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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

A variant of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious has been found in Southern California, where the state’s most populous county recorded more than 10,000 deaths, and authorities warned they will be patrolling streets to shut down large New Year’s Eve gatherings that could spread the infection.

Los Angeles County reached a “terrible milestone” with 274 additional deaths in 24 hours for a record toll of 10,056 deaths, Los Angeles County Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced Wednesday.

The COVID-19 daily death toll over 14 days has averaged about 150 people, or “about equal to the number of deaths from all other causes, which is about 170,” said Ferrer. “Most heartbreaking is that if we had done a better job reducing transmission of the virus, many of these deaths would not have happened.”

The county, which has had about 40 per cent of the state’s virus deaths, is one of nearly two dozen in Southern California and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley area where hospital intensive care units have technically run out of room, although ICU patients are being placed in other hospital areas under “surge” procedures.

Meanwhile, California became the second state after Colorado to report finding a new strain of the virus that was first confirmed in the United Kingdom.

The patient, who developed symptoms on Dec. 27, is a 30-year-old San Diego County man who didn’t have any history of travel, which could indicate that someone else already had brought the new strain into the state, officials said.

WATCH | U.S. COVID-19 vaccine delivery slower than planned:

Delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine has been slower than planned across the U.S. — only two million doses given of the 20 million that had been projected by the end of the year — but demand has been high with some waiting hours in line to get a jab. 2:02

It is common for viruses to undergo minor changes as they reproduce and move through a population. Scientists have found no evidence that the variant is more lethal or causes more severe illness, and they believe the vaccines now being dispensed will be effective against it. But the fear is that mutations at some point will become significant enough to defeat the vaccines.

Also, a faster-spreading virus could swamp hospitals with seriously ill patients.

In L.A. County, more than one in four COVID-19 patients sent to hospitals are winding up in ICUs, according to county figures. The struggle to find places for the most seriously ill means “it’s not just the virus that’s proving fatal, but also the nightmare scenario of Angelenos dying because they cannot get the appropriate care from overwhelmed ICUs,” Ferrer said.

The cases triggered a host of questions about how the version circulating in England arrived in the United States and whether it is too late to stop it now, with top experts saying it is probably already spreading elsewhere in the U.S.

Public health officials also began warning of stricter enforcement of stay-home orders that aim to reduce COVID-19 spread by keeping people from mingling outside of their households. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said hospitalizations and deaths linked to Christmas gatherings may show up in two or three weeks because of the infection’s lag time, and any New Year’s Eve gatherings could start to overwhelm hospitals later in January in a third virus surge.

“If you mix and mingle with people outside your household, it’s likely medical care will not be available when it’s needed in a few weeks,” Garcetti said. “We will feel it in our homes, in our ICU units and in our morgues.”

Garcetti said police will be out enforcing public health rules that prohibit large gatherings, and the city had disconnected utilities on Tuesday at a “chronic party house” in the Hollywood Hills.

The U.S. has seen more than 19.7 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 342,000 deaths, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

– From The Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Hear what Ontario’s finance minister had to say after returning from Caribbean vacation:

Rod Phillips arrived at Toronto’s Pearson airport Thursday and expressed regret for vacationing in St. Barts while Ontario was under a COVID-19 lockdown. ters 4:46

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips returned to Canada from his trip to St. Barts on Thursday and said he hoped to regain people’s confidence after facing significant criticism over his decision to travel despite calls to avoid non-essential trips.

“Obviously, I made a significant error in judgment, and I will be accountable for that,” Phillips said from Pearson airport in Toronto.

“I do not make any excuses for the fact that I travelled when we shouldn’t have travelled.”

Phillips said he will be speaking with Premier Doug Ford later in the day.

“I understand that my actions have angered a lot of people, and I have to earn back that confidence,” Phillips said.

The province reported yet another record high COVID-19 case number on Thursday, with 3,328 new infections. Health officials also reported 56 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 4,530.

Ford said Wednesday that he didn’t know about his finance minister’s travel plans in advance but did learn about them later after a phone call with Phillips.

“At that time, I should have said, ‘Get your backside back into Ontario,’ and I didn’t do that,” the premier said Wednesday as he took questions about the trip and what he knew about it.

“We’re going to have a very tough conversation when he gets back,”  Ford said.

As of early Thursday, before Ontario’s update, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 572,982, with 73,434 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 15,471. 

Quebec and Ontario, the two hardest-hit provinces in the country, both posted record-high, single-day COVID-19 numbers on Wednesday, with 2,923 cases in Ontario and 2,511 cases in Quebec.

The federal government, meanwhile, said Wednesday it plans to require air travellers to test negative for COVID-19 before landing in Canada, in response to concerns that people vacationing abroad could bring the novel coronavirus home with them.

Cabinet ministers met Wednesday morning following criticism from the premiers of Canada’s two largest provinces that federal efforts at the border were too loose and allowing new cases and strains of the virus to enter the country.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said all passengers on flights entering Canada will soon be required to have a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test three days before their arrival. PCR tests are designed to detect minute amounts of the virus that causes COVID-19, usually through a swab up the nose or in the mouth. A 14-day quarantine for incoming travellers will still be required.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the new requirement will be put in place, with LeBlanc saying more information would follow in the coming days. It does not appear to apply to anyone crossing by car into Canada through a border point with the U.S.

Here’s a look at some of what’s happening with COVID-19 across Canada:

– From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 8:55 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

Workers in protective suits disinfect the Ottoman-era Fatih Mosque to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Istanbul earlier this week. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 82.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 46.8 million considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.

A four-day lockdown is set to begin in Turkey at 9 p.m. local time on Thursday in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19 over the New Year’s holiday. Istanbul’s governor said some 34,000 law enforcement personnel will be on duty to enforce the rules in Turkey’s most populous city.

The Interior Ministry said more than 208,000 officers will be working across the country and have set up thousands of control points. Tourists, who have been exempt from lockdowns, will not be allowed to go to symbolic squares and avenues.

Turkey has reported nearly 2.2 million cases and has seen more than 20,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates has shattered its single-day record of new coronavirus infections for the second consecutive day, with 1,730 cases recorded ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations expected to draw tens of thousands of revellers to Dubai from around the world.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo is seeing a record surge in coronavirus cases as the governor of the Japanese capital implored people to stay home.

“The coronavirus knows no year end or New Year’s holidays,” Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters.

She asked people to skip countdown ceremonies and expressed concern people were out shopping in crowded stores.

“Please spend a quiet New Year’s with your family and stay home,” she said, switching to English for “stay home.”

In Europe, the Czech Republic headed for the New Year with a record surge in coronavirus infections. The Health Ministry said the daily increase in new infections hit a record for the second straight day on Wednesday, with 16,939 confirmed cases. It’s over 500 more than the previous record set on Tuesday.

A woman reads while lining up to receive a vaccination at the NHS London Bridge Vaccination Centre 1 on Wednesday in London. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered millions more people to live under the strictest COVID-19 restrictions from Thursday to counter a new variant of the virus that is spreading at a “sheer pace” across the country.

In the Americas, the COVID-19 vaccine developed jointly by AstraZeneca and Oxford University was approved for use in El Salvador.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, meanwhile, said officials were investigating a case of suspected abuse of power by a family to obtain shots of COVID-19 vaccine.

In Africa, Zimbabwe has postponed the reopening of schools planned for next week due to a surge in coronavirus infections and a tropical storm sweeping through the region.

– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:40 a.m. ET

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Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.

Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.

“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.

Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”

In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.

Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.

“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.

Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis

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More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.

The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.

But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”

At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.

Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.

“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.

In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.

($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)

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Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants

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Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.

Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.

“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.

Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.

Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.

“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.

 

(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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