Coronavirus: Canada Catches Up To US In Giving Out First Doses Of Vaccine As It Happened

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

10:41 p.m.: Up to 1 million COVID-19 test kits were left to expire inside a Florida warehouse amid a nationwide shortage triggered by a winter surge of coronavirus cases.

At a news conference held by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Kevin Guthrie, the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, confirmed the stockpile of kits, manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, sat unused.

“We had between 800,000 and a million test kits, Abbott rapid test kits, in our warehouse that did expire,” Guthrie told reporters, adding that they were rendered ineffective sometime “before December 26 to December 30.”

Guthrie also defended the kit reserve, claiming that there was not an adequate demand for them — even though people have reported waiting for hours to get tested, particularly in central Florida, starting around mid-December, according to The Orlando Sentinel.

During the same news conference, DeSantis said he planned to ask President Joe Biden to extend their expiration deadline before revealing plans to send 1 million at-home COVID-19 tests to nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and other residences with high numbers of seniors in the state.

“Having a stockpile was the right thing to do,” If we had done the opposite, we would have run out,” DeSantis said. “No one really wanted them for many, many months.”

In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked in Florida, thanks in part to the quick-spreading omicron variant. The state is averaging 37,563 new cases a day over the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University.

10:22 p.m.: Minnesota’s COVID-19 positivity rate over the past seven days reached 15.6 per cent on Friday, in an indication of the rapid spread of the omicron variant across the state. State health officials said the figure demonstrates the increasing spread of the omicron variant and expect a new surge of case growth for at least the next month. Minnesota’s previous positivity rate record come early in the pandemic in April 2020, when testing capacity was much more limited. The Minnesota Hospital Association is urging people to look for tests in settings other than hospital emergency rooms due to a high number of patients statewide.

9:06 p.m.: Perennial national medallist Nam Nguyen contracted COVID-19 last week, and was still feeling the effects at the Canadian figure skating championships on Saturday.

Nguyen, who won the world junior championships in 2014 and the Canadian senior title in 2019, was considered a favourite to make Canada’s skating team for the Beijing Olympics.

But the 23-year-old from Toronto was seventh after the short program on Friday and struggled in his free program on Saturday, saying after his skate that his lungs were still feeling the effects of the virus.

Nguyen said he isolated for five days after his positive PCR test, and then was back on the ice on Tuesday after a negative test.

Nguyen had said a few weeks ago that he planned to retire following this season, but is rethinking that decision, saying he doesn’t want to leave the sport on such a low note.

Stephen Gogolev withdrew from the men’s singles competition on Friday after testing positive for the coronavirus. The 17-year-old from Toronto was the national silver medallist in 2019.

8:51 p.m.: Japanese and U.S. government officials have agreed that U.S. forces stationed in Japan won’t leave their bases unless essential in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 cases in the Asian nation, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Sunday.

Kishida was speaking on public broadcaster NHK. He said that the details of the agreement were still being worked out.

The U.S. recently sought to reassure Japan it’s working to protect public health after Tokyo called for restrictions on American troops stationed in the country amid record COVID-19 outbreaks in some areas, which may have stemmed in part from U.S. bases.

8:44 p.m.: The Edmonton Oilers placed five more players into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols Saturday.

Forwards Kailer Yamamoto and Brendan Perlini, goaltender Ilya Konovalov and defensemen Evan Bouchard and Slater Koekkoek were added to the list. Star center Connor McDavid, defenseman Tyson Barrie and center Derek Ryan were already in the protocols.

Six members of the team’s support staff also were added to the list Saturday.

Nashville scoring leader Filip Forsberg was a late scratch against Arizona Saturday night after being placed into COVID-19 protocols.

Forsberg entered Thursday tied for ninth in the NHL with 18 goals and has 11 assists. He had three straight games with multiple points, including four goals.

Nashville defenseman Dante Fabbro missed his fourth straight game while in COVID-19 protocols.

Pittsburgh added forwards Bryan Rust and Brock McGinn to the protocols list before their 3-2 loss at Dallas on Saturday.

8:39 p.m.: Australia’s New South Wales state reported 16 deaths on Sunday in its deadliest day of the pandemic, even as it relaxed rules to allow some essential workers in isolation to return to work if they are asymptomatic.

Just over 30,000 new cases were reported in Australia’s most populous state, forcing those people to join more than 200,000 others in isolation.

No statistics are kept to determine how many of those are essential workers in the food and manufacturing sectors. But some employers say up to half of their workers have been furloughed after coming into contact with a positive case.

Shoppers have reported empty shelves in many supermarkets because of the omicron outbreak’s impact on food processing and supply chains.

“Critical workers in the food logistics and manufacturing sectors furloughed as close contacts will be permitted to leave self-isolation to attend work if they have no symptoms of COVID-19, to ensure the state has continued access to essential goods,” New South Wales Health said in a statement on Sunday.

The workers can only leave self-isolation if their employer decides their absence poses a high risk of disruption to the delivery of critical services and if they are not able to work from home.

Returning workers will have to wear masks and comply with risk-management strategies required by their employers, including daily rapid antigen tests. If they test positive, they will have to return to isolation.

The rule change applies in agriculture to bio-security and food safety personnel undertaking critical duties; in manufacturing to the production of food, beverages, groceries, cleaning and sanitary products; and in transport to food logistics and delivery.

The 16 people who died Sunday included eight women and eight men aged in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, NSW Health said. The figure tops the previous record of 15 deaths, which has been reached twice, on Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 last year.

8:34 p.m.: Los Angeles continued to see an omicron-fueled surge in coronavirus cases Saturday, as staffing shortages necessitated the deployment of California National Guard troops to testing sites and caused the state to permit hospitals to relax rules about letting infected workers return to work.

County public health officials said they had recorded more than 200,000 new coronavirus cases over the past seven days, the highest one-week total of the pandemic. Hospitalizations doubled during the period, to 3,200 patients as of Friday. More than 20 per cent of coronavirus tests are returning positive results, the county said.

On Saturday, L.A. County reported 34,448 new cases and 16 related deaths; however, officials said the true numbers are likely higher because of delays in reporting over the holiday and weekend.

“Our hearts remain with those families experiencing the sorrow of losing those they love to COVID,” Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director, said in a statement. She reminded residents and businesses to continue following safety measures, including wearing medical-grade masks and avoiding those who are not masked.

Experts stress that although case counts are higher than they were during last winter’s peak, when L.A. County was recording about 16,000 a day, fewer people are becoming severely ill from the omicron variant. Even the hospitalization numbers don’t tell the whole story, as some counties are seeing a growing percentage of people entering hospitals with a coronavirus infection but being treated for something other than COVID-19.

7:12 p.m.: New York state on Saturday added more hospitals to its list of those ordered to postpone elective surgeries for at least two weeks as the surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

The list now includes 40 hospitals that have “met the state’s threshold for ‘high risk regions’ or low-capacity facilities,” the Department of Health said in a statement Saturday.

All 31 hospitals in the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and Central regions are now included on the list, and the nine others are scattered throughout the state, according to the statement. None are in New York City. The hospitals must cancel procedures starting Thursday.

The size of the list has fluctuated since early December, when an executive order issued by Gov. Kathy Hochul went into effect to limit elective surgeries before another spike in cases. There were 28 hospitals on the list as recently as Dec. 20.

“We will use every available tool to help ensure that hospitals can manage the COVID-19 winter surge,” Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the acting health commissioner, said in a statement Saturday. “I want to remind New Yorkers that getting vaccinated and boosted remain the best way to protect against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. Vaccination also protects our hospital system. We cannot return to the early months of the pandemic when hospitals were overwhelmed.”

As the omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeps through New York, many hospitals are being pushed to their limits by the twin challenges of soaring new cases and growing shortages of nurses, doctors and technicians.

New York state reported a record 90,132 daily new cases, Hochul’s office said Saturday. In the past three days, 439 people have died from the virus, an 80 per cent increase from the same period a week earlier. Two hundred of those deaths were in New York City, more than doubling the number from last week.

7:05 p.m.: California officials say hospitals are admitting children with COVID-19 at an unprecedented rate, mirroring a nationwide trend as the omicron variant continues spreading across the United States.

While the number of kids entering hospitals is on the rise, physicians say the severity of their infections is not as bad as those seen in previous surges.

In a call with reporters on Wednesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the admissions are higher than ones recorded last winter when cases soared.

“Just like other states are reporting, other nations are reporting, more young people with COVID are being admitted,” Ghaly said. “In California, we have admitted more patients on a day-to-day basis over the last few days than we did even at the peak of last winter’s surge.”

The previous record for pediatric admissions was 41 in one day, according to the California Department of Health. At that time about one year ago, adult admissions numbered about 3,000.

Now, the department said it has seen daily pediatric admissions of 50 to 60 children for three days straight. On Jan. 4, the state reached 90 pediatric admissions in one day.

The adult admission rate, meanwhile, remains lower than it was last year, about 1,600 to 2,200 adult COVID-19 hospitalizations a day. Ghaly said hospitals are able to take on the demand for pediatric admissions, and that many of the children who are admitted aren’t put in intensive care or on ventilators.

6:58 p.m.: New York City school officials fought to keep schools open through a record-breaking surge of Omicron cases. Now, students, parents and teachers are grappling with the consequences.

Roughly 300,000 students missed class on average this week in the nation’s largest school district, which serves 1 million. For others, going to class in-person consisted of little actual learning as students were herded into auditoriums with teachers in short supply. Students stuck at home had no virtual option, and parents had to decide whether to send their children in or risk them falling further behind after years of disrupted, pandemic education.

The situation in New York stands in contrast to Chicago, where the teacher’s union has clashed with the city in a public face-off that closed schools for multiple days after winter break. Both illustrate the dire state of education in the U.S. that has reopened old debates and infuriated teachers, parents and officials.

New York Mayor Eric Adams has maintained that schools need to be open, and that warmth, food and supervision are invaluable for the city’s low-income or homeless students. “Schools play a role of safety and stability for our children,” Adams said Monday at Concourse Village in the Bronx.

Omicron has exploded citywide in schools. There were more than 8,000 student and 1,400 staff cases reported as of Friday evening, according to the city’s Department of Education. Attendance the first week back hovered around 70 per cent. On Friday, when the city was covered in snow, less than half of the student body showed up.

With infections so high, schools have struggled to keep operations running smoothly. Teachers are reluctant to teach new material to vacant classrooms. When teachers call in sick, substitute teachers are in short supply. To cope, some schools moved teacher-less students to auditoriums or gyms.

6:48 p.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday called for California lawmakers to approve $1.4 billion in emergency COVID-19 money as the omicron variant surges.

Most of that money would go to expanding hospital surge capacity and increasing testing, including by expanding the hours at testing sites and sending millions of rapid tests to local health departments, community clinics and schools.

Newsom’s call for additional funding comes as testing demand outstrips supply in California, resulting in long lines at testing sites and longer wait times for results.

On Friday, the Democratic governor started sending 200 members of the National Guard to help staff testing sites to add capacity for walk-in appointments, manage crowds and backfill staff who catch the virus and must isolate.

The highly infectious omicron variant now accounts for at least 80% of COVID-19 cases in California, according to Newsom’s office. The state’s daily case rate has skyrocketed, and more than 1 in 5 tests are coming back positive, according to state data.

Newsom would also use the money to speed vaccination efforts, including by fighting misinformation about vaccines and partnering with ethnic media outlets, according to the governor’s office.

Newsom plans to seek an additional $1.3 billion for COVID-19 response later this year in the 2022-23 budget, which takes effect July 1. He is also calling for the Legislature to create a new COVID-19 supplemental sick leave policy for front-line workers who contract the coronavirus or have to care for an infected family member.

“From day one California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Newsom said in a statement. “Our proposed COVID-19 emergency response package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support front-line workers and health care systems and battle misinformation.”

On Monday, Newsom will announce his full budget proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year, including plans on how to spend an estimated $31 billion surplus.

6:13 p.m.: New York reported a record 90,132 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday as the state passed 4 million total infections since the start of the pandemic.

Another 154 people died, one of the highest daily figures in almost a year. Hospitalizations continued to increase to 11,843 and the state’s health care system remains significantly strained.

Testing rose from the previous day, to 425,782, of which 21.17% were positive. That number is in line with the previous day’s positivity rate, even with almost 50,000 more tests administered.

New York is the fourth state to surpass 4 million infections, after California, Texas and Florida, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

6:09 p.m.: Ambulances in Kansas speed toward hospitals then suddenly change direction because hospitals are full. Employee shortages in New York City cause delays in trash and subway services and diminish the ranks of firefighters and emergency workers. Airport officials shut down security checkpoints at the biggest terminal in Phoenix and schools across the nation struggle to find teachers for their classrooms.

The current explosion of omicron-fueled coronavirus infections in the U.S. is causing a breakdown in basic functions and services — the latest illustration of how COVID-19 keeps upending life more than two years into the pandemic.

“This really does, I think, remind everyone of when COVID-19 first appeared and there were such major disruptions across every part of our normal life,” said Tom Cotter, director of emergency response and preparedness at the global health nonprofit Project HOPE. “And the unfortunate reality is, there’s no way of predicting what will happen next until we get our vaccination numbers — globally — up.”

First responders, hospitals, schools and government agencies have employed an all-hands-on-deck approach to keep the public safe, but they are worried how much longer they can keep it up.

In Kansas’ Johnson County, paramedics are working 80 hours a week. Ambulances have frequently been forced to alter their course when the hospitals they’re heading to tell them they’re too overwhelmed to help, confusing the patients’ already anxious family members driving behind them. When the ambulances arrive at hospitals, some of their emergency patients end up in waiting rooms because there are no beds.

4 p.m.: Ontario is reporting 385 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19 and 2,594 in hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the latest update released Saturday morning.

That’s an increase from Friday when 2,472 people were hospitalized and 338 were in intensive care units. The province has 2,343 adult ICU beds and as of Saturday 570 remain available.

Provincial numbers for overall hospitalizations should be used with caution as a factor in determining the severity of COVID-19 cases because they include people who have tested positive but are not hospitalized as a direct result of the virus. In some cases, individual hospitals have said nearly 50 per cent of people testing positive weren’t admitted due to COVID.

Given new provincial regulations around testing that took effect Dec. 31, 2021, case counts — reported at 13,362 on Saturday, up from 11, 899 the previous day — are also not considered an accurate assessment of how widespread COVID-19 may be. There were 31 new deaths caused by COVID.

Click here to read more from Ashleigh-Rae Thomas.

3:58 p.m.: The U.S. company Moderna donated 2.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to Mexico Saturday as the country’s official death toll topped 300,000.

Mexico passed 300,000 test-confirmed coronavirus deaths this week, but so little testing is done in the country that a government review of death certificates puts to real toll at almost 460,000.

Mexican officials welcomed the arrival of the shipment at the airport in Toluca, just west of Mexico City, and said the vaccines will be used to inoculate teachers.

Teachers in Mexico were second after only health care workers to be vaccinated in the spring.

In April and May, over 2.7 million teachers got initial shots. But most of them got the single-dose Chinese Cansino vaccine, whose effectiveness appears to decline over time.

Mexico has now obtained over 200 million doses of vaccines, and has been trying to reopen in-person learning at all levels.

Education Secretary Delfina Gómez said, “We are grateful to recieve this donation, which will undoubtedly help more boys, girls and youths to come to classrooms with greater safety and confidence.”

3:55 p.m.: As parts of Canada see staggering rises in COVID-19 activity amid Omicron’s rapid spread, experts say the highly transmissible variant is training a spotlight on social inequities across the country.

Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician in Mississauga, Ont., said Omicron’s rise continues to show “a tale of two pandemics — rich and poor,” with those who can afford to better protect themselves pitted against those who can’t.

He said lower-income populations often don’t have the funds to buy upgraded masks or rapid antigen tests, nor can they easily take time off work to isolate or get their booster doses.

“If you have money, you’re able to afford the protection you need to survive and be safe,” he said.

Essential workers bore the brunt of COVID-19 infections during Canada’s Delta-driven wave last spring, and Arya said low-wage employees are likely to experience some of that again.

As provinces scale back eligibility for PCR testing, he pointed out that private testing companies in Ontario, which can offer same-day results for those willing to pay $160 or more for the service, further show an income divide in how people can deal with COVID-19.

Risk profiles have also differed across economic lines throughout the pandemic, Arya said, but the more transmissible Omicron virus variant may exacerbate them.

“(Essential workers) by definition have to leave the house to work,” he said. “They might be taking public transit to work, they might be working around 400 people in a distribution centre ... many frontline workers are racialized, they’re immigrants to Canada, they’re more likely to live in multi-generational households with elders and vulnerable children who aren’t vaccinated.”

Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist in Winnipeg, said while that all holds true, the heightened spread of Omicron makes it harder for everyone, regardless of economic status, to avoid exposure.

The difference with lower-income groups, however, is what happens once they’re infected.

“I do think it’s shifting in terms of perhaps everyone bearing the brunt, but with sick days and isolation, that’s where the change is,” she said. “If I’m infected, I’m fortunate and fully vaccinated. I may be mildly ill, if at all, and I can continue to work because I’m at home.”

1:22 p.m.: Quebec reported 44 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus Saturday, the highest daily death toll in nearly a year.

The sharp increase from a day earlier, when health officials reported 27 deaths, marks the worst tally since Jan. 27, 2021, when 45 deaths were reported.

The province also cited an 11 per cent rise in COVID-19-related hospitalizations as the Omicron variant continues to surge.

There are currently 2,296 patients with the disease — 163 more than the prior day — with 245 people in intensive care, a rise of 16 from the day before, health officials said.

The province reported 15,928 new cases of COVID-19, as health workers administered an additional 100,892 vaccine doses.

Amid the Omicron wave, the Quebec College of Physicians urged the province to “step up the pace” of measures that limit the public’s exposure to unvaccinated individuals.

“The vaccinated population can no longer suffer in silence from the constraints of sanitary measures while unvaccinated people occupy one in two beds in short-term and the majority of beds in intensive care,” wrote college president Dr. Mauril Gaudreault.

Gaudreault also backed a future requirement for third doses in order to hold a vaccine passport, stating in a letter Friday that the measure should take effect faster “and cover a vast set of shops and public places.”

On Thursday, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced that proof of vaccination will be necessary to make purchases at Quebec’s liquor and cannabis retailers starting Jan. 18. He said he also plans to add non-essential services, “such as personal care,” to the list.

His federal counterpart, Jean-Yves Duclos, went even further on Friday, saying a potential compulsory vaccination is “the only way out” of the health crisis but noting the decision lies in the hands of the provinces.

1:21 p.m.: Figures released Saturday show continued growth in COVID-19 cases in Atlantic Canada, with hospitals around the region reporting they are nearing or over capacity.

Nova Scotia reported 1,145 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, with public health urging those who test positive to inform people they’ve been in close contact with.

The province says it is now limiting contact tracing to long-term care settings, healthcare facilities, correctional facilities, shelters and other group environments.

Meanwhile, in New Brunswick, the province updated figures Saturday to indicate that it had 421 new cases, and one new death.

The number of people in hospital rose from 69 to 80, with 17 of those in intensive care and 11 on ventilators.

Dorothy Shephard, the New Brunswick minister of Health, said on Friday she believes it’s likely the health system will soon be “tested like never before” as close to 350 health workers in the province are off work due to the virus.

The Vitalite Health Network has stated half of its hospitals have an occupancy rate of more than 100 per cent. The Miramichi Regional Hospital is also operating over capacity, with other hospitals in the Horizon Health Network saying their capacity levels ranged from 90 to 97 per cent.

Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health in Nova Scotia, said earlier this week that a similar situation is emerging in the province’s hospitals and has asked residents to avoid using emergency care when they don’t have an urgent health care issue.

“Omicron is having a significant impact on our health care workforce,” Strang said during a news conference on Wednesday. “Our hospitals are over capacity and for Nova Scotians that means waiting too long for care or having long-awaited tests or procedures cancelled.”

“The reality is there’s very little flex in our health system right now.”

As of Friday, Nova Scotia Health was reporting about 430 staff members were unavailable for work in the central zone.

Earlier this week, the province announced schools will be teaching online only until Jan. 17, and extended existing restrictions — including limitations on the number of people in restaurants and group gatherings — to the end of the month.

But Nova Scotia is permitting people who test positive, and are vaccinated, to remain in isolation for just seven days rather than 10.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported 412 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total number of active infections to 4,664. There are four hospitalizations in the province.

In Prince Edward Island, the province announced a number of its health facilities were temporarily closed due to an overnight storm, including the COVID-19 vaccine booking line and some vaccine clinics.

10:31 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 2,594 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 385 people in intensive care units. The province reported 13,362 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 related patients in intensive care units is 295. On Friday, 184,000 vaccine doses were administered. To date, 88.4 per cent of Ontarians age 12 and up have two doses of a COVID vaccine.

9:30 a.m.: Ontario is opening more vaccine clinics in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area to increase access to booster shots for education and child care staff, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a statement.

The 10 additional clinics, three in Toronto — Yonge Street, midtown, Eaton Centre — and one each in Richmond Hill, Mississauga, Vaughan, Pickering, Hamilton, Oakville and Brampton will serve education and child care staff with dedicated time slots. The clinics will administer booster doses and will operate seven days a week by appointment.

One of the 10 vaccination clinics will be situated inside the Toronto Zoo and operate seven days a week, offering dedicated time slots for education and child care staff between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., Monday to Friday, and on weekends throughout the day. Staff eligible to book an appointment at one of these 10 locations can do so starting Jan. 8, 2022.

9:20 a.m.: COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to the kids aged five to 11 in Ontario have dropped off significantly over the last three weeks, a sign that the province is facing an uphill battle to vaccinate even a majority of children in this age cohort before school returns to in-person learning.

As of Thursday, almost seven weeks after appointments opened, just 45 per cent of kids in the five-to-11 age group had received at least one dose, according to provincial data, while the number of first doses given out has stalled at less than 5,000 a day in the last week.

“This is alarming,” said Peter Jüni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. “Even though the risk of hospital admissions is still low in children, with so many infections happening right now it’s a numbers game. So it’s really important to get them fully vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Read more from the Star’s May Warren and Kenyon Wallace.

7:45 a.m.: How do you make sure Ontario’s two million students are back in school Jan. 17?

Try N95s for all teachers and staff. Improve ventilation. Make sure everyone who is eligible has received their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. Keep testing. And keep tracking cases in schools and report them publicly.

That’s the list of must-haves from educators, school officials and other experts who say that without these improvements, online learning will be extended past the mid-January date Premier Doug Ford recently announced.

Ontario students are already suffering from being at home, learning in front of a screen yet again, given they have spent more time out of class than any others in North America since the pandemic began.

Read more from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy and Isabel Teotonio.

7:35 a.m.: Hundreds of people rallied in Beirut on Saturday to protest measures imposed against the unvaccinated, saying individuals should have the right to decide whether to be inoculated or not.

Vaccination is not compulsory in Lebanon, but in recent days authorities have cracked down on people who are not inoculated or don’t carry a negative PCR test.

Saturday’s protest by nearly 300 people in downtown Beirut came a day after the daily number of new coronavirus cases hit a record 7,974.

The protest came days after authorities imposed fresh restrictions — including the requirement of a vaccination certificate or negative PCR test for entry into restaurants, hotels and similar venues.

Read more from The Associated Press.

7:15 a.m.: Novak Djokovic’s lawyers filed court papers Saturday in his challenge against deportation from Australia that show the tennis star tested positive for COVID-19 last month and recovered, grounds he used in applying for a medical exemption to the country’s strict vaccination rules.

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic was denied entry at the Melbourne airport late Wednesday after border officials cancelled his visa for failing to meet its entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Djokovic was given a medical exemption backed by the Victoria state government and Australian Open organizers on Jan. 1, based on information he supplied to two independent medical panels, and he was approved for a visa electronically.

Read more from The Associated Press.

7 a.m.: As Canada confronts climbing COVID-19 case counts, rising hospitalizations and worker shortages, there’s one measure some experts say could stave off a worsening crisis: emergency approval of Pfizer’s oral antiviral pill.

The drug, known as Paxlovid, was approved in the United States and South Korea for emergency use in late December. Several days later, regulators in the United Kingdom also gave the treatment a green light after completing a “rigorous” review of its effectiveness. Israel recently became one of the first nations to dispense the pills, shortly after giving it the thumbs up.

But in this country, the drug is still awaiting approval.

Health Canada received an application for the antiviral on Dec. 1, but told the Star that while all COVID-19 submissions are processed on an expedited timeline, the regulator is not planning to further accelerate its ongoing review. Regular approval of drugs in Canada can take anywhere from several months to two years.

Read more from the Star’s Raisa Patel.

6:30 a.m.: U.K. government advisers have recommended against giving a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home residents and people over 80 because data shows that a third shot offers lasting protection against admission to the hospital.

For people over 65, protection against hospitalization remains at about 90 per cent three months after the third dose, according to data compiled by the U.K. Health Security Agency.

As a result, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization on Friday advised the government that there was no need to offer a fourth dose, or second booster, to vulnerable people at this time. Instead, the government should focus on giving a third dose to as many people as possible to boost protection against the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Read more from The Associated Press.

6:25 a.m.: Coronavirus cases fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant are rocketing through India, prompting the federal government and states to swiftly reintroduce a string of restrictions.

Night curfews are back. Restaurants and bars are running at half their capacity. Some states have closed schools and movie theatres. Large gatherings are to be downsized.

But India’s political leaders are busy on the campaign trail ahead of crucial state polls, addressing packed rallies of tens of thousands of people, many without masks.

The scenes are strikingly similar to last year’s election season, when the Delta variant ravaged the country and made India one of the world’s worst-hit countries. Some political parties have begun to curtail their campaigns and halt a few rallies, but health experts worry that the lessons learned last year have already been forgotten.

“The highly transmissible omicron variant chases and catches you. But our politicians are out there to welcome it with a hug,” said Dr. T. Jacob John, an Indian virologist. “I fear it is beginning to look a lot like last year.”

6:20 a.m.: One of two people who attended a large gathering with senior Hong Kong officials and was believed to be infected with COVID-19 turned out to be a false positive, meaning about 80 of more than 180 attendees may no longer face a lengthy quarantine.

The birthday party at a restaurant on Monday evening has roiled officialdom, drawing a rebuke from city leader Carrie Lam who criticized about a dozen officials including the police chief and the home affairs secretary for setting a bad example as Hong Kong tries to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung told reporters Saturday that a woman at the party who was a preliminary positive case tested negative in two subsequent tests and had no symptoms. He said the swab used for the initial test, which was conducted by a doctor who is the woman’s husband, may have been contaminated because he had vaccinated 13 other patients earlier.

6 a.m.: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is prioritizing his own political future over the health and safety of Canadians by suggesting that people who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 should be accommodated and public health lockdowns should come to an end, a government minister charged Friday.

O’Toole’s approach demonstrates a lack of leadership that would only lead to more lockdowns and do nothing to protect Canada’s beleaguered health-care system, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told a news conference.

“What seems to concern Mr. O’Toole the most is his own future at the helm of the Conservative party,” LeBlanc said in French.

Read more from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz.

5 a.m. Tighter pandemic measures came into force in Romania on Saturday as authorities hoped to quell sharply rising coronavirus cases amid concerns that the next virus wave could overstretch the country’s health care system.

In mid-December, Romania was reporting fewer than a thousand COVID-19 infections a day, but over the past week, daily cases have surged to around 6,000. It is the highest number of infections since early November when cases were on the decline following a vicious fourth virus wave.

Over the winter holiday period, hundreds of thousands of Romanians return home from other countries, many from the West, which fuelled concerns over the threat of the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Romania has so far confirmed almost 300 cases of the new variant.

Clarification — Jan. 10, 2021: This article was edited to clarify that 88.4 per cent of Ontarians age 12 and up have two doses of a COVID vaccine.

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Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 2,594 people in hospital with COVID, 385 people in ICU; Quebec death toll highest in nearly a year

Source:The Star

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 2,594 people in hospital with COVID, 385 people in ICU; Quebec death toll highest in nearly a year

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Jan. 14

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Jan. 14

Answers to your vaccine questions: How do we show vax status for flights abroad?

Source:Sun Sentinel

Answers to your vaccine questions: How do we show vax status for flights abroad?

Coronavirus live – as it happened: UK passes 150,000 officially recorded Covid deaths; Sweden’s crown princess tests positive

Source:The Guardian

Coronavirus live – as it happened: UK passes 150,000 officially recorded Covid deaths; Sweden’s crown princess tests positive