The latest coronavirus news in Canada and around the world on Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
8h17 : Two weeks after celebrating America’s near ‘independence’ from the coronavirus, President Joe Biden faces the disturbing reality of rising cases and deaths – and the limits of his ability to fight against the persistent reluctance to vaccinate responsible for the summer regression.
COVID-19 cases have tripled in the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths are increasing among those unvaccinated. While rates are still down sharply from their January highs, officials are concerned about the trend reversal and what they see as unnecessary illness and death. And cases are expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks.
While the national emergency may have faded, officials say the outbreak is now a more localized crisis in communities where not enough people have rolled up their sleeves.
“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden said Friday, echoing comments made earlier today by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The growing numbers are due to large pockets of infection among the more than 90 million eligible Americans who have yet to receive a vaccine. Only four states with low vaccination rates accounted for 40% of new cases last week, and nearly half of them were from Florida alone.
However, there is little appetite in the White House for a return to broad mandates for masks or other measures, as 161 million Americans are already fully vaccinated.
Reflecting this mindset, Walensky said on Friday that in areas with low vaccination rates with an increase in cases, “local policymakers might wonder if masking at this stage would be something that would be helpful for their community.”
Some communities are taking action. Los Angeles County on Thursday reinstated its requirement to wear masks in most indoor environments, regardless of vaccination status, and health officials in Las Vegas on Friday recommended that workers and customers at the hot spot tourists wear face coverings indoors.
8h17 : Thailand has tightened restrictions on coronaviruses and warned of new measures, as daily cases topped 10,000 and the death toll hit a record 141 despite a nighttime curfew in Bangkok and several other provinces.
The surge since April has overwhelmed hospitals, strained the economy and called into question tourism stimulus plans.
Deployment of the vaccine, hampered by supply problems, is faltering with around 5% of the population fully vaccinated and only 15% partially.
Cases have increased especially in Bangkok and surrounding provinces.
The government imposed additional measures overnight, including a ban on all gatherings and activities that could spread the virus, including anti-government rallies that criticized Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s handling of the pandemic.
8h16 : A wave of new coronavirus infections in Iran fueled by the rapidly spreading Delta variant has threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
Thousands of Iranians are taking matters into their own hands and flocking to neighboring Armenia as the vaccination emergency grows.
Vaccination has remained slow in the former Soviet Caucasus country amid widespread reluctance to vaccinate. The authorities distributed free doses to foreign visitors.
This has been a godsend for Iranians who fear for their lives and are fed up with waiting. Iran has the highest death toll from COVID-19 in the Middle East, less than 2% of the country’s 84 million people received both doses. But the trip has become so popular with Iranians that the price of the trip is skyrocketing.
8h16 : European countries are trying to step up vaccination campaigns.
They use a carrot and stick approach to persuade those who are reluctant to get vaccinated, as the more transmissible Delta variant leads to an increase in infections.
Greece became the latest to adopt new restrictions on Friday. The country requires proof of vaccination or recent recovery from COVID-19 to access indoor restaurants, cafes, bars and cinemas. Children can enter with negative tests.
Some European countries such as France and Greece have also introduced compulsory vaccinations for certain professions.
8h16 : Tourists and the travel industry are expressing frustration and anger after Britain rolled back a plan to ease travel restrictions in France just two days after they started, citing concerns over a variant of the coronavirus.
The British government says people arriving from France must self-isolate for 10 days when entering Britain, even if they are fully vaccinated.
The announcement came just days after the government said fully vaccinated UK residents would no longer be subject to quarantine from Monday upon arrival from countries in the European Union and dozens of other countries.
British health authorities say France is being singled out for cases of the beta variant, which is said to be more resistant to vaccines than other strains.
8h15 : France will allow international travelers who have received the vaccine made in India by AstraZeneca to enter the country from Sunday.
At the same time, France is stepping up border controls to control the spread of the delta variant and protect hospitals, according to a statement from the Prime Minister on Saturday.
The decision to accept visitors vaccinated with AstraZeneca vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute came after global outcry over the European Union’s COVID-19 certificate only recognizes AstraZeneca vaccines made in Europe . Several other EU countries already accept the Indian version. France still does not recognize vaccinations with Chinese or Russian vaccines, only those authorized by the European drug regulator.
Tunisia, Indonesia, Cuba and Mozambique have now been added to France’s “red list” of countries at high risk of the virus, according to the statement on Saturday.
8h15 : News that Canada may soon welcome fully vaccinated U.S. travelers comes as COVID-19 cases increase in some states south of the border, but infectious disease experts say the risk posed by vaccinated visitors is low.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that Canada could reopen the border to fully vaccinated Americans by mid-August, with vaccinated travelers from around the world following suit by early September.
Dr Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Mississauga, Ont., Said it was the next logical step in reopening the plans and would mark a shift in efforts to eliminate risks to those who mitigate them.
“The risk will not be zero… (but) we have to start making these adjustments to get back to normal,” he said. “We cannot remain in suspended animation with our closest neighbor.
The United States recorded more than 35,000 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, up from 12,000 daily cases a month ago. The country had an average of 250,000 cases in January before its vaccine rollout accelerated.
Fifty-five percent of Americans were at least partially vaccinated as of Friday, with 48% fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate in Canada was approaching 70 percent of the total population, of which 47 percent were fully vaccinated.
A fully vaccinated person can still catch COVID-19, although this rarely happens and the illness is less severe when it does. Although people who have been vaccinated can still spread the virus, that risk is also “significantly reduced,” Chakrabarti said.
A recent study from the UK compared the spread among household contacts after vaccinated and unvaccinated family members received COVID-19. The study found that at least one dose reduced transmission to unvaccinated limbs by 40 to 50 percent.
“So it’s clearly not 100%, but (vaccination) really eliminates the chain of transmission,” he said. “And two doses of the vaccine are going to be even more effective. “