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

The latest:

  • More Canadian politicians admit to foreign travel.
  • U.K. epidemiologist warns new variant could replace previous strain if left unchecked.
  • Death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. has surpassed 350,000.
  • Have a question about COVID-19? Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca.

More Canadian politicians travelling over the holidays have come under scrutiny for ignoring public health guidelines against COVID-19 that discourage non-essential travel, and one Toronto-based epidemiologist says they should be held to a higher standard.

Dr. Maria Sundaram, with the health-care research agency ICES, said while she normally doesn’t endorse shaming people as a public health strategy, she believes politicians must be held to a higher standard, because their actions set an example for the public they serve.

“There are some leaders out there who are really practicing what they preach and that is really reassuring and really motivating,” Sundaram told The Canadian Press.

“Unfortunately, there are others who haven’t quite adhered to the policies that they’ve espoused for others and that really damages trust and it really damages our ability to keep going.”

Among the politicians under fire are several federal MPs. Conservative Ron Liepert of Calgary-Signal Hill travelled to Palm Desert, Calif., on two occasions since March to address what his office called “essential house maintenance issues”, while the NDP’s Niki Ashton was stripped of her critic roles on Friday after sharing that she travelled to Greece to visit her sick grandmother after spending Christmas alone with her family in Manitoba.  

In Quebec, Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand said he now regrets his decision to visit Barbados with his wife for the holidays, while Rod Phillips resigned from his role as Ontario’s finance minister after it was revealed he took a personal vacation to the Caribbean Island of St. Barts. 

In Alberta, several MLAs left the country for vacations, prompting Premier Jason Kenney to order MLAs not to leave the country unless it was for government business.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 1:45 p.m. ET Sunday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 601,414, with 80,785 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 15,860.  

In Alberta, the province’s chief medical officer of health reported an estimated 400 new cases of COVID-19. Dr. Deena Hinshaw added Alberta’s hospitalization and ICU totals remained stable, and the province’s death toll stayed at 1,046.

In Saskatchewan, an outbreak at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary has sparked concerns from advocates and family members of inmates of declining mental health and a lack of support. So far, there are 109 active cases at the facility.

Ontario reported 2,964 new cases and 25 additional deaths on Sunday. Meanwhile, Education Minister Stephen Lecce reminded parents and guardians in a letter on Sunday that students in public elementary schools in Ontario will learn remotely for the first week of January, but will return to in-person learning on Jan. 11.

WATCH | ICUs approach capacity in Quebec, Ontario:

As Ontario posts record ICU and hospitalization numbers for COVID-19 patients, Quebec warns it could run out of designated COVID-19 beds within three weeks. 2:00

Quebec issued its first COVID-19 update of the new year on Sunday. It shows a total of 7,663 people have tested positive since Dec. 31 and 121 have died.

New Brunswick announced seven new cases on Sunday.

Newfoundland and Labrador‘s active caseload has dropped to single digits after reporting no new cases and two recoveries. The province, which hasn’t recorded a new infection in five days, now has nine active cases.

Prince Edward Island also did not report any new cases on Sunday. 

Here’s a look at what’s happening with COVID-19 across the country:


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 84.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 47.6 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.

Britain will have 530,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine ready to administer on Monday and hopes to provide “tens of millions” of vaccinations over the next three months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC on Sunday.

The U.K. on Saturday hit a daily record for new coronavirus infections — 57,725 — and looked set to soon overtake Italy once again to become the worst-hit country in Europe with nearly 75,000 COVID-19 deaths. The fear is that with rising infections, the number of deaths will also grow over the coming weeks.

WATCH | Virus variant 1st reported in U.K. spreads quicker than original strain:

A new study from Imperial College London has found that the U.K. coronavirus variant is much more transmissible than the original strain. 2:17

Britain is struggling with a sharp spike in new cases as a result of a new virus variant that a collaborative study by Imperial College London has confirmed is more transmissible than its predecessor. The so-called B117 variant has been reported in dozens of countries, including Canada.

“We know if we allow it to spread, it’s only a matter of weeks before it replaces the previous variant,” U.K epidemiologist Deepti Gurdasani, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, told CBC News Network on Sunday.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a face mask as he leaves the BBC broadcasting centre in London on Sunday. (Simon Dawson/Reuters)

The COVID-19 death toll in the United States surpassed 350,000 as experts anticipate another surge in coronavirus cases and deaths stemming from holiday gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s.

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. passed the threshold early Sunday morning. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected. The U.S. has begun using two coronavirus vaccines to protect health care workers and nursing home residents and staff, but the roll out of the inoculation program has been criticized as being slow and chaotic.

People line up outside a COVID-19 testing site in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on Saturday. (Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)

Multiple states have reported a record number of cases over the past few days, including North Carolina and Arizona. Mortuary owners in hard-hit Southern California say they’re being inundated with bodies.

The California Department of Public Health on Saturday reported more than 53,341 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 2.3 million. There have been 26,357 total confirmed COVID-19 deaths in California.

The U.S. by far has reported the most deaths from COVID-19 in the world, followed by Brazil, which has reported more than 195,000 deaths.

In Zimbabwe, officials have reintroduced a night curfew, banned public gatherings, and indefinitely suspended the opening of schools in response to rising COVID-19 numbers — 1,342 cases and 29 deaths in the past week, the highest number recorded so far.

Funerals are now limited to 30 people while other gatherings such as weddings and church services are banned for 30 days. Restaurants and beer taverns have also been closed. The government has postponed indefinitely the opening of schools for a new term that was supposed to start on Monday, Jan. 4.

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