Today’s coronavirus news: Pakistan counts more deaths in latest virus wave; Japan moves closer to declaring virus emergency in Tokyo, Osaka; Doug Ford in isolation

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.8:20 a.m. Several Shoppers Drug Marts across Ontario will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week to administer COVID-19 vaccine shots starting as soon as Wednesday, the province announced Tuesday.A total 20 pharmacies have partnered with Ontario in this program; they will offer the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine to individuals aged 40 or older.Eligible residents can find a pharmacy nearest to them via the province’s online portal.Here are the 20 locations administering vaccines 24/78:10 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga wants to make a decision as soon as this week on whether to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and other areas, and ramp up restrictions to contain a surge in coronavirus cases just three months before the start of the delayed Olympics.Suga told reporters Wednesday he has received formal requests from Osaka and neighboring Hyogo prefecture for a declaration. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike indicated a request will be coming soon from the capital, where infections are spreading and she said the medical system is coming under strain in some areas.The moves by the leaders of Japan’s two-biggest and economically important urban areas have put pressure on Suga to move quickly. Local media reports indicate Kyoto prefecture was planning to request an emergency declaration.Tokyo is looking to have a state of emergency in place from April 29 through May 9, to coincide with a string of public holidays known as “Golden Week,” the Mainichi newspaper reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed political official. The move could step up current virus restrictions by having department stores close, it said. The Yomiuri newspaper reported that entertainment facilities including karaoke parlors could also face temporary closure.7:40 a.m. Several Ontario gyms have recently reopened under an exception in the province’s lockdown regulations intended to serve people with disabilities — raising concerns that they are exploiting a legal loophole and creating a public health risk.The exception in the Reopening Ontario Act allows a fitness facility to open solely for use by persons with a disability, within the meaning of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, who have a “written instruction” from a regulated health professional for “physical therapy” that they can’t do elsewhere.In advertising or when approached by the Star, three Ontario gyms that have recently reopened said they won’t ask clients to show a note, claiming they can’t ask under disability laws.Teresa Heron, the co-owner of Huf gym in Mississauga, which was fined last week for staying open in defiance of public health orders, said in a note to members the gym will not ask clients to show a note, nor question anyone’s eligibility to use the gym for that purpose. Clients with disabilities can get “can get a prescription to de-stress through boxing,” Heron recently told the Star.Read the full story from the Star’s Alyshah Hasham and Jason Miller7:15 a.m. Pakistani authorities on Wednesday reported 148 deaths from COVID-19, one of the country's highest daily death tolls in recent months.Pakistan is currently in the middle of a third wave of coronavirus infections amid widespread violations of social distancing rules. The government says the current wave is more dangerous compared to previous ones.The government has imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas to contain the spread of the virus and vaccinating health workers and older people against COVID-19. Authorities so far have largely relied on donated or imported vaccines from China.Pakistan hopes to receive 15 million vaccine doses by next month through the U.N.-backed COVAX program.Pakistan has reported a total of 772,381 confirmed cases and 16,600 deaths in the pandemic.7 a.m. Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar is out of the Flèche Wallonne one-day race Wednesday after his UAE Team Emirates squad withdrew following two positive tests for the coronavirus, even though the team was previously vaccinated.The team said rider Diego Ulissi and an unidentified staff member tested positive when they arrived in Belgium on Sunday, but that both repeatedly tested negative before and after the positive tests.“Though the team is frustrated by the ruling, we fully accept the final decision of the Belgian authorities,” the team said.The entire team was given the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine in January during a training camp in the United Arab Emirates.UAE Team Emirates said it will now undergo more coronavirus tests with the aim of being cleared to compete in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège race on Sunday.6:50 a.m. To date, 948,657 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto.6 a.m. While anyone age 40 and over is now eligible to receive an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine directly from a pharmacy, the vaccine rollout and boo

Today’s coronavirus news: Pakistan counts more deaths in latest virus wave; Japan moves closer to declaring virus emergency in Tokyo, Osaka; Doug Ford in isolation

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

8:20 a.m. Several Shoppers Drug Marts across Ontario will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week to administer COVID-19 vaccine shots starting as soon as Wednesday, the province announced Tuesday.

A total 20 pharmacies have partnered with Ontario in this program; they will offer the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine to individuals aged 40 or older.

Eligible residents can find a pharmacy nearest to them via the province’s online portal.

Here are the 20 locations administering vaccines 24/7

8:10 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga wants to make a decision as soon as this week on whether to declare a state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and other areas, and ramp up restrictions to contain a surge in coronavirus cases just three months before the start of the delayed Olympics.

Suga told reporters Wednesday he has received formal requests from Osaka and neighboring Hyogo prefecture for a declaration. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike indicated a request will be coming soon from the capital, where infections are spreading and she said the medical system is coming under strain in some areas.

The moves by the leaders of Japan’s two-biggest and economically important urban areas have put pressure on Suga to move quickly. Local media reports indicate Kyoto prefecture was planning to request an emergency declaration.

Tokyo is looking to have a state of emergency in place from April 29 through May 9, to coincide with a string of public holidays known as “Golden Week,” the Mainichi newspaper reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed political official. The move could step up current virus restrictions by having department stores close, it said. The Yomiuri newspaper reported that entertainment facilities including karaoke parlors could also face temporary closure.

7:40 a.m. Several Ontario gyms have recently reopened under an exception in the province’s lockdown regulations intended to serve people with disabilities — raising concerns that they are exploiting a legal loophole and creating a public health risk.

The exception in the Reopening Ontario Act allows a fitness facility to open solely for use by persons with a disability, within the meaning of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, who have a “written instruction” from a regulated health professional for “physical therapy” that they can’t do elsewhere.

In advertising or when approached by the Star, three Ontario gyms that have recently reopened said they won’t ask clients to show a note, claiming they can’t ask under disability laws.

Teresa Heron, the co-owner of Huf gym in Mississauga, which was fined last week for staying open in defiance of public health orders, said in a note to members the gym will not ask clients to show a note, nor question anyone’s eligibility to use the gym for that purpose. Clients with disabilities can get “can get a prescription to de-stress through boxing,” Heron recently told the Star.

Read the full story from the Star’s Alyshah Hasham and Jason Miller

7:15 a.m. Pakistani authorities on Wednesday reported 148 deaths from COVID-19, one of the country's highest daily death tolls in recent months.

Pakistan is currently in the middle of a third wave of coronavirus infections amid widespread violations of social distancing rules. The government says the current wave is more dangerous compared to previous ones.

The government has imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas to contain the spread of the virus and vaccinating health workers and older people against COVID-19. Authorities so far have largely relied on donated or imported vaccines from China.

Pakistan hopes to receive 15 million vaccine doses by next month through the U.N.-backed COVAX program.

Pakistan has reported a total of 772,381 confirmed cases and 16,600 deaths in the pandemic.

7 a.m. Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar is out of the Flèche Wallonne one-day race Wednesday after his UAE Team Emirates squad withdrew following two positive tests for the coronavirus, even though the team was previously vaccinated.

The team said rider Diego Ulissi and an unidentified staff member tested positive when they arrived in Belgium on Sunday, but that both repeatedly tested negative before and after the positive tests.

“Though the team is frustrated by the ruling, we fully accept the final decision of the Belgian authorities,” the team said.

The entire team was given the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine in January during a training camp in the United Arab Emirates.

UAE Team Emirates said it will now undergo more coronavirus tests with the aim of being cleared to compete in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège race on Sunday.

6:50 a.m. To date, 948,657 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto.

6 a.m. While anyone age 40 and over is now eligible to receive an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine directly from a pharmacy, the vaccine rollout and booking system remains confusing and convoluted for many Canadians.

Enter Vaccine Hunters Canada, a group dedicated to connecting eligible people and available vaccines. The group’s Twitter account has exploded in popularity in recent days. As of Tuesday morning, the account has more than 100,000 followers. Thousands more vaccine hunters can be found on Facebook and messaging platform Discord.

A core team of four volunteers established the account as a way to connect Canadians to vaccines — and each other, explained Josh Kalpin, one of the platform’s founders. The volunteer group is expanding rapidly, with plans for moderators, contributors and “local specialists” dedicated to sourcing vaccines in every province.

“We’re here to facilitate Canadians helping each other. It’s our duty as Canadians to help each other and to protect those that are most at risk and vulnerable, and I think the best way to do that is (to have) members of your community reach out to you.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Jenna Moon

5:45 a.m. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 240,000 new vaccinations administered for a total of 10,483,418 doses given. Nationwide, 944,342 people or 2.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 27,661.261 per 100,000.

There were 1,198 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 13,304,460 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 78.8 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

5:43 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual address to the nation Wednesday amid a sweeping Kremlin crackdown on opposition protests and soaring tensions with the West.

Putin began his state-of-the-nation speech by hailing the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic. He said the quick development of three coronavirus vaccines underlined Russia's technological and industrial potential.

The Russian leader has urged authorities to quicken the pace of the country's vaccination program, which has been slow compared to the West.

He promised new measures to encourage births and to increase average life expectancy, acknowledged that the pandemic has exacerbated demographic trends in Russia.

Putin proposed new incentives to help the economy overcome the blow from the pandemic and new social payments to the population.

Allies of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for nationwide protests across Russia on Wednesday to support him. Navalny started a prison hunger strike three weeks ago to protest what he says is inadequate medical treatment for his back pains and officials' refusal to allow a visit by his doctor. His deteriorating condition has caused international outrage.

Navalny's imprisonment and his health condition have fueled tensions with the West, already strained over Moscow's interference with elections, hacking attacks and, most recently, a massive Russian military buildup near the border with Ukraine.

The Kremlin has rejected Western concerns about the troop concentration, saying it's free to deploy the military wherever it's deemed necessary on the Russian territory.

5:41 a.m. Around 200 million Chinese, or 14.29 per cent of the population, have been vaccinated for COVID-19 so far, with an emphasis on front-line workers, university students and people living in border areas, a health official said Wednesday.

China is ramping up vaccination efforts after a slow start, prompted in part by the virtual elimination of domestic transmission. Just two local cases were reported on Wednesday, both in the city of Ruili, which borders on Myanmar.

Center of Disease Control official Cui Gang told a news conference that key areas and members of the population were being prioritized for vaccines. China has approved five domestically produced vaccines and exported millions of doses, although some scientists believe they provide less protection that those by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The Chinese vaccines have an efficacy range of 50.7 per cent to 79.3 per cent, based on company data, lower than their foreign peers but still effective.

China is now giving millions of shots a day and a top government doctor, Zhong Nanshan, has announced a goal of vaccinating 560 million of the country’s 1.4 billion people by mid-June.

China locked down the city of Wuhan for more than two months starting in January 2020 after the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019. Wuhan became known as the epicenter of the pandemic, although Beijing has suggested the virus might have been circulating earlier and possibly brought to China from abroad.

Since then, China has controlled the virus through stringent border controls and quick lockdowns whenever new outbreaks crop up. Mask wearing indoors remains almost universal and health tracing applications must be shown at most shops, offices and public buildings.

5:37 a.m. As soon as word got out earlier this week that Ontario was opening up AstraZeneca vaccine availability to people 40 and older, Betsy Hilton’s group chats lit up on her phone.

“It was wild. Every 40-something I knew was getting on pharmacy websites trying to get a spot,” said the 42-year-old Toronto communications consultant, who booked a jab for Wednesday.

Across the country, Gen X’ers — who grew up with Cabbage Patch Kids and New Kids on the Block, and are sometimes called the “latchkey” generation because many returned to an empty home after school as parents worked — have pounced at the sudden availability in several provinces of AstraZeneca, the vaccine baby boomers have been slow to embrace amid reports of a possible association with rare blood clots.

So what makes Gen X different?

Read the full story from the Star’s Douglas Quan

5:32 a.m. The number of COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals and ICUs has increased nearly 112 per cent since the beginning of April.

The number of ICU patients hit 722 in data reported Tuesday morning by the province, a nearly 78 per cent increase from April 1. Hospitalizations have followed a similar path. Doctors have been sounding the alarm about the looming disaster in the province’s hospitals.

Health officials and have said the next two weeks of case growth are already “locked in” and won’t be affected by strengthened stay-at-home orders, such as the ones announced last week by the province. More vigilance now, though, can pay dividends later.

This chart shows how the situation escalated and how much it’s growing daily.

5:30 a.m. Premier Doug Ford hopes to shake a political headache with a provincial paid sick leave plan that would bolster federal efforts to prevent people from going to work ill and spreading COVID-19.

While Ford has long insisted he didn’t want to duplicate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan — criticized as stingy and clumsy — Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said Ottawa’s failure to improve it for workers has created an opening.

The move comes after months of pressure from public health experts who say paid sick leave will contain the workplace spread of the virus that has killed 7,757 Ontarians in the past 13 months.

“We saw what wasn’t in that (Monday federal) budget and we’ll have their backs,” McNaughton told reporters Tuesday.

“Clearly there are gaps in the system.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson

5:25 a.m. As Toronto and Peel invoked measures Tuesday mandating businesses with COVID-19 outbreaks to close, the daughter of one Brampton factory worker who died from the virus says this action is too little, too late.

Radhika Gandhi says a swifter, more proactive response from health officials and the government earlier in the pandemic could have saved her father, Kanaiya, who came to Canada in 1984 from India and dedicated 26 years of his life to working at the job where he contracted the virus and died in February.

“They should have had this back last year, it shouldn’t be something that’s just popping up now because the cases are so elevated,” said Gandhi, who mentioned it’s a step in the right direction, but not one that speaks to the larger issue of how workers are treated. “This just calls for why we need paid sick days and why these essential companies need proper testing. I think it’s ridiculous to just leave the onus on employees to get properly tested only if they have symptoms.”

The Section 22 order, which will go into effect on Friday in both regions, falls under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, allowing the local public health units to close workplaces while investigations into cases and sources of transmission take place. The move will mandate businesses with five or more COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks to shut down for 10 days. Some workplaces, like health care, may be exempt from full closures.

Gandhi says it feels like a “one-size-fits-all solution.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Danica Samuel and Irelyne Lavery

Wednesday 5:20 a.m. Wednesday’s drive-through vaccination appointments at Canada’s Wonderland have been cancelled in light of a forecast of snow.

The appointments have been rebooked for Friday at the same time as the original appointments, said a statement Tuesday from York Region.

Environment Canada said four to eight centimetres of snow is expected to fall across the GTA on Tuesday going into Wednesday afternoon.

Those with rescheduled appointments will be contacted by email or phone.

The amusement park has been administering shots at its vaccination clinic for almost a month.

Some 87.6 per cent of York Region residents aged 80 and older and 85.6 per cent of those aged 75 to 79 have received at least one dose, according to the regional site’s interactive database.

Read the full story from the Star’s Cheyenne Bholla

11:25 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford is isolating at home in Toronto after an aide tested positive for COVID-19.

“Today, a member of Premier Ford’s staff who came into close contact with him yesterday was tested for COVID-19 after learning that they had been at risk of exposure,” the premier’s office said at 10:40 p.m. Tuesday.

“This evening, the staff member received a positive result. Immediately upon learning that this staff member was even at risk of exposure, the premier left the legislature to be tested,” his office said.

“While his test results have returned negative, the premier will follow all public health advice for close contacts of positive cases, including isolating. He will do so in Toronto.”

Read the full story here: Doug Ford in isolation after aide tests positive for COVID-19

10:36 p.m.: Hawaii officials will allow state residents who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to skip pre-travel testing and quarantine requirements for flights between islands.

Hawaii becomes the second state in the nation after New York to implement a vaccination verification program, state officials said at a news conference Tuesday.

The plan does not change anyone’s ability to travel and avoid quarantine by testing, as is currently required for trans-Pacific and inter-island travel, but adds another option for Hawaii residents who are 14 days past their final vaccination shot. People must have received their shots in the state to be eligible for the exemption.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the state hopes to add the option for trans-Pacific travellers this summer, but wants to test the program among island residents first.

Read the full story here: Hawaii to begin vaccine passports for travel between islands

Read Tuesday’s rolling file

Source : Toronto Star More