The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
6:46 p.m. A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province, Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced Thursday, The Canadian Press reports.
The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out.
Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but sorting out whether new variants will have a public health impact can take time.
South Africa has seen a dramatic rise in new infections, Phaahla said at an online press briefing.
“Over the last four or five days, there has been more of an exponential rise,” he said, and addeed that the new variant appears to be driving the spike in cases.
Scientists in South Africa are working to determine what percentage of the new cases have been caused by the new variant.
Identified as B.1.1.529, the new variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong in travelers from South Africa, Phaahla said.
The World Health Organization’s technical working group is to meet Friday to assess the new variant and may decide whether or not to give it a name from the Greek alphabet.
The new variant has a “constellation” of new mutations, said Tulio de Oliveira, from the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, who has tracked the spread of the delta variant in the country.
The “very high number of mutations is a concern for predicted immune evasion and transmissibility,” said de Oliveira.
“This new variant has many, many more mutations,” including more than 30 to the spike protein that affects transmissibility, he said. “We can see that the variant is potentially spreading very fast.
“We do expect to start seeing pressure in the healthcare system in the next few days and weeks.
“We are concerned by the jump in evolution in this variant,” he said. The one piece of good news is that it can be detected by a PCR test, he said.
After a period of relatively low transmission in which South Africa recorded just over 200 new confirmed cases per day, in the past week the daily new cases rapidly increased to more than 1,200 on Wednesday. On Thursday they jumped to 2,465.
Gupta said scientists in South Africa need time to determine if the surge in new cases is attributable to the new variant.
About 41 per cent of South Africa’s adults have been vaccinated and the number of shots being given per day is relatively low, at less than 130,000, significantly below the government’s target of 300,000 per day.
South Africa, with a population of 60 million, has recorded more than 2.9 million COVID-19 cases including more than 89,000 deaths.
5:27 p.m. Kids in Ontario should wear a mask when taking photos with Santa Claus this year and should try to visit him outdoors or virtually if possible.
That’s one section of new guidance from Ontario’s chief medical officer, shared Thursday as residents prepare for the second pandemic December holidays, The Canadian Press reports.
COVID-19 vaccinations have changed the circumstances this year and the guidance says groups of fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks at indoor holiday gatherings if everyone is comfortable, according to CP.
However, it’s recommended that people wear masks and keep their distance from others if they are meeting with people from different households who aren’t vaccinated, are partially vaccinated or whose vaccination status isn’t known.
Hosts are advised to keep indoor gatherings within the provincial limit of 25 people, keep windows open and ask people not to attend if they have symptoms.
It’s also recommended that hosts keep a list of guests in case it’s needed for contact tracing, and host events outdoors if possible.
Those attending organized public events, such as parades or lighting ceremonies, should try to avoid crowds and maintain a distance from others.
The guidance says people performing in parades should be fully vaccinated and wear masks if they can’t keep their distance from others.
Workplaces hosting holiday parties are advised to pick venues with enough space to enable people to be at a distance from one another.
The province is advising that people who are travelling be fully vaccinated before they set out.
People staying overnight at different households should sleep in separate rooms if some of those there are not vaccinated. They are also advised to have a plan for what to do if someone becomes ill during the visit.
4:20 p.m. Ontario’s top doctor says the rising COVID-19 infection curve in the province is a continuation of the fourth wave that started earlier in the September, and not the start of a fifth wave, The Canadian Press reports.
Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, says case counts never got back to a low level, despite a slight dip before steadily increasing again in late October, according to CP.
He says the higher case counts were anticipated as people moved indoors in the cold weather and says the trend will likely continue into January and February.
He says people should remain vigilant over the next several months until the weather warms up in the spring, allowing for more outdoor gatherings, and more people become eligible for third vaccine doses.
Ontario reported 748 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and five more virus-related deaths as the seven-day average for infections climbed to 692.
Some health units in the province’s north and southwest are struggling with local case surges and Moore says the province is working on sending resources to help.
3:36 p.m. Prince Edward Island is reporting two new cases of COVID-19, The Canadian Press reports.
Chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, says one case involves a person in their 60s and the other involves a person in their 40s, according to CP.
She says one case is linked to a cluster that began in Prince County and that the other is linked to a workplace outbreak.
There are now 25 cases linked to the Prince County cluster.
Prince Edward Island has 37 active reported cases of COVID-19.
Islanders who experience any symptoms of COVID-19 are being urged to get tested.
2:57 p.m. Manitoba has launched its province-wide campaign to immunize children ages five to 11 against COVID-19, The Canadian Press reports.
Several kids got a first dose of the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech today at the RBC Convention Centre super vaccination site in downtown Winnipeg, according to CP.
Dr. Jared Bullard, a pediatrician whose 11-year-old got a shot, says he’s looking forward to his son playing sports without worrying about the virus.
The province started administering first doses to younger children yesterday afternoon, a day earlier than expected.
Nearly 25,000 appointments have been made since the booking system opened for the age group four days ago.
The pediatric vaccine is only available at vaccine clinics, but it is to be administered at doctors’ officers, pharmacies, urban Indigenous clinics and some schools, eventually.
2:47 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting 95 new cases of COVID-19 today, The Canadian Press reports.
The province has 743 active reported infections and 54 people in hospital with the disease, including 18 in intensive care, according to CP.
There is one person under the age of 19 currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
Chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, says that more than 8,300 COVID-19 vaccine appointments have been booked since Tuesday for children aged five to 11.
She says additional clinics will be added in the Moncton and Fredericton regions to meet demand.
Russell says more than 130 pharmacies will also take part in dispensing the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, adding that they will begin receiving shipments between Dec. 2 and Dec. 8.
2:42 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting another COVID-19-related death and 22 new cases of the disease today, The Canadian Press reports.
Health officials say a man in his 70s in the central area of the province has died due to the novel coronavirus, according to CP.
Nova Scotia has 169 active reported cases of COVID-19 and 17 people in hospital with the disease, including five in intensive care.
Officials also say there’s evidence of limited community spread in northern Nova Scotia and in Halifax.
There are no new cases at East Cumberland Lodge in Pugwash, N.S., where a total of 32 residents and 11 staff at the long-term care home have tested positive and where three residents have died.
2:30 p.m.: Portugal is bringing back some tight pandemic restrictions, less than two months after scrapping most of them when the goal of vaccinating 86 per cent of the population against COVID-19 was reached.
A recent rise in coronavirus infections compelled the government to act, Prime Minister António Costa said Thursday, though he noted that his country hasn’t seen a surge on the scale witnessed elsewhere in Europe.
From Dec. 1, wearing a face mask will once again be mandatory in enclosed spaces; a digital certificate proving vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus must be shown to enter restaurants, cinemas and hotels; and even inoculated people must have a negative test to visit hospitals, elderly care homes, sports events and bars and discos.
Furthermore, everyone arriving on a flight from abroad must present a negative test result.
The government also recommended regular self-testing and working from home whenever possible.
The rollout of booster shots is being stepped up, Costa said.
1:32 p.m. The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out several years of social progress in Colombia, saddling the country with higher levels of financial distress and joblessness, according to the government.
“We lost 8 years in our fight against unemployment, poverty and inequality,” Finance Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo said Thursday, at an event in Bogota.
Colombia is expected to grow almost 10 per cent this year, its fastest pace in decades, and gross domestic product has already recovered pre-pandemic levels. But the country must work to ensure that this year’s rapid growth doesn’t leave behind the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, Restrepo said.
1:10 p.m. Saskatchewan has extended its public health order related to COVID-19 until the end of January.
That means masks will remain mandatory for indoor public spaces, including schools, and the province’s vaccine passport system will remain in place.
Premier Scott Moe says the extension will allow the government to monitor how the Christmas season affects COVID-19 cases.
Moe says the measures in place have been working and notes the province is in a much better situation heading into this year’s holidays than it was last year.
He says COVID-19 cases are declining, down about 80 per cent from the peak a few weeks ago.
12:50 p.m. Quebec’s effort to vaccinate children under the age of 12 entered its second day on Thursday, as the province reported the highest number of new daily infections since mid-September.
Health officials said 163,000 appointments had been booked as of 9 a.m. on Thursday for children between the ages of five and 11, representing about one-quarter of eligible children. Premier François Legault congratulated the “brave” kids who got vaccinated Wednesday, on the first day of the province’s pediatric immunization campaign.
“I’m proud of them, really,” Legault tweeted, also thanking parents and the teams working at vaccine centres.
12:32 p.m. Members of Parliament will vote Thursday on whether they can attend the House of Commons virtually, or must be there in person.
Members returned to the chamber this week after a months-long hiatus following the September federal election and COVID-19 pandemic, when Parliament operated in a hybrid model.
The Liberal government believes MPs should continue to have the option to appear for votes and debates via videoconference.
12 p.m. Quebec is reporting 902 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, the highest number of new daily infections since mid-September.
Officials are also reporting five more deaths attributed to the coronavirus.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped by one from the prior day, to 210, after 20 patients entered hospital with the disease and 21 were discharged.
The number of intensive care patients also dropped by one, to 45.
11:45 a.m. A First Nation in northern Ontario says it requires additional help as it grapples with a potential lung infection outbreak.
Constance Lake First Nation, a community of over 900 residents, declared a state of emergency Monday after probable cases of blastomycosis and three recent deaths came to light.
In a news release, the First Nation says it has reported 44 cases — including eight in children — under investigation for the lung infection, which is typically caused by a fungus that grows in moist soil, leaves and rotting wood.
Ontario has administered 12,566 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,845,723 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.
According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,614,857 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 89.1 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 78.1 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.
9:20 a.m. World Health Organization officials met on Thursday to discuss a new coronavirus variant circulating in South Africa and Botswana.
The new variant, called B.1.1529, carries an unusually large number of mutations, Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, said in a statement published by the Science Media Centre. It’s likely to have evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient, he said.
“It is difficult to predict how transmissible it may be at this stage,” Balloux said. “For the time being, it should be closely monitored and analysed, but there is no reason to get overly concerned, unless it starts going up in frequency in the near future.”
South Africa has detected 22 cases of the variant, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a statement.
8:50 a.m. France has launched a plan Thursday to give COVID-19 booster shots to all adults, as it opted against a further lockdown or curfew to help combat a worrying uptick in infections in the country.
Coronavirus infections have peaked in France over the last few days, with daily new cases rising above the 30,000 mark.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran laid out the plans during a press conference in which he announced a reduction in the time gap between second and third shots from six to five months. He said France already has enough vaccines to launch the nationwide booster campaign.
8:31 a.m. Denmark has joined other European nations in offering a third COVID-19 vaccination shot to everyone over the age of 18 amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
The Danish Health Authority said Thursday the “decline in immunity is also happening for people in the younger age groups.”
Helene Probst, deputy head of the government agency, said “revaccination is offered at the same interval to everyone over 18 years of age.”
7:42 a.m. Crimped by the coronavirus pandemic last year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is returning Thursday in full albeit with precautions.
Balloons, floats, marching bands, clowns and performers — and, of course, Santa Claus — will once again wend though 4 km of Manhattan streets, instead of being confined to one block or sometimes pre-taped last year.
Spectators, shut out in 2020, can line the route again. High school and college marching bands from around the country have been invited back to the lineup; most of last year’s performers were locally based to cut down on travel. The giant balloons, tethered to vehicles last year, are getting their costumed handlers back.
“Last year was obviously symbolic. It wasn’t everything we would have liked to see in a parade, but they kept it going,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news briefing Wednesday. “This year, the parade’s back at full strength.”
7:15 a.m. The European Union’s drug regulator on Thursday authorized Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for use on children from 5 to 11 years old, clearing the way for shots to be administered to millions of elementary school pupils amid a new wave of infections sweeping across the continent.
It is the first time the European Medicines Agency has cleared a COVID-19 vaccine for use in young children.
The agency said it “recommended granting an extension of indication for the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty to include use in children aged 5 to 11.”
6:20 a.m. Official figures released Thursday show Germany has become the latest country to surpass 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Germany’s disease control agency said it recorded 351 additional deaths in connection with the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, taking the total toll to 100,119.
In Europe, Germany is the fifth country to pass that mark, after Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.
The Robert Koch Institute, a federal agency that collects data from some 400 regional health offices, said Germany also set a record for daily confirmed cases — 75,961 in a 24-hour period. Since the start of the outbreak, Germany has had more than 5.57 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.
:30 a.m. COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged five to 11 are ramping up in Ontario Thursday.
The City of Toronto’s pediatric vaccine campaign is picking up in earnest today with kid-friendly clinics and others happening in schools and communities.
Public health in Windsor, Ont., says it is also taking appointments for young kids today, and the city’s police force has said it will be on-site for planned protests at the sites.
A clinic in Hamilton is offering shots today for Indigenous people and their household members above the age of five.
Parent or guardian consent is required for kids to get the shots.
Other health units are offering the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech shots on designated days this weekend and in the coming weeks.
The report paints the most detailed picture yet of breakthrough cases — and who is getting very sick despite being fully vaccinated — showing that the majority of those who need hospital care are adults over the age of 60, with the highest proportion in their 80s.
Experts say the findings underscore that vaccines are working well to prevent infections and hospitalizations. But they also support opening up third doses of the COVID vaccine to more older adults, and highlight why masking and other public health measures are still critical at this stage of the pandemic to protect the most vulnerable.
“It’s clear that vaccines are working phenomenally well,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert and a former member of Ontario’s now disbanded vaccine task force.
4:30 a.m. After congratulating itself for months for its management of the COVID-19 pandemic, Quebec’s governing Coalition Avenir Québec party is on the defensive following an explosive report of its handling of long-term care during spring 2020.
The vulnerable residents of the province’s underfunded long-term care homes were largely an afterthought in the government’s pandemic preparedness plans, Quebec Ombudswoman Marie Rinfret concluded in her report released Tuesday.
She said 4,000 residents died between February and June 2020 — nearly 70 per cent of the COVID-19 deaths in Quebec during the first wave.
Rinfret’s report and an ongoing coroner’s inquiry into long-term care deaths have been at the heart of testy exchanges this week at the legislature. They have also renewed the opposition’s demands for a public inquiry into the government’s pandemic response.
4 a.m. The Liberal government on Wednesday introduced its newest — and what it hopes to be its last — pandemic aid legislation, proposing a scaled-back suite of financial supports for Canadians still bruised by the public health crisis.
“Bill C-2 is designed with an understanding that our economic recovery is still uneven, and that the public health measures that are saving lives continue to restrict some economic activity,” Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters.
“I see this legislation as very much the last step in our COVID support programs,” she added. “It is what I really hope and truly believe is the final pivot.”
Freeland introduced the aid bill one month after she first announced that the Canada Response Benefit, as well as the emergency wage and rent subsidy programs, would wind down on Oct. 23. At the time, she said those programs would be swapped out and revamped into $7.4 billion worth of targeted supports for workers facing local lockdowns, those in the tourism and hospitality sectors and other hard-hit businesses.
Source : https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/11/25/covid-19-coronavirus-updates-toronto-canada-november-25.html