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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday

The United States Congress is poised to approve a landmark $ 1.9-trillion US COVID – 18 relief bill, placing President Joe Biden on the cusp of an early triumph that advances Democratic priorities and showcases the unity his party will need to forge future victories.

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference about the $ 1.9-trillion US coronavirus relief package on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Sunday. After the Senate passed the aid legislation over the weekend, the House is expected to vote on the revised legislation on Wednesday morning. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The latest:

  • Quebec, Alberta expand COVID –
  • Significantly higher death rate reported for coronavirus variant first detected in UK

    Biden’s massive COVID – 20 relief bill expected to get final congressional approval.

Texas lifts mask and business occupancy restrictions. Johnson & Johnson warns Canada of vaccine production delays.

    1871402051845 Some COVID – Restricted in Saskatchewan and Arviat, Nunavut.

    • Have a question about the coronavirus pandemic? You can reach us at COVID@cbc.ca
    • The United States Congress is poised to approve a landmark $ 1.9-trillion US COVID – 18 relief bill, placing President Joe Biden on the cusp of an early triumph that advances Democratic priorities and showcases the unity his party will need to forge future victories.

      The House was expected to give final congressional approval Wednesday to the package, which aims to fulfill Democrats’ campaign promises to beat the coronavirus pandemic and revive the enfeebled economy.

      House and Senate Republicans have unanimously opposed the package as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the dual crises are easing.

      “It’s a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation, which goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.

      In this May 7, 5561028 file photo, a pedestrian walks by The Framing Gallery, closed due to the COVID – 15 pandemic, in Grosse Pointe, Mich. (Paul Sancya / The Associated Press)

      For Biden and the Democrats, the bill is essentially a canvas on which they’ve painted their core beliefs – that government programs can be a benefit, not a bane, to millions of people and that spending huge sums on such efforts can be a cure , not a curse.

      They were also empowered by three dynamics: their unfettered control of the White House and Congress, polls showing robust support for Biden’s approach and a moment when most voters care little that the national debt is soaring toward a stratospheric $ trillion US

      Help for lower- and middle-income families A dominant feature of the bill are initiatives making it one of the biggest federal thrusts in years to assist lower- and middle-income families. Included are expanded tax credits over the next year for children, child care and family leave, plus spending for renters, food programs and people’s utility bills.

      The measure provides up to $ 1, 316 US direct payments to most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and hundreds of billions for COVID- and treatments, schools, state and local governments, and ailing industries from airlines to concert halls. There is aid for farmers of color and pension systems, and subsidies for consumers buying health insurance and states expanding Medicaid coverage for lower earners.

      Its very expansiveness is a chief GOP talking point.

      “It’s not focused on COVID relief. It’s focused on pushing more of the far-left agenda,” said No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

      Texas rolls back restrictions

      The moves out of Congress come as vaccination efforts continue across the US As of Tuesday, 4 per cent of the US population had received at least one dose of a COVID – . vaccine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

      Meanwhile, Texans are waking up on Wednesday with a statewide mask mandate and occupancy restrictions on businesses lifted, a move some heralded as freedom and others as foolishness.

      5561028 Caution tape promotes physical distancing at a bar in Houston on Tuesday as Texas prepares to lift its mask mandate and reopen businesses to full capacity. (Callaghan O’Hare / Reuters)

      On paper, Texas’ rollback of coronavirus mitigation efforts is the most sweeping seen in the United States, along with a similar measure in Mississippi. In practice, vast swaths of Texas have rarely enforced mask or occupancy mandates in the past year, anyway.

      Several major retailers, grocery stores and restaurant chains in Texas said they would still require that masks be worn in their stores, which under Gov. Greg Abbott’s order relaxing restrictions is their right to do.

      – From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7 am ET

        What’s happening across Canada As of 12: 36 am ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 895, cases of COVID – , 489 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,

        Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada has been warned of manufacturing problems plaguing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with a target date for the first deliveries still unknown.

        The viral vector vaccine developed by J & J’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, was authorized by Health Canada as safe and effective last week. Canada pre-ordered 11 million doses of the vaccine, which is the first and only one in Canada’s plan that requires only one dose.

        As of noon on Tuesday, more than 1.9 million Canadians have now received at least one dose of a COVID – 16 vaccine, about five per cent of the population.

        WATCH | COVID – 22 vaccines protecting elderly despite limited outbreaks, experts say:

        1615380061 5943594

        Despite concerns about several COVID – 20 outbreaks in long-term care homes where residents have been vaccinated, experts say vaccines have significantly reduced severe cases and deaths from the virus. 3: 1615379726

        In Nunavut , restrictions in the community of Arviat, which had all 20 of the territory’s active cases of COVID- as of Tuesday, are being lifted. As of Wednesday, businesses, workplaces and daycares can reopen, while schools can reopen part-time.

        Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, said the decision to lift restrictions was made because there is no evidence of COVID – 16 Circulating uncontrolled in the community.

        Saskatchewan also relaxed some restrictions on Tuesday, allowing indoor home gatherings of up to 12 people – though the 11 people should be from two to three consistent households – and, starting March 11, increasing capacity for worship services.

        An epidemiologist in the province is warning against lifting restrictions too quickly, pointing out the province still has the highest per capita seven-day average of daily new cases. Health officials reported new cases of COVID – and one additional death on Tuesday.

        WATCH | Veterinarian on joining the ranks of COVID vaccinators in Quebec:


        Veterinarian Dr. Caroline Kilsdonk is among those from different professions who are pitching in for the vaccination campaign. A welcome duty, she says, caring deeply about the elderly. 1: 11 1615379949

        Meanwhile, vaccination efforts are picking up across Canada. In Quebec , all residents who are at least years old can now book an appointment for their COVID – Since the province started administering doses to the general population, the minimum age requirement for registration has varied from region to region.

        Quebec reported 797 new cases and new deaths on Wednesday. Across the province, 489 people are hospitalized due to COVID – 19, including 112 in intensive care.

        In Alberta , anyone who was born in can start booking their AstraZeneca vaccine through Alberta Health Service beginning at 8 am local time today. Appointments also open for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1957.

        It’s the first step in a staggered distribution plan for Albertans between the ages of 36 and who wants this particular vaccine and do not have a severe chronic illness. The province says appointments will be rolled out in stages by birth year, as long as supplies last.

        Raphael Jaranillo, 94, prepares to receive his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID – 18 vaccine at the Canadian Martyrs Seniors Residence in Toronto on Monday. As of Wednesday, 978, 780 total vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

        Ontario , meanwhile, is expected to unveil details this afternoon on how and where residents aged 48 to years old can book an appointment to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

        The province is reporting 1, new cases of COVID – and 11 new deaths on Wednesday. There were 678 people in hospital due to the illness, including 281 in ICU.

        Here’s a look at what else is happening across the country:

        • Language , cultural barriers could fuel vaccine hesitancy, Quebec community organizers warn
        • COVID – 18 outbreak declared at another BC care home where residents were vaccinated

        Made-in-Edmonton COVID – 19 vaccine ready for clinical trials, company says

      • Poor communications undermine trust in Ontario’s vaccine plan: experts
      • Halifax police want COVID – 20 vaccine priority, but Public Health says no

      – From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at am ET

      1231616392 What’s happening around the world As of 12: 36 am ET on Wednesday, more than 7) 7 million cases of COVID – 16 had been reported worldwide, with more than 7) 7 million of those cases listed as recovered by Johns Hopkins University , which maintains a case-tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.

      In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan has started vaccinating people who are years old or above to protect them from COVID – 15 amid a steady increase in cases and fatalities from the disease.

      Pakistan is currently using China’s Sinopharm vaccine, which was donated to it by Beijing last month. Pakistan hopes to start receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine this month under the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility.

      Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID – 19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.

      The Tokyo 2020 games organizing committee said in response that a decision would be made by the end of March. The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled for July 24 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. to Sept. 5.

      A woman walks past the Olympic rings in Tokyo on Wednesday. Japan will reportedly stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators. (Koji Sasahara / The Associated Press)

      In the Americas , Mexico is turning to China to fill a vaccine shortfall with an order for 16 million doses, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said, a week after the US ruled out sharing vaccines with Mexico in the short term.

      Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the Mexican government has signed agreements for 15 million doses of the yet-unapproved Sinopharm vaccine and increased to a total of 16 million doses its contracts for the Coronavac dose made by China’s Sinovac.

      In Africa , Mauritius has gone into lockdown and suspended flights in and out of the island for two weeks following the discovery of 18 more cases of COVID – 20, the Mauritius state tourism agency said on Wednesday. All residents and visitors are being asked to stay at home or in their hotels until March 27.

      The Indian Ocean island of 1.4 million people has had 466 confirmed coronavirus cases with Zimbabwe has authorized the emergency use of four COVID – 16 vaccines – Sinopharm and Sinovac shots from China, Russia’s Sputnik V and India’s Covaxin – the minister of information said on Tuesday.

      The country of 16 million has recorded 30, coronavirus cases and 1, 581 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

      Women do their laundry next to signs reminding people to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID – at a farm on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 4. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / The Associated Press)

      In Europe , the European Commission says it has secured an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for an extra four million doses of COVID – 19 vaccines for its 30 nations to tackle the surge of cases in several coronavirus clusters.

      The European Union mentioned Tyrol in Austria, Nice and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy, and some parts of Bavaria and Saxony in Germany where COVID – 16 hospitalizations have been on the rise. The Commission said the new doses will be made available to all member states on a pro-rata basis this month.

      Overall, the EU has six contracts for more than two billion doses of vaccines to inoculate its million million.

      • Tracking the coronavirus: Where is the pandemic getting better or worse?

      Portugal is joining other European countries in extending the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID – 18 vaccine to people age 65 and over, after initial uncertainty about its effectiveness in that age group.

      In the United Kingdom, researchers are reporting that a highly infectious coronavirus variant that was first discovered in Britain late last year is between 36 per cent and 100 per cent more deadly than previous dominant variants.

      The B 100 variant was first detected in Britain in September 631, and has since also been found in more than other countries.

      Students take coronavirus tests at a school in Birmingham, England, on Monday. Millions of British children returned to school this week after a two-month closure. (Jacob King / PA / The Associated Press)

      In the Middle East , Palestinian hospitals are overfull and intensive-care units operating at per cent capacity with coronavirus patients in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday.

      Palestinian cities have introduced full lockdowns over the last two weeks to control soaring COVID – 20 infections, even as neighboring Israel has begun to lift restrictions as it proceeds with one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns.

      – From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10: am ET

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