Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 409 new cases; Ontario expands take-home

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

2 p.m. Ukraine is suffering through a surge in coronavirus infections, along with other parts of Eastern Europe and Russia. While vaccines are plentiful, there is a widespread reluctance to get them in many countries — though notable exceptions include the Baltic nations, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary.

The slow pace of vaccinations in Eastern Europe is rooted in several factors, including public distrust and past experience with other vaccines, said Catherine Smallwood, the World Health Organization’s Europe COVID-19 incident manager.

“We’re seeing low vaccine uptake in a whole swath of countries across that part of the region,” she told The Associated Press. “Historical issues around vaccines come into play. In some countries, the whole vaccine issue is politicized.”

1:51 p.m. Indoor concert venues in Ontario will no longer be subject to seated restrictions, reports The Canadian Press.

The Canadian Live Music Association adds that the easing of rules means venues that hold “general admission” shows — or concerts that are largely standing room only — can return to something closer to business as usual about two weeks earlier than planned, according to CP.

However, the association’s chief executive, Erin Benjamin, notes concertgoers will still be required to show proof of vaccination and wear masks inside the venue.

The latest change comes after some live venues moved to install temporary seating earlier this month so they could move forward with planned concerts under rules that required all concerts to be seated.

But changes to the guidelines were already in the works; concert venues were originally lumped in with a loosening of restrictions on nightclubs, strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs that goes into effect Nov. 15.

Benjamin says venues will now have to consider what to do with live shows booked for the coming weeks in standing-only spaces they reconfigured for seats. Holding a show with chairs often reduces capacity by about half, according to some venue operators.

“I know some of us are going to stay with seated shows (for) all the seated shows on the calendar right now and then go back to business as normal just because they’ve done so much work with seating plans and purchasing seats,” she says.

“But they now have the choice and they will do what they feel is in the best interest of the show.”

1:42 p.m. Ontario’s education minister says take-home COVID-19 tests will be available at all public schools across the province starting in a few weeks.

The PCR tests have been available in schools in Toronto and Ottawa, and some other communities in a similar pilot project, but Stephen Lecce says now all students in public schools will have access.

If a student develops a COVID-19 symptom or is identified as a close contact of a positive case, they can pick up a test at their school, do it at home and drop it off at a community location for processing.

The government says it’s aimed at alleviating some of the inconvenience in the testing process, eliminating the need for students and staff to book an appointment at an assessment centre to get tested.

Lecce is also announcing that unvaccinated education workers will have to undergo rapid antigen testing three times a week instead of two.

As well, the province is expanding a rapid testing program that would see students do regular tests over 10 days if officials are otherwise contemplating a whole school dismissal due to high cases.

12:30 p.m. Ontario is reporting another 409 COVID-19 cases and three more deaths, according to its latest report released Thursday morning.

Ontario has administered 20,408 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,455,484 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,477,912 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 88.1 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 77.2 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

12:15 p.m. Quebec is reporting 478 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and five additional deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

The Health Department says the number of hospitalizations declined by three from the day before, to 254, and 67 people are in intensive care, an increase of one.

Authorities say 13,174 doses of vaccine were administered in the past 24 hours.

According to Quebec’s public health institute, 90.5 per cent of Quebec residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 87.7 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.

The Nunavik region in northern Quebec remains the most affected part of Quebec on a per capita basis. According to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, there are 130 active cases in the region — or 902 per 100,000 people.

11:45 a.m. Ontario’s legislature has unanimously called on Independent member Randy Hillier to apologize for “a string of disreputable conduct” in the context of COVID-19.

Hillier, who represents the eastern Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, has frequently posted COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories throughout the pandemic.

Recently he posted an array of photos of people who had died, suggesting without evidence that they had died due to COVID-19 vaccination.

Family members of some of those people told various media outlets that they were angered by post, and denied Hillier’s allegations.

Hillier, who was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus before the pandemic, has called on police to investigate the deaths.

10:25 a.m. An Ontario doctor who was barred from issuing medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines has now had her licence suspended.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario says it has suspended Dr. Rochagne Kilian’s certificate of registration.

It says the move was made under legislation that allows it to issue such orders where there is evidence to support that patients would otherwise be exposed to risk of harm or injury.

The college’s public records list Kilian as a family doctor in Owen Sound, Ont.

10:17 a.m. (will be updated) Ontario is reporting 409 new cases of COVID-19. In Ontario, 88 per cent of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 84.2 per cent have two doses.

10:10 a.m. They were spirited and eager as they gathered at the Newmarket hockey rink, a league of older men, all double-vaccinated and keen to finally get back to a sport they’d put on ice since the start of the pandemic.

Now they are recovering from COVID-19, one of their teammates dead, wondering if this tragedy could have been averted.

“It’s just strange,” mused Brian Dunn, of Thornhill. “15 guys who played separate nights, different change rooms, days apart, one tragic death. We vacillate between absolutely pissed off and sad … I lost my best friend.”

Dunn knows for certain only what happened to him when he returned to play with the Midas 3-on-3 league Sept. 30.

9:57 a.m. A top Norwegian health official said the Scandinavian country “must be prepared for a bigger wave” of COVID-19 infections this winter as the country is already seeing an increase in cases.

“Based on an overall assessment, we believe it is likely that we will get a wave (of infections) during the winter,” said Camilla Stoltenberg, head of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

But, with more than 86.6% of those 18 and over vaccinated in Norway, she said she did not expect a large surge of hospitalizations.

9:45 a.m. Ontario is extending a temporary wage increase for more than 150,000 publicly funded personal support workers until the end of March.

The boost of between two and three dollars an hour was introduced last October, and was due to expire at the end of the month.

The province brought in the raise in an effort to attract new employees and retain existing ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

9:20 a.m. (updated) Ontario is removing capacity limits at outdoor, organized public events such as Remembrance Day ceremonies and Santa Claus parades.

Some cities, including Toronto, have already opted not to do a traditional Santa Claus parade with crowds this year.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott says outdoor capacity limits are also lifted in most other sectors, such as fairs and festivals, outdoor areas of museums and zoos, and ski hills as well as other outdoor recreational amenities.

Alexandra Hilkene notes that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is significantly lower outside.

Outdoor social gatherings are still limited to 100 people and outdoor capacity limits at nightclubs remain in place.

9:15 a.m. Hamilton’s public board has postponed indefinitely a potential deadline to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory…

Read More: Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 409 new cases; Ontario expands take-home

You might also like