Canada added over 6,800 new cases of the novel coronavirus Friday as federal officials revealed that vaccine shipments to the country would be delayed for four weeks over production issues.
In a press conference Friday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that only half of Pfizer-BioNTech’s promised COVID-19 vaccine doses would arrive in the next month.
The delay, which would impact production for a “short period” according to her, would be made up by the end of March and was due to the company scaling up its manufacturing capacity for European countries.
“This expansion work means that Pfizer is temporarily reducing deliveries to all countries receiving vaccine manufactured at its European facility — and that includes Canada,” said Anand, who reassured that the setback would not impact Canada’s long-term vaccination plan.
Several provincial leaders including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, B.C.’s Health Minister Adrian Dix and Ontario Premier Doug Ford have since raised concern over the delay, as a second shot of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to be administered within 21 days of the first for it to achieve maximum efficacy.
News of the delay also comes amid new federal COVID-19 modelling that showed the country was on track to surpass 10,000 new cases of the virus a day by February if Canadians kept maintaining the “current number of people we contact each day.”
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who presented the modelling at a media conference, said that the rise in new infections was largely due to Canadians gathering during the holidays.
According to her, current measures would have to be “further intensified” in order to curb the virus’ spread.
According to the modelling, virus cases could potentially surge past 30,000 a day if Canadians increased their current contacts each day by February.
“If we ease measures too soon the epidemic will resurge even more strongly,” said Tam.
As of Friday evening, cases of COVID-19 in Canada floated at just under the 700,000 mark, though a total of 601,000 people have since recovered. Deaths linked to COVID-19 now stand at 17,729 after another 192 fatalities were reported.
To date, more than 20,238,921 tests have been administered and at least 765,100 doses of the vaccine have been distributed across Canada.
Ontario reported the highest number of infections Friday with another 2,998 cases as well as 100 deaths, though 46 of those deaths were reported to have occurred earlier in the pandemic.
Quebec added another 1,918 cases Friday as well as another 62 deaths. More than 8,900 deaths have now been recorded in the province, which is the hardest hit in Canada.
Health officials in B.C. announced another 500 lab-confirmed cases Friday as well, pushing the province’s official caseload to 59,583. Another 534 cases are considered “epi-linked,” which are cases that displayed symptoms and were in close contacts of confirmed cases but were never tested.
Nine of those epi-linked cases were included Friday’s count.
Another nine people were reported to have died from the virus there, with the province’s current death toll standing at 1,047.
Alberta added another 785 cases Friday, pushing its total caseload to 115,370. The province’s death toll from the virus also stands at 1,402 after 21 more deaths were announced.
Saskatchewan reported another 386 cases and four more deaths, while Manitoba recorded 191 infections and five more fatalities.
Several provinces in Atlantic Canada also reported new cases of the virus Friday.
New Brunswick added another 25 cases, Nova Scotia two more and Newfoundland and Labrador another infection. P.E.I. did not report any new cases Friday.
In Canada’s North, only the Northwest Territories reported one case of the virus.
The country’s increase in cases also comes amid another grim milestone as over two million people worldwide were reported to have succumbed to the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.
To date, more than 93,751,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with the U.S., India and Brazil continuing to lead in both infections and deaths.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Rachel Gilmore and Katie Dangerfield.
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