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Today’s coronavirus news: Provinces release details on who to receive COVID-19 vaccines in coming weeks

Today’s coronavirus news: Provinces release details on who to receive COVID-19 vaccines in coming weeks
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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:32 a.m.: Iran s daily coronavirus death toll climbed over 400 for the first time in months on Sunday, as the country, which has long had the region s largest outbreak, battles a post-holiday infection surge.

Iranian health authorities recorded 405 fatalities from the virus, pushing the total death toll to 66,732. Officials increasingly have warned about the impact of trends seen nationwide during the Persian New Year, or Nowruz. The two-week holiday last month brought increased travel, relaxed restrictions and large gatherings without precautions.

After COVID-19 cases broke record after record earlier this month, the Health Ministry reported 21,644 infections on Sunday, bringing the total count over 2.2 million. Hospitals are rapidly filling across the country, particularly in the capital. Authorities reported 130 deaths in Tehran alone, according to Mohsen Hashemi, head of the Tehran municipal council. The single-day death toll nationwide reached a peak of over 480 last November.

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered Iran for months, but the government has signalled it can t sustain the punishing lockdowns seen in the U.S. and Europe without risking economic catastrophe, especially for the nation s poorest. Its ailing economy has struggled under harsh U.S. sanctions, reimposed when former President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 landmark nuclear deal that granted the country sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

8 a.m.: It’s a fight that has all the trappings of a culture-war showdown: claims of persecution, crowds tearing down fences, shoutouts from reality stars, a pastor sent to jail.

A cavernous church on the outskirts of Edmonton has played host to a months-long battle between public health officers and those breaking pandemic rules in the name of religious freedom.

But in recent days, the tone of protest has turned darker. Dozens of the people who showed up to pray and carry a giant cross in protest of the forced closure of GraceLife Church this past weekend also ripped down barricades and trespassed on a neighbouring First Nation, some vandalizing a vehicle and hurling racial epithets at residents. The next day, a crowd at a rally where the case of the church was at times raised shouted for Alberta’s top doctor to be locked up.

Even Premier Jason Kenney, who has repeatedly lamented the need to impose COVID-19 restrictions on his province, appears fed up. He lambasted “unhinged conspiracy theorists,” hours after the protest outside the legislature in Edmonton turned ugly Monday.

There’s no question that, heading into a second pandemic year, lockdown measures are being met with pockets of pushback from coast to coast, as business owners in Old Montreal, reeling from the aftermath of Sunday’s riots, can attest.

8 a.m.: Wealth is usually a cushion in times of crisis. The more you have, the softer the blows you need to absorb.

But for the super rich during this pandemic, their wealth has been more like a propeller, lifting them to even greater heights.

Since March 2020, Canada’s billionaires — of which there are about four dozen — have collectively increased their wealth by more than $78 billion. As a group, that’s about a 40-per-cent jump in a single year. For them, COVID-19 has been a boon, not a crisis.

The fact that this massive increase in billionaire wealth has come in the midst of record unemployment, small business closures and unprecedented levels of government debt has invigorated and renewed calls for Canada to implement some kind of wealth tax.

7:01 a.m.: This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for the first time in a while: the lineup Friday outside a downtown Washington D.C. Apple Store was longer than at one of the city s largest COVID-19 mass-vaccination sites.

Getting the shot at the nearby Walter E. Washington Convention Center — all D.C. residents over 16 are now eligible — took people only about 20 minutes, with some recipients displaying their I Got Vaccinated stickers or telltale Band-Aids as they emerged.

Access to the vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. But the country that just months ago was the international poster child for how not to respond to a pandemic still doesn t seem to be in a celebratory — or charitable — mood.

7 a.m.: When Breshna Kayoumi steps inside her Toronto apartment, she takes pains to spray herself down with an antiseptic, to clean away any germs she could carry in from the outside world.

She crosses the doorway and lands immediately in a living space that her family of seven juggles as a place for online school work, for sharing meals and for their four-year-old to play. There aren’t many other options; Kayoumi, her husband and their five kids have spent the last year-plus of the pandemic stuffed together in the three-bedroom unit.

“It’s just not enough,” she said.

Like Kayoumi, hundreds of thousands of Canadian households live in too-small homes, and as governments have asked people to stay at home in light of COVID-19, they’ve faced the pandemic in spaces that barely contain them — and increase their risk of virus spread.

Across Canada, nearly 750,000 households reported living in overcrowded homes in 2018, more than a third of which were in Toronto.

6:22 a.m.: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga asked the U.S. drug maker Pfizer Inc. for additional supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine to speed up his country s inoculation drive, which lags behind many other nations.

Suga, after holding talks with President Joe Biden at the White House, wrapped up his Washington visit on Saturday with a phone call to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Taro Kono, a Cabinet minister tasked with vaccinations, told a Japanese television talk show Sunday that the two sides have “practically reached an agreement” over the vaccines.

Suga requested Bourla provide additional supplies that would cover all eligible recipients by September, as well as to ensure the stable and prompt delivery of the ongoing vaccine shipments, Japanese officials said Sunday. No details were released.

According to the officials, Bourla told Suga that Pfizer planned to closely co-ordinate with the Japanese government to discuss the requests.

Japan, with its domestic vaccine development still in the early stages, has to rely on imports and has signed agreements with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna. The Pfizer vaccine is the only one Japan has approved so far.

Japan’s government says it has secured 314 million doses, enough to cover its entire population by the end of this year. That includes 144 million doses from Pfizer.

6:21 a.m.: Germany is paying tribute Sunday to the nearly 80,000 people it has lost to the coronavirus, even as the country struggles to get a grip on another rise in infections.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will lead a memorial event with other top officials at Berlin s Konzerthaus concert hall. His office says it is also dedicated to the bereaved “who could not accompany their relatives when they died and for whom important and comforting rituals of mourning were not possible.”

Germany s confirmed death toll from COVID-19 stood at 79,914 on Sunday, an increase of 67 over the previous day. That is the fifth-highest total in Europe, after the U.K., Italy, Russia and France.

Germany had a comparatively small number of deaths in the pandemic’s first phase, but saw much higher infection levels in the fall and winter. In January, more than 1,000 deaths per day were reported at times in the country of 83 million people.

Infections have increased again over the past two months as a more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain took hold. Germany has reported 3.14 million cases since the pandemic began.

5:05 a.m.: As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks.

The military commander handling logistics for Canada s vaccine distribution program says there will be enough vaccine delivered to give a first dose before Canada Day to every adult who wants one.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin says that s if provinces follow the advice to delay second doses up to four months.

He also cautions that it is dependent on having no production delays again.

Health Canada anticipates a total of 36.5 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India by June 30.

Canadian provinces have suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in people under age 55, acting on an advisory committee s concerns about a possible link between the shot and rare blood clots.

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I. s chief medical officer of health, said the risk of developing a serious problem after being immunized is "very, very low."

She said people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine should look for symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, sudden onset of severe or persistent headache or blurred vision and skin bruising elsewhere than the site of vaccination, developing four to 20 days after vaccination.

There are approximately 31 million Canadians over 16, and no vaccines are approved for anyone younger than 16.

Here s a list of the inoculation plans throughout Canada:

Newfoundland and Labrador

Health officials say vaccinations have begun for first responders. Pre-registration for COVID-19 vaccines has opened for people aged 70 or older and for home-support workers.

Last month Newfoundland and Labrador extended the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months.

Public health officials said the change would help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey called the decision a game changer for the province s vaccination prospects.

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Nova Scotia

All Nova Scotians who want a vaccination should be able to get their first shot by late June, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang announced on April 9. The original target was September.

Strang also said that as of April 9, Nova Scotians 65 years of age and older became eligible to receive their first dose.

As well, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is still available for those 55 to 64 years old.

The province is also planning to use mobile van clinics to vaccinate about 900 people who work at or use homeless shelters in the Halifax area.

Public health is partnering with pharmacists and doctors to provide the vaccines at 25 locations.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, has added front-line police officers to the list of people eligible for vaccination during the second phase of the province s rollout plan, joining groups such as long-haul truck drivers and hospital workers over the age of 60.

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Prince Edward Island

Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some.

P.E.I., meantime, has joined other provinces in suspending administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to people under age 55 due to concerns about a possible link between the shot and rare blood clots.

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New Brunswick

New Brunswick health officials say people 70 and older, a caregiver or a family member acting on their behalf can now make an appointment for a vaccine at a pharmacy.

Health-care professionals who have close contact with patients, and people with complex medical conditions are also eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The province says all residents of long-term care homes have been offered at least one dose of vaccine.

As of March 19, all residents of First Nations communities aged 16 or older were given access to their first dose of vaccine.

Workers who regularly travel across the border, including regular commuters, truckers and rotational workers are also eligible to receive vaccines.

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Quebec

Quebec has expanded access to COVID-19 vaccines to Montrealers who are essential workers or who have chronic illnesses.

Essential workers such as teachers and first responders can now book an appointment after providing proof of employment.

Quebecers between the ages of 55 and 79 can now receive an Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at walk-in clinics.

Quebec has also opened vaccination appointments for anyone over the age of 60 across the province.

Officials announced on April 8 the first 13 companies that will operate clinics in their workplaces, with each site able to vaccinate up to 25,000 people between May and August.

Participating companies include National Bank, Bell, and Groupe CH, owner of the Montreal Canadiens NHL team. The clinics will be located in eight different health regions and should be operational by May 1.

Montreal s airport authority will partner with Air Canada and Bombardier to create a vaccination hub that will operate two sites at the departure level of the airport terminal and in a nearby Bombardier hangar.
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