Today’s coronavirus news: U.S. regulators greenlight mixing COVID vaccines; Ontario reporting 304 cases of COVID-19, 4 deaths; White House details plans to vaccinate 28M children age 5-11

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.6:00 p.m.: Toronto expects the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and offered to children aged 5 to 11 within weeks, says public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa.De Villa told reporters Wednesday her department is launching a multi-pronged campaign to get as many kids immunized as quickly as possible, including an online “tool kit” with vaccine information for parents, guardians and caregivers.The kit includes information about the benefits and risks of children getting the jab, she said, adding that in general the vaccine’s protection for kids and adults around them against COVID-19 far outweigh any risk of side-effects.Parents are already comfortable with kids getting mandatory vaccinations for nine diseases to be able to attend school in Ontario, de Villa said, but social media posts have “clouded” the COVID-19 vaccine picture.Read the full story here: Toronto’s top doctor says she expects COVID-19 vaccinations approved and offered for young children within weeks5:30 p.m.: U.S. regulators on Wednesday signed off on extending COVID-19 boosters to Americans who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said anyone eligible for an extra dose can get a brand different from the one they received initially.The Food and Drug Administration’s decisions mark a big step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign, which began with extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine last month. But before more people roll up their sleeves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consult an expert panel later this week before finalizing official recommendations for who should get boosters and when.The latest moves would expand by tens of millions the number of Americans eligible for boosters and formally allow “mixing and matching” of shots — making it simpler to get another dose, especially for people who had a side effect from one brand but still want the proven protection of vaccination.Specifically, the FDA authorized a third Moderna shot for seniors and others at high risk from COVID-19 because of their health problems, jobs or living conditions — six months after their last shot. One big change: Moderna’s booster will be half the dose that’s used for the first two shots, based on company data showing that was plenty to rev up immunity again.For J&J’s single-shot vaccine, the FDA said all U.S. recipients should get a second dose at least two months following their initial vaccination.The FDA rulings differ because the vaccines are made differently, with different dosing schedules — and the J&J vaccine has consistently shown a lower level of effectiveness than either of the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.3:40 p.m.: It seems Manitoba politicians may not have needed to apologize for recently appearing maskless in pictures at an art gallery event.Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says while he doesn't know details of what happened, people are allowed to remove their masks briefly to take photos.Manitoba requires mask use in all indoor public places under its COVID-19 public health orders.The orders spell out some exemptions, such as temporarily removing a mask to eat or drink, to give a speech or to receive a service that requires the mask to be off.Last weekend, three Manitoba cabinet ministers and a Winnipeg city councillor were seen in pictures on social media without masks and standing alongside other people at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.They later said they were sorry."For the most part, that mask should be on. There are brief periods where it's reasonable for it to come off," Roussin said Wednesday."If it was simply to remove a mask for the purposes of getting a photograph, and then you put it back on, then ... that's in keeping with advice we've provided."Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Winnipeg Coun. Markus Chambers have both said they removed their masks while sitting down to eat and stood up briefly to pose for the pictures. Families Minister Rochelle Squires and Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox were also photographed maskless while standing.Health officials reported 51 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and one additional death. Almost half of the new cases came in the southern health region, an area that makes up 15 per cent of the province's population and has low vaccination rates.The province also said it is preparing to distribute Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to kids ages five to 11 as early as the end of November, if federal regulators approve the lower age eligibility that Pfizer applied for this week. Children of that age would be given smaller doses, with smaller needles, than what has been supplied to date."We have spoken with Pfizer as recently as yesterday," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccination effort."They haven't provided us with any numbers but are signaling generally that we can expect a la

Today’s coronavirus news: U.S. regulators greenlight mixing COVID vaccines; Ontario reporting 304 cases of COVID-19, 4 deaths; White House details plans to vaccinate 28M children age 5-11

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.

6:00 p.m.: Toronto expects the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and offered to children aged 5 to 11 within weeks, says public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa.

De Villa told reporters Wednesday her department is launching a multi-pronged campaign to get as many kids immunized as quickly as possible, including an online “tool kit” with vaccine information for parents, guardians and caregivers.

The kit includes information about the benefits and risks of children getting the jab, she said, adding that in general the vaccine’s protection for kids and adults around them against COVID-19 far outweigh any risk of side-effects.

Parents are already comfortable with kids getting mandatory vaccinations for nine diseases to be able to attend school in Ontario, de Villa said, but social media posts have “clouded” the COVID-19 vaccine picture.

Read the full story here: Toronto’s top doctor says she expects COVID-19 vaccinations approved and offered for young children within weeks

5:30 p.m.: U.S. regulators on Wednesday signed off on extending COVID-19 boosters to Americans who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said anyone eligible for an extra dose can get a brand different from the one they received initially.

The Food and Drug Administration’s decisions mark a big step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign, which began with extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine last month. But before more people roll up their sleeves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consult an expert panel later this week before finalizing official recommendations for who should get boosters and when.

The latest moves would expand by tens of millions the number of Americans eligible for boosters and formally allow “mixing and matching” of shots — making it simpler to get another dose, especially for people who had a side effect from one brand but still want the proven protection of vaccination.

Specifically, the FDA authorized a third Moderna shot for seniors and others at high risk from COVID-19 because of their health problems, jobs or living conditions — six months after their last shot. One big change: Moderna’s booster will be half the dose that’s used for the first two shots, based on company data showing that was plenty to rev up immunity again.

For J&J’s single-shot vaccine, the FDA said all U.S. recipients should get a second dose at least two months following their initial vaccination.

The FDA rulings differ because the vaccines are made differently, with different dosing schedules — and the J&J vaccine has consistently shown a lower level of effectiveness than either of the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

3:40 p.m.: It seems Manitoba politicians may not have needed to apologize for recently appearing maskless in pictures at an art gallery event.

Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says while he doesn't know details of what happened, people are allowed to remove their masks briefly to take photos.

Manitoba requires mask use in all indoor public places under its COVID-19 public health orders.

The orders spell out some exemptions, such as temporarily removing a mask to eat or drink, to give a speech or to receive a service that requires the mask to be off.

Last weekend, three Manitoba cabinet ministers and a Winnipeg city councillor were seen in pictures on social media without masks and standing alongside other people at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

They later said they were sorry.

"For the most part, that mask should be on. There are brief periods where it's reasonable for it to come off," Roussin said Wednesday.

"If it was simply to remove a mask for the purposes of getting a photograph, and then you put it back on, then ... that's in keeping with advice we've provided."

Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Winnipeg Coun. Markus Chambers have both said they removed their masks while sitting down to eat and stood up briefly to pose for the pictures. Families Minister Rochelle Squires and Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox were also photographed maskless while standing.

Health officials reported 51 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and one additional death. Almost half of the new cases came in the southern health region, an area that makes up 15 per cent of the province's population and has low vaccination rates.

The province also said it is preparing to distribute Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to kids ages five to 11 as early as the end of November, if federal regulators approve the lower age eligibility that Pfizer applied for this week. Children of that age would be given smaller doses, with smaller needles, than what has been supplied to date.

"We have spoken with Pfizer as recently as yesterday," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccination effort.

"They haven't provided us with any numbers but are signaling generally that we can expect a large supply to be available fairly quickly after approval occurs."

— With files from CTV Winnipeg

3:11 p.m. A Brazilian Senate report recommended Wednesday pursuing crimes against humanity and other charges against President Jair Bolsonaro for allegedly bungling Brazil’s response to COVID-19 and contributing to the country having the world’s second-highest pandemic death toll.

Sen. Renan Calheiros presented the proposal to a committee of colleagues that has spent six months investigating the Brazilian government’s management of the pandemic. The decision on whether to file most of the charges would be up to Brazil’s prosecutor-general, a Bolsonaro appointee and ally.

In a nearly 1,200-page report based on the committee’s work, Calheiros called for Bolsonaro’s indictment on charges ranging from charlatanism and inciting crime to misuse of public funds and crimes against humanity. The report can be modified before the 11-member senatorial committee considers endorsing it; a vote is set for Oct. 26.

The committee “collected evidence that abundantly demonstrated that the federal government was silent and chose to act in a non-technical and reckless manner,” the report states.

Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and touted misinformation and unproven COVID-19 treatments while ignoring international health guidelines for curtailing the spread of the the disease. He steadfastly rejected restricting activity during the worst of Brazil’s outbreak, claiming the poor would suffer worse hardship if the economy ground to a halt.

Read more from The Associated Press.

3:05 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting six new cases of COVID-19 today.

Officials have identified three cases in the Halifax area, two cases in the province's western zone and one case in the northern zone. Among the cases is a fourth patient who tested positive for novel coronavirus as part of a small outbreak at the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, N.S.

Officials say testing is continuing for the hospital's patients, staff and doctors who have been identified as close contacts.

The province now has 165 active infections with 16 people hospitalized, including five who are in intensive care.

According to provincial data, 82.6 per cent of the province's population have had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 77.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.

3 p.m. Health officials in New Brunswick say another five people have died, bringing the number of COVID-19-related deaths in the province to 99.

In a statement, Premier Blaine Higgs said his thoughts are with the family and friends mourning their loved ones.

There are 69 new COVID-19 cases today and 761 active cases in the province. There are 55 people hospitalized, including 16 in intensive care. Officials say 14 of the people listed in intensive care are unvaccinated.

Currently 82.9 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated while 91.8 per cent have received at least one dose of vaccine.

2:50 p.m. Ontario’s Liberals are being accused of saying one thing and doing another after their Thunder Bay MPP sought special treatment for a personal support worker who was about to become unemployed for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Michael Gravelle (Thunder-Bay Superior North) made the request in an Oct. 14 email to Health Minister Christine Elliott and Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips despite Liberal party policy, which urges Premier Doug Ford to make full vaccination mandatory for all health-care and education workers.

Elliott’s office took aim at Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca as it released the email Wednesday.

“Steven Del Duca’s Liberals continue to say one thing in the media and another behind closed doors,” a statement said.

Read more from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.

2:45 p.m. Premier François Legault says that while the province plans to lift the pandemic state of emergency after younger children have been vaccinated, some health measures may stick around longer.

Legault told reporters in Quebec City Wednesday the state of emergency has given the province flexibility to introduce measures such as masking rules and a website to recruit health-care help. He said the province would look at measures one-by-one and introduce a bill to maintain those that are needed.

"We have to see what we have the right to do and then what we need to do once the children between the ages of five and 11 are going to be vaccinated," Legault said. "We think that, for the most part, we will be able to remove most of the measures, but it is possible that some should be kept."

Legault had been vague about when the health emergency might end, but said Tuesday it could come in early 2022, depending on how quickly vaccination begins for younger children.

2:15 p.m. The first easy-to-use COVID-19 treatment could be available in the U.S. by the end of this year, but it is unlikely to reach developing countries, where hundreds of millions of people remain without access to vaccines until at least the middle of 2022, according to public health officials.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it would attempt to expedite the timetable for getting the drug, the antiviral molnupiravir, to low-income countries. It pledged an initial investment of up to $120 million to prompt eight generic drugmakers that have signed licensing agreements with the drug’s developer Merck to start producing the medicine now, a sort of insurance policy gambling that it will be approved by regulatory bodies.

Molnupiravir was developed in record speed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, who have submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. Merck is already manufacturing the drug in anticipation of that approval, which could come in December.

The U.S. government has a prepurchase contract for 1.7 billion courses of the medication, a simple pill that in a large clinical trial halved the risk of hospitalizations and death from the coronavirus among high-risk people who took it in the first days of infection.

2:05 p.m. The campaign to vaccinate young children in the U.S against the coronavirus will not look like it did for adults. There will be no mass inoculation sites. Pediatricians will be enlisted to help work with parents. Even the vials — and the needles to administer doses — will be smaller.

Biden administration officials, anticipating that regulators will make the vaccines available to 5- to 11-year-olds in the coming weeks, laid out plans on Wednesday to ensure that some 25,000 pediatric or primary care offices, thousands of pharmacies, and hundreds of school and rural health clinics will be ready to administer shots if the vaccine receives federal authorization.

The campaign aims to fulfill the unique needs of patients largely still in elementary school — and an age group containing far more people than the teenage cohort already approved to receive the vaccine — while absorbing the lessons from the rollout of vaccines to other age groups.

This month, Pfizer and BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize emergency use of their vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, a move that could help protect more than 28 million people in the U.S. A meeting to discuss the authorization is set for Oct. 26, and an FDA ruling could come in the days after, possibly clearing a path for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make recommendations on a pediatric dose in early November.

1:50 p.m. A pair of unmasked NYPD cops shoved a straphanger out of a Manhattan subway station on Tuesday after he says he repeatedly asked them why they weren’t following a state rule that requires people to cover their faces in mass transit facilities.

Andy Gilbert, 27, said he got off his downtown W train at 8th St. in the East Village around 8:40 a.m. when he saw the cops standing on the platform without masks.

“Recently I started doing short videos whenever I see that and ask why the cops aren’t wearing masks,” said Gilbert, who lives in Queens.

“This morning I did the same thing. I asked both of them if they realize it’s illegal to not have a mask on in the subway. I asked, ‘Why don’t you just put on a mask?’”

A state rule that took effect in September 2020 requires everyone to cover their faces on the subway or face a $50 (U.S.) fine.

1:40 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting nine new cases of COVID-19 and 46 active reported infections across the province.

The province's acting chief medical officer of health says there are still 76,000 people who are eligible to be immunized against COVID-19 but are not yet fully vaccinated.

That group represents about 16 per cent of those eligible and Dr. Rosann Seviour said they pose one of the greatest challenges to public health officials as they battle the pandemic's fourth wave.

1:30 p.m. Under pressure from rising infections and worried health experts, the British government on Wednesday urged millions of people to get booster vaccine shots but resisted calls to reimpose coronavirus restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government would “stay vigilant, preparing for all eventualities,” but would not trigger its “Plan B” of bringing back restrictions on daily life.

Britain is relying heavily on vaccines to keep the virus at bay during the fall and winter months. Almost 80 per cent of people 12 and over in the U.K. have received two vaccine doses and millions are being offered a booster shot, including everyone over 50.

But critics say the booster campaign is moving more slowly than the virus. The U.K. recorded 49,139 new infections on Wednesday, by far the highest total in Europe, and cases are averaging more than 45,000 a day, up 17 per cent from a week earlier.

1:15 p.m. A Florida battalion chief has been fired for refusing to discipline workers who hadn't gotten a COVID-19 vaccine in violation of a requirement for county employees.

Orange County Fire Rescue battalion chief Stephen Davis was fired Tuesday for failure to follow a direct order and issue disciplinary actions earlier this month, said Lisa McDonald, a spokeswoman for the fire department in metro Orlando.

But a union representing firefighters told WFTV that Davis didn't write up the disciplines because the workers on his list were mistakenly identified as unvaccinated or hadn't gotten their requests for religious exemptions in on time.

“He didn’t do what he was asked to do because he realized some people on the spreadsheet that he received were fully vaccinated and had religious exemptions at the time and he knew it was unlawful and violating state law,” firefighter Jason Wheat told the Orlando television station.

12:35 p.m. (updated) The federal Conservatives are challenging the decision-making process behind the move to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations on Parliament Hill.

On Tuesday evening, the group of MPs charged with setting rules for the House of Commons declared that as of Nov. 22, all members of Parliament and their staff members will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter the Parliament buildings.

While the decision was heralded by the Liberals and New Democratic Party, both of which have advocated for that approach, the Conservatives were initially silent.

But on Wednesday, one of the Conservative MPs on the board of internal economy, which made the decision, said his party objects to the way it was made.

Read the full story from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz

12:20 p.m. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is taking over operations of a Vancouver care home where dozens of residents died during a COVID-19 outbreak that began last November and took months to contain.

A statement from the health authority says the Ministry of Health has approved the transfer of operations and assets from Little Mountain Residential Care and Housing Society.

The transfer includes Little Mountain Place, a 116-bed long-term care home for seniors, where 41 deaths and many more COVID-19 illnesses were reported last winter.

The statement says the transition, which also includes a 96-unit independent living facility and a 73-bed long-term care home for younger adults with complex needs, is expected to be completed in the next few months.

12:10 p.m. Quebec is reporting 458 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

The Health Department reports there are 287 people hospitalized with the virus, 10 fewer than the day before, and 72 of those patients are in intensive care, a decline of three.

According to the province's public health institute, 90.2 per cent of those aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, with 87.2 per cent considered adequately vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health Minister Christian Dubé tweeted a chart today showing that since he delayed mandatory vaccinations for health-care workers last week by one month, about 1,000 have received a first dose and 2,000 have received their second dose.

11:45 a.m. Canada's Olympic and Paralympic athletes must be vaccinated to compete at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Wednesday, saying the decision was made with support of the boards of directors and athlete commissions.

Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker pointed out that 840 coaches and staff travelled to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this past summer without a positive case.

"We want to do the same for Beijing," he said in a statement.

The United Stated Olympic Committee announced a similar vaccine mandate recently.

The Olympic open Feb. 4 and the Paralympics on March 4.

11:20 a.m. CaféTO, Toronto’s popular pandemic innovation that saw restaurant and bar patios spill into sidewalks and roadways, will become permanent if city council approves a proposal supported by Mayor John Tory.

A city staff report going to Tory’s executive committee next week, and then city council, suggests making the program permanent through a “phased” approach.

The report also advocates waiving fees for next year to give a further boost to hospitality businesses hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions.

The hastily developed, enthusiastically received way to let pandemic-struck eateries and bars expand patios onto new public and private spaces was launched in June 2020 amid fears over infection risk from indoor dining.

Read the full story from the Star’s David Rider

10:45 a.m. A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund says its same-store sales grew nearly 17 per cent in its latest quarter as COVID-19 public health restrictions eased, allowing the fast-food chain to reopen more restaurants and serve more customers.

The Vancouver-based company's gross sales in the royalty pool totalled $409.5 million for the three months ended Sept. 12, up from $340.6 million in the same quarter of 2020.

The company reported net income excluding non-cash items of $9.2 million for the third quarter, up from $7.7 million in the same period the previous year.

It says there were 994 open restaurants in the royalty pool at the end of the quarter, compared to 971 in 2020.

The company says its monthly distribution rate will increase to 15.5 cents per unit, up from 15 cents per unit, beginning with its October 2021 distribution payable Nov. 30.

A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund owns the A&W trademarks used in the A&W quick service restaurant business in Canada.

10:15 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting another 304 COVID-19 cases and four more deaths, according to its latest report released Wednesday morning.

Ontario has administered 25,284 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,290,203 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,421,523 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 87.6 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 76.8 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

10 a.m. Morocco is suspending until further notice all flights to and from the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands amid rising coronavirus infections in those countries. The new restriction will come into force just before midnight Wednesday, the North African kingdom's airports authority said.

In a tweet, national carrier Royal Air Maroc said the move was due to “the pandemic situation.” It did not provide further detail.

Morocco's Health Ministry warned Monday of the threat of a new virus surge, stressing “the need to avoid possible a relapse of serious and critical cases and COVID-19-related deaths, which have occurred in several European countries.”

COVID-19 cases have been rising sharply in the Netherlands over the past two weeks and also are climbing in Germany.

9:50 a.m. (updated) Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy will table a mini-budget on Nov. 4 to outline the Progressive Conservatives’ plans for tackling the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bethlenfalvy emphasized “the job is not done” in dealing with a global health crisis that has killed more than 9,800 Ontarians since March 2020 and upended the province’s economy.

“Our government’s next fiscal update (is) a plan that will protect the hard work and sacrifice of the people of Ontario in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said Wednesday.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

9:45 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the country’s workers to stay off work for a week starting later this month amid rising coronavirus infection and death numbers, and he strongly urged reluctant citizens to get vaccinated.

The government task force on Wednesday reported 1,028 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought Russia's total death toll to 226,353 which is by far the highest in Europe.

Putin said Wednesday he supports the Cabinet’s proposal to introduce a nonworking period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days already are state holidays. He added in some regions where the situation is the most threatening, the nonworking period could start as early as Saturday and be extended after Nov. 7.

9:30 a.m. Children age 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID-19 shot at their pediatrician's office, local pharmacy and potentially even their school, the White House said Wednesday as it detailed plans for the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for younger children in a matter of weeks.

Federal regulators will meet over the next two weeks to weigh the benefits of giving shots to kids, after lengthy studies meant to ensure the safety of the vaccines.

Within hours of formal approval, expected after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory meeting scheduled for Nov. 2-3, doses will begin shipping to providers across the country, along with smaller needles necessary for injecting young kids, and within days will be ready to go into the arms of kids on a wide scale.

“We’re completing the operational planning to ensure vaccinations for kids ages 5-11 are available, easy and convenient,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients on Wednesday.

9:10 a.m. It’s a scary Halloween season for retailers that are scrambling to stock their shelves in time for the holiday.

Geoff Waszek, owner of Candy’s Costume Shop in Toronto, said he was wary of placing orders in January, as is customary in the industry for Halloween, out of fears that another lockdown would cancel the festivities.

Once he did start ordering, Waszek said he had to scrounge to source stock from a patchwork of suppliers who were struggling with supply chain issues.

U.S.-based HalloweenCostumes.com, which ships directly to Canadian consumers, said many of the goods they ordered won’t even arrive until after the holiday.

8:45 a.m. Statistics Canada says the annual pace of inflation picked up in September to reach its highest level since February 2003.

The agency says its consumer price index in September was up 4.4 per cent compared with a year ago.

The reading compared with a year-over-year increase of 4.1 per cent in August.

Driving most of the increase were prices at the pumps as consumers paid 32.8 per cent more last month for gasoline than in September 2020.

The statistics agency says the annual inflation rate would have been 3.5 per cent had it excluded gasoline prices from its calculation.

Statistics Canada also says that food prices overall rose 3.9 per cent year-over-year, compared to the 2.7 per cent recorded in August.

8 a.m. Immigration authorities in Singapore seized 23,100 tablets of the parasite-killing drug ivermectinat the country’s border in recent weeks. Despite the Centers for Disease Control’s warnings, ivermectin has surged in popularity as a bogus COVID-19 cure.

Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority stopped the thousands of tablets from entering the country between Sept. 10 and Oct. 6 and posted a spicy Facebook meme about it Tuesday.

In three of the ICA’s five busts, the tablets were not declared at all. In one bust, they were labeled “health care products” and in another they were described as a “supplement pharma product.” One of the “no declaration” shipments included 2,000 tablets of hydroxychloroquine, the ICA said.

Side effects of ivermectin include nausea, comas, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, it can be fatal to take ivermectin.

7:40 a.m. Canadian airline ticket prices are bouncing back from their deep pandemic lows — and with Christmas around the corner consumers can expect sky high prices for the holidays.

Experts say a perfect storm of pent-up demand, higher costs and rising fuel prices mean round-trip tickets this holiday season may be higher than ever.

As recently as June, one-way flights between Toronto and Vancouver were as low as $114. While there are still low-cost tickets available from now until mid-December, tickets closer to Christmas are back up to seasonal highs, currently going for between $450 and $1,200 each way for economy flights from Toronto to Vancouver on Air Canada and WestJet.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba

7:20 a.m. New York City will require police officers, firefighters and other municipal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, giving an ultimatum to public employees who’ve refused and ensuring a fight with some of the unions representing them.

The mandate affecting the nation’s largest police department and more than 100,000 other Big Apple workers — including trash haulers and building inspectors — carries a Nov. 1 deadline for getting the first vaccine dose, de Blasio announced.

Jailers on Rikers Island, where the city has been grappling with staffing shortages creating unsafe conditions, will be subject to the mandate on Dec. 1.

Of the workers affected by the new mandate, 71 per cent have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the city.

The city previously mandated vaccines for public school teachers and the state has previously mandated vaccines for hospital workers.

6:25 a.m.: What do you call someone who graduates last in their class at medical school? Doctor. It’s an old joke, but the point is that not everyone who attains the rank has the same level of acumen. Monday, two doctors were censured by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for peddling flimsy vaccine, masking, and even COVID test exemptions. Physicians, heal thyselves.

By Tuesday, there were four such quacks on the docket, and there are clearly more. It’s a clear breach of proper medical practice, and in this time of plague, it’s clearly a loophole that needs to be filled. So, how?

Read the full column from the Star’s Bruce Arthur here.

6:24 a.m.: An Ontario mayor who has pushed COVID-19 disinformation may lose part of his pay following a scathing report by an integrity commissioner.

West Lincoln Mayor David Bylsma is one of a small band of politicians in the fiercely conservative communities of western Niagara who have embraced anti-vaccination or anti-lockdown rhetoric. He is the only one to face sanctions from the political bodies he is a part of.

First, his own council stripped him of most of his powers, and now the regional council that his mayoralty entitles him to sit on will consider suspending his pay.

Bylsma’s decision earlier this year to ask a St. Catharines woman, Emily Spanton, through Facebook if the COVID-19 vaccine impacted her menstruation was “alarmingly invasive,” “arguably insulting” and “irresponsible,” Niagara Region’s integrity commissioner found in an Oct. 8 report.

Read the full story from Torstar’s Grant LaFleche here.

6:22 a.m.: Russia’s coronavirus deaths surged to another daily record Wednesday as soaring infections prompted the Cabinet to suggest declaring a nonworking week to stem contagion.

The government task force reported 1,028 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought the total death toll to 226,353 — by far the highest in Europe.

Amid a spike in infections and deaths, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova suggested introducing a nonworking period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days already are state holidays. The proposal is yet to be authorized by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates, lax public attitude toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions. About 45 million Russians, or 32% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

6:21 a.m.: The Czech Republic has been hit by a steep rise in coronavirus infections that have reached levels unseen since late April, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

The government was set to meet later in the day to approve new measures to tame the surge.

The day-to-day increase in new cases reached 3,246 on Tuesday, more than double the cases a week ago when it was 1,507. It was the highest number since April 20.

The new infections surpassed 100 per 100,000 people in seven days with 117 positive cases.

The fast rise of infections is accompanied by increasing numbers of people who need hospitalization and those who die.

6:20 a.m.: The World Health Organization said there was a 7% rise in new coronavirus cases across Europe last week, the only region in the world where cases increased.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released late Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week, similar to the numbers reported the previous week. Britain, Russia and Turkey accounted for the most cases.

The biggest drop in COVID-19 cases were seen in Africa and the Western Pacific, where infections fell by about 18% and 16%, respectively. The number of deaths in Africa also declined by about a quarter, despite the dire shortage of vaccines on the continent. Other regions including the Americas and the Middle East, reported similar numbers to the previous week, WHO said.

But for the third consecutive week, coronavirus cases have jumped in Europe, with about 1.3 million new cases. More than half of countries in the region reported a rise in their COVID-19 numbers, WHO said.

In the past week, Russia has repeatedly broken new daily records for COVID-19 cases and the number of infections in the U.K. has surged to levels not seen since mid-July.

6:19 a.m.: Statistics Canada is scheduled to say this morning what the country’s headline inflation barometer registered in September.

The consumer price index in August rose 4.1 per cent compared with the same month one year earlier, marking the largest year-over-year increase since March 2003.

The pace of increases in August reflected the rebound in prices from the lows witnessed one year earlier, a surge in consumer demand and supply-chain bottlenecks that have driven up transport costs being passed on to buyers.

RBC economists Nathan Janzen and Claire Fan say they expect to see an annual inflation rate of 4.2 per cent in September with home and gasoline costs as key drivers.

They also write in a note that supply-chain issues may be more persistent and over time fuel higher, longer-run inflation expectations for households and businesses.

Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem has said the central bank would act to rein in inflation if the current bout of price increases look to become more than one-off pressure points.

6:18 a.m.: It’s a scary Halloween season for retailers that are scrambling to stock their shelves in time for the holiday.

Geoff Waszek, owner of Candy’s Costume Shop in Toronto, said he was wary of placing orders in January, as is customary in the industry for Halloween, out of fears that another lockdown would cancel the festivities.

Once he did start ordering, Waszek said he had to scrounge to source stock from a patchwork of suppliers who were struggling with supply chain issues.

U.S.-based HalloweenCostumes.com, which ships directly to Canadian consumers, said many of the goods they ordered won’t even arrive until after the holiday.

Spokeswoman Ashley Theis said the company will just have to use the late items as stock for next year.

The retailers said supply shortages made it difficult to bounce back from a dismal 2020, when many didn’t celebrate Halloween because of high COVID-19 numbers. This year, however, Waszek says he’s happy to see how excited people are to celebrate the holiday again.

6:15 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today consulting with opposition leaders about how the House of Commons should resume work and what the priorities should be once it is back in operation.

He is scheduled to have separate phone conversations with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and the parliamentary leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May.

On Tuesday, he exchanged ideas on the resumption of Parliament with Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

First on the agenda is whether the House of Commons should resume the hybrid sittings adopted to get through the COVID-19 pandemic or return to normal in-person operations.

That is likely to be a testy topic with O’Toole in the wake of a decision Tuesday by the multi-party board of internal economy to allow only fully vaccinated individuals to have admittance to the House of Commons precinct.

The Liberals, Bloc Québécois and NDP all support mandatory vaccinations and have said all their MPs have had two shots of approved vaccines; but O’Toole has refused to say whether all his 118 MPs are fully vaccinated and has opposed making it mandatory.

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Toronto’s top doctor says she expects COVID-19 vaccinations approved and offered for young children within weeks

Toronto expects the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and offered to children aged 5 to 11 within weeks, says public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa.De Villa told reporters Wednesday her department is launching a multi-pronged campaign to get as many kids immunized as quickly as possible, including an online “tool kit” with vaccine information for parents, guardians and caregivers.The kit includes information about the benefits and risks of children getting the jab, she said, adding that in general the vaccine’s protection for kids and adults around them against COVID-19 far outweigh any risk of side-effects.Parents are already comfortable with kids getting mandatory vaccinations for nine diseases to be able to attend school in Ontario, de Villa said, but social media posts have “clouded” the COVID-19 vaccine picture.“Community townhalls, telephone townhalls and parent information sessions will be offered in the coming weeks and we will continue to add resources for parents and physicians in the coming days,” she said.Toronto is also scouting locations to give kids the needles, with planned sites including schools, mass vaccination clinics already in use, community-based clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.“We are really working together as that Team Toronto approach to make sure that vaccine is available in as many channels as possible and what makes sense for our community to get our young people vaccinated quickly,” de Villa said at a briefing.Some schools are comfortable with hosting a clinic during school hours, while others prefer after-school clinics, she said. Another challenge, compared to vaccinating adults, will be the fear some kids have of needles.Pfizer on Oct. 18 asked Health Canada to approve its COVID-19 vaccine known as Comirnaty for use in children aged 5 to 11. Health Canada had said it will prioritize review of the submission while maintaining high scientific standards for safety, efficacy and quality.Toronto’s campaign to vaccinate young children, after fully immunizing more than 2.3 million residents aged 12 and over, will take “us one step closer to the other side of this pandemic,” de Villa said.COVID-19 indicators for Toronto updated Wednesday suggest the city’s high vaccination rate is helping smother the pandemic’s fourth wave that started in July after lockdown restrictions were eased.The seven-day average for daily new infections dropped, as of last Saturday, to 69 — the sixth straight weekly drop since early September when the daily average was 156.Daily hospital admissions of people with COVID-19 have also dropped, while new intensive-care admissions and deaths have remained at pandemic lows.De Villa called the figures grounds for “cautious optimism,” noting in-class learning that resumed after Labour Day has not triggered a surge in new infections. But she cautioned that it’s too early to say if Thanksgiving weekend gatherings resulted in increased virus spread.Toronto also announced that anyone eligible for first, second or booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine can get immunized at pop-up clinics being held Thursday to Saturday, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., at six subway stations — Bathurst, Finch West, Islington, Kennedy, St. Clair West and Union.David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

Toronto’s top doctor says she expects COVID-19 vaccinations approved and offered for young children within weeks

Toronto expects the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved and offered to children aged 5 to 11 within weeks, says public health chief Dr. Eileen de Villa.

De Villa told reporters Wednesday her department is launching a multi-pronged campaign to get as many kids immunized as quickly as possible, including an online “tool kit” with vaccine information for parents, guardians and caregivers.

The kit includes information about the benefits and risks of children getting the jab, she said, adding that in general the vaccine’s protection for kids and adults around them against COVID-19 far outweigh any risk of side-effects.

Parents are already comfortable with kids getting mandatory vaccinations for nine diseases to be able to attend school in Ontario, de Villa said, but social media posts have “clouded” the COVID-19 vaccine picture.

“Community townhalls, telephone townhalls and parent information sessions will be offered in the coming weeks and we will continue to add resources for parents and physicians in the coming days,” she said.

Toronto is also scouting locations to give kids the needles, with planned sites including schools, mass vaccination clinics already in use, community-based clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

“We are really working together as that Team Toronto approach to make sure that vaccine is available in as many channels as possible and what makes sense for our community to get our young people vaccinated quickly,” de Villa said at a briefing.

Some schools are comfortable with hosting a clinic during school hours, while others prefer after-school clinics, she said. Another challenge, compared to vaccinating adults, will be the fear some kids have of needles.

Pfizer on Oct. 18 asked Health Canada to approve its COVID-19 vaccine known as Comirnaty for use in children aged 5 to 11. Health Canada had said it will prioritize review of the submission while maintaining high scientific standards for safety, efficacy and quality.

Toronto’s campaign to vaccinate young children, after fully immunizing more than 2.3 million residents aged 12 and over, will take “us one step closer to the other side of this pandemic,” de Villa said.

COVID-19 indicators for Toronto updated Wednesday suggest the city’s high vaccination rate is helping smother the pandemic’s fourth wave that started in July after lockdown restrictions were eased.

The seven-day average for daily new infections dropped, as of last Saturday, to 69 — the sixth straight weekly drop since early September when the daily average was 156.

Daily hospital admissions of people with COVID-19 have also dropped, while new intensive-care admissions and deaths have remained at pandemic lows.

De Villa called the figures grounds for “cautious optimism,” noting in-class learning that resumed after Labour Day has not triggered a surge in new infections. But she cautioned that it’s too early to say if Thanksgiving weekend gatherings resulted in increased virus spread.

Toronto also announced that anyone eligible for first, second or booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine can get immunized at pop-up clinics being held Thursday to Saturday, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., at six subway stations — Bathurst, Finch West, Islington, Kennedy, St. Clair West and Union.

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

Source : Toronto Star More   

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