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Quebec has ended the last of the special emergency lockdown measures that were put in place in some regions of the province that were particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.

The measures were in place in some municipalities in the Estrie, Chaudiere-Appalaches, and Bas-Saint-Laurent regions, which will now return to the red alert level on the province’s pandemic response system.

That means non-essential businesses can reopen and the evening curfew will move from 8 p.m. to 9:30, as is already the case in most of southern Quebec.

The province’s COVID-19 case numbers continued to trend downwards today with 433 new infections and 11 new deaths, including one in the past 24 hours.

Hospitalizations rose by three to 424, while the number of people in intensive care declined by one to 102.

The curfew will be lifted across the entire province later this week as the province takes a major step toward reopening that will also include allowing restaurant patios to operate, up to eight people to gather outside in backyards, and indoor venues to start welcoming up to 2,500 people at once.

Fraser Health registered nurse Kai Kayibadi draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan reaches ‘Step 2′ threshold in reopening plan

Saskatchewan says it reached the Step 2 threshold on the province’s Re-Opening Roadmap today, with over 70 per cent of residents age 30 and older having received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

The province’s daily pandemic update says that means Step 2′s relaxation of restrictions will begin June 20.

That means easing capacity thresholds on retail, personal care services, restaurants and bars, although they must still maintain physical distancing among occupants or have barriers in place.

Step 2 rules also raise caps on private indoor gatherings to 15, while capacity limits jump to 150 for both public indoor gatherings and all outdoor assemblies, whether public or private.

Premier Scott Moe says in the update that once 70 per cent of the entire adult population is vaccinated, Saskatchewan can move to Step Three and remove almost all of the remaining public health orders.

Today’s pandemic update notes there are 103 new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan and no new virus-related deaths.

COVID-19 vaccination clinics at Alberta-Montana border cancelled

A feel-good story in which a Montana First Nation was holding COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the Canada-United States border in southwestern Alberta has come to an end.

The Blackfeet Tribe, 150 kilometres south of Lethbridge, began offering shots of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna at the Carway border crossing a month ago. Initially it was being offered to members of the Blackfoot Confederacy, but it was later opened up to anyone who wanted it.

The proposal received approval from the tribal administration and both the Canadian and United States governments to set up the mobile clinic on the U.S. side of the border.

Canadians who attended the clinic were given exemptions from having to quarantine for 14 days. They lined up in their cars, drove through a loop, received their shots through the window, were monitored for 15 minutes and went home.

But an official with the Blackfeet Tribe in Browning, Mont., told The Canadian Press late Saturday that the clinics have come to an end.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said last week Canadians attempting to drive across the American border solely for a COVID-19 vaccination, even with a doctor’s referral, would be denied entry.

Active COVID-19 cases are falling in Alberta, but the province is reporting seven new deaths linked to the virus.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says in a series of tweets that there are currently 13,608 active cases.

That’s down from seven days ago, when the total number of active infections was 21,288.

COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to slow this week with 600K Pfizer doses arriving

Canada is set for a relatively quiet few days on the COVID-19 vaccine front with only about 600,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses set to arrive this week.

The two pharmaceutical firms were originally scheduled to deliver two million shots in the next seven days, but shipped 1.4 million of those doses last week instead in anticipation of the May long weekend.

Pfizer and BioNTech have been consistently delivering doses even as other vaccine makers have struggled to keep their shipments flowing. They’re set to increase their weekly deliveries to 2.4 million doses starting in June.

Am I eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine? The latest rules by province

The federal government is not expecting any more doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of May, and officials say they are still working on a timetable for when more doses will arrive in June.

Discussions are also taking place over the possible delivery of another 1 million Oxford-AstraZeneca shots by the end of June.

Meanwhile, Health Canada is still reviewing 300,000 vaccines from Johnson and Johnson. Those doses were delivered last month but have yet to be distributed because of concerns of possible tainting at a Baltimore production facility.

Canadian officials reported over the weekend that more than half of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.

Manitobans asked to weigh in on COVID-19 vaccine incentives in online survey

The Manitoba government is floating the idea of offering prizes, free meals or payments of up to $100 to encourage people to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

An online survey issued by the government Monday asks respondents for their views on a variety of pandemic issues.

One question asks people whether they would be concerned if incentives were offered to people who have been hesitant to get vaccinated.

The possible incentives also include free admission to sporting events or museums.

Premier Brian Pallister said last week he will soon outline new ways to encourage people to get vaccinated.

The survey on COVID-19 vaccines also asks whether the respondent has received a vaccine, where they were vaccinated and their level of satisfaction with the experience.

Manitoba’s online pandemic dashboard shows 353 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths.

Officials widen restricted area in N.L. due to growing COVID-19 cluster

A growing cluster of COVID-19 cases and contacts in Newfoundland and Labrador’s central region prompted officials to impose the second-highest alert level over a larger swath of the province on Monday as they try to curb the spread of the disease.

During a virtual briefing Monday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said communities along the Trans-Canada Highway from Gambo, N.L., to Badger, N.L., as well as some communities along a number of nearby provincial highways, will be under Alert Level 4 of the province’s pandemic response framework.

The move involves tighter capacity limits on gatherings and businesses and takes effect immediately. It also follows the government’s decision to place a span of the province stretching from Lewisporte, N.L., to Summerford, N.L., under the same alert level on Friday when the cluster was first announced.

“It’s certainly not the May 24 weekend that we had all hoped for in some parts of our province,” Premier Andrew Furey said during the Monday briefing.

Fitzgerald said there are a total of 32 confirmed cases associated with the growing cluster.

Residents now living in Level 4 areas are being asked to stay and home and limit socializing to their family bubbles.

Indoor dining will be prohibited at affected restaurants, and retail stores can open at 50 per cent capacity. Fitness facilities, arenas and dance studios will be closed under the new order, though personal services may remain open.

Health Minister John Haggie said the cluster in the northeastern part of the province, which still falls under the central health zone, may now have connections to some 300 people.

Sporting events and gatherings among family and friends that have taken place across the region seem to have played a part in the spread, he added.

“This is a young cluster, as far as we can tell,” Haggie said. The average age of the group is 38 while the median age is 36.

The province, he said, has been vaccinating an additional one per cent of its population each day and is looking to pick up that pace once the federal government delivers more shots.

Fitzgerald said preliminary screening suggests the cases associated with the growing group don’t seem to be connected to any of the variants of concern – those first identified in the United Kingdom, Brazil or South Africa – that have sent case counts surging around the world.

Furey said the current cluster also differs in other ways from a major outbreak in February that shut down much of Newfoundland’s capital region and even forced the cancellation of in-person voting in the provincial election. Chief among them, he said, is the growing number of residents who have been vaccinated against the virus.

“We have been through similar situations before,” the premier said. “We have the benefit of lessons learned, in addition we have the benefit of 50 per cent of our population being vaccinated with at least one dose.”

Meanwhile, provincial health officials announced five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 provincewide on Monday. The active case count in the province now stands at 89.

‘So far, so good’: B.C. COVID-19 vaccination numbers steady across ages, expert says

The head of the association representing thousands of doctors across British Columbia says the province’s younger residents appear to be getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at rates similar to their older counterparts.

Doctors of B.C. President Doctor Matthew Chow says that bucks trends seen in other provinces.

Data from the Ministry of Health shows more than 58 per cent of eligible residents in the 18 to 24 and 25 to 29 age groups have registered for a vaccine as of May 18.

That number climbs above 60 per cent for those aged 30 to 34.

Chow says there is typically a drop in vaccine uptake in younger age groups.

But he says that’s not the case in B.C. so far, which he calls a promising development.

Yukon and Quebec have both seen vaccination rates slow among younger residents and urged them to get a shot to help build herd immunity.

B.C.’s Fraser Health authority launched a campaign aimed at encouraging young adults to get vaccinated on Friday, which Chow calls a “pro-active” move.

B.C. is expected to announce its plan to lift certain provincial health restrictions tomorrow.

British Columbia recorded 974 new COVID-19 cases over the long weekend amid a decline in virus-related hospitalizations

The province also reported 12 new deaths linked to COVID-19.

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