Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 578 new cases and two deaths; Canada to buy another 40 million doses of Moderna vaccine over the next two years – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
7:59 p.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will buy another 40 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine over the next two years.
Trudeau tweeted about the agreement with the Massachusetts-based drugmaker, saying the deal could be extended into 2024. He says there are also options baked into the deal that would grant Ottawa access to as many as 65 million doses if needed.
3:30 p.m.: Thousands of protesters are marching in Montreal today against Quebec’s decision to impose a vaccine passport across the province in the fall.
Premier François Legault has said his government will be implementing a vaccine passport system starting Sept. 1 to control access in settings with a high degree of contact, such as festivals, bars, restaurants and gyms.
Protesters gathered in downtown Montreal are calling on the government to hold a public debate and revoke its decision on the vaccine passport.
12:20 p.m.: A young mother had just celebrated her first wedding anniversary and was one of six members of a Jacksonville church to die over a 10-day span.
Another Florida woman had just given birth to her first child, but was only able to hold the newborn girl for a few moments before dying.
A California man died a few weeks shy of his 53rd birthday while his wife was on a ventilator at the same hospital in Oakland, unaware of his passing on Aug. 4.
The COVID-19 death toll has started soaring again as the delta variant tears through the nation’s unvaccinated population and fills up hospitals with patients, many of whom are younger than during earlier phases of the pandemic.
The U.S. is now averaging about 650 deaths a day, increasing more than 80 percent from two weeks ago and going past the 600 mark on Saturday for the first time in three months.
Data on the the age and demographics of victims during the delta surge is still limited, but hospitals in virus hotspots say they are clearly seeing more admissions and deaths among people under the age of 65.
Read more from The Associated Press.
10:16 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 578 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths. Of the 578 new cases, 408 are in unvaccinated individuals and 59 in partially vaccinated individuals.
Locally, 153 cases are in Toronto, 50 in Peel Region and 45 in York Region.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says 136 people are hospitalized (excluding ICU). 11 of those are fully vaccinated and 125 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status. There are 111 people currently in the ICU. One is fully vaccinated and 110 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status at this time.
Ontario administered 50,343 doses of COVID-19 vaccine by 8 p.m. on Friday, for a total of 20.146.936 administered so far. 81.4% of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 73.1% have two doses.
Read more from the Star’s Ann Marie Elpa.
10 a.m.: When much of society was under lockdown earlier this year and prolonged periods of solitude began to take a toll, Ghassan Miqdadi would log onto the website Yalla! Let’s Talk to connect with fellow Arabs in Canada and abroad.
They’d chat about everything from current affairs to ways of coping with the pandemic, and the conversations helped ease the feelings of isolation he was experiencing.
“Digitally speaking, I have a whole community by my side,” said the 28-year-old who described himself as a queer man of Arab descent.
“I’d go into virtual cafes, and it was always such a welcoming experience — I felt heard and seen …We needed an inclusive, digital space that welcomed all kinds of Arabs.”
The website is among several digital gathering spaces where marginalized groups can make connections as the pandemic wears on. Some of their founders say they’ve seen a clear need for the support such online platforms can provide, and plan to continue offering the virtual services as society reopens.
7:30 a.m.: Iran says it will impose a six-day-long “general lockdown” in cities across the country after being hit by what it describes as its fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, state media reported Saturday.
The lockdown includes all bazaars, markets and public offices, as well as movie theatres, gyms and restaurants in all Iranian cities.
The lockdown will begin on Monday and will last through Saturday.
The national coronavirus taskforce, which issued the decision, also ordered a travel ban between all Iranian cities from Sunday to Friday.
Also on Saturday, Iran reported 466 deaths and 29,700 new cases of coronavirus patients in a single day. That brought the total pandemic death toll to 97,208, and total confirmed cases to 4,389,085.
7 a.m.: Without a clear understanding of how online learning will operate this fall, many parents across the GTA are having to make firm decisions about whether to send their children back into the classroom or keep them at home after a gruelling year and half of whiplash between online and in-person school.
As COVID-19 cases climb amid a fourth wave driven by the highly infectious Delta variant, parents worry about how safe schools will be this fall, particularly without mandatory vaccination for school staff.
With so many unknowns, parents are caught between concerns that their children’s mental health will be impacted if they stay at home and fears of exposure to the virus in the classroom.
But school boards have asked parents to decide on the learning model they want their children to participate in — either remote or in-person — this month, even if fall plans haven’t yet been entirely worked out. Registration for the Toronto District School Board’s programs closed on Thursday. Deadlines for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic board and York Region’s public board are set for next week.
Read more from the Star’s Olivia Bowden.
6:30 a.m.: Ontario will mandate vaccines for hospital and long-term-care workers and begin targeted COVID-19 booster shots while keeping current pandemic restrictions indefinitely, the Star has learned.
Against the backdrop of the pandemic’s fourth wave, Dr. Kieran Moore, the chief medical officer of health, will announce the sweeping measures next Tuesday, including a pause on any further reopening of the economy.
“The watchword is caution,” said a senior Progressive Conservative government official, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal deliberations
“We’re trying to be cautious. Nobody wants to lock down the economy again,” the official said as Ontario recorded 510 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the vast majority of which were among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.
Read more from the Star’s Robert Benzie.
5:45 a.m.: When global health officials created COVAX, a U.N.-backed effort to share coronavirus vaccines, it was supposed to guarantee the world’s most vulnerable people could get doses without being at the mercy of unreliable donations.
It hasn’t worked out that way. In late June, COVAX sent more than 530,000 doses to Britain — more than double the amount sent that month to Africa, where fewer than 2% of the population is immunized.
While poor countries joined COVAX to receive donated doses, higher-income countries were enticed to join as an insurance policy in case their private vaccine deals fell through. Most rich countries have declined to buy COVAX doses after acquiring enough shots through private deals. But some, including the U.K. and Canada, tapped into the initiative’s meager supply even after reserving most of the world’s coronavirus vaccines.
The result is that poorer countries have landed in exactly the predicament COVAX was intended to avoid: depending on the whims and politics of rich countries for donations.
“If we had tried to withhold vaccines from parts of the world, could we have made it any worse than it is today?” asked Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor at the World Health Organization, during a public session on vaccine equity.
Read more from The Associated Press.
5:15 a.m.: Australia’s most populous state reported a daily record 466 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections on Saturday and increased fines for breaches of pandemic restrictions.
The previous record tally in New South Wales, home to Sydney, was 390 reported on Friday.
Four people had died overnight, bringing the death toll in New South Wales from an outbreak of the delta variant first detected in Sydney in mid-June to 42.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said fines for breaking pandemic rules such as breaching quarantine orders had been increased.
Sydney residents will be restricted to within 5 kilometres of home, half the distance they were previously allowed.

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