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Quebec’s rising COVID-19 cases could prompt another lockdown, premier warns

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Premier François Legault sounded the alarm Monday about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the province and warned Quebecers that he will be forced to re-impose lockdown measures if they don’t start obeying public-health rules more diligently.

“There’s been a general slacking on the rules in Quebec,” said Legault at a press conference Monday.

“People are returning to work, and with the temperature, we will gradually spend more time indoors. … There is a challenge ahead of us, and it is important for us to be more disciplined.”

The number of new cases has been rising for two weeks in Quebec. According to Legault, public-health officials have not been able to identify a single cause.

But he also said that too many Quebecers have been taking a lax approach to maintaining health and safety guidelines in recent weeks.

He pointed to several potential contributing factors for the spike, including the resumption of sports and the reopening of bars and indoor private gatherings.

Legault raised the prospect of closing schools if the number of new cases continues to rise. Most schools are just reopening now for the first time since March.

Premier François Legault says to avoid the kind of shutdown seen last spring happening again, all Quebecers must follow the safety guidelines. 0:38

“Above all, I do not want to close the schools,” Legault said. “We owe this to our children. In order for our children to stay in school, we have to be careful.”

There have been a few outbreaks in schools since classes started last week. By the second day of back to school for thousands of students, 20 teachers were in quarantine in the Laurentians, one school was temporarily shut down and students in several schools were sent home.

Legault said Friday that though the situation is not ideal, only a “very small number” of students were affected, out of hundreds of thousands who returned to classrooms.

Starting Sept. 14, students will also be able to resume extracurricular activities, such as sports and music, outside of their bubbles.

Health minister calls out unacceptable behaviour

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said he is not ruling out putting in place punitive measures against people who flout health and safety guidelines.

Dubé said those who are gathering in large numbers may not realize how dangerous their actions can be to the public, with some acting in what he called unacceptable ways.

One example of such irresponsible behaviour, he said, was a karaoke night in which a microphone was passed around among friends. That gathering caused at least 10 cases of coronavirus, with more expected to be confirmed later today.

While the number of cases have increased, the number of hospitalizations and deaths have not gone up accordingly, possibly because more young people are getting infected.

“Young people are less at risk of serious consequences,” Legault said. “But we must not rule out the possibility that they will then infect others who are more vulnerable.”

Legault called on Quebecers to avoid indoor private gatherings, even among family members or friends, in the coming weeks.

Source: – CBC.ca

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Feds announce plan to buy 7.9 million rapid COVID tests – CBC.ca

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Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand today announced a plan to buy roughly 7.9 million rapid point-of-care COVID-19 tests from U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories.

The purchase is meant to offer other testing options to Canadians at a time when the country’s testing apparatus is being severely strained, with coronavirus caseloads spiking in some regions.

To date, the vast majority of tests have been done at public health clinics, with samples then sent to laboratories for analysis — a process that can take days.

A point-of-care test could be administered by trained professionals in other settings. The molecular test Canada is looking to buy — the ID NOW — can produce results from a nasal swab in as little as 13 minutes.

While Canada has announced this purchase from a well-regarded U.S. firm, the test itself has not yet been approved by Health Canada for distribution.

Proactive purchasing

“As with many of our agreements for equipment, tests and vaccines, we have pursued an advanced purchase agreement to secure Canada’s access to these tests conditional on Health Canada’s regulatory approval,” Anand said.

“These rapid tests will aid in meeting the urgent demands from provinces and territories to test Canadians and reduce wait time for results, which is key to reducing the spread of the virus.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Abbott for the ID NOW device in March.

Since then, some researchers have said the device has led to false positives in a small number of cases. The FDA re-issued a revised EUA on Sept. 18, saying that the test should be administered within the first seven days of the onset of symptoms.

Anand said that, beyond the Abbott deal, Canada will proactively purchase other rapid tests in bulk to supply the country.

With tens of thousands of tests being done each day, the demand is high.

The announcement comes as Health Canada bureaucrats in charge of regulating new testing devices are defending the government’s response to this point.

A lab technician dips a sample into the Abbott Laboratories ID Now testing machine at the Detroit Health Center in Detroit. Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories says its test delivers results within minutes. (Carlos Osorio/AP Photo)

Health experts — including Dr. David Naylor, the co-chair of the federal government’s COVID-19 task force — have for weeks been urging regulators to approve rapid testing to take the pressure off testing centres.

While other major Western countries such as the U.S. have authorized a number of point-of-care tests, Health Canada regulators have been slow to give the necessary approvals to deploy these devices.

Regulators approved Cepheid’s Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 device in late March, a test that can be used in both lab and point of care settings.

The next approval for a point-of-care device — one that could be used in a doctor’s office or a walk-in clinic — only came last week.

On Sept. 23, Health Canada approved for use in Canada the Hyris bCube — a portable device that its Guelph, Ont.-based distributor says can be used “wherever people are — anytime, anywhere.”

The regulator hasn’t yet approved any antigen tests — a different form of testing that can be easily deployed to high-risk workplaces and schools to help identify positive COVID-19 cases.

In fact, Health Canada only posted guidance for antigen device manufacturers to its website today, seven months into the pandemic.

The antigen tests — which, depending on the device, use matter collected from a nasal or throat swab — don’t require the use of a lab to generate results.

While much faster, these tests are considered by some to be less accurate than the “gold standard” — the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing process currently in use across Canada.

U.S. President Donald Trump opens a box containing the ID NOW testing device during a coronavirus briefing at the White House in March. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Antigen testing devices like Quidel Corporation’s Sofia 2 SARS, which received emergency authorization from the U.S. FDA in May, can produce results in less than 20 minutes. As of Tuesday, Quidel’s device was listed as “under review” by Health Canada.

Antigen tests have been used in thousands of U.S. long-term care homes for months.

Speaking to reporters on teleconference about Health Canada’s progress, Dr. Supriya Sharma, senior medical adviser to the department’s deputy minister, said she doesn’t think the authorization process has been slow to this point.

She said Canada’s regulatory regime is different from what’s in place in the U.S. and the department has been focused on approving lab-based PCR testing devices.

“I don’t think we’re slow. We’ve got staff working flat out,” she said. “There’s no file sitting on anyone’s desk not being looked at.”

Sharma said it’s difficult to state exactly when the Abbott test or an antigen test will be approved for use in Canada.

“Antigen testing is our number one priority and we are doing everything that we can to review these tests to ensure they are available to Canadians,” she said.

“We have increased the efficiency and we’re streamlining those review processes. We’re committed to getting a company a decision within 40 days,” she said, adding that the pre-pandemic process often would take months to complete.

She said regulators will not be rushed, citing the risk of approving a faulty test that tells people they’re clear of COVID-19 when they’re actually infected.

“A test that doesn’t meet this criteria could have devastating consequences for Canadians,” Sharma said.

When asked if the department was reluctant to approve new devices because of past missteps, Sharma conceded Health Canada’s early decision to authorize a device from Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience — a test that later proved faulty — resulted in some “lessons learned” for regulators. In May, the National Microbiology Lab found problems with the test that made it unreliable.

While Canadian regulators have not yet given the green light, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday a plan to send 120 million COVID-19 antigen tests to low- and middle-income countries over the next six months to dramatically expand access to testing in places where PCR isn’t viable due to limited laboratory capacity.

The WHO touted these tests as “highly portable, reliable and easy to administer, making testing possible in near-person, decentralized healthcare settings.”

“High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO, said in announcing the plan.

“The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.”

Asked about the WHO plan after a meeting with UN officials, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Canada would rely on its own scientists to determine which devices should be used here at home.

WATCH: Trudeau is asked about rapid COVID-19 tests

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared in a United Nations video conference on the COVID-19 crisis 0:47

“As much as we’d love to see those tests as quickly as possible, we’re not going to tell our scientists how to do their job and do that work. We are, however, ensuring that as soon as those approvals happen, we are ready to deliver these tests across the country,” he said.

Raywat Deonandan, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa and an expert in epidemiology, said that while antigen tests can be less sensitive than PCR tests, they can be useful for “reassurance” purposes.

“If someone needs a negative test to go back to work, we’ll use this,” Deonandan said in an interview.

“We need more creative tools on the table and this is one creative tool — again, with the caveat that it matters entirely how you use it, where you use it and by whom,” he said, adding that he believes antigen tests shouldn’t be a primary diagnostic tool.

While antigen tests can be less accurate, they’re also cheap to produce and easy to administer. That means they can be used multiple times to ensure a more accurate reading — not unlike a home pregnancy test.

“The advantage of these types of tests is that you can do them frequently,” said Ashleigh Tuite, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and an infectious disease researcher.

“You could do it the day that you were going to visit the person who you cared about and it would basically tell you at that point in time, are you infectious? That’s incredibly powerful information.

“It just makes common sense — use every tool you have.”

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COVID-19 in Canada will get worse before it gets better, and here's why – CBC.ca

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Cases of COVID-19 will likely continue to climb in Canada’s most populous provinces for a while even if people start to hunker down, experts say, because of the nature of the infection.

Epidemiologists look at the effective reproductive number of COVID-19, which describes how many other people an infected person will pass the coronavirus onto on average.

Public health experts like to see the value significantly below one so cases don’t snowball and spread out of control.

The effective reproductive number of COVID-19 in Canada continues to hover at 1.4, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported on Friday. That means for every 10 people who test positive for COVID-19, they’ll likely infect 14 others who then pass it on to 20 others and so on.

Christopher Labos, a physician in Montreal with an epidemiology degree, said the effective reproductive number also varies depending on the population in which a virus is spreading.

“If nothing changes, certainly it’ll keep rising and may even surpass a number of cases we had before,” Labos said. 

The doubling time depends on how contagious someone is, the likelihood they’ll contact and infect another susceptible person and the frequency of contact.

But Labos said there’s another important factor: individual changes in behaviour.

WATCH | Flattening Canada’s COVID-19 curve again:  

New COVID-19 infections are emerging at double the rate of just two weeks ago. Experts say the curve is getting steeper and the only way to bend it back is to change behaviours — fast. 3:28

“We probably will see rising case numbers in the next few days, maybe in the next few weeks. But if we take action now and control stuff, we might see this virus plateau before the end of the year. And that’s really what we’re trying to hope for.”

To that end, Quebec’s premier announced on Monday partial shutdowns in areas with high case counts, namely Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches, south of the provincial capital.

“We see that our hospitals are in a fragile situation,” Premier François Legault said.

As of Thursday for 28 days, visiting those in other households won’t be allowed (with exceptions), restaurants will be serving delivery and takeout only and other gathering places such as bars, concert halls, cinemas, museums and libraries in the affected regions will close, he said

To explain why, Legault said protecting people in school communities, hospitals and long-term care homes is a priority.

Sacrifices required to change course

“None of this is a given. We can change the outcome,” Labos said. “It simply requires us to sacrifice a little bit.”

Nicola Lacetera, a behavioural economist at the University of Toronto, first studied compliance with physical distancing during the start of the pandemic in Italy. He found that the more frequently governments extended lockdown dates, the more disappointed the public tended to get, which could lessen co-operation.

“People say, ‘Well, I don’t know anybody who has COVID,'” Lacetera said. “From a statistical point of view, it makes no sense. But people tend to over-weigh what’s closer to them, like having known someone who got COVID.”

When the public can’t see the health consequences of COVID-19 directly in their daily lives then Lacetera said making hygiene, distancing and wearing masks more of a habit, alongside consistent messaging from different levels of government and communicating the science, could help.

A woman wears a face mask as she walks by a sign instructing people to wear masks at a market in Montreal on Sept. 13. The city’s restaurants will face new restrictions this week. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

‘Targeted’ measures

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, suggested “targeted” measures are under consideration. His Toronto counterpart, Dr. Eileen de Villa, called for new limits in restaurants on Monday, such as reducing the number of patrons from 100 to 75 and requiring establishments to collect contact information from those attending.

De Villa also said the extent of spread of the infection in the city means the concept of the bubble or a social circle “no longer reflects the circumstances in which we live.” 

Jacob Wharton-Shukster said his Toronto restaurant would stay open until 2 a.m. before the pandemic. He voluntarily chose to close at 11 p.m. after watching what can happen elsewhere in the world late at night when people have been drinking alcohol.

“The numbers are doubling from last week, and this is all reasonably foreseeable,” he said. ” We would have had to have taken a mitigation strategy a month ago to see any result now.”

Epidemiologists agree, saying the effects of measures only become apparent two weeks down the road because of the lag when someone is newly infected, develops symptoms, gets tested and receives the result.

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Today's coronavirus news: Vast majority of Canadians working from home aren't eager to rush back to their work, poll says; Israel's virus lockdown likely to be extended – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 9:25 a.m. Trudeau says Canada will commit additional $400 million to combat COVID-19 worldwide

  • 6:34 a.m.: Germany says debt won’t reach financial crisis level

  • 5:06 a.m.: UN secretary-general says pandemic toll is “mind-numbing”

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

9:43 a.m. Botswana has extended its state of emergency for a further six months to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The southern African country will maintain several restrictions, including limits to international travellers and tourism, in contrast to neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe, which are opening up their economies.

Botswana, a diamond-rich, landlocked country of 2.3 million people, has reported 3,172 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 16 deaths, according to figures released Tuesday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The disease burden has made it clear and imperative for us to extend the state of public emergency in the interest of the public,” said President Mokgweetsi Masisi, before parliament voted to continue the emergency on Monday night.

Botswana will continue to restrict public gatherings but it has reopened schools and allows the sale of liquor during limited hours. Facemasks must be worn in all public places.

9:39 a.m. Moscow authorities are extending school holidays by a week amid a surge of new coronavirus cases.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Tuesday ordered all schools to go on holiday between Oct. 5-18 and urged parents to keep their children at home during this period.

“Children (account for) a significant share of infections, often asymptomatic,” Sobyanin said in an online statement. “When they come home, they easily transmit the virus to adults and elderly members of the family, who get sick more severely.”

Health officials on Tuesday reported 8,232 new virus cases, with 2,300 in Moscow — the highest daily number in the Russian capital since late May. Russia currently has the fourth largest caseload in the world with over 1.16 million confirmed infections. It ranks 11th in the world with a reported 20,450 deaths.

Last week, officials asked the elderly to stay at home starting on Monday and requested employers to allow as many people as possible to work from home.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday urged Russians to remain vigilant. “The fight against the epidemic is not over, it goes on. The risks remain,” Putin said.

9:25 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will commit an additional $400 million in development and humanitarian spending to combat COVID-19.

Trudeau says the new money will go to trusted partners that are fighting COVID-19 around the world.

Trudeau made the pledge during a videoconference at the United Nations that he co-hosted with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

It was the second time since the spring the three held a meeting of the UN’s High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond.

Trudeau says Canada will invest more in the coming years and he will continue to advocate for debt relief for countries facing economic hardship because of the pandemic.

Trudeau says Canada will push to have the voices of those countries heard in larger forums such as the G7, G20 and the World Bank.

9:21 a.m. The Swedish government has decided to increase the number of spectators allowed to attend sporting events from 50 to 500 as of Oct. 15.

Swedish Sports Confederation chairman Bjorn Eriksson says the decision is “a step in the right direction.”

The exemption applies as long as there is no increased spread of infection in the country.

Sweden has opted for a much debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of the society open. People in the Scandinavian country kept enjoying many freedoms while most of Europe locked down their populations early in the pandemic by closing schools, restaurants, fitness centres and even borders.

9:20 a.m. The Spengler Cup, has been cancelled. Organizers of the event held in Davos, Switzerland, during the December holidays cite the impact of the pandemic.

The invitational tournament was first played in 1923, and a six-team edition was won last year by Team Canada, comprising of mostly Europe-based players.

Travel to and from Switzerland “for the teams from Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic and Canada is currently only possible under strict adherence to the quarantine policies, if at all,” organizers say.

Though Swiss authorities are allowing more fans to attend hockey games from October, standing areas in stadiums cannot be used.

Spengler Cup organizers say games “in a half-empty stadium, and without standing room, has nothing in common with the hockey festival we have become accustomed to.”

9:18 a.m. One southern Philippine province and its war-battered capital will be placed under a mild lockdown starting Thursday and the rest of the country will be under more relaxed restrictions to boost the battered economy of the country counting the most coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced the quarantine restrictions for October in televised remarks Monday night. Lanao del Sur province and its capital, Marawi city, will fall under a lockdown starting Thursday due to infection spikes in recent weeks.

Most of Marawi’s commercial and downtown areas were destroyed after hundreds of Islamic State group-aligned militants laid siege to the mosque-studded city in May 2017 and the military launched a massive offensive and airstrikes to quell the five-month uprising. Many residents remain displaced, now staying with relatives or in government-constructed housing units.

9:15 a.m. Public health officials in the U.S. could take heart at the end of the summer. Even as the new coronavirus continued to spread, fewer people were winding up in the hospital because of COVID-19, and fewer were dying.

Now, as the seasons turn, there are signs suggesting there will be more deaths and serious illness ahead.

Data collected by the COVID Tracking Project shows that the number of people hospitalized has plateaued at about 30,000 in the past week, after a decline from nearly 60,000 that began in late July. Deaths, meanwhile, averaged about 750 over the seven days through Sunday, higher than the roughly 600 deaths a day in the first week of July.

Scientists had hoped that a warm-weather reprieve could soften an expected reemergence of the coronavirus in the colder months. Instead, the contagion continued to spread across the country after Memorial Day, with early-summer outbreaks in Sun Belt states followed by the recent surge of new infections in the Upper Midwest and on college campuses nationwide.

Any indication hospitals are attending to more coronavirus patients is likely to reignite concerns that the health care system could be overwhelmed by new cases as the weather cools and more activities, including school and holiday socializing, move indoors.

9:10 a.m. Hundreds of thousands of elementary school students are heading back to classrooms this week as New York City enters a high-stakes stage of resuming in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic, which is keeping students at home in many other big U.S. school systems.

Twice delayed, the elementary school reopening on Tuesday came over objections from school principals who said the city’s complicated, changing plans put them in a staffing bind.

Meanwhile, officials are worried about recent spurts in virus cases in some city neighbourhoods after a summer of success at keeping transmission fairly stable in the city as a whole.

“It’s a big moment for the city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on cable news station NY1 Monday night. With in-person learning for middle and high school students scheduled to begin Thursday, he noted, “as many as half a million kids could be in school in the course of this week.”

With over 1 million public school students, New York City initially had a more ambitious timeline than many other big U.S. school systems for bringing children back to schoolhouses this fall. Families have the option of choosing all-remote learning, and a growing number are doing so — 48 per cent as of Friday, up from 30 per cent six weeks earlier, according to city Education Department statistics.

7:55 a.m. The pandemic and record low mortgage rates have played out in a blockbuster summer for the Toronto region’s new construction home market, according to numbers released by the building industry on Tuesday.

August sales of single family homes — a category that includes detached, semi-detached, link and town houses (stacked town homes excluded) — soared 355 per cent year over year in August, outstripping the gains of condos, which also saw a 159 per cent year over year boost in sales last month.

Although the benchmark price of newly built and pre-construction homes dipped slightly compared to July, condos still sold for 15.7 per cent more year over year at $972,859, and single-family homes were up eight per cent annually to $1.17 million.

Read the full story from the Star’s Tess Kalinowski

7:51 a.m. With Monday’s milestone of 700 new COVID-19 cases reported, experts say to expect more days with 500-plus new cases as more people get tested and many continue to ignore public health guidelines.

And with Premier Doug Ford himself confirming that Ontario is now in its second wave of the virus, the importance of physical distancing, mask-wearing and handwashing couldn’t be more clear. While the premier said the second wave will be “worse than the first wave,” he stressed that we don’t yet know just how bad it will be.

In Ontario at least, experts say it will get worse before it gets better, with more days with new-case totals at levels not seen since the beginning of the pandemic — or even higher.

Read the full story from the Star’s Patty Winsa and Kenyon Wallace

7:32 a.m. After celebrating its 40th anniversary last year, the Toronto International Festival of Authors is beginning its fifth decade with big changes. Some we were expecting — it’s the first festival for new director Roland Gulliver — while others are driven by something entirely beyond the festival’s control: COVID-19.

TIFA will still run for 10 days, from Oct. 22 to Nov. 1. One of the biggest changes this year: it’s free. There are more than 200 events and activities and, because it is all available digitally, the festival is open to national and global audiences for the first time.

You will need to register to attend; that begins Tuesday at FestivalofAuthors.ca.

Headlining opening night is Margaret Atwood. Other high-profile events feature Desmond Cole on anti-Black racism and institutional oppression; Linwood Barclay interviewing Harlan Coben; American novelist Richard Ford interviewed by Gulliver; and Marilynne Robinson talking about her latest novel.

Read the full story from the Star’s Deborah Dundas

6:34 a.m.: Germany’s debt load won’t reach the level it did in the financial crisis a decade ago as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the finance minister said Tuesday, and it will still look better than that of Germany’s peers in the Group of Seven did before the virus outbreak.

Olaf Scholz was presenting to parliament a draft 2021 budget that foresees significant borrowing for the second consecutive year as Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, works to limit the economic fallout of efforts to contain COVID-19.

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The crisis has derailed the government’s dedication to keeping its budget balanced, long a point of pride. After six years in the black, it is borrowing a net 217.8 billion euros ($253.7 billion) this year to finance rescue and stimulus packages and cover an expected shortfall in tax revenue. Next year, it plans to borrow a further 96.2 billion euros.

5:31 a.m.: Authorities are concerned by a COVID-19 outbreak aboard a cargo ship off Australia’s northwest coast that has infected most of the crew.

Eight more members of the Filipino crew tested positive for the new coronavirus on Monday, bringing the number of infections to 17 out of a crew of 21.

Seven of the infected sailors remained aboard the Liberia-flagged bulk carrier Patricia Oldendorff, which is anchored off Port Hedland, a major iron ore export terminal, Western Australia State Health Minister Roger Cook said on Tuesday.

The seven are part of an essential skeleton crew of nine. The other 10 infected crew members were in hotel quarantine at Port Hedland. None required hospital treatment.

5:20 a.m.: Brussels authorities have decided to ban prostitution until further notice in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus in Belgium’s capital city.

In addition, authorities have shut down three hotels hosting sex workers because social distancing measures were not respected, Wafaa Hammich, a spokeswoman at Brussels city hall told The Associated Press on Tuesday. She said police controls will be stepped up to make sure the ban is enforced.

The decision came after Brussels decided to impose a curfew on bars. Since the start of this week, all bars and cafes have to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. while any other businesses selling drinks or food will shut down at 10 p.m.

Brussels is facing a surge of new coronavirus infections.

5:13 a.m.: A southern Philippine province and its war-battered capital will be placed under a mild lockdown in October, while the rest of the country will have more relaxed quarantine restrictions.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced the quarantine restrictions for October in televised remarks Monday night. Lanao del Sur province and its capital, Marawi city, will fall under a lockdown starting Thursday due to infection spikes in recent weeks.

Most of Marawi’s commercial and downtown areas were destroyed in 2017 fighting between the military and Islamic State group-aligned militants.

Metropolitan Manila and five other cities will remain under general quarantine restrictions with more businesses and public transport allowed to partially operate on the condition people wear masks and stay safely apart.

5:11 a.m.: India has registered 70,589 new confirmed coronaviruses cases in the past 24 hours, maintaining a noticeable decline in daily infections.

The Health Ministry raised India’s confirmed total since the pandemic began to more than 6.1 million on Tuesday, but said the country had a little less than 1 million active coronavirus cases. It also reported 776 fatalities in the last 24 hours, which pushed the death toll to 96,318.

India is still registering the highest number of daily cases globally, but with a recovery rate of more than 82.5%, the number of recoveries has passed 5 million, the Health Ministry said.

The first two weeks of September saw India clocking 90,000 cases every day. Since then India has seen a sharp decrease in the number of new daily cases.

5:06 a.m.: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says the loss of 1 million people to the coronavirus is an “agonizing milestone” that has been made worse by the “savageness of this disease.”

In a statement released after the global death toll from the pandemic crossed 1 million, Guterres called it a “mind-numbing figure.”

“They were fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues,” he said. “The pain has been multiplied by the savageness of this disease. Risks of infection kept families from bedsides. And the process of mourning and celebrating a life was often made impossible.”

Guterres warned “there is no end in sight to the spread of the virus, the loss of jobs, the disruption of education, the upheaval to our lives.”

5 a.m.: Israel’s health minister says the country’s nationwide lockdown is likely to be extended.

The Israeli government imposed a second countrywide lockdown ahead of the Jewish High Holidays earlier this month in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The lockdown was initially slated to be lifted on Oct. 11, but in a radio interview on Tuesday Health Minister Yuli Edelstei said that “there is no scenario that in another 10 days we will lift everything and say ‘It’s all over, everything is OK.’”

Israel has recorded more than 233,000 confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began and more than 1,500 deaths from the disease, according to the Health Ministry.

While Israel garnered praise for its swift response to the arrival of the pandemic in March, the country’s reopening of the economy in May saw new infections skyrocket over the summer, and now it has one of the highest infection rates per capita in the world.

4 a.m.: The federal government’s economic recovery plan has inspired some confidence that it will create jobs and a stronger economy in future, a new poll suggests.

But, in the meantime, the vast majority of Canadians who’ve been working from home aren’t eager to rush back to their work places as cases of COVID-19 surge across the country.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents to the survey, conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian studies, said they are very (nine per cent) or somewhat (43 per cent) confident that the recovery plan, outlined in last week’s throne speech, will create jobs and strengthen the economy in future.

Thirty-nine per cent were not very or not at all confident.

The throne speech appears to have given the governing Liberals a boost, with their support up five points over the past week, to 40 per cent of decided voters. The Conservatives had the support of 30 per cent, the NDP 17 per cent and the Greens five per cent.

4 a.m. The three main parties in the B.C. election campaign clashed Monday over the best way to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says he would eliminate the provincial sales tax for a year if the party wins the election on Oct. 24, which would cost the government’s coffers about $7 billion.

He said the PST would return at three per cent in the second year, down from the usual seven per cent on most goods and services, because cutting the tax would help stimulate the economy.

NDP Leader John Horgan said he hasn’t seen an assessment of the impact of the Liberals’ proposed tax cut on provincial revenues, but he hopes Wilkinson will tell voters what services would face getting cut to cover the cost.

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau also criticized Wilkinson’s proposal, describing it as “antiquated.”

She said people need economic security to help the province recover from COVID-19.

Monday 9:30 p.m.: Members of Parliament have completed their first-ever remote vote in the Canadian House of Commons, a historic occasion marked by numerous technical glitches, lengthy delays and cameo appearances by some of their kids and even a family dog.

The vote was on a Bloc Québécois sub-amendment to a Conservative amendment to last week’s throne speech, a routine matter that normally would have taken 15 minutes. It was roundly defeated by a vote of 293-33 — with help from one Bloc MP who accidentally voted against his own party’s sub-amendment “due to all the confusion” over voting by video conference.

But it took almost two hours to arrive at that result.

Right off the bat, a system failure by Microsoft delayed the vote for about 40 minutes.

For the eventual vote, only a few dozen MPs were physically present in the Commons while the rest joined in from remote locations in an excruciatingly slow, roll-call video conference vote.

Click here to read more of Monday’s COVID-19 coverage.

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