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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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Canada-China spat heats up over ambassador's alleged threat – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The diplomatic spat between Canada and China grew more heated on Monday as Beijing denounced press criticism of its ambassador to Ottawa, only to have Canada’s deputy prime minister and opposition leader echo the criticism.

The exchange comes at a moment when ties between the countries are at their lowest point in years, largely due to China’ outrage over Canada’s detention of a top executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and the subsequent arrest of two Canadians.

The new friction arose when China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, branded pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong as violent criminals and said if Canada grants them asylum it would amount to interference in China’s internal affairs.

“If the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes,” Cong said in a video news conference from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

Asked if his remarks amounted to a threat, Cong replied, “That is your interpretation.”

Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland said in Parliament on Monday that the ambassador’s comments “are not in any way in keeping with the spirit of appropriate diplomatic countries between two countries.”

Freeland said Canada will speak out for human rights in China and said Canada will support its citizens living in Hong Kong. “Let me also reassure the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong that a Canadian is a Canadian and we will stand with them.” Freeland said.

Her statements came hours after Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters that his government had complained to Canada over press criticism of Cong’s remarks. He said Canadian leaders “did not verify, but also condoned the anti-China comments spreading across the nation and made groundless accusations against China.”

He didn’t specify the media criticism, but the Toronto Sun on Saturday published an editorial calling on Cong to apologize, adding. “If he won’t apologize and retract his threats, boot him back to Beijing.”

Meanwhile, Erin O’Toole, the leader of Canada’s main opposition Conservative party, said Monday that Cong had threatened Canadians in Hong Kong and called on the envoy to either apologize or leave.

Cherie Wong, the executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, a group that advocates for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, called Cong’s comment a “direct threat” to all Canadians.

“It should not be lost on Canadians living in Hong Kong or China, they could be next. Ambassador Cong suggested so himself,” Wong said.

Protests against the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments swelled last year, and Beijing clamped down on expressions of anti-government sentiment in the city with a new national security law that took effect June 30.

The law outlaws subversive, secessionist and terrorist activity, as well as collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s internal affairs. The U.S., Britain and Canada accuse China of infringing on the city’s freedoms.

Cong also rejected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that China is engaging in coercive diplomacy by imprisoning two Canadian men in retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive on an American extradition warrant. The executive, Meng Wanzhou, is living under house arrest in Vancouver while her case wends through a British Columbia court.

In December 2018, China imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and charged them with undermining China’s national security. Convicted Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg was also sentenced to death in a sudden retrial shortly after Meng’s arrest.

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COVID-19 cases in Canada surpass 200000 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed Canada’s total case count past the 200,000 mark on Monday as tougher health restrictions took effect in some regions facing a surge in infections.

The latest numbers from Saskatchewan lifted the national tally over the bleak milestone as the province reported 66 new cases of the novel coronavirus, though other provinces reported significantly more new cases.

The development came just over four months after Canada reached the 100,000-case threshold.

The bulk of the country’s case load has been concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, though numbers have been surging in much of the country in recent weeks.

The 200,000-case milestone isn’t all that significant in and of itself but it does provide an opportunity to examine how the country is doing in grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Barry Pakes, a public health and preventatine medicine physician with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Canada saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in late January and marked 100,000 cases in mid-June, about five months later.

That it took almost as long to double the caseload to 200,000 suggests public health measures slowed the virus’s spread to some degree in that time, Pakes said.

“That’s not how infectious diseases work – they double, and they go straight up on an exponential line, and when we put in proper public health measures we’re able to dull that somewhat, so I think that’s a testament to what we’ve been doing so far,” he said.

At the same time, it’s crucial to remember that Canada is in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic, and milestones such as this one can sometimes serve as a reminder not to let our guard down, he said.

“The problem arises when we rest on our laurels and I think we shouldn’t do that, but I think we can be sort of hopeful that we won’t see some of the numbers and some of the really big societal effects that have been seen in the U.S. or Europe,” he said.

“But it does remain to be seen.”

Quebec continued to lead in new daily cases, reporting 1,038 cases and six more deaths Monday – the fourth consecutive day it has seen more than 1,000 new infections.

Ontario, meanwhile, reported 704 new cases and four new deaths.

The province has reinstated stricter health measures in four regions – Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa – and Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s top doctor, recommended against traditional Halloween activities in those areas.

The tighter rules, which include closing gyms and movie theaters and barring indoor dining in restaurants or bars, kicked in for York Region on Monday but took effect earlier this month in the other three hot spots.

Williams said that when daily case counts began to rise again in September, the province predicted it would see new infections double every 10 to 12 days, which would have led to daily numbers in the 1,200 to 1,400 range by now. He noted that at the time, the City of Toronto also predicted seeing its cases double every six days if no additional steps were taken.

“Neither of us, fortunately, have seen that. Measures have been taken, they’ve dropped that down,” he said Monday.

The daily case numbers were slow to come down in the first wave but they did drop over time, “and I think we can do that again,” he said.

Manitoba reported 80 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, nearly two thirds of them in Winnipeg, as new restrictions on gatherings and businesses took effect in that city. The new rules limit gatherings to five people and force casinos and bars to close, and will be reviewed in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the federal government announced Monday that limits on travel between Canada and the United States will remain in place until Nov. 21.

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

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Oct. 19 – CBC.ca

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A health worker waits to collect swab samples from residents to test for the novel coronavirus at a sample collection centre in Hyderabad, India, on Monday. (Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images)

Canada-U.S. border closure extended but Trump, Trudeau far apart on next steps 

Although Canada and the U.S. have agreed to close their shared land border to non-essential travel, they don’t appear to agree on several related issues — including what to do next. More than seven months after the border closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump have offered up contradictory messages about the border’s future.

The Canada-U.S. border closure agreement was set to expire on Oct. 21, but the Canadian government announced on Monday that the closure will be extended until at least Nov. 21. In an interview last Wednesday on Winnipeg podcast The Start, Trudeau said Canada plans to keep the border closed as long as COVID-19 case counts in the U.S. remain high. “We keep extending the border closures because the United States is not in a place where we would feel comfortable reopening those borders,” he said.

Four weeks prior, Trump offered a different prognosis for the Canada-U.S. border closure. “We’re looking at the border with Canada — Canada would like it open,” he said at the White House on Sept. 18. “So we’re gonna be opening the borders pretty soon…. We want to get back to normal business.”

Foreign affairs expert Edward Alden said the disconnect between the two leaders suggests there are currently no joint discussions about an eventual reopening plan. Alden said he understands why the border is closed for now, but that it’s important to start laying the groundwork for a reopening plan. “The problem of not having those negotiations is, when do we possibly have a sense of when it will be safe to reopen the border?”

Even though many Canadians support the border closure, which took effect in late March, it has devastated the tourism industry, separated loved ones and hurt border communities in both Canada and the U.S.

Click below to watch more from The National

Two infectious disease doctors answer viewer questions about high-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission and how data about transmission could help people make decisions about how to live their lives. 6:11

IN BRIEF

Ontario recommends against trick-or-treating in COVID-19 hot zones

The provincial government is recommending that kids not go out trick-or-treating in those parts of Ontario that have been hardest hit by a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. “Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region, traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate,” provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a statement.

The province says trick-or-treating is permissible outside of those regions, but with numerous safeguards in place, including only going out with members of your household, wearing a face covering other than a costume, and not leaving treats in buckets.

Some health professionals objected on Twitter to the ban. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and researcher based at Toronto General Hospital, said the “goal should be to find ways to do things safely rather than cancel. Halloween shouldn’t be too tough to do safely: Outside, wearing masks, restricted to family units, distant from others … is about as low-risk as it gets.” Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto who studies infectious diseases, asked why kids are allowed in classrooms, and outdoor unmasked dining is permitted in these regions, but trick-or-treating is not.

At his daily news conference Monday, Ford said these measures are necessary to “protect Christmas and the holiday season. “We’re trying to make it as safe and as simple as possible,” Ford said. “My friends, we all know this isn’t going to be a regular Halloween. We just can’t have hundreds of kids showing up at your door if you live in a hotspot.” Both Ford and Williams were asked about what specific benchmarks the province would need to see to allow for relaxed restrictions around the Christmas season. Neither provided specific answers, citing uncertainty around the world when it comes to the virus.

Commons installs plexiglass to protect pages as MPs accused of ignoring physical distancing rules 

The House of Commons is installing new plexiglass barriers by Monday because pages are reporting that MPs have been flouting COVID-19 pandemic public health rules, CBC News has learned. According to an internal Commons administration email, some pages have expressed concerns about their health and their families’ safety because some MPs and staffers are not physically distancing from others while their face masks are off in the lobbies — the lounges on Parliament Hill where MPs can hold meetings or grab food while monitoring events inside the Commons chamber next door.

“Specifically, some members and staff who are not wearing masks are sometimes in close proximity to you when you are posted in the lobbies,” Alexandre Jacques, procedural clerk and page program co-ordinator, wrote in an Oct. 1 email to House of Commons pages. “This is something that supervisors and I have noticed in the past few days and are concerned about this.”

MPs and staff do not have to wear masks while sitting in the House of Commons chamber or in the government or opposition lobbies — but they are supposed to physically distance themselves, according to rules from the governing body of the Commons. A House of Commons source told CBC News that the pages’ complaints are aimed at behaviour observed in the opposition lobby shared by the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois. Some MPs and staff from all three of those opposition parties have been seen breaking the rules, the source said.

Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May told CBC News she’s personally witnessed MPs in the opposition lobby ignoring physical distancing guidelines on multiple occasions. She said she’s seen both Conservatives and New Democrat MPs breaking the rules but thinks the Bloc caucus has been more careful. She said she has found the Liberal lobby to be “pretty well empty” lately. Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould said mask use indoors should be made mandatory for MPs throughout the House of Commons. “All MPs should wear masks when indoors, just as rules are set for all other indoor spaces in Ontario,” she said.

Companies wary of hiring and expanding because of COVID uncertainty, Bank of Canada survey finds 

The Bank of Canada says companies are hedging hiring plans and wage growth expectations in the coming months over heightened uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press reports. The central bank’s business outlook survey finds hiring intentions remain below their historical averages, suggesting modest hiring plans even as the overall outlook on employment edges up.

Almost one-third of businesses told the bank they expect their workforce numbers to remain below pre-pandemic levels for at least the next 12 months, or to never fully recover. The survey also finds that wage growth is widely expected to slow over the next year, mostly a result of the pandemic and ongoing uncertainty, with some firms reporting a wage freeze.

The bank also says that nearly half of firms surveyed used the federal wage subsidy program to avoid layoffs or quickly refill positions. About 100 firms took part in the bank’s regular survey out this morning, but did so between late August and mid-September when COVID-19 case counts were still low.

(CBC News)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world

THE SCIENCE

One-size-fits-all COVID-19 messaging falls flat, project suggests

Behavioural medicine suggests that moving away from a one-size-fits-all message for pandemic messaging to a more personalized approach would work better at motivating people to make important sacrifices.

Prof. Kim Lavoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Prof. Simon Bacon of Concordia University, have been surveying people throughout the pandemic about what motivates them as part of the iCARE (International COVID-19 Awareness and Responses Evaluation Study) project.

The findings suggest that younger people might be more motivated by the socio-economic fallout of reimposing restrictions rather than risk to their individual health from COVID-19, compared with people over the age of 65. “Show how long it’s going to take us to pay down the debt, this is how long it’s going to take, the longer we remain in this,” Lavoie said.

Individual goals matter, too. A common message from public health officials is: “We’re all going to get through this.” But to Lavoie, that doesn’t go far enough. Her version is: “We are going to get out of this only together. This is how and this is why, and this is what’s in store for us the quicker we achieve that,” she said. “We’re all going to benefit. Some of you will benefit by protecting your health. Some of you will benefit by protecting your business. Some of you will benefit by being able to have your dream wedding.”

AND FINALLY…

NHL could be forced to play next season in modified bubble

Tampa Bay Lightning players celebrate in front of empty stands after defeating the Dallas Stars to win the Stanley Cup in Edmonton last month. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

If the NHL hopes to start a new season in January, there probably won’t be any fans in the buildings and games could be played in some sort of modified bubble format, say some experts. The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association will begin meetings in the coming weeks to discuss a return to play, although there’s already been some dialogue between the two sides. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league hopes to begin Jan. 1 and wants to play a full 82-game season with fans in arenas.

But whatever plans are in place when the season opens could change over time. “It would be premature to speculate on what next season might look like at this point,” Gary Meagher, the NHL’s executive vice-president of communications, told CBC Sports in an email. “The league and the NHLPA are focused on what makes the most sense from a scheduling standpoint. We are going to be flexible and adaptable, but we also understand that important considerations like the status of the Canada-U.S. border and the state of COVID in the next few months are simply guesswork at this point.”

Earl Brown, a professor emeritus in biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at the University of Ottawa, said even if a vaccine were developed for COVID-19 in the next couple of months, it’s unlikely enough people would be immune by the beginning of the new year. “So given the way it is now, I would not put my money on [the] NHL [having fans] at the beginning of next year,” he said.

Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the economics of sports, gaming and gambling at Concordia University, also questioned the league’s suggested timetable. “I cannot see that all of the boxes are going to be checked for the NHL,” said Lander. “They’re not going to be able to start on Jan. 1 with fans [and] with free movement of teams. Something’s going to have to be sacrificed there.”

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

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