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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC News

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The latest:

Beijing’s city government on Sunday introduced new measures to contain a recent outbreak of COVID-19, as China’s capital continued to report new local cases just two weeks from hosting the Winter Olympics.

Beijing Olympics organizers said on Sunday they had confirmed 72 cases of COVID-19 among 2,586 Games-related personnel entering China from Jan. 4 to 22, with no cases among 171 athletes and team officials arriving in that period.

Final preparations are taking place for the Winter Games amid a global surge in cases of the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant. The Games are set to take place from Feb. 4 to 20 inside a “closed loop” bubble that separates all event personnel from the public. Of the confirmed cases, 39 were found in testing at the airport and 33 inside the loop, organizers said.

Beijing’s Fengtai District — where China’s National Health Commission reported six locally transmitted cases on Saturday — will organize COVID-19 tests for all of its two million residents, district health authorities said.

Authorities have asked residents of “risky areas,” including a neighbourhood of Fengtai, not to leave the city, a local government spokesperson said at a Sunday news conference, adding that Fengtai residents have been asked to avoid mass gatherings.

Beijing city has also asked residents to proactively conduct nucleic acid tests if they find themselves with COVID-19-like symptoms within 14 days of receiving any deliveries from overseas, local authorities said in a statement dated Saturday.

China had urged people to wear masks and gloves when opening mail, especially from abroad, after authorities suggested the first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus found in Beijing could have arrived via a package from Canada, a claim experts say is not based on science.

Workers wearing hazardous material suits test surfaces inside the Taizicheng railway station on Sunday in Zhangjiakou, a city bordering Beijing. (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

In recent weeks, cities across China have imposed tougher measures to control new outbreaks of COVID-19, a task that has taken on extra urgency ahead of the start of the Olympics.

Many cities have advised residents to stay put or are requiring travellers to report their trips days before their arrival.

Meanwhile, the Beijing Olympic Committee and Chinese authorities are lowering the threshold for producing a negative test for any participant arriving at the Games.

The cycle threshold (CT) value, which comes from the most reliable test for the coronavirus, will be dropping from 40 to 35. The higher the CT value, the less infectious a person with COVID-19 is.

Many places in Canada use a CT value of 35.

The lower value makes it easier for participants to produce a negative test, especially if previously infected.


What’s happening across Canada

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 there 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 ratesin its daily epidemiological updates.

In Ontario, health officials said 3,797 people with COVID-19 were in hospital on Sunday, down by 229 from the day before. Of those patients, 604 were in intensive care, up by four from Saturday.

The province reported 5,833 new lab-confirmed cases and 56 additional deaths.

The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table is calling on the government to change the definition of the term “fully vaccinated” from two doses to three, even though Premier Doug Ford said this week his government wasn’t yet planning to do so. 

Quebec recorded 3,293 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, down by 12 from the day before, with 273 of those patients in ICUs, two fewer than Saturday. The province reported 5,141 new lab-confirmed cases and 33 additional deaths.

Hundreds of restaurant owners in the province are considering reopening in defiance of public health measures.

During a briefing on Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said despite signs of stability in patient numbers in some provinces, the toll on hospitals remains heavy and many hospitals across the country are under intense strain. More than 10,000 people with COVID-19 were being treated in hospitals each day in the past week, surpassing peak daily numbers in all previous waves of the pandemic.

Masks abound in chilly Montreal on Saturday. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

In British Columbia, due to record-high hospitalizations, COVID-19-positive hospital patients are being placed in the same room with double-vaccinated people who do not have the virus, provincial health officials said.

WATCH | B.C. teachers refuse to work, citing students not wearing masks:

Teachers at B.C. school refuse to work citing students not wearing masks

2 days ago

Duration 1:52

Teachers at a B.C. elementary school are refusing to work, citing unsafe conditions brought on in part by students refusing to wear masks in class. 1:52

In the Prairies, a northern First Nation in Manitoba is facing criticism for its lockdown measures after a group of mothers left to buy groceries on Thursday and an attempt was made to prevent them from returning to the community. In Saskatchewan, the chief medical health officer says COVID-19 hospital numbers could rise to as high as 300 to 500 or more in the next few weeks due to the high Omicron infection rate. In Alberta, a group of Calgary moms is fundraising in an effort to supply 115,000 school staff members with N95 masks.

In the Atlantic provinces, the test positivity rate in Newfoundland and Labrador dropped from 21.4 per cent on Friday to 15.8 per cent on Saturday; Prince Edward Island registered its fifth COVID-19 death since the start of the pandemic; New Brunswick recorded six additional deaths; and Nova Scotia says there are 82 people in designated COVID-19 hospital units, including 11 people in intensive care.

In the North, Northwest Territories health officials say its modelling suggests the peak of the Omicron wave “may have already passed mid-January” in the territory, Yukon has confirmed its 16th virus-related death and Nunavut reported 35 new cases and a weekly test positivity rate of 30.2 per cent.


What’s happening around the world

As of early Sunday afternoon, more than 349.6million 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 5.59 million.

In Asia, South Korea posted its second highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, despite extended restrictions and a high vaccination rate, raising concerns of further spread during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

The country recorded 7,630 new cases on Saturday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said, above the 7,009 reported a day earlier and near the mid-December record logged.

South Korea in mid-January extended tougher social-distancing rules for three weeks, including a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants, cafés and bars, and limits on private gatherings.

In Europe, Russia on Sunday reported a new high in COVID-19 infections confirmed in the past 24 hours as the Omicron variant of the virus spreads, the government coronavirus task force said.

Daily new cases jumped to 63,205 from the previous record of 57,212 a day earlier. The task force also reported 679 deaths.

In Belgium, police fired water cannons and tear gas in Brussels on Sunday to disperse protesters marching against COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions.

Police confront protesters during a demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Brussels on Sunday. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/The Associated Press)

The march followed demonstrations in other European capitals on Saturday that also drew thousands of people protesting vaccine passports and other requirements that European governments have imposed in hopes of ending the coronavirus pandemic.

In Brussels, demonstrators chanted “Liberty!” as they marched.

White-helmeted police riot officers later sought to disperse protesters, who ignored instructions broadcast over loudspeakers that the demonstration was finished and that they should leave.

PHOTOS | COVID-19 vaccine passport protests in Europe draw thousands: 

In the Americas, the world-famous Carnival festivities in Rio de Janeiro will be held in late April rather than the final weekend of February, as the number of coronavirus cases in Brazil spikes and the Omicron variant spreads.

In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealanders are set to face new COVID-19 restrictions after nine cases of the variant were detected in a single family who were on a flight to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Sunday.

The heightened measures, going into effect on Monday, include mask wearing and limits on gatherings. Ardern said businesses can remain open, and people can still visit family and friends and move freely around the country.

In Africa, the World Bank has approved a loan of $750 million US to South Africa linked to COVID-19, aiming to help protect the poor and support economic recovery from the pandemic, the National Treasury said.

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Minke whale carcass found northeast of Montreal is likely one seen near city: expert

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MONTREAL — A dead whale found in the St. Lawrence River northeast of Montreal is probably one of two minke whales seen near the city earlier this month, a marine researcher said Thursday.

Robert Michaud, president of a Quebec marine mammal research group, said experts have yet to examine the carcass found in Contrecoeur, Que., about 50 kilometres downstream from Montreal.

Michaud said a necropsy could be performed depending on that assessment, adding that the task would fall to veterinary medicine students at Université de Montréal.

Two minke whales were spotted this month near Montreal, and there were concerns for their well-being, as they were about 450 kilometres upstream of their usual range.

Minke whales are common in Quebec but don’t generally venture west of the saltwater St. Lawrence estuary around Tadoussac, Que.

Ronald Gosselin, one of the fishermen behind the discovery on Thursday morning, said he was in his boat fishing when he saw a bizarre shape in the water.

“In my life, I’ve seen maybe two or three whales, including one that beached in Contrecoeur,” Gosselin said.

A local fishing guide, Gosselin, 66, said whales are not a common sight in the area. He spotted the mammal floating in the St. Lawrence River near Île Saint-Ours.

The two Montreal whales had not been seen since mid-May.

It’s unclear why whales occasionally venture into freshwater habitats, but Michaud has said there isn’t much that can be done to help them besides hoping they turn around and head home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Murray Sinclair honoured with Order of Canada at Rideau Hall ceremony

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OTTAWA — Murray Sinclair received the Order of Canada Thursday for dedicating his life to championing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and freedoms.

Sinclair held his wife’s hand as the award was announced in Rideau Hall, and was met with a standing ovation as he rose to receive it.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon presented Sinclair with the award at the ceremony, which was held several months after it was announced he would receive the honour.

By accepting the award, Sinclair wanted to show the country that working on Indigenous issues calls for national attention and participation, he said in an interview.

Sinclair, 71, said at his age he has begun to reflect on his life, and he realizes that he’s had both the joy and sadness that comes with participating in this work.

Receiving the award recognizes the importance of that work, and can act as inspiration for younger people, Sinclair said.

“When I speak to young people, I always tell them that we all have a responsibility to do the best that we can and to be the best that we can be,” he said.

Sinclair led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the experiences of Indigenous children sent to residential schools.

Sinclair said it was a particular honour to receive the award from Simon, the first Indigenous Governor General, as she is a good friend and was an honorary witness to the commission.

“As an Indigenous person, we had a unique relationship. And I think we brought it to what happened here today,” he said.

The former senator is a highly respected voice on matters of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest distinctions, for those who have made exceptional contributions to Canadian society.

Sinclair also received the Meritorious Service Cross for his role in overseeing the Truth and Reconciliation commission and producing the final report.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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Gunman entered Texas school unimpeded, police say as questions swirl about response

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WASHINGTON — Law enforcement officials described in chilling detail Thursday the time it took for tactical officers to finally gun down an 18-year-old attacker after he shot and killed 19 students and two teachers inside a fourth-grade classroom in small-town Texas.

Victor Escalon, the south Texas regional director for the state’s Department of Public Safety, stood before a backdrop of stone-faced police officers, investigators and officials — a news conference that appeared aimed at deflecting mounting concerns about what took so long.

The gunman entered the school at about 11:40 a.m. local time through an apparently unlocked door, and contrary to initial reports, encountered no resistance, Escalon said — the armed school safety officer, normally a fixture at educational facilities around the U.S., was not there.

“He was not confronted by anybody,” he said. “Four minutes later, law enforcement are coming in to solve this problem step by step.”

Those officers who initially arrived on the scene pursued the gunman into the school, but soon after had to take cover when the shooter began opening fire on them, he continued. It would be a full hour before Border Patrol officers wearing tactical gear found their target.

“They don’t make entry initially because of the gunfire they’re receiving,” Escalon said of the officers who arrived on the scene first.

“But we have officers calling for additional resources — everybody that’s in the area, tactical teams. We need equipment — we need specialty equipment. We need body armour; we need precision riflemen; negotiators.”

Students and teachers were also being evacuated from the building at the same time, he added.

Escalon also suggested that even if tactical officers had been able to breach the classroom sooner, it might have already been too late for the children and teachers inside.

“According to the information we have, the majority of the gunfire was in the beginning — in the beginning,” he said. “I say numerous, more than 25 (rounds) — I repeat, it was a lot of gunfire in the beginning.”

Media reports Thursday, coupled with cellphone video of the civilian pandemonium outside, detailed how parents and bystanders, well aware of the imminent threat inside the building, were frantically trying to get officers to go into the school to confront the gunman.

A Wall Street Journal report detailed how one of the parents on the scene was handcuffed by federal marshals who accused her of interfering with a police investigation. After local officers convinced their colleagues to set her free, she ran into the school and emerged with her two kids, the paper reported.

Escalon did not directly answer questions about why it took so long for tactical officers to get into the classroom, but promised more details would be forthcoming.

U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Uvalde on Sunday to “offer comfort” to the families of the victims and meet with community leaders, said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre as she urged Congress to take meaningful steps toward tougher gun restrictions.

“We need the help of Congress … we cannot do this alone,” she said. “We need them to step in and to deal with this gun violence that we’re seeing, that’s tearing up not just families but communities across the country.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he’s asked Texas Sen. John Cornyn to meet with Democrats to talk about legislation, but offered no details about what he hopes to see, beyond “an outcome that can actually pass and become law.”

That’s a tall order: Congress remains in a state of gridlock, in part because the Senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, but also because so many U.S. lawmakers support the rights of gun owners and enjoy the generous financial backing of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA, easily one of the most powerful political groups in the U.S., is meanwhile pressing ahead with its annual meeting in Houston despite the tragedy that unfolded Tuesday just a four-hour drive away.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the families and victims involved in this horrific and evil crime,” the association said in a statement that described the gunman as a “lone, deranged criminal.”

“As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure.”

Texas Republicans Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz have come under withering criticism for their planned appearances at the convention, which begins Friday. Former president Donald Trump has already confirmed he’ll be there to deliver a speech.

“They are contributing to the problem of gun violence, not trying to solve it,” Jean-Pierre said of the NRA.

“They don’t represent gun owners who know that we need to take action. And it’s shameful that the NRA and their allies have stood in the way of every attempt to advance measures that we all know will save lives.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

 

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version contained an incorrect spelling of Uvalde, Tex.

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