Canada

Today’s coronavirus news: Federal government is sending more help to NWT to deal with surge; Outbreaks identified after weddings at 2 Mississauga banquet halls

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

8:45 a.m. More than 99 per cent of Niagara College’s students and staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and Brock University is reporting a 95 per cent rate.

The college reported its figure late Monday, which was the deadline for staff and students to either provide proof of inoculation against the coronavirus or be barred from campus until they are fully vaccinated.

Brock, meanwhile, has been operating on an earlier timeline for vaccination.

This summer, the provincial government ordered high-risk settings such as post-secondary institutions, as well as sites such as women’s shelters and licensed retirement homes, to implement vaccination plans.

“The response has been very positive from students and employees,” said Niagara College spokesperson Michael Wales, adding the “vast majority” provided proof well before Monday.

8:30 a.m. Peel region is advising those attending separate wedding events at a pair of Mississauga banquet halls on Oct. 8 and 9 to seek immediate testing regardless of vaccination status, while unvaccinated guests are required to self-isolate while awaiting results.

The advisory, issued by the region on Oct. 18, includes wedding events at the Red Rose Convention Centre (1233 Derry Road East) on Oct. 8 from 6-11 p.m., and the Candles Banquet Hall (1224 Dundas St. E, Unit 18) on Oct. 9 from 6:30-11:30 p.m.

“Fully vaccinated individuals attending either event, who do not have any symptoms, do not need to isolate; however, they should continue to follow precautions such as masking, physical distancing and limiting contacts while waiting for test results,” read a release.

8:15 a.m. Many scientists are pressing the British government to re-impose social restrictions and speed up booster vaccinations as coronavirus infection rates, already Europe’s highest, rise still further.

The U.K. recorded 49,156 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the largest number since mid-July. New infections averaged 43,000 a day over the past week, a 15 per cent increase on the week before.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 1 in 60 people in England had the virus, one of the highest levels seen in Britain during the pandemic.

In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government lifted all the legal restrictions that had been imposed more than a year earlier to slow the spread of the virus, including face coverings indoors and social distancing rules. Nightclubs and other crowded venues were allowed to open at full capacity, and people were no longer advised to work from home if they could.

8 a.m. Russia registered another daily record of coronavirus deaths Tuesday as rapidly surging contagion raised pressure on the country’s health care system.

The government task force reported 1,015 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought the total death toll to 225,325 — by far the highest in Europe. It also registered 33,740 new infections over the past day.

The daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions.

Russian authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccinations with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials have hampered the efforts. The task force said Monday that about 45 million Russians, or 32 per cent of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

7:52 p.m. Latvia will enter into a nearly monthlong lockdown, including a curfew, on Thursday due to the worsening coronavirus situation in the Baltic country where the vaccination rate is among the lowest in the European Union.

Following an emergency government meeting late Monday, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said that the lockdown from Oct. 21 until Nov. 15 and accompanying drastic measures are needed as the pandemic continues to spread quickly, causing hospital wards to fill up with COVID-19 patients amid scarce health care resources.

Only slightly over half of Latvians are now fully vaccinated, and Karins admitted that his government had failed in sufficiently luring citizens to get jabs.

“There are many people, too many people, who are not vaccinated,” Karins said, as quoted by the Latvian public broadcaster LSM.

7:30 p.m. Toronto Public Health has identified 2+ COVID-19 cases linked within Michael Power – St Joseph High School, Africentric Alternative School and John McCrae Public School. Outbreaks have been declared in those schools.

“We’re carefully investigating & following our process of working w/our school community to notify close contacts & ask them to stay home, monitor for symptoms & get tested,” TPS tweeted Monday evening.

7:25 a.m. Students at Etobicoke’s Silverthorn Collegiate Institute are heading back to class on Tuesday.

A week ago, Toronto Public Health (TPH) suspended in-person learning at the Markland Wood high school due to a COVID-19 outbreak involving 11 students.

The city’s public health agency said nine of those cases were “linked to student-to-student transmission” and recommended everyone at the school get tested for the virus. The health unit has since followed up with close contacts.

The first active COVID-19 case at Silverthorn CI was reported on Oct. 4 and some Grade 11 students had to self-isolate at home.

7:20 a.m. On the eve of Singapore dropping quarantine restrictions for vaccinated travelers from the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department warned Americans not to visit the country.

Both the CDC and State Department cited a “very high level of COVID-19” in Singapore.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, the Southeast Asia country has had a record high 70,374 COVID cases in the last 28 days. Just over 82% of Singapore is fully vaccinated. That’s compared to more than 57% of the U.S., which has recorded more than 2.8 million cases over the same period.

Starting Tuesday, travelers from the U.S. can enter Singapore as long as they show proof of vaccination and they test negative on two PCR tests: once 48 hours before departure and again upon arrival.

The State Department on Monday also urged Americans to reconsider travel to Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Tunisia and Angola due to areas with “increased risk” of COVID-19.

6:20 a.m.: The federal government is sending more help to the Northwest Territories to deal with a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says Ottawa has approved a request from the territory to provide “surge capacity support” for infection prevention and control, contact tracing and testing.

The support — 10 specialists from the Canadian Red Cross — will be effective until Nov. 14, with the possibility of a two-week extension.

That’s on top of previous help provided through the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada for infection control and contact tracing.

After months of zero new cases of COVID-19, the territory began seeing a spike in cases in mid-August.

As of Monday, there were 263 active cases in the Northwest Territories, which last week extended a territory-wide public health emergency until Oct. 26.

5:45 a.m.: Russia registered another daily record of coronavirus deaths Tuesday as rapidly surging contagion raised pressure on the country’s health care system.

The government task force reported 1,015 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought the total death toll to 225,325 — by far the highest in Europe. It also registered 33,740 new infections over the past day.

The daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions.

Russian authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccinations with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials have hampered the efforts. The task force said Monday that about 45 million Russians, or 32% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

The Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that dealt a heavy blow to the economy and eroded President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. It has empowered authorities acros the country’s 11 time zones to decide on restrictions depending on the local situation.

5:30 a.m.: Many scientists are pressing the British government to re-impose social restrictions and speed up booster vaccinations as coronavirus infection rates, already Europe’s highest, rise still further.

The U.K. recorded 49,156 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the largest number since mid-July. New infections averaged 43,000 a day over the past week, a 15% increase on the week before.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 1 in 60 people in England had the virus, one of the highest levels seen in Britain during the pandemic.

In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government lifted all the legal restrictions that had been imposed more than a year earlier to slow the spread of the virus, including face coverings indoors and social distancing rules. Nightclubs and other crowded venues were allowed to open at full capacity, and people were no longer advised to work from home if they could.

Some modelers feared a big spike in cases after the opening-up. That did not occur, but infections remained high, and recently have begun to increase.

So have hospitalizations and deaths, which are averaging more than 100 a day — far lower than when cases were last this high, before much of the population was vaccinated, but still too high, critics of the government say.

Some say Britons have been too quick to return to pre-pandemic behavior. Masks and social distancing are gone in most settings in England, including schools, though other parts of the U.K. remain a bit more strict. Even in shops, where masks are recommended, and on the London transit network, where they are mandatory, adherence is patchy.

A plan to require proof of vaccination to attend nightclubs, concerts and other mass events in England was dropped by the Conservative government amid opposition from lawmakers, though Scotland introduced a vaccine pass program this month.

5 a.m.: Ontario’s QR-code vaccine certificates have arrived early, but while the system does speed up the process of vetting customers at gyms and restaurants, experts are concerned that the new system does nothing to help prevent fraud.

The Star reported in September that Ontario’s initial vaccine certificate could be easily doctored in Microsoft Word. Business owners responsible for checking the certificates worried they would be on the hook if they failed to spot a fake.

Now, even though the QR-code vaccine certificates are available, the original certificates will still be accepted as proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Kris Klein, a lawyer with nNovation LLP and an expert on privacy, access to information and information security, thinks it’s a “real shame and potentially very dangerous” that Ontarians can still use an easily edited vaccine certificate to access gyms, restaurants and other venues.

Given the percentage of the population that has yet to be vaccinated, “I’m afraid there will be some fraud with respect to vaccine receipts,” said Klein in an email. “I think the government should do better to recognize that fraudsters are out there and they should implement safeguards to try and stop them.”

Read more from the Star’s Rosa Saba.

4:45 a.m.: The NHL has suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games for submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

The league on Monday announced the suspension without pay and said Kane will not be eligible to play until Nov. 30 at New Jersey. Kane will forfeit about $1.68 million of his $7 million salary for this season with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

The league also announced that a concurrent investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse made against Kane by his estranged wife, Anna, could not be substantiated.

“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols,“ Kane said in a statement. ”I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey.”

4:30 a.m.: On Monday, Pfizer officially applied for Canadian authorization for its kid-sized COVID-19 vaccine meant for those aged five to 11, bringing the country one step closer to protection for the school-aged population.

The news means that the final data from the drug manufacturer still has to be vetted by experts from Health Canada, who will comb through the results of a trial done on thousands of child volunteers before signing off.

The government isn’t starting from scratch, since Pfizer, which is working with German biotech company BioNTech, submitted a first look at its numbers at the beginning of the month. But the official submission means the ball is now in Health Canada’s court.

In a statement, Health Canada confirmed it had received the submission for the vaccine, now known as Comirnaty, but did not have a timeline for a decision.

Read more from the Star’s Alex Boyd.




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