Canada’s virus cases seen falling if restrictions maintained

Healthcare personnel provide medical care to 60-year-old COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit at the Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Canada, April 13, 2021. (NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP)

AMSTERDAM / LONDON / RABAT / BRUSSELS / SKOPJE / HAVANA / PRAGUE / TUNIS / BRASILIA / SANTIAGO / QUITO / RIO DE JANEIRO / DUBLIN /  ADDIS ABABA – Canada's third wave of COVID-19 infections should decline steadily through the first part of June, driven lower by health restrictions and the steadily increasing numbers of people who are at least partially vaccinated, health officials said on Friday.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told reporters that the downward trend in cases is "very encouraging", but added "now is not the time to relax our measures".

While some of the 10 provinces, like Quebec, are beginning to open up businesses and relax health restrictions, others are not. Ontario is still mostly closed for business, and Manitoba has extended curbs as hospitals continue to be overloaded.

Some 60 percent of adults in Canada have had at least one dose of vaccination, but only about 5 percent have been fully vaccinated.

In early spring, facing limited supplies and a surge of infections, Canada opted to delay second vaccine doses by up to 16 weeks for most people. But with millions of doses delivered and expected soon, most people will now not have to wait that long.

United States

US companies can mandate that employees in a workplace must be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on Friday.

The EEOC, in a statement posted on its website explaining its updated guidance, said employees can be required to be vaccinated as long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.

The vast majority of employers have been reluctant to require workers to be vaccinated. A survey by management-side law firm Fisher Phillips earlier this year found that only 9 percent of the more than 700 employers surveyed said they were considering mandating vaccines.

The US is also taking a close look at vaccine “passports” for international travel, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday, opening the door to voluntary measures to prove vaccination status abroad.

Mayorkas, speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America ahead of the US Memorial Day holiday, was asked about creating the document for flights into and out of the US.

“We’re taking a very close look at that,” he said. “One of our principles that has guided us throughout the pandemic is the value of diversity, equity and inclusion, and making sure that any passport we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised, and so we’re taking a very close look at that.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks about aviation security ahead of the summer travel season during a news conference at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Arlington, Va. (PATRICKSEMANSKY / AP)

France

President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday France would invest in boosting the production of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, to help close a gap in the availability of the shots between African and Western nations.

Speaking at a joint news conference with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria, Macron said Africa made up around 20 percent of the world's need for vaccines but only 1 percent of vaccine production.

He said France already had a partnership with South Africa's Biovac Institute. Later on Friday, Macron opened another one with South African pharmaceutical company Aspen.

At the launch of his vaccine support initiative at Pretoria University, Macron called for regulated vaccine prices to prevent African nations being ripped off.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 169.48 million while the global death toll topped 3.52 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands will ease COVID-19 lockdown measures next week, allowing bars and restaurants to serve indoors and museums to reopen in what Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday called a “calculated risk”.

Infections have fallen by more than half in the past month as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations gathers pace, allowing a further easing of the lockdown, which has been in effect in various stages for almost eight months.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the drop in infections was mainly due to vaccinations.

The government also announced that if infections stay at the current level, more restrictions will be lifted on June 30.

Kosovo

Kosovo said on Friday it agreed to buy 1.2 million Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccines, the first shots bought by the government as it works to speed up inoculations.

Kosovo so far has received around 180,000 vaccines, mostly from an EU-funded programme.

"Kosovo has secured 1.2 million vaccines in a deal with Pfizer," Health Minister Arben Vitia told a news conference.

"We are determined to continue with a much faster process to vaccinate 60 percent of the population by the end of 2021."

The country of 1.8 million people has registered 107,000 coronavirus infections so far and 2,242 deaths.

The infection rate has decreased significantly, with just 216 people testing positive and five dying in the past seven days.

Britain

Another 4,182 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Britain, the highest daily number since April 1, according to official figures released Friday.

It's also the third day running that the number has been above 3,000.  The total number of coronavirus cases in the country now stands at 4,477,705.

The country also reported another 10 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain to 127,768. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

Morocco

Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 518,458 on Friday as 336 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Health, the death toll rose to 9,135 with one new fatality during the last 24 hours, while 200 people are in intensive care units.

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during a vaccination campaign against COVID-19 at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 27, 2021. (LLUIS GENE / AFP)

European Union

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Friday approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15.

Pfizer-BioNTech becomes the first vaccine to be authorized for adolescents in the 27 member states of the European Union (EU).

Marco Cavaleri, EMA's vaccine strategy manager, told a press conference that the medicines' regulator had received the necessary data to authorize the vaccine for younger teens. The data shows that it is highly effective against COVID-19.

He pointed out that the decision needs to be approved by the European Commission and individual national regulators.

ALSO READ: Pfizer, BioNTech seek EU signoff on virus shot for younger teens

North Marcedonia

The Commission for Infectious Diseases in North Macedonia proposed to the government to further relax restrictive measures against COVID-19 as the number of new cases in the country is decreasing, Health Minister Venko Filipce announced Friday on social media.

Starting from June 1, according to the proposal, protective masks will not be mandatory outdoors. Masks will be obligatory when indoors, while using public transportation and whenever it is impossible to maintain social distancing.

On Friday, the Health Ministry reported 50 new COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the total number of confirmed cases in North Macedonia to 155,217, with 147,381 recoveries and 5,387 fatalities.

Cuba

Cuba reported on Friday 1,169 new COVID-19 infections and 12 more deaths in the last day, bringing the totals to 138,899 cases and 933 deaths, the Public Health Ministry said.

Of the total number of daily infections, 1,135 were from community transmission, the ministry's director of hygiene and epidemiology Francisco Duran said during his daily report.

Czech Republic

Bars, restaurants, nightclubs, swimming pools, saunas, bowling alleys and casinos in the Czech Republic will reopen as of Monday, Health Minister Adam Vojtech announced on Friday.

According to the new regulations, COVID-19 self-tests will be allowed for restaurants while professionally administered tests will be mandatory for all other venues.

The quicker-than-planned reopening, originally expected from June 14, was triggered by a Supreme Administrative Court ruling. The court ruled that blanket restrictions on restaurants were illegal.

The Czech Republic will also ease restrictions and allow tourists from some EU and non-EU countries who have received the approved COVID-19 vaccine, starting from next week.

Belgium

The number of COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units in Belgium has dropped to 491, down by 13 percent compared to last week, according to data reported on Friday by the public health institute Sciensano.

A total of 1,366 patients are being hospitalized, down by 17 percent.

The continued decline in hospitalizations, especially in intensive care units, is consistent with Belgium's "summer plan" adopted by the Consultative Committee on May 11, which vies for a gradual return to normal life.

The drop gives healthcare workers some breathing space, and allows hospitals to take charge of other medical areas other than COVID-19, said Yves Van Laethem, the interfederal spokesperson for the fight against the coronavirus, on Friday.

Tunisia

A senior health official of Tunisia said on Friday that the COVID-19 epidemic situation in the country is still alarming with more than 50 deaths per day and over 600 in intensive care units, Tunis Afrique Presse reported.

"The (health) ministry is preparing for a possible fourth wave of COVID-19," said Faysal Ben Salah, director general of health at the health ministry.

Tunisia reported on Friday 1,702 new COVID-19 cases and 62 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total infections to 341,952 and the death toll to 12,513, according to the health ministry.

Chile

Chile on Friday reported 8,680 new cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in 24 hours, the second highest figure since the start of the pandemic here in March 2020, bringing its accumulated caseload to 1,361,381, the Ministry of Health said.

It was the second consecutive day to register over 8,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period, which also saw 119 more deaths from the disease, raising the pandemic death toll to 28,928

Ecuador

Ecuador registered 836 new cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the past 24 hours and 44 more deaths, bringing the total number of infections to 423,165 and the death toll to 14,953, since the onset of the pandemic here, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

The actual death toll is likely close to 20,500 as another 5,455 deaths are suspected of being caused by COVID-19, but have not been confirmed due to the lack of diagnostic tests, the ministry said.

ALSO READ: Brazil's virus chaos sparks fear, countermeasures from neighbors

Brazil

Brazil will expand vaccination against COVID-19 to the general population in the age range from 18 to 59 years old, as well as to education workers, the Ministry of Health announced on Friday.

The new orientation is possible because states and municipalities have reported decreasing demand in priority groups, which include people with comorbidities from 18 to 59 years of age and people over 60.

The ministry's executive secretary Rodrigo Cruz explained during a press conference that the vaccination schedule will be the responsibility of each Brazilian state according to its capacity.

Brazil’s government is also reviewing exceptional and temporary restrictions on the entry of foreigners into the country to curb the spread of COVID-19 and its new variants.

A decision, based on technical guidance provided by local health regulator Anvisa, will be published in an extra edition of the official gazette this Friday.

Brazil registered 49,768 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours, bringing its total number of confirmed infections to 16,391,930, the Health Ministry said on Friday.

In the same period, 2,371 more people died from the disease, raising the pandemic death toll to 459,045.

Ireland

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said Friday that more COVID-19 restrictions will be eased as of early June thanks to the progress in the vaccination program.

In a televised speech, he said that more than 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered nationwide and half of the eligible population will have received at least one dose of vaccine soon.

"Almost 100 percent of our citizens over the age of 70 are now fully vaccinated," he said, adding that "this is unsurpassed in the European Union (EU)."

"Given our progress in the vaccination program during the month of May and the current levels of the virus in our society, all of the measures that we hoped to introduce in June will now go ahead," he said.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 417 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 270,944 as of Friday evening, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The ministry said 12 new deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 4,139.

Africa

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 4,802,687 as of Friday evening, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The Africa CDC, the specialized healthcare agency of the 55-member African Union, said the death toll from the pandemic stands at 129,753 while 4,343,800 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease.