Canada’s death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic has now surpassed 13,000, according to updated public health data released on Thursday.
The milestone comes amid another 126 deaths reportedly linked to the virus, which pushes the national death toll to 13,109. Thursday’s fatalities now stand as the highest daily reported death toll in seven months, after 139 more deaths were reported on June 4.
Another 6,738 new cases of COVID-19 were also announced by health authorities Thursday, raising Canada’s total infections to 441,705. To date, over 355,000 patients have since recovered from the virus, however, while another 15.9 million tests have been administered.
Thursday’s grim milestone comes just 11 days after the country’s previous one, in which COVID-19 deaths surpassed the 12,000-mark.
Several new announcements on Thursday also came amid the rise in cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Canadian communities.
In a press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government would be footing the bill over the costs of the coronavirus vaccine, including the costs of supplies to administer them.
The announcement comes just hours after a first ministers meeting, in which the prime minister was expected to address the long-term health-care funding with the country’s premiers.
“The meeting of today gave us the opportunity to talk about our work in common to fight this pandemic and what we’re doing to help Canadians and Canadian businesses during this crisis,” said Trudeau, who noted again that the vaccine would be completely free for all Canadians.
Premiers were quick to express disappointment Thursday however after the prime minister did not agree to the premiers’ demands of another $28 billion in funding each year for annual federal transfers for health care. The government has already spent hundreds of billions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as previously directing $25 billion in funding to provinces and territories to boost their health systems, among other things.
The prime minister did agree with ministers’ sentiments to increase federal health funding, but said that he would be willing to address the issue once the pandemic is over.
Trudeau also announced a new “pan-Canadian” program to address any injuries from the vaccine, but stressed that the Health-Canada approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was safe and effective.
“After being vaccinated, it’s common to have mild and harmless side effects — this is the body’s natural response, as it’s working to build immunity against a disease. However, it is also possible for someone to have a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine,” read a statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada which announced the program.
“The chances of this are extremely rare — less than one in a million — and we have a duty to help if this occurs.”
Initial doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine were also confirmed to be arriving on Monday, Canada’s procurement minister confirmed.
“This has been a wonderful week for Canadians. We are going to have vaccines in this country on Monday,” said Anita Anand while speaking during question period in the House of Commons Thursday.
Pfizer’s vaccine was only approved Wednesday by Health Canada, with government officials announcing that it would begin rolling out to priority groups “within days.”
Several other vaccine candidates are still being reviewed by Health Canada, including ones from Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, though it is still unclear if those treatments would be approved by the end of this year.
Virus cases continue to reach record numbers across Canada, with Ontario hitting a new daily high of 1,983 more cases Thursday. Another 35 deaths were also reported, raising the provincial death toll to 3,871.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province would begin to administer its first shots of the Pfizer vaccine at hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa Tuesday. According to retired general Rick Hillier, who is heading Ontario’s vaccination program, a total of 6,000 doses would arrive Monday to be split between Toronto and Ottawa, while another 90,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine was expected to arrive in province over the course of December.
Hillier also noted on Thursday that Moderna’s approval was not going to be “far behind the Pfizer approval” and that expected it to be approved for use in Canada by the end of December for initial use in long-term care home sites.
Quebec added another 1,842 cases on Thursday as well as 33 more deaths. The province, which has been the hardest hit part of Canada in terms of both virus deaths and cases, also faced scrutiny Thursday over how its long-term care system fared during initial on-set of the pandemic.
According to a new report from Ombudsman Marie Rinfret, Quebec’s system failed to ensure long-term care home residents’ safety during the initial spread of the virus.
Alberta reported 1,566 more cases and another 13 deaths linked to COVID-19. Health authorities in the province also announced they would start distributing their initial supply of 3,900 vaccines next week to front-line health-care workers.
Saskatchewan reported 324 more cases and Manitoba another 292, raising their infection totals to 11,223 and 19,947, respectively.
British Columbia added another 722 cases of the virus Thursday, raising its total confirmed caseload to 39,696. Another 364 cases are considered “epi-linked” which are patients with symptoms and are close contacts of confirmed cases, but were never tested.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia both added four new virus cases while Newfoundland and Labrador reported just one additional infection. P.E.I. and all of the territories did not report any cases Thursday during their daily updates.
A total of 69,496,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been diagnosed worldwide according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. To date, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 1,579,000, with the United States, Brazil and India continuing to lead in both cases and deaths.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Amanda Connolly and Rachel Gilmore