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Today's coronavirus news: Toronto records 8 new COVID-19 cases; city will get $400M to support tansit – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 11:05 a.m. The COVID-19 pandemic has almost doubled Ontario’s already sky-high budget deficit to a record $38.5 billion.

  • 10:51 a.m. Ontario is reporting 95 new cases of COVID-19 today and one new death related to the illness.

  • 10:22 a.m. India’s coronavirus caseload has topped 2.3 million after adding 60,963 in the last 24 hours.

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

3:26 p.m. Colombian officials say they have arrested two Florida men wanted in the United States on charges they illegally sold a bleachlike chemical as a miracle cure for the new coronavirus and other diseases.

The Colombian prosecutor’s office said Tuesday that Mark and Joseph Grennon were arrested in the beach town of Santa Marta, and were shipping their “Miracle Mineral Solution” — chlorine dioxide — from there to clients in the United States, Colombia and Africa.

It said seven Americans had died from using the substance.

Mark Grenon is the archbishop of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, based in Bradenton, Florida, which is centred on use of the toxic chemical as a supposed sacrament it claims can cure a vast variety of illnesses ranging from cancer to autism to malaria and now COVID-19.

A Miami federal judge in April ordered the self-styled church to stop selling the substance, but it was ignored.

3:24 p.m. Georgia’s largest school district struggled Wednesday to launch online learning for its 180,000 students, with parents complaining students couldn’t log in to Gwinnett County’s system.

Meanwhile, Cherokee County has quarantined 1,156 students after trying in-school learning, adding about 330 students to yesterday’s total. They are home because of possible coronavirus exposure since classes resumed last week.

About 70 students and staff members in the 40,000-student Cherokee County district have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data posted Wednesday on the district’s website. It’s unclear whether any were infected at school.

3:24 p.m. Health authorities in Greece have announced 262 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily number since the outbreak began.

Two more deaths were announced, bringing the total death toll to 216. The total number of confirmed cases is 6,177.

Greece imposed an early lockdown that kept the number of infections and deaths low. But there’s been significant increase in the number of confirmed cases since restrictions were lifted and the country reopened to international visitors.

Authorities have imposed new restrictions in some areas, including ordering bars, restaurants and cafes in some of the country’s top tourist spots to shut between midnight and 7 a.m.

3 p.m. The British government on Wednesday changed the way it compiles coronavirus deaths, a move that reduced the country’s official death toll by more than 5,000.

The Department of Health said the new total is 41,329, down from 46,706. That is still Europe’s highest death toll.

The government announced last month that it was reviewing the way death statistics were compiled, after academics pointed out that in England the tally included anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and later died, with no cut-off point between positive test and death. That means some people recorded as coronavirus deaths may have died of other causes —- and the proportion would increase over time.

2:30 p.m. Back home training following quarantine in the wake of the MLS is Back Tournament, Canada’s three teams await word on where and when they will play next.

It’s just the latest step in a stop-start MLS season, with the U.S. border looming large during the global pandemic.

But it looks like the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps could see a lot of each other in the near future.

“I think there’ll be a time period where we will play the Canadian teams, hoping that that will get us farther along — that there’s some solution where we can get some games in against the Eastern Conference teams that are in the States,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney.

On Saturday, MLS has released a series of dates for U.S. teams in what it dubbed the first phase of return to play in home markets.

The pandemic halted play March 12, some two weeks into the season. Play resumed July 8 with the MLS is Back Tournament, which wrapped up Tuesday with Portland’s 2-1 win over Orlando City SC.

2:30 p.m. NBA players could have some family members or close friends inside the season-restart bubble with them by the end of the month.

And that raises the possibility of having a real, albeit small, cheering section for some playoff games.

The league detailed the policies for guest arrivals to teams on Wednesday in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. The opportunity to bring guests into the bubble at Walt Disney World will be only for teams advancing to the second round of the playoffs, and the earliest any guest could satisfy quarantine rules and be reunited with a player is Aug. 31.

In most cases, players would be limited to four guests. The league told teams that any guests would have to be either family members, “longtime close personal friends with whom a player has an established, pre-existing, and known personal relationship,” private security staff and established family child care providers.

Those who wouldn’t be allowed into the bubble: “trainers, physical or massage therapists, personal chefs, hair/apparel stylists, tattoo artists, and current/prospective business partners, and certified agents (other than family members), among others,” the memo said.

ESPN first reported on the contents of the memo.

2 p.m. Toronto has recorded 8 new COVID-19 cases today, Mayor John Tory announced at a news conference.

1:43 p.m. British Columbia’s Education Ministry says children will be returning to classrooms two days later than originally planned as part of a gradual restart to schooling.

Education Minister Rob Fleming told reporters Tuesday that students wouldn’t be expected back on the original date of Sept. 8 to help give administrators and teachers more time to prepare for education amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministry now says in a release that staff will meet on Sept. 8, while students will be welcomed in classrooms by Sept. 10.

A government steering committee, established to help schools plan their restart, will issue operational guidelines next week on issues ranging from health and safety protocols to supporting the mental health of students.

The change in the start date comes after concerns were raised by the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association.

Federation president Teri Mooring has called for more details on the government’s school plan, saying the information is needed for educators and parents.

1:37 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting one new case of COVID-19.

Authorities said today the case involves a person in their 60s in the Fredericton region.

Health officials say they suspect the case is travel-related and linked to a case reported Tuesday.

They say the infected person is no longer symptomatic and has passed the 14-day contagious period for the virus.

There are now eight active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick.

The cases announced Tuesday and Wednesday are under investigation.

1:27 p.m . Toronto will receive $400 million to support transit in first round of provinces’ Safe Restart funding. Ontario will allocate up to $1.6 billion in emergency funding to municipalities struggling with COVID-19 as part of the Safe Restart Agreement. The news comes as the province prepares to tackle a record $38.5 billion deficit.

1:20 p.m. The federal government has announced an additional $305 million to help Indigenous Peoples combat COVID-19.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the money is meant to help Indigenous communities prepare for emergencies and prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

He says communities can also use the money for a variety of other measures, including helping elders and vulnerable people, food insecurity, educational and other supports for children and mental health assistance.

The new money will flow through the Indigenous community support fund, bringing the total amount to $685 million this year.

Some funding will also go to First Nations living off-reserve as well as Inuit and Metis people living in urban centres, distributed based on need through an application process.

Miller says Ottawa is committed to ensuring Indigenous leaders have the tools and support they need to implement the various aspects of their pandemic plans.

“This funding will provide crucial support to key community initiatives that strive to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19 in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities,” he said.

12:25 p.m. More than 1,200 students at two Alabama schools will begin the year at home after a person connected with both schools tested positive for COVID-19.

While 12 other Lawrence County schools planned to begin traditional classes Wednesday, Superintendent Jon Bret Smith told the Decatur Daily that students from the elementary and middle schools in Moulton, located in north Alabama, would start the academic year taking classes online.

Education officials learned Monday that a person linked to both schools had tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. State health officials recommended delaying the reopening by two weeks. Combined, the schools have more than 105 workers.

School officials notified 10 people who were in contact with the person. Computers are being distributed for online classes.

12:25 p.m. Italy added another 481 coronavirus cases and authorities are weighing whether to impose tests or quarantines on Italian vacationers returning from coronavirus hotspots.

Some regional governors have announced plans or proposals to use rapid tests at airports or quarantines after Italians returning from vacation in Malta, Croatia, Spain and Greece tested positive once home. Other clusters have been traced to newly arrived migrants and migrant centres.

Italian news reports said the regional affairs minister, Francesco Boccia, was meeting with regional governors Wednesday.

France and Germany have announced tests-on-arrival after their daily cases topped 1,000. In Italy, where the virus first erupted in Europe in February, new cases are hovering around 300-500 per day.

Italy has 251,713 confirmed infections. With 10 more deaths, the total confirmed death toll stands at 35,225.

11:47 a.m. Prince Edward Island is reporting five new cases of COVID-19.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said today the five cases involve essential workers who arrived on the Island July 30 from outside the country.

Morrison says the five men have been self-isolating since their arrival and are believed to have had limited contact with others.

The men, two in their 30s and three in their 40s, work in the same industry and arrived from a country other than the United States.

Morrison would not say what field they work in but said it is not health care.

P.E.I. has had a total of 41 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and no COVID-19 deaths, and Morrison says there is no indication of community transmission of the virus in the province.

11:47 a.m. Quebec health authorities say 19 people died from COVID-19 in a Montreal-area seniors residence last spring, but 10 of the deaths are only being reported today because of a delay in transmitting data.

Officials say in a statement that Place Kensington, which bills itself as a luxury residence in Westmount, saw a total of 19 residents die from the novel coronavirus.

The Health Department says the home no longer has active cases, and that authorities are working to ensure a similar situation does not recur.

Quebec added a total of 12 new COVID-19 deaths, 11 of which occurred more than a week ago.

The province recorded 95 new cases of the disease, bringing the total to 60,813, and the death toll stands at 5,709.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations remains steady at 151, and there are 20 people in intensive care.

11:30 a.m. Russia brushed aside international concerns about the safety of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine and announced it will start mass inoculation this month before clinical testing is completed.

“Western colleagues, who can sense the competitive advantage of the Russian drug, are trying to express some opinions that are completely unjustified in our view,” Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told a briefing on Wednesday. “This vaccine is a platform that is already well-known and studied,” he said, adding that other countries have developed antidotes under accelerated testing programs.

Authorities plan to start inoculating medical workers and other risk groups within two weeks on a voluntary basis, Murashko said. The vaccine will be available to the wider population from October.

(Updated) 11:05 a.m. The COVID-19 pandemic has almost doubled Ontario’s already sky-high budget deficit to a record $38.5 billion.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips — who had projected a $20.5 billion shortfall in March, up from last year’s $9.2 billion deficit — revealed Wednesday the extent of the coronavirus’s toll on the provincial treasury as he unveiled first quarterly results.

The outbreak has killed more than 2,800 Ontarians and cost nearly 1.2 million jobs as most businesses were forced to close due a state of emergency that extended from March 17 until July 24.

Phillips, who had pledged $17 billion last spring for COVID-19 relief, said that new spending has ballooned to $30 billion.

That includes $7.7 billion for additional health-care funding, up from the $3.3 billion announced on March 25, as well as about $4 billion in increased financial aid for municipalities and public transit.

Along with Ottawa, Queen’s Park has given 375,000 front-line workers a temporary $4-an-hour pandemic pay hike to reward them for their efforts dealing with COVID-19. That $1.55 billion program includes $424 million in provincial cash.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie: COVID-19 pandemic doubles Ontario’s sky-high budget deficit to a record $38.5B

10:56 a.m. Quebec is investing $18.9 million to create a reserve of computer equipment for students as they return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge announced today the government is purchasing about 30,000 laptops and tablets for use by students most in need.

Roberge says the devices will be reserved for children who don’t have computers or exclusive access to them, as well as for Grade 10 and 11 students who will be on alternating schedules of in-person and remote learning.

He says the laptops and computers will also go to children who are considered at-risk or who have learning disabilities.

Quebec’s back-to-school plan announced earlier this week provides for most elementary and high school students to physically return to classes at the end of the month.

Students who have health conditions putting them at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 or who live with someone who does, will be offered a remote learning service.

(Updated) 10:51 a.m. Ontario boomeranged to almost 100 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday after a sharp one-day dip.

The Ministry of Health reported 95 cases, up from an unusually low 33 the previous day that involved an adjustment of statistics from Toronto Public Health.

“Locally, 28 of the province’s 34 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 16 of them reporting no new cases,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

Wednesday’s case numbers were in line with last week, when the province was slightly below 100 new infections daily for seven days running. Health officials are closely monitoring the tallies with children set to return to school in September.

Toronto had the most new infections with 19, followed by Peel with 16 and Ottawa at 13. The Windsor-Essex region — which moved into Stage 3 of business reopenings on Wednesday — had eight new cases, while neighbouring Chatham-Kent had seven, Hamilton had six and Niagara had four, according to the ministry figures calculated at 4 p.m. the previous day.

Read more from the Star’s Rob Ferguson: Ontario back up to 95 new cases of COVID-19 after one-day drop

10:22 a.m. The grandmother of Brazil’s first lady died Wednesday after more than a month fighting COVID-19 in a public hospital on the outskirts of Brasilia.

Maria Aparecida Firmo Ferreira, 80, was the grandmother of Michelle Bolsonaro, who is married to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. She had been hospitalized since July 1, having tested positive for the coronavirus.

The health secretariat of Brazil’s federal district confirmed her death.

President Bolsonaro and Michelle Bolsonaro were diagnosed with COVID-19 last month. The president, who has recovered, has consistently downplayed the severity of the virus.

Brazil has more than 3.1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 103,000 deaths, ranking second highest in the world.

10:22 a.m. Switzerland plans to permit public gatherings of more than 1,000 people at sports events and concerts starting Oct. 1.

Organizers will have to apply for permission and meet social distancing requirements.

Switzerland was one of the first countries in Europe to ban large scale events on Feb. 28 to combat the coronavirus.

The Swiss government says any decision on whether to allow individual events will be up to Switzerland’s 26 cantons (states) and depend on the local virus situation.

In a statement following its weekly Cabinet meeting, the Swiss government says, “this careful reopening step takes into account the needs of society and the economic interests of sports clubs and cultural venues.”

Government officials also decided to make wearing of masks compulsory on all scheduled and charter flights taking off from or landing in Switzerland, starting Saturday.

10:22 a.m. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg advised against travelling abroad, adding countries to its list of European nations where non-essential travels is not recommended.

Norway’s red list of countries included the Netherlands, Poland, Cyprus, Iceland, Malta, and parts of Sweden and Denmark including the Faeroe Islands.

Norway had earlier listed as red: France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria.

People from those countries must quarantine for 10 days.

Last week, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said nearly half the cases in Norway come from abroad.

Norway has 9,750 confirmed cases and 256 deaths.

10:22 a.m. Spain’s army is setting up a field hospital in Zaragoza as the northern city struggles to stop a new spike in coronavirus cases.

The region of Aragón, home to Zaragoza, has led Spain over the past seven days with 242 hospitalizations and 32 deaths from COVID-19.

The army says it responded to a request by Aragón’s government to set up the field hospital in the parking lot of one of its hospitals in Zaragoza. The army says it should be ready for use if needed by Friday.

Regional health authorities say the field hospital is a precaution in case the hospitals reach capacity as they did in many parts of Spain during the months of March and April when the pandemic first hit.

During that first wave of the virus, the army put up several field hospitals in Spanish cities.

Spain had managed to reign in the virus until a steady uptick in cases in the northeast and central areas in recent weeks.

10:22 a.m. Greece’s health minister is warning young people about the ease of transmission of the coronavirus.

New daily cases have been in the triple digits for several days. Vassilis Kikilias tweeted the average age of those sickened by the virus in Greece in August had fallen to 36.

The government has imposed new restrictions on some areas, ordering bars and restaurants to shut between midnight and 7 a.m. in some of the country’s top tourist destinations.

Greece initially was credited with handling the coronavirus outbreak well, imposing an early lockdown that kept infections and deaths at low levels. But it has seen a resurgence of the virus after lifting restrictions and opening to visitors as it tries to bolster tourism.

On Wednesday, Greece reported 196 new coronavirus cases and one new death, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 5,942 and the death toll to 214.

10:22 a.m. Romanian health authorities say the country has set another one-day high for new COVID-19 infections, with 1,415 confirmed cases reported in the last 24 hours.

Despite the rising trend, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban has said he believes Romania managed to stop the growing spread of the coronavirus pandemic and expects “no problem” in nationwide local elections being held at the end of September. The elections were initially planned to be held in June but were postponed due to the pandemic.

A report this week by the National Institute of Public Health predicts the number of daily cases could practically double to 2,800 by the first week of September.

As of Wednesday, Romania has reported 65,177 confirmed virus cases and 2,807 deaths.

10:22 a.m. A municipal government in China has donated 40,000 medical-grade face masks to Maryland’s capital city amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The donations from Changsha, China, were first offered to Annapolis city officials in April, when the need for the masks among public safety workers was high in the beginning of the pandemic, Annapolis City Manager David Jarrell said Tuesday.

Annapolis’ relationship with Changsha began under a former city administrator. The two municipalities are now sister cities.

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The masks arrived this month, with one of the boxes featuring American and Chinese flags with a message that read: “Go, City of Annapolis! Best Wishes from Changsha! True unity inspires people to work as one to overcome adversity,” The Capital Gazette reported.

Another note from Yani Xia, a representative in the Chinese city’s Foreign Affairs Office, accompanied the shipments. “We sincerely wish you and everyone in Annapolis continued good health, and the fortitude to persevere during this challenging period,” Xia’s note read.

10:22 a.m. Pope Francis has denounced a culture of individuality revealed by the pandemic, which has sacrificed the care of the weakest members of society.

Francis, speaking at his Wednesday audience called on the faithful to “overcome our personal and collective individualism” as experts work to find a cure for the coronavirus, “which hit us all indiscriminately.”

The pontiff says ‘’the pandemic has revealed how vulnerable and interconnected we all are,” while also making us “more aware of the spread within our societies of a false, individualistic way of thinking, one that rejects human dignity and relationships, views persons as consumer goods and creates a ‘throw-away’ culture.”

He called on people to “look with care at our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer,’’ and recognize “human dignity in every person, whatever their race, language or condition.”

10:22 a.m. Germany’s heath minister expressed concern about the rising numbers of coronavirus infections in the country and called on his compatriots to adhere to social distancing and hygiene rules.

Health Minister Jens Spahn says smaller and bigger outbreaks have taken place in almost all regions.

He told Deutschlandfunk radio the infections were driven by travellers returning from abroad but also people partying or getting together for family gatherings.

He say, “This obviously — if we don’t all watch out now — can lead to a certain dynamic,” and the reemergence of the pandemic.

Germany’s Robert Koch-Institute, which tracks the coronavirus, registered 1,226 new infections on Wednesday. That’s the highest number since early May.

Spahn reiterated appeals to wear masks, keep distance and not go overboard in social settings.

He says, “When there’s alcohol involved, when a festive event turns into a party, it can go very, very quickly.”

Germany has been lauded for keeping the pandemic under control for a long time, but the easing of measures and the return of travellers have in recent weeks lead to an uptick of infections. In addition, summer vacations are over in several states and students are mostly back to regular classes and don’t have to wear masks.

Germany has recorded 218,519 confirmed cases and 9,207 deaths.

10:22 a.m. Singapore’s government says most foreign workers can now resume work as their dormitories have been cleared of COVID-19 after months of lockdown and virus testing.

People living in the crowded dormitories were the bulk of Singapore’s 55,353 cases. Only 27 deaths have been recorded in the city-state.

The Ministry of Manpower said in a statement late Tuesday that all the dormitories have been cleared, except for 17 standalone blocks, which serve as quarantine facilities.

It said all foreign workers living in the dormitories have either recovered or tested as virus-free, except for 22,500 workers in isolation. The majority can return to work, including 81% of the 387,000 workers in the construction, marine shipyard and process industries.

10:22 a.m. India’s coronavirus caseload has topped 2.3 million after adding 60,963 in the last 24 hours.

India also reported 834 deaths on Wednesday for a total of 46,091. India has the third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil, but only the fifth-highest death toll, and authorities say the fatality rate has dropped below 2% for the first time.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video conference Tuesday with the top elected officials of 10 states that together account for about 80% of India’s total cases, urging them to rigorously apply the strategies of containment, surveillance and contact tracing to drive the fatality rate below 1%.

Modi also urged testing to be ramped up in several states as it has been in the capital region of Delhi.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research body, said that more than 733,000 samples were tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday, but didn’t break down how many underwent the gold standard RT-PCR test compared to the antigen test, a cheaper and more efficient though less accurate blood test that looks for antibodies.

10:22 a.m. China’s newly confirmed community transmitted cases of coronavirus fell into the single digits on Wednesday, while Hong Kong saw another 33 cases of infection.

The National Health Commission says all nine new cases were found in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose capital Urumqi has been at the centre of China’s latest major outbreak. Another 25 cases were brought by Chinese travellers arriving from abroad.

China has largely contained the local spread of the pandemic that is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year before spreading worldwide.

The government has recorded 4,634 deaths from COVID-19 among 84,737 cases. Hong Kong, a densely populated semi-autonomous southern Chinese city, also recorded another six deaths to bring its total to 58 among 4,181 cases.

Authorities have ordered mask wearing in public settings, restrictions on indoor dining and other social distancing measures in a bid to stem its latest outbreak. Those measures appear to have been successful in bringing numbers down from the more than 100 new daily cases reported at the end of last month.

10:22 a.m. South Korea has reported 54 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to stem transmissions amid increased social and leisure activities.

The figures announced by South Korea’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday brought the national caseload to 14,714 infections, including 305 deaths.

The KCDC says 35 of the new cases were local transmissions, all but three of them reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the centre of a virus resurgence since late May.

The other 19 cases were linked to international arrivals. Health authorities have said imported cases are less threatening as they mandate tests and enforce two-week quarantines on all people arriving from abroad.

10:22 a.m. Mexico reported a near-record 926 newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, bringing the country’s accumulated total to 53,929.

The Health Department reported 6,686 new coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases so far to 492,522.

At that rate Mexico will reach a half million confirmed cases soon, but given the extremely low rate of testing — less than 1.1 million tests in a country of almost 130 million inhabitants — the number would like be a vast undercount. For the most part, only people with considerable symptoms are tested in Mexico.

10:22 a.m. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley says he plans to tell a visiting group from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that long delays in getting coronavirus test results have been “very problematic” and to press them for a strategic approach to deploying a vaccine once it is available.

Long waits across the country for the results of coronavirus tests renders them nearly useless in helping to contain the spread of the virus, public health officials say.

The group is doing a site visit in Philadelphia through Thursday, part of a tour of a handful of cities around the country, Farley says.

Farley says he views the visit as a way to show what the city has been doing in terms of prevention, contact tracing and social distancing efforts.

9:05 a.m. Amica at Erin Mills, a private retirement home in Mississauga, has declared an outbreak after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The team member last worked on Aug. 7, and is now recovering at home with pay, Amica Senior Lifestyles said in a statement. Whenever one or more cases occur, Peel Public Health places the health-care institution in outbreak status “as a precautionary measure,” it added.

“We have completed extensive contact mapping and determined that this team member wore the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times while in the building and followed all safety protocols, minimizing any risk to our residence,” the statement reads.

8:41 a.m. (updated) Finance Minister Rod Phillips is set to reveal the fiscal toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the province of Ontario’s books.

Phillips will unveil the first quarterly financial results for the year on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

That will include the early weeks of the outbreak that has killed more than 2,800 Ontarians and cost 1.15 million jobs as most businesses were forced to close due a state of emergency that extended from March 17 until July 24.

On March 25, the treasurer announced a $17-billion coronavirus plan, injecting $3.3 billion more into health care plus $3.7 billion for other supports.

He also pledged an additional $10 billion in tax deferrals, which doubled the projected deficit to $20.5 billion on a record $174.3 billion spending plan. The budget shortfall was $9.2 billion last year.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

7:40 a.m. Ontario’s Minister of Finance Rod Phillips will provide an update on the province’s first quarter finances on Wednesday. Phillips will deliver his remarks from Queen’s Park at 11 a.m. and will discuss the province’s response plan.

7:38 a.m. The Windsor-Essex region has joined the rest of Ontario in Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Monday, saying COVID-19 case counts have dropped enough to warrant the move.

The decision means most businesses and public spaces to will be allowed to reopen, but public health guidance on physical distancing and social “bubbles” of 10 people remain in place.

Outbreaks among migrant workers on farms in the region had previously held Windsor-Essex back from Stage 3, which other parts of the province entered throughout last month.

Windsor’s mayor said Tuesday that the city will move forward “cautiously” and ask for additional resources if case counts spike.

Drew Dilkens praised the province for dispatching additional resources to the region to help co-ordinate the local response to the farm outbreaks.

5:45 a.m. Authorities in Brussels are introducing mandatory mask rules across the Belgian capital following a spike in cases.

Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort’s office said Wednesday that the number of new infections in the city had reached Belgium’s red line of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants on average over the last seven days.

A statement says the wearing of masks is from now on obligatory for all people aged 12 and over in all public places and in private places accessible to the public.

Brussels is home to the main European Union institutions and the NATO military alliance and has a population of around 1.2 million people. Mandatory masks are also in place in the port city of Antwerp.

Belgium has one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates per capita in the world. Around 10,000 people have died in a country with a population of some 11.5 million.

Wednesday 5:38 a.m. The British economy has recorded the deepest coronavirus-related slump among the world’s leading industrial economies after official figures on Wednesday showed it shrinking by a fifth in the second quarter alone.

The 20.4% quarter-on-quarter drop in the April to June period is worse than anything since records began in 1955, the Office for National Statistics said.

Following a 2.2% contraction in the first three months of the year, the U.K. economy is now in recession, commonly defined as two quarters of contraction.

Britain’s recession is deeper than those recorded by comparable economies in Europe, notably Germany, France and Italy, or that of the United States. The other Group of Seven economies, Japan and Canada, have yet to post second-quarter numbers but no economist thinks they will be as bad as the U.K.’s.

Wednesday 4:20 a.m. U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar says the push to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is “not a race to be first.”

Azar’s comments during a visit to Taiwan on Wednesday follow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that his country was the first to approve a coronavirus vaccine, prompting doubts about the science and safety behind that purported achievement.

Azar says the U.S. is combining the powers of its government, economy and biopharmaceutical industry to “deliver as quickly as we can for the benefit of the United States’ citizens, but also for the people of the world, safe and effective vaccines.”

He says the U.S. has secured an advanced manufacturing contract for a vaccine being developed by the company Moderna and has supply agreements with five other firms who have vaccines in the works.

He says four of the six companies under contract have reported testing results showing they produce more antibodies for the virus than people who have survived COVID-19, without severe side effects.

Azar says two companies’ vaccine candidates have entered the third phase of trials while the Russian vaccine is just now embarking on that stage with no information having been disclosed.

He says the U.S. process should allow the production of a “gold-standard, safe and effective vaccine” available in the tens of millions of doses by the end of the year.

Tuesday 10:40 p.m. The Australian state of Victoria on Wednesday reported a record 21 virus deaths and 410 new cases from an outbreak in the city of Melbourne that has prompted a strict lockdown.

State Premier Daniel Andrews said 16 of the deaths were linked to aged-care facilities. The number of new cases in Victoria is down from the peak, giving authorities some hope the outbreak is waning.

Tuesday 9:19 p.m. Students in British Columbia won’t head back to classrooms on the originally planned date of Sept. 8 as the provincial government looks to a more gradual return.

Children will be welcomed back to class later in the second week of September after staff reviewed the latest BC Centre for Disease Control guidelines and school operation policies for COVID-19, Education Minister Rob Fleming said Tuesday.

“Having the restart week staged in some kind of manner that would have staff teams together for a couple days before we gradually welcome kids back to make sure that every school — all 1,500 of them in the province — are truly ready to welcome students is a good idea, and that’s the approach that we’ll be taking,” he said.

No official date has been set for children to return to schools.

Tuesday 5:09 p.m. Quebec Premier François Legault says he doesn’t think a potential second wave of COVID-19 will strike as hard as the first one did in Canada’s worst-hit province.

Legault said many of the infections occurred in the early weeks when infected employees brought the virus into long-term-care homes and seniors’ residences while not wearing proper protective equipment.

“I think that if we have a second wave, we will be a lot better prepared,” Legault told reporters in Mascouche, Que., on Tuesday.

And those workers will be wearing masks when meeting with patients, which he said wasn’t always the case early on in the pandemic and contributed to the 5,000 deaths in nursing homes. “I think we’ll be more ready for that,” he said.

4:25 p.m. The Pan American Health Organization has expressed reservations over reports that institutions in the region were negotiating to manufacture and distribute a new COVID-19 vaccine announced by Russia that has yet to go through standard, extensive safety and efficacy trials.

The organization’s deputy director, Jarbas Barbosa, said in an online news conference Tuesday from Washington that any vaccine should be carefully evaluated to ensure the product is safe and effective.

In Brazil, Parana state’s government said it is negotiating with the Russian embassy to participate in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and will be holding a technical meeting Wednesday with Russia’s ambassador.

Nicaragua earlier announced plans to produce a Russian vaccine and on Monday, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, wife of President Daniel Ortega, again said the country was in contact with Russian institutions to produce and even export a COVID-19 vaccine.

Barbosa said the vaccine has not yet gone through all the steps needed so that it could be recommended by the World Health Organization or the Pan American Health Organization. He said global health officials were talking with Russian officials to review their data and clinical trials.

“Only after that review, having access in a transparent way to those data and all the information, are we going to take a position,” he said.

Read more of Tuesday’s coverage here.

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Vancouver theatre company among first in Canada to relaunch during COVID-19 – Global News

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It’s been about six months since anyone has taken in a show put on by Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company, but that’s about to change.

The venue will be among the first in the country to resume live performances, when it launches a one-actor play under strict new COVID-19 protocols on Thursday.

“It is a huge step towards normalcy, I have had people say to me, ‘All I need is to see a show, and I can’t wait to come and see something,’” said actor Ali Watson, who will play all 16 parts in No Child, which premieres Sept. 24.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Imperial Theatre to host first live performance since pandemic began

In order to allow for more performances, the play has been double-cast, with Watson and actor Celia Aloma starring in alternating shows — each with their own stage managers and crews.

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“I think its a really excellent distraction from COVID-19, especially because it’s not about COVID-19, which everything you see online and in person is about that,” Watson said.

The Arts Club and virtually all live performance venues were forced to close their doors in March, when the province issued an order against gatherings of more than 50 people.






2:09
Calgary art community bringing live performances back to life


Calgary art community bringing live performances back to life

The venue usually puts in 18 shows a year for about a quarter-million spectators, according to artistic director Ashlie Corcoran.

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The pandemic forced them to cancel 25 scheduled shows, including performances well into 2021.

“It’s been a long, hard six months of being dark,” she said.

“To use our brains to start planning and building and creating instead of cancelling, it’s very much buoyed our spirits.”

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Starting with No Child, which focuses on the efforts of a drama teacher in an inner-city New York school, the Arts Club is rolling out three one-actor plays.

Read more:
What some concerts and festivals look like during the coronavirus pandemic

Audience members will need to sign a declaration of health before entering. There will be no queueing up before the show, bathroom capacity will be limited, masks will be mandatory, and exiting the theatre will be controlled to ensure physical distancing.

The audience will also be capped at 50 people in a theatre that normally seats 300.

“Doing theatre for audiences of 50 will not economically sustain us, but we do feel it’s very important to be connecting, both with artists … and with the audience,” said Corcoran.






1:50
B.C. music fans missing live concert experience


B.C. music fans missing live concert experience

The Arts Club relies on ticket sales for about 80 per cent of its revenue, and Corcoran said it’s managed to survive so far through donations over the summer.

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Darrel Dunlop, president of IATSE local 118, which represents workers in the live performance sector, said the pandemic has been devastating to his members.

With CERB ending, he’s worried about a “brain drain” of skilled workers into industries.

“A lot of the people, they’ve had to start looking for jobs in another sector,” he said.

Read more:
‘One World: Together at Home’ concert show brings musicians together to thank coronavirus workers

But Dunlop is cautiously optimistic, citing creative ways productions have been finding to reopen safely under new pandemic protocols with smaller casts, crews and audiences.

“They’re actually going to be doing multiple shows in a day, and they’re actually going to be doing that with separate crews,” he said, meaning if someone becomes ill another crew can always sub in.

“Until there’s a time when you can actually put a full audience in, it will be different, the experience will be different. … We have to be patient and we have to be willing to accept the change.”

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

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Former PM John Turner dead at 91

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TORONTO — Former prime minister John Turner, whose odyssey from a “Liberal dream in motion” to a political anachronism spanned 30 years, has died at the age of 91.

Marc Kealey, a former aide speaking on behalf of Turner’s relatives as a family friend, says Turner died peacefully in his sleep at home in Toronto on Friday night.

“He’s in a much better place, and I can say on behalf of the family there was no struggle and it was very, very peaceful,” Kealey said.

Politicians and other public figures immediately began sharing memories of Turner and expressing condolences to his family.

“A gifted politician, lawyer, and athlete, Mr. Turner became Canada’s 17th Prime Minister after having served in numerous other capacities,” Prime Minister Justin Trudea said in a written statement.

“Mr. Turner was a humble man with a strong social conscience. He supported many charitable organizations, including Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He was also an honorary director of World Wildlife Fund Canada and an ardent advocate for the protection of Canada’s lakes and rivers.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also offered his condolences, writing on Facebook, “Track star, lawyer, parliamentarian, but most importantly father and patriot, his contributions to Canada are profound and his legacy assured.”

Former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin both spoke of their one-time colleague’s love of Parliament.

“More than anything, John was a House of Commons man and an outstanding public servant. He revered our democratic institutions like no other and served his constituents and Canada with great distinction. He will be greatly missed. My sincere condolences go out to his wife Geills and to his family,” Chretien wrote.

Smart, athletic and blessed with movie-star good looks, Turner was dubbed “Canada’s Kennedy” when he first arrived in Ottawa in the 1960s. But he failed to live up to the great expectations of his early career, governing for just 79 days after a difficult, decades-long climb to the top job.

“The most unfortunate thing to happen to anybody is to come in at the top in politics,” Turner said in 1967.

“The apprenticeship is absolutely vital. And yet, the longer the apprenticeship, the more the young politician risks tiring the public. So that by the time he’s ready, the public may be tired of him.”

His words were prophetic.

Despite his missteps, Turner guided the Liberals through some of their darkest days in the 1980s. His right-of-centre contribution to party policy would help pave the way for fiscally conservative prime ministers Chretien — his longtime rival — and Martin.

Turner’s journey began as a dashing young politician with the world at his feet and ended nearly 30 years later when he could no longer overcome his image as a relic of the past.

There was a dichotomy to Turner’s life. He was a jock who studied at Oxford and the Sorbonne, a staunch Catholic who defended the decriminalization of abortion and homosexuality and a Bay Street lawyer who campaigned against free trade — describing it as the fight of his life.

“There were two Turners. There was the thoughtful, intelligent John Turner who was kind of an intellectual,” former aide Ray Heard said in an interview several years ago.

“But there was another side to him. … There was John the jock, who used to love watching NFL football with us, who sometimes drank too much, who used to put on his red cardigan and sit in his office having a good time,” he said.

“So there was these two Turners, and sometimes these two Turners were in conflict with each other.”

Born in England, John Napier Wyndham Turner emigrated to Canada in 1932 after the premature death of his father Leonard.

His young, well-educated and driven mother, Phyllis Gregory, moved the family to her hometown of Rossland, B.C., and then to Ottawa a year later, where she climbed to the top ranks of the civil service.

She married wealthy businessman Frank Mackenzie Ross, who later was lieutenant-governor of British Columbia.

An Olympic-calibre track star, Turner graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1949, winning the Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University. After studying law, he went to Paris to work on a doctorate at the Sorbonne.

The young lawyer caused a stir when he danced with Princess Margaret at a party in 1959, giving rise to speculation that the two would become a couple. Heard said the two remained friends for life.

Turner moved to Montreal to practice law but was lured into politics by Liberal cabinet minister C.D. Howe, who asked him to help in an election campaign. Turner won a seat in 1962, representing the Quebec riding of St-Laurent-St-Georges.

He would later hold seats in two other provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, a feat unmatched since William Lyon Mackenzie King.

In 1965, he was named to cabinet by Lester Pearson, as a minister without portfolio. Two years later, Chretien and Pierre Trudeau joined cabinet, with Trudeau landing the plum post of attorney general and minister of justice. Turner toiled in the unglamorous job of registrar general, while Chretien languished with no portfolio.

It foreshadowed a rivalry that would divide the men in the years to come.

A few months later, Turner finally landed Consumer and Corporate Affairs, a ministry he convinced Pearson to create.

He once compared his job to that of a hockey star.

“Tonight you scored a goal and you’re a hero, tomorrow you let a goal in and you’re a bum,” he said in 1967. “And that’s politics.”

But Turner was well-liked on Parliament Hill, playing squash with opposition members and once, walking across the House of Commons to comfort a New Democrat who had just confessed to having a serious criminal record.

He saved then-Opposition leader John Diefenbaker from drowning while on vacation in Barbados, having unintentionally booked a stay at the same resort.

He married Geills McCrae Kilgour, the great-niece of Col. John McCrae who wrote “In Flanders Fields” and the sister of longtime MP David Kilgour, in 1963.

The two had a daughter, Elizabeth, and three sons, David, Michael and Andrew.

Turner ran to succeed Pearson in 1968, but lost to Pierre Trudeau. Even when it was all but certain he would lose, Turner stubbornly stayed in the race until the fourth and final ballot.

As justice minister in Trudeau’s cabinet between 1968 and 1972, Turner proposed a national legal aid system — an issue close to his heart — and created the Federal Court, among other reforms. But he was also put in difficult positions that sometimes challenged his personal beliefs.

He defended martial law and the suspension of civil liberties during the October Crisis of 1970, as well as the decriminalization of homosexuality and abortion in the 1960s.

“Those of us who support the bill recognize that there are areas of private behaviour which, however repugnant, however immoral, if they do not directly involve public order, should not properly be within the criminal law of Canada,” he said at the time.

He was named finance minister in 1972 and held the job for three turbulent years, marked by high unemployment and high rates of inflation. He left politics in 1975, which some believed was over his opposition to Trudeau’s decision to implement wage and price controls after the 1974 election.

Turner spent nearly a decade as a corporate lawyer on Bay Street before returning to politics after Trudeau resigned.

He won the 1984 Liberal leadership race, a divisive contest that pitted Turner against Chretien. The rift their rivalry created within the Liberal ranks plagued Turner for the rest of his career.

“Chretien and his people launched, almost from Day 1, a war of attrition against John Turner,” said Heard.

“Chretien’s people kept stabbing him in the back. They had coups and counter-coups going on. I spent more time dealing with caucus revolts inspired by the Chretien people than I spent opposing Brian Mulroney and his government. It was a ludicrous situation.”

Turner triggered an election just nine days after being sworn into office, forgoing the chance — some say foolishly — to host a visit by the Queen and another by the Pope that would have given the new prime minister golden opportunities for glowing, wall-to-wall media coverage.

The campaign was a disaster. The party wasn’t prepared to run a campaign and was mired in organizational problems. Chretien’s supporters were staging caucus revolts. And Trudeau’s parting gift — patronage appointments — would be Turner’s undoing.

But his outdated sensibilities landed him in trouble too, when he was filmed patting the rear end of Liberal party president Iona Campagnolo, who patted his bottom right back.

However, it made Turner look sexist and out of touch, and his unrepentant defence — calling himself a “tactile politician” and dismissing it as a joke — didn’t help matters.

The breaking point came during the 1984 election debate, when Turner was forced to defend Trudeau’s appointments, saying he had no option but approve them.

“You had an option, sir — to say no,” Mulroney said.

Turner, an expert debater, never recovered.

But he won a seat in Vancouver and led the Opposition Liberals for six more years.

The 1988 election provided a rematch with Mulroney over the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, which Turner vehemently opposed, later calling it the fight of his life.

He triumphed in the debates, eloquently turning free trade into a referendum on Canadian sovereignty. But he faced mutiny from senior Liberals who wanted to dump him mid-campaign and choose another leader.

Turner didn’t win, but the Liberals recovered, doubling their seats in the House of Commons. He resigned in 1990 and quit politics three years later, joining a Toronto law firm.

Despite his declining health, he was a mainstay at many Liberal events. He gave speeches reminding the party of its golden years, sprinkled with wild stories about life on the political trail.

Throughout his political career, he stuck to his convictions, took up unexpected causes — like legal aid and free trade — and kept the Liberals together during some of their darkest days.

Bad timing stopped Turner from realizing his full potential as a great prime minister. In the end, the public tired of him before he reached the top.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2020.

Source:- CP24 Toronto’s Breaking News

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Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 407 new COVID-19 cases; Ford limits indoor and outdoor gatherings across the province – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 10:44 a.m. Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19 today, but no new deaths associated with the coronavirus.

  • 8 a.m. India has maintained its surge in coronavirus cases, adding 93,337 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file is no longer updating. Click here to read the latest. Web links to longer stories if available.

(Updated) 11:06 a.m. Premier Doug Ford has announced that social gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, everywhere across the province.

Those limits were previously imposed in just three hot-spot regions, Toronto, Peel and Ottawa.

“Over the past several days, we have seen an alarming growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province,” Ford said at a rare weekend news conference. “Clearly, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. That’s why we are taking decisive action to lower the size of unmonitored private social gatherings in every region of Ontario.”

The expanded limits, effective immediately for the next four weeks, include all parties, dinners, barbecues, weddings and other functions head in homes, backyards, parks and other recreational areas. Indoor and outdoor gatherings cannot be merged together.

The new limits do not apply to gatherings in staffed businesses and other facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet hall, gyms, places of worship, sporting or performing arts events, the government says.

Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19 today and one new death. The figures mark the second time in as many days that the province has recorded more than 400 cases in a 24-hour period.

(Updated) 10:44 a.m. Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19 today, and one new death associated with the coronavirus.

The figures mark the second time in as many days that the province has recorded more than 400 cases in a 24-hour period.

Numbers have been surging over the past few weeks, particularly in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa.

Premier Doug Ford rolled back social gathering limits in those areas earlier this week and has indicated he’s willing to do the same in other regions.

He’s set to make an announcement later this morning alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe.

Correction— Sept. 19, 2020: This entry has been updated from a previous version said there had been no new deaths related to the coronavirus.

10:04 a.m. Pope Francis is urging political leaders make sure coronavirus vaccines are available to the poorest nations.

He says in many parts of the world, there is a “pharmacological marginalization” of those without access to health care.

Francis met Saturday with members of an Italian aid group that collects donated medicines from pharmaceutical companies and distributes them to clinics and centres helping the neediest.

Francis says far too many people die in parts of the world for lack of drugs widely available elsewhere, and political leaders must take their plight into account.

“I repeat, it would be sad if in distributing the vaccine, priority was given to the wealthiest, or if a vaccine becomes the property of this or that nation and not for everyone,” the pope said.

Francis has previously called for universal access to the vaccine.

9:30 a .m. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to make a rare weekend announcement this morning related to COVID-19.

No details have been made immediately available, but Health Minister Christine Elliott and the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, will also be on-hand.

Ford suspended weekend pandemic briefings over the summer as case numbers across the province declined.

But they’ve spiked again in recent weeks, with Ontario reporting 401 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.

Most of the new cases are concentrated in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa, prompting Ford to roll back social gathering limits in those areas earlier this week.

The premier has said he plans to tighten restrictions in other areas as well, often at the request of local officials.

9 a.m. Ontarians are flooding to COVID-19 testing centres as the province sees a sharp spike in positive cases, a trend one Toronto psychologist calls reminuscent of the “toilet paper days” during the pandemic’s onset.

Outside Lakeridge Health Centre in Oshawa this week, Stephanie Hammond said she decided to get tested after developing a fever and cold-like symptoms. Her kids, Grades 6 and 4 students, were planning a return to in-class schooling but were staying home for the time being.

“I hope it’s nothing about the coronavirus,” said Hammond, 46. “These days, even a small glitch in your body terrifies the hell out of you.”

The tests completed has skyrocketed over the last two weeks. A record 35,826 tests were completed across the province on Thursday, with some assessment centres reporting waits as long as four hours. Meanwhile, Ontario saw more than 300 new cases almost every day this week — topping out at 400 new cases on Friday, according to the Star’s tally of reports from public health units.

Read the full story from the Star’s Gilbert Ngabo: Testing is the new toilet paper. How rising COVID-19 cases are stoking a second round of pandemic anxiety

8 a.m. Nursing home doctors contracted to care for residents in Scarborough’s Extendicare Guildwood did not enter the home during the devastating COVID-19 outbreak that killed 48 residents, even though managers “repeatedly” asked for their help.

At Camilla Care Community in Mississauga, where 68 residents infected with COVID died, physicians under contract with the home offered phone calls but “were not coming on site to support residents and staff.” It was a similar story in Scarborough’s Altamont Care Community, where 53 people died.

And at Woodbridge Vista Care Community, in Vaughan, where the virus killed 31 residents, the two doctors who remained on-site suffered from “overwork and burnout.”

There are many reasons why some doctors stayed away, including personal health issues, recommendations for “virtual visits” from professional organizations or the decision to work safely in one location. But their absence, at least in the most troubled homes, did not go unnoticed.

Read the full story from the Star’s Moira Welsh: Nursing home doctors were repeatedly asked to visit residents during the COVID-19 outbreak. They didn’t come. As virus resurges, Ontario considers new rules

8 a.m. India has maintained its surge in coronavirus cases, adding 93,337 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.

The Health Ministry on Saturday raised the nation’s caseload to more than 5.3 million out of the nearly 1.4 billion people. It said 1,247 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 85,619. The country has over a million active cases with about 80% recovery rate.

India has been reporting the highest single-day rise in the world every day for more than five weeks. It’s expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced scathing criticism from opposition lawmakers in India’s Parliament for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy leaving millions jobless.

More than 10 million migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, poured out of cities and headed back to villages when Modi ordered the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The migration was one key reason that the virus spread to the far reaches of the country while the lockdown caused severe economic pain. The economy contracted nearly 24% in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.

7 a.m. Members of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force are casting worried eyes at the Trump administration’s political push to get a vaccine approved before the U.S. presidential election in November.

Dr. Joanne Langley, the task force co-chair, and member Alan Bernstein say they are concerned about “vaccine hesitancy” in Canada, the phenomenon where people have doubts about taking a readily available vaccine because of concerns about its safety.

Langley says that when a vaccine against COVID-19 is eventually found, governments and health-care professionals will have to mount a vigorous information campaign to counter opposition.

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And it won’t help that President Donald Trump has said a pandemic-ending vaccine could be rolled out as soon as October, stoking concern that he is rushing the timeline to further his re-election chances on Nov. 3.

6 a.m. Halfway through their 14-day quarantine period, Diala Charab and Yehya Al-Ayoubi are excited to start working as health-care aides after arriving Sunday from Lebanon.

Despite COVID-19 travel restrictions that prevent most people from coming to Canada, the two nurses were exempted, resettled under a pilot project to bring skilled refugees to the country.

“Diala got her visa during the (COVID-19) lockdown … I got the visa after the Beirut explosion.” Al-Ayoubi said.

“Things were hectic, but we just wanted to come here and be beneficial, productive people in this society.”

Charab, 25, and Al-Ayoubi, 29, will join the staff of VHA Home HealthCare in Toronto as personal support workers.

Ernesto Sequera, VHA’s human-resources manager, said in a statement that the company is happy to bring health care workers to Canada to address the urgent need for more trained home-care professionals during the pandemic.

4:01 a.m. Health care workers in Canada made up about 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections as of late July, a figure that was higher than the global average.

In a report released earlier this month, the Canadian Institute for Health Information said 19.4 per cent of those who tested positive for the virus as of July 23 were health-care workers. Twelve health care workers, nine from Ontario and three from Quebec, died from COVID-19, it said.

The World Health Organization said in July that health-care workers made up 10 per cent of global COVID-19 infections.

A national federation of nurses’ unions blames the infection rate on a slow response to the pandemic, a shortage of labour and a lack of personal protective equipment.

4:01 a.m. A union representing Ontario’s hospital workers says it has concerns about the safety of the province’s plan to expand COVID-19 testing to pharmacies, as Premier Doug Ford pushed Friday to start the program later next week.

Ontario is expected in the coming days to unveil a plan to grant community pharmacies the ability to test for COVID-19 as it grapples with hours-long waits at some of the province’s 148 assessment centres.

Ford said last week he has been in discussions with groups that represents pharmacists and the major retailers that own Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall.

But the president of the Council of Hospital Unions, a branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the plan could bring people with the virus in contact with vulnerable seniors or other medically compromised people.

“Sending the public to a pharmacy and mingling with people who fear that they have COVID-19, and may be symptomatic … seems to me to be unwise and potentially not very safe,” Michael Hurley said.

12:34 a.m. Public health authorities in Italy are warning that the average age of coronavirus patients is creeping up as young people infect their more fragile parents and grandparents, risking new strain on the hospital system.

The Superior Institute of Health issued its weekly monitoring report Friday as the country where COVID-19 hit first in the West recorded the highest number of new infections — 1,907 — since May 1. Another 10 people died over the past day, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 35,668.

While Italy hasn’t seen the thousands of daily new infections other European countries have seen recently, its caseload has crept up steadily over the past seven weeks. Initially, most new infections were in young people who returned from vacation hotspots. The health institute said Friday that they are now infecting their older and more fragile loved ones in home settings, with the average age of positive cases last week at 41 versus the low 30s in August.

The institute warned that while the health system isn’t overwhelmed, it risks further strain if Italians don’t rigorously adhere to mask mandates and social distancing norms.

12:34 a.m. The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says new global cases of the coronavirus appear to have plateaued at about 2 million and 50,000 deaths every week.

Dr. Michael Ryan says while the global COVID-19 caseload was not rising exponentially, the weekly number of deaths was still very unsettling.

“It’s not where developing countries want to be with their health systems under nine months of pressure,” Ryan said.

He says there have been recent surges in Europe, Ecuador and Argentina. He adds a lack of large increases in African countries and other nations might reflect a lack of testing.

10:49 p.m. Friday Sept. 18: Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has tested positive for COVID-19.

His positive result Friday evening came hours after Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet issued a statement that he too had tested positive.

Both men will now be unable to attend next week’s throne speech, with Blanchet required to isolate until at least Sept. 26 and O’Toole until at least Oct.1.

Late Friday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he will get tested for COVID-19 because he met with O’Toole earlier this week.

10 p.m. Friday Sept. 18: Four patrons of Noir, inside Rebel Nightclub, on 11 Polson St., have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Toronto Public Health.

The four confirmed cases visited the club on Sept. 11, from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

“Anyone who was at the night club during this time may have been exposed to COVID-19,” said Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health with TPH, in an email to the Star.

She asked anyone who visited the club during the above times to monitor themselves for symptoms until Sept. 25.

Read the full story: Toronto waterfront nightclub linked with four COVID-19 cases remains open

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