Coronavirus: What’s Happening in Canada and Around the World on Friday

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Germany has entered a “nationwide state of emergency” due to the surge in coronavirus infections, the head of the country’s disease control agency said on Friday.

Lothar Wieler, director of the Robert Koch Institute, said regular medical care can no longer be guaranteed in parts of the country as hospitals and intensive care wards are overcrowded.

The German Air Force confirmed a report from the Bild daily that it was preparing to help transfer patients to clinics with free beds.

“All of Germany is a big epidemic,” Wieler told reporters in Berlin. “This is a nationwide state of emergency. We must pull the emergency brake.”

He called for urgent additional measures to deal with the increase in COVID-19 cases, which topped 50,000 for the third day in a row. The Robert Koch Institute has also reported 201 more deaths, bringing the toll to 98,739 since the start of the epidemic.

Wieler’s comments came as the upper house of parliament on Friday approved new epidemic control measures proposed by the center-left alliance that emerged after the national elections on September 26. The measures include requiring people to prove that they are vaccinated, have recently recovered from COVID-19, or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces or public transport.

Separately, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed with the governors of the 16 German states to introduce a new threshold related to the number of hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. Some states are also considering mandatory vaccinations for certain occupational groups such as medical staff and nursing home workers.

Austria extends restrictions

Austria announced a new national lockdown and a plan to impose vaccinations as coronavirus infections hit an all-time high on Friday, forcing the government to back down on promises such blanket closures were a thing of the past.

The latest lockdown comes as Austria struggled unsuccessfully to stop the spiraling number of cases. The country reported 15,809 new infections on Friday, a record high.

The Silvrettabahn cable car is closed on Friday in Ischgl, Austria. Austrian authorities have announced a nationwide lockdown from next Monday in response to the current high levels of novel coronavirus infections. (Jan Hetfleisch / Getty Images)

In the past seven days, the country has reported more than 10,000 new cases of infection per day.

Imposing a mandate would give Austria one of the toughest vaccine requirements in the world. Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said those who did not comply would likely be fined, but gave no further details.

The measures come as vaccinations in Austria have peaked at one of the lowest rates in Western Europe and hospitals in heavily affected states have warned their intensive care units are reaching capacity.

But earlier this month, Schallenberg indicated that a full lockdown would not be necessary and instead imposed the restrictions only on unvaccinated people.

The lockdown will begin on Monday and will initially last 10 days, when it will be reassessed, Schallenberg said. From February 1, the country will also make vaccinations mandatory – although the Chancellor gave few details on what that meant or how it would work.

Not quite 66% of the 8.9 million Austrians are fully vaccinated, according to government figures. He has tried various measures to further increase this. This summer, Austria introduced a ‘green pass’ – which shows proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 or a negative test result and was required to enter restaurants and attend cultural events.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

What is happening in the world

On Thursday, a person walks past a White Flag memorial installation outside the Griffith Observatory that honors the nearly 27,000 Los Angeles County residents who have died from COVID-19. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)

As of Friday afternoon, more than 256.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker. The death toll worldwide was over 5.1 million.

In the Americas, U.S. regulators on Friday decided to open up COVID-19 booster injections to all adults, expanding government efforts to forestall the increase in coronavirus cases that experts say could snowball into one winter wave as millions of Americans travel for vacations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s move aims to simplify what has been a confusing list of eligible people by allowing anyone 18 years of age or older to choose a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose, which whichever vaccine she received first. The move came after a dozen states began offering reminders to all adults.

There is one step left before the approach becomes official: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must agree to extend the Pfizer and Moderna boosters to healthy young adults. Its science advisers were due to debate it later on Friday. If the CDC agrees, tens of millions more Americans could get three doses of protection before the New Year. Anyone who has received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine can already be boosted.

Health workers carry coolers of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a door-to-door vaccination campaign in the Villa Maria del Triunfo district on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, earlier this week. (Guadalupe Pardo / The Associated Press)

In Europe, Russian authorities have reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for a third day in a row. Russia’s state coronavirus task force on Friday reported 1,254 deaths from the virus, down from the previous record of 1,251 the day before. The task force also reported 37,156 new confirmed cases. New daily infections over the past few weeks appeared to have trended downward but still remained higher than in previous virus outbreaks.

In Africa, Health officials in South Africa on Thursday reported 585 new cases of COVID-19 and 40 more deaths.

In the Middle East, Kuwait on Thursday reported 22 additional cases and one additional death.

In the Asia Pacific region, the Philippines has approved a plan to allow the upcoming entry of foreign tourists vaccinated against COVID-19, its tourism ministry said, following measures taken by other Southeast Asian countries to relax travel restrictions.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, latest update 4:15 p.m. ET

James C. Tibbs