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

The latest:

The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic may be tougher than the first given how the coronavirus is spreading, especially in the northern hemisphere as more infectious variants circulate, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

“We are going into a second year of this, it could even be tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we are seeing,” Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency official, said during an event on social media.

The worldwide death toll is approaching two million people since the pandemic began, with 91.5 million people infected.

The WHO, in its latest epidemiological update issued overnight, said after two weeks of fewer cases being reported, some five million new cases were reported last week, the likely result of a letdown of defences during the holiday season in which people — and the virus — came together.

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A member of the World Health Organization’s team heading to Wuhan, China, to try to find the origin of the novel coronavirus said he doesn’t see limitations on research, but also doesn’t expect this trip will reveal the source of the coronavirus. 1:33

“Certainly in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe and North America, we have seen that sort of perfect storm of the season — coldness, people going inside, increased social mixing and a combination of factors that have driven increased transmission in many, many countries,” Ryan said.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, warned: “After the holidays, in some countries the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better.”

Amid growing fears of the more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain but now entrenched worldwide, governments across Europe on Wednesday announced tighter, longer coronavirus restrictions.

That includes home office requirements and store closures in Switzerland, an extended Italian COVID-19 state of emergency, and German efforts to further reduce contacts between people, which have been blamed for failed efforts, so far, to get the coronavirus under control.

“I worry that we will remain in this pattern of peak and trough and peak and trough, and we can do better,” Van Kerkhove said.

She called for maintaining physical distancing. “The further, the better … make sure that you keep that distance from people outside your immediate household.”

What’s happening across Canada

As of 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 679,687 cases of COVID-19, with 79,921 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,346.

Manitoba announced 158 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths on Wednesday.

Ontario, which registered 2,961 new cases and 74 additional deaths on Wednesday, announced plans to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in all nursing homes and high-risk retirement homes by Feb. 15. 

Members of the province’s vaccine distribution task force said residents, workers and essential caregivers at those facilities will get their first doses by that date.

Workers are seen wearing face masks Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Quebec reported 2,071 new cases and 35 more deaths. The province also said more than 1,500 residents are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

In New Brunswicka third death has been recorded at the Shannex Parkland care home in Saint John. The home is now reporting 25 active cases, involving 14 residents and 11 employees

Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases for the third day in a row and, with one new recovery, the province’s active caseload has now dropped to three — its lowest level since Nov. 4.

In Nova Scotia, a case has been identified at Cape Breton University. The province has now reported six cases of COVID-19 at universities this month.

In the North, the Yukon government has launched a website where people in the territory can book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments, while Northwest Territories health officials have released more details about when residents in the territory can start receiving doses.

What’s happening around the world

As of Wednesday, more than 91.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 50.7 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.9 million.

In Asia, Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency for seven more prefectures Wednesday, affecting more than half the population amid a surge in infections across the country.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also said Japan will suspend fast-track entry exceptions for business visitors or others with residency permits, fully banning foreign visitors while the state of emergency is in place. 

People wearing face masks are seen during a state of emergency due in Kyoto, Japan, on Wednesday. (Kyodo via Reuters)

In the Americas, coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have hit another one-day high at 4,327 deaths. The nation’s overall death toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Deaths have been rising sharply in the past 2½ months, and the country is in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is rolled out.

Health-care workers are seen at a field hospital in Worcester, Mass., on Wednesday. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

In Europe, Swiss authorities are stepping up restrictions to fight the coronavirus, ordering all shops that sell non-essential goods closed and stricter rules on private gatherings.

The Federal Council decided Wednesday that a previous expansion of measures announced last month has not coincided with a significant drop in case numbers. The new measures take effect Monday.

Students wearing face masks take a written exam in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

In Africa, Sudan has lifted a ban on travellers coming from Britain, the Netherlands and South Africa until April 11, the country’s civil aviation authority said in a statement. 

The country imposed the ban on Dec. 23 due to the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus in the three countries.