- Number of COVID-19 deaths now exceeds 20,000 in Canada.
- WHO teams visits Wuhan food market in search of clues into spread of coronavirus.
- Hospital numbers must meet target to allow Alberta gyms and restaurants to reopen Feb. 8.
- Disrupted schooling, learning loss will have effects long after pandemic, say education experts.
- Portugal close to running out of ICU beds for COVID patients.
- Moderna to cut deliveries to Canada in new blow to vaccination campaign.
More than 20,000 people in Canada have now died after contracting COVID-19 since the country’s first cases of the respiratory illness were reported early last year.
Canada reached the sombre milestone on Sunday after Quebec reported 31 more deaths from the novel coronavirus — three occurring in the last 24 hours, 25 between Jan. 24 and Jan. 29 and three before Jan. 24.
Roughly 5,000 cases were added to Canada’s tally of COVID-19 fatalities since late December.
The world’s first cluster of cases were identified in central China in December 2019. A World Health Organization team looking into the origins of the pandemic on Sunday visited the food market in of Wuhan that was linked to many early infections.
The team members visited the Huanan Seafood Market for about an hour on Sunday. The market was the site of a December 2019 outbreak of the virus.
Scientists initially suspected the virus came from wild animals sold in the market. The market has since been largely ruled out, but it could provide hints to how the virus spread so widely.
The WHO mission has become politically charged, as China seeks to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak.
“Very important site visits today — a wholesale market first & Huanan Seafood Market just now,” Peter Daszak, a zoologist with the U.S. group EcoHealth Alliance and a member of the WHO team, said in a tweet. “Very informative & critical for our joint teams to understand the epidemiology of COVID as it started to spread at the end of 2019.”
Earlier in the day, the team members were also seen walking through sections of the Baishazhou market — one of the largest wet markets in Wuhan — surrounded by a large entourage of Chinese officials and representatives. The market was the food distribution centre for Wuhan during the city’s 76-day lockdown last year.
The members, with expertise in veterinary medicine, virology, food safety and epidemiology, have so far visited two hospitals at the centre of the early outbreak — Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital and the Hubei Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine Hospital.
What’s happening in Canada
As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 778,119 cases of COVID-19, with 53,310 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 20,016.
In British Columbia, some Whistler residents are calling for a ban on out-of-town visitors to the ski town amid a surge in cases, while others fear that doing so would adversely affect the community’s economy.
Alberta reported 383 new COVID-19 cases and 11 new deaths on Saturday. The number of people in hospital fell to 582, 12 fewer compared with Friday’s update.
Restaurants and gyms will be permitted to reopen for in-person service on Feb. 8 in the province, but only if the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stays below 600.
When it comes to gyms and studios, the province is allowing only one-on-one classes with a trainer and by appointment.
Saskatchewan saw 258 new cases and eight new deaths. The new figures come as the province said it will extend COVID-19 restrictions for three more weeks, and its premier said no additional measures are needed.
Manitoba registered 166 new cases and two more deaths.
Ontario reported 1,848 new cases and 44 more deaths on Sunday. The province also reported 1,159 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, with 356 people in ICUs.
On Saturday, the province announced that 112 tickets have been issued to businesses and individuals in its COVID-19 inspection blitz so far this year.
Quebec announced 1,223 new cases on Sunday. It also reported 31 more deaths from COVID-19, counted since Jan. 24.
Meanwhile, Premier François Legault said on social media on Saturday that he plans to announce changes to Quebec’s COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, adding that he hopes to be able to relax some restrictions, particularly those around retail stores, if the situation permits.
New Brunswick registered 12 new cases and an additional death on Saturday.
Meanwhile, most residents can now expand their number of close contacts as the government loosened rules for parts of the province under orange-phase restrictions. However, the Moncton region and the Edmundston and Grand Falls region remain in the red phase and are in full lockdown.
Nova Scotia reported three new cases. Officials say all three are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and are currently self-isolating.
Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases. Meanwhile, health officials say it is postponing its plans to vaccinate people 75 years and older because of the reduced supply of the Moderna vaccine.
Nunavut added a new case, but its caseload remained the same after also reporting one new recovery.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 102.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 56.8 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at just over 2.2 million.
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In the Americas, Peru has imposed new lockdowns in the capital and several other regions, starting Sunday and lasting until Feb. 15.
It’s the second time in 10 months that Peru has announced such rules. All non-essential shops will close, and people are urged to work from home. Peru has also suspended inter-regional land and air travel and extended a ban on flights coming from Europe.
In Europe, Austria and Germany say they will provide medical assistance to Portugal as the country struggles with a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Sunday it will receive intensive care patients from Portugal, without specifying a number.
Meanwhile, the German military plans to send medical aid and doctors to Portugal in the coming days.
Portugal said on Saturday it had only seven vacant beds left in intensive care units set up for COVID-19 cases on its mainland.
The country has the world’s highest seven-day rolling average of cases and deaths per capita. It has so far reported more than 12,000 COVID-19 deaths and more than 711,000 cases.
In Asia, South Korea will extend its physical-distancing curbs by two weeks until the end of the Lunar New Year holidays as new COVID-19 infection clusters emerge in the country, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Sunday.
That means a continued ban on gatherings of more than four people and a restaurant curfew. South Korea reported another new 355 cases on Sunday.
In Africa, Tunisia has become the third country on the continent to register Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.
To date Sputnik V has been registered in Russia, Belarus, Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and the Republic of Guinea. It has also been approved for use by the Palestinian Authority.