More students in India will be able to step inside a classroom for the first time in nearly 18 months Wednesday, as authorities gave the green light to partially reopen more schools despite apprehension from some parents and signs that infections are picking up again.
Schools and colleges in at least six more states are reopening in a gradual manner with health measures in place throughout September. In New Delhi, all staff must be vaccinated and class sizes will be capped at 50 per cent with staggered seating and sanitized desks.
In the capital only students in grades nine through 12 will be allowed to attend at first, though it is not compulsory. Some parents say they will be holding their children back, including Nalini Chauhan, who lost her husband to the coronavirus last year.
“That trauma is there for us and that is what stops me from going out. We don’t go to malls. We don’t go shopping. So why schools now?” she said.
Life has been slowly returning to normal in India after the trauma of a ferocious coronavirus surge earlier this year ground life in the country to a halt, sickened tens of millions and left hundreds of thousands dead. A number of states returned last month to in-person learning for some age groups.
Daily new infections have fallen sharply since their peak of more than 400,000 in May. But on Saturday, India recorded 46,000 new cases, the highest in nearly two months.
The uptick has raised questions over reopening schools, with some warning against it. Others say the virus risk to children remains low and opening schools is urgent for poorer students who lack access to the internet, making online learning nearly impossible.
“The simple answer is there is never a right time to do anything during a pandemic,” said Jacob John, professor of community medicine at Christian Medical College, Vellore. “There is a risk, but life has to go on — and you can’t go on without schools.”
Online education remains a privilege in India, where only one in four children have access to the internet and digital devices, according to UNICEF. The virtual classroom has deepened existing inequities, marking the haves from the have-nots, said Shavati Sharma Kukreja of Central Square Foundation, an education non-profit.
“While kids with access to smartphones and laptops have continued their learning with minimal disruption, those less privileged have effectively lost over a year of education,” she said.
In Uttar Pradesh state, where school reopens for first to fifth graders on Wednesday after older students were allowed last month, six-year-old Kartik Sharma was excited to wear his new school uniform. His father, Prakash Sharma, said he was “satisfied” with the virus protocols the school has in place.
“The arrangements the school has made are top class,” he said.
Not all are as confident. Toshi Kishore Srivastava said she would wait before sending her son back to first grade.
“The doctors are predicting the third wave, and in this scenario sending children to schools could prove detrimental,” she said.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday afternoon, more than 217.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at 4.5 million.
In the Asia-Pacific, Moderna said its Japanese distribution partner Takeda Pharmaceutical planned to initiate the recall of three lots of the U.S. drugmaker’s COVID-19 vaccine that were suspended as Japan reported the fourth contamination case in less than a week. The country’s Health Ministry said the contaminants found were particles of stainless steel and it did not expect they would pose a health risk.
In Africa, the number of daily COVID-19 cases confirmed in Egypt has grown steadily in recent weeks amid relaxed precautionary measures and the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. The Health Ministry reported late Tuesday 279 cases in 24 hours and nine deaths, compared to 194 cases and seven deaths on the same day last week.
The delta variant first was detected in Egypt in July. Daily reported cases have gone up as authorities relaxed restrictions, allowing concerts and other large events where few participants wear face masks or maintain a distance from others.
In Europe, the World Health Organization on Wednesday inaugurated a new “hub” in Berlin that aims to help prepare the world to prevent future pandemics. The goal is to promote more effective data collection, information-sharing and analysis, leading to better and more coherent decision-making after the patchy global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Italian government has vowed to crack down on demonstrators threatening to block train tracks as a rule requiring COVID-19 tests or vaccines takes effect for long-distance domestic travel.
Starting Wednesday, passengers on domestic flights, trains travelling between regions and some ferries must show a so-called “Green Pass” certifying that they’ve had at least one dose of vaccine, tested negative in the past 48 hours or recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months. Local buses, trams and subways are exempt from the rule, which was announced weeks ago.
In France, meanwhile, health workers started administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccine to people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions to shore up their vaccine protection, as the highly contagious delta variant is spreading in the country.
People can get the shot on condition a minimum six-month period has passed since they got fully vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab can get a booster shot of Pfizer or Moderna at least four weeks after they first got vaccinated.
Britain will offer people with severe immunosuppression a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
In the Middle East, Palestinian health authorities are launching a vaccination drive for students in the Gaza Strip ages 16-18 as the territory contends with a third wave of coronavirus infections. Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank began a similar drive on Tuesday.
In the Americas, Brazil recorded 24,589 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 839 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said.
The largest hospital on the Big Island of Hawaii is operating at about 120 per cent of capacity amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that Hilo Medical Center has 38 patients being treated for the disease caused by the coronavirus, including 10 in the intensive care unit. A hospital spokesperson said that as the largest hospital on the island, it can’t divert patients.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 3 p.m. ET
'ET Canada' cancelled by Corus Entertainment, blames 'challenging' advertising market – CTV News
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Entertainment Tonight Canada to end after 18 seasons
Canadian media company Corus Entertainment has announced it is ending flagship entertainment program Entertainment Tonight (ET) Canada after 18 seasons.
“The costs of producing a daily entertainment newsmagazine show in a challenging advertising environment have led to this decision,” read a statement posted on the company’s website on Wednesday.
“We recognize the impact this decision has on the dedicated team who have worked on the show and we thank them for their meaningful contributions over the years.”
The show’s final episode will air on Oct. 6, with reruns airing in the same time slot on Global TV until Oct. 31, a Corus spokesperson told CBC News.
The cancellation won’t impact Corus’s obligation to produce Canadian content under the rules set out by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the spokesperson said.
ET Canada’s website and social media platforms will also be shut down. The spokesperson declined to comment on how many people had been laid off as a result, but said the program’s hosts were impacted.
The network said it has no plans for another entertainment news show.
An hour-long, magazine-style show that focused on entertainment, celebrity, film and TV news, ET Canada began airing in 2005 on Global TV, which is owned by Corus Entertainment.
The program has been hosted by Canadian media personality Cheryl Hickey since its launch, with regular appearances by entertainment reporters, including Sangita Patel — a co-host since 2022 — plus Carlos Bustamante, Keshia Chanté and Morgan Hoffman.
The cancellation leaves ETalk, CTV’s weeknight show, as Canada’s lone major entertainment news program.
Andrea Grau, founder and CEO of entertainment publicity firm Touchwood PR, said ET Canada offered a Canadian perspective that made it stand out in the U.S.-dominated entertainment landscape.
“There was this great Entertainment Tonight brand that was going on in the U.S. — we all watched. And the idea of a Canadian arm of it was very special because it could give a different slant,” she said.
ET Canada’s demise comes during a major shift in the industry, she said, as publicists struggle to find entertainment outlets that can shine a spotlight on emerging Canadian artists and projects.
“Even though we share a language with the U.S. and we share pop culture, we are still Canadian and we have a different perspective,” Grau said, noting that ET Canada’s hosts were a mainstay on the U.S. press circuit.
“You see those relationships that have been built over the years of having Sangita [Patel] standing on a red carpet interviewing someone, or Cheryl Hickey interviewing someone. They’re recognizable to [celebrities] after all of these years, too,” she said. “They’ve created such a strong brand.”
Canada just had its lowest number of births in 17 years. What’s behind it?
The number of babies born in Canada dropped to a 17-year-low last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a declining fertility rate, data shows.
A Statistics Canada report released Tuesday showed there were 351,679 births registered across the country in 2022, which was a five per cent decrease from the previous year. This was Canada’s sharpest drop recorded since 2005.
Before 2022, the lowest number of births recorded was in 2005, with 345,044 babies born nationwide.
While the number of births in all provinces and territories declined last year, Nova Scotia was the notable outlier with a 12.8 per cent increase in live births.
The biggest decrease was in Nunavut, with the number of births dropping 11.8 per cent compared with 2021.
Canada, like many other developed countries, has been seeing declining birth trends over the past several years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many people’s plans to have kids, said Kate Choi, an associate professor of sociology at Western University.
“Although the fertility decline was indeed part of a larger trend of fertility decreases that have been occurring in Canada, the magnitude of the decrease is larger than what we would have anticipated in the absence of COVID-19,” she told Global News in an interview.
The high cost of living has magnified the size of the drop in births, Choi said.
“It’s very expensive to have children and right now, when everything is expensive, it’s very hard for young adults to be able to have the type of lifestyle that allows them to have children, which is contributing to delayed and forgone fertility,” she added.
It’s a concerning trend for Canada, according to Choi, who said decreasing birth rates have the potential to exacerbate population aging issues.
Canada is considered a low-fertility country and its fertility rate has been declining over the past decade.
The latest Statistics Canada data from 2021 reported a fertility rate of 1.44 children per woman that year — marking a slight increase following a steady decline since 2009.
The fertility rate is an estimate of the average number of live births a female can be expected to have in her lifetime, according to StatCan.
Lifestyle changes and work decisions are contributing factors, with a shift toward smaller families, said Mark Rosenberg, an expert in geography and professor emeritus at Queen’s University.
“I think mainly the factors we should focus on are first and foremost women’s decisions around the labour force and delaying birth until they’re in their 30s,” he told Global News in an interview.
There is also an increasing number of younger people living in single-person households, Rosenberg added.
Despite the drop in births, Canada’s population has been growing at a “record-setting pace,” surpassing the milestone of 40 million people earlier this year, due to a focus on increasing immigration.
Meanwhile, the StatCan report Tuesday also showed a rise in the proportion of babies who were born with a low birth weight — less than 2,500 grams.
Seven per cent of all babies had a low birth weight in 2022 compared with 6.6 per cent the year before.
Babies with a low birth weight are at an increased risk of complications, such as inhibited growth and development and even death, according to StatCan.
“When we see higher rates of low birth weight babies or higher rates of babies that are born who are overweight, those are issues that we should be concerned about because they reflect on people’s health,” Rosenberg said.
— with files from Global News’ Katherine Ward
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