Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are bringing in stronger COVID-19 measures as they become the latest provinces to announce they have detected the omicron variant. Meanwhile, Manitoba is asking for federal help for its intensive care units.
In Nova Scotia, health officials said the national microbiology lab has confirmed that 40 previously reported COVID-19 cases in the province involved the variant.
This comes as Nova Scotia reported 114 new cases, with an outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University driving the recent rise in cases.
“The reality is cases across the country are up and we hoped to be immune here in Nova Scotia but we’re not,” Premier Tim Houston said during a briefing on Monday.
Starting Friday morning, recreation facilities, stores and malls, museums and libraries in the province won’t be allowed to run at maximum capacity unless physical distancing can be maintained. Indoors and outdoors informal gatherings will be limited to 20 people. Bars and restaurants will also be limited to 20 people per table.
As well, all close contacts of positive cases will have to isolate until they receive a negative PCR test, regardless of vaccination status.
In New Brunswick, two omicron cases have been detected in the Miramichi region and one in the Moncton area, health officials said Monday.
The province also reported 100 new cases of the virus and two additional deaths.
Premier Blaine Higgs announced new “interim measures” aimed at containing the spread of the virus. Students in kindergarten to Grade 6 will go on holiday break this Friday instead of next week, and all sports and organized activities for children under 12 years old are suspended as of Monday night.
Households must limit their contacts to a steady 20. Meanwhile, entertainment centres, such as movie theatres, can operate at 50 per cent capacity with physical distancing, and restaurants can continue to offer dine-in with distancing between tables.
Outside of Atlantic Canada, health officials in Kingston, Ont., are also further tightening gathering and indoor dining restrictions as the area’s health unit deals with the province’s highest rate of COVID-19 infection.
The order, which comes into effect Monday evening, limits indoor and outdoor gatherings, including public events, to a maximum of five people.
Restaurants and bars must close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., except to allow takeout, and can only serve alcohol between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. Only four people are allowed at one table, and dancing, singing and live music are not allowed.
Meanwhile, Manitoba is asking the federal government to send intensive care unit nurses to the province to help with the fourth wave of COVID-19.
Manitoba has requested 15 to 30 intensive care nurses for approximately six weeks. The province made the request over the weekend and is still waiting for a response from Ottawa.
A group of 10 physicians wrote to the province on Sunday asking that military health professionals be called in, saying that ICUs are short on nurses and draining workers away from non-COVID surgeries, which have had to be postponed.
— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday afternoon, more than 270.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.3 million.
In the Americas, three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine is the “optimal care” but two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or one of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains the U.S. government’s official definition of fully vaccinated, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said.
In Africa, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office says that he has postponed getting a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine because he has tested positive for the disease and is recuperating from mild symptoms. The statement issued Monday said that Ramaphosa is receiving medical treatment for his symptoms and is self-isolating in Cape Town.
South Africa’s regulatory authority last week approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be used as a booster shot, opening the way for third doses to be administered to adults in order to battle the current surge driven by the omicron variant.
They are spread around the country and ages range between 18-85 years. The majority had received 2 doses of vaccination.<br>One individual diagnosed in hospital has sadly died. <br><br>UKHSA Chief Medical Adviser Susan Hopkins: <a href=”https://t.co/AHawcEneFm”>pic.twitter.com/AHawcEneFm</a>
The operator of Ghana’s main international airport will fine airlines $3,500 US for every passenger they bring in that is not vaccinated against COVID-19 or that tests positive for the coronavirus on arrival, it said on Monday. The rules, announced by Ghana Airports, follow others introduced last week by the health ministry that require all people entering Ghana to be vaccinated. They come into effect for the Kotoka International Airport in the capital, Accra, on Tuesday.
The requirements are some of the strictest in Africa, where vaccine uptake has been slow due to lack of supply and logistical challenges, and come as the new omicron variant raises concerns about quicker transmission of the virus.
In Europe, long lines formed Monday at vaccination centres across England as people heeded the government’s call for all adults to get booster shots to protect themselves against the omicron variant, after the U.K. recorded its first death of a patient infected with omicron.
In a televised announcement late Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said everyone 18 and up would be offered a third vaccine dose by Dec. 31 — less than three weeks away, and a month earlier than the previous target.
“We are now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant, omicron,” Johnson said. He said boosters would “reinforce our wall of vaccine protection” against an anticipated “tidal wave of omicron.”
Norway will further tighten its coronavirus restrictions this week in order to limit the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told news agency NTB on Monday.
“The situation is serious. The spread of infection is too high and we have to take action to limit this development,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities on Monday backed away from introducing some of the restrictions for the unvaccinated that were announced a month ago and elicited public outrage all across the vast country, where vaccine uptake remains low.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan has confirmed its first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, in the country’s most populous city of Karachi, the country’s National Institute of Health (NIH) said on Monday.
Meanwhile, coronavirus-free Queensland state opened its domestic borders to all vaccinated people for the first time in nearly five months, as Australians gear up for quarantine-free travel across most of the country during the busy Christmas period.
In the Middle East, Israel said it was adding Britain and Denmark to its “red” list of countries that Israelis are forbidden to visit.
— From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 3:30 p.m. ET