The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
11 a.m. A civil liberties group says Nova Scotia's decision to close provincial boundaries to non-essential travel is unconstitutional.
Cara Faith Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote a letter dated May 11 to Premier Iain Rankin saying the rules violate mobility rights guaranteed in the Charter and should be scrapped.
Rankin closed the province's boundaries to the rest of the country on Monday to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and said the measure will be in effect until at least the end of May.
Health officials in the province have reported more than 100 new cases a day since May 1; the number of active reported cases stood at 1,591 as of Tuesday, and there were 64 people in hospital with the disease, including 10 receiving intensive care.
Zwibel says despite the uptick in cases the travel restrictions may negatively impact Canadians trying to move to the province for family or to provide social support.
A spokesperson for Rankin was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
10:20 a.m.: (updated) Ontario is reporting 2,320 cases of COVID-19, 32 more deaths and nearly 45,700 tests completed. Locally, there are 712 new cases in Toronto, 452 in Peel, 157 in York Region and 139 in Durham and 113 in Hamilton.
The seven-day average is down to 2,826 cases a day or 136 weekly per 100,000, and down to 26.7 deaths a day. The province is reporting a 6.4 per cent positive rate, the lowest single day in 34 days.
10 a.m. A full-page newspaper ad in Japan has condemned the government for forcing people to endure the pandemic without vaccines.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is vowing to hold a safe Tokyo Olympics, even as hospitals struggle to find beds for the sick and dying in parts of Japan and many Japanese desperately wait for vaccinations.
Frustration is mounting over Suga’s request that people cooperate while he pushes to hold the Olympics in just over two months. More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled.
Last month, Suga declared a third state of emergency in Osaka, the center of the current surge in virus cases, as well as in Tokyo and two other areas. That has been extended through May 31. On Wednesday, two more areas, Aichi in central Japan and Fukuoka in the south, were placed under the emergency measures.
Only 1 per cent of the public has been fully vaccinated, even as millions of doses sit unused in freezers because of staff shortages.
9:30 a.m. Nearly 3,000 inmates at two prisons in Thailand’s capital have tested positive for COVID-19, the Corrections Department said Wednesday, as the country battles a new wave of the coronavirus.
The department said 1,785 of the 3,274 inmates tested positive at Bangkok Special Prison, which holds detainees ahead of trial. At the Central Women’s Correctional Institution, 1,040 of the 4,475 inmates were infected, it said.
The Corrections Department announced the infections after a prominent political activist released on bail last week announced Wednesday that she had tested positive for the virus. Panusaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul and fellow members of a student-led pro-democracy movement are awaiting trial on charges of defaming the monarchy, or lese majeste, which is punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment.
9:20 a.m. Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are not going to give themselves a do-over and reopen Ontario’s golf courses until the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Despite a furor from golfers and some unrest within the Tory caucus, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said Tuesday that shutting down activities like golf was about limiting mobility and socializing.
The province’s science table of doctors and epidemiologists, which pressed Ford for the controversial April 16 stay-at-home order that is likely to be extended to June 2, has insisted outdoor sports are safe.
That prompted Jones to fire back at the volunteer panel over what she characterized as contradictory advice.
“The science table also was very clear that they did not want people to be moving around, to be transmitting through movement between regions, communities,” the solicitor general said. “Those two issues together are actually fighting against each other.
“We don’t have a golf course at the end of every street, so we have to make sure that people continue to understand that the stay-at-home order is in to avoid unnecessary movement,” said Jones.
Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie
9:10 a.m. This week, I told U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins that when it comes to the state of discussions about reopening the Canada-U. S. border, officials at the negotiating table are being very quiet.
“I think you’re being generous. I don’t think there is a table. I don’t think anybody’s at it. Therein lies the problem.”
So yeah, if you were thinking about a vacation in the U.S. this summer — or of having relatives who live down south come visit you — maybe come up with a Plan B.
Higgins, the co-chair of the U.S. Congressional Northern Border Caucus, represents Western New York, where frequent cross-border travel is both a way of life and a linchpin of the economy. When I spoke to him earlier this year, he was advocating a plan to possibly loosen restrictions on border travel by Canada Day or July 4, or at least to have some guidelines in place about when, how and under what circumstances reopening might take place. This week, tens of millions of vaccinations later, he was suggesting September as a new possible date to shoot for. Even on that, he didn’t sound particularly optimistic.
“A public health crisis can be managed and at the same time, you can begin to lift some restrictions,” Higgins said of his position that the definition of “essential travellers” should be expanded, possibly with some sort of vaccine requirement. “If you wait for this to be eradicated, the border’s never gonna open again.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Edward Keenan
9 a.m. The German government has agreed to let travelers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from infection avoid testing and quarantine when entering the country, unless they come from areas where variants of concern are prevalent.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet on Wednesday approved a change to existing rules that will also allow non-vaccinated people to end their quarantine early if they test negative.
The measures are designed to make summer travel easier, particularly for families when parents are vaccinated and children aren’t.
German media have reported that doctors in the country are coming under growing pressure from people hoping to go on summer vacation to give them vaccines even though they aren't entitled to them yet.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said the country expects to roll out its digital immunity certificate by the end of June, making it easier to prove a person has been fully vaccinated.
The certificate can be stored in an app that can be used instead of the yellow World Health Organization vaccine booklet. The goal is for it to be compatible with a vaccine certification system being developed by the European Union.
“If we mange to do this for the EU in the coming weeks, then we'll likely set a global benchmark,” said Spahn, adding that other countries have yet to even agree a system at the national level.
8:50 a.m. Since buying Hack’s Tap & Grill sports bar in Kitchener in 2018, Wayne Kanold and Jirina Petrovitch have never filed an insurance claim.
The customers are polite and the atmosphere is calm, said Kanold. There are no bar brawls when the sports team of choice loses.
But that hasn’t prevented the insurance premiums on the business from skyrocketing when the time came to renew the policy in April.
Kanold discovered the new insurance premium for Hack’s would increase from $8,800 per year to almost $22,000 through a different insurer.
The staggering 150 per cent jump comes at a time when bars and restaurants are bracing for an extended stay-at-home order that could last into June and possibly longer.
“It makes no sense. We haven’t filed any claims before, but our broker says, ‘sorry, costs are going up,’ anyways,” said Kanold. “Some insurers told us they just don’t offer insurance for bars or restaurants at all anymore.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Jacob Lorinc
8:41 a.m. 1,531,418 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to date in Toronto.
8:30 a.m. Richmond Hill Coun. Karen Cilevitz took to social media to share her personal story of how COVID-19 infection has affected her family, urging people to remain cautious and get vaccinated.
Cilevitz, representing Richmond Hill's Ward 5 since 2014, wrote in a Facebook post that she and her husband, Derek Christie, both tested positive at Mackenzie Health Richmond Hill Hospital in the week of April 19.
While she had received her first dose of AstraZeneca, her husband had not yet been vaccinated.
Cilevitz said the difference in the level of illness between the two is "startling." Her symptoms have been relatively mild, she said, despite her belief that she was at greater risk than Christie, given her history of severe respiratory illnesses.
The councillor said the vaccine she received four weeks ago likely protected her from becoming seriously ill.
8:25 a.m. Four businesses in Mississauga and Caledon have been ordered to close for up to 10 days after Peel Public Health identified at least five cases of COVID-19 among employees at the workplace within the last two weeks.
On Tuesday, Master Manufacturing (2636 Drew Rd., Mississauga) and Material Handling Systems (12424 Dixie Rd., Caledon) were ordered to fully close. Partial closures were issued to ergoCentric Seating Systems (275 Superior Blvd., Mississauga) and Furiani Bakery (1730 Aimco Blvd., Mississauga).
A full closure applies "to an entire workplace premise," according to public health. "Partial closures" apply to a work area or mass dismissal of a shift.
Since April 24, 42 businesses have been ordered to fully or partially close. These businesses have been ordered to close under Section 22 of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.
8:20 a.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says a public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic will be held next year.
He told lawmakers Wednesday the inquiry will have wide-ranging statutory powers and the government has a responsibility to learn lessons from the pandemic. Johnson says the inquiry will begin its work next spring.
Families of those who have died during the pandemic have been asking Johnson to call an inquiry since last summer, but the prime minister consistently said the time wasn’t right.
The U.K. has recorded Europe’s highest coronavirus-related death toll, with more than 127,500 people dead. It’s the fifth-highest total in the world.
8:10 a.m. There are 773 patients with COVID-related critical illness now in adult and pediatric ICUs; 33 new admissions as of May 12.
8:06 a.m. The Ontario government has not ruled out reopening schools for in-person classes in June in areas with low COVID rates, but remains concerned about any potential risk involved in doing so, sources say.
With less than two months left in the school year, a growing number of the country’s top pediatric experts say the province should allow students back into class where it’s safe to do so, given the devastating impact the pandemic and resulting social isolation has had on their mental health and well-being.
Sources told the Star that’s not out of the question — but it will be up to the chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, to make the call.
On Monday, Williams said he too wants to see schools reopen first and would like to do so “as soon as we can,” although the province is now preparing to extend it stay-at-home order until June 2.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Tuesday that she has “always thought it was achievable to get our kids back into schools, but (Premier) Doug Ford hasn’t wanted to spend the money. We know that schools are important for kids, not only academically and pedagogically, but also because it helps with their mental health and socialization skills.
Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy and Robert Benzie
7:50 a.m. Carlo Escario says he’s ready for his removal and return to his native Philippines — he just wants Canada to let him to stay here for 40 more days.
The 36-year-old from Quezon City worked at Toronto General Hospital since 2014 as a hemodialysis assistant. Until two weeks ago, he was working directly with COVID-19 patients in the intensive-care unit.
As a front-line essential health care worker, he received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in February, but says the appointment for the second shot isn’t until June 11.
With the Philippines now battling a second wave of COVID-19 and less than two per cent of the population having been vaccinated, Escario asked Canada Border Services Agency to defer his removal, scheduled for this Thursday, May 13 to June 22 (a date accommodating the 10-day buffer in case of any adverse effects from the second shot).
Read the full story from the Star’s Nicholas Keung
7:40 a.m. Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones will provide an update on the province's COVID-19 vaccination plan at noon Wednesday.
7:30 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau summed up Tuesday the extent of the federal government’s COVID-19 reopening strategy: get everyone one shot of a vaccine by this summer and a second dose by fall.
“A one-dose summer sets us up for a two-dose fall when we’ll be able to talk about going back to school, back to work, and back to more normality,” he said.
“That’s what the coming months could look like.”
But what those months will look like in practice is largely up to the provinces, Trudeau said, as they’ll decide what restrictions can stay or go — and those decisions equally rest on what Canadians themselves are prepared to do.
“Everyone needs to do their part. Get the case numbers down and keep them down and get vaccinated,” he said.
“That’s how we get through this.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz
7:25 a.m. Before Ontario announced a pause on first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, residents had already begun snubbing it in favour of Pfizer or Moderna.
A family health centre in Milton last month decided to offer the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It found hundreds of people drove in to be vaccinated from all over the province each week.
Uptake had been overwhelming — until now.
“Last week was relatively normal. We did 300 doses,” said Gina Mannella, the executive director of Prime Care Family Health Team, before the announcement Tuesday. “And then this week, it just died.”
After Ontario announced Friday that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which had mostly been distributed at city and hospital clinics, would be offered at more than 130 pharmacies, people called Prime Care asking what vaccines it offered.
“And they all wanted Pfizer or Moderna,” said Mannella.
Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden
6:32 a.m.: Thousands of Ontarians found themselves unexpectedly in immunization limbo Tuesday afternoon, following an announcement that the province was suspending the use of AstraZeneca following an uptick in rare blood clotting complications.
More than 850,000 doses of the beleaguered British vaccine have been administered in the province so far, many of them to jubilant Gen Xers who turned out in droves after the shot’s age of eligibility was dropped to 40 last month.
Many of those people are wondering what this announcement means for them, particularly with the time for a second dose rapidly approaching. So what happens now?
Read the full story from the Star’s Alex Boyd here.
6:30 a.m.: India has confirmed 4,205 more deaths, setting another daily record and taking its official COVID-19 toll past 250,000 as it battles a ferocious surge in infections.
Around 370,000 new cases were added in the last 24 hours, pushing India’s total past 23 million, according to the health ministry. The figures are considered vast undercounts due to insufficient testing and records among other factors.
On Tuesday, authorities warned that nearly 90% of districts in the country are seeing a high positivity rate, sparking fears the virus is spreading fast into rural areas.
India's recent surge has been blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies.
Even though daily cases have shown very early signs of flattening, experts have cautioned authorities to not let down their guard. With nearly 4 million cases still active, health care systems remain strained with limited hospital beds, oxygen and medicine.
Many states have imposed their own restrictions to curb infections, and the southern state of Telangana became the latest to announce a 10-day lockdown on Tuesday. Calls and pressure for a nationwide lockdown have been mounting.
6:30 a.m.: Coronavirus infections in Pakistan have been on a decline for more than two weeks after rising for over two months amid a nationwide lockdown.
Pakistan reported less than 3,000 cases in the past 24 hours, showing a steady decline in COVID-19 cases. But experts say it is too early to assume Pakistan has peaked.
In an effort aimed at containing the spread of the virus, Pakistan's government last week imposed a lockdown ahead of Eid al-Fitr which is likely to be celebrated on Friday subject to sight of moon.
Pakistan has also expanded its vaccination program to protect people from coronavirus by offering free vaccinations to those who are 30 years old or above.
Pakistan reported 104 single-day fatalities in the past 24 hours.
Since last year, Pakistan has reported 19,210 fatalities from coronavirus among 867,438 COVID-19 cases.
6:29 a.m.: A panel of independent experts who reviewed the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic says the U.N. health agency should be granted “guaranteed rights of access” in countries to investigate emerging outbreaks, a contentious idea that would give it more powers and require member states to give up some of theirs.
In a report released Wednesday, the panel faulted countries worldwide for their sluggish response to COVID-19, saying most waited to see how the virus was spreading until it was too late to contain it, leading to catastrophic results. The group also slammed the lack of global leadership and restrictive international health laws that “hindered” WHO’s response to the pandemic.
Some experts criticized the panel for failing to hold WHO and others accountable for their actions during COVID-19, describing that as “an abdication of responsibility.”
Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University said the panel "fails to call out bad actors like China, perpetuating the dysfunctional WHO tradition of diplomacy over frankness, transparency and accountability.”
The panel was led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who were tapped by WHO last year to examine the U.N. agency’s response to COVID-19 after bowing to a request from member countries.
“The situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented,” Johnson Sirleaf said.
6:28 a.m.: Coronavirus cases are exploding in Asia and the Pacific with over 5.9 million new confirmed infections in the past two weeks, more than in all other regions combined, the International Federation of the Red Cross said Wednesday.
It warned that the surge is pushing hospitals and health systems to the brink of collapse.
Seven out of 10 countries globally that are doubling their infection numbers the fastest are in Asia and the Pacific, it said. Laos took just 12 days to see its cases double, and the number of confirmed infections in India has doubled in under two months to more than 23 million, the Red Cross said in a statement.
It said Oxford University’s Our World in Data reported more than 5.9 million new COVID-19 infections in Asia and the Pacific during the two weeks. Official figures for much of the region are widely believed to be undercounts.
“COVID-19 is exploding across much of Asia, overwhelming hospitals and health care. More people have been diagnosed with the disease in Asia over the past two weeks than in the Americas, Europe, and Africa combined,” Red Cross Asia Pacific director Alexander Matheou said.
6:27 a.m.: A summer of backyard barbecues and picnics in the park?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s possible if people keep rolling up their sleeves and don’t ease COVID-19 public-health restrictions until cases are down.
“We can have that summer, we can have a one-dose summer ... And a one-dose summer sets us up for a two-dose fall when we’ll be able to talk about going back to school back to work and back to more normality,” he says.
“That’s what the coming months could look like. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Canada hit a major milestone on the road to COVID-19 herd immunity Tuesday, with 40 per cent of Canadians — 15.2 million people — now vaccinated with at least their first dose.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said 75 per cent is the target for first doses so lifting restrictions doesn’t result in a fourth wave.
The news comes even as Ontario and Alberta announce they will no longer be giving first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Supply of that vaccine has been tight of late and there have been concerns about the risk of blood clots that come with that type of shot.
6:25 a.m.: Alberta’s justice minister says he was wrong to accuse Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Alberta’s Opposition NDP, and the media of rooting for COVID-19 to buckle his province’s health system.
“I would like to offer an apology for my recent comments on my personal Facebook account,” Kaycee Madu wrote on Twitter Tuesday night.
“Alberta is facing an unprecedented public health crisis. My comments were wrong, as all Canadians want this global pandemic to end as soon as possible.
“I fully support the premier’s recent call to avoid the divisive political rhetoric during what we all hope is the final period of this pandemic and will continue the important work of government in protecting Albertans from this virus.”
The apology came a day after Madu’s spokesman, Blaise Boehmer, told reporters in a statement that Madu was standing by his accusations, adding, “The minister won’t apologize for stating the obvious.”
Earlier Tuesday, prior to Madu’s apology, Trudeau rejected the accusations.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
In Canada, the provinces are reporting 340,259 new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,597,932 doses given. Nationwide, 1,285,391 people or 3.4 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 43,794.851 per 100,000.
There were 1,698,558 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 19,853,152 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 83.6 per cent of their available vaccine supply.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
There are 1,299,572 confirmed cases in Canada (78,039 active, 1,196,819 resolved, 24,714 deaths). The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.
There were 5,373 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 205.34 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 49,623 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 7,089.
There were 32 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 321 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 46. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.03 per 100,000 people.
There have been 32,867,352 tests completed.