The latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada on March 16, 2021 (all times eastern):
British Columbia is reporting 556 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths.
A statement from health officials says there have been 116 new confirmed cases of variants of concern found, for a total of 996, most of them involving the strain originally found in the United Kingdom.
So far, 424,517 doses of three vaccines have been given as those in their 80s and up are eligible to book a shot this week.
Health officials are reminding people who plan to celebrate St. Patrick's Day to do so in line with provincial health guidelines.
Alberta is reporting 355 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths.
There are 260 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 44 in intensive care.
The percentage of tests coming back positive was 5.9 per cent.
Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says 11 per cent of the province's active cases involve virus variants believed to be more transmissible.
She says that percentage is rising and surge capacity has been to test up to 1,000 samples per day for variants, if needed.
Quebec is pushing back the nighttime curfew in Montreal and its surrounding regions from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. starting tomorrow.
Premier Francois Legault told reporters that on March 26, three less-populated regions, including the Gaspe peninsula, will move to the "yellow" pandemic-alert level and no longer have a curfew.
Legault is also announcing that his government plans to offer every Quebecer at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by June 24.
Legault says all residents as young as 65 years old who want a COVID-19 vaccine should be vaccinated with one dose by mid-April.
Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19.
Officials say the case involves a man in his 20s and his infection is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.
Public health says young people aged 18 to 29 who work in convenience stores, gas stations and grocery stores can now book appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Islanders 75 and older can also now book a vaccination, as can police, firefighters and those who work for power and utility companies.
Saskatchewan says it won't allow worship services in Regina to expand their capacity over concerns about the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants.
Worship services are currently capped at 30 people, but last week Premier Scott Moe announced capacity could increase to 150 people or 30 per cent, whichever is less.
The Ministry of Health says worship services in Regina and surrounding communities will stay capped at 30 people until at least April 5.
Another 66 confirmed cases of more infectious COVID-19 strains were reported in the province, mostly in and around the capital city.
Moe's government is also asking Regina residents, especially older ones, not to take advantage of a loosened restriction that allows up to 10 people inside a home at once.
Manitoba is reporting 110 additional COVID-19 cases today and no new deaths.
Health officials are also reporting 14 confirmed cases of variants of concern, all in the Winnipeg health region.
Manitoba's Opposition New Democrats are coming under scrutiny for holding an outdoor press conference during the COVID-19 pandemic that attracted a large crowd.
The provincial Justice Department says investigations are underway into the event on Sunday, which attracted several dozen people.
The NDP gave advance notice to the union that represents striking Manitoba Hydro workers.
Current public health orders limit outdoor public gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.
Canada’s top doctor says now is not the time for Canadians to increase their contact with others in light of a recent rise in average COVID-19 case counts across the country.
Dr. Theresa Tam says this upswing combined with an acceleration of new variants of the virus in Canada is cause for concern.
She says the most up-to-date stats indicate the percentage of Canadians with immunity to COVID-19 remains low, even as governments have been ramping up their vaccination efforts.
And since today’s case numbers reflect the situation in Canada two weeks ago, Tam urged Canadians to continue to keep their bubbles small, or the vaccines won’t have time to take effect.
Tam also reassured Canadians that Health Canada remains confident the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is safe, despite concerns raised in Europe about alleged adverse side-effects, such as blood clots, that may have affected a small number of people who have received the vaccine.
Deputy chief health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says the benefits of all vaccines approved for use in Canada greatly outweigh any potential risks.
After three days without any new cases, Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19.
Officials say the case involves a man between 20 and 39 years old and his infection is related to international travel.
According to public health, there are now 45 active reported COVID-19 infections in the province.
Officials say two people are in hospitalized in intensive care due to the virus.
The federal government is investing millions of new dollars to boost Canada’s domestic vaccine and drug development capacity.
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne says Canada must build and expand homegrown biomanufacturing facilities and develop more equipment to secure more vaccines and therapeutics to combat COVID-19.
Ottawa will contribute up to $54.2 million to KABS Laboratories and up to $13.44 million to Immune Biosolutions to expand their respective operations in Quebec.
It will also provide up to $32.7 million to Novocol Pharmeceutical of Canada for growth of its biomanufacturing facilities in Ontario.
Ottawa is also investing $150 million to help companies advance through the early stages of research and development of several Canadian-made vaccine candidates.
The Manitoba government is offering $8 million in COVID-19 relief to the tourism sector.
Premier Brian Pallister says hotel and resource-tourism operators will get grants to offset a portion of their costs, such as mortgage interest and property taxes.
Pallister says the sector has been hard hit by the drop in domestic and international travel.
New Brunswick is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today and a presumptive case of a novel coronavirus variant.
Health officials say the new cases were identified in the Moncton, Fredericton and Edmundston regions and are all linked to previously reported infections.
Officials say the presumptive variant case was identified in the Edmundston area and has been sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg for confirmation.
They say a case reported at Ecole Notre-Dame in Edmundston has led to the temporary closure of the school.
Nova Scotia is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today and confirming four more variant cases.
The new cases are in the Halifax area, with one a close contact of a previously reported case and the other under investigation.
Health officials say the National Microbiology Lab has also confirmed four new variant cases from previously identified cases — two more of the variant first detected in the United Kingdom and two more of the variant first identified in South Africa.
This brings the total number of confirmed variant cases in the province to 23.
Nova Scotia currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19.
Ontario’s science advisers say the province is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19.
The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table says that more transmissible virus variants of concern account for almost half of new cases and are driving growth.
The group, which gives independent advice and analysis to the province, says almost two thirds of Ontario’s public health units are now experiencing “exponential growth” of the virus.
The province's top doctor said Monday that Ontario could be going into a third wave but the extent of it remains to be seen.
Quebec is reporting 561 new COVID-19 infections and eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three in the past 24 hours.
Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 20, to 533, and 91 were in intensive care, a drop of five.
The province says it administered 28,861 vaccine doses Monday, for a total of 774,600, representing slightly more than 9 per cent of the population.
Premier François Legault is holding a media briefing this evening, when he is expected to announce changes to public health orders, including the nighttime curfew in Montreal.
Ontario says there are 1,074 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today and 11 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says that 313 of those new cases are in Toronto, 199 are in Peel Region and 101 are in York Region.
More than 51,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario since Monday's update.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says there is now enough "real-world evidence" to show the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective for seniors.
The decision reverses a recommendation made by the body on March 1, when the panel of vaccine experts said AstraZeneca hadn't included enough people over the age of 65 in its clinical trials.
NACI chair Dr. Caroline Quach said Tuesday that two studies of patients who received the vaccine in the United Kingdom have been released since then and show the AstraZeneca vaccine is both safe and effective for seniors, particularly against severe disease and hospitalization.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2021.
The Canadian Press