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Today's coronavirus news: China's president calls for closer international co-operation on COVID-19 vaccine; Saskatchewan tightens rules to reduce virus spread – WellandTribune.ca

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KEY FACTS

  • 11:15 a.m.: York Region declares another wedding outbreak

  • 10:47 a.m.: Ontario hits critical mark of 150 COVID-19 patients in ICU

  • 10:16 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 1,210 cases, 28 deaths

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

3:45 p.m. Edmonton Mayor, Don Iveson, says he’s talking to other mayors about how municipalities could work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but he would prefer to see the Provincial government step up with stricter measures, The Canadian Press reports.

Iveson says Edmontonians are growing increasingly frustrated with rising case numbers, according to CP.

There were more than 4,157 active cases Wednesday in the Edmonton zone, including 157 people in hospital and 36 in intensive care.

The province as a whole had 10,057 active cases, 287 people in hospital and 57 in intensive care.

Premier Jason Kenney’s government brought in new restrictions last Friday for hard-hit areas, including Edmonton, that include a two-week ban on indoor group sports and fitness classes and earlier closing times for restaurants, bars and pubs.

The government also strongly recommended there be no gatherings in homes and warned it could have to step in with fines if people don’t fall in line.

3:27 p.m. Yukon’s top doctor says the renewed order requiring a two-week COVID-19 isolation period for most people entering the territory feels like “going backwards,” The Canadian Press reports.

There are 26 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory, and Hanley says the latest case involves a person not linked to travel outside Yukon, according to CP.

The new order also advises against all but essential travel to or from Yukon as COVID-19 cases surge elsewhere in Canada. Hanley warned of possible restrictions, including a mandatory mask policy.

Hanley says the new restrictions will give the territory more security.

As for the decision to return to a 14-day quarantine, Hanley says he had been moving toward it as he watched the worsening projections and modelling in B.C.

3:17 p.m. A First Nation that sits on the border between northwestern Ontario and Manitoba will impose a lockdown starting Friday as COVID-19 cases climb in the region, The Canadian Press reports.

Iskatewizaagegan 39, also known as Shoal Lake 39, announced the coming measures late Wednesday, advising people to stock up on prescriptions and groceries ahead of the lockdown that will see offices and the local school closed, according to CP.

The measure from the chief and council comes after two people in nearby Shoal Lake 40 recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Shoal Lake 39 Chief Gerald Lewis said residents in the community of about 400 people are worried, but they understand the seriousness of the situation.

The First Nation is located near Winnipeg and Steinbach, Man., two cities where COVID-19 infections have skyrocketed recently. The two Shoal Lake 40 residents are believed to have contracted the illness in Winnipeg, Lewis said.

There’s also concern about the growing number of cases in the Kenora, Ont., region, where the nearest hospitals are located. The Northwestern Health Unit’s top doctor warned the public this week about increasing infection risk in the area.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon urged residents to take precautions by avoiding unnecessary travel and not socializing with other households indoors.

The region’s positivity rate for COVID-19 is now six times higher than it was in the summer, according to local health unit, noting that the positivity rate is now similar to some areas in southern Ontario that are battling an increasingly deadly second wave of the pandemic..

In the past 17 days, the health unit said 10 positive cases have been reported in the Kenora region, which is close to Manitoba.

Three people have been hospitalized with symptoms since the beginning of November.

One of those people is a Shoal Lake 40 resident who was recently airlifted to a hospital, Lewis said. The individual is well-known in both neighbouring communities.

The health unit covers about one-fifth of the province’s land mass and includes 19 municipalities and 39 First Nation communities.

2:55 p.m.: A jockey based at Woodbine Racetrack has tested positive for COVID-19.

Woodbine Entertainment made the announcement Thursday, but didn’t divulge the identity of the jockey. As per the per the organization’s COVID-19 prevention protocols, the jockey won’t be allowed access to Woodbine Racetrack for at least 14 days while self-quarantining.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Sunny Singh, a jockey and exercise rider at Woodbine, was the person who tested positive. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as Woodbine Entertainment didn’t announce that publicly.

Following the self-quarantine, Singh will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior before being allowed to resume racing.

Live racing will proceed as scheduled, Woodbine Entertainment added.

The organization said ]tracing has been performed and individuals who were in close contact with the jockey who tested positive are being notified. Those individuals, including at least one other rider, will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test prior to being permitted to the facility.

Woodbine Entertainment said the case of COVID-19 was contracted outside of Woodbine Racetrack. The organization added the jockey room and other common areas at Woodbine Racetrack received thorough electrostatic disinfection Saturday, which is the last day the facility hosted live racing.

2:35 p.m.: The New Brunswick government is imposing tighter restrictions on residents of the Moncton area to slow the spread of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Health officials reported four new cases today, but they also confirmed that the number of cases in the Moncton area had doubled in the past week.

The province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jennifer Russell, says the four new cases include three people in the Moncton area — two of them in their 20s and one under 19.

The fourth case is a person in the Saint John area in their 30s.

The province has now recorded 392 cases, six deaths and 343 recoveries.

There are 43 active cases, but none of those people is in hospital.

2:28 p.m.: Newly released data on emergency COVID-19 aid shows that some of the country’s highest income earners used a key benefit for workers.

The $2,000-a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit paid out just over $81.6 billion in benefits to 8.9 million people from March until it ended at the start of October.

The CERB was available to anyone who had made at least $5,000 in the preceding 12 months, and whose income crashed because of the pandemic, either from a drop in hours or being unable to work.

It was predominantly used by people who earned under $47,630 in 2019, figures from the Canada Revenue Agency show, but those higher up the income ladder also applied for the aid program.

The CRA numbers show that at least 114,620 people who earned between about $100,000 and $200,000 last year applied for the CERB.

A further 14,070 people who had made more than $210,000 applied for the benefit.

2 p.m. The Manitoba government says it is further tightening its COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings and shopping.

Starting Friday, people will no longer be allowed to have visitors in their home unless they are providing supports such as child care, tutoring and health services.

Another exemption will allow anyone who lives alone to have one person over for social purposes.

The government is also forcing stores to only sell essential items inside and close off sections that offer non-essential goods such as consumer electronics.

Non-essential goods will still be able to be sold online or made available for curbside pickup.

The province is also tweaking the cap on customers inside big-box stores — the limit will be 25 per cent of capacity or 250 people, whichever is less.

1:54 p.m.: Growing demand for trucks helped convince executives to turn around plans for the plant in Oshawa,vGeneral Motors Canada president Scott Bell said.

Even after the wind-down of the assembly line in Oshawa last year, the Canadian branch of GM continued push for Oshawa internally during discussions to expand the truck business, Bell said in an interview.

“The unique thing that’s happened in the industry that we didn’t know a couple years ago is that the industry is has continued to grow, even through COVID-19. … Trucks are representing more of the industry this year than they ever have,” said Bell.

“Our company needed more truck capacity and we could see that writing on the wall a year ago. … seeing the opportunity, we took it and ran with it.”

GM union workers approved a deal earlier this month that included $1 billion to $1.3 billion investment in Oshawa with the expected hiring of 1,400 to 1,700 hourly workers.

When the deal was announced, Unifor national president Jerry Dias said he never gave up hope that he could convince GM to revive the plant east of Toronto that last December was downsized to 300 workers, down from 2,600.

1:35 p.m.: Manitoba is reporting 475 new COVID-19 cases today and eight deaths.

The province continues to see the highest per capita infection rate in Canada.

The average test-positivity rate over the last five days is 14 per cent.

1:25 p.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19.

The new case is in the central zone and is under investigation.

The province has 23 active cases.

As of Thursday, Nova Scotia had recorded 1,155 positive cases, 65 deaths and 1,067 recoveries.

One person remains in hospital.

1:18 p.m.: Coronavirus cases are increasing at a record rate in California as the state works frantically to turn back the tide of new infections.

Over the one-week period that ended Wednesday, the state, on average, recorded more than 10,000 new cases each day — an unprecedented figure that has more than tripled from a month ago, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

The state has crossed the 10,000-case threshold four times since last Thursday, including each of the last three days.

California has never experienced sustained daily case counts this high — even during the mid-summer surge, which previously stood as the most expansive and deadliest time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1:05 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer issued a dire warning today about COVID-19, likening the surge in cases across the country to a tidal wave headed toward the province.

Janice Fitzgerald says there is no evidence of community spread in the province, but she insisted that could change quickly if residents continue to show complacency about health protocols.

Fitzgerald confirmed the province had recorded one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday, a man in his 70s who lives in eastern Newfoundland.

She said that case, which brings the province’s total to 308 since the pandemic began, was related to an earlier infection, but she did not disclose further details.

12:44 p.m. A medical officer in northwestern Ontario says a concerning surge in COVID-19 cases is wake-up call for the region.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon is urging residents in the Kenora, Ont., area to take precautions by avoiding unnecessary travel and not socializing with other households indoors.

The top doctor for the Northwestern Health Unit says now is the time for residents to act to avoid the “devastation” COVID-19 has brought to other parts of the country.

The health unit says the region’s positivity rate for COVID-19 is now six times higher than it was in the summer, and is similar to some southern areas in the province.

In the past 17 days, the health unit says 10 positive cases have been reported in the Kenora region, which is close to Manitoba, with three people hospitalized.

The health unit covers about one-fifth of the province’s land mass and includes 19 municipalities and 39 First Nation communities.

12:16 p.m. Nunavut is reporting four new cases of COVID-19.

The total number of infections in the territory is now at 74.

The government says three of the new infections are in Arviat, bringing the total number of cases in that community to 57.

The territory started a two-week lockdown yesterday of non-essential businesses, schools and other services.

12:06 p.m.: A new review by Parliament’s spending watchdog says waiving mandatory withdrawal amounts from seniors’ retirement savings would cost federal coffers about $1 billion annually.

Each year, seniors with registered retirement income funds have to withdraw a minimum amount from their savings, which is considered taxable income.

The Liberals shifted the marker this year, dropping the minimum for each senior by 25 per cent to ease concerns raised by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on financial investments.

The parliamentary budget office says dropping it all the way to zero would end up costing the federal treasury $940 million next year, rising each year thereafter until hitting just over $1 billion in 2025.

The budget officer’s report also says the cost would decrease over time for individuals as they age.

Seniors groups had pressed the Liberals earlier this year to waive the minimum withdrawal limit owing to the effect COVID-19 was having on financial markets and retirement savings.

At the time, Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said the government would watch financial markets before making any decisions, since most seniors don’t need to make RRIF withdrawals until the end of the year.

11:22 a.m.: In Ontario’s long-term care homes, 619 residents currently have COVID-19 and 15 new deaths have been reported today.

The province says 103 of its 626 long-term care homes are experiencing an outbreak.

11:20 a.m.: Ontario is reporting an additional 91 new cases in public schools across the province, bringing the total in the last two weeks to 1,143; and 3,710 overall since school began.

In its latest data released Thursday morning, the province reported 75 more students were infected for a total of 696 in the last two weeks; since school began there have been an overall total of 2,147.

The data shows there are 16 more staff members infected for a total of 148 in the last two weeks — and an overall total of 476.

The latest report showed there were no new school related cases in unidentified individuals. The total is 299 in that category for the last two weeks — and an overall total of 1,087.

There are 680 schools with a reported case, which the province notes is 14.08 per cent of the 4,828 public schools in Ontario.

Three schools were closed because of an outbreak. The data doesn’t indicate where they are. However, one of them is F.W. Begley Public School in Windsor.

There is a lag between the daily provincial data at 10:30 a.m. and news reports about infections in schools. The provincial data on Thursday is current as of 2 p.m. Wednesday. It doesn’t indicate where the place of transmission occurred.

The Toronto District School Board updates its information on current COVID-19 cases throughout the day on its website. As of 11 a.m. Thursday there were 297 students infected, 71 staff and 195 resolved cases.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board also updates its information on its website. As of Thursday at 10:50 a.m., there were 86 schools with at least one active case. There are 138 active student cases and 32 staff.

Epidemiologists have told the Star that the rising numbers in the schools aren’t a surprise, and that the cases will be proportionate to the amount of COVID that is in the community.

11:15 a.m.: York Region is declaring another wedding-related outbreak after nine confirmed and seven probable COVID-19 cases were linked to events in the Township of King.

That comes just days after a different outbreak with 17 confirmed cases linked to two weddings in the region that were attended by many of the same guests.

York Region’s public health unit says confirmed cases from the King Township outbreak attended wedding events while contagious.

The health unit says the wedding-related events were held at a private residence on Nov. 6 and 7.

It adds that the risk of exposure to those who attended the wedding is high.

The department says it has identified attendees as residents from York, Peel Region and Toronto, and it is currently conducting case and contact management for the events.

11:12 a.m.: An organization representing seniors-care providers in British Columbia has released new recommendations as a second wave of COVID-19 descends on the province.

The BC Care Providers Association, which speaks for long-term care, assisted living, independent living and home health operators, has issued a report examining the response to seniors care during the pandemic.

Association CEO Terry Lake says strong measures have already been implemented by the health ministry, but his organization sees more ways to improve the lives of seniors and caregivers.

Key recommendations include the use of rapid testing protocols and clear guidelines on how essential family caregivers can stay safely connected to their loved ones.

The report also calls for better funding and pandemic pay for staff, along with improved mental health and safety programs to ease what Lake says is widespread employee burnout.

Heath industry consultant Howegroup authored the report, which also says the liberties of residents and staff were eroded by a series of public health orders and restrictions on visits to seniors’ facilities.

“There are many lessons from our experiences during the pandemic so far, and one of them is the need to protect residents’ quality of life during this vulnerable time,” Lake says in a statement.

The report was compiled following a sector-wide consultation of care facilities, staff and residents, using a mix of interviews, roundtables, a member survey and online submissions.

10:47 a.m. (updated) The number of Ontarians in hospital intensive care units and on ventilators with COVID-19 took a sharp jump Thursday, reaching the level where non-emergency surgeries begin facing cancellations.

Although new cases fell more than 200 to 1,210 across the province, seriously ill patients requiring ICU care surged by 19 to 146. If that number hits 150, hospitals will once again become limited in the number of operations they can perform.

There were 10 more patients on ventilators, an unusually high increase of 11 per cent and raising the total to 88. There were 28 more deaths, on top of 32 the previous day.

“Clearly a major pivot is necessary to protect our health-care systems and save lives,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at the University Health Network.

Read the full story from Rob Ferguson

10:16 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 1,210 cases of COVID-19 and 28 deaths. Locally, there are 361 new cases in Peel, 346 in Toronto and 143 in York Region. More than 41,800 tests were completed.

The number of Ontarians in hospital intensive care units and on ventilators with COVID-19 took a sharp jump Thursday, reaching the level where non-emergency surgeries begin facing cancellations.

Although new cases fell more than 200 to 1,210 across the province, seriously ill patients requiring ICU care surged by 19 to 146. If that number hits 150, hospitals will once again become limited in the number of operations they can perform.

The Star’s Rob Ferguson has the full story.

10:12 a.m.: While it might be too early to judge the impact that influenza is having in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, early indications are that the annual flu season in Canada has been significantly blunted.

That was one of the key revelations made during a joint webinar hosted Wednesday by Laurentian University and Science North as part of their regular Let’s Talk About COVID-19 series on social media.

The latest teleconference featured physiology professor David MacLean, of the division of medical sciences at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine; Meghan McCue, Ph.D. Candidate in the Biomolecular Sciences at Laurentian University, and Amy Henson, Staff Scientist at Science North.

10 a.m.: A new report from Royal Bank of Canada says more than 20,000 women left Canada’s workforce between February and October, but about triple the number of men joined it.

The study says raising children is likely the cause of the exodus, which is seeing women between ages 20 and 24 and 35 and 39 abandoning work faster than most other cohorts.

Mothers with children under six only made up 41 per cent of the labour force in February and yet, they account for two-thirds of the exodus.

The study warns that this pattern could slow down the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and impact the future of industries largely dominated by women.

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The economists behind the study are particularly worried because the high number of women who have lost their jobs during the pandemic are not temporarily laid off and don’t appear to be looking for work like their male counterparts.

RBC says this could be happening because women are more likely to work in industries slower to recover from COVID-19 restrictions, their ability to work from home may be much lower than men because they dominate the hospitality, retail and arts sectors and they often take on more onerous responsibilities associated with raising kids.

9:46 a.m. The Brexit trade negotiations have been suspended at a crucial stage because an EU negotiator has tested positive for the coronavirus.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that together with his UK counterpart David Frost “we have decided to suspend the negotiations at our level for a short period.” He added that talks among lower ranking officials would continue.

Any suspension of talks will make it even tougher for the negotiator to clinch a deal ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline.

Barnier did not identify the member of the EU team who tested positive.

8:39 a.m. As winter nears and coronavirus cases surge across the Middle East, the regional director for the World Health Organization said Thursday that the only way to avoid mass deaths is for countries to quickly tighten restrictions and enforce preventative measures.

In a press briefing from Cairo, Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO’s eastern Mediterranean region, which comprises most of the Middle East, expressed concern that countries in the area were lowering their guard after tough lockdowns imposed earlier this year.

The fundamentals of pandemic response, from social-distancing to mask wearing, “are still not being fully practiced in our region,” he said, adding that the result is apparent throughout the region’s crowded hospitals.

Noting that the virus had sickened over 3.6 million people and killed more than 76,000 in the region over the past nine months, al-Mandhari warned “the lives of as many people — if not more — are at stake,” urging action to “prevent this tragic premonition from becoming a reality.”

More than 60 per cent of all new infections in the past week were reported from Iran, Jordan and Morocco, he said. Cases are also up in Pakistan and Lebanon, which went under lockdown earlier this week. Jordan, Tunisia and Lebanon have reported the biggest single-day death spikes from the region.

8:25 a.m. Africa has surpassed 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases as the continent’s top public health official warned Thursday that “we are inevitably edging toward a second wave” of infections.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the 54-nation continent had crossed the milestone. Africa has seen more than 48,000 deaths from COVID-19. Its infections and deaths make up less than 4% of the global total.

The African continent of 1.3 billion people is being warned against “prevention fatigue” as countries loosen pandemic restrictions to ease their economies’ suffering and more people travel.

“We cannot relent. If we relent, then all the sacrifices we put into efforts over the past 10 months will be wiped away,” Africa CDC director John Nkengasong told reporters. He expressed concern that “many countries are not enforcing public health measures, including masking, which is extremely important.”

While the world takes hope from promising COVID-19 vaccines, African health officials also worry the continent will suffer as richer countries buy up supplies.

8:10 a.m. Ontario’s health minister is suggesting Canada could start receiving millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as January.

Christine Elliott said in question period that the country is set to get four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine between January and March as well as two million doses of Moderna’s vaccine.

She said that 1.6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 800,000 of the Moderna vaccine are destined for Ontario.

When asked directly to confirm the dates and numbers, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu would only say it was “really exciting” that Canada is well-positioned to receive millions of doses from both companies.

7:34 a.m. A COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca PLC showed promising immune responses in elderly and older adults, with fewer serious side effects than in younger volunteers, according to a just-published interim analysis previewed in late October.

The data from that preview have now been peer reviewed. The results were published Thursday in the Lancet medical journal, providing a stamp of approval for the earlier findings. The data were based on earlier, Phase Two human trials of the vaccine.

AstraZeneca and Oxford have yet to release later-stage, or Phase Three, trial data demonstrating the vaccine’s overall efficacy in fighting Covid-19. Those trials continue.

7:32 a.m. Mask more. Wash more. Stay home. Keep your distance. Always.

That message hammered into everyone, everyday, by every provincial and federal official is a tough sell in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-fatigue is real.

Now one of Canada’s top public health doctors admits it poses a genuine challenge to officials who are trying to understand how the virus still has the upper hand, and how to engage people to combat it.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo mused aloud this week that scientific modellers did not accurately foresee how human behaviour – especially COVID-fatigue — would factor into the rising second wave and be such a tough thing to predict.

Read the full story by Tonda MacCharles

6:45 a.m.: Japan’s new coronavirus infections hit a record high Thursday, and the prime minister urged maximum caution but stopped short of calling for restrictions on travel or business.

The Health Ministry reported 2,179 new cases, the first time Japan has had more than 2,000 daily cases since the pandemic began. The previous high for new cases was 1,723 on Nov. 14.

Compared to many other countries, Japan has done well with its efforts to combat the virus, reporting 122,966 infections, with 1,922 deaths, since the pandemic began. But it has seen an uptick in cases recently, with record highs both nationally and in Tokyo, the country’s largest city.

Read more here: Japan’s daily virus cases surge past previous record high

5:54 a.m.: Working from home might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s been a boon for Ikea.

The retail giant has seen a huge boost in Canadian sales of home office supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company revealed ahead of Thursday’s official release of its annual report.

“We saw significant increases in both sales and demand for our home office category, seeing lifts from five to nearly 50 per cent across categories including home office desks, chairs and accessories,” said Ikea Canada CEO Michael Ward in an email.

Read the full story by Star business reporter Josh Rubin: Canadians assembled 631,800 Ikea desks and counting during the pandemic

5:46 a.m.: Ontario’s premier is warning that hot spots are potentially days away from a lockdown, COVID-19 community cases are soaring, and the education minister has publicly contemplated extending winter break.

But the halls of the Toronto high school where Dieter Hartill works are unusually calm.

All the kids are wearing masks, muffling their speech. While about 80 per cent are still attending in-person classes, only half come each morning as part of the adapted schedule to reduce contact.

“There’s a lot less life,” said Hartill, a guidance counsellor. “The school is a quiet place now.”

A recent string of COVID-19 cases in students at the school “created a lot of fear and concern,” but a full-blown outbreak was avoided.

Read the full story by Star reporters Patty Winsa, Kenyon Wallace and May Warren here: NYC has just shuttered its entire public school system. Where is Toronto headed?

5:36 a.m.: As COVID-19 spreads uncontrolled in many places in the United States, a coalition of states, health care groups and activists is striving to drum up “Obamacare” sign-ups among a growing number of Americans uninsured in perilous times.

The campaign kicking off Thursday is called Get Covered 2021 and contrasts with a lack of outreach to the uninsured by the Trump administration, which is still trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act, even in the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s renewed energy around getting people covered this year, given how COVID-19 is impacting so many people’s lives,” said Joshua Peck, a former Obama administration official helping lead the effort.

About 26 million people were uninsured last year — before the wave of layoffs that followed the virus shutdown this spring. Experts agree that number has risen, perhaps by 5 million to 10 million, but authoritative estimates await government studies that take time to produce.

Nonetheless, research from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that about 6 in 10 uninsured people would be eligible for some form of subsidized coverage under the Obama-era law. Open enrolment for subsidized private plans through HealthCare.gov is underway and ends Dec. 15.

The new sign-up campaign will culminate Dec. 10 with a national “Get Covered America Day,” ahead of the final weekend of open enrolment, traditionally crunch time for prospective customers. Some consumers may get a second chance with the incoming administration. President-elect Joe Biden would reopen HealthCare.gov, creating a special enrolment period for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here: Coalition seizes on pandemic to boost ‘Obamacare’ sign-ups

4:26 a.m.: The African continent has surpassed 2 million confirmed cases as the top public health official warned Thursday that “we are inevitably edging toward a second wave” of infections.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the 54-nation continent had crossed the milestone. Africa has seen more than 48,000 deaths from COVID-19. Its infections and deaths make up less than 4% of the global total.

The African continent of 1.3 billion people is being warned against “prevention fatigue” as countries loosen pandemic restrictions to ease their economies’ suffering and more people travel.

“We cannot relent. If we relent, then all the sacrifices we put into efforts over the past 10 months will be wiped away,” Africa CDC director John Nkengasong told reporters. He expressed concern that “many countries are not enforcing public health measures, including masking, which is extremely important.”

While the world takes hope from promising COVID-19 vaccines, African health officials also worry the continent will suffer as richer countries buy up supplies.

“Let’s celebrate the good news” first, Nkengasong said. But he warned that the Pfizer vaccine requires storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius, and such a requirement “already creates an imbalance in the fair distribution or access to those vaccines” as richer countries will be better equipped to move quickly.

A storage network at minus 70 Celsius was put in place for West Africa’s devastating Ebola outbreak a few years ago, but that was localized, Nkengasong said. “If we were to deploy across the whole continent, it would be extremely challenging to scale it,” he said. “Let’s be hopeful in coming weeks other vaccines will show more ease of distribution in resource-limited settings like Africa.”

The Moderna vaccine requires storage at minus 20 degrees Celsius, which Nkengasong called promising. But the price of any COVID-19 vaccine is another factor in their fair distribution, he said. “So if a vaccine is $40 it becomes almost exclusive to parts of the world” that can afford it.

But he offered an optimistic early look at attitudes across Africa toward any COVID-19 vaccine. Early data from a vaccine perception survey in 11 countries show 81% of respondents would accept a vaccine, he said. “So that’s very, very encouraging news.”

Several African countries have confirmed virus cases in the six figures. South Africa leads with more than 750,000, while Morocco has more than 300,000, Egypt more than 110,000 and Ethiopia more than 100,000.

Kenya is the latest concern as it now sees a fresh surge in cases. At least four doctors died on Saturday alone, leading a powerful health union in the country to threaten a nationwide strike starting next month.

“Absolutely no doubt you’ll see COVID spread into more rural areas” of Kenya and other countries, Nkengasong said, as more people move around.

The African continent has conducted 20 million coronavirus tests since the pandemic began, but shortages mean the true number of infections is unknown.

4:12 a.m.: Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for closer international co-operation on making a vaccine for the coronavirus available.

Xi spoke Thursday in an address delivered via video at an event at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Xi said: “To beat the virus and promote the global recovery, the international community must close ranks and jointly respond to the crisis and meet the tests.”

He said co-operation would include closer co-ordination on policies for development and distribution of a vaccine.

Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm are in the late stages of testing vaccines, putting them among nearly a dozen companies at or near that level of development. That has introduced both commercial and political competition among countries and companies to be the first to offer a solution to the pandemic.

4:01 a.m.: No more than five people will be allowed to gather inside homes in Saskatchewan for the next four weeks under tightened public health rules beginning today.

Premier Scott Moe has said the goal of the added measures is to slow the spread of COVID-19, which in recent weeks has driven up hospital admissions and created issues with contact tracing.

There will be no visits with seniors and others living in long-term care and personal care homes except for compassionate reasons.

Mandatory mask use in public indoor areas has been expanded to the entire province instead of only in communities of more than 5,000.

Party buses are no longer allowed to operate, and the government is reviewing ways to make activities such as restaurant dining, going to the gym and attending church safer.

The province is also encouraging workplaces to allow employees to work from home and is asking people not to gather with those outside their immediate household.

Moe has characterized the measures as an attempt to avoid a widespread shutdown of businesses and activities as occurred in the spring when the pandemic first hit.

Health officials reported 132 new COVID-19 infections Wednesday and one death for a total of 32.

Thursday 3:52 a.m.: The head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos, has been hospitalized after being diagnosed with COVID-19, a leading Athens hospital said Thursday.

The 82-year-old archbishop was hospitalized in an augmented care unit of Athens’ Evangelismos Hospital, the same hospital where the Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios, is being treated for COVID-19 since being airlifted to Greece last week.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas expressed the government’s wishes for speedy recovery to Ieronymos. The archbishop had met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday, but Petsas said both men had undergone a coronavirus test before the meeting and the results had been negative.

Petsas said there was no need for the prime minister to self-isolate as a precaution as he had also tested negative before his trip to the United Arab Emirates earlier this week.

The recent death of a senior clergyman in the Greek Orthodox Church has revived a debate over the safety of receiving communion during the pandemic, as a shared spoon is used for the whole congregation.

The church insists there can be no danger of transmission as communion is the blood and body of Christ and therefore cannot transmit any disease. It says it has complied with all public safety restrictions.

Metropolitan Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas, 62, was buried earlier this week after dying of COVID-19. The town of Lagadas near the northern city of Thessaloniki, is in a region currently experiencing the highest rate of infection in a surge of the coronavirus in Greece.

A nationwide lockdown has been imposed until the end of the month in an effort to get the spread under control. Greece, a country of about 11 million people, currently has more than 82,000 confirmed positive coronavirus cases and nearly 1,300 deaths.

The bishop had been an outspoken advocate of continuing communion during the coronavirus pandemic, and the church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, hit out at critics who reacted to his death by saying the practice of communion harbours dangers of spreading the virus.

“Certain aspiring leaders of public opinion are insisting in a neurotic manner on concentrating exclusively on Holy Communion,” a statement from the Synod said Monday. “They cite unscientific correlations with the spread of the coronavirus, in defiance of epidemiological evidence.”

Greek health experts have mostly avoided commenting on church practices but have noted that World Health Organization guidelines list saliva droplets as a leading means of contamination.

Wednesday 10:51 p.m.: With the steady increase in Alberta Covid-19 cases heralding the advent of the pandemic’s so-called “second wave,” Pincher Creek town council welcomed public health officer Mike Swystun’s update at its Nov. 9 council meeting.

Active cases have again been reported in the Pincher Creek region, which includes the town and MD of Pincher Creek, the village of Cowley and Piikani Nation.

Unstructured social events like family functions and parties, Mr. Swystun said, are the driving factor in transmission numbers.

“We need to be very aware that when we participate in these social events that we’re following the Covid-19 guidelines,” he said.

The four main guidelines to remember are avoiding going out when feeling sick, frequently washing or sanitizing hands, wearing a mask and physically distancing.

Read Wednesday’s developments here.

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Confusion remains in B.C. on who can gather in restaurants under COVID-19 restrictions – Global News

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The B.C. Restaurant and Food Association says a new set of COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the provincial government has customers struggling to understand who they are allowed to dine with.

The association’s president Ian Tostenson says restaurants are trying to tell customers to use common sense and follow advice from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, but he says that advice has been unclear.

“There is a lot of confusion as to who can dine out as a result of the last couple of weeks with Dr. Henry,” Tostenson said Monday.

“The spirit of what Dr. Henry is saying is eat with people you trust, eat with people in your bubble. But if you try to define that too much it gets too hard.”

Read more:
‘Kicked when we’re down’: New COVID-19 restrictions hit already struggling B.C. restaurants

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The provincial orders issued last week require diners to only eat with someone from their own household. If someone is single, they can eat with one or two other people who make up their pandemic bubble.

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For example, three friends who are also married cannot all eat together at a restaurant. Another common mistake is parents cannot take their adult child and spouse for a meal at a restaurant if they live in separate households.

“For these two weeks we’re saying stick with your household bubble, and for some people that may mean one or two people who they have close contact with their pandemic bubble,” Henry said Monday.

The biggest challenge to uphold the order is enforcement.

Restaurants are being told not to ask diners whether they are following the rules. Instead, Henry is asking diners to know the rules themselves.


Click to play video 'Christmas events put ‘on hold’ by pandemic'



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Christmas events put ‘on hold’ by pandemic


Christmas events put ‘on hold’ by pandemic

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“It is not the restaurant’s responsibility to ask people who they live with, or where they are from,” Tostenson said.

“The more that we increase confusion and uncertainty in the marketplace the harder it is.”

There is growing concern from the province that British Columbians are trying to exploit loopholes in the order. The priority for the government is to crack down of social gatherings if that is in someone’s home or in a restaurant.

Read more:
Your questions about B.C.’s new COVID-19 measures answered

One thing enforcement can do is crack down on organized events in a restaurant like live music.

“There is a tendency to … see these like a speed limit and it says 80 (km/h), and maybe I can go 86. That’s not what these are,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday.

“These are provincial health orders to help us stop the spread of a virus that is harming our loved ones in long-term care and causing great disruption in our society, and these are the things we’re doing together to stop that.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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'We are on the verge of significant bankruptcies': Restaurants and pubs struggle under B.C.'s new restrictions – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
New measures introduced last Thursday by Dr. Bonnie Henry meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 by limiting social interactions appear to be having the desired effect, to the detriment of businesses.

At a news conference on Nov. 19, Henry ordered B.C. residents to limit social gatherings to their immediate household, or a small pandemic bubble for those living alone.

“This applies in our homes, vacation rentals and in the community and in public venues, including those with less than 50 people in controlled settings,” Henry said.

She made no specific mention of restaurants or pubs, and Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association said there has been confusion about who can dine out.

“We haven’t seen the latest health order, it hasn’t been written from last week, so as far as we’re concerned, we’re telling people go to a restaurant but go to a restaurant in the spirit of hanging with people you trust in a small bubble,” Tostenson said.

Tostenson estimates over the last 10 days, restaurants have lost about 30-40 per cent of their pandemic sales as those who were confused by the orders chose to stay home.

Henry’s order was an expansion of a previous regional order that only applied in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. During prior news conferences, Henry made clear that while dining out was encouraged, people should only do it with their households.

On Monday, Henry clarified again that she wants British Columbians to spend the next two weeks only socializing in person with others from their household, or a bubble of one or two designated people for those who live alone. That applies to going to restaurants.

The restrictions are also hitting bars and pubs hard. Jeff Guignard with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees estimated business dropped by 50 per cent of pandemic levels.

“So you have people who are down to 25 per cent of where they were in 2019 and that’s just not sustainable. We’re on the verge of significant bankruptcies right now,” he said.

Restrictions are scheduled tin place until Dec. 7.

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Here are all the events that are affected by the new COVID-19 orders in B.C. – BC News – Castanet.net

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Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a host of new restrictions in the wake of surging cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the province. 

B.C.’s top doctor stated that all British Columbians are ordered to stop any non-essential travel outside of their respective health regions until Dec. 7. Several other indoor activities will be put on hold, as well as all community-based gatherings. 

Today, Henry clarified what events and gatherings must be postponed under the new order during the daily COVID-19 news briefing. She underscored that all events are postponed, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor. That said, these events aren’t cancelled, but “on pause.”

She added that many of the province’s beloved Christmas and holiday events will be postponed, too. 

“If we are able to get into a place of control, then some of these lower-risk events may happen again,” said Henry. “But right now, we need to stop all of those opportunities for us to congregate, to go out and do things socially.”

Movie theatres have also been suspended, as well as events at bars and restaurants. However, bars and restaurants will remain open because they offer important ways to ensure that people get meals, explained Henry. 

Art galleries are permitted to have people browsing their collections on a daily basis as long as they have strict COVID-19 safety plans in place. But exhibition openings, larger gatherings and events at galleries must also be postponed. 

What is considered an event?

In the updated public health order, “event” refers to anything which gathers people together whether on a one-time, regular or irregular basis. All events and community-based gatherings as defined in the PHO order are temporarily suspended. 

The following events are not permitted under the new health order: 

  • a gathering in vacation accommodation
  • a private residence
  • banquet hall or another place
  • a party
  • worship service
  • ceremony or celebration of any type
  • reception
  • wedding (unless fewer than 10 people)
  • funeral (unless fewer than 10 people)
  • celebration of life (unless fewer than 10 people)
  • musical, theatrical or dance entertainment or performance
  • live band performance, disc jockey performance
  • strip dancing
  • comedic act
  • art show
  • magic show
  • puppet show
  • fashion show
  • book signing
  • reading
  • recitation
  • display
  • movie
  • film
  • meeting
  • conference
  • lecture
  • talk
  • educational presentation (except in a school or post-secondary educational institution)
  • auction
  • fundraising benefit
  • contest
  • competition
  • quiz
  • game
  • rally
  • festival
  • presentation
  • demonstration
  • athletic
  • sporting or other physical activity
  • exhibition
  • market or fair, including a trade fair, agricultural fair, seasonal fair or episodic indoor event that has as its primary purpose the sale of merchandise or services e.g. Christmas craft markets, home shows, antique fairs and the like and for certainty includes a gathering preceding or following another event.

Social gatherings and events

No social gatherings of any size at your residence with anyone other than your household or core bubble. For example:

  • Do not invite friends or extended family to your household 
  • Do not host gathering outdoors
  • Do not gather in your backyard
  • Do not have playdates for children

All events and community-based gatherings as defined in the PHO order – Gatherings and Events (PDF) are suspended. For example:

  • Galas
  • Musical or theatre performances
  • Seasonal activities
  • Silent auctions

The order is in effect from Nov. 19 at midnight to Dec. 7 at midnight.

Earlier today, Henry announced 1,933 new cases of COVID-19 in the province over three days, as well as 17 fatalities. 

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