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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
5:36 p.m. B.C. is reporting 243 new cases of COVID-19, pushing the number of active cases to 1,231, says The Canadian Press.
Data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control show that’s the highest daily case count since late May, according to CP.
More than half of the latest cases as well as overall active infections are in the Interior Health region, where an outbreak was declared in the central Okanagan.
Officials have said the outbreak that prompted the reintroduction of public health restrictions in several central Okanagan communities has spread primarily among people who are unvaccinated or who have yet to receive their second shot.
Nearly 65 per cent of eligible B.C. residents are now fully vaccinated, while just over 81 per cent have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
B.C. is poised to surpass 150,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 diagnosed since the pandemic began, with 149,889 reported as of Friday.
There were 47 people in hospital with the illness, including 16 in intensive care.
4:11 p.m. Federal officials are warning Canada could be on the brink of a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant if the country opens too fast before enough people have been vaccinated, reported The Canadian Press.
Long-term forecasts released Friday indicate a hasty reopening could lead to a sharp resurgence of the virus by the end of summer, Canada’s chief public health officer said as provinces including Alberta continued to ease restrictions, according to CP.
Dr. Theresa Tam urged younger adults to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible, noting they continue to lag among age groups, but are associated with highest rates of disease transmission.
While robust vaccination rates are already credited with dropping hospitalizations and deaths, she said inoculations must rise further to avoid renewed strain on hospitals and the health-care system.
“Almost 6.3 million people are not yet vaccinated with a first dose … plus over five million people have not received the second dose,” Tam told a news briefing in Ottawa.
“This ‘call for arms’ is to shoot for the stars in vaccination coverage. With just over five weeks until Labour Day in Canada, this time is crucial for building up protection before we gather in schools, colleges, university and workplaces this fall.”
As of last Saturday, 89 per cent of seniors aged 70 or older had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to the government’s figures.
But only 46 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 29 were fully vaccinated, as were 54 per cent of those aged 30 to 39.
Tam said vaccine coverage must be more than 80 per cent in all age groups to establish better protection.
She said the more infectious Delta variant is expected to gain steam among younger unvaccinated people, fueling a resurgence that could overwhelm healthcare capacity if personal contacts also rise.
Current COVID-19 case counts have plummeted by 93 per cent since the peak of the third wave, for an average of 640 new infections reported daily, over the past seven days, Tam said.
Tam said there are early signs of epidemic growth in some parts of the country, suggesting cases will rise further as public health measures ease.
Deputy chief public health officer, Howard Njoo, added that Canada’s robust vaccination rate means any increase in infections would likely not correspond to a rise in deaths and hospitalizations. He noted that “it’s not the same as before.”
He warned that millions of unvaccinated Canadians “are really at risk of serious outcomes,” and asked: “What are you waiting for?”
The warnings come as a chorus of health experts express concerns about Alberta’s decision earlier this week to end isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID-19, or who have been in close contact with someone who has.
Tam reiterated the importance of quarantines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and urged Albertans to continue to isolate, get tested and inform their close contacts, even if it is no longer required.
There are hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated people in Alberta, Tam said, and there’s the potential for large COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks.
“The bottom line is get vaccinated. There’s still a ways to go in Alberta.”
3:46 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador is moving to the second step of its reopening plan two weeks ahead of schedule, The Canadian Press reports.
According to CP, chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, says, beginning Sunday, fully and partially vaccinated travellers from Canada will no longer have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, nor will they have to self-isolate.
Fitzgerald told reporters today that, with 52 per cent of residents aged 12 and over now fully vaccinated, the province’s mandatory mask requirements will be up for review during the week of Aug. 9.
The province reported no new cases of COVID-19 today.
Meanwhile New Brunswick, which reported seven new cases of COVID-19 today, has 67 per cent of eligible residents fully vaccinated and is doing away with all of its COVID-19 pandemic restrictions as of 11:59 p.m. tonight
Nova Scotia is reporting one new COVID-19 case, and online data show 68 per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
2:27 p.m. Two travellers who arrived in Toronto from the United States have been fined for providing fake COVID-19 proof of vaccination documents and lying about pre-departure tests.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the travellers also didn’t comply with requirements to stay at a government-authorized hotel or to get tested upon arrival.
The agency says in a news release Friday that the travellers arrived last week and have been handed four fines totalling $19,720 each.
Canada eased quarantine requirements on July 5 for fully vaccinated Canadians and foreign nationals with an exemption to enter the country, but they must upload their proof of vaccination documents to the ArriveCAN app before entry.
Read here for the full story on the Star.
1:34 p.m. Unvaccinated dependants travelling to Nunavut with their parents or guardians be allowed to complete their isolation in the territory starting Monday.
Those who left Nunavut with their parents or guardians previously had to complete 14 days of isolation at a designated hotel in Southern Canada before they could return.
Anyone who is fully vaccinated has been able to enter Nunavut without isolating since June.
But unvaccinated travellers still need to quarantine.
Nunavut’s health department says parents and guardians will be responsible for their dependants’ isolation.
The department also says people who breach isolation can be fined $575.
1:27 p.m. Ontario says it won’t lift its mask mandate in the next phase of reopening, even as it drops most other public health measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
There’s still no date for when the province will move to what it calls the “Exit Step” of its “Roadmap to Reopening,” but the government says it’s giving residents and businesses a sense of what’s to come.
The exit step will ditch capacity limits.
But businesses must continue “passive screening” for COVID-19, for example by having signs posted.
They must also keep a safety plan in place that details how they will follow existing public health protocols.
The government says it is keeping the mask mandate in place, unlike Alberta and New Brunswick, because the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is dominant in Ontario.
It notes that Quebec and Israel have done the same thing, and that the American Centers for Disease Control recommends that people who are fully vaccinated wear masks indoors in areas of high COVID-19 transmission.
The province announced Thursday that 80 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, meaning one of three conditions the province has set for moving beyond Step 3 of its reopening plan has been met.
In order to move out of Step 3, the government has also said 75 per cent of people 12 and older must have received their second dose, and all public health units must have 70 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated.
If vaccination targets are met and health indicators are stable after three weeks in Step 3, restrictions could roll back further, making Aug. 6 the earliest possible date for the change.
The government announced the new rules as Ontario reported 226 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths.
That’s the highest daily death toll since July 1, when the province recorded 19 fatalities linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 62 of the new cases are in Toronto, 35 were in Waterloo Region, and 24 were in Peel.
She says the numbers come from nearly 21,000 tests.
Elliott says the province also administered 83,907 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine today.
The province says 81.32 per cent of adults have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 70.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.
12:58 p.m. Federal officials are warning that Canada could be on the brink of a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the highly contagious Delta variant if the country opens too fast before enough people have been vaccinated.
Canada’s chief public health officer says long-term forecasts indicate that a hasty approach to reopening could portend a sharp resurgence of the virus by the end of the summer.
Dr. Theresa Tam says the new modelling underscores the need for caution in lifting public health measures as early signs of epidemic growth emerge in some areas.
Tam says officials expect that the Delta variant could fuel the spread of the virus among younger unvaccinated people, leading to a serious rise of case counts and hospitalization rates this fall and winter.
Tam says increasing vaccine acceptance among young adults aged 18 to 39 to 80 per cent from 72 per cent could cushion the fallout of a potential fourth wave.
She says current COVID-19 case counts have plummeted by 93 per cent since the peak of the third wave, for an average of 640 new infections being reported daily over the past seven days.
11:26 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 226 COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths, according to its latest report released Friday morning.
Ontario has administered 83,907 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 19,377,608 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.
According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 10,458,246 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 80.2 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 71 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Read the full story here by the Star’s Urbi Khan.
10:18 a.m. Ontario is reporting 226 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths. The province says nearly 21,000 tests were completed. Locally, there are 62 new cases in Toronto, 35 in Waterloo, 24 in Peel Region, 13 in York Region, 13 in Hamilton and 13 in Halton Region.
8:30 a.m. Yukon has reported its seventh death linked to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
The territory’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, says in a statement that the person died in hospital Wednesday night.
He says “an unfortunate fact was this person was not immunized.”
Hanley says unvaccinated Yukoners are at greatest risk from the illness.
Yukon also said Thursday it has diagnosed seven new cases as active infections rose to 80.
The territory has reported 589 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 526 diagnosed since June 1.
7:30 a.m. British Columbia has surpassed 1,000 active cases of COVID-19 as daily infections continue to rise, particularly in parts of the province’s southern Interior.
Another 204 cases have been diagnosed, pushing the number of active cases to 1,055.
A statement from the Ministry of Health shows more than half of the latest cases and overall active infections are located in the Interior Health region, where public health restrictions have been reinstated in several central Okanagan communities.
Masks are mandatory in indoor public places in those communities including Peachland, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country and the Westbank First Nation, and travel to those regions for non-essential purposes is discouraged for those who aren’t fully vaccinated.
The number of people in hospital has ticked up to 51, including 20 in intensive care.
The ministry says 81 per cent of eligible people in B.C. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and just over 64 per cent have had their second shot.
6 a.m.: Israel’s prime minister has announced that the country will offer a coronavirus booster to people over 60 who have already been vaccinated.
Thursday’s announcement by Naftali Bennett makes Israel the first country to offer a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine to its citizens on a wide scale. The decision came at a time of rising infections and concerns that the vaccine’s efficacy dwindles over time.
Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, is to be the first to get the booster on Friday. It will be offered to the general public beginning Sunday.
5:45 a.m.: Francis Ddembe spent his pandemic working: Days in a Toronto homeless shelter, or nights in a nursing home. Or the reverse. Or both.
“Once I worked 24 straight hours. I worked 70 straight days from November to January. Sometimes you feel like you’re being sacrificed.” The only good thing about the work — besides the money he could send home to his children in Uganda — was that it filled up his days as he waited and waited for news about the refugee claim he made more than two years before. Living in limbo was maddening; at least work was a distraction.
We relied on these essential workers through the worst of the pandemic. Will Canada let them stay?
Read the full Atkinson Series story by Stephanie Nolen here.
5:30 a.m.: Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to four more areas in addition to Tokyo on Friday following record spikes in infections as the capital hosts the Olympics.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared an emergency in Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba, near Tokyo, as well as in the western city of Osaka, effective Monday until Aug. 31. Emergency measures already in place in Tokyo will be extended until the end of August, after the Olympics and well into the Paralympics which start Aug. 24.
Tokyo has reported a record increase in cases for three days in a row, including 3,865 on Thursday, before logging another 3,300 on Friday. The cases have doubled since last week, although officials say the surge is unrelated to the Olympics.
5:20 a.m.: The government of Nunavut says residents of the territory and of Arctic Quebec can now travel freely between both regions as long as they’ve been in a community for at least 14 days.
The government says people from either region must also be travelling from a community free from COVID-19.
Nunavut has been COVID-free for well over a month, while Nunavik, Quebec’s northern region, had its last case in June.
The Nunavik Regional Board of Health says the bubble only applies to people travelling by charter flight or boat, since there are no direct flights between the regions.
Nunavut residents travelling to Nunavik will be tested on arrival, while Nunavik residents travelling to Nunavut will not.
5 a.m.: Ontarians would struggle if a fourth wave of COVID-19 were to hit, possibly leading to a “fundamentally divisive point in our society,” says the co-chair of the province’s science table.
Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, a professor and the dean of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, recently spoke at an online university event during which he took questions on everything from his opinion on the best and worst of the pandemic — vaccine efforts and school closings, respectively — to the future.
“It really depends on how we continue to drive more vaccination and how thoughtfully we relax the public health measures,” he said when asked what’s to come.
Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy.
4:45 a.m.: The Biden administration has announced sweeping new pandemic rules for federal workers and some contractors.
It is requiring that any federal civilian worker who does not verify being fully vaccinated will be subject to universal masking, weekly testing, physical distancing from other employees and restrictions on official travel.
The guidelines are aimed at boosting vaccination rates among the millions of Americans who draw federal paychecks and to set an example for private employers around the country.
Biden said, “This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don’t have to die.”
The administration encouraged businesses to follow its lead on incentivizing vaccinations by imposing burdens on the unvaccinated. Rather than mandating that federal workers receive vaccines, the plan will make life more difficult for those who are unvaccinated to encourage them to comply.
Biden also urged state and local governments to use funds provided by the coronavirus relief package to incentivize vaccinations by offering $100 to individuals who get the shots. And he announced that small- and medium-sized businesses will receive reimbursements if they offer employees time off to get family members vaccinated.
4:30 a.m.: With coronavirus deaths rising in Myanmar, allegations are growing from residents and human rights activists that the military government, which seized control in February, is using the pandemic to consolidate power and crush opposition.
In the last week, the per capita death rate in Myanmar surpassed those of Indonesia and Malaysia to become the worst in Southeast Asia. The country’s crippled health care system has rapidly become overwhelmed with new patients sick with COVID-19.
Supplies of medical oxygen are running low, and the government has restricted its private sale in many places, saying it is trying to prevent hoarding. But that has led to widespread allegations that the stocks are being directed to government supporters and military-run hospitals.
At the same time, medical workers have been targeted after spearheading a civil disobedience movement that urged professionals and civil servants not to cooperate with the government, known as the State Administrative Council.
4 a.m.: The Toronto Blue Jays have wrapped up an extended road trip down south and finally flown north — back home to Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays are finally set to return to Toronto after the federal government granted the club a national interest travel exemption, and the team will host the Kansas City Royals on Friday night in their first game at their home stadium in nearly two years.
The Jays haven’t played at Rogers Centre since Sept. 29, 2019 — an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay — due to COVID-19 restrictions that included a U.S.-Canada travel ban.
Toronto played the shortened 2020 campaign at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., then began this season hosting home games at its spring training site in Dunedin, Fla., before returning to the home of their triple-A affiliate in June.
Jays president Mark Shapiro says the team has also received approval to treat the stadium as an outdoor venue and allow up to 15,000 fans at games — about 30 per cent of its 49,286-person capacity. Shapiro says the retractable roof will be open as long as the weather allows, and additional measures have been taken to ensure proper ventilation.
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