Today’s coronavirus news: Cancel travel plans, PM urges Canadians; Ford wants testing mandatory at international airports; Ontario reporting 1,740 cases with 63 more deaths including 24 in LTC

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available. 9 p.m.: Ongoing tensions between the provinces and the federal government over the management of the COVID-19 pandemic pivoted back Tuesday to the question of whether and how border controls can be tightened to slow the spread of the virus.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians to cancel any non-essential trips they have planned abroad or even within Canada in the coming weeks, as new travel restrictions are on the way. What shape they might take remains up for discussion.“The bad choices of a few will never be allowed to put everyone else in danger,” he said.The premiers for Ontario and Quebec, however, suggested new measures could be implemented swiftly, including mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers, flight bans from countries where new variants of the novel coronavirus are circulating and mandatory testing upon arrival in Canada.“We aren’t the first country to require this and we won’t be the last,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said during a visit to Pearson International Airport, where a pilot project testing some incoming travellers is underway. “I can’t figure out for the life of me why we aren’t testing every single person that comes through this airport … and the land crossings as well. We have to lock down.”7:15 p.m.: The U.S. State Department warned Americans to strongly reconsider travel Tuesday as a new COVID-19 testing requirement went into effect and new variants of the virus were detected in Latin America and the Caribbean.“If you’re overseas right now, it could be harder to come home for a while,” said Ian Brownlee, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for consular affairs. “Everyone needs to be prepared to be potentially seriously disrupted in their trip.”Brownlee’s warning came on the first day of the U.S.’s new testing requirement for inbound travelers overseas. All airline passengers, regardless of citizenship, must now present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel or show proof that they have recovered from the deadly virus.At least 15 countries and territories in the Americas, including the United States, have confirmed the presence of at least one of three emerging variants: Those first identified in southeast England, South Africa or Brazil.2:45 p.m.: An increasing number of COVID-19 vaccination sites around the U.S. are cancelling thousands of appointments because of vaccine shortages in a rollout so rife with confusion that even the new CDC director admitted she doesn’t know exactly how many shots are in the pipeline.States waited to find out their latest weekly allocation of vaccine from the federal government on Tuesday amid complaints from governors and top health officials about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much is on the way.President Joe Biden suggested Monday that he hopes the country can soon ramp up to 1.5 million shots dispensed per day. His administration has also promised more openness and said it will hold news briefings three times a week about the outbreak that has killed over 420,000 Americans.2:15 p.m.: Human clinical trials have begun in Toronto for a proposed COVID-19 vaccine made by a Canadian company.Providence Therapeutics of Calgary says 60 subjects will be monitored for 13 months, with the first results expected next month.The group of healthy volunteers aged 18 to 65 have been divided into four groups of 15. Three of the groups will get three different dose levels, while a fourth group gets a placebo.Pending regulatory approval, the company’s CEO Brad Sorenson says a larger Phase 2 trial may start in May with seniors, younger subjects and pregnant people.Providence uses messenger RNA technology for a product it calls PTX-COVID19-B.Sorenson says if successful, the vaccine could be released by the end of the year.2:10 p.m.: Prince Edward Island says it’s on track to complete the first phase of its COVID-19 vaccination plan despite delivery delays of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said today the province still expects residents and staff of long-term care homes along with front-line health workers to receive two vaccine doses by Feb. 16.Morrison says the province won’t be receiving a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine this week but says deliveries will resume next week.As of Saturday, 7,117 doses of vaccine had been administered, 1,892 of which were second doses.Morrison says she will release details later this week on how the province will fast track the vaccine rollout to registered rotational workers, truck drivers and to people over 80 years old.The province is reporting zero new cases of COVID-19 today and says it has six active reported cases.2:10 p.m.: Public health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 today.Five

Today’s coronavirus news: Cancel travel plans, PM urges Canadians; Ford wants testing mandatory at international airports; Ontario reporting 1,740 cases with 63 more deaths including 24 in LTC

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

9 p.m.: Ongoing tensions between the provinces and the federal government over the management of the COVID-19 pandemic pivoted back Tuesday to the question of whether and how border controls can be tightened to slow the spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians to cancel any non-essential trips they have planned abroad or even within Canada in the coming weeks, as new travel restrictions are on the way. What shape they might take remains up for discussion.

“The bad choices of a few will never be allowed to put everyone else in danger,” he said.

The premiers for Ontario and Quebec, however, suggested new measures could be implemented swiftly, including mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers, flight bans from countries where new variants of the novel coronavirus are circulating and mandatory testing upon arrival in Canada.

“We aren’t the first country to require this and we won’t be the last,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said during a visit to Pearson International Airport, where a pilot project testing some incoming travellers is underway. “I can’t figure out for the life of me why we aren’t testing every single person that comes through this airport … and the land crossings as well. We have to lock down.”

7:15 p.m.: The U.S. State Department warned Americans to strongly reconsider travel Tuesday as a new COVID-19 testing requirement went into effect and new variants of the virus were detected in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“If you’re overseas right now, it could be harder to come home for a while,” said Ian Brownlee, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for consular affairs. “Everyone needs to be prepared to be potentially seriously disrupted in their trip.”

Brownlee’s warning came on the first day of the U.S.’s new testing requirement for inbound travelers overseas. All airline passengers, regardless of citizenship, must now present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel or show proof that they have recovered from the deadly virus.

At least 15 countries and territories in the Americas, including the United States, have confirmed the presence of at least one of three emerging variants: Those first identified in southeast England, South Africa or Brazil.

2:45 p.m.: An increasing number of COVID-19 vaccination sites around the U.S. are cancelling thousands of appointments because of vaccine shortages in a rollout so rife with confusion that even the new CDC director admitted she doesn’t know exactly how many shots are in the pipeline.

States waited to find out their latest weekly allocation of vaccine from the federal government on Tuesday amid complaints from governors and top health officials about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much is on the way.

President Joe Biden suggested Monday that he hopes the country can soon ramp up to 1.5 million shots dispensed per day. His administration has also promised more openness and said it will hold news briefings three times a week about the outbreak that has killed over 420,000 Americans.

2:15 p.m.: Human clinical trials have begun in Toronto for a proposed COVID-19 vaccine made by a Canadian company.

Providence Therapeutics of Calgary says 60 subjects will be monitored for 13 months, with the first results expected next month.

The group of healthy volunteers aged 18 to 65 have been divided into four groups of 15. Three of the groups will get three different dose levels, while a fourth group gets a placebo.

Pending regulatory approval, the company’s CEO Brad Sorenson says a larger Phase 2 trial may start in May with seniors, younger subjects and pregnant people.

Providence uses messenger RNA technology for a product it calls PTX-COVID19-B.

Sorenson says if successful, the vaccine could be released by the end of the year.

2:10 p.m.: Prince Edward Island says it’s on track to complete the first phase of its COVID-19 vaccination plan despite delivery delays of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said today the province still expects residents and staff of long-term care homes along with front-line health workers to receive two vaccine doses by Feb. 16.

Morrison says the province won’t be receiving a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine this week but says deliveries will resume next week.

As of Saturday, 7,117 doses of vaccine had been administered, 1,892 of which were second doses.

Morrison says she will release details later this week on how the province will fast track the vaccine rollout to registered rotational workers, truck drivers and to people over 80 years old.

The province is reporting zero new cases of COVID-19 today and says it has six active reported cases.

2:10 p.m.: Public health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 today.

Five are in the Edmundston region, which is under a lockdown, while there are three cases in the Saint John region and one each in the Moncton and Campbellton regions.

The Saint John and Fredericton regions move to the orange level of the province’s COVID-19 response plan tonight, an easing from the red-level restrictions now in place.

There are 339 active cases in the province and seven patients are in hospital, with three in intensive care.

2:05 p.m.: British Columbia’s public safety minister says a Vancouver couple accused of flying to Yukon to get a COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most “despicable” things he’s heard in a long time.

Mike Farnworth says the alleged actions of former Great Canadian Gaming Corp. CEO Rodney Baker and his wife Ekaterina Baker show a “complete lack of any sort of ethical or moral compass.”

Tickets filed in a Whitehorse court show the 55-year-old man and his 32-year-old wife were each charged with failing to self-isolate for 14 days and failing to act in a manner consistent with their declarations upon arriving in Yukon.

The allegations against them have not been proven in court and the tickets indicate the couple can challenge them.

Farnworth said the couple paid a “pretty high price,” with Rodney Baker losing what the minister described as a “$10-million-a-year job.”

An information circular published by Great Canadian Gaming in March 2020 says Baker earned a total of about $6.7 million in compensation from the company in 2019.

The tickets were issued on Thursday under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act and both people face fines of $1,000, plus fees.

2:05 p.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say the new case is in the Halifax area and is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.

The province currently has 11 active cases, with no one in hospital.

As of Monday, 11,622 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province, with 2,708 people having received their second dose.

1:55 p.m. (updated): Health officials report 99 more suspected cases of a variant in Simcoe Muskoka — likely B.1.1.7 — most with connections to the Roberta Place LTC outbreak; however two have no connection to the home.

One of those two is a person working at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care which is currently in outbreak.

These first results follow reporting on the weekend that identified seven cases of the United Kingdom variant, which is more contagious and transmissible.

Six of those individuals were associated with the outbreak at Robert Place Long Term Care Home, and one is an individual who had close contact with a person who is also part of the COVID-19 outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home in Bradford West Gwillimbury.

The health unit continues to investigate if that outbreak is also due to the UK variant of COVID-19.

1:30 p.m.: The Manitoba government is requiring all domestic travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after entering the province.

Until now, only people arriving from areas east of Terrace Bay, Ont., were subject to the requirement.

Premier Brian Pallister says the spread of variants of the novel coronavirus, combined with a slower rollout of vaccine supplies, makes the move necessary.

Pallister says there will be some exceptions for people who live close to the Saskatchewan or Ontario boundaries and require travel for essential purposes.

International travellers are already required to self-isolate under federal rules.

1:25 p.m. (updated): Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling on the federal government to bolster travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variant cases.

Ford says those restrictions should include mandatory testing at airports for all incoming international travellers.

He also wants the federal government to temporarily ban direct flights from countries where the new variants are detected, including Brazil and Portugal.

A voluntary screening program at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport began Jan. 6 and has tested more than 6,800 travellers.

The testing program at Pearson airport has found 2.3 per cent of international travellers who agreed to be tested had COVID-19, says Ford. That’s 146 cases.

1:20 p.m.: Quebec Premier Francois Legault says he’ll likely be able to ease COVID-related restrictions for some regions of the province as of Feb. 8.

Legault says new COVID-19 cases in the province have been going down, which indicates that the government’s measures, including a nighttime curfew, are working.

But Legault says hospitalizations are still too high, especially in the Greater Montreal region.

He says he’ll make an official announcement next week.

1:15 p.m.: With a mass vaccination campaign underway, the U.S. is facing a moral dilemma as officials from California to New Jersey decide who gets the shots first. Everyone from the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions to communities of colour and front-line workers are clamouring for the scarce vaccine — and each group has a compelling argument for why they should get priority.

It has local health officials and volunteer advisory committees doing ethical gymnastics the likes of which haven’t been seen since the military’s rationing of a new wonder drug — penicillin — during World War II or the decision to give white men first access to life-saving dialysis machines in the 1960s, when the new technology was in short supply.

1:10 p.m.: The Peel District School Board is repairing a system outage that has impacted its website and learning environments Tuesday.

Staff are investigating the incident, which has affected a number of systems, including the student portal.

While repairs are made, the school board advises students to continue learning through asynchronous activities. It also advises teachers and families to continue to check for updates throughout the day to resume online learning when the system is back up and running.

1 p.m.: A group of over 200 doctors, researchers, and advocates say Ontario must take urgent action to address the rising number of deaths due to COVID-19 in long-term care.

The group says in a letter released today that the situation constitutes a humanitarian crisis.

They say the province’s nursing homes are still seeing staffing shortages, poor infection control, and a delayed response to outbreaks.

The group is recommending the province bolster staffing immediately, legislate a minimum standard of daily care for residents, and provide unrestricted access to family caregivers with personal protective equipment.

They also want the province to begin the process of removing for-profit long-term care providers from the sector.

The Long-Term Care Ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.

12:50 p.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he remains confident in Canada’s vaccine supplies coming out of Europe despite warnings from the European Commission that it is going to impose an “export transparency mechanism.’

Speaking to reporters outside his Ottawa residence Tuesday morning, Trudeau said he is “very confident” Canada is going to get all the doses promised by the end of March. And despite the sharp decline in deliveries of a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech this month, he said Canada will still vaccinate all Canadians who want shots by the end of September.

“We will continue to work closely with Europe to ensure that we are sourcing, are we are receiving the vaccines that we have signed for that are due,” Trudeau said.

He did not explain the reason for that confidence, including whether he had spoken to any European leaders about the matter.

12:50 p.m.: Residents lying on bare mattresses soaked with urine. Others waiting 30 minutes for help when choking. Deaths that could have been prevented with better hydration.

These are some of the horrifying “war zone” conditions workers at Grace Villa have detailed in the wake of its outbreak, prompting calls to revoke the home’s licence.

Workers sent a series of scathing letters and emails to their local MPP detailing conditions inside the site of Hamilton’s worst and deadliest outbreak, which killed 44 of the home’s 156 residents in less than two months. The outbreak was declared over by public health last week.

12:40 p.m. Outside her mom’s Aurora retirement home room during last spring’s first COVID-19 pandemic wave, Kerri Thompson would stand with cellphone in hand, gesturing through the window as she tried in vain to get her mother to answer her ringing phone inside.

Her mom, Joyce Thompson, a switchboard operator in her youth and a lifelong lover of long conversations, didn’t understand.

“I would stand at her window and have the phone ring and be pointing at the phone and she would just cry. It was devastating,” said Thompson, adding the residents were isolated in their rooms from March to May.

On the occasions Joyce did answer the phone, she had a hard time participating in the conversation.

“You were just talking at her, not with her,” said Thompson, her mother’s essential caregiver.

Read the full story

12:35 p.m. The timeline leading up to 19-year-old Yassin Dabeh’s death was swift involving a few back-and-forth visits to the hospital for oxygen, but no admission.

Yassin was a contract cleaner at the Middlesex Terrace Limited long-term-care home in Delaware, Ont., just west of London. According to his family he contracted COVID-19 in the second week of January and was found dead in his sleep a few days later. Both his parents as well as his eight siblings have been infected with the virus.

Speaking to the media Tuesday, Yassin’s father Ahmed Dabeh said his son was never fully admitted to the hospital.

“He did make some visits to the hospital complaining of chest pain and they tried to give him some oxygen, but he wasn’t admitted to the hospital,” Ahmed said, through translator Tamara El Sayed. “So they would just try to treat him as best as they could while he was there for a few hours in the day and then send him home.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Danica Samuel

11:52 a.m.: More than 100,000 people have died in the United Kingdom after contracting the coronavirus, a year into Europe’s deadliest outbreak, figures from the government showed Tuesday.

The health department said 100,162 people have died after testing positive, including 1,631 new deaths reported Tuesday.

Britain is the fifth country in the world to record 100,000 virus-related deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, and by far the smallest. The U.S. has recorded more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest total, but its population of about 330 million is about five times Britain’s.

11:40 a.m.: Health officials are urging post-secondary students in the Halifax area to get tested for COVID-19.

Officials say several cases of novel coronavirus have been diagnosed in Halifax’s student population, and they recommend all students should be tested — even if they haven’t travelled, have no symptoms and have not been at a location with an exposure warning.

Drop-in testing begins today and is available all week at Dalhousie University.

Pop-up rapid testing will also take place outside Halifax beginning Wednesday at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and at two locations in Sydney, N.S., including Cape Breton University.

Officials say testing at the mobile health units is available to everyone and not just students.

Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 Monday and had a total of 15 active cases.

11:20 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says every case of COVID-19 coming in from abroad is a case too many.

He says new restrictions on travel are coming and is urging Canadians to cancel all travel plans they may have.

He says that includes cancelling travel abroad and travel to other provinces.

Trudeau notes that while the number of new cases linked to travel remains low, the bad choices of a few won’t be allowed to put others in danger.

He’s also announcing new government-backed loans for businesses to help them cope with ongoing economic fallout.

11:15 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 1,166 new cases of COVID-19 and 57 more deaths attributed to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, including four in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said today hospitalizations rose by three, to 1,324, following six consecutive days of decreases in the number of COVID-related patients.

The number of intensive care patients remained stable at 217.

The province says it administered 5,927 doses of vaccine yesterday and says it has used 224,879 of the 238,100 doses it has received thus far.

Quebec has reported a total of 256,002 infections and 9,577 deaths linked to COVID-19.

10:55 a.m.: Ontario is reporting that the COVID-19 death toll at Tendercare Living Centre has reached 81 in the worst outbreak in terms of fatalities at a long-term-home in the province.

A total of five residents have active COVID-19 case at the 254-bed facility in Scarborough, the same as the previous day. Fewer than five staff have an active case.

The next two worst outbreaks in terms of resident deaths are Pickering’s Orchard Villa with 70 and Camilla Care Community in Mississauga with 68 resident deaths. Neither have residents currently positive for COVID-19.

10:40 a.m.: The European Union on Tuesday warned pharmaceutical giants that have developed coronavirus vaccines with EU aid that it must get its shots on schedule, a day after the bloc threatened to impose export controls on vaccines produced within its borders.

The EU made it very clear that it is bent on getting all doses as quickly as their contracts provide for at a time when infections are surging, many hospitals are overwhelmed, and many of the 27 members states are struggling to get their vaccine rollout going at top speed.

The hardening of its position came days after it accused AstraZeneca of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation. It also had expressed displeasure over vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech. The Pfizer vaccine is already being rolled out in the EU, and the AstraZeneca one is expected to be approved this week.

10:30 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 24 more deaths in long-term care for 3,389 since the pandemic began.

There were 10 fewer LTC homes in outbreak for a total of 246 (or 39.3 per cent).

The Star’s Kevin Jiang has the story.

10:20 a.m.: Locally, there are 677 new cases in Toronto, 320 in Peel and 144 in York Region.

10:15 a.m. (updated): In its latest report, Ontario is reporting that 9,707 people were vaccinated for a total of 295,817 as of 8 p.m. Monday.

The province says 83,285 have completed their vaccinations, having received two doses.

Some provinces were forced to push back vaccination for health-care workers and vulnerable seniors on Monday as deliveries from a major manufacturer ground to a temporary halt.

Canada is not due to receive any Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week as the company revamps its operations, and deliveries are expected to be slow for the next few weeks.

The Star’s Kevin Jiang has the story.

10:05 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 1,740 COVID-19 cases with 63 deaths.

The seven-day average is down to 2,346 cases daily, or 113 weekly per 100,000.

The seven-day average for deaths is up to 61.4/day — third highest ever.

Labs completed 30,717 tests, with 5.9 per cent positivity rate.

The Star’s Kevin Jiang has the story.

9:50 a.m.: Canada’s anxiety-laden COVID-19 vaccine programs are facing further threats as Europe warns drug makers it might impose export controls on European-made vaccine doses.

All of Canada’s current vaccine doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are made in Europe, potentially putting at risk the entirety of Canada’s vaccine deliveries.

Europe — like Canada — is being shorted on deliveries from Pfizer as the company slows production to expand its plant in Belgium.

But AstraZeneca has also now informed Europe productions issues will reduce initial deliveries of its vaccine, which Europe is expected to approve for use later this week.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says in a tweet today that the world’s largest trading bloc will establish “a vaccine export transparency mechanism.”

Canada has no ability currently to produce COVID-19 vaccines but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has insisted repeatedly that Canada will get enough vaccine doses for all Canadians who want it by the end of September.

9:15 a.m.: Colombian Defence Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, one of the country’s most recognized conservative politicians, has died from complications of COVID-19. He was 69.

President Ivan Duque said in a televised address that Trujillo died early Tuesday, adding that he “couldn’t express the pain” he was feeling over the news. He offered his condolences to Trujillo’s wife, children and other family members.

“His life was a reflection of vocation for public service,” Duque said.

Trujillo became defence minister in November 2019, after serving as foreign minister. He was also the mayor of Cali from 1988-1990 and held several ministerial and diplomatic positions during his decades-long political career.

Trujillo ran for president unsuccessfully in 2018, when he was defeated by Duque, who was then a rookie senator, in an internal party contest.

As a foreign minister, Trujillo backed U.S. efforts to force Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro out of office by supporting his rival Juan Guaidó. The campaign to remove Maduro through political and diplomatic pressure floundered, but has led to tougher U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s socialist government.

8:25 a.m.: The U.K. variant of COVID-19 appears to be circulating widely in communities north of Toronto.

York Region’s public health department is “very concerned” that 15 cases of the more contagious version of the virus have been detected in Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, King and Georgina.

Nine of the cases appear to have been contracted though local transmission and do not have any association with travel histories, said Dr. Karim Kurji, the region’s medical officer of health.

8 a.m. The European Union’s standoff with AstraZeneca Plc intensified as Germany urged the bloc to limit vaccine exports, risking tensions with the U.K. and other buyers of the British drugmaker’s COVID shot.

European authorities are under increasing pressure as the bloc’s underwhelming inoculation campaigns threaten to prolong recession-inducing lockdowns. AstraZeneca, which is in the final stages of the EU approval process for its Covid-19 shot, sparked a backlash after saying initial deliveries would be delayed due to production issues.

An export limitation for vaccines produced in the EU would “make sense,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Tuesday in an interview on ZDF television. Vaccines leaving the EU “need a license, so we know at least what’s produced in Europe and what leaves Europe, where it goes, and if there’s fair distribution,” he said.

The European Commission, which had called on drugmakers to flag vaccine exports in advance, says that AstraZeneca’s delay would mean significantly fewer deliveries this quarter than previously agreed. The setback follows Pfizer Inc.’s announcement earlier this month that supplies from a factory in Belgium would be reduced for three to four weeks because of work to upgrade capacity.

The EU, which has had nearly 18 million coronavirus infections, lags well behind the U.K. and the U.S. in vaccinations. Even Denmark, the bloc’s leader, has given only 3.6 shots per 100 people, about one-third the rate in Britain and half of the U.S. pace. Bigger EU countries are further behind, with Germany at 2.1 shots per 100 people.

Alongside the delivery standoff, AstraZeneca was forced to defend its shot, dismissing a German newspaper report that its vaccine is only effective for 8 per cent of people older than 65.

A report by Handelsblatt late Monday, which cited unidentified sources in Germany’s ruling coalition, is “completely incorrect,” an AstraZeneca spokesman said.

Germany’s health ministry also rejected the report, saying that the newspaper appears to have confused the fact that around 8 per cent of the test subjects were between 56 and 69 years old, and only 3 to 4 per cent were over 70, which isn’t the same as efficacy.

7:33 a.m. Health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital.

Officials said on Monday that they have not been able to identify how the husband and wife became infected after a brief hospital stay in the Taoyuan General Hospital, located in the city of Taoyuan just outside Taiwan’s capital city. The man had stayed at the hospital for three days for health problems unrelated to COVID-19, while his wife looked after him.

Those asked to quarantine include patients who were discharged from the hospital from Jan. 6 to 19, and their caregivers.

Taiwan is on higher alert after the latest domestic cluster, which has now seen 15 cases from the hospital in Taoyuan.

7:23 a.m. Ontario is sitting on $6.4 billion in unspent emergency COVID-19 funding as the pandemic rages, according to a new economic analysis, which shows that Ottawa is paying for the bulk of the relief effort.

Ontario is one of six provinces that have left billions on the table, moneys earmarked and urgently needed for health care, long-term care, housing and essential workers, states the study, released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The other provinces are Alberta, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

They should step up and do more to address the crisis, author David Macdonald, a senior economist with the think tank, said in an interview.

Read the full story from the Star’s Theresa Boyle

7:11 a.m. Portugal’s health minister says authorities are considering asking other European Union countries for help amid a steep surge in COVID-19 cases.

Portugal has had the world’s worst rate of new daily cases and deaths per 100,000 people for the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Health Minister Marta Temido says sending patients to other EU countries is not uncommon in the bloc. But, she says, Portugal has the disadvantage of being geographically remote and hospitals across the continent are under pressure from the pandemic. She says the country may instead be asking for medical workers to be sent.

Portuguese hospitals are under severe strain, Temido told public broadcaster RTP. “We have beds available,” she said. “What we’re struggling with is finding staff.”

That request may be difficult to fulfil, because all countries in the 27-nation bloc are dealing with their own pandemic strains, made more difficult now because of the emergence of virus variants.

6:35 a.m. The COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario has never really been one pandemic. It has played out instead in discreet boxes divided by impact and separated by income and postal code, by race, gender and especially age. That’s not to say it’s been easy, for anyone. But it hasn’t been fair either. People of colour, people with precarious work, people in certain industries and certain cities have borne the brunt of the infections, the job losses and the anguishing, lonely goodbyes.

But even given all that, on the morbid bar graph of pandemic tragedy one group stands alone, a bar so much higher than the others it looks like a design error instead of something real. COVID-19 has destroyed the lives of thousands who began the pandemic in an Ontario long-term-care home. More than 3,000 long-term residents have officially died from COVID-19 in Ontario. An untold number of others have been lost to pandemic-induced neglect or a lack of care.

Death on that scale imposes duty. It creates a challenge for Ontario. It is it’s own kind of never again. The good news is no one credible seems to dispute that now. After years of systemic neglect, all sides of the political spectrum agree that the system needs change. It needs more money, more staff, and more beds. It needs newer buildings and better oversight. It needs sustained public attention and care.

Read the fully story from the Star’s Richard Warnica here: The problem with profits: As Ontario’s long-term-care homes stagger under a COVID death toll of more than 3,000, some say it’s time to shut down for-profit homes for good

6 a.m. On the Friday before the Thanksgiving long weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraged Canadians to support their local food bank in a photo op at a Metro grocery store in Ottawa.

The appeal was part of the Liberal government’s pledge of another $100 million in funding to food banks and food charities — on top of the $100 million it gave in the spring — to combat rising food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Framed as both a gesture of compassion from a caring government and a meaningful way to address poverty, the announcement was broadly celebrated.

But in Toronto, Valerie Tarasuk was outraged. Canada’s foremost expert on food insecurity couldn’t believe the government was giving money to food banks.

Tarasuk, a professor at the University of Toronto, has been studying food insecurity for nearly 30 years. All of her research suggests that giving people food does nothing to make them less food-insecure, which is defined as having inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints.

The problem is not simply hunger; it’s poverty, she said. The only way to meaningfully address it is to increase income supports so people have enough money to buy food for themselves.

Read the full story from the Star’s Brendan Kennedy on why food banks don’t reduce food insecurity.

5:31 a.m. The U.K. is set to announce changes to its quarantine rules later Tuesday that could see anyone arriving in the country having to spend ten days in a hotel at their own expense.

Vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said there will be an “announcement on this issue later on today,” but would not be drawn on what the changes would entail.

The British government has been reviewing its quarantine policies amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus. Whether the changes will be universal and apply to everyone arriving, including British citizens, or just to those arriving from high-risk coronavirus countries, is unclear.

Zahawi told Sky News that “as we vaccinate more of the adult population, if there are new variants like the South African or the Brazilian variants, we need to be very careful.”

5:22 a.m. Sweden’s foreign minister says people in the Scandinavian country shouldn’t expect to be able to travel globally during Easter as Sweden extended the advice to avoid unnecessary trips to countries outside the European Union and the Schengen area.

“Our assessment is that there will be uncertainty for several months globally. It is an overall assessment that is about what the situation at the destinations will look like,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Tuesday.

Linde said the recommendation to avoid trips outside the EU will last until April 15. Easter is at the beginning of April.

5:10 a.m. Health authorities in New Zealand said they’ve found no evidence the coronavirus is spreading in the community after confirming the first case outside a quarantine facility in more than two months. The woman developed symptoms at home after she apparently was infected by a fellow traveller while in mandatory quarantine. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Tuesday that 15 of the woman’s 16 identified close contacts have tested negative, with one result still pending. New Zealand has eliminated community transmission of the virus, at least for now.

5:05 a.m. Chinese airlines are offering refunded tickets as coronavirus continues to spread in the northeast.

The offer Tuesday from the government’s aviation authority comes amid a push to prevent people travelling during the Lunar New Year holiday next month. China has largely curbed the virus’ spread at the local level, but travel limits remain in place where outbreaks have been detected, including in the capital Beijing.

Schools are going on break a week early and migrant workers have been told not to travel back to their hometowns.

5:01 a.m. Health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital.

Officials said on Monday that they have not been able to identify how the husband and wife became infected after a brief hospital stay in the Taoyuan General Hospital, located in the city of Taoyuan just outside Taiwan’s capital city. The man had stayed at the hospital for three days for health problems unrelated to COVID-19, while his wife looked after him.

Those asked to quarantine include patients who were discharged from the hospital between Jan. 6-19, and their caregivers.

Taiwan is on higher alert after the latest domestic cluster, which has now seen 15 cases from the hospital in Taoyuan.

4:53 a.m. Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed 1 million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468.

The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesia launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Officials have said that Indonesia will require almost 427 million doses, taking into account the estimate that 15% of doses may be wasted during the distribution process in the vast nation of more than 17,000 islands, where transportation and infrastructure are limited in places.

4 a.m. A new report on billions of dollars the federal government has sent to provinces to help safely reopen the economy suggests much of the money is sitting unused.

Today’s report also suggests that federal efforts to stretch the financial impact of those dollars is falling short as many provinces have bucked cost-matching requests.

The analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says six out of 10 provinces haven’t spent all the money the federal government has sent their way, including for things like personal protective equipment.

Author David Macdonald says some of the money may yet be spent, but notes the longer it remains unspent, the less likely it ever will be spent.

Macdonald’s analysis is based on a review of provincial and federal spending announcements, reconciling duplications, as well as provincial spending documents.

Federal and provincial governments are allocating hundreds of billions in direct spending and liquidity support to help workers, families, front-line workers and businesses make it through the pandemic.

The federal treasury has managed the lion’s share of COVID-19 spending — accounting for about $8 in every $10 of aid, according to the federal Finance Department’s math.

Monday 8:30 p.m.: As Maplehurst Correctional Complex continues to battle the worst COVID-19 jail outbreak so far in the province with 130 active cases, advocates are calling for clarity from the province around when prisoners and correctional officers will be vaccinated.

There are 88 inmate cases and 42 staff cases at the Milton jail, which is currently over capacity and has been running at 96 per cent capacity on average in the past six months, according to a spokesperson for the minister of the solicitor general Monday.

That exceeds the April outbreak at the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton, which had 89 inmate cases and more than 20 staff cases; the December outbreaks at the Toronto South Detention Centre, which had 77 inmate cases; and the Joyceville Penitentiary in Kingston, which had 80 inmates test positive.

Read the full story here: Maplehurst’s 130 active COVID cases make it Ontario’s worst jail outbreak of the pandemic

Click here to read more COVID-19 coverage from Monday.

Source : Toronto Star More