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The two most affected provinces in Canada reported new high numbers of COVID-19 in a single day on Wednesday, with 2,923 new cases in Ontario and 2,511 in Quebec.
Health authorities in Ontario also reported 19 additional deaths, bringing the number of provincial deaths to 4,474. Hospitalizations increased to 1,177, with 323 patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units.
The record number reported in Ontario on Wednesday came after the provincial finance minister was attacked by traveling to the Caribbean on vacation. Rod Phillips said in a statement Tuesday night that he left for a trip to St. Barts on December 13, after the end of the legislative session.
Ontario, which went into blockade on December 26, is advising non-essential travel.
Prime Minister Doug Ford said in a statement that he told Phillips that his decision to travel was “completely unacceptable and that it will not be tolerated again – by him or any member of our cabinet and caucus”.
“I also told the minister that I need him back to the country immediately.”
Phillips said in his statement that he deeply regrets having traveled while on vacation.
“It was a mistake and I apologize,” said the statement. “I am making arrangements to return to Ontario immediately and will begin a 14-day quarantine as soon as I arrive.”
WATCH | Phillips must return to Ontario after reaction:
Ontario’s finance minister is not the only politician facing criticism over holiday travel – Quebec Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand is apologizing after traveling to Barbados, while the Coalition Avenir Québec MNA Youri Chassin says that left for turkey be with the wife who lives there and he hasn’t seen her for almost a year.
Quebec reported 41 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 8,165.
According to a provincial panel, hospitalizations in Quebec stood at 1,211 with 152 COVID-19 patients in ICUs.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick added a new case; Prince Edward Island announced two, both related to travel; two Canadian Coast Guard ships are anchored in Dartmouth, NS, after the crews were exposed to people with a positive test; and Newfoundland and Labradorthe number of active cases remains at 18 after not reporting new infections.
In the North, the first doses of the vaccine Moderna COVID-19 arrived in Nunavut on Wednesday, on a scheduled flight to northern Canada, although it takes another week for the territory to announce details of how they will be distributed.
As of 1:30 pm ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count was 571,069, with 73,419 of the cases considered active. The CBC News death count was 15,438.
See what’s happening in Canada:
– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last update at 11:20 am ET
What’s happening in the USA
A new variant of the coronavirus that may be more contagious was found in a Colorado man who was not traveling, raising a series of questions about how the first American case of the new version appeared in the Rocky Mountains state.
The new variant was first identified in England, and infections are now increasing in Britain, where the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 exceeded the first peak of the outbreak in the spring. The new variant has also been found in several other countries, including Canada.
The United States has seen more than 19.5 million cases of COVID-19 and has recorded more than 338,000 COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University tracking tool.
In California, which has been hit hard, the state’s top health official said Los Angeles County hospitals are turning to “crisis treatment” and preparing for the worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the new year.
Dr. Mark Ghaly’s comment came on Tuesday, when he extended strict home stay orders in areas where intensive care units have few beds.
Ghaly said that Southern California and the San Joaquin agricultural valley have virtually no ICU capacity to treat patients with COVID-19. He says that some crowded hospitals do not have space to unload ambulances or provide oxygen for patients who are unable to breathe.
The state’s “crisis care” guidelines allow rationing of treatment when staff, drugs and supplies are lacking.
California reported more than 31,000 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday and 242 deaths. Nearly 25,000 people in the state died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.
– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last update at 7:30 am ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday, more than 82.2 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, with more than 46.5 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins. The global death toll was approaching 1.8 million.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that the COVAX initiative – a program to help bring coronavirus vaccines to all countries – needs $ 4 billion “urgently” to buy vaccines.
WATCH | WHO calls for equitable access to the vaccine:
Inside Europe, the United Kingdom extended its highest level of restrictions to three quarters of England’s population. Also on Wednesday, the United Kingdom became the first country to approve the Vaccine AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19.
Inside Asia, The National Health Commission of China is encouraging tens of millions of migrant workers not to return home during the February Lunar New Year holiday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Authorities are running a campaign to vaccinate 50 million people before the holiday.
At the Americas, Brazil will soon assess approval for emergency use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, after Britain gave the green light on Wednesday. Fiocruz, based in Rio de Janeiro, agreed to import and bottle around 100 million doses by June and eventually produce the vaccine locally.
Inside Africa, Zimbabwe has postponed the planned reopening of schools until next week due to an increase in coronavirus infections and a tropical storm sweeping the region. A teachers’ union had already filed a petition in court to prevent reopening, saying it was not safe for students to return to school.
– From the Associated Press and Reuters, last update at 2:00 pm ET