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

The latest:

Half of all Americans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a White House official said Friday, as the Biden administration continues to urge people to get the shot amid a resurgence in infections across the country.

In a tweet, White House data director Cyrus Shahpar announced that 50 per cent of the total U.S. population — which includes those younger than 12 years old who are currently ineligible for the vaccine — are fully vaccinated.

Shahpar, who noted that the seven-day average of newly vaccinated people is up 11 per cent from last week and 44 per cent over the past two weeks, said, “Keep going!”

In recent days, the more contagious delta variant has sent new U.S. cases surging to 94,000 a day on average, a level not seen since mid-February.

Deaths per day have soared 75 per cent in the past two weeks, climbing from an average of 244 to 426. The overall U.S. death toll stands at more than 615,000.

The vast majority of those now hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated.

At a briefing on Friday, White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki said there have been “early discussions about a range of options” for new vaccine mandates for certain situations, such as domestic travellers and nursing home workers.

She added that the administration has “concern” about anti-mask, anti-vaccine mandate restrictions in some states.

“If you don’t want to abide by public health guidelines, don’t want to use your role as leaders, then you should get out of the way,” Psaki said in reference to some state legislators. 

She applauded United Airlines’ announcement that it will require U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by late October. The airline joins a growing number of corporations responding to a surge in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, the Black Hills of South Dakota were roaring with motorcycles and crowds on Friday as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally started amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in the state.

Motorcycles fill the streets of Sturgis, S.D., on Friday as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began. The annual rally returns just as coronavirus cases in the state are rising. (Stephen Groves/The Associated Press)

Organizers expect at least 700,000 people during the 10-day event. Public health experts — and some locals — worry the rally will again play host to coronavirus infections. Only about 46 per cent of adults who live in the county that hosts Sturgis are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), compared with 60.6 per cent nationwide.

Last year’s rally transformed Sturgis, usually a quiet community of under 7,000 residents, into a travel hub comparable to a major U.S. city. Hundreds of rallygoers were infected, and a team of researchers from the CDC concluded the event ended up looking like a “superspreader event.”

— From CBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8 p.m. ET

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Probe finds nursing home unprepared for COVID-19 outbreak

An independent probe by Saskatchewan’s ombudsman found Extendicare was ‘woefully unprepared’ for a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 39 residents at its Parkside nursing home in Regina. The report states 98 per cent of the nursing home’s residents contracted COVID-19 and workers cared for residents while showing symptoms. 2:04

What’s happening around the world

A man shows his health pass before entering the Colosseum in Rome on Friday, as Italy brings in tougher restrictions where proof of immunity will be required to access an array of services and leisure activities in the capital city. (Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters)

As of Friday evening, more than 201.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to the coronavirus tracker maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.2 million.

In Europe, visitors to Italy’s museums and theatres must either show proof they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine, or prove they’ve recovered from the coronavirus or recently tested negative. A certification rule took effect countrywide on Friday. It also applies to gyms, inside restaurants, indoor swimming pools and crowded outdoor events such as concerts.

In Africa, Senegal’s Institut Pasteur de Dakar has reached a deal with U.S. company MedInstill for the bottling of COVID-19 shots, a European Union document shows, marking a step to becoming a fully fledged maker of coronavirus vaccines for Africa.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China recorded another 80 locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as the country seeks to control its widest flare-up since the original outbreak with a combination of lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions. Of the new cases, 58 were found in the eastern city of Yangzhou in Jiangsu province, where the highly contagious delta variant spread among airport workers in the provincial capital of Nanjing.

The update came as China’s president pledged that two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines would be supplied to the world through this year, increasing China’s commitment as the largest exporter of the shots. The figure likely includes the 770 million doses China has already donated or exported, and it’s not clear if it includes a COVAX agreement for Chinese producers to supply 550 million doses.

People line up for COVID-19 tests at the gym of a company in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province, on Thursday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of millions of Chinese shots, the vast majority of which are from Sinopharm and Sinovac, have already been administered to people in many countries around the world. However, there are concerns about whether they protect adequately against the highly transmissible delta variant.

The Philippines placed its Manila capital region under a two-week lockdown on Friday as the Southeast Asian country’s Health Ministry reported 10,623 new coronavirus cases, the largest single-day jump in infections for almost four months.

A police officer checks documents of motorists at a border checkpoint in Marikina City, suburban Manila, on Friday. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Middle East, Iran on Thursday reported 38,674 new cases, down slightly from Wednesday’s single-day high of 39,357. The country, which is dealing with another rapid uptick in cases, reported 434 additional deaths on Thursday.

In the Americas, Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was hospitalized after a demonstrator threw a rock at his head during an anti-vaccine protest led by nurses and other workers in the eastern Caribbean island, officials said late Thursday.

— From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 8 p.m. ET

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