Manitoba and Prince Edward Island joined the list of provinces pushing back the return to in-class learning on Tuesday, with officials in both provinces saying students will learn at home until at least Jan. 17.
When students do return to island classrooms, there will be masking requirements and additional testing, officials said.
“This was a challenging decision that was based on balancing safety and the overall health and well-being of children,” Dr. Heather Morrison, Prince Edward Island‘s chief public health officer, said in a statement.
The island, which has a high vaccination rate and no COVID-19 deaths to date, is seeing rising case numbers, with 198 new cases on Tuesday. Three people were in hospital being treated for COVID-19, with four others in hospital for other illnesses testing positive for COVID-19.
“It’s not our intention to stay in this restriction situation for any longer than we need to,” Premier Dennis King said Tuesday, as the province was extending a slew of restrictions. “The ‘when’ will be determined by the science, the ‘how’ — that is what we’re working on.”
Students in Manitoba will also begin the new year with online eduction. The province had previously announced it would delay the return to school until Jan. 10. But on Tuesday, officials announced students would do one week of remote learning as well.
Some children will be able to learn in person, officials said, including students with special needs and children of some essential workers.
“We know that our youth learn best in a classroom setting. It is our goal to ensure they can return to the classroom as quickly as possible,” Premier Heather Stefanson said.
Manitoba reported two additional deaths on Tuesday, with hospitalizations at 251. The province also reported 1,757 additional cases.
In Ontario, meanwhile, many students will return to remote school on Wednesday, as school boards across the province launch online learning.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
With testing capacity strained, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they plan to report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more detail on what is happening in your community — including details on health systems, test positivity rates and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
In Atlantic Canada, COVID-19 caseloads continue to pile up in Newfoundland and Labrador with 493 new cases, though the province’s hospitalization rate remains steady at one patient.
New Brunswick health officials on Tuesday reported three additional deaths and 746 new cases of COVID-19. Provincial officials said there were 56 people in hospital with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, health officials reported 1,020 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 40 people in hospital.
In Central Canada, Quebec on Tuesday announced it will restrict access to PCR tests for COVID-19 as it faces increasing strain on the system. People who are considered “high risk” — including people in hospital, long-term care, shelter systems, correctional facilities and remote communities — will still be able to access the lab-based tests, officials said. Quebec on Tuesday reported 21 additional deaths, with 1,592 people in hospital. The province also reported 14,494 additional cases.
The health system in Ontario is preparing for widespread measures including patient and staff transfers to deal with a growing wave of COVID-19 that’s infecting people at an unprecedented rate. There were 1,290 people in hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and 266 patients in intensive care. The government announced a series of measures Monday including business and school closures to beat back the Omicron variant spread that’s expected to infect more people.
Ontario, which saw 11,352 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 10 additional deaths, is also facing increased pressure to make COVID-19 tests available to children attending daycares, with parents saying the lack of access is stoking anxiety.
Across the North, Dr. Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer in the Northwest Territories, said on Tuesday that Omicron is now the dominant variant in the territory.
“COVID-19 infections are now in multiple communities and for the first time, there are COVID-19 infections in every region of the territory,” she said, noting that the number of active cases in the territory has doubled since New Year’s Eve.
In the Prairie provinces, a spokesperson for Saskatchewan‘s Ministry of Education says more than 1.4 million rapid COVID-19 tests have been distributed through elementary schools, and an additional 250,000 tests were recently sent to schools. The province is encouraging students and staff to take rapid tests before attending class.
Saskatchewan, the only province in Canada not to extend the holiday break for students in the face of surging COVID-19 cases, on Tuesday reported five additional deaths since Dec. 31. The province, which had 95 people in hospital, also reported 1,979 new cases since Dec. 31.
Alberta health officials reported 12 additional deaths on Tuesday, with hospitalizations at 436. The province, which on Tuesday reported figures for the first time since Dec. 31, said active cases were at an all-time high.
In British Columbia, health officials reported four additional deaths, with 298 people in hospital. The province also reported 2,542 new cases of COVID-19.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday, roughly 295.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking system. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.4 million.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration doubled its order for Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment, the company and the White House said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people seeking to end their COVID-19 isolation at five days can opt for a rapid antigen test, but stopped short of mandating the test despite pressure by health experts.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong authorities announced a two-week ban on flights from the United States and seven other countries and held 2,500 passengers on a cruise ship for coronavirus testing Wednesday as the city attempted to stem an emerging Omicron outbreak. The two-week ban on passenger flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States will take effect Sunday and continue until Jan. 21.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam also announced that restaurant dining will be forbidden after 6 p.m. for two weeks starting Friday. Game arcades, bars and beauty salons must also close during that period.
“We have to contain the pandemic to ensure that there will not be a major outbreak in the community again,” Lam said at a news conference, adding that the city is “on the verge” of another surge.
In the Middle East, coronavirus infections are surging across several Gulf Arab states, with the daily number of cases more than doubling in Saudi Arabia over two days to more than 2,500 and crossing the 1,000-level in Qatar and Kuwait.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Tuesday reported 8,078 new cases of COVID-19 and 139 additional deaths.
As of today the cumulative number of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> cases identified in SA is 3 483 590 with 8 078 new cases reported. Today 139 deaths have been reported bringing the total to 91 451 deaths. The cumulative number of recoveries now stand at 3 328 246 with a recovery rate of 93% <a href=”https://t.co/YqoasjOrvi”>pic.twitter.com/YqoasjOrvi</a>
In Europe, people who test positive for COVID-19 on rapid lateral flow tests will not need to confirm their results with a follow-up PCR test if they are not showing symptoms, the UK Health Security Agency said on Wednesday.
Britain is reporting record daily case numbers, and the UKHSA said that the high prevalence meant the chance of a false positive from a lateral flow device (LFD) was low. Lateral flow tests are rapid tests that can be done at home, without the help of medical professionals.
The move could also reduce the burden on the testing system, and reduce confusion if the test results contradict each other. At current levels of prevalence, officials say a positive LFD result is likely to be accurate, even if a follow-up PCR were negative.
“While cases of COVID continue to rise, this tried-and-tested approach means that LFDs can be used confidently to indicate COVID-19 infection without the need for PCR confirmation,” said UKHSA chief executive Dr. Jenny Harries.
While the move comes into place on Jan. 11 in England, people who develop COVID-19 symptoms should continue to take a PCR test, UKHSA said.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:25 a.m. ET