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

The latest:

The World Health Organization says the number of global coronavirus cases fell in the last week, continuing a downward trend that began in late August.

In its latest weekly assessment of the pandemic published on Wednesday, the UN health agency said there were:

  • More than 2.8 million new cases, a decrease of seven per cent from a week earlier.
  • More than 46,000 confirmed deaths in the last week, a 10 per cent decrease from a week earlier.

According to the weekly report, Europe reported a seven per cent rise in new weekly cases, while all other world regions reported a decrease. The WHO said Europe also had the biggest rise in new weekly deaths in the previous week, with 11 per cent more COVID-19 deaths.

The highest numbers of new cases in Europe were reported in Britain, Turkey and Russia.

Russia on Thursday recorded the highest daily numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic, a rapidly surging toll that has severely strained the nation’s health-care system.

The government’s coronavirus task force reported 31,299 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 986 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The country has repeatedly marked record daily death tolls over the past few weeks as infections surged amid a slow vaccination rate and lax enforcement of measures to protect against the coronavirus.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Canadians with mixed vaccine doses remain in travel limbo: 

Canadians with mixed vaccine doses remain in travel limbo

The U.S. says it will allow travellers with WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines, including AstraZeneca, but Canadians who received mixed doses remain in limbo about what the new rules mean for them. 2:01

What’s happening around the world

A woman receives a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from a health-care worker during the inaugural vaccination weekend drive in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this month. (Themba Hadebe/The Associated Press)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 239.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tool from Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.

In Africa, only one in seven COVID-19 infections in Africa is being detected, meaning the continent’s estimated infection level may be 59 million people, according to a new study by the World Health Organization.

“With limited testing, we’re still flying blind in far too many communities in Africa,” Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for the WHO in Africa, said in a media briefing Thursday.

To get more accurate numbers of infections and to better curb transmission, the UN plans to increase rapid diagnostic testing in eight African countries, with the goal of testing seven million people in the next year.

The initiative is a “radically” new approach that shifts from passive to active surveillance by working with communities, said Moeti. The rapid tests are affordable, reliable and easy to use and will provide results within 15 minutes, she said. An additional 360,000 cases are expected to be detected by using the tests, with approximately 75 per cent of them being asymptomatic or mild, she said.

In the Americas, a federal judge has extended a ban on United Airlines putting employees on unpaid leave for seeking a medical or religious exemption from the airline’s requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman in Fort Worth, Texas, granted a restraining order Tuesday in favour of employees who are suing the airline over the mandate.

Lawyers for the employees and the airline agreed last month that United wouldn’t put the workers on unpaid leave, but the judge wrote that the agreement will expire before he can rule on the merits of the matter. That would leave “hundreds of workers” at risk of being put on indefinite unpaid leave or forced to get a vaccination that violates their religious beliefs or medical restrictions. The restraining order expires Oct. 26.

The suing employees are seeking to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit. United says about 2,000 of its 67,000 U.S. employees asked for exemptions from vaccination. A United spokesperson said Wednesday that the company was working with vaccine-exempt employees on safety measures including testing, face masks and temporary job reassignments.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Melbourne will exit months of COVID-19 lockdown next week ahead of schedule, while New Zealand reported its biggest rise in COVID-19 infections in six weeks.

South Korea has reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections for the 100th consecutive day as a delta-driven outbreak continues to spread in the greater capital area. Health officials say 1,580 of the 1,940 new cases reported Thursday are in the Seoul metropolitan region.

In Europethe French government will ask lawmakers to extend its pandemic state of emergency until July 31 next year to deal with the continuing coronavirus crisis, spokesperson Gabriel Attal said.

In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 12,298 new cases of COVID-19 and 194 additional deaths.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:40 ET

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