The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
9:53 a.m.: The scavengers wait patiently for a dump truck to tip the trash on the summit of the landfill outside New Delhi. Armed with plastic bags, they plunge their bare hands into the garbage and start sorting it.
Every day, more than 2,300 tons of garbage is dumped at the landfill at Bhalswa that covers an area bigger than 50 football fields, with a pile taller than a 17-story building. And every day, thousands of these informal workers climb the precarious slopes to pick through what can be salvaged.
They are among the estimated 20 million people around the world — in rich nations and poor — who are pivotal in keeping cities clean, alongside paid sanitation employees. But unlike those municipal workers, they usually are not eligible for the coronavirus vaccine and are finding it hard to get the shots.
The pandemic has amplified the risks that these informal workers face. Few have their own protective gear or even clean water to wash their hands, said Chitra Mukherjee of Chintan, a non-profit environmental research group in New Delhi.
9 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday March 29, 2021.
There are 971,715 confirmed cases in Canada.
Canada: 971,715 confirmed cases (45,208 active, 903,607 resolved, 22,900 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.
There were 4,570 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 118.95 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 33,002 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 4,715.
There were 17 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 184 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 26. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 60.25 per 100,000 people.
There have been 27,466,380 tests completed.
Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,016 confirmed cases (six active, 1,004 resolved, six deaths).
There were zero new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 1.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people.
There have been 219,263 tests completed.
Prince Edward Island: 156 confirmed cases (12 active, 144 resolved, zero deaths).
There were zero new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 7.52 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.
There have been 124,004 tests completed.
Nova Scotia: 1,711 confirmed cases (24 active, 1,621 resolved, 66 deaths).
There were zero new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 2.45 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 21 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.74 per 100,000 people.
There have been 417,471 tests completed.
New Brunswick: 1,588 confirmed cases (121 active, 1,437 resolved, 30 deaths).
There were 11 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 15.48 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 90 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 13.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 3.84 per 100,000 people.
There have been 261,613 tests completed.
Quebec: 309,202 confirmed cases (7,987 active, 290,564 resolved, 10,651 deaths).
There were 891 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 93.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 6,151 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 879.
There were five new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 37 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.06 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 124.22 per 100,000 people.
There have been 7,063,594 tests completed.
Ontario: 345,234 confirmed cases (18,965 active, 318,932 resolved, 7,337 deaths).
There were 2,094 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 128.72 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14,661 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,094.
There were 10 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 93 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 49.8 per 100,000 people.
There have been 12,276,646 tests completed.
Manitoba: 33,975 confirmed cases (1,177 active, 31,864 resolved, 934 deaths).
There were 53 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 85.34 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 562 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 80.
There were zero new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of six new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.06 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 67.72 per 100,000 people.
There have been 585,997 tests completed.
Saskatchewan: 33,233 confirmed cases (1,978 active, 30,822 resolved, 433 deaths).
There were 202 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 167.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,392 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 199.
There were zero new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.18 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 36.74 per 100,000 people.
There have been 655,188 tests completed.
Alberta: 146,885 confirmed cases (7,922 active, 136,980 resolved, 1,983 deaths).
There were 545 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 179.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,495 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 642.
There were zero new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.05 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 44.85 per 100,000 people.
There have been 3,666,436 tests completed.
British Columbia: 98,192 confirmed cases (7,015 active, 89,722 resolved, 1,455 deaths).
There were 774 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 136.27 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,621 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 803.
There were two new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 18 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.05 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 28.26 per 100,000 people.
There have been 2,161,867 tests completed.
Yukon: 73 confirmed cases (one active, 71 resolved, one death).
There were zero new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 2.38 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been a total of one new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people.
There have been 8,529 tests completed.
Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (zero active, 42 resolved, zero deaths).
There were zero new cases Monday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.
There have been 15,887 tests completed.
Nunavut: 395 confirmed cases (zero active, 391 resolved, four deaths).
There were zero new cases Monday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 10.16 per 100,000 people.
There have been 9,809 tests completed.
8:05 p.m.: Behind every appeal to lock down longer — repeated over and over again like an incantation — is a hope and a prayer: Vaccination will be our liberation. Rolling up our sleeves will free us from lockdowns.
Not so fast, writes Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn. Vaccination of the population will remain elusive for as long as we depend on the power of persuasion and silent prayers. Herd immunity may be an impossibility if it’s only voluntary.
The logical alternative to never-ending lockdowns is to make vaccinations mandatory. Yes, mandatory — like mask mandates.
We enforce mandatory masks by telling people that they can’t enter any public indoor space or workplace without wearing one. In fact, keeping out the unmasked is no different from forcing smokers to go outside, sparing us second-hand exposure.
Read the full column here: Canada must make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory
7:40 p.m.: So Ontario’s deferred spring break is supposed to arrive in two weeks, but it’s hard to plan two weeks ahead, these days, writes Star columnist Bruce Arthur. Monday, the premier himself said so. Doug Ford was asked what the government planned to do about spring break as COVID-19 cases rise and ICUs fill up and the variants go rollicking across the province, setting nasty fires.
And in a pandemic where the lag time on hospitalization and death is two to three weeks, Doug Ford said he didn’t want to predict what will happen two weeks out.
So now we wait to find out how far they will let this go. This province is barrelling into an avoidable third wave like a first-day surfer about to get smashed onto the rocks, and every day we get closer to doctors deciding who is worth trying to save. On Monday morning there were 409 patients in Ontario ICUs, 11 short of the second-wave high. The seven-day average for new cases keeps rising on an exponential curve: it passed 2,000 per day Monday.
The variants are more transmissible, more likely to result in hospitalization, ICU admittance and death: according to Ontario’s independent volunteer science table, they are associated with a 63 per cent higher risk of hospitalization, a 103 per cent higher chance of ICU admission, and a 56 per cent higher risk of death. And they now make up an estimated 68 per cent of all cases.
Nearly one in every four schools in Ontario has a reported case. The B.1.1.7 variant, or the U.K. variant, seems to travel better in kids than previous versions. And that more transmissible variant has been in exponential growth in Ontario for some time.
Read the full column here: With Easter (and maybe Ontario spring break) coming, and COVID-19 variants raging, maybe Doug Ford should start planning ahead
7 p.m.: Ontario’s chief medical officer issued a stark new warning for younger adults Monday about the danger of the more contagious COVID-19 variants, which drove the number of new cases 30 per cent higher in the last week.
The pace of admissions to hospital intensive care units jumped by almost one-third in the same period with rates of hospitalization and death about 40 per cent higher than with earlier strains of the virus, said Dr. David Williams.
He aimed his message at adults under 50, who account for the bulk of new cases as vaccinations put a dent in the infection levels for older age groups.
“This is not a benign issue with these variants for people under 50 who felt that maybe in the initial COVID that it wasn’t a big deal. This for you, now, is a big deal,” Williams said, echoing concerns from front-line physicians in recent weeks about the types of patients requiring hospital care.
“They tend to come in younger, even in more acute conditions, going straight into ICU,” he added. “These recommendations are not just loose talk. These have real life implications and we’re finding younger people … getting in a pretty severe state fairly fast.”
Read the full story from Rob Ferguson here.
6:15 p.m.: Second-year medical students aren’t usually called upon to give vaccines, so when Tony Li got the chance to administer the COVID-19 shot at a clinic in Kingston, Ont., he leapt at the chance.
And so did his classmates.
“It’s a super-exciting opportunity,” Li says, “to get out there, help patients and the community.”
Since January, more than 200 students at Queen’s University medical school — have been helping to administer the vaccine at a clinic at Kingston Health Sciences Centre. So far, the school says, students have given about 10,000 doses to the region’s high-risk health-care workers. In late February, after demand for the vaccine picked up, a doctor at the clinic reached out to the medical school asking for the help of first- and second-year students, according to Li.
“We’re fast learners,” Li says. “And it was such an exciting opportunity.”
Read the full story from Michele Henry here.
5:15 p.m.: Families should know by the end of this week if the province needs to again delay spring break because of COVID-19, says Premier Doug Ford, promising parents advance notice so they can make alternate plans if they need to.
The traditional school break, originally scheduled March 15 to 19, was bumped to April 12 to 16 over fears that families would travel, or kids would congregate, fuelling a bump in COVID-19 cases similar to what happened following the December holiday break.
The Toronto District School Board, meanwhile, sent out a reminder to principals that they should be ready to move individual classes or their school to remote learning, should the need arise because of COVID-19 cases.
Its local education unions — representing 40,000 elementary and secondary teachers, and support staff — are urging that students learn online next week after the four-day Easter long weekend, followed by spring break and then “for at least a week after the spring break in order to keep schools as safe as possible.”
Read the full story from Kristin Rushowy here.
5:14 p.m.: British Columbia’s provincial health officer says she has imposed a three-week “circuit breaker” on some activities to stop an “exponential growth” of COVID-19 cases in the province.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said starting at midnight until April 19, indoor dining and activity at fitness centres are paused, while the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort will be closed as cases spread in the community. Only last week, Henry eased restrictions on indoor religious services, but that has also been reversed.
Henry said the province will also be updating its mask-wearing mandate in all schools for children from grades 4 to 12.
Health officials are concerned that the increase in variants from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa are driving much of the current transmission, she said.
B.C. is also following other jurisdictions and suspending the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the next few days for those under age 55 over concerns it may be linked to rare blood clots.
4:05 p.m.: It’s been a bumpy road for one of the leading COVID-19 vaccines.
On Monday, Canadian officials became the latest to reconsider rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in certain age groups. The decision marks another set back for the dose that has faced scrutiny over everything from trial protocol to efficacy data.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which provides guidance for the country, updated its advice, and is now recommending the shot not be given to those under the age of 55, while its potential link to blood clots is investigated further.
This follows weeks of questions in Europe about what connection the dose might have to blood clots in a small number of recipients.
Prince Edward Island and Quebec have now paused rollout of their doses.
Read the full story from Alex Boyd here.
3:30 p.m.: Health Canada is demanding that AstraZeneca do a detailed study on the risks and benefits of its COVID-19 vaccine across multiple age groups after getting more reports that patients in Europe developed blood clots following vaccination.
The agency says it has not received any reports of blood clots in Canada to date.
The regulators that review and authorize vaccines are not pulling AstraZeneca’s approval in Canada but say regulatory changes could still be made depending on what the results of this study show.
3:22 p.m.: Quebec is suspending the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for people under the age of 55 following concerns it may be linked to rare blood clots.
The province says in a news release that the decision was taken in conjunction with the Public Health Agency of Canada as well as provincial and federal vaccine advisory committees.
2:37 p.m.: Provinces began Monday to suspend use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after receiving word from Ottawa late Sunday night that a federal advisory committee will release new recommendations Monday that the vaccine should not be given to those under age 55 due to “rare” blood clotting issues in young adults, especially women in Europe.
2:30 p.m: The number of COVID-19 infections in Manitoba caused by a more contagious variant of the virus more than doubled on Monday.
On Monday, the province announced 136 previously announced COVID-19 infections had been caused by one of the variants. Five were reported in the Interlake–Eastern health region, 14 in Southern Health–Santé Sud and 117 in Winnipeg.
The total number of infections caused by one of the highly contagious variants, including those that have not yet been confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab, is 259. Out of those, 116 are caused by the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the U.K.
2:11 p.m.: Ontario moves the Middlesex-London region up to the red-control level of COVID restrictions because of worsening public health trends. Hamilton was moved into lockdown today, and Temiskaming moved into the red zone on Friday as the third wave takes deeper hold.
2 p.m. Ontario moves the Middlesex-London region up to the red-control level of COVID-19 restrictions because of worsening public health trends. Hamilton was moved into lockdown Monday, and Temiskaming into red on Friday as the third wave takes deeper hold.
1:50 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 today.
Health officials say the cases are in the Edmundston region, in the northwestern part of the province.
New Brunswick has 120 active reported cases of COVID-19 and four patients in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care.
The province has reported a total of 1,588 COVID-19 infections and 30 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.
1:24 p.m.: Health Canada is set to issue new recommendations on the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Canada’s Health Minister said Monday, as Prince Edward Island suspended its use of the shot for those aged 18 to 29.
Patty Hajdu confirmed the federal Health Department and Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization would provide an update later Monday.
She told a videoconference that Canada is closely monitoring investigations into possible adverse effects linked to the vaccine that are taking place in several jurisdictions.
1:19 p.m.: The Ontario government is providing an estimated $100 million for a new one-time Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant and $100 million for a new one-time recovery program.
“The tourism industry is critical to Ontario’s economy and we are providing significant financial support to ensure this sector will be able to survive the pandemic and contribute to our recovery,” said Premier Ford. “These tourism operators and businesses employ local people throughout the province and typically attract visitors from around the world. Our government will continue to have their backs during this difficult time.”
12:18 p.m.: Worsening COVID-19 indicators mean Toronto hair salons might not be able to re-open April 12 after all, Mayor John Tory said Monday.
Stressing he is going by observation, and not any information from the Ontario government, Tory told reporters during an unrelated online news conference that shaggy Torontonians and desperate salon owners might have to wait longer.
“I don’t think people should absolutely set their watch to that (date) because we have a very serious health situation on the go …,” Tory said. “It continues in fact to deteriorate to some extent, and that that requires all of us at the city level, at the provincial level, to be looking at (planned changes) on a day-by-day basis.”
11:20 a.m.: Prince Edward Island has suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for those aged 18 to 29 who had appointments for shots in pharmacies.
Health officials said in a brief statement the appointments are on hold pending further information expected today from Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
11:40 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 891 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including two in the past 24 hours.
Health officials say that while hospitalizations dropped by three to 477, the number of patients requiring intensive care rose by six to 120.
The province administered 38,801 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday and has vaccinated 14.9 per cent of the population with a first dose.
Since the pandemic began, Quebec has reported 309,202 COVID-19 infections and 10,651 deaths.
11:19 a.m.: The drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinic gets underway today at Canada’s Wonderland.
With mammoth rollercoasters looming in the background, some 400 people are expected to be vaccinated today with the opening of the Greater Toronto Area’s first drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Canada’s Wonderland.
The clinic in Vaughan is prepared to handle 100 cars, each carrying up to four York Region residents, a spokesperson said. Once fully operational, the site will ramp up to a total of 1,600 doses administered daily.
Read the full story from The Star’s Maria Sarrouh
11 a.m.: Ontario administered 50,453 vaccine doses Sunday, a significant drop from the previous day. As of Monday, the province has received 320,000 more doses than it has given, and another 450,000 is arriving this week from the federal government. Meanwhile, the province has now fully vaccinated 311,248 people, and 1.72 million have at least one dose, or about 11.5 per cent of the province’s population. Labs report 39,470 completed tests, with 6.1 per cent positive, both of which are the highest for a Monday since January 18.
Read the full story from The Star’s Ann Marie Elpa
10 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 2,094 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 39,500 tests completed. Ten new deaths have been reported. Locally there are 618 new cases in Toronto, 368 in Peel, 277 in York Region, 132 in Ottawa and 104 in Durham. As of 8 p.m. yesterday, 2,031,735 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
9 a.m. Hungary has vaccinated more of its population than any other country in the European Union, according to figures from an EU agency, but it continues to be one of the world’s worst in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.
The Central European country has given at least a first dose of a vaccine to 21.6% of its population, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, just ahead of the small island nation of Malta and surpassing the 27-member bloc’s average of 12.3%.
But Hungary’s high vaccination rate, a product of a procurement strategy that secured doses from China and Russia in addition to those provided by the EU, has been unable to slow a surge in the pandemic that has given it the highest two-week mortality rate per capita in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, has been critical of the speed of the EU’s vaccine rollout, and pushed for his country to break with the bloc and secure vaccine contracts with eastern countries. Hungary was the first in the EU to approve China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines, boosting supplies and making it an EU leader in the number of distributed doses per capita.
8:50 a.m. Pakistan on Monday launched a five-day vaccination campaign against polio despite facing another surge of coronavirus cases, the second anti-polio drive in 2021 as the country struggles to eradicate the crippling children’s disease.
This time, the campaign aims to vaccinate about 40 million children across Pakistan, said health official Saisal Sultan, who also oversees the country’s response to coronavirus.
Sultan said polio workers would follow social distancing measures and other precautions over the coronavirus. He urged people to co-operate by allowing polio teams to vaccine their children and asked authorities to provide protection to polio teams.
Pakistani militants regularly stage attacks on polio teams and police escorting them, claiming the anti-polio drive is part of a Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence.
These attacks increased after it was revealed that a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign was used as a ruse by the CIA in the hunt for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos in 2011 in Pakistan.
Monday’s anti-polio push began hours after authorities imposed a partial lockdown in several more high-risk areas in the country, after a jump in positive coronavirus tests. Pakistan has registered more than 659,000 coronavirus cases and 14,256 deaths.
8:45 a.m. Faster vaccination rates and encouraging economic signs, like patio dining and reopening malls, give hope that the new normal may not be far off. Yet, women — who bore the brunt of job losses, layoffs, reduced hours and child care during a year of COVID-19 lockdowns — worry what the return to a post-pandemic workforce will hold for them.
On Wednesday, the province took steps to directly address working women’s concerns in the new Ontario budget. Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy announced that the province will launch a gender equity task-force to study the economic barriers disproportionately faced by women and racialized people during the pandemic. In addition, the budget proposes a temporary 20 per cent top-up to the Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit as well as a temporary jobs training tax credit for those seeking training and employment in a new industry. Bethlenfalvy also committed to creating more child care spaces.
But what else needs to be done?
Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan
8:30 a.m. Ontarians with loved ones in nursing and retirement homes have no idea how many of the homes’ staff have COVID-19 vaccinations. That’s because the government database supposed to track this information, public health officials say, isn’t doing it in a reliable way.
A few weeks ago, a public health official said, the government added a feature to its COVax database that appears to allow monitoring of vaccination uptake rates by institution, which includes retirement and nursing homes.
But since it’s not a “required field,” it’s up to the person inputting the patient data at a hospital or vaccination clinic to choose to fill it in.
And that’s not happening regularly.
Read the full story from the Star’s Diana Zlomislic
8:10 a.m. Last year, the owner of a Toronto-based grocer says the staff’s biggest concern was dealing with customers panic buying and empty store shelves. He didn’t expect as the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on he’d have to deal with his staff being filmed and being sued by people who didn’t want to wear masks.
He says that at the beginning of the pandemic his stores were able to accommodate customers with medical conditions but after the summer, more and more came in claiming that they couldn’t wear a mask. The staff became worried so the stores instituted a mandatory mask policy before the province made it a rule last fall.
“In the beginning, I got some advice from a customer who says it’ll be helpful to say the staff is scared, why can’t you just wear a mask to appease them? They’re on the front lines and trying to get food to the people who come in,” said the owner of the store, who the Star has granted anonymity because he is worried that people would return to his stores and harass its workers.
“It didn’t work. There’s no scenario they’ll accept except not wearing a mask. We co-ordinated with our online delivery service to get them free delivery vouchers, but it didn’t matter. There was no solution that would satisfy them.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Karon Liu
7:50 a.m. Two additional COVID-19 vaccine clinics open Monday morning in Toronto for those born in 1951 or earlier: Mitchell Field Arena and Malvern Community Recreation Centre. Those eligible can book an appointment online toronto.ca/covid19 or call 1-888-999-6488.
Read the full story from the Star’s Kevin Jiang
7:40 a.m. As the pandemic clock ticked over into its second year, the federal Liberal government claimed it had responded quickly and nimbly to the COVID-19 global disaster.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she worked around the clock to buy vaccines long before we knew which ones worked.
Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Canada moved quickly to revive its anemic vaccine and therapeutics manufacturing industry.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu took credit for inventing CERB — the emergency payments to individuals to stave off disaster when governments ordered Canadians to stay home in the first wave last spring.
And Hajdu accepted — but downplayed — findings of a critical federal audit last week that the Public Health Agency of Canada, her responsibility, was not ready for the pandemic and underestimated the potential impact of the virus at its onset.
Read the full story from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles
7:05 a.m.: The number of patients in intensive care in France is fast approaching the worst point of the country’s last coronavirus surge in the autumn of 2020, another indicator of how a renewed crush of infections is bearing down on French hospitals.
The French government count of COVID-19 patients in ICUs and hospital surveillance units climbed to 4,872 on Sunday night. That is just short of the last high-point of 4,919 ICU cases on Nov. 16, when France was also gripped by a virus surge and was locked down in response.
With ICU admissions continuing to increase by double digits on a daily basis, that November peak could be overtaken within days. Doctors are increasingly sounding the alarm that they may have to start turning patients away for ICU care, particularly in the Paris region.
6:38 a.m.: The government minister tasked with overseeing Japan’s coronavirus vaccination campaign on Monday urged the European Union to ensure stable exports of European-made vaccines, warning that any attempt to suspend shipments amid a shortage in Europe would harm relations.
Vaccine Minister Taro Kono’s comments in an interview with The Associated Press come as it looks increasingly uncertain that Japan will be able to source the number of vaccine doses it wanted before hosting the Olympics in four months.
“I’m extremely concerned that our friendly relations between Japan and the EU would be (adversely) affected if a shipment (to Japan) is suspended,” Kono said.
Despite the Japanese government’s repeated request for the EU to grant a bulk approval for exports of the Pfizer vaccine, the only vaccine approved so far in Japan, the EU only grants approval per shipment, which causes supply uncertainty, Kono said.
“We’ve been telling them not to affect our friendly relations and I hope the EU will grant a bulk approval for shipments to Japan,” said Kono, wearing an EU mask with the message “#Stronger Together” and a stamp of tiny Japanese and EU flag on each side.
6:02 a.m.: A joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press.
The findings offer little new insight into how the virus began to spread around the globe and many questions remain unanswered, though that was as expected. But the report did provide more detail on the reasoning behind the researchers’ conclusions. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.
The report’s release has been repeatedly delayed, raising questions about whether the Chinese side was trying to skew the conclusions to prevent blame for the pandemic falling on China. A World Health Organization official said late last week that he expected it would be ready for release “in the next few days.”
Read more here.
5:38 a.m.: New research suggests that while Canadians feel COVID-19 will have negative consequences on mental health and the economy, they feel it will be good for online shopping and public mask-wearing once the pandemic is over.
The findings are from a phone survey by the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research at the University of Saskatchewan.
It asked about 1,000 people during the first two weeks of March what kind of long-term impacts they thought the health crisis would have on different areas of life.
“Given that vaccinations are now starting to roll out … people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said research director Jason Disano.
“It seems like a great opportunity to really get a sense of how people are feeling in terms of what life may or may not look like post-COVID.”
Specifically, people were asked to imagine a world where COVID-19 was under control, and to pick whether they thought the virus would have a positive or negative effect or no impact at all on a certain category.
Read more here.
5:36 a.m.: As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks.
The military commander handling logistics for Canada’s vaccine distribution program says there will be enough vaccine delivered to give a first dose before Canada Day to every adult who wants one.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin says that’s if provinces follow the advice to delay second doses up to four months.
He also cautions that it is dependent on having no production delays again.
Read more here.
5:35 a.m.: Canada is scheduled to receive a flood of new COVID-19 vaccine doses this week, with around 3.3 million shots due for delivery from different pharmaceutical companies over the coming days.
The expected influx would mark the single-largest week of deliveries into Canada since the start of the pandemic, thanks to planned shipments from three different sources.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says Pfizer and BioNTech are scheduled to ship nearly 1.2 million doses this week, as the two companies continue pumping out shots at a rapid pace.
The federal government is also expecting around 1.5 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the United States on Tuesday, which will arrive by truck and represent the first to come from south of the border.
Canada’s vaccines to date have all come from Europe, with the exception of 500,000 AstraZeneca doses from India earlier this month.
The government also says Moderna will make good on its promised delivery of 600,000 shots this coming Thursday, which is about a week later than expected.
Moderna was supposed to have shipped around 846,000 shots to Canada last week, but only a fraction was actually delivered due to what the company and government have described as a backlog in its quality-assurance testing.
5:34 a.m.: Stricter public health measures come into force in two Ontario regions today as the province continues ramping up its vaccine drive.
Hamilton is going into the strictest grey-lockdown phase of Ontario’s pandemic response plan today, while the Eastern Ontario Health Unit enters the second-strictest red zone.
But as of today, those who live in grey zones will be able to attend fitness classes outdoors.
Premier Doug Ford made that announcement Friday, when he also revealed that hair salons and other personal care services will be able to reopen in grey zones on April 12.
Meanwhile, the government lowered the minimum age for vaccine eligibility in 10 more public health units last night, from 75 down to 70.
It also announced that people aged 70 and older in York Region, who had previously only been able to book vaccines through the regional service, can now use the provincial system to make appointments.
5:33 a.m.: Portugal is tightening its flight restrictions due to COVID-19, introducing stricter limits on arrivals from other European Union countries where the pandemic has worsened.
The Interior Ministry announced Monday that people arriving from countries with an incidence rate of more than 500 per 100,000 population over 14 days must quarantine for two weeks and can only come on essential business.
That measure covers 11 EU countries, including France and Italy.
For another 15 EU countries with a case rate of more than 150 per 100,000, only essential travel is permitted to Portugal. Those countries include Germany and the Netherlands.
All arriving passengers must show a negative PCR test from the previous 24 hours.
5:32 a.m.: Missourians have driven hours to find vaccines in rural counties — at least those with cars and the time. Tens of thousands of doses are waiting to be distributed, slowly being rolled out in a federal long-term care program. Waitlists are hundreds of thousands of people long. Black residents are getting left behind.
Missouri’s rocky vaccine rollout places it among the bottom states nationwide, with 23.7 per cent of the population vaccinated with at least one dose as of Thursday, compared with the national average of 26.3 per cent. If Missouri were on par with the national rate, that would be roughly equivalent to more than 162,000 additional people vaccinated, or almost the entire population of the city of Springfield.
Part of the problem, health experts said, is that the state bypassed its 115 local health departments in its initial vaccine rollout plans. Instead, state officials largely outsourced the work to hospitals, consultants and federal programs, reasoning hospitals and mass vaccination sites had the workforce and facilities to deliver high numbers of vaccines.
5:31 a.m.: It’s being dubbed Happy Monday.
England is embarking on a major easing of its latest coronavirus lockdown that came into force at the start of the year, with families and friends able to meet up in outdoor spaces and many sports permitted once again.
And, as if right on cue, the weather is turning, with temperatures rising to levels more akin to southern Spain at this time of year.
Under Monday’s easing, groups of up to six, or two households, can socialize in parks and gardens once more, while outdoor sports facilities can reopen after the stark stay-at-home order, which has seen new coronavirus cases fall dramatically over the past three months, officially ended.
After months of being cooped up at home, many people are relishing the prospect of being able to to enjoy their outdoor sport of choice, from tennis to open-air swimming. Organized team sports, such as children’s football clubs, can start up again too.
Monday 5:30 a.m.: Asian stocks rose Monday after Wall Street hit a new high and investors were encouraged by government stimulus and the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.
Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced.
Wall Street’s advance Friday was led by stocks that would benefit if vaccinations and government spending boost the U.S. economy as much as expected.
Vaccines and stimulus have “helped to create an aura of high optimism,” John Bilton of JP Morgan Asset Management said in a report. He said “above-trend global growth” should last into 2022 and regions such as Europe that are at “peak pessimism” due to vaccine delays should accelerate later this year.
9:30 p.m. Sunday: Toronto Public Health has recommended that three elementary schools in the city be shuttered and students move to online learning. The health unit tweeted Sunday that it “recommended the temporary dismissal of all school cohorts at St. Dominic Savio Catholic School, Brian Public School & Victoria Village Public School as a result of ongoing #COVID19 investigations.”
Currently, Brian and Victoria Village are the only two schools closed in the Toronto District School Board on the order of public health, according to its website. (Another couple of schools have switched students to remote learning because of related issues, such as staffing.)
The Toronto Catholic board’s website says Our Lady of Victory and St. Charles Garnier have also been shut down.
In an email Sunday night, St. Dominic Savio staff were told that “beginning (Monday), the school will be temporarily dismissed until Toronto Public Health has completed their full investigation. Teachers and staff will pivot to online learning starting tomorrow until further notice. Further information and updates from TPH will be forthcoming.”
Julie Altomare-DiNunzio, president of Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers, told the Star that “given the variants of concern and the high numbers of COVID-19 cases in Toronto” her union is asking that all Toronto schools move online for now.
Read Sunday’s coronavirus news.