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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for March 24, 2021

The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern): 6:20 p.m. British Columbia is reporting 717 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 93,969.

The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

6:20 p.m.

British Columbia is reporting 717 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 93,969.

There are 5,573 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced three new COVID-19-related deaths.

Henry and Dix say there are 71 new confirmed COVID-19 variant cases in B.C. as well.

Nearly 600,000 vaccine doses have been administered in B.C., of which 87,180 are second doses.


6 p.m.

The Canadian military is on its way to getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a letter to military personnel today, acting defence chief Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre says the Canadian Armed Forces is planning to receive 150,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine over the next three months.

He says administering those doses will be the primary focus of the military’s health services.

Eyre is “strongly” encouraging all members of the Forces to get vaccinated and says that “operational effectiveness depends on it.”


6 p.m.

Alberta is reporting 692 new cases of COVID-19. 

There are 285 people in hospital, 53 of whom are in intensive care.

Two more people have died, bringing that total to 1,973. 

There are 202 new variant cases, and variants now make up 19 per cent of all active cases. 

There have been 512,000 doses of the vaccine administered.


5:30 p.m.  

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says she does not expect any interruption in the delivery of vaccines to Canada despite export restrictions imposed by the European Union and India. 

Canada's contracts in Europe are with Pfizer and Moderna, neither of which are targeted by the EU restrictions, she says.  

Anand says Canada has 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine remaining in its contract with the Serum Institute of India.

She says she spoke today to India's high commissioner to Canada,   "who assures us that the contractual commitments that the Serum Institute has made will be observed."


4:30 p.m.

India’s high commission in Canada says it is trying to glean information from its government about a media report that the country is freezing major exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which could affect shipments to Canada.

Anshuman Gaur, the deputy high commissioner in Ottawa, says in a text that the 10-hour time difference is complicating the task, but that diplomats are seeking “more clarity” from New Delhi.

A Reuters news report Wednesday said India has halted exports of its AstraZeneca vaccine due to shortages on the subcontinent.

India has already supplied 500,000 doses of a planned two million to Canada, with another one million initially slated for arrival in mid-April followed by a final shipment a month or so later.

Gaur says delivery schedules remain under discussion between the Serum Institute of India, which produces AstraZeneca doses, and its Ontario-based partner Verity Pharmaceuticals.


4:15 p.m.

Ontario's finance minister has delivered his second pandemic-era budget.

The spending plan is aimed at helping the province recover from the COVID-19 outbreak.

It contains $6.7 billion for pandemic-related measures, including $1 billion for the vaccine effort, and an additional $2.3 billion for testing and contact tracing this year.

The plan projects a deficit of $33.1 billion for the year, with the province saying it will take until 2029 to balance the books.


3:45 p.m.

British Columbia's premier says more than 1,400 laid-off tourism and hospitality workers are now set to help with non-clinical work during the province’s COVID-19 immunization campaign.

John Horgan says B.C. has partnered with hard-hit businesses including Air Canada, WestJet, Vancouver International Airport, the Vancouver Canucks and Tourism Whistler to get some of their employees back to work.

Ceres Terminals Canada, which operates the cruise port at Vancouver's Canada Place, is also providing staff to work in the mass immunization clinics being set up across the province.

Horgan adds the opportunity will be available as long as the province needs the help.

He says B.C. has seen significant success in its vaccination program so far, but recent increases in COVID-19 case numbers mean residents must continue to follow public health rules.


3:35 p.m.

Saskatchewan health officials are reporting 190 new COVID-19 cases.

The province says 116 of the infections come from the Regina area, which is battling a spread of more infectious variants.

Of Saskatchewan's 954 variant cases, 824 are from in and around the capital.

There are 147 people in hospital, with 22 in intensive care.

Another resident in their 80s has died of COVID-19, bringing the province's pandemic death toll to 420.

To date, around 151,000 vaccinations have been done.


3 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he'll communicate with the "highest levels" of European leaders to make sure COVID-19 vaccine doses continue to be sent to Canada.

The European Union is imposing stricter controls on exports of the vaccines produced within its boundaries to try to accelerate a slow vaccination campaign there.

In question period in the House of Commons, Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner asked Trudeau whether he could "absolutely guarantee" shipments to Canada wouldn't be affected.

Trudeau didn't answer directly but said he expects Canada will work with the EU to make sure the vaccines keep flowing.

Shipments of vaccines made in Europe by Pfizer and Moderna have not been affected by previous European export controls.


2:35 p.m.

Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 12 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today.

Ten of the cases are in the Edmundston region in the northwest of the province, and most are considered travel-related or close contacts of previously reported cases. 

There are two new cases in the Moncton area.

With confirmed variant cases in the Edmundston area, a mass testing clinic will be held Thursday and Friday to determine if there has been further spread in the region.

There are now 63 active cases in New Brunswick, and three patients are hospitalized.


2:30 p.m.

About 65 per cent of all adults in Yukon have received their first shot of COVID-19 vaccine, but the territory's chief medical health officer says there is some hesitancy.

Dr. Brendan Hanley says health officials are working to reassure those who have expressed concern about the vaccine and its potential side-effects.

Hanley says he's hopeful their outreach efforts will reduce concerns.

Yukon has no current infections, but has had 72 cases since the pandemic began and one death.


2:25 p.m.

The European Union adjusted its export controls on COVID-19 vaccines today to add new tests to ensure Europe isn’t being disproportionately affected by any production slowdowns and drug companies are honouring their contracts with the EU.

Canadian shipments of vaccines will still require an authorization from Europe, and a European Commission source said those “should be granted” as long as they don’t pose a threat to Europe’s supply.

A new test for “reciprocity and proportionality” is being added that will look at receiving countries for whether they’re far ahead of Europe in vaccinating their citizens, and whether the shipments are disproportionate to what Europe is getting.

Canada is lagging slightly behind Europe on its vaccination rate thus far, with the European Union giving out almost 14 doses for every 100 people and Canada about 11, though recently Canada has been vaccinating faster than Europe has.

Canada has no COVID-19 vaccine production in place at the moment and is reliant almost entirely on Europe for its current supply of vaccines.

More than 90 per cent of the almost seven million doses of vaccines exported to Canada have come from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna batches produced in Europe. Only 500,000 doses have come so far from outside Europe: a delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made at the Serum Institute of India.


2:15 p.m.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner says the federal government needs to roll out a concrete plan to help provinces deal with a potential bottleneck in COVID-19 vaccine supply.

The demand follows media reports that India is freezing major exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the European Union is finalizing emergency legislation that would give it broad powers to curb vaccine shipments abroad for six weeks amid supply shortages at home.

The federal government says it does not believe vaccine shipments to Canada would be affected by export restrictions being considered by the EU.

Rempel Garner says verbal assurances don’t cut it, and she’s calling for written guarantees from the EU and other countries on whether Canada will be impacted by export restrictions.

She says provincial plans for lifting lockdowns hinge on a steady ramp-up in dose deliveries.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet says he is not concerned about overall vaccine supply into Canada.


1:40 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 80 new cases of COVID-19 today and no new deaths. 

Thirty-seven of the cases are in the northern health region.

Members of the military are landing in Manitoba this week to help the vaccination effort in 23 northern First Nations. 

Officials say the effort will accelerate the pace of immunizations so that 100,000 First Nations people can get doses in 100 days. 

Immunizations in the province have now been expanded to people 65 and older, and First Nations people 45 and older.


1:10 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today.

All are in the Halifax area with three close contacts of previously reported cases and the other two related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.

The province currently has a total of 24 active infections.

As of Tuesday, health officials say 71,733 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 21,648 people having received their required second shot.


1 p.m.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the Canadian Armed Forces will support Indigenous Services in its vaccination efforts in 23 remote Indigenous communities in Manitoba.

He says up to 200 military personnel will be deployed to provide assistance and administer vaccines.

He says the CAF logistics professionals will help with establishing vaccination clinics as well as transporting community members to and from clinics where required.

Sajjan says the military members will start delivering vaccines in Indigenous communities in Manitoba on March 29 and the operation will continue until at least the end of June.


12:55 p.m.

Public health restrictions are loosening once again in Newfoundland and Labrador as the province reports one new case of COVID-19.

Effective midnight Saturday, the entire province will move to Alert Level 2, allowing households to keep a so-called “steady 20” group of consistent contacts.

Health officials put the province in lockdown on Feb. 12 as a COVID-19 outbreak spread through the St. John’s area.

There are now just three active cases across the province, with one of those patients in hospital due to the disease.


11:50 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 783 new cases of COVID-19 today and eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 11, to 508, and 118 people were in intensive care, a rise of five.

Officials say Quebec surpassed the mark of one million vaccine doses administered in the province, after giving 31,025 shots Tuesday.


10:35 a.m.

Ontario reports 1,571 new cases of COVID-19 today and 10 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 459 of those new cases are in Toronto, 309 are in Peel Region and 143 are in York Region.

The province says that more than 72,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Tuesday's update.


10:20 a.m.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has lowered the age for booking vaccinations.

It says residents 65 and older can now book a shot.

The health authority says those living in the Far North can also do so if they’re 50 and older.

Residents deemed clinically vulnerable or with underlying health conditions are also eligible but will have to wait for a letter first.

Priority health-care workers can also get vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press