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

The latest:

Hospitals in New Brunswick are feeling the strain of the Omicron wave, with four hospitals at or near capacity.

“Our hospitals are caring for higher volumes of COVID-positive inpatients than at any other point in the pandemic,” a statement from the Horizon Health network said Tuesday.

The hospital network said that the number of people in hospital combined with staff shortages is having an impact on how it delivers care. The province shifted to emergency and urgent hospital care only at the end of 2021 as it faced a mounting Omicron wave. 

According to the provincial update on Tuesday, a total of 138 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 — including 11 in intensive care. The province also reported three additional deaths and 350 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement Tuesday that while hospitalizations are rising, they are trending below the province’s projections.

“The data indicates that New Brunswickers have reduced their contacts by about 30 per cent,” she said in a statement. “This has made a tremendous difference to our acute care system, which has been heavily impacted by employees who are absent due to Omicron and the increasing number of patients.”

Tight restrictions are still in place in the Atlantic province, and students are expected to continue with remote learning until Jan. 31.

In Nova Scotia, health officials on Tuesday said 92 people were in the province’s designated COVID-19 units, including 15 people in intensive care. The provincial update showed a total of 304 people in hospital with COVID-19, including cases where people contracted the virus while in hospital. The province also reported five additional deaths and 492 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday said COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 20, with five people in critical care. The province, which sent students back to in-person learning Tuesday, also reported an additional 296 lab-confirmed cases.

Prince Edward Island health officials on Tuesday reported a ninth COVID-19-related death and 275 additional lab-confirmed cases. Health officials in the province said there were 10 people in hospital being treated for COVID-19 — including two in ICU. There were two others in hospital with COVID-19 being treated for other illnesses, the province said. 

-From CBC News, last updated at 8:05 a.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

| Quebec premier talks about living with COVID-19 long-term and structural issues in the health-care system: 

Legault describes Quebec living with COVID-19 long-term

Living with COVID-19 long-term means accepting hospitalizations and deaths, says Quebec Premier François Legault. 1:22

With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.

For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.

You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.

In Central Canada, Quebec Premier François Legault said Tuesday that the province will ease some COVID-19 restrictions in the weeks ahead. The shift, which is set for Jan. 31, will allow restaurants to open dining rooms with limited capacity. Some sports will return, with further easing expected in early February.

The province’s health system, however, is still feeling the strain, Legault said, noting that it will take time to build the capacity the province needs. The province on Tuesday reported 3,278 hospitalizations — including 263 people in intensive care units. Health officials also reported 85 additional deaths and 2,977 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Ontario on Tuesday reported a total of 4,008 people with COVID-19 in the province’s hospitals, with 626 people in ICU. The update came as the province reported 3,424 additional lab-confirmed cases and 64 additional deaths — though officials noted that the deaths occurred over a 20-day period.

Across the North, the Northwest Territories on Tuesday reported an additional 159 lab-confirmed cases, while health officials in Nunavut saw 52 additional recorded cases. Yukon health officials reported 22 more lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba on Tuesday reported a total of 729 COVID-19 hospitalizations — another pandemic high. Of those, 49 people were receiving intensive care. Health officials also reported six additional deaths and 637 additional lab-confirmed cases.

In Saskatchewan, the total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 291, with 33 people in the province’s intensive care units. The province also reported two additional deaths and 1,049 lab-confirmed cases.

Alberta on Tuesday said hospitalizations stood at 1,377 — a pandemic high — with 111 people in intensive care. The province also reported 13 additional deaths and 2,722 lab-confirmed cases.

“Our hospitals are under strain, especially in the larger urban centres,” said Jason Copping, the province’s health minister. “Staff are tired, not just from the current wave of cases, but from five waves over two years.”

Copping said there are signs Omicron transmission may be slowing, but he had cautious words about the weeks ahead, saying they will be the “toughest yet for many Albertans.”

In British Columbia, total COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 985, health officials said Tuesday, with 144 in intensive care units. The province also reported one additional death and 1,446 additional lab-confirmed cases. 

People in the province will need to bring their vaccine card with them through to the end of June if they want to access indoor spaces, restaurants or most events, says the provincial health officer. Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday the vaccine card is specifically designed to mitigate the risks of spreading COVID-19, allowing certain businesses and activities to remain open.

“As we move through this period, it will, I expect, no longer be necessary,” Henry told a news conference. “But right now, it is one of those important tools that we have.”

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:50 a.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

The Australian Navy’s HMAS Adelaide docked at Vuna Wharf in Tonga’s capital Nukualofa to deliver aid following the Jan. 15 eruption of the nearby Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano. (Mary Lyn Fonua/Matangi Tonga/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 358.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.6 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Australian navy’s largest ship docked at disaster-stricken Tonga on Wednesday and was allowed to unload humanitarian supplies in the South Pacific nation despite crew members being infected with COVID-19, officials said.

Nearly two-dozen sailors aboard HMAS Adelaide were reported infected on Tuesday, raising fears the mission could bring the coronavirus to the small archipelago devastated by an undersea volcanic eruption and a tsunami on Jan. 15. Supplies were to be delivered without contact with the local population to avoid infections, the Australian government said in a statement.

Since the pandemic began, Tonga has reported just a single case of COVID-19 and has avoided any outbreaks. It’s one of the few countries in the world currently completely virus free. About 61 per cent of Tongans are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

South Korea’s daily new cases exceeded 13,000 for the first time, as the government seeks to revise its anti-virus response scheme to focus on Omicron.

Shoppers look at plants at a flower market ahead of the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Current physical distancing rules will be extended to cover Lunar New Year as the semi-autonomous region continues to see a number of COVID-19 infections linked to imported cases. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

In Europe, Austria’s lockdown for people not fully vaccinated will end on Monday because the pressure on hospitals has eased, the government said.

Denmark aims to scrap all remaining domestic restrictions next week despite high numbers of Omicron infections in Europe.

Meanwhile, Russia and Romania also reported new records in daily cases.

In Africa, Uganda wants to curb its borrowing and boost exports in sectors such as meat and dairy as the East African country lifts restrictions triggered by the pandemic, President Yoweri Museveni and government officials told Reuters.

In South Africa, health officials on Tuesday reported 3,197 new cases of COVID-19 and 132 additional deaths.

In the Middle East, Kuwait on Tuesday reported more than 5,742 additional cases and one additional death. 

In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has officially withdrawn a rule that would have required workers at big companies to get vaccinated or face regular COVID-19 testing requirements.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed the withdrawal Tuesday. But the agency said it still strongly encourages workers to get vaccinated.

In early November, OSHA announced a vaccine-or-test mandate for companies with at least 100 employees. The rule —— which would have impacted more than 80 million U.S. workers —— was originally set to go into effect on Jan. 4.

But numerous states and business groups challenged the rule in court. On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court halted the plan. In a 6-3 ruling, the court’s conservative majority concluded that OSHA had overstepped its authority.

The justices left in place a vaccine mandate for health-care providers who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. That rule affects 10.4 million workers.

-From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 8:35 a.m. ET

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