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Case of coronavirus variant first detected in India confirmed in Quebec

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Lawmakers in Germany's lower house of parliament have approved a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the coronavirus is spreading too quickly.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes off her mask to drink water during final debates and a vote on a series of new measures to rein in the coronavirus pandemic in the country. Germany has reported nearly 3.2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 80,000 deaths.(Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

German lawmakers have approved a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the coronavirus is spreading too quickly.

The legislation to apply an "emergency brake" consistently in areas with high infection rates is intended to end the patchwork of measures that has often characterized the pandemic response across highly decentralized Germany's 16 states.

The lower house of parliament voted 342-250 for the plan on Wednesday, with 64 abstentions. The upper house, where state governments are represented, is due to consider the legislation Thursday. If approved by both, it would apply until the end of June.

It features plans to impose a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, limit personal contacts, close leisure and sports facilities and shut or restrict access to many stores.

Police officers in Berlin face off with demonstrators during a protest rally on Wednesday against the German government's policy to battle the pandemic. (Markus Schreiber/The Associated Press)

The measures would kick in for areas where there are more than 100 weekly new cases per 100,000 residents. Schools would have to switch to distance learning at a higher rate of 165. Germany's nationwide COVID-19 rate stood at 160 new cases per 100,000 residents on Wednesday, though there were wide regional variations.

Opposition lawmakers advanced a variety of arguments against the bill. Alexander Gauland of the far-right Alternative for Germany, which opposes lockdown measures in general, called it an "attack on rights of freedom, federalism and common sense."

The Greens had different objections. "This emergency brake remains too half-hearted, too ineffective, too inconsistent and too disproportionate," lawmaker Maria Klein-Schmeink said.


What's happening in Canada

As of 10:15 a.m. ET Canada had reported 1,143,263 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 87,850 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,745.

Ontario on Wednesday reported 4,212 new cases of COVID-19 and 32 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 2,335, according to provincial data, with 790 people in ICU due to COVID-related illness.

The Ontario government, meanwhile, has said a paid sick-leave program for essential workers was under consideration. The possible shift comes after repeated calls by public health experts to do more to protect essential workers, who are bearing the brunt of the third wave of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford has found himself in isolation after a staff member tested positive for the virus. Ford has since tested negative.

In Atlantic Canada, health officials reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including:

In Quebec, health officials reported 1,136 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 17 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 694, with 177 people in intensive care.

In the Prairies, Manitoba reported 211 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and one additional death.

Health officials in Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 249 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and no additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 195 and officials reported that 51 people were in intensive care — the highest ICU figure the province has seen since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Alberta reported 1,345 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and five additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 476, with 105 of those patients in intensive care.

In British Columbia, health officials reported 849 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Tuesday. Hospitalizations stood at 456, with 148 in intensive care — representing new highs for the province.

Across the North, Nunavut reported five cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, though two of those cases were previously announced. In the Northwest Territories, two cases related to travel within Canada were reported in Fort Smith.


What's happening around the world

A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-through vaccination service on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Tuesday.(Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 143 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than three million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India has reported a record 295,041 new coronavirus cases, as the daily death toll crossed 2,000 for the first time. Even with hospitals struggling, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday advised state governments against imposing a harsh lockdown in favour of micro-containment zones as he sought to avoid another economic slump.

The surge in India has exacerbated the slowdown in global vaccination campaigns. India is a major vaccine producer but was forced to delay deliveries of shots to focus on its domestic demand. So far, India has administered over 130 million doses of vaccines in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion since mid-January.

Twenty-two COVID-19 patients on ventilators died in a hospital in western India on Wednesday when their oxygen supply was interrupted by a leak in a supply line, officials said.

Overall, India has reported more than 15.6 million confirmed cases, though experts have said that figure is likely an undercount. The reported death toll stood at more than 182,000.

A notice informing people of the shortage of COVID-19 vaccines is displayed on the gate of a vaccination centre in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday.(Rafiq Maqbool/The Associated Press)

In the Americas, Brazil is in talks to buy another 100 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, Communications Minister Fabio Faria said, as the country scrambles to procure more shots after a sluggish start to its vaccination program.

In the Middle East, Syria's last rebel-held enclave has received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines, with a refrigerated truck offloading over 50,000 United Nations-secured jabs in the overcrowded province. The delivery Wednesday came hours before a bigger shipment was expected to arrive in the capital Damascus for inoculations in government-controlled areas. The first batch of vaccines come as the war-torn country experiences a new surge in infections, overwhelming hospitals already reeling from conflict and deteriorating health care services.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has warned it could impose restrictions on people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 as the region's business and tourism hub pushes its immunization campaign.

In Africa, South Africa remained the hardest-hit country, with more than 1.5 million reported cases of COVID-19 and a death toll approaching 54,000.



With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press and Reuters

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