new cases of COVID-19 and 24 additional deaths on Saturday. The number of people in hospital due to the illness stood at 625, with 516 people in ICU due to COVID-19.
Quebec on Friday reported 279 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths, according to a provincial dashboard.
Across the North, Nunavut on Friday reported one new case of COVID-19, according to Premier Joe Savikataaq, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 10.
Both the Northwest Territories and Yukon did not report any new cases on Friday.
In Atlantic Canada on Friday, Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new COVID-19 cases, Nova Scotia reported 15 new cases and New Brunswick reported 10.
Prince Edward Island reported two new cases on Thursday.
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What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 172.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been recorded around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.7 million.
Japan has sent 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan, more than doubling the amount of shots that have been available to the island.
The vaccines landed at Taipei’s main international airport on Friday afternoon, as 472 new infections were reported in Taiwan.
Australia’s second-most populous state Victoria on Saturday reported a small increase in locally acquired COVID-19 cases.
Five new cases were reported, taking Victoria’s total to 70 in the latest outbreak.
The state capital Melbourne has entered its second weekend of a hard lockdown, due to end on June 10. Restrictions were eased for the rest of the state on Friday.
In the United States, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Friday that the state will drop its quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers once 70 per cent of the state’s population has been vaccinated against the disease.
Hawaii will also lift its requirement that people wear masks indoors once that level has been reached, he said.
The state Department of Health’s website said 59 per cent of Hawaii’s population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 52 per cent finished their dosing regimen.
Currently, travellers arriving from out of state must spend 10 days in quarantine or, to bypass that quarantine, they must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken before departure for the islands.