The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning it would be a “fatal mistake” if the developed world takes the attitude of “we’ll vaccinate our people, and people in other parts of the world can take care of their own.”
John Nkengasong, speaking Thursday to reporters, said that “it’s in no one’s interest we continue to be in this tense situation,” and said more could have been done to address the global COVID-19 vaccine inequality.
But he celebrated that Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines via the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing doses to low-income countries. He said he hoped vaccinations would start Thursday in Ghana and that vaccine deliveries to other African countries will arrive in the coming days.
Africa over the past month has seen a decrease in the number of new cases after a strong resurgence in infections driven by a more infectious variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa. The continent surpassed 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths this month.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Provinces offer different timelines for COVID-19 vaccine rollout:
As of early Thursday morning, Canada had reported 855,132 cases of COVID-19, with 30,395 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,807.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and one additional death, bringing the number of deaths in the province to five. The province said six people were in hospital, including three in intensive care.
“Each life lost is a tragedy, as well as a stark reminder of why our way of life has changed,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald.
Quebec reported 806 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 more deaths attributed to the virus, including five in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 25, to 655, and the number of intensive care cases rose for a second consecutive day, with 10 more patients, for a total of 130.
In Ontario, health officials reported 1,054 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths linked to the virus. Hospitalizations stood at 675, with 287 people in intensive care.
WATCH | First Nation using isolation tents as housing:
Manitoba health officials reported 45 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and one additional death.
The Manitoba government has announced the location of its fourth site for large-scale vaccine distribution. Health officials said a so-called supersite will open in early March at a former hospital in Selkirk. There are similar sites already in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson.
British Columbia reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Wednesday.
Across the North, there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut or Yukon.
The Northwest Territories said on Wednesday it has vaccinated 42 per cent of its adult population to date. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola said 14,520 first doses have been administered in the territory to date, while 1,934 people have been fully vaccinated.
Kandola also said the territory expects to receive another 16,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of this week. There were five active cases of COVID-19 in the Northwest Territories.
Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 112.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 63.5 million of the cases listed as recovered on a tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at nearly 2.5 million.
Pfizer announced Thursday that it has begun studying a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, part of a strategy to guard against mutated versions of the coronavirus.
Health authorities say first-generation COVID-19 vaccines still protect against variants that are emerging in different parts of the world. But manufacturers are starting to prepare now in case a more vaccine-resistant mutation comes along.
Pfizer said it will offer a third dose to 144 volunteers, drawing from people who participated in the vaccine’s early-stage U.S. testing last year. It wants to determine if an additional booster shot given six to 12 months after the first two doses would rev up the immune system enough to ward off a mutated virus.
Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, also are tweaking their vaccine recipe. The companies are in discussions with U.S. and European regulators about a study to evaluate doses updated to better match variants such as the one first discovered in South Africa.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden plans to distribute millions of face masks to Americans in communities hard-hit by the coronavirus.
It’s part of his effort to ensure equity in the government’s response to the pandemic. Biden is aiming to reach underserved communities and those bearing the brunt of the outbreak. His plan will distribute masks not through the mail, but through Federally Qualified Community Health Centers and the nation’s food bank and food pantry systems.
The White House announced it expects more than 25 million American-made cloth masks in both adult and kid sizes will be distributed. Biden has asked everyone to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his term. He’s also required mask-wearing in federal buildings and on public transportation.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan will resume regular classes five days per week at all schools from March 1 amid a steady decrease in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood made the announcement Thursday on Twitter.
Pakistan closed classrooms in November amid a surge in infections. Schools were later opened in phases, but regular classes had not been allowed.
Authorities said Wednesday that they will allow opening of parks, cinemas and indoor dining and wedding receptions beginning on March 15. Pakistan has reported 12,772 deaths from the coronavirus. Pakistan is currently vaccinating health workers and elderly people using the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China.
India announced an expansion of its vaccination program but warned that breaches of coronavirus protocols could worsen an infection surge in many states.
The Japanese government will end a state of emergency in five prefectures west of Tokyo at the end of this month, Kyodo news agency reported.
In the Middle East, hospitals should prepare for a possible second wave and take steps to prevent the disease spreading, health authorities in the government-controlled part of Yemen said.
In Europe, the World Health Organization is working with the European Commission to co-ordinate vaccine donations for other countries on the continent, the head of its European office said.
Finland plans to reintroduce a state of emergency that would allow the Nordic country to close restaurants for a three-week period starting March 8 as it fights the variant first discovered in Britain.
“I know you’re tired. So am I. But we have to be strong and now the situation is more difficult,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a press conference on Thursday. The variant “is more difficult to tackle, the old tools are not enough. Closed borders are not enough.”
The new measures require students over 13 to switch to distance learning and halt their leisure activities. A public meeting ban for more than six people has been introduced and people are urged to avoid private gatherings. People in Finland would still have to work remotely and wear face masks.
Sweden stepped up pandemic restrictions to avoid a third wave, while France’s government ordered a weekend lockdown in the Dunkirk area to arrest an “alarming” rise in cases.
Italy’s government will extend restrictions already in place until after Easter, while Switzerland announced the first phase in a cautious easing from restrictions.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:45 a.m. ET