OTTAWA — The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):
Health officials in British Columbia are pleased with a national vaccine panel's endorsement of their approach to wait four months before a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine is offered.
The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health has also given its nod to the province's four-month interval between shots, up from 42 days.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say setting the booster dose at four months allows more people to access a vaccine, and the wait may even provide longer-lasting protection against COVID-19.
British Columbia has recorded 524 new cases of the illness, along with seven more deaths.
Two hundred people are now infected with a variant, with the vast majority of cases involving the one first identified in the United Kingdom.
Alberta says it will begin extending second doses of COVID-19 for up to four months as recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, starting March 10.
The province is reporting 402 new cases and 4,649 active ones.
There are 251 people in hospital with the illness.
There were 12 more deaths, bringing that total to 1,902.
More than 255,000 Albertans have received one or both vaccine doses.
A national panel of vaccine experts is recommending extending the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to up to four months.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says that would help provinces quickly vaccinate more people when faced with a limited supply.
The new guidance applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada.
Several provinces, including British Columbia and Manitoba, have already indicated they would opt for a four-month interval between doses.
Quebec is moving more regions into the lower, “orange” pandemic-alert level, including Quebec City and the Eastern Townships, starting on March 8.
Premier Francois Legault said today the greater Montreal area will remain in the highest, “red” level, because of fear of novel coronavirus variants.
Residents of Quebec City, Chaudiere-Appalaches, Mauricie, Estrie and Centre-du-Quebec will be permitted to eat inside restaurants and go to the gym, and the nighttime curfew will be pushed back from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Legault is also reporting that Quebec will wait up to four months to administer a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, up from the current 90-day interval.
Manitoba expects to receive its first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by mid-March and plans to target people aged 50 to 64 with high-risk underlying conditions.
Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead on the province's vaccine task force, says people on dialysis because of kidney failure could be one example, but details are being worked out.
Reimer says she is following the advice of a national panel that's recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and over.
Manitoba is focusing on older people with other vaccines.
Saskatchewan is reporting 121 new cases of COVID-19.
Two more residents who were 80 and older have also died.
There are 153 people in hospital, with 20 in intensive care.
Health officials say around 7,000 more shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have arrived and another 7,000 doses are expected by the end of today.
To date, around 81,000 vaccinations have been done across the province.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says uptake of COVID-19 vaccines has been "fantastic" as just over half the territory's residents have received their first dose.
However, Silver says he's concerned about the rising numbers of variants elsewhere in Canada, even though Yukon currently has no active cases of COVID-19.
Chief medical health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley says vaccine hesitancy is a reality and he's urging everyone to get vaccinated at a mass clinic in Whitehorse or through mobile vans that are making their way around Yukon.
Seventy-one people have recovered from COVID-19 and one person has died since the pandemic began.
Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19, and now has 30 known active infections.
Health officials say two of the new cases have been identified in the Halifax area and the other in the northern zone.
All are close contacts of previously reported cases.
As of Tuesday, officials say 35,291 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 13,512 people having received their second dose.
New Brunswick is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today.
Health officials say two travel-related cases are in the Fredericton area and involve people in their 20s, while the third case is in the Miramichi region and involves a person in their 50s.
Officials have identified a list of locations in Miramichi where there may have been public exposures, and a mass testing clinic will be held to determine whether there has been any further spread in the area.
There are now 37 active reported cases in the province and three people are hospitalized with the disease, including two in intensive care.
Health Canada says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be shipped and stored for up to two weeks in standard freezer temperatures.
When it was approved in December, Health Canada said the vaccine had to remain in ultra-low temperatures until just before it is thawed for use.
It limited the distribution of the vaccine mainly to bigger urban areas which were equipped with the specialty freezers required.
Last week, the companies asked the regulator to make the change after their own data showed their messenger RNA vaccine remained stabled stored for two weeks in -15 C to -25 C.
Health Canada says the vaccine can be returned to ultra-low temperatures after being warmed up to the standard freezer temperatures.
The change should make it easier for provinces to distribute the vaccine, and could open up the possibility it can go to remote communities and the territories as well.
Manitoba health officials say they will delay second doses of all vaccines in order to focus on getting first doses to more people more quickly.
Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, says it's in response to studies that show first doses may be more effective than first thought.
She says details will be worked out in accordance with a national panel's guidelines, and second-dose appointments already booked will be honoured.
Ontario will give the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to residents aged 60 to 64.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says the province feels the targeted use of that shot will help cut illness and death across Ontario.
Jones says the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot will not be administered through mass immunization clinics but through a "different pathway," although she did not elaborate what that would be.
Ontario said yesterday it plans to follow the advice of a national panel that's recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older.
Manitoba is reporting 50 additional COVID-19 cases and three deaths.
The province is also dropping its age for vaccinations in the general public by one year.
Vaccinations can now be booked for First Nations people aged 69 and up and for other people aged 89 and up.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's optimistic the timeline to vaccinate Canadians against COVID-19 can be sped up.
He says his government's plan to administer COVID-19 shots to all Canadians who want one by the end of September didn't factor in the approval of new drugs.
Trudeau says that includes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was delivered today.
Canada has received its first 500,000 doses of the shot -- the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in the country.
Quebec’s statistics agency says life expectancy in the province declined by five months for men and eight months for women between 2019 and 2020.
It says the number of deaths reported in the province in 2020 was 10 per cent higher than in 2019 -- an increase of 6,750 deaths.
The agency says the decline is largely due to an increase in deaths reported last year during the pandemic.
Newfoundland and Labrador is extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months.
Public health officials announced the new measures Wednesday, saying it will help close to 40,000 more people be vaccinated with a single dose by the end of March.
Officials also reported three new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and said all are linked to previously identified cases.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the low case numbers and clear sources of infections are a good sign following the outbreak that spread rapidly through St. John’s in February.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says three federal aid programs designed to blunt the fallout from COVID-19 are being extended.
Trudeau says the federal wage subsidy, rent support and lockdown programs will remain in place until June.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says all three programs will keep support at the current levels.
She says the trio of programs are being extended because the economy is still struggling even with encouraging signs of a recovery on the horizon.
Prince Edward Island will lift restrictions that closed schools and most businesses at midnight.
Premier Dennis King says results from 11,000 COVID-19 tests conducted since the weekend provide confidence that restrictions can be eased.
The health orders were imposed after COVID-19 case clusters emerged in Charlottetown and Summerside.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison is reporting one new COVID-19 case today; P.E.I. has 22 active reported infections.
Quebec is reporting 729 new cases of COVID-19 today and 19 more deaths from the virus, including two within the past 24 hours.
Health officials say hospitalizations dropped to 618 and the number of people in intensive care dropped to 120.
Ontario is reporting 958 new COVID-19 cases today.
The province says 17 more people have died from the virus.
More than 27,000 tests were completed to compile the data.
The province says 27,398 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered since the last daily update.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.
The Canadian Press