Britain is taking another small step out of lockdown as a new virus surge inundates its European neighbours.
With U.K. coronavirus vaccination rates outstripping those of European Union nations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is easing the stark “stay at home” message that has curtailed everyday life — and kept the virus in check — for almost three months.
From Monday, it will be replaced in England with a message to stay local. People will be allowed to meet in groups of six outdoors and can resume outdoor sports such as basketball, tennis and golf.
The other parts of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are taking broadly similar steps. In Wales, thousands of people poured onto beaches and beauty spots on Saturday, after the authorities lifted travel restrictions that have been in place since December.
While many European nations are seeing a new surge in the pandemic, Britain is counting on a rapid mass-vaccination program to help it end lockdown. Nearly 30 million people, accounting for 56 per cent of all adults, have received a first dose of vaccine so far.
Britain is confident second doses of COVID-19 shots will be administered on time without mixing the type of vaccines, culture minister Oliver Dowden said on Sunday amid concerns over a slowdown in supplies.
The government warned earlier this month that its vaccination program would slow down in April due in part to a delay of a shipment from India’s Serum Institute.
The European Union has also threatened to block vaccine shipments to countries such as the U.K. with higher vaccination rates.
“We have borne in mind that we have to get that second top-up in so we are confident that we will be able to deliver it,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“We are confident that it won’t require mixing of vaccines.”
The U.K. has recorded more than 126,000 COVID-19 deaths, the highest toll in Europe.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 961,088 cases of COVID-19, with 42,025 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,852.
Canada’s chief public health officer warned Saturday that current health orders are not enough to stop rapid growth of COVID-19 as provinces push ahead with plans to reopen their economies.
Longer-range forecast models predict a resurgence of COVID-19 infections unless public health measures are enhanced and strictly followed, Dr. Theresa Tam said in a written statement.
Tam said public health orders across Canada need to be stronger, stricter and sustained long enough to control the rise of variants of concern. High infection rates in the most populous provinces are driving up the country’s average daily case counts, she said.
Alberta reported 688 new COVID-19 cases and an additional death on Saturday.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said 207 of Saturday’s infections are variants of concern and that almost 25 per cent of Alberta’s active COVID-19 cases are variants.
In Saskatchewan, the opposition NDP and a body that represents teachers in the province are calling for faster implementation of rapid tests in schools.
NDP education critic Carla Beck noted some tests were already “on the doorsteps” of some schools in Saskatchewan, but there was still confusion about things like permission forms and procedures for administering them.
WATCH | How businesses and schools use rapid COVID-19 tests:
Manitoba registered 57 more COVID-19 cases and one death on Saturday.
The province also says that it has now administered more than 163,000 vaccine doses and that more than 10 per cent of residents aged 18 or older have received a shot.
Ontario logged 2,453 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day total in more than two months. The province also reported 16 more deaths.
Saturday’s daily case count comes before the province moves Hamilton and Eastern Ontario Health Unit into more restricted areas of its colour-coded reopening framework on Monday. As well, five regions in the province’s grey lockdown zone will see some restrictions loosen on Monday and later in April.
WATCH | Is Ontario ending its COVID-19 lockdowns too early?:
Quebec confirmed 1,009 new cases and eight deaths. It’s the first time in a month and a half that the province’s saw more than 1,000 new infections in a single day.
New Brunswick reported 12 new cases on Saturday, all in the Edmundston region.
The province’s northwest remains under tightened restrictions following a spike in variant cases. The area was moved from yellow to red for a four-day “circuit breaker” on Thursday.
Prince Edward Island will open its first mass vaccination clinics on Monday.
The clinics in Charlottetown and Summerside are for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, as opposed to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is being distributed in pharmacies to younger Islanders who must work with the public.
Nova Scotia confirmed five new cases, all in the central health zone. The new cases are close contacts of previously reported cases, including one probable case reported on Friday at Sackville Heights Junior High in Lower Sackville.
In a news release, Premier Iain Rankin said a mobile testing unit will be set up in the Sackville region on Saturday and Sunday.
Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new infections. Effective midnight Saturday, the entire province will move to Alert Level 2, allowing households to keep a “steady 20” group of consistent contacts.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 126.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, which runs a coronavirus case-tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.
In the Americas, Brazil currently accounts for one-quarter of the entire world’s daily COVID-19 deaths, far more than any other single nation, and health experts are warning that the country is on the verge of even greater calamity.
WATCH | Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ as COVID-19 death toll rises:
In Europe, Ukraine is grappling with a surge in COVID-19 infections. A record number of Ukrainians were taken to hospital with COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Sunday. Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on Facebook 5,052 people had been hospitalized in the past day compared to the previous record of 4,887 people registered on March 17.
The minister has linked the worsening of the situation to the spread of the coronavirus variant first found in Britain, which was detected in Ukraine in late February, amid a slow pace of vaccination.
In Africa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta restricted travel in the capital Nairobi and four other counties as infections hit record levels in East Africa’s richest economy.
In Asia, Pakistani Minister for Planning and Development Asada Umar said disregard for precautionary measures has led to a sudden rapid increase in the country, and he warned of strict actions if people don’t follow guidelines to counter the spread of the virus.