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Good evening, here are the coronavirus updates you need to know tonight.

Top headlines:

  1. Production delay means only half of Pfizer’s vaccine doses will arrive in the next month
  2. Toronto MPP booted from caucus over anti-lockdown letter
  3. Global COVID-19 deaths top 2-million amid immense yet uneven vaccine rollout

In the last 7 days, 51,350 cases were reported, down 7 per cent from the previous 7 days. There were 1,021 deaths announced, down 3 per cent over the same period. At least 4,621 people are being treated in hospitals and 601,911 others are considered recovered.

About 66 per cent of the 766,765 doses of vaccine distributed to provinces have been administered. That’s 1.3 doses for every 100 people in Canada.

Sources: Canada data is compiled from government websites, Johns Hopkins and COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group; international data is from Johns Hopkins University.

Coronavirus explainers: Coronavirus in maps and charts Lockdown rules and reopeningCanada’s vaccine distribution planDeveloping/approved vaccinesPfizer’s vaccine, explained Essential resources

Photo of the day

City of Tshwane's Special Infection Unit paramedics push a man inside an ambulance showing symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus in the isolation chamber equipped with a negative pressure filtration system from his home in the north of Pretoria, South Africa, on January 15, 2021.AFP Contributor#AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Coronavirus in Canada

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford kicked York Centre MPP Roman Baber out of caucus over an open letter that argues “lockdowns aren’t working” and are taking a “catastrophic toll” on society. Meanwhile, the province reported 2,998 new cases of COVID-19 today and 100 more deaths.
  • Quebec threatened further restrictions on the province’s construction and manufacturing sectors amid reports about non-compliance. Meanwhile, the province reported 1,918 new cases and 62 more deaths related to COVID-19 today.
  • Canada’s top doctor says if British Columbia decided to limit interprovincial travel, it would be a difficult decision, but one that could reduce COVID-19 as it would further limit contacts.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says she should use “whatever fiscal firepower” necessary until the economy recovers, but avoid creating new permanent spending.

  • The Prime Minister also asked Freeland to present “a new fiscal anchor” – the target level for federal deficits and the debt. The current projected deficit is now $381.6-billion and the debt-to-GDP ratio will exceed 50 per cent – up from $28.1-billion pre-pandemic.
  • New Transport Minister Omar Alghabra’s mandate letter asked him to work with colleagues on measures for the air travel sector to ensure Canadians “get refunds for air travel cancelled due to the pandemic.”

COVID-19 vaccines: Only half of Canada’s promised Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses will arrive in the next month because of production issues, federal officials said. The delay will affect the province’s immediate vaccination plans.

  • Procurement minister Anita Anand said Canada faces an “unfortunate” delay that is nonetheless expected to be made up by the end of March.
  • Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the province’s strategy for the two-dose regime depends on steady shipments, noting he expected 11,700 doses a week in February.
  • British Columbia’s Health Minister said the delay will have “some significant effect” on when priority groups get their shot.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province was evaluating the impact of the delay and “will adjust as necessary.”

Coronavirus around the world

  • Global deaths from COVID-19 have topped 2 million. Many wealthy countries, including Canada, the U.S., and U.K, have vaccinated some of their populations, while immunization campaigns in poor countries have barely started. Over 35 million doses of vaccines have been administered worldwide, according to the University of Oxford.
  • In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden says he would invoke the Defense Production Act order to boost production of the supplies necessary to ramp up immunization efforts. Coronavirus has killed more than 389,000 Americans so far, with a Biden adviser saying today that tally could reach 500,000 by February.
  • China is building a 3,000-unit quarantine facility in the northern city Shijiazhuang to deal with an anticipated overflow of patients as COVID-19 cases rise ahead of the annual Lunar New Year travel rush.

Coronavirus and business

The Canada Revenue Agency has begun demanding artists across Canada repay emergency coronavirus benefits and is insisting that some are not eligible for payments under new income support.

  • At issue are the CRA’s statements that artistic grants do not count as income for the purposes of meeting the Canada Emergency Response Benefit threshold.
  • To be eligible, recipients must have had at least $5,000 in net income in 2019 or the 12 months preceding their application.
  • Although the CRA has been telling artists that such grants don’t count as income under the CERB program, they do count as income at tax time.

Also today: Canada’s housing market closed out December with a record number of sales as buyers competed fiercely for larger properties during the pandemic.

And: The head of the International Monetary Fund encouraged governments to boost spending as a means of reviving slowed economies, saying: “Spend as much as you can and then spend a little bit more.”

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Sources: Canada data are compiled from government websites, Johns Hopkins University and COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group; international data are from Johns Hopkins.

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