Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Monday

The latest:

Ontario’s premier says the province is ending its vaccine certificate system on March 1, when capacity limits will lift as well. Doug Ford’s announcement came as several other provinces — including Alberta and Saskatchewan — on Monday moved ahead with previously announced lifting of public health measures.

The province will also remove its 50 per cent capacity limit on restaurants on Thursday, four days earlier than planned. Ford gave no timetable for dropping the requirement that people wear masks in public places.

“Let me be very clear: We are moving in this direction because it is safe to do so. Today’s announcement is not because of what’s happening in Ottawa or Windsor — but despite it,” Ford said.

A vaccine mandate for staff in long-term care homes will remain, the premier said.

WATCH | Beginning to ease restrictions ‘totally logical,’ infectious diseases physician says:

Ontario government to remove vaccine passport requirements on March 1

Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious diseases physician and senior clinician at Sinai Health System, joins Power & Politics to discuss the easing of COVID restrictions in Ontario.

Dr. Peter Jüni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said the two-dose requirement is no longer efficient and acknowledged the province is currently “unable … to move to a three-dose vaccine certificate system that properly takes into account immunity through infection.”

“We don’t want just to maintain certificates to keep a … sense of security, which is not really supported by science,” he said.

The province on Monday reported 1,369 hospitalizations — down by 171 from a day earlier — with 394 people in the province’s intensive care units, according to the COVID-19 dashboard. The province also reported eight more deaths.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s mandatory mask requirement for children under 12 in all settings and for all students in schools ended Monday, while Saskatchewan’s use of a vaccine passport program is also ending.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced the decision about masks last week as part of a phased plan to eliminate all COVID-19 restrictions. The provincial government has told school boards they don’t have the power to override the directive.

On Monday, the province reported 1,528 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 124 people in ICU. It also reported 35 new deaths over three days. Health officials also expanded booster shot eligibility to immunocompromised and Indigenous youth between 12 and 17 years old.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced last week his province’s proof-of-vaccination mandate would come to an end Feb. 14, while indoor masking and self-isolation rules would stay in place until the end of the month.

Moe has said the policy that required proof of vaccination or a negative test helped increase vaccination rates in the province, but suggested its costs now outweigh its benefits.

LISTEN | Scott Moe takes questions about how Sask. is handling COVID-19 as restrictions ease: 

16:13Premier Scott Moe talks ending COVID-19 public health orders

The first big change to pandemic health orders is gone now. Vaccine passports are no longer supported by the provincial government. By the end of the month, masks won’t be either. Host Stefani Langenegger speaks with Premier Scott Moe.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s The Morning Edition, the premier said people in Saskatchewan have been “making the right decisions throughout this pandemic,” when asked about shifting requirements, adding that he trusts that people will continue to do that.

Saskatchewan no longer issues daily information on the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the province. Instead, it provides weekly updates, released on Thursday.

Meanwhile Manitoba’s staged lifting of restrictions will see the current 50 per cent capacity limits in places like restaurants and hockey arenas end Tuesday. Caps on gatherings in people’s homes will also end.

The province’s hospitals were treating 633 COVID-19 patients on Monday, the lowest it’s been in nearly a month. Forty of those patients are in ICUs. The province also reported 19 deaths from COVID-19 over the last three days.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Is it too early to end vaccine and mask mandates? 

COVID-19: Is it too early to end vaccine and mask mandates?

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Zain Chagla answers questions about whether it’s too soon for provinces to end COVID-19 vaccine passports and mask mandates, as well as whether they are still effective tools.

With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.

For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.

You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.

In Central Canada, Quebec Premier François Legault said Monday he will meet with public health officials Monday night to discuss whether the province’s vaccine passport system should remain in use.

Speaking to reporters in Longueuil, Que., Legault said the province’s health minister plans to “get rid of the pass as soon as we get the OK from public health.”

Earlier on Monday, the province reported 17 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus. The daily COVID-19 update showed 2,095 patients in hospital with the disease, with 136 people in ICUs.

Gyms and spas were allowed to reopen at half-capacity across Quebec on Monday, after they were closed in December to reduce transmission of the Omicron variant of the virus.

Indoor sports and recreation activities can also resume today, including at colleges and universities, with a maximum of 25 participants per group.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia is easing some restrictions as of Monday, part of a three-phase process to lift public health measures. A statement from the province last week said that the first phase will allow for events, with gathering limits increased.

The province also said “all border restrictions for domestic travellers will be lifted.”

As of Monday, there were 68 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 12 people in ICU. The province reported seven new deaths linked to the virus, marking the highest death count reported on a single day since the pandemic began.

Prince Edward Island had eight people in hospital with the virus on Monday, with no patients in ICU. The island also reported 161 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 Monday.

New Brunswick two deaths linked to COVID-19 on Monday. The province had 112 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals, with 13 being treated in ICUs. On Friday, the province will lift capacity limits for most businesses and increase private gathering limits.

Four more people have died from COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador. The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 is at 23, with eight in ICU. 

In the North, Yukon reported 37 new cases Monday. There are no COVID-19 patients in the territory’s hospitals.

In a Monday news release, Nunavut‘s minister of Human Resources and Finance announced he tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend and is experiencing mild symptoms. Earlier Monday, the territory reported 120 new cases of the coronavirus.

The Northwest Territories reported 335 new cases on Monday.

British Columbia has 803 individuals with COVID-19 in hospitals on Monday, with 119 in intensive care. The province reported 17 new deaths over the past three days.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

Couples take part in a mass wedding ceremony a day before Valentine’s Day in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines. The Philippines has eased COVID-19 restrictions this month as daily cases gradually drop. (Getty Images)

As of Monday afternoon, more than 412.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.8 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea will begin administering a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose by the end of February and will supply millions of additional home test kits to ease shortages amid a surge in Omicron infections, authorities confirmed.

China’s National Immigration Administration said it will not be renewing passports for non-essential travel while the international COVID-19 epidemic situation is still severe and cross-border travel poses “great security risks.”

The latest wave of infections has “overwhelmed” Hong Kong, the city’s leader Carrie Lam said as daily cases surged by some 20 times over the past two weeks, leaving hospitals short of beds and struggling to cope.

A snowman is seen wearing a face mask outside a COVID-19 testing booth in Beijing on Sunday. Heavy snowfall hit Beijing and surrounding areas on Sunday, leading to the postponement of a number of outdoor events at the Winter Olympics. (Annice Lyn/Getty Images)

In the Middle East, Kuwait’s cabinet has lifted many COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on foreign travel. The move will also apply to those who are not vaccinated, Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah said Monday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of vehicles drove along the main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and converged on parliament to protest against COVID-19 curbs in a convoy inspired by demonstrations in Canada.

A car, which is part of an Israeli Freedom Convoy, displays Israeli and Canadian flags as it heads to Jerusalem to protest against restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 on Monday. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

In Europe, the Duchess of Cornwall has tested positive for COVID-19, four days after her husband, Prince Charles, was confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus. The couple’s office said Monday that Camilla is self-isolating. Charles has been isolating since he tested positive on Thursday. But Camilla had continued with public engagements while taking daily tests. The 73-year-old Charles and 74-year-old Camilla are both triple-vaccinated.

Norway will scrap nearly all its remaining COVID-19 lockdown measures as high levels of coronavirus infections are unlikely to jeopardize health services, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said.  The leader has previously said that as wealthier nations lift restrictions, they should continue to assist lower-income nations with access to vaccines, treatment and supplies as the pandemic continues to pose a risk to the world.

Sweden is recommending a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to people over 80 and those living in nursing homes or getting home care, authorities said Monday, adding it must be administered no earlier than four months after the previous shot.

In the Americas, the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing was open Monday after protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 measures blocked it for nearly a week.

In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Sunday reported 1,649 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths.

-From Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 5:20 p.m. ET