Today’s coronavirus news: Canada surpasses 400,000 vaccinations in one day, breaking record; Ontario reports 3,166 cases of COVID-19; Canadian unemployment rate rises
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. Web links to longer stories if available.9:25 p.m.: Governments across Canada have been withholding COVID-19 data in an exercise of “paternalistic” information-hoarding likely meant to regulate public reaction to the pandemic, says an access-to-information advocate.Sean Holman, an access to information expert and journalism professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said uproar in British Columbia Friday over revelations the provincial government was only releasing a fraction of its COVID-19 data to the public is just one example of such secrecy.“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Holman, who stressed B.C. is particularly notorious for withholding information. “But it really emphasizes the need for governments across Canada to provide more information to the general public about what’s going on during this public health disaster.”The B.C. government was quickly on the defensive Friday morning after a Vancouver Sun report showed how little of the data the province has collected is being released to the public. The paper had been leaked two reports from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, both over 45 pages long.“Canadians, as a whole, should be outraged that fellow Canadians are being infantilized in this way,” Holman said.Read the full story here from Jeremy Nuttall.8 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford is fighting a golf war against some in his own Progressive Conservative caucus, the Star has learned.Tory MPPs were told earlier this week that golf courses will remain closed until at least June 2 as part of the lockdown measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.That’s despite the fact the current stay-home order is scheduled to expire May 19, though Solicitor General Sylvia Jones is widely expected to extend it by two weeks until June 2.“We get more calls about this (from constituents) than anything else,” said one frustrated Conservative MPP, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke confidentially in order to discuss internal deliberations.“Golfers are upset and I don’t blame them,” added the member, insisting those who hit the links are part of the Tories’ voting “base.”Read the exclusive story here from Robert Benzie. 7:30 p.m. Canada surpassed 400,000 vaccinations in a single day today, the highest single-day total to date, The Canadian Press reports.More than 14 million people have now had at least one dose, about 37 per cent of all Canadians, according to CP.7:14 p.m. The Manitoba government is imposing further restrictions as COVID-19 numbers continue to surge, The Canadian Press reports.Starting Sunday morning, the cap on outdoor gatherings will drop to five people from 10, according to CP.Restaurants, bars and patios will close to in-person dining, but can still provide take-out and delivery services.Gyms, museums, art galleries and libraries will have to close and indoor religious services will be prohibited.The province has reported 502 new cases and one more death today due to COVID-19.7:10 p.m. B.C. is reporting 722 new cases of COVID-19, along with seven new deaths, The Canadian Press reports.There are 6,757 current cases of COVID-19 across the province, according to CP.Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry say in a joint statement that more than two million doses of vaccine have been given out.Mounties are setting road checks across the province to ensure COVID-19 restrictions are being followed, with Dix and Henry urging people to stay home over the weekend.6:25 p.m. Alberta is reporting 1,980 new cases of COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, The Canadian Press reports.The province says there are currently 24,850 active cases, according to CP.There are 659 people in hospital because of the virus, and 150 of those patients are in intensive care.6:25 p.m. B.C.’s provincial health officer is defending the COVID-19-related data released by the province, The Canadian Press reports.Dr. Bonnie Henry and deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson spoke at a news conference to discuss reports of leaked B.C. Centre for Disease Control documents highlighting COVID-19 prevalence in neighbourhoods, concerns about variants and other data not normally released to the public, according to CP.Henry says B.C. is releasing more data than many other provinces, and it will be looking at releasing some of the data mentioned in the reports moving forward.She says residents need to understand there is a process to follow in collecting the data and then disseminating it to the wider public.6:12 p.m.: Indigenous people living in cities are now eligible to receive their second COVID-19 vaccine dose within the originally recommended 21- to 28-day interval, rather than having to wait 16 weeks between shots, a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force announced Friday.Provincial guidelines already allowed First Nations people living on reserves in Ontario to receive their second dose on the shorter schedule, as recommended b
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. Web links to longer stories if available.
9:25 p.m.: Governments across Canada have been withholding COVID-19 data in an exercise of “paternalistic” information-hoarding likely meant to regulate public reaction to the pandemic, says an access-to-information advocate.
Sean Holman, an access to information expert and journalism professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said uproar in British Columbia Friday over revelations the provincial government was only releasing a fraction of its COVID-19 data to the public is just one example of such secrecy.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Holman, who stressed B.C. is particularly notorious for withholding information. “But it really emphasizes the need for governments across Canada to provide more information to the general public about what’s going on during this public health disaster.”
The B.C. government was quickly on the defensive Friday morning after a Vancouver Sun report showed how little of the data the province has collected is being released to the public. The paper had been leaked two reports from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, both over 45 pages long.
“Canadians, as a whole, should be outraged that fellow Canadians are being infantilized in this way,” Holman said.
Read the full story here from Jeremy Nuttall.
8 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford is fighting a golf war against some in his own Progressive Conservative caucus, the Star has learned.
Tory MPPs were told earlier this week that golf courses will remain closed until at least June 2 as part of the lockdown measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
That’s despite the fact the current stay-home order is scheduled to expire May 19, though Solicitor General Sylvia Jones is widely expected to extend it by two weeks until June 2.
“We get more calls about this (from constituents) than anything else,” said one frustrated Conservative MPP, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke confidentially in order to discuss internal deliberations.
“Golfers are upset and I don’t blame them,” added the member, insisting those who hit the links are part of the Tories’ voting “base.”
Read the exclusive story here from Robert Benzie.
7:30 p.m. Canada surpassed 400,000 vaccinations in a single day today, the highest single-day total to date, The Canadian Press reports.
More than 14 million people have now had at least one dose, about 37 per cent of all Canadians, according to CP.
7:14 p.m. The Manitoba government is imposing further restrictions as COVID-19 numbers continue to surge, The Canadian Press reports.
Starting Sunday morning, the cap on outdoor gatherings will drop to five people from 10, according to CP.
Restaurants, bars and patios will close to in-person dining, but can still provide take-out and delivery services.
Gyms, museums, art galleries and libraries will have to close and indoor religious services will be prohibited.
The province has reported 502 new cases and one more death today due to COVID-19.
7:10 p.m. B.C. is reporting 722 new cases of COVID-19, along with seven new deaths, The Canadian Press reports.
There are 6,757 current cases of COVID-19 across the province, according to CP.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry say in a joint statement that more than two million doses of vaccine have been given out.
Mounties are setting road checks across the province to ensure COVID-19 restrictions are being followed, with Dix and Henry urging people to stay home over the weekend.
6:25 p.m. Alberta is reporting 1,980 new cases of COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, The Canadian Press reports.
The province says there are currently 24,850 active cases, according to CP.
There are 659 people in hospital because of the virus, and 150 of those patients are in intensive care.
6:25 p.m. B.C.’s provincial health officer is defending the COVID-19-related data released by the province, The Canadian Press reports.
Dr. Bonnie Henry and deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson spoke at a news conference to discuss reports of leaked B.C. Centre for Disease Control documents highlighting COVID-19 prevalence in neighbourhoods, concerns about variants and other data not normally released to the public, according to CP.
Henry says B.C. is releasing more data than many other provinces, and it will be looking at releasing some of the data mentioned in the reports moving forward.
She says residents need to understand there is a process to follow in collecting the data and then disseminating it to the wider public.
6:12 p.m.: Indigenous people living in cities are now eligible to receive their second COVID-19 vaccine dose within the originally recommended 21- to 28-day interval, rather than having to wait 16 weeks between shots, a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force announced Friday.
Provincial guidelines already allowed First Nations people living on reserves in Ontario to receive their second dose on the shorter schedule, as recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. But that recommendation did not extend to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people living in urban centres, who initially had to wait 16 weeks for their second dose, as is the case for most people.
The policy change comes after the Star reported on research by Dr. Janet Smylie — a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous health and professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health — which showed that Indigenous people in Toronto had been hospitalized with COVID-19 at more than three times the rate of the city’s general population.
“The #science tells us that those living in urban centres are at even greater risk for hospitalizations & death from #COVID19,” Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, the only Indigenous member of the province’s Vaccine Distribution Task Force, wrote on Twitter Friday afternoon. “I am certain that changing the dosing interval will prevent hospitalizations and save lives.”
Read the full story by Brendan Kennedy here.
6:01 p.m.: COVID-19 rapid testing kits will be made available directly to businesses courtesy of the federal government in a bid to make workplaces safer ahead of the potential easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement Friday came as new job numbers show those very restrictions pummelled the economy last month, driving the unemployment rate up to 8.1 per cent with losses across the board.
The underuse of rapid testing across the country has been a persistent sore spot in the debate over how best to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The federal government purchased more than 40 million rapid tests kits. Trudeau said Friday that more than 26 million have been sent to provinces and territories, with another million already sent directly to workplaces.
But Health Canada data suggests while about half of those have actually made their way to points-of-care settings, fewer than two million have been used.
Read the full story by Stephanie Levitz here.
4:45 p.m. Saskatchewan is reporting 295 new cases of COVID-19 today, and one more person has died, The Canadian Press reports.
The province is now dealing with 2,239 active cases, according to CP.
There are 174 people in hospital, 38 of whom are in intensive care.
As of Thursday, 7,905 cases of COVID-19 variants of concern had been identified in Saskatchewan.
More than half of those cases have been in the Regina area.
4:28 p.m. The Manitoba government is set to tighten COVID-19 public health orders and increase fines for rule breakers as case numbers continue to surge, The Canadian Press reports.
Dr. Jazz Atwal, the province’s deputy chief public health officer, said new steps are necessary as he announced 502 new cases and one death Friday, according to CP. The number of people testing positive for the virus had risen to 9.6 per cent provincially and 11.3 per cent in Winnipeg.
“These numbers are alarming,” Atwal said.
“Our case numbers this week are up 25 per cent over the last week. In addition to the higher case numbers, we’re seeing an increase case demand for admissions to (intensive care) and hospital.”
The daily case count was the highest the province has seen since the middle of the second wave of the pandemic last winter. Intensive care beds, which normally number 71, were expanded to 129 at the peak of the second wave and were approaching that number again Friday.
“The numbers that we’re seeing come in, admitted to (intensive care), especially this last week, have been high,” said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with Manitoba Shared Health.
“If we sustain those high admission numbers over the next days, not even weeks, we could reach that number.”
The expansion would mean diverting more staff from other areas of health care and more delays in elective surgeries, she added.
Atwal said the latest surge has been driven, in part, by people not following health orders.
The province has banned most social visits in homes, with some exceptions for people who live alone. Outdoor public gatherings are capped at 10.
Churches, stores and gyms can only operate at reduced capacity. And restaurants can only allow members of the same household to sit together at indoor tables.
New health orders are to be revealed Friday evening, Atwal said.
Premier Brian Pallister also promised to increase penalties for people who repeatedly break the rules.
Fines for individuals that currently range from $298 to $1,296 will be doubled for a second or subsequent offence, the premier said.
“There is a small selfish minority of people that aren’t doing their part. And in doing so, they are putting the health of themselves and others at risk,” Pallister said.
Those who refuse to pay can have their wages garnisheed and be blocked from renewing their driver’s licence.
The province has been expanding its vaccination program as more international supplies arrive.
3:36 p.m. It has been one week since the provincial government allocated 50 per cent of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccines to hot spots, including Peel Region, The Brampton Guardian reports.
But before this, it was long reported that Peel — and Brampton specifically — had not received an adequate number of vaccines, despite being home to one of the highest concentrations of essential workers across the province, with a substantial number of them from racialized communities.
The question looming unanswered is why? Why after months of politicians, local leaders, doctors, and residents calling for more help had the city not been given what its leaders feel is its fair share?
Given that Peel Region is the most diverse area in the province and that a large chunk of its workforce has been classified as “essential”, is it too far to think that the situation can be seen as discriminatory, asks The (Brampton) Guardian?
Federal leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, says the answer is “yes, it is discriminatory.
“No question about it,” said Singh, when he was asked if he echoed the same sentiment as some residents who say the rollout has not only been discriminatory, but racist, as well.
“Everyone is benefitting because these workers are going to work. It is clear systemic discrimination. Clearly, it’s discrimination against the workers and it’s offensive,” he said at a roundtable circuit discussing the rollout in the region on Friday, April 30.
One incident where Brampton and Peel were left out entirely was the original AstraZeneca pharmacy rollout in early March.
Kingston, Windsor-Essex and Toronto were selected, but Peel was not.
At the time, Brampton was struggling with an outbreak at an Amazon fulfilment centre while the test positivity rate was steadily increasing each week.
Many residents, including the mayors of Mississauga and Brampton, lambasted the decision, saying vaccines were needed in Peel more than Kingston.
Three weeks ago on April 21, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown was still sounding the alarm on vaccine allotment, after another pilot project was announced.
That rollout saw select pharmacies opening the Astra-Zeneca vaccine to the 40-plus age group in certain areas.
Eight pharmacies were selected in Brampton and 10 in Mississauga. Toronto had nine and Kingston had 26.
“It makes no sense that the city that has the highest positivity rate, that is a clear hot spot, wouldn’t be getting the same vaccine pharmacy resources as other municipalities that are not in a predicament as difficult as Brampton,” Brown said at that time.
2 p.m. New York City is still using refrigerated trucks to store bodies of coronavirus victims, more than a year after they were first set up as temporary morgues as deaths surged at at the height of the pandemic.
The city’s medical examiner’s office said Friday that 750 bodies are being kept in long-term storage in refrigerated trailers at a Brooklyn pier while family members sort out plans for their final resting places.
Dina Maniotis, a deputy commissioner with the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, told a city council committee on Wednesday that many of the bodies held at the 39th Street Pier could end up buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island.
In April 2020, the city shortened the amount of time it would hold unclaimed remains to 14 days before burying them on Hart Island. At the time, officials said, they were exploring the option of interring unclaimed remains on the island temporarily so they could be moved later on.
Mark Desire, a spokesperson for the medical examiner’s office, said permanent burial on Hart Island is an option for the next-of-kin of COVID-19 victims whose bodies remain in refrigerated trucks.
“Long term storage was created at the height of the pandemic to ensure that families could lay their loved ones to rest as they see fit,” Desire said. “With sensitivity and compassion, we continue to work with individual families on a case by case basis during their period of mourning.
The non-profit news website The City reported on the matter this week. The website noted that between 500 and about 800 bodies have been kept in cold storage at any given time since April 2020.
1:10 p.m. The city said Friday it won’t make ticketing people who are drinking in parks a priority, after an uproar about a defeated motion to legalize alcohol in some public spaces.
However, the move does not mean that tickets cannot or won’t still be issued in some cases.
“The city continues to give priority to events that pose the greatest risk to health, such as large gatherings or parties,” according to a city press release on Friday.
The release went on to add that bylaw enforcement officers are “focused on stopping people from bringing large amounts of alcohol into public places.”
“Individuals consuming an alcoholic beverage in a park with their household are not a priority for enforcement.”
The move does not appear to be a major departure from the status quo. The city says just 69 tickets were handed out for alcohol in parks last year.
Read the full story from the Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro
1 p.m. Toronto will continue with enforcement of provincial COVID-19 regulations through the spring and into the summer, a press release says.
Under the current provincial regulations, social gatherings and organized public events are not permitted, except with members of the same household and one person who lives alone.
12:52 p.m. Japan on Friday extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions until the end of May to contain a surge of coronavirus cases, casting further doubt on the country’s ability to safely host the Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to begin in 11 weeks.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the announcement at a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force, saying that the measures were necessary because infections remain at a “high level, mainly in large cities.”
The announcement extends emergency measures imposed last month to two more prefectures, covering a total of six prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, that are together home to over one-third of Japan’s 126 million people. Another eight prefectures will be under slightly looser restrictions.
The existing states of emergency, which were imposed to curb travel during the just-ended Golden Week holiday period and had been set to expire next week, have not slowed Japan’s fourth wave of coronavirus infections. In early March, the country recorded about 1,000 new cases daily. It is now recording nearly 6,000, according to a New York Times database.
12:26 p.m. COVID-19 rapid testing kits will be made available directly to businesses courtesy of the federal government in a bid to make workplaces safer ahead of the potential easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement Friday came as new job numbers show those very restrictions pummelled the economy last month, driving the unemployment rate up to 8.1 per cent with losses across the board.
The underuse of rapid testing across the country is a persistent sore spot in the fight to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The federal government has purchased more than 40 million rapid tests kits. Trudeau said Friday that more than 26 million have been sent to provinces and territories, with another million sent directly to workplaces.
“More screening and testing means safer workplaces and less community transmission and that will help us reopen our economy faster,” Trudeau said.
Rapid tests aren’t mean to replace the lab-based PCR tests, which involve a swab up the nose and have now become familiar to so many Canadians.
Instead, they quickly screen for the protein of the virus, and if it’s detected, people are referred immediately for official confirmation via a PCR test.
Read the full story from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz
12:10 p.m. Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario’s Peel Region.
In a notice to sellers obtained by The Canadian Press, Amazon says the pause was put in place to protect the health and safety of employees.
The company says it will monitor the COVID-19 situation in Canada to determine the next steps for the event.
A number of Amazon’s major fulfilment centres are located in Peel Region, just west of Toronto, which has one of the highest community COVID-19 positivity rates in the country.
12 p.m. Canada’s two biggest provinces are continuing to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations as they report lower hospitalization figures.
Quebec hit a single-day record with more than 102,000 shots in the past day and has now given at least one dose to about 40 per cent of the population.
The province reported 919 new infections today and five more deaths as there were six fewer hospitalizations and five fewer intensive care patients.
In Ontario, nearly 144,000 doses of vaccine were given since its latest report — for a total of almost six million.
The province is reporting 3,166 new cases of COVID-19 today and 23 more deaths linked to the virus.
Hospitalizations have dropped by 40 in Ontario.
11:50 a.m. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is expected to announce Friday morning an arrangement allowing Alberta truckers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in neighbouring American states.
The move is one more step in the push to get people vaccinated to reduce a sharp surge in cases in Alberta.
Alberta’s case rate has been the highest in North America, forcing Kenney to implement new restrictions this week to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.
All schoolchildren are now back to learning at home online and hair salons, barber shops and restaurant patios must close by Sunday.
Alberta is approaching 25,000 active cases of COVID-19, and there are more than 600 people in hospital with the illness.
11:45 a.m. Quebec is reporting 919 new COVID-19 cases today and five more deaths attributed to the virus, including two in the past 24 hours.
Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by six to 574, while the number of patients in intensive care declined by five to 139.
Quebec vaccinated 102,762 people on Thursday, a single-day record, and has now administered at least one dose to slightly more than 40 per cent of the population.
The province has reported a total of 356,216 COVID-19 infections and 10,974 deaths linked to the virus.
Quebec has 8,737 active reported cases.
11:35 a.m. Mississauga officials have given hefty fines and publicly shamed a local boxing gym, but can’t stop it from opening amid Ontario-wide orders shutting down fitness facilities.
Sam Rogers, Mississauga’s director of enforcement, told reporters May 5 that the city was continuing to penalize HUF Gym for being open, but short of Peel Police forcibly preventing patrons from coming and going there were limited means for stopping the fitness facility from operating.
“There are options (to force the gym) to close that would compromise public safety and at this point, that’s a question better suited for the police,” he said. “I fully support their decision not to employ those more use-of-force tactics, if you will, because that’s what will be required right now.”
Asked whether Peel Police were planning any further action at HUF Gym, Const. Heather Cannon said May 6 it was her understanding that the City of Mississauga was taking the lead on enforcement with the fitness facility.
Cannon did not respond to emailed requests for further comments by deadline.
A post on the HUF website said that the gym was operating under part of the province’s Reopening Ontario Act that permits fitness facilities to open only for individuals with a recognized disability, including some physical impairments, mental disorders and injuries requiring insurance benefits.
11:20 a.m. Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today and 10 recoveries.
All are in Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital city of about 8,000 residents.
There are now 77 active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, with 75 in Iqaluit and two in Kinngait
Three people have been hospitalized in Ottawa since the first case was declared in Iqaluit on April 14.
The two regions with active cases remain under strict lockdowns, with schools, workplaces and non-essential businesses closed and travel restricted.
To date, 80 per cent of Iqaluit’s adult population has received at least one dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
10:30 a.m. People under 40 in Britain will not be given the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine if another shot is available because of a link to extremely rare blood clots, the government said Friday. It said the change would not affect the goal of giving all U.K. adults at least one vaccine dose by July.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization said people aged 30 to 39 without underlying health conditions should receive an alternative vaccine, “where available and only if this does not cause substantial delays in being vaccinated.” Last month it gave the same advice for people under 30.
”Any vaccine offered early is preferable to a vaccine offered too late,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the JCVI, an expert body that advises the government.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said the government expects to be able to follow the new advice and still meet its target of giving everyone over 18 a vaccine jab by July 31.
“We have to maintain the pace and scale of the U.K. vaccination program,” Van-Tam said, adding that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective and “thousands are alive today” because they received it.
10:20 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting another 3,166 COVID-19 cases and 23 more deaths, according to its latest report released Friday morning.
The Ministry of Health says that due to a technical issue with the laboratory data feed, Friday’s case count for the Central East, Central West and Toronto regions may be under-reported.
The province says 51,338 tests were completed the previous day.
There are 1,924 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, including 788 patients in intensive care. There are 570 people on ventilators.
Read the full story from the Star’s Manuela Vega
10:08 a.m. Quebec’s health minister says 102,700 COVID-19 vaccinations were given in the province Thursday, the highest daily number to date.
Christian Dubé says the province also set a daily record for vaccination appointments, with 272,000 bookings made.
Dubé says in a Twitter post the province is ready to ramp up vaccinations when vaccine deliveries permit, and he calls the response from Quebecers “exceptional.”
The province has started accepting appointments for those 35 and older and says all adults will be eligible by the end of next week.
During a briefing Thursday, Dubé said the province has vaccinated 40 per cent of the population with at least one dose.
He also said that beginning May 13, Quebec will begin offering electronic proof of vaccination.
9:15 a.m. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced growing pressure Friday to impose a strict nationwide lockdown, despite the economic pain it will exact, as a startling surge in coronavirus cases that has pummeled the country’s health system shows no signs of abating.
Many medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court judges are calling for national restrictions, arguing that a patchwork of state rules is insufficient to quell the rise in infections.
Indian television stations broadcast images of patients lying on stretchers outside hospitals waiting to be admitted, with hospital beds and critical oxygen in short supply. People infected with COVID-19 in villages are being treated in makeshift outdoor clinics, with IV drips hanging from trees.
As deaths soar, crematoriums and burial grounds have been swamped with bodies, and relatives often wait hours to perform the last rites for their loved ones.
The situation is so dramatic that among those calling for a strict lockdown are merchants who know their businesses will be affected but see no other way out.
“Only if our health is good, will we be able to earn,” said Aruna Ramjee, a florist in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. “The lockdown will help everyone, and coronavirus spread will also come down.”
The alarming picture has gripped the world’s attention, just as many developed countries are seeing vaccinations drive down infections and are beginning to open up. India’s surge has served as a warning to other countries with fragile health systems — and also has weighed heavily on global efforts to end the pandemic since the country is a major vaccine producer but has been forced to delay exports of shots.
Infections have swelled in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies. On Friday India reported a new daily record of 414,188 confirmed cases and 3,915 additional deaths. The official daily death count has stayed over 3,000 for the past 10 days.
That brings the total to more than 21.4 million COVID-19 infections and over 234,000 deaths. Experts say even those dramatic tolls are undercounts.
Over the past month, nearly a dozen of India’s 28 federal states have announced some restrictions, but they fall short of a nationwide lockdown imposed last year that experts credit with helping to contain the virus for a time. Those measures, which lasted two months, included stay-at-home orders, a ban on international and domestic flights and a suspension of passenger service on the nation’s extensive rail system.
The government provided free wheat, rice and lentils to the poorest for nearly a year and also small cash payments, while Modi also vowed an economic relief package of more than $260 billion. But the lockdown, imposed on four hours’ notice, also stranded tens of millions of migrant workers who were left jobless and fled to villages, with many dying along the way.
The national restrictions caused the economy to contract by a staggering 23% in the second quarter last year, though a strong recovery was under way before infections skyrocketed recently.
8:50 a.m. When Jeff Clifford was 15 years old, he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. As a teenager, he was treated at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa where he felt out of place because he was older than the other patients.
Clifford spent his days during treatment trying to distract himself with activities. With options of playing video games, and visits from hockey players and going to hockey games, he felt he was supported but the focus was mainly on the younger children.
But when he was taken to the Ottawa Hospital for a bone-marrow transplant and chemotherapy, he felt more isolated as he was surrounded by older adults and had few to no distractions to take his mind off his operation and treatment.
“It was sort of a strange experience because I was an older kid, I was a teenager, transitioning into adulthood and then a lot of these are like young, young kids, like 10 years old. I didn’t have any friends (at the children’s hospital), but at least there was the distraction,” said Clifford.
Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan
8:45 a.m. Statistics Canada says the economy lost 207,000 in April as a new rise in COVID-19 cases led to renewed public health restrictions that closed businesses.
The unemployment rate rose to 8.1 per cent from 7.5 per cent in March.
Statistics Canada says the number of employed people in April working less than half their usual hours increased by 288,000 or 27.2 per cent.
8:40 a.m. A new report from BC Hydro says a concerning trend is emerging as British Columbians seek relief from COVID-19 restrictions by sprucing up the yards around their homes.
The Crown utility says electrical contact incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have soared 30 per cent since the pandemic hit last March.
The report says tree trimming is the most common offence as novice pruners drop branches across power lines, frequently causing outages.
More than 100 reports linked to what BC Hydro calls “backyard logging” have been received since March 2020, but the utility suspects the number is much higher.
It says a survey conducted last month found a quarter of British Columbians, about 1.3 million people, have had either a close call or actual contact with power lines or electrical equipment at some point.
Distribution lines through neighbourhoods can carry up to 25,000 volts while smaller service lines to homes can pack a potentially lethal 240 volts, but Hydro’s research says most people don’t know three metres is the minimum safe distance from any properly functioning line for both people and equipment.
“BC Hydro is urging the public to make safety around power lines a priority, especially as the weather heats up and British Columbians spend more time outdoors in their own backyards because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report says.
Understanding the importance of the three metre minimum is a key to safety, Hydro says, because tools don’t need to touch distribution lines to be dangerous.
“The electricity voltage from the pole-to-pole distribution lines in B.C. neighbourhoods is capable of “arcing” or jumping to persons or objects, including tools, that come within three metres of the power line,” says the report.
8:25 a.m. Robin Harper, an administrative assistant at a preschool in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, grew up showering every day.
“It’s what you did,” she said. But when the coronavirus pandemic forced her indoors and away from the general public, she started showering once a week.
The new practice felt environmentally virtuous, practical and freeing. And it has stuck.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Harper, 43, who has returned to work. “I like showers. But it’s one thing off my plate. I’m a mom. I work full-time, and it’s one less thing I have to do.”
The pandemic upended the use of zippered pants and changed people’s eating and drinking habits. There are now indications that it has caused some Americans to become more spartan when it comes to ablutions.
Parents have complained that their teenage children are forgoing daily showers. After the British media reported on a YouGov survey that showed 17 per cent of Britons had abandoned daily showers during the pandemic, many people on Twitter said they had done the same.
8:20 a.m. Wood products company EACOM Timber Corp. is paying employees and contractors at sites across Quebec and Ontario to get vaccinated, in the hopes that will boost vaccination rates among workers by the end of the year.
The company said in a press release it hopes to achieve an 85-per-cent vaccination rate among staff at its nine sawmills and two secondary manufacturing facilities.
The program applies retroactively to December 2020 and will run until the end of 2021. The company will give out $200 for the first dose, $150 for the second, or $350 for a single-shot vaccine.
“As a leadership team, we felt it was our duty to achieve a high target vaccination level at our facilities and that offering a cash incentive, in a confidential and equitable manner, would be a good option. We are pleased with the results thus far and appreciate everything our employees are doing to help us get back to normal as safely, and quickly, as possible,” said EACOM president and CEO Kevin Edgson in the press release.
Biliana Necheva, senior adviser of public relations for EACOM, said the program is confidential, meaning workers won’t know who is vaccinated, and who isn’t.
“There is no fear of discrimination or anything like that,” she said, adding the reaction from employees thus far has been positive.
Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba
8:10 a.m. Ontario’s vaccine rollout has brought not only frustration, but anguish for many residents, as those in the hardest hit neighbourhoods were not initially prioritized for shots.
And dealing with barriers due to an inequitable health-care system that prioritizes white, English-speaking residents, doesn’t make it easier to access crucial public health information about the vaccine.
That’s why the Star has launched a new initiative aimed at bridging the gap between public health information, and those who need it most. #VaccineTalk is a series of question and answer sessions between Star reporters and trusted public health experts and doctors in multiple languages. The first four videos the Star is launching are in Hindi/Urdu, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese.
Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden
8 a.m. As of May 7, 856 patients with COVID-19 related critical illness are now in adult and pediatric ICUs — 47 new admissions.
7:50 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga extended a state of emergency that covers Tokyo and expanded it to two more regions hit by rising virus cases, in an attempt to stem infections ahead of the capital’s hosting of the Olympics in less than three months.
The move announced Friday adds the industrial region of Aichi and the southern prefecture of Fukuoka to areas subject to restrictions. It also extends the state of emergency already in place for Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto until the end of May.
“The movement of people in Osaka and Tokyo has fallen considerably and the measures are beginning to have an effect,” Suga told his virus task force. “However, the number of new infections is high, particularly in the major cities and there is a shortage of hospital beds.”
The expanded measure would cover about 40 per cent of the economy and most major urban areas — increasing the risk of triggering a double-dip recession. A slow vaccine rollout has left the premier few tools to control the pace of infections, with the Olympics set to open July 23.
Suga later told a news conference he wanted to put Japan on a path to administer 1 million vaccination doses a day and reiterated that he had agreed on tens of millions of extra doses from Pfizer Inc. Suga added he was in talks to secure more doses from Moderna Inc. and Novavax Inc for next year.
“Whether we can gain back a normal life without worries depends on how many people we can get vaccinated,” he said. “I myself will take the lead on accelerating the vaccine program.” He added that immunizations would get into full swing starting next week and that shots for those under 65 could begin in some areas as soon as next month.
Japanese Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto told reporters that nothing had been decided on reported plans for a visit by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach in mid-May, but that it would be “difficult” during a state of emergency.
7:40 a.m. Ontario’s small business minister is under fire after wading into the debate over vaccine efficacy — and potentially shaking public confidence — to bolster Premier Doug Ford’s push for a federal crackdown on international and interprovincial travellers bringing COVID-19 into the province.
As the governing Progressive Conservatives released another campaign-style ad blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for lax border controls and a lack of pre-flight testing within Canada, Prabmeet Sarkaria cited a study published as a letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine as a reason for tougher border restrictions.
“The study out of Qatar states that Pfizer’s one shot is only 30 per cent effective against the variant that originates out of the U.K.,” the associate minister of small business and red tape reduction told reporters.
Sarkaria’s assertion came as Ontario prepares to receive about 7 million doses of Pfizer vaccine from the federal government by the end of June. Those vaccines are a key part of the province’s plan to give first doses to 65 per cent of Ontario adults by the end of the month. The B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the U.K., is by far the dominant strain in Ontario.
Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson
7:25 a.m. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa has issued a new public health order to education providers limiting in-person attendance of school-aged children across all education settings.
The new Section 22 order — which will come into effect on Monday — defines how and when school-aged children can attend school premises or other education settings. It also gives local officials the power to close Toronto schools breaking provincial rules imposed as Ontario tries to curb a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The intention of the Section 22 order is to “enhance” the provincial Lockdown Regulation by: limiting in-person attendance of school-aged children across all educational settings, not just schools that fall under the Education Act; and limiting in-person student attendance as much as possible, regardless of whether they qualify as “in-person teaching or instruction.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Maria Sarrouh
7:20 a.m. With two weeks left under Ontario’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order, health experts say it’s too soon for Premier Doug Ford to ease restrictions, warning a spike in cases from Mother’s Day gatherings could breathe new life into the third wave.
There have been signs of improvement with daily new infections gradually declining since mid-April, but cases remain at high levels reminiscent of the winter peak while the number of coronavirus patients in hospital intensive care units is barely below recent records.
“If Ontario is to end our third pandemic wave and avoid a fourth we must continue to drive transmission down,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Thursday.
She encouraged people who don’t live with their mothers to celebrate virtually on Sunday.
“Given the number of cases is so high still, the number of hospitalizations and ICU overload and so on, I would be surprised if things open up at the end of May. They may open partially,” Yaffe added, noting schools should be first — if conditions allow.
Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson
6:5 a.m.: As the third wave crests in Ontario, physicians warn the daily tally of COVID-19 patients in ICUs is an undercount of the true number receiving critical care for the virus.
Almost 100 patients who in pre-pandemic times would qualify for the ICU are instead being treated on medical wards, according to data obtained by the Star from more than a dozen GTA hospitals. This represents a substantial portion of critically ill COVID patients not being counted by the province, masking the full extent of the crisis in hospitals.
To cope with the surge in COVID patients, hospitals have had to change the threshold for who is admitted to ICUs, saving those beds only for the very sickest, with most requiring ventilation and other life-support measures. Now dozens of severely ill patients are getting care on the wards, including sophisticated oxygen support that would normally be administered in ICUs.
Read the full story from the Star’s Megan Ogilvie and Kenyon Wallace here.
6:15 a.m.: New York City wants to begin offering coronavirus inoculations to tourists by stationing vaccination vans at Times Square and other attractions, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
The city needs state approval to vaccinate visitors and hopes to get an OK as soon as this weekend. The state Health Department didn’t immediately comment on the proposal.
De Blasio called it “a positive message to tourists: ‘Come here. It’s safe, it’s a great place to be and we’re going to take care of you.’”
“It’s a show of goodwill. It’s a welcome,” but not a requirement, the Democratic mayor said. He said the city has no plans to track tourists’ vaccination status.
Besides Times Square, the vans would appear in such places as Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park and the High Line elevated park, de Blasio said. Visitors would get the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so they wouldn’t have to follow up with a second shot.
6:14 a.m.: Australia’s prime minister said on Friday an India travel ban will end with three government-chartered flights to repatriate Australians by the end of May.
The government has resisted mounting pressure to lift the travel ban imposed last week until May 15 to reduce infections in Australian quarantine facilities.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the 900 Australians listed as vulnerable would be given priority among the 9,000 citizens registered with authorities as wanting to come home from India.
But Australians would have to provide a negative result to a rapid antigen COVID-19 test before they could board a flight.
“I’m sure that’s what all Australians would expect,” Morrison said.
The flights would end at a quarantine facility outside the northern city of Darwin. The government had yet to make a decision on when normal commercial flights from India would resume.
6:13 a.m.: Germany’s health minister has welcomed a decline in new COVID-19 cases, but says Germans need to endure “weeks or a few months” of restrictions.
Germany’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases declined over the past two weeks, from almost 25 cases per 100,000 people on April 22 to 19 cases per 100,000 people on May 6.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday that efforts to reduce social contacts and travel had helped push down the number of infections in recent weeks.
He also cited the rapid increase in vaccinations in the country.
Spahn said about 26.2 million people, or about 31.5% of the German population, have received at least one dose of vaccine. Almost 9% have received two shots.
He warned against reopening some areas of public life too quickly however, warning that “this bears a risk.”
Some of Germany’s 16 states have begun allowing limited tourism and outside dining again.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 18,485 newly confirmed cases Thursday, and 284 deaths. Since the start of the outbreak, Germany has recorded almost 3.5 million confirmed cases and 84,410 deaths.
6:13 a.m.: The head of the World Trade Organization says the U.S. administration’s call to remove patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines will give an impetus to negotiations to resolve access inequity but that the decision in and of itself won’t resolve the problem.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told a virtual conference Friday that the WTO was aiming to find a “pragmatic solution that assures access to developing countries to deal with vaccine inequity, whilst at the same time making sure we don’t disincentivize research and innovation.”
In remarks to the Florence-based European University Institute’s annual State of the Union conference, Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian economist, said the patent waiver “may not be the critical issue” on increasing vaccine volume.
Other key steps include reducing export restrictions and prohibitions for both final products and raw materials, as well as training manufacturing personnel and increasing manufacturing capacity globally.
She noted that 80 per cent of the world’s exports of vaccines is concentrated in 10 countries in North America, South Asia and Europe, and that Africa imports 99 per cent of its vaccines. She said: “We are seeing the problems with that concentration now.”
6:12 a.m.: The European Medicines Agency says it has begun an accelerated authorization process for an experimental coronavirus treatment made by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir BioTechnology.
In a statement on Friday, the EU drug regulator said it had started a rolling review of sotrovimab, based on early results from an ongoing study into whether the treatment can prevent hospitalization or death in people who don’t yet have severe COVID-19. But EMA said it had not yet received the complete data and cautioned that “it is too early to draw any conclusions about the benefit-risk balance of the medication.”
Although the EMA has given the green light to four vaccines, there are few licensed treatments for the coronavirus, especially any that might prevent people with mild COVID-19 from progressing to severe disease.
Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody, a lab-produced antibody that is intended to stimulate the immune system by reducing the ability of the coronavirus’s spike protein to enter the body’s cells.
An emergency use authorization for sotrovimab has also been submitted to regulators in the U.S. and Canada.
6 a.m.: A new survey from Proof Strategies suggests it’s not only Canada’s national vaccine advisers who have a “preferred” vaccine.
The survey of 1,500 people taken during the first three days of May suggests the two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are way out in front in the eyes of Canadians.
More than eight in 10 people surveyed said they trusted the Pfizer vaccine to be safe and effective, and almost as many said they trusted Moderna.
However, only half of the respondents said they trusted Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and 4.5 in 10 said they trusted Oxford-AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca and J&J use similar technology and have both been potentially linked to a new and very rare vaccine-induced blood clotting syndrome. Twelve cases are confirmed in Canada after about two million doses given. Three people have died.
While scientists still can’t explain why the vaccines are causing this syndrome, reports suggest it is happening between one in 100,000 doses given, and one in 250,000.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Friday, May 7, 2021.
In Canada, the provinces are reporting 350,701 new vaccinations administered for a total of 14,918,768 doses given. Nationwide, 1,196,166 people or 3.2 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 39,364.255 per 100,000.
There were 1,147,668 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 17,981,872 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 82.97 per cent of their available vaccine supply.
4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Friday, May 7, 2021.
There are 1,265,320 confirmed cases in Canada (81,325 active, 1,159,506 resolved, 24,489 deaths). The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.
There were 7,981 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 213.98 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 54,242 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 7,749.
There were 39 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 320 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 64.44 per 100,000 people.
There have been 32,266,260 tests completed.