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

The latest:

Quebec — which started to reopen on Monday — will no longer proceed with a plan to impose a tax on people who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

Premier François Legault said during an afternoon briefing that he heard that there was opposition to the idea and he didn’t want to cause further division. 

“When we see what’s happening in our society and on social media, I have a certain worry about seeing Quebecers divided,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

The premier announced on Jan. 11 he planned to make the unvaccinated pay a significant financial penalty because they were overrepresented in the health-care system.

About 10 per cent of people in the province’s eligible population are unvaccinated.

| Legault drops tax idea but has a message for the unvaccinated: 

Legault confirms Quebec dropping controversial tax on the unvaccinated

Citing the division it caused in Quebec, Premier François Legault said the province is scrapping its plan to tax those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19. 0:57

Legault also announced that as of Feb. 14, sports and artistic activities will resume, and gyms and spas will reopen at 50 per cent capacity. 

A situation report published by health officials in the province on Tuesday showed 2,852 hospitalizations — down by 36 from a day earlier — with 218 people in intensive care. The province also reported 63 additional deaths and 2,730 lab-confirmed cases.

In Ontario, which also began easing pandemic restrictions this week, health officials on Tuesday said hospitalizations in the province stood at 3,091 — up by 108 from a day earlier — with 568 people in intensive care units. The province also reported 63 deaths and 2,622 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Premier Doug Ford, who appeared at a news conference alongside his minister of long-term care on Tuesday, said the government is taking a “cautious” approach to reopening and pointed to its multi-phase plan.

The premier’s remarks came as the Ontario COVID-19 science advisory table put out new modelling to look at how that reopening might impact cases and hospitalizations.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said at the briefing Tuesday that Ontario does have capacity in its hospital system, noting that even if numbers do go up slightly the province will be ready to deal with it.  

| Ontario health minister on reopening plan, state of provincial health-care system: 

Ontario opening ‘gradually and cautiously,’ health minister says

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the peak of Omicron has passed and the province now has the hospital capacity to deal with COVID-19 patients and resume surgeries and procedures that were postponed by the pandemic. 2:06

The province moved in early January to pause non-urgent procedures as Omicron surged, throwing many patients in limbo as they waited for word on when they would be seen. A plan is in place to resume some of the paused procedures, but concerns around backlogs remain after massive disruptions to the health-system caused by the lengthy pandemic.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

What’s happening in the rest of Canada

| Hospital staff say lessons must be learned to avoid more health-care catastrophes: 

Hospital staff say lessons must be learned to avoid more health-care catastrophes

Unprecedented COVID-19 hospitalizations have left staff at Toronto’s Humber River Hospital exhausted and struggling to care for a relentless wave of very sick people. They say lessons must be learned from this pandemic, so the next public health crisis is not as catastrophic. 7:08

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 Atlantic Canada,  New Brunswick on Tuesday reported 162 hospitalizations — an increase of 10 from a day earlier — with 17 people in the province’s intensive care units. The province also saw five additional deaths and 228 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported 25 COVID-19 hospitalizations, a new high, with 11 people in critical care. Health officials also reported two additional deaths and 179 lab-confirmed cases.

In Prince Edward Island, health officials said Monday 15 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospital on Monday, with two people in ICU. A statement from the province said five other people were in hospital with COVID-19. The island also saw 234 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, on Tuesday said 95 people remained in designated COVID-19 hospital units, with 13 people in the province’s ICUs. The province also reported an additional 274 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.

In Manitoba, there were 737 people in hospital with COVID-19 Tuesday — a new high — including 54 in the province’s intensive care units. The province also reported seven additional deaths and 491 new lab-confirmed cases.

Saskatchewan health officials reported a total of 370 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 39 in ICUs. The province also reported one additional death and 661 new lab-confirmed cases. The premier says he wants to end the province’s proof of vaccine program by the end of the month. 

British Columbia, meanwhile, saw the number of people with COVID-19 in hospital rise to 1,048 people, with 138 people in intensive care. The province also reported an additional 19 deaths and 4.075 additional lab-confirmed cases since the last update on Friday.

In Alberta, the total number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 1,516, according to Monday’s report, with 99 people being treated in ICUs. The province reported 35 additional deaths since Friday, along with 1,777 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Across the North, health officials in Nunavut say misinformation is to blame for an outbreak of COVID-19 in Igloolik. The region has been kept in lockdown while the rest of the territory has seen restriction eased. There were 83 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut as of Tuesday. 

One person is in a hospital in Yukon, where health officials on Tuesday reported 22 additional cases. 

Health officials in the Northwest Territories reported 251 additional cases on Monday.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 3:15 p.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

A health worker pretends to give a girl’s stuffed animal a shot before giving her the Coronavac vaccine for COVID-19 at a sports centre in Asuncion, Paraguay, as children aged 5-11 start getting vaccinated in that country. (Jorge Saenz/The Associated Press)

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 380.4 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, Indonesia’s holiday island of Bali will start welcoming back travellers from all countries later this week, more than three months after announcing it was open to selected nationalities.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 situation at the Beijing Winter Olympics is within the “expected controllable range,” despite increasing positive cases being detected, a senior official said.

| The ‘closed loop’ system designed to keep COVID-19 away from the Olympics: 

‘Closed loop’ designed to keep COVID-19 out of Beijing 2022

Olympic organizers in Beijing are closely guarding the ‘closed loop’ system, where athletes, personnel and the media are confined to a bubble that includes strict protocol and testing to prevent COVID-19 from infiltrating the Games. 3:01

People in China rang in the Lunar New Year on Tuesday despite pandemic restrictions, as small crowds gathered at temples to offer traditional prayers for the Year of the Tiger.

In Africa, leading South African scientists are set to investigate COVID-19 and HIV in tandem, given mounting evidence that the collision of the two pandemics could be generating new coronavirus variants.

Nigeria launched a $149 million US fund to help fight HIV/AIDS, especially targeting the prevention of mother-to-child transmissions, after foreign funding came under strain from the focus on COVID-19.

In Europe, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who was re-elected for a second term on Sunday, has tested positive for COVID–19 and is set to isolate for seven days.

Denmark has become one of the first European Union countries to scrap most pandemic restrictions as the country no longer considers the COVID-19 outbreak “a socially critical disease.” The reason for that is that while the Omicron variant is surging in Denmark, it’s not placing a heavy burden on the health system and the country has a high vaccination rate.

The wearing of face masks is no longer mandatory as of Tuesday on public transportation, shops and for standing clients in restaurant indoor areas. Another restriction no longer required is the digital pass, previously used to enter nightclubs, cafés, party buses and to be seated indoors in restaurants.

A Conservative lawmaker in Britain said Prime Minister Boris Johnson should resign and that he had submitted a letter of no confidence, after a report found that alcohol-fuelled events had taken place at Downing Street during lockdown.

| British PM lambasted by Labour leader, rivals over ‘partygate’ report: 

British PM lambasted over ‘partygate’ report

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tainted the ‘heart-wrenching’ sacrifices of the British people, Opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer told Parliament Monday. 2:39

In the Middle East, health officials in Kuwait on Monday reported 6,063 additional cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths.

In the Americas, Mexico registered 12,521 confirmed cases and 198 more deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, according to health ministry data, bringing the country’s overall number of confirmed cases to 4,942,590 and the death toll to 306,091.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says overuse of gloves, “moon suits” and the use of billions of masks and vaccination syringes to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus have spurred a huge glut of health care waste worldwide.

The UN health agency reported Tuesday that extra medical waste has strained waste management systems and is threatening both health and the environment, pointing to a “dire need” to improve those systems and get a response from both governments and people.

“Part of the message for the public is to become more of a conscious consumer,” said Dr. Margaret Montgomery, technical officer of WHO’s water, sanitation, hygiene and health unit. “In terms of the volume, it’s enormous.”

“It is absolutely vital to provide health workers with the right (protective gear),” Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, said in a statement. “But it is also vital to ensure that it can be used safely without impacting on the surrounding environment.”

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 4 p.m. ET

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