Ontario reported 1,299 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 15 new deaths on Sunday, according to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
Toronto is reporting 329 new cases, Peel Region is reporting 192 new cases and York Region is reporting 116 new cases.
The province’s cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases has now reached 308,296, with 7,067 cumulative deaths.
Both the daily case count and number of deaths reported on Sunday are an increase from provincial numbers reported on Saturday, when the province logged 990 new cases and six new deaths.
The latest figures come one day before Toronto and Peel Region are set to lift stay-at-home orders that have been in place for four months.
On Monday, both regions will move into the grey zone, which will allow for non-essential stores to open at 25 per cent capacity.
Grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies will operate at 50 per cent capacity. Individuals will still need to wear a mask and practice physical distancing.
Dr. Barry Pakes, program director for Public Health and Preventative Medicine at the University of Toronto, told CBC News on Sunday that the transition feels like “a reasonable thing to do right now.”
“The changes are really marginal,” he said, “and we do have to go really slow.”
Medical officers of health in both regions have stressed the need for a slow transition and Pakes says he approves of that approach.
Ontario delivers over 890,600 shots of vaccine
As of 8 p.m. on Saturday, Ontario has administered 890,604 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Toronto accounts for at least 197,155 of those doses. The city has vaccinated nearly 125,000 people as of Friday.
Ontario recently announced plans for an accelerated vaccine rollout, which should see all adults 60 and older given a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by early June. That’s a full month sooner than initially planned.
However, that plan is contingent upon supply.
“We know how to run mass vaccination campaigns and engage our partners to get all adults vaccinated by June. It’s doable as long as the vaccine arrives,” Pakes said.
Pakes added that the challenge has really been the “whiplash back-and-forth” on availability.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, echoed Pakes’ caution.
“I think that it’s doable,” Bogoch told CBC News of the June timeline, “but it’s hard to talk in concrete terms with this because the timelines keep changing.”
That change is mostly a good news story, Bogoch said, since the timeline is moving up with increased access to vaccines and a plan to space out dosing so more Canadians can have a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine sooner.
Still, Canada’s top doctor Dr. Theresa Tam said “don’t lose patience” and urged the public to continue to exercise vigilance while speaking on the Rosemary Barton Live show on Sunday.
“It’s a pretty tremendous thing that we have several, not just one, but several pretty great vaccines,” she said.
“We’re buoyed by that sense of optimism,” she added noting that “with that sense of optimism comes the need to just hang on in there for a bit longer.”
Tam said once Canadians are vaccinated, the country will be able to break through the “crisis phase of this pandemic.”
However, until then, she said people need to continue to rely on the years’ worth of good habits. That includes avoiding crowded areas, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and practising social distancing.
COVID-19 variants remain a concern
“We’re working hand-in-glove with provinces and territories,” Federal Health Minister Patty Hadju told the Rosemary Barton Live show. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we do have effective vaccines.”
Still, Tam said COVID-19 variants continue to be a concern.
“The virus constantly mutates, particularly in areas where there’s a lot of infection,” she said, which requires an increase in testing and screening.
“The good thing is that these variants, even though they can spread more readily, more quickly, can be controlled by the public health measures that we have,” Tam said.
WATCH | What still worries Dr. Theresa Tam one year into the pandemic:
Tam’s caution around variants echoes comments made earlier this week by top doctors in Toronto and Peel Region.
In both areas, the doctors recommended the lifting of stay-at-home orders which takes effect on Monday, but warned people against complacency.
As Dr. Lawrence Loh said during a press conference earlier in the week: “Chasing normal too quickly could mean losing the progress that we’ve made to this point.”
Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court
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)
Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis
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)
Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants
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)