Ontario is reporting 2,005 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and 18 more deaths linked to the virus.
Sunday’s figure marks the lowest number reported since Dec. 14, when 1,940 new COVID-19 cases were recorded.
Of the new cases, Health Minister Christine Elliott says 572 were recorded in Toronto, 331 in Peel Region, 207 in York Region and 140 in Windsor-Essex County.
Data regarding the number of tests completed from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26 was not made available by the province until Sunday afternoon. In a tweet, Elliott said 61,465 tests were completed on December 24, followed by 49,511 on Christmas Day and 41,783 on Boxing Day.
The province will not release new COVID-19 data on Monday or on Jan. 1. The health ministry says two reports will be posted on the next days after those dates.
Today’s numbers mark the thirteenth straight day Ontario has seen more than 2,000 new daily infections.
Meanwhile, a total of 823 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 285 in intensive care. Some 194 patients require a ventilator to help them breathe.
Today’s new cases bring the province’s seven-day average to 2,212. The new figure also brings Ontario’s cumulative case count to 171,416.
A handful of other areas that saw double-digit increases include:
- Waterloo: 89.
- Niagara: 83.
- Halton: 80.
- Hamilton: 74.
- Durham: 71.
- Middlesex-London: 53.
- Ottawa: 49.
- Simcoe Muskoka: 41.
- Lambton: 37.
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 34.
- Southwestern: 28.
- Huron Perth: 20.
- Eastern Ontario: 18.
- Peterborough: 14.
- Brant County: 11.
(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)
Ontario identifies first cases of COVID-19 U.K. variant
Sunday’s update comes one day after Ontario announced its first two confirmed cases in the province of the COVID-19 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom.
The province announced a third confirmed case of the COVID-19 variant in Ottawa, in a news release on Sunday.
Ontario is the first Canadian province to confirm cases of the variant, which has been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, Belgium, France, Australia and the Netherlands.
The province initially said that the confirmed cases coming from Durham region were a couple that had no known travel history exposure or high-risk contacts, but in the news release on Sunday, they said that additional investigation and follow-up case and contact management revealed that the couple had indeed been in contact with a recent traveller from the UK.
The Ministry of Health said this was new information not provided in earlier interviews.
The cases and contacts have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols, it said.
“It is critically important that individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 provide all history of contacts and contact information to their public health unit. This is crucial to the prevention and control of this infection,” the news release said.
In an email to CBC News on Sunday, Public Health Ontario said laboratories across the province are screening large volumes of positive COVID-19 samples to investigate how prevalent the U.K. variant is in the province.
However, PHO says the diagnostic tests in Canada are effective in detecting the U.K. variant, but do not on their own distinguish that variant from other strains.
WATCH | Ontario becomes first province to identify new COVID-19 variant:
Also on Saturday, Ontario entered into a provincewide lockdown in a bid to curb rising cases of COVID-19.
The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.
For the five regions already in lockdown — Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton — the new measures don’t look much different than what is currently in place, though there are a few differences.
For other regions, much tighter restrictions are now in place.
For more information on what’s allowed and what isn’t under the new rules, click here.
Vaccinations paused over the holidays
Meanwhile, several doctors across the province took to Twitter over the weekend, criticizing the Ontario government for closing many vaccination clinics as of Friday.
David Jensen, spokesperson for the provincial government, said only five hospitals are operating clinics today, approximately 10 will operate clinics Monday, and all will be back in operation on Tuesday.
“As with any holiday season, ensuring proper staff coverage can be challenging,” Jensen said in an email to CBC News.
“Schedules for vaccination clinics were adjusted over the holidays to ensure that there was no impact on staffing levels within the long-term care homes or for the hospitals operating the clinics.”
Ontario laboratories began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to health-care workers earlier this month, and is poised to receive tens of thousands of doses of the newly approved Moderna shot by the end of the month.
As of 12 p.m. on Sunday, some 11,227 vaccines have been administered across Ontario.
Deaths climb after massive outbreak at LTC home
As of Sunday afternoon, 41 residents have died due to a severe COVID-19 outbreak at a Scarborough nursing home. Fifteen of those deaths have occurred in the last four days.
Another 128 residents have tested positive for the virus and 69 staff members who have also been confirmed positive are isolating at home, said North York General Hospital in a statement. Eight staff members who previously were infected are now considered resolved cases and were able to return to work, they said.
Doctors and family members had raised concerns about conditions at the home this week, as they said residents were not being given enough water or their medication due to staffing concerns. North York General has been asked to step in.
Physician staffing levels at the home are now “strong” and health care workers across the city have volunteered to help at the home, the hospital said. Personal support workers are also available in “sufficient” numbers, but they are currently short on nurses and are actively recruiting, they said.
Canada will not approve new thermal coal mining projects
Canada will not approve new thermal coal mining projects or plans to expand existing mines because of the potential for environmental damage, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said on Friday.
“The government considers that these projects are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects within federal jurisdiction and are not aligned with Canada‘s domestic and international climate change commitments,” he said.
In a statement, Wilkinson said thermal coal – primarily used for generating electricity – was the single largest contributor to climate change.
Canada produced 57 million tonnes of coal in 2019, just 1% of the overall global total. Canadian output in 2019 comprised 47% thermal coal and 53% metallurgical coal, which is used for steel manufacturing, according to official data.
“The continued mining and use of thermal coal for energy production in the world runs counter to what is needed to effectively combat climate change,” Wilkinson said. In 2018, Ottawa introduced regulations to phase-out conventional coal-fired electricity across Canada by 2030.
The new policy would apply to privately-held firm Coalspur’s plans to expand an existing thermal coal mine in the western province of Alberta, he said.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
Victoria cancels Canada Day celebration after mass grave discovery
Victoria British Columbia has decided to cancel a virtual celebration of the national Canada Day holiday on July 1 after discovery of unmarked graves of children at a now-defunct indigenous boarding school.
The city council of Victoria voted on Thursday instead to air programming led by the local indigenous nation at a later date. Local indigenous leaders who usually participate in Canada Day ceremonies declined after remains of 215 children were found at the former school in Kamlooops, northern British Columbia.
“They’re grief-struck and reeling, as are many indigenous people across the country,” Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday.
Victoria will “produce a broadcast to air later this summer guided by the Lekwungen people and featuring local artists, that explores what it means to be Canadian, in light of recent events,” she said.
The Songhees Nation, of which the Lekwungen people are members, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
NATO summit seeks return to gravitas with Biden
NATO leaders will seek reassurance on Monday from that after four years of denigration by his predecessor Donald Trump, the alliance can count on the support of the United States, its most powerful member.
In a more pared-back gathering than past NATO summits in part due to COVID-19 restrictions, without fighter jet fly-pasts, the 30 allies will gather in their glass and steel headquarters to agree reforms for a multipolar, post-Cold War world where China’s military rise presents a new challenge.
The summit is a “unique opportunity” to renew transatlantic ties, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Brussels’ town hall in the historic Grand Place will be illuminated in NATO’s signature blue on Sunday night while the Belgian capital’s famed bronze fountain of a boy urinating will also don a NATO-branded outfit on Monday.
“The first thing is for Biden to recommit to NATO’s collective defence,” Jamie Shea, a former senior NATO official who was at a 2018 summit at which Trump considered quitting the alliance.
Trump brought a television reality-show quality to the NATO summits he attended from 2017 to 2019, diplomats said, attracting international attention but also wearing down allies whom he called “delinquent” for not spending enough on defence.
Biden has already annulled a Trump decision to pull U.S. troops out of Germany, although there is still American pressure for European allies to pay more towards their own security. Stoltenberg said on Friday that European allies, Turkey and Canada will have collectively increased their defence budgets by $260 billion by the end of 2021, compared to 2014.
“This summit with Biden should be a signal to the world that NATO is back,” said a senior European NATO diplomat who was also at the alliance during the Trump years.
“There was so much noise and it was a difficult time. But now we can actually talk about the things that matter, the defining security challenges of our time,” the envoy said.
Founded in 1949 to contain a military threat from the Soviet Union, NATO celebrated its 70th anniversary at a summit in London in December 2019.
Russia, climate change, Afghanistan and new technologies are on the menu of the day-long summit, which will culminate in a special leaders’ session in the amphitheatre-like North Atlantic Council chamber.
“I expect Allies will agree a new cyber defence policy for NATO,” Stoltenberg said. “It will recognise that cyberspace is contested at all times,” he told a news conference.
Having strengthened its capability to carry out its core mission of defending Europe following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, NATO now aims to be more ambitious.
In a twist of fate, the NATO summit will agree reforms to the alliance, known as NATO 2030, which were set in motion after Trump questioned its relevance.
Stoltenberg will set out nine areas where NATO could modernise over the medium term, including more joint allied funding of military operations. However, France has already expressed concern about the proposal, fearing it will take money away from national military priorities.
Leaders are likely to agree to draw up a new master strategy document, known as NATO’s Strategic Concept, to include China’s military rise as a challenge for the first time.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Giles Elgood and Angus MacSwan)