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

The latest:

COVID-19 cases continued to rise in Quebec on Tuesday, as health officials reported 12,833 new cases — a single-day high — and 15 additional deaths.

Due to the increasing strain on the province’s health-care system, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Tuesday that health care-workers, under certain circumstances, will be allowed to continue to work even if they receive a positive COVID-19 result. 

“Omicron’s contagion is so exponential that a huge number of personnel have to be withdrawn, and that poses a risk to the network capacity to treat Quebecers,” he said during a briefing. “We made the decision that under certain conditions, positive staff will be able to continue working according to a list of priorities and risk management.”

Dubé said he would provide more information about those conditions in the coming days, but that the decision was made with the input of the union and ministry of health. 

Public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda added some detail, saying if a worker is clearly not well, they will not be required to work. 

“But there [are] people who really have some symptoms, very soft ones, who can go work again and they feel OK.”

WATCH | Dr. Arruda outlines which infected health-care workers can continue to work in Quebec:

Some COVID positive health-care workers in Quebec can continue work

Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda outlines who might be able to continue working in the health-care system even if they test positive for COVID-19, and under what circumstances. 1:44

Meanwhile, health officials in Ontario on Tuesday reported 8,825 new cases and seven additional deaths. Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet there were 491 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

The province is temporarily pausing general visitors from entering long-term care homes starting Thursday, with two designated caregivers per resident exempt from the new rule.

Rod Phillips, Ontario’s Minister of Long-Term Care, said Tuesday that there were 41 care homes with outbreaks across the province, up from 37 the previous day.

While 93 residents and 161 staff have tested positive for COVID-19, none are hospitalized, he said.

About 84 per cent of eligible residents and 43 per cent of long-term care workers had received COVID-19 vaccine booster doses as of last week, he said.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, was scheduled to provide an update about the situation in Ontario Tuesday, but provincial representatives later said that briefing was being postponed.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Ontario Science Table director, on the need to reduce contacts in face of Omicron: 

Stricter COVID-19 measures needed in Ontario to reduce Omicron spread, says expert

Epidemiologist Dr. Peter Jüni hopes to see the Ontario government introduce stronger COVID-19 restrictions to fight the spread of the Omicron variant. ‘The situation we are in is challenging,’ he says. 6:52

For more details on the situation in your province and territory — including the latest on hospitalizations and ICU capacity, as well as local testing issues — click through to the local coverage below. 

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, is expected to provide an update Tuesday about the planned return to school. Strang is set to appear with the province’s education minister at 2 p.m. local time. The scheduled briefing comes as the province on Tuesday reported 561 new cases of COVID-19.

Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday reported a total of 194 new cases of COVID-19 — a single-day high for the province — with no hospitalizations reported.

Prince Edward Island reported a record high 118 new cases Tuesday, while New Brunswick health officials reported 306.

Across the North, there were 11 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut on Tuesday.  Health officials in the Northwest Territories and Yukon had not yet provided updated information for the day.

In the Prairies, Manitoba health officials reported 825 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and seven additional deaths. The update came as the province announced it was ramping up restrictions again, including limits on capacity for both indoor and outdoor public gatherings.

There were no updated figures released in Saskatchewan or Alberta.

In British Columbia, health officials on Monday reported 6,288 new COVID-19 cases over three days. Updated information on deaths and hospitalizations is expected later this week.

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

What’s happening around the world

Quebec Premier François Legault, centre, Quebec Public Health Director Horacio Arruda, left, and Health Minister Christian Dubé attend a news conference in Montreal last week. Officials announced Tuesday that Quebec health workers, under certain circumstances, will be allowed to work even if they test positive for COVID-19. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

As of early Tuesday afternoon, roughly 281.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking site maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.4 million.

In Europe, demand for free COVID-19 testing kits provided by Madrid’s regional government far outstripped supply on Tuesday, with long queues forming outside pharmacies in what has become a common scene since the Omicron variant began driving up infection. It was a similar story in Italy, where long lines have developed at some drive-in testing centres while many chemists have reported being deluged with requests for tests as infections climb.

Germany’s health minister says his government is buying a million packets of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill for newly infected COVID-19 patients. Karl Lauterbach said the treatment is “extremely promising” because it can head off serious illness if started early. He said he has initiated the procedure for an emergency authorization of Paxlovid in Germany together with the country’s medical regulator so that it can be used as soon as it is delivered.

In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Monday reported 3,782 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, India has granted emergency use authorization for two vaccines and one COVID-19 pill, the health minister tweeted, as authorities warn about the spread of the Omicron variant across the country.

The first is Covovax, the Serum Institute of India’s version of the Novavax vaccine, a two-dose shot made with lab-grown copies of the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. The second is Corbevax, made by Indian firm Biological-E, which the health minister said is the country’s first indigenously developed protein-based vaccine against COVID-19.

It also granted emergency use approval for molnupiravir, an antiviral drug, that will be manufactured by 13 companies in India and will be used in emergency situations to treat COVID-19 patients at high risk.

People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 queue for a COVID-19 test at La Paz hospital in Madrid on Tuesday. Spain is dealing with the highest-ever number of coronavirus infections, with some regions considering further curbs on social life ahead of the end of the year. (Manu Fernandez/The Associated Press)

Even though daily cases in India have remained low for months after the country saw a devastating surge earlier this year, concern over Omicron has grown in recent weeks, sparking various states to enforce new restrictions. In the capital, New Delhi, a slew of new restrictions were announced Tuesday, including a night curfew, shutting down cinemas and gyms, and a ban on large public gatherings or events. India has so far confirmed more than 650 Omicron cases.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, began administering coronavirus vaccine booster shots as the South Asian country tried to fend off the highly contagious Omicron variant.

In the Middle East, the multibillion-dollar world’s fair in Dubai has warned that some venues on site may shut down as coronavirus cases rapidly rise in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai’s Expo 2020 said that virus outbreaks among workers may force parts of the fair to “close temporarily for deep cleaning and sanitization.” It did not elaborate.

The UAE’s daily virus caseload has skyrocketed by a multiple of 35 in just the last three weeks after the arrival of the Omicron variant. The vague statement from Dubai’s government-run media office on Monday underscores the daunting challenges of hosting among the world’s first major in-person events amid a still-raging pandemic.

In the Americas, U.S. government figures show that the omicron variant continues to account for a growing proportion of new coronavirus infections in the country.

Omicron accounted for 59 per cent of new cases in the U.S. for the week ending Dec. 25, according to updated data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 23 per cent the previous week.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday pledged the full support of the federal government to states facing surges in COVID-19 cases from Omicron variant and a run on at-home tests.

A health worker waits for people to turn up for COVID-19 tests at a metro station in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Manish Swarup/The Associated Press)

Biden acknowledged long lines and chaotic scenes as Americans sought out testing amid the case surge and as they looked to safely gather with family and friends over the holidays. He referenced his administration’s plan to make 500 million rapid tests available to Americans beginning next month through an as-yet-to-be-developed website.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said Monday that the U.S. should “seriously” consider a vaccination mandate for domestic travel. Speaking to MSNBC, Fauci, who serves as Biden’s chief science adviser on the COVID-19 response, said, “When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated.” 

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 2 p.m. ET

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