- India set to mass produce COVID-19 vaccine, prime minister says.
- South Korea to impose stronger distancing measures in and around Seoul.
- Thousands of Britons return from France to avoid quarantine.
- Hundreds possibly exposed to COVID-19 at Toronto strip club.
- Health officials warn of potential ‘fall peak’ in COVID-19 cases in Canada
- Canadian shipments of ventilators expected to increase in the coming weeks.
- Russia produces first batch of COVID-19 vaccine, Interfax reports.
India is prepared to mass produce COVID-19 vaccines when scientists give the go-ahead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day speech on Saturday as he also launched a national program to roll out health identities for each citizen.
In annual celebrations held at the 17th-century Red Fort and scaled down due to the pandemic, Modi said three vaccines are in different phases of testing in India.
“Detailed plans are in place for large-scale production of corona vaccine and making it available to every Indian,” he said.
Modi also announced a national digital heath plan under which every Indian will get an identity card containing all health-related information.
“Whether it is making a doctor’s appointment, depositing money or running around for documents in the hospital, the [National Digital Health Mission] will help remove all such challenges,” he said.
India’s coronavirus death toll overtook Britain’s this week to become the fourth-highest in the world as the country reported over 2.5 million confirmed cases, just behind the U.S. and Brazil.
On Saturday, the number of confirmed cases in the country surpassed 2.5 million with another biggest single-day spike of 65,002 in the past 24 hours. India is behind the United States and Brazil in the number of cases.
The country’s health ministry on Saturday also reported another 996 deaths for a total of 49,036.
The average daily reported cases jumped from around 15,000 in the first week of July to more than 50,000 at the beginning of August.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 121,652 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 107,942 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,059.
B.C. health officials are urging people to remain remain vigilant in guarding against the virus this weekend after announcing 84 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.
It was the first time the province has seen more than 70 daily cases for three days straight since the start of the pandemic.
The city of Toronto says about 550 people may have been exposed to COVID-19 at a downtown strip club earlier this month.
Toronto Public Health says it is notifying people who visited the Brass Rail Tavern at 701 Yonge St. about a potential exposure.
Officials say an employee who tested positive for the virus was at the club on four different occasions earlier this month.
Federal public health officials say they are bracing for a higher number of COVID-19 infections this fall as restrictions ease and social and economic activity picks up.
“We do expect to see some increases in the number of daily cases as we move forward with reopening,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Friday.
WATCH | Dr. Tam flags a potential fall surge in cases:
Tam said in the worst case scenario, a new wave could at times overwhelm the country’s health-care system, especially as the cold and flu season hits. However, she added Canada could see a “relatively slow burn” with low rates of infections into 2022.
She said Canada is better prepared for a fall wave of COVID-19 than it was in the spring, but a second wave could put a strain on the country’s supply of ventilators.
Only 606 of the 40,328 new ventilators Canada ordered for hospitals in April and Map have already been delivered, but a number companies involved say their production lines will start delivering the products faster in the next few weeks.
Rick Jamieson, the CEO of FTI Professional Grade, said they expect to fulfil their entire contract for 10,000 ventilators by Dec. 12. FTI is one of several companies in a consortium called Ventilators for Canadians, which has already delivered 132 ventilators. Another 120 are on track for delivery next week and 240 in the last week of August.
Health Canada won’t say how many ventilators hospitals could need to respond to such a surge, but insists it has enough for now, with the new ones ordered meant to augment existing stockpiles.
WATCH | New York congressman on impact of border closure:
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Friday that the federal government will extend the Canada-U.S. land border closure for another 30 days until Sept. 21.
The closure to non-essential travel has been in place for months, but with caseloads still high in many U.S. states, the two governments have mutually agreed to continue restricting movement across the world’s longest international border.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 21 million. More than 766,000 people have died, while 13.2 million have recovered.
Russia has produced the first batch of its new vaccine for COVID-19, the Interfax news agency quoted the health ministry as saying on Saturday, hours after the ministry reported the start of manufacturing.
Some scientists said they fear that with this fast regulatory approval, Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety amid the global race to develop a vaccine against the disease.
Russia has said the vaccine, the first for the coronavirus to go into production, will be rolled out by the end of this month.
Its approval comes before trials that would normally involve thousands of participants, commonly known as Phase 3. Such trials are usually considered essential precursors for a vaccine to secure regulatory approval.
Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, which developed the vaccine, said previously that Russia would be producing about 5 million doses a month by December-January, Interfax said.
Elsewhere in Europe, thousands of British tourists beat a hasty retreat from France, packing planes, trains and ferries to return to the U.K. by the early hours of Saturday morning to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine at home.
Many on Friday opted to cut short their vacations to meet the 4 a.m. Saturday deadline that had only been announced the night before.
Anyone arriving back from France from Saturday must stay at home for two weeks to make sure they cannot spread the coronavirus beyond their households if they have become infected.
WATCH | COVID-19 spikes prompt new restrictions in Europe:
The exodus was prompted late Thursday when the British government took France off a list of nations exempt from traveller quarantine requirements because of a sharp rise in new coronavirus infections there.
South Korea on Saturday announced stronger social distancing restrictions for its greater capital area where a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to erase the hard-won gains against the coronavirus.
The two-week measures starting Sunday will allow authorities in Seoul and towns in neighbouring Gyeonggi Province to shut down high-risk facilities such as nightclubs, karaoke rooms, movie theatres and buffet restaurants if they fail to properly enforce preventive measures, including distancing, temperatures checks, keeping customer lists and requiring masks.
Fans will once again be banned from professional baseball and soccer, just a few weeks after health authorities allowed teams to let in spectators for a portion of their seats in each game.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo revealed the steps hours after the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 166 newly confirmed cases, the country’s highest daily jump in five months.