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Millions face new virus curbs, but hope rises for US vaccine – RFI




Washington (AFP)

Millions of people faced new coronavirus restrictions Wednesday as infections surged, but in one sign of hope, a US firm said it would soon start final-stage human trials for a possible vaccine.

Countries around the world reimposed lockdowns and curbs to contain new outbreaks, as global cases surged past 13.2 million with more than 578,000 deaths reported since the pandemic emerged late last year in China.

Parts of the Asia-Pacific region, which had been somewhat successful in fighting the pandemic, provided fresh evidence of the deadly threat still posed by the virus.

Hong Kong’s bars, gyms, and beauty salons closed again Wednesday and a ban on gatherings with more than four people came into force as the city battled a fresh outbreak after months of success against the virus.

Most of the city’s residents voluntarily adopted facemasks as a barrier against the virus when it was first detected in mainland China, but the Hong Kong government now requires passengers on public transport to wear them or risk a US$650 fine.

There was alarm in Japan too, where Tokyo’s governor warned that the capital was on its highest coronavirus alert level after a spike in infections.

– ‘Please stop’ –

That came after the Indian state of Bihar, with a population of around 125 million, announced a 15-day virus lockdown starting Thursday. India’s IT hub Bangalore has already started a week-long lockdown.

Thousands packed markets in Bihar’s Patna city to stock up before the restrictions begin at midnight.

“During the earlier lockdown, we ran out of rice and flour because failed to purchase ahead of lockdown,” said Neelam Devi as he bought sacks of rice and flour. “This time we decided not to repeat the mistake.”

Authorities in Australia, meanwhile, pleaded Wednesday with the public to heed social distancing guidelines, with roughly five million people in Melbourne in lockdown since last week in a bid to contain a new outbreak.

That request came just days after a group was fined Aus$26,000 (US$18,200) when their house party was exposed by an unusually large order of KFC.

“A particular concern for us is the ongoing parties and gatherings — people playing poker, people holding parties,” said Rick Nugent, acting assistant commissioner of Victoria state.

“Please stop.”

– ‘You are part of the problem’ –

Such pleas from experts and authorities have been ignored and even mocked in many of countries, including the United States — the worst-hit nation in the world.

Tens of thousands of cases are now being reported every day in the US and the authorities are scrambling to roll back reopenings. The national 24-hour infection count was more than 63,000 on Tuesday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, again warned Americans against carelessness — especially young people who may feel they are not vulnerable and would rather be “sipping my margarita at a bar in a crowd”.

“You are inadvertently propagating the pandemic, you are part of the problem and not the solution,” Fauci said at an online Georgetown University event Tuesday.

Hopes rose, however, when American biotech firm Moderna said it would start the final stage of human trials for its vaccine candidate on July 27, after promising results from earlier testing.

Moderna is considered to be in a leading position in the global race to find a vaccine, and while its study should run until October 2022, preliminary results should be available long before then.

– ‘Less work, less money’ –

With no vaccine or effective treatment widely available, experts have advised lockdowns and social distancing measures in some form to prevent the deadly pandemic from gaining even more momentum.

Face masks will become compulsory in England’s shops and supermarkets from next week, while South Africa reimposed a nationwide curfew to prevent a “coronavirus storm”.

Disneyland Paris, Europe’s biggest private tourist attraction, reopened its gates, but also with limited access, a ban on hugging the famous characters and no princess makeovers.

European officials warned governments to prepare for a feared second wave of infections coinciding with the winter flu season on the continent that has seen a few spikes in cases since emerging from a peak of the pandemic.

“The virus is still with us,” EU Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said.

Authorities worldwide are under immense pressure to ease the economic pain caused by the widespread lockdowns, however, with the poorest hit the hardest.

The Maldives reopened its tourist resorts Wednesday and welcomed its first international flight in more than three months even as the Indian Ocean holiday hotspot records a steady rise in infections.

Maldives officials say visitors will not be required to be tested.

In Cairo, Zeinab, a young mother, was struggling to survive by selling tissues when the coronavirus hit — leaving her and thousands of other homeless people and street children even more vulnerable.

With fewer people in the streets, she said, “we have less work and less money”.


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COVID-19 outbreak continues at senior apartment complex in Fort St John –



FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – An outbreak of COVID-19 continues at a senior apartment complex, in Fort St. John, that is operated by the North Peace Seniors Housing Society.

According to Eryn Collins of Northern Health, as of Thursday, December 3, a total of 15 residents of been confirmed to have contracted the virus.

Collins says eight of those cases remain active and six have since recovered, with one resident having passed away due to the virus.

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Ontario reports more than 1800 new coronavirus cases, 14 more deaths – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Ontario is reporting more than 1,800 new COVID-19 cases and 14 more deaths but Thursday’s case count reflects an overestimate due to a processing error.

Provincial health officials logged 1,824 new infections in the last 24 hours, up from the 1,723 new cases recorded on Wednesday.

According to the Ministry of Health, today’s total case count includes an overestimate of new cases from the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

“Due to a data processing error, the number of new cases for Middlesex-London Health Unit in today’s report (127 cases) represents cases reported over the previous three days,” a spokesperson said in an email to CP24.

Middlesex-London recorded zero new cases on Wednesday, a reduction of 10 on Tuesday and 14 on Monday. Many of the more recent cases from that region may involve a major COVID-19 outbreak at the London Health Sciences Centre.

Most of the province’s new cases continue to be from the GTA, particularly in the hot spots of Toronto and Peel and Region.

“Locally, there are 592 new cases in Peel, 396 in Toronto and 187 in York Region,” Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted on Thursday.

Elsewhere in the GTA, Durham Region logged 57 new infections, down from 124 a day ago and Halton recorded 68 new cases, up from 45 on Wednesday.

Five of Ontario’s 34 public health units are recording zero new cases of the virus.

The seven-day rolling average now stands at 1,768 up from 1,427 a week ago.

Provincial health officials processed nearly 52,900 tests in the past 24 hours, up from more than 44,200 tests a day ago. More than 58,300 tests are currently under investigation.

The rise in testing helped drop the province’s positivity rate to at least 4.4 per cent, compared to 4.7 per cent a day ago, according to provincial health officials.

The province logged 1,707 new cases on Tuesday and 1,746 on Monday.

There are 1,541 more recoveries from the virus across the province bringing the total number of active cases to 14,795. A total of 3,712 Ontarians have now died from the virus.

Of today’s fatalities, 11 were long-term care home residents.

There are currently 116 long-term care homes with an active outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Ontario.

To date, there have been more than 121,700 cases of the virus in Ontario since January and 103,239 recoveries.

Ontario hits 200-bed threshold for COVID-19 patients in ICU

The number of patients hospitalized with the virus continue to climb across the province amid a second wave of the disease.

There are currently 666 patients hospitalized with the virus in the province, up from 656 on Wednesday.

Of those hospitalized patients, 195 are in an intensive care unit (ICU) and 107 are breathing with the help of a ventilator, according to provincial health officials.

However, Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, told CP24 that the province reached the 200-bed threshold for COVID-19 patients in ICUs on Thursday, roughly five days earlier than provincial modelling data predicted.

The Ford government released its latest modelling on Nov. 12 and said that in all of their scenarios within roughly six weeks the 200-bed threshold would be reached, and that the 450-bed threshold would be reached under the worst case scenario.

The grim milestone comes after Elliott said Ontario hospitals are not “in a crisis” situation during a press conference on Wednesday.

“There is no question that many Ontario hospitals are under stress right now, particularly in the lockdown areas,” she said. “To say they are in crisis is not the case. Alberta is in crisis when you have to have double cohorts in a single intensive care room. That’s a crisis. We are not at that stage in Ontario.”

Meanwhile, GTA residents are anxiously waiting to learn if more regions will enter a lockdown, particularly the regions of York and Halton where cases continue to rise.

Toronto and Peel Region entered a 28-day lockdown on Nov. 23 to curb the spread of the virus in the hot spots.

Under the province’s grey “lockdown” level of it’s colour-coded COVID-19 response framework, restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery service and non-essential businesses can only provide curbside pickup. Gyms, movie theatres and casinos must also close their doors.

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Orange here we come? London region adds 43 COVID-19 cases, two deaths – CTV News London



The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is reporting 43 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and two new deaths.

The new cases mark the second-highest daily case count the region has since the pandemic began in March, just shy of the record 46 cases set on Wednesday. The previous record was set just the day before that, with 38 cases.

Two new deaths, both men in their 80s, were also reported, at least one is believed to be associated with the outbreak at the London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) University Hospital, bringing the total number of deaths there to 10.

The new totals in the region stand at 1,737 cases, 1,414 resolved and 74 deaths, leaving 249 active cases.

Earlier in the week, MLHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie said if daily numbers continued as they are, it was likely the region could be moved from yellow-protect to orange-restrict as soon as next week.

A decision on the region’s level under Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework is likely to be made known by the province on Friday afternoon.

The health unit has already advised area residents to skip festive gatherings and find alternative ways to see family this holiday season.

The biggest contributor to the daily totals in recent weeks have been cases associated with ongoing outbreaks at University Hospital.

As of Thursday, hospital officials report 62 patients and 46 staff, for a total of 108, have tested positive for COVID-19 associated with the outbreaks. That total does not include cases among close contacts.

That’s 11 more cases than the health unit reported on Wednesday.

Meanwhile the hospital says that as of Thursday there remain 46 patients and 45 staff still currently positive for COVID-19.

There are also ongoing outbreaks in a unit at the Parkwood Institute, a kindergarten class at St. Marguerite d’Youville Catholic School and two Western University residences.

Here is where the cases stand in the region based on the most recent publicly available data:

  • Elgin-Oxford – seven new, 63 active, 582 total, 512 resolved, seven deaths
  • Haldimand-Norfolk – one new, 40 active, 666 total, 588 resolved, 32 deaths
  • Sarnia-Lambton – four new, 16 active, 417 total, 376 resolved, 25 deaths
  • Grey-Bruce – six new, 35 active, 344 total, 309 resolved, no deaths
  • Huron-Perth – 18 new, 52 active, 362 total, 292 resolved, 18 deaths

Ontario reported 1,824 new cases Thursday, an increase over the past few days, but provincial health officials say the number may be slightly skewed due to a data processing error.

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