The Latest: Canada expects reduction in vaccine deliveries
TORONTO — Canadian officials say the country won’t be getting any Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine next week and 50% less than expected over the next month.
Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin says it is a major reduction but says things will return to normal after that. Fortin is leading Canada’s logistical rollout and distribution of vaccines.
He says the deliveries over the first two weeks of February have yet to be confirmed, but Pfizer is still expected to meet its contractual obligation to ship four million doses to Canada by the end of March.
U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer confirmed last week it would temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe and Canada of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Expert panel says both China and the WHO should have acted faster to prevent the pandemic
— Surging infections give Spain’s new emergency hospital in Madrid a second chance to prove its worth
— Germany’s Merkel meets with state leaders to ponder tougher virus restrictions
— High numbers of new infections are making the virus genetically diverse and each mutation threatens to undo progress
— Dubai promotes itself as the ideal vacation spot but the pandemic is shaking its economy
— Hospital chaplains are on the front lines, helping patients unable to see families
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MADRID — Several Spanish regions are tightening restrictions against the steep increase of coronavirus infections, awaiting for a government decision to allow regional curfews as early as 8 p.m.
A meeting on Wednesday is expected to decide on whether to tweak a nationwide emergency state to allow regional governments a stricter response to the country’s third resurgence of contagion. Roughly half of the regions have asked to bring forward the existing limit on a 10 p.m. curfew.
The health ministry recorded Tuesday 34,291 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours and 404 new confirmed deaths, bringing the totals since the pandemic began to 2.37 million cases and at least 54,000 deaths.
Central Castilla La Mancha, eastern Valencia and northern Navarra are announcing new closures of bars and restaurants or restrictions to allow only food deliveries or outdoor dining. The western Extremadura region, currently with the country’s highest rate of infection, is further delaying the reopening of schools for 2021 until Jan. 25.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s Cabinet on Tuesday extended an existing nationwide lockdown through the end of January as the country contends with a runaway surge in coronavirus cases.
Most schools and nonessential businesses were closed earlier this month for two weeks, with outdoor gatherings restricted to 10 people. Those restrictions were extended until Feb. 1, and people landing in Israel must now present a negative coronavirus test result from at least 72 hours before their arrival.
Although Israel has administered the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to more than 2 million people, the country of 9 million has seen an infection surge. Israel’s health ministry has reported more than 562,000 COVID-19 confirmed cases and at least 4,049 deaths. The ministry recorded a record-high number of daily infections on Monday, with more than 10,000 new cases out of around 100,000 people tested.
Israel’s health ministry also announced Tuesday that it is preparing to ramp up its vaccination efforts to 250,000 people per day, including people as young as 40.
LONDON — The U.K. has recorded more than 90,000 coronavirus-related deaths, just ten days after it passed the 80,000 threshold.
Government figures Tuesday show that another 1,610 people were reported to have died in the 28 days after testing positive for COVID-19, taking the total to 91,470. The daily increase is the highest daily figure reported since the pandemic took root in the U.K.
Figures released Tuesday have invariably been higher throughout the pandemic because of weekend reporting lag effects.
Though the number of people dying is rising on a 7-day average, the number of people testing positive for the virus is clearly declining in the wake of the lockdown measures put in place across the U.K.
On Tuesday, the government recorded another 33,355 people were reported to have tested positive for the virus. That’s the lowest since Dec. 27.
The U.K., which is Europe’s worst-hit nation in terms of COVID-related deaths, recorded huge increases in cases around the turn of the year, with scientists blaming a new variant of the virus first identified around London and the southeast of England.
NEW YORK — New York City’s mayor says the city will run out of first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine sometime Thursday without fresh supplies of vaccine. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that the city will have to start canceling vaccine appointments unless it gets more doses.
After a sluggish start, New York has ramped up the vaccination effort by opening new inoculation sites, including 24-hour vaccine hubs, around the city.
De Blasio said 220,000 doses were given out last week and the city could administer 300,000 doses this week if it had enough vaccine. But he said the problem is “we don’t.”
The two vaccines that have been approved for emergency use both require two shot administered several weeks apart for maximum effectiveness. The mayor said 53,000 doses were expected to arrive Tuesday, leaving the city with just 116,000 first doses for the week ahead.
A spokesperson for the mayor said the city has enough vaccine for second doses for some but not all of the people who have had one shot and are waiting for their second.
BOSTON — Boston’s storied St. Patrick’s Day parade has been canceled for the second year in a row.
Organizers said Tuesday that ongoing state restrictions that limit outdoor public events to 25 people mean the 2021 South Boston St. Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day Parade had to be canceled. A Facebook post said the organizers “look forward to finally seeing you all again in 2022.”
The parade, held every March and organized by the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, traces it roots back more than a century and regularly involves hundreds of bands and floats and up to a million spectators.
St. Patrick’s Day parades in Holyoke and Worcester have already been canceled.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is a big fan of the Chiefs, but he can’t help but worry after watching news coverage of fans celebrating close together following the team’s 22-17 NFL playoff game win over Cleveland.
Now, with the Chiefs hosting Buffalo in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, Lucas is urging fans to keep COVID-19 preventative measures in mind as they gather to watch.
The Kansas City Star reports that the city will touch base with entertainment districts to make sure crowds next weekend don’t leave “a lot of people sick around the Super Bowl.”
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s plan for the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations covers essential workers, including teachers, child care providers, law enforcement officers and hospital staff who aren’t on the front lines.
In Wisconsin, it doesn’t include grocery store employees, as recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the states’ second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations. Grocery store owners, who thought their employees would be included in the next phase, are upset.
Tim Metcalfe owns three Metcalfe’s Market stores, one in Wauwatosa and two in Madison, wrote an open letter to the committee that plans Wisconsin’s vaccination phases.
“Grocery workers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and are as critical to our food supply as farmers. While our company takes every safety precaution possible for our team, the reality is that this team has been exposed to members of the public every day and put at increased risk of infection for nearly a year now.”
The Wisconsin State Journal reported the state said that the CDC’s guidelines were overly broad for who qualifies as a “front-line essential worker.”
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has repeatedly blamed limited access to vaccines on the federal government, not on shortcomings of statewide planning. Several Republican lawmakers have put the blame specifically on Evers’ administration.
BRUSSELS — The European Union is urging member states to speed up the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure that at least 80% of the most vulnerable people to the virus — those over the age of 80 — are vaccinated by March this year.
In non-binding recommendations published Tuesday, the EU’s executive Commission also called on the 27 EU member states to accelerate the roll-out of vaccination so that 70% of the adult population across the bloc is vaccinated by the summer.
HONOLULU — Hawaii is assisting about 800 residents of American Samoa traveling through Oahu to their island home, which was cut off by the coronavirus.
The U.S. territory located 2,200 miles south of Hawaii in the Pacific closed its borders March 13 to protect the islands from COVID-19.
The order by American Samoa Democratic Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga stranded residents who were in Hawaii and other states. Those travelers can now return home, but must first stop in Hawaii to undergo COVID-19 screening.
Honolulu is using the parking lot at the Waikiki Shell outdoor concert venue to conduct the virus tests.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Officials say Alaska’s coronavirus contact tracing effort is rebounding after several months of hiring and several weeks of decreased daily cases.
Anchorage Daily News reports that state officials say great improvements have been made since November.
At that time, the contact tracing corps was overwhelmed and people testing positive were asked to reach out on their own to those they may have infected.
Public Health Nursing Chief Tim Struna of the Alaska Division of Public Health says contact tracers can now investigate reports within a day after receiving notice of new virus infections.
State officials say there are now about 500 contact tracers.
BERLIN — Swiss authorities have started mass testing residents and visitors in St. Moritz after a new variant of the coronavirus was detected in the upscale skiing resort.
People were asked to register online and come in for free tests to a local gym and a beverage store on Tuesday, after two luxury hotels were put under quarantine Monday. All schools, kindergartens and skiing schools were closed.
Officials said at least two dozen cases were detected in the two hotels, which local media identified as the Palace and the Kempinski hotel.
The Kempinski said late Monday that health authorities had confirmed cases of the mutated coronavirus among the hotel’s employees.
“Local health officials have ordered that all guests and staff at the hotel should be quarantined to minimize exposure to the public,” a spokeswoman for Kempinski told The Associated Press. “The hotel is strictly following the advice of the local health authorities and World Health Organization guidelines.”
All people in St. Moritz who were 5 and older were asked to participate in the test, which was voluntary. Swiss media reported that the variant detected in St. Moritz was first found in South Africa.
LISBON, Portugal — Local councils in Portugal are sending out teams to gather votes from people in home quarantine and from residents of nursing homes ahead of a presidential election on Sunday.
Authorities have taken exceptional measures to ensure voting is possible during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the fact the country is in lockdown.
For 48 hours beginning Tuesday, crews wearing protective clothing went to collect the votes of people who had registered for the service. However, fewer than 13,000 people — about 15% of those eligible — signed up for the service, officials said. Some voters complained that they were given little notice of the service.
On Sunday, 12,000 polling stations will be open, 2,000 more than usual, to help avoid large gatherings. Early voting last Sunday drew a record turnout.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway has pledged to help fight the global pandemic by donating vaccines to low-income countries as soon as the vaccines are approved, its foreign aid minister said Tuesday.
“Ensuring COVID-19 vaccines reach people in the world’s poorest countries isn’t just about being charitable or acting on a moral imperative. It’s also in the best interest of every country to do so,” Dag-Inge Ulstein, the Norwegian minister for International Development, told The Associated Press.
“If the virus is circulating in one country, the rest of the world remains at risk.”
Ulstein gave no timeframe or figures for vaccine quantities but said the roll-out will take place “in parallel to the current vaccination of the Norwegian population.”
Norway’s move came a day after WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had lambasted drugmakers’ profits and vaccine inequalities around the world.