Canada holding off COVID-19 surge despite lagging vaccinations

By Allen Cone
A woman with a mask arrives from the U.S. at the Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Canada, on March 16, 2020. Canada and the U.S. have had a travel ban for nonessential travel for one year but traveling by air is exempted though negative tests and quarantine are required. Citizens or permanent residents of the country they are entering are also exempted from the ban. Photo by Andre Pichette/EPA-EFE
1 of 2 | A woman with a mask arrives from the U.S. at the Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Canada, on March 16, 2020. Canada and the U.S. have had a travel ban for nonessential travel for one year but traveling by air is exempted though negative tests and quarantine are required. Citizens or permanent residents of the country they are entering are also exempted from the ban. Photo by Andre Pichette/EPA-EFE

March 14 (UPI) -- One year after the coronavirus virus pandemic began, Canada is facing a contradiction in fighting the virus: doing better than other nations in terms of deaths and cases but lagging in administering vaccines.

The nation of more than 37 million people is 21st in the world in deaths at 22,463 and 22nd in cases at 909,157. The North American nation's deaths per million is 543 compared with its neighbor to the south, United States, at 1,646. The United States leads the world with 534,880 fatalities as well as 29.4 million cases. Brazil has 1,302 per million, and is No. 2 in deaths at 278,327 and 11.4 million cases, topping India on Saturday. Mexico is third in fatalities at 194,490 and 1,498 per million. India is fourth with 158,607 deaths and 114 per million.


The worldwide figure is 341.8 deaths per million for a total of 2,664,954 on Sunday with cases at 120,406,742.


Despite strong data in Canada, the nation has only administered 2.9 million vaccine doses, which is 7.78 per 100 people. The United States is No. 1 with 105.7 million and 31.84% with Mexico 3.14 and Brazil 6.13. Worldwide, nearly 355 million doses have been administered.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said every Canada should be able to get a vaccine by September. This contrasts with U.S. President Joe Biden's announced goal on Thursday by the end of May.

Trudeau said U.S.-based Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech will begin delivering one million COVID-19 vaccine doses of its vaccine every week starting on March 22 until May 10 -- doubling the current allocation. In addition, AstraZeneca, which is developed with Oxford University, in Britain, will be delivering 20 million doses by the end of the year. Also authorized are Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, both based in the United States. All but vaccines by Johnson & Johnsons have arrived in the nation.

"That's gonna make a big difference," Trudeau said. "Every dose makes a difference."

Despite lagging vaccination data, deaths have subsided to 29 reported Sunday from a record 257 and cases were 2,956 from 11,383.


But Trudeau cautions about a spike.

"We have to keep taking strong public health measures," said Trudeau during the news conference Friday "Otherwise we could see a third wave that is even worse than the second or the first, and I know that's not the news you want to hear."

Toronto and surrounding communities will remain in the province's "Grey-Lockdown" zone but outdoor weddings will be allowed for up to 50 people starting Monday, according to an announcement Friday. Other regions in the Ottawa province in other zones can currently hold indoor wedding services with 30% capacity, while outdoors there can be up to 100 people.

"While the data shows that Ontario's vaccine rollout is helping to save lives, the next few months are critical," Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a statement Friday.

A travel ban among Mexico, the United States and Canada for non-essential movement has been in place since last March. Air travel is exempted but a negative test and quarantine is required. In addition, citizens or permanent residents of the country they are entering are excepted from the ban. The current ban lasts through March 21.


The U.S. Embassy is discouraging people from traveling to Mexico during spring break.

All but around 27,000 of the total deaths in North America are in Mexico, Canada and the United States. North America has the second-most deaths of the continents, 791,547, behind Europe, and the second-most cases with 34,570,861 around 700,000 behind Europe.

Although Mexico was the first Latin American nation to begin administering vaccinations, the rate is low at 3.14% among its 129.9 million people.

On Sunday, Mexico reported 639 deaths after a record 1,803 on Jan. 21. Cases were 6,104 after the record 22,339 on Jan. 21.

In South America, four nations are in the top 15 for most deaths. Besides Brazil, Colombia is in 12th with 61,143, Argentina in 13th with 53,670 and Peru in 15th with 49,003. Chile is 23rd with 21,674 deaths but its vaccination rate for the nation is 34.29%, or 6.5 million, slightly ahead of the United States at 34.29% and best in South America.

In all, the death toll is 498,085 and 19,279,063 cases on the continent.

Brazil, where a more contagious variant emerged, reported a record 2,349 deaths Wednesday with 1,111 added Sunday. Cases reported were 44,120 Sunday after 84,047 Friday and a record 87,134 on Jan. 7. Brazil has overtaken India for the second-most cases at 11.48 million.


The nation accounts for about 10% of total fatalities and cases with its vaccination rate 6.13%, while the hospital system has been overwhelmed.

On Wednesday, Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva criticized current leader Jair Bolsonaro.

"I'm going to get my vaccine and I want to [declare] to the Brazilian people: Don't follow any stupid decision by the president or the health minister. Get a vaccine. [Do it] because the vaccine is one of the things that can get you out of COVID. But don't think you can get the vaccine and already take your shirt off, go to the bar, order a cold beer and talk. No!"

In Europe, six nations are in the top 10 for most deaths. Britain is fifth with 125,516, Italy is sixth with 102,145, Russia seventh with 92,090, France eighth with 90,429, Germany ninth with 73,959 and Spain 10th with 72,258. Also, Poland is 16th with 47,178.

The continent is No. 1 in deaths at 856,222 and cases at 36,269,575.

The vaccination rates are 37.65 per 100 in Britain, which fifth in the world, 10.81 in Italy, 5.11 in Russia, 10.89 in France and 11.51 in Spain.


Coronavirus has been slowing in Britain from a death peak of 1,823 to 52 on Sunday, the lowest since 50 on Oct. 12, after 121 Saturday. Cases reached a peak of 68,053 but were 4,618 Sunday. The deaths dropped to 82 one Sunday ago, the first time it was under 100 since October then 65 Monday.

Britain remains in a lockdown with its first ordered last year on March 23. On that date those who have died in the pandemic will be remembered in a day of reflection. In all, there have been three periods of national restrictions.

"This has been an incredibly difficult year for our country," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday. "My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones, and who have not been able to pay tribute to them in the way they would have wanted.

"As we continue to make progress against the virus, I want to thank people for the sacrifices they continue to make, and hope they can look forward to being reunited with loved ones as restrictions are cautiously eased."

In Italy, cases have been surging with fiver days in a row above 20,000 including 21,315 Sunday. The record was 40,896 on Nov. 13.


But deaths have continued a downward trend with 264 Sunday after a record 993 on Dec. 3.

Half of Italy's 20 regions, including Rome, Milan and Venice, will enter new coronavirus restrictions on Monday through April 6. In "red zones," people can leave their houses only for work or health reasons, with all non-essential shops closed. In "orange zones," people can't leave their town and their region except for work or health reasons with bars and restaurants only be able to do delivery and take-away service.

The entire country will be considered a "red zone" on Easter weekend from April 3 to 5. A national lockdown was from March to May 2020 with localized lockdowns in regions later instituted.

"I am aware that today's measures will have consequences on children's education, on the economy and also on the psychological state of us all," Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Friday.

Like Italy, France also has been dealing with the British variant.

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients are at 24,749 with 4,033 of those in intensive care units, the highest level since late November 2020.

"The reality of the hospital situation in Ile-de-France [greater Paris region] is extremely tense, difficult," Prime Minister Jean Castex said while visiting a hospital Friday night. "We are monitoring this situation from day to day to be ready at any time to take the measures that it calls for."


Deaths are down from a fall peak of 932 and a record 1,437 on April 15 to 114 Sunday. But cases were 26,343, the sixth day in a row above 20,000 with the record 88,790 in November.

Russia, which moved past France into seventh two weeks ago, on Sunday reported 395 deaths and 10,083 cases Sunday. Russia has developed its own vaccine, Sputnik V, which is being distributed worldwide.

In Germany, cases and deaths have been subsiding with 52 deaths Sunday, the lowest since 30 Nov. 1 and 8,985 cases.

Germany posted a single-day record of 1,244 deaths and 31,553 cases in December.

But Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, on Friday warned: "We have clear signs: The third wave in Germany has already begun. The virus is not going to disappear, but once we have a base level of immunity in the population, we can control it."

Germany has begun easing the general lockdown, which is set to last until March 28.

In Spain, lockdowns remain throughout the nation except in Madrid, Extremadura and the Balearic and Canary Islands. The regions have also agreed to restrict travel over the Easter break in addition to a nighttime curfew.


Spain, which doesn't report data on the weekend, announced 173 deaths Friday, compared with a winter peak of 766 Feb. 6 and a record 996 April 2. Friday's increase was 5,348, behind the mark of 35,118 in January.

In Asia, India is the only nation in the top 10 for deaths, which were 161 Sunday compared with a record 1,283. Cases have spiked to 25,320, the most since mid-December, compared with a record 97,859.

Officials have announced a lockdown in densely populated Nagpur city in Maharashtra state from Monday through March 21.

"We are very worried about Maharashtra," VK Paul, head of India's vaccine administration, said last week. "This is a serious matter. This has two lessons -- don't take the virus for granted and if we have to remain COVID free, then, we need to follow COVID appropriate behavior."

India's vaccination rate is 2.3% with a plan to vaccine 300 million of its 1.39 billion residents by August though the nation manufactures doses.

At the opposite end of the vaccine spectrum is Israel, which is considered part of Asia. The nation has the highest vaccination rate of 102.15 doses administered for every 100 people, including 45.5% fully vaccinated. Its death toll is 6,008 with 818,548 cases in a nation of 9.2 million.


Last Sunday, restaurants reopened with indoor seating available only to so-called Green Pass holders, meaning people over 16 who are fully vaccinated.

Asia has recorded 410,005 deaths and is fourth among the continents, and 26,167,734 cases, which is third.

Mainland China, where COVID-19 originated, has reported only a few deaths since April and stands in 53rd at 4,636 behind Serbia with 4,719. China added 10 cases Sunday and has the world's largest population with 1.5 billion.

China has a 3.75% vaccination rate among its 1.44 billion residents, the largest in the world, using doses domestically developed and has given conditional approvals to a single-dose one.

On Thursday, International Olympic President Thomas Bach said it will buy vaccines from China for the Summer Olympics in Japan in July and next year in Beijing. The figure wasn't disclosed but Bach said any athlete requiring one will be accommodated.

Japan has extended its state of emergency from late December until March 21, which includes tight controls on the entry of foreign nationals.

Japan has reported 8,607 deaths, including 21 on Sunday with the record 120. Cases are 989 with the record 7,882.

But cases "have ceased to fall or turned higher" in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, health minister Norihisa Tamura told a news conference Friday. He said Tokyo is around a tenth of a peak of 2,520 cases on Jan. 7 but people "need to be very vigilant about the possibility of a resurgence due to mutated strains."


Vaccinations in Japan began three weeks ago around 46,500 doses administered to front-line medical workers as of Friday.

"The sense of urgency among the government is not, I think, similar to other G7 [Group of Seven] countries," said Haruka Sakamoto, a physician and researcher at Keio University told the Japan Times.

South Korea, which administered its first vaccines on Feb. 26, plans to inoculate 12 million people of its 51.3 million people by the first half of 2021, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Friday. So far, the total is 1.13% or around 584,000.

South Korea's record is 40 deaths on Dec. 29 with two announced Sunday for a total of 1,669, as well as 459 cases, behind the mark of 1,241 on Dec. 25.

Oceania, with only 42.3 million people, has 1,099 deaths and 52,516 cases.

New Zealand's deaths remain at 26 with the last one reported on Feb. 16 and Australia's toll stands at 909 with the last two deaths occurring on Nov. 30 and Dec. 29.

New Zealand reported one case on Sunday, tallying 24 in one week, for a total of 2,423, and Australia was up five Sunday for 29,117, an increase of about 80 in seven days.


Australian Health Secretary Brendan Murphy received the vaccine on Sunday and is "pretty confident" most Australians will get at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by October. Around 160,000 of the residents have had a vaccine dose.

"The critical factor in controlling the pace of the vaccination program is the supply and production of vaccines -- that is the critical swing factor," he said.

"In these early phases, that has obviously been impacted by the fact that we had anticipated to have some 3.8 million vaccines imported from overseas. That's been 700,000."

Italy has blocked 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia because the drugmaker has failed to meet European Union supply commitments and it's not a "vulnerable" nation.

South Africa has only vaccinated 0.25% of its population, or 145,215, in a nation of 59.8 million.

South Africa has 51,326 deaths, including 82 Saturday and 65 Sunday, and 1,529,420 cases with a gain of 1,006. Cases reached a high of 21,980 on Jan. 8 and deaths at 839 on Jan. 19.

A more contagious variant emerged in South Africa. Drugmakers are testing their vaccines against it.

"I don't think it is possible to predict with certainty when, or even whether, there will be a third wave in South Africa," Juliet Pulliam, who directs South Africa's Center of Excellence in Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis, told The Wall Street Journal.


Scientists say because of limited testing capacities and asymptomatic infections, there is no definitive data on how many people have recovered from COVID-19 and may now be immune. The nation has had a mask mandate since April 2020 with no lockdown though there have been some restrictions, including closing beaches.

Africa has reported 107,981 fatalities and 4,066,208 infections.

Far behind are Egypt with 11,300 deaths and Morocco with 8,723.

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