TORONTO — Small businesses facing the prospect of keeping their doors closed for at least two more weeks expressed doubt on Saturday as to whether to ramp up their operations amid uncertainty over the province’s tentative COVID-19 reopening plan.
Some entrepreneurs in the Toronto area, which is expected to remain under strict lockdown even as other regions of the province begin to ease public health restrictions, said they’re struggling to determine whether it’s worth taking on the financial and emotional risks of reopening for business without more clarity from the provincial government.
Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce on Monday that the state of emergency declared last month will be allowed to expire as scheduled on Feb. 9, according to a senior government source with knowledge of the decision. A stay-at-home order will likely remain in effect as the government transitions regions back to a colour-coded restrictions system over three weeks, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Toronto, Peel Region and York Region are expected to be the last to make that transition on the week of Feb. 22, but the source said any sudden increase in cases could delay that plan.
George Bozikis, who runs Hendriks Restaurant & Bar in downtown Toronto, said he cannot afford preparations to re-open on Feb. 22 if there is a chance the date could be pushed back.
Each time his location reopens, he says he must spend about $20,000 to get the 290-seat restaurant up and running in any capacity. The spending includes $10,000 on perishable food, much of which goes to waste if the restaurant must abruptly close again.
“Turning a profit isn’t even a question anymore. It’s, ‘Will we make enough money after we open to survive,'” Bozikis said in a telephone interview.
The government source has said Ontario will have an “emergency brake” in place to allow the government to quickly move a region into lockdown if it “experiences a rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if the health-care system becomes overwhelmed.”
Bozikis and other business owners said they fear the proposed plan doesn’t offer the ray of hope they’ve been seeking over the course of the pandemic. They said anything short of widespread vaccination, a mass return to office buildings and malls or a long-term “yellow” or “green” stage reopening plan may not restore a sense of safety for them or their livelihoods.
Alan Liu, who runs Toronto Thai eatery Salad King, said stopping and starting is the hardest part of keeping his business afloat at the moment.
“Our biggest concern is to make sure we open safely…. A premature start that may result in a closure and a few weeks would be incredibly challenging,” he said.
Liu says he’s hesitant to reopen anything other than the restaurant’s takeout business without more assurances from the province, noting the cycle of rehiring and laying off staff takes an emotional toll on all concerned.
Liu feels pressure to make staffing decisions quickly so that employees can make childcare arrangements and qualify for benefits as soon as possible.
“Number one for us, as business owners, is predictability. Jumping the gun and opening too early is not necessarily what’s best for the business,” Liu said.
Chris Rampen, co-owner of Bu’na coffee shop and Nunu Ethiopian, said health risks lie at the heart of his reluctance to fully reopen the business.
“At least from what the experts are telling us, we have to be extremely careful in the next little while, given these new variants that appear to be extremely contagious,” he said.
His fears resonate with Erin Gamelin, owner of Toronto pubs Louis Cifer Brew Works and Stout Irish Pub, as does frustration around the government’s approach to handling the pandemic.
Gamelin said many policies seem unpredictable and arbitrary, such as allowing big box stores and schools to remain open and setting the same cap on gatherings for both large and small restaurants.
“Closing down smaller businesses becomes a credibility issue when it doesn’t make logical sense,” she said. “Because there has been a lack of consistency of their decision-making and policy, I think that the general public has lost confidence in those decisions that they’re making.”
Ontario reported 1,388 cases of COVID-19 and 45 new deaths linked to the virus on Saturday.
The province said 1,021 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with 325 in intensive care and 228 of those patients on a ventilator.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are 455 new cases in Toronto, 288 in Peel and 131 in York Region.
Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, said on Saturday that Ford’s economic recovery plan must include financial support for small businesses in regions that can’t re-open.
“Doug Ford plans to announce the re-opening of Ontario’s economy … after weeks of putting Big Box lobbyists and Amazon first while local entrepreneurs suffered,” Del Duca said in a statement. “If he’s going to re-open the economy, he needs to let small businesses lead Ontario’s economic recovery.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2021
— With files from Shawn Jeffords.
Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press
Ontario reports fewest number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day since late October – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Ontario logged just over 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more virus-related deaths, the lowest single-day death toll reported since late October.
Ontario health officials confirmed 1,023 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus on Monday, down from 1,062 on Sunday and 1,185 on Saturday. Today’s case count is also lower than the 1,058 infections logged one week ago.
Six new virus-related deaths were confirmed today, the lowest single-day death toll reported since Oct. 28, when just five new deaths were logged in the province.
The rolling seven-day average of new deaths now sits at 16, down from 24 at this point last week.
Just over 35,000 tests were processed over the past 24 hours with the Ministry of Health reporting a provincewide positivity rate of 3.1 per cent today, down from 3.3 per cent last Monday.
The rolling seven-day average of new infections is now 1,099, up from 1,045 last week.
According to the province, there are now 659 patients infected with COVID-19 who are receiving treatment in hospital, up from 646 seven days ago.
The number of patients in intensive care is now 280, down from 289 on Sunday but unchanged from last Monday.
It should be noted that hospitalization data is less reliable early in the week due to gaps in reporting from some hospitals in the province.
The number of active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario is now 10,570, up from 10,335 last Monday. Of the new cases reported today, 280 are in Toronto, 182 are in Peel Region, and 72 are in Ottawa.
New restrictions imposed in 2 Ontario regions
The Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka public health units are under new restrictions starting today following a surge in COVID-19 infections in both regions. The province activated its so-called “emergency brake” last week to place both public health units into the grey, or “lockdown,” category of its colour-coded reopening framework.
The move forced restaurants to shut down in-person dining once again and close gyms, barbershops, and hair salons.
The rise in cases in those regions has been partially attributed to the circulation of more transmissible COVID-19 variants. The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit is reporting a total of nearly 200 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. This accounts for more than a third of all confirmed cases involving a variant of concern across Ontario.
The province reported another seven cases of the B.1.1.7 variant on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 535. There are a total of 27 confirmed B.1.351 variant cases in Ontario along with three of the P.1 variant of concern.
Thousands of additional cases have screened positive for a variant of concern but have not yet undergone full genome sequencing. The province has said it is only a matter of time before the B.1.1.7 variant becomes the dominant strain in Ontario.
The province’s continues to roll out vaccine doses as part of Phase 1 of its COVID-19 vaccination program and starting today, multiple regions of Ontario, including Hamilton and York Region, began inoculating members of the general population over the age of 80. Ontario has administered a total of 704,695 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to date and 263,214 people have received two doses for full immunization.
The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.
Coronavirus: Latest developments in the Greater Toronto Area on March 1 – Global News
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in the Greater Toronto Area for Monday.
Toronto’s Porter Airlines sets new tentative reopening date of May 19
Toronto’s Porter Airlines has set a new tentative reopening date again of May 19 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The airline suspended its operations in March 2020 due to COVID-19 and the restart date has since been pushed several times. The last tentative date was March 29.
Status of cases in the GTA
Ontario reported a total of 1,023 new coronavirus cases on Monday.
- 280 were in Toronto
- 182 were in Peel Region
- 47 were in York Region
- 34 were in Durham Region
- 39 were in Halton Region
Ontario reports more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases, 6 more deaths
Ontario is reporting 1,023 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 301,839.
The death toll in the province has risen to 6,986 as six more virus-related fatalities were reported which is the lowest single-day increase in deaths since the end of October.
Resolved cases increased by 939 from the previous day. The government said 35,015 tests were processed in the last 24 hours
Cases, deaths and outbreaks in Ontario long-term care homes
According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there have been 3,744 deaths reported among residents and patients in long-term care homes across Ontario which is unchanged from yesterday. Eleven virus-related deaths in total have been reported among staff.
There are 106 current outbreaks in homes, which is unchanged from the previous day.
The ministry also indicated there are currently 80 active cases among long-term care residents and 179 active cases among staff — cases for both have stayed the same in the last 24 hours.
Cases among students and staff at Ontario schools, child care centres
Meanwhile, government figures show there have been a total of 8,563 school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario to date. This is an increase of 116 more cases in the last day — 99 student cases, 15 staff cases and two were not identified.
The COVID-19 cases are currently from 530 out of 4,828 schools in the province. Twenty schools in Ontario are currently closed as a result of positive cases, the government indicated.
There have been a total of 2,675 confirmed cases within child care centres and homes — an increase of 13 (seven new child cases and six staff cases). Out of 5,264 child care centres in Ontario, 139 currently have cases and 21 centres are closed.
COVID-19 pandemic zaps electricity usage in Ontario as people stay home
Demand for electricity in Ontario last year fell to levels rarely seen in decades amid shifts in usage patterns caused by pandemic measures, new data show.
The decline came despite a hot summer that had people rushing to crank up the air conditioning at home, the province’s power management agency said.
In all, Ontario used 132.2 terawatt-hours of power in 2020, a decline of 2.9 per cent from 2019.
NOTE: This story will be updated throughout the day.
— With files from The Canadian Press.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
India giving COVID-19 vaccines to more people as cases rise – Kamsack Times
NEW DELHI — India is expanding its coronavirus vaccination drive beyond health care and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. Among the first to receive a vaccine on Monday was Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Those now eligible include anyone older than 60, as well as those over 45 who have ailments such as heart disease or diabetes that make them vulnerable to serious COVID-19 illness. The shots will be given for free at government hospitals and will also be sold at over 10,000 private hospitals at a fixed price of 250 rupees, or $3.40, per shot.
But the rollout of one of the world’s largest vaccination drives has been sluggish. Amid signs of hesitancy among the first groups offered the vaccine, Modi, who is 70, got a shot at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science. He received the vaccine produced by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech — which has been met with particular skepticism. He appealed for all to get vaccinated, tweeting afterward, “together, let us make India COVID-19 free!”
The drive, which began in January in the country of 1.4 billion people, has recently taken on even more urgency, since new infections have begun to increase again after months of consistent decline, and scientists have detected worrisome variants of the virus that they fear could hasten infections or render vaccines or treatments less useful.
Scores of elderly people started lining up outside private hospitals on Monday morning. Sunita Kapoor was among them, waiting for a vaccine with her husband. She said that they had been staying at home and not meeting people for months to stay safe from the virus — and were looking forward to being able to socialize a bit more. “We are excited,” said Kapoor, 63.
Many said that they had struggled with the online system for registering and then waited in line for hours before receiving the vaccine — problems that other countries have also experienced.
Dr. Giridhar R. Babu, who studies epidemics at the Public Health Foundation of India, said that long waits for the elderly were a concern since they could pick up infections, including COVID-19, at hospitals. “The unintended effect might be that they get COVID when they go to get the vaccine,” he said.
Even though India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs, things haven’t gone according to plan. Of the 10 million health care workers that the government had initially wanted to immunize, only 6.6 million have gotten the first shot of the two-dose vaccines and 2.4 million have gotten both. Of its estimated 20 million front-line workers, such as police or sanitation workers, only 5.1 million have been vaccinated so far.
Dr. Gagangdeep Kang, an infectious diseases expert at Christian Medical College Vellore in southern India, said the hesitancy by health workers highlights the paucity of information available about the vaccines. If health workers are reticent, “you seriously think that the common public is going to walk up for the vaccine?” she said.
Vaccinating more people quickly is a major priority for India, especially now that infections are rising again. The country has recorded more than 11 million cases, second in the world behind the United States, and over 157,000 deaths. The government had set a target of immunizing 300 million people, nearly the total U.S. population, by August.
The spike in infections in India is most pronounced in the western state of Maharashtra, where the number of active cases has nearly doubled to over 68,000 in the past two weeks. Lockdowns and other restrictions have been reimposed in some areas, and the state’s chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, has warned that another wave of cases is “knocking on our door.”
Similar surges have been reported from states in all corners of the massive country: Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir in the north, Gujarat in the west, West Bengal in the east, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in central India, and Telangana in the south.
Top federal officials have asked authorities in those states to increase the speed of vaccinations in districts where cases are surging, and to track clusters of infections and monitor variants.
“There is a sense of urgency because of the mutants and because cases are going up,” said Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.
He said that the consistent dip in cases over months resulted in a “reduced threat perception,” leading to vaccine hesitancy. “The (vaccination) drive began when perception was that the worst was over, so people were more hesitant,” Reddy said.
Others have also pointed out that the reticence to get vaccinated was amplified, at least in part, by the government’s opaque decision making while greenlighting vaccines.
But experts say that allowing private hospitals to administer the shots — which began with this new phase of the campaign — should improve access. India’s health care system is patchy, and in many small cities people depend on private hospitals for their medical needs.
Still, problems remain. India had rolled out online software to keep track of the shots and recipients, but the system was prone to glitches and delays.
The federal government will decide which hospitals get which vaccine and people will not have a choice between the AstraZeneca vaccine or the Bharat Biotech one, confirmed Dr. Amar Fettle, the nodal COVID-19 officer for southern Indian state Kerala. The latter got the go-ahead by Indian regulators in January before trials testing the shot’s effectiveness at preventing illness were completed.
But opening up the campaign to private hospitals may allow the rich to “shop” around for places that are providing the AstraZeneca vaccine — an option that poorer people wouldn’t have, said Dr. Anant Bhan, who studies medical ethics.
India now hopes to quickly ramp up vaccinations. But the country will likely continue to see troughs and peaks of infections, and the key lesson is that the pandemic won’t end until enough people have been vaccinated for the spread of the virus to slow, said Jishnu Das, a health economist at Georgetown University who advises West Bengal state on the virus response.
“Don’t use a trough to declare success and say it’s over,” he said.
Associated Press journalists Krutika Pathi and Rishabh Jain contributed to this report.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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