Today’s coronavirus news: COVID-19’s global death toll tops 5 million in under 2 years;
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
7 a.m.: Researchers at McMaster University and the Offord Centre for Child Studies are tracking the impact of the pandemic on the health and well-being of families. In some key areas parents were worse off this year than last year.
“The overall depressive and anxiety symptoms were higher than our original findings during the first wave,” said lead researcher Andrea Gonzalez, associate professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Family Health and Preventative Interventions.
During the first wave they surveyed 7,434 parents and caregivers with children up to age 17. This year, between May 4 and July 3, during the third wave, they garnered input from 10,778 respondents.
Last year, 57 per cent of caregivers reported feeling significant depressive symptoms in the previous week, compared with 69 per cent this year. Also last year, 30 per cent reported moderate to high levels of anxiety, compared with 38 per cent this year.
Almost half of parents surveyed this year said they had sought help from a mental health professional and 40 per cent reported needing help at least once during the pandemic, but not getting it.
6:47 a.m.: Quebec is lifting capacity restrictions in bars and restaurants starting today, more than a year after imposing the limits to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Health Minister Christian Dubé announced last month that bars and restaurants across the province could operate at full capacity and resume normal operating hours starting Nov. 1.
Bars and restaurants gradually reopened in Quebec over the summer after being shuttered to in-person dining, but some restrictions remained.
Establishments that serve alcohol will now be allowed to stay open until 3 a.m. and the distance between tables will drop from two metres to one metre.
But there are still some rules in place — each table is limited to 10 people from no more than three different households.
The ban on dancing and singing remains in effect until further notice, and Quebecers are still required to present their vaccine passport before entering and wear masks when moving around indoors.
6:45 a.m.: South Korea on Monday began to allow larger social gatherings and lifted business-hour restrictions on restaurants in what officials described as the first step toward attempting to restore some pre-pandemic normalcy.
The capital area has been under the country’s strongest social distancing measures short of a lockdown since July. Citing pandemic fatigue and economic concerns, officials had eased the measures in mid-October to allow for gatherings of up to eight people if at least four were fully vaccinated.
Under the changes starting Monday, the limit on private social gatherings in the capital, Seoul, and nearby metropolitan areas was raised to 10 people and 12 in other regions, regardless of whether participants are fully vaccinated or not.
Restaurants and coffee shops are now allowed to open for 24 hours, rather than being forced to close at 10 p.m. in the greater Seoul area and at midnight in the rest of the country. However, high-risk entertainment venues such as nightclubs are required to close at midnight.
To use indoor sports facilities or visit patients at hospitals, people must show smartphone apps or documents issued by public health authorities proving that they are fully vaccinated or were tested negative for the virus within 48 hours.
The gathering limits on political rallies or social events such as exhibitions or weddings were raised to a maximum of 499 people if all the participants are fully vaccinated. Larger crowds will also be allowed at professional sports.
6:45 a.m.: Fireworks boomed as visitors at Shanghai Disneyland waited for COVID-19 test results, surrounded by health care workers dressed from head to toe in white protective suits.
Shanghai Disneyland announced suddenly Sunday evening that it was no longer accepting any new visitors and was cooperating with an epidemiological investigation from another province. They then locked down the park as Shanghai city healthcare workers and police rushed to conduct a mass testing of the visitors already inside.
After testing everyone, the park will remain shut on Monday and Tuesday as it continues to cooperate with pandemic prevention efforts, Shanghai Disneyland said in a statement Monday.
The park’s sudden lockdown and temporary closure underscored just how serious China is about enforcing its zero-tolerance pandemic prevention strategy.
Globally, many countries have turned to living with the virus, whether out of choice or necessity, although as virus surges come and go, many face overburdened health care systems and additional deaths.
In China, which has kept its borders sealed since March 2020, the response has been to cut the chain of transmission of the virus as quickly as possible. With a strict quarantine-on-arrival policy, the authorities have aimed to stamp out each local outbreak to zero — helping China keep its reported totals to 4,636 deaths and 97,243 cases since the pandemic began.
The case that may have prompted Disneyland’s actions involved one person whose illness was discovered in the nearby city of Hangzhou and had visited the theme park on Saturday, local media reported.
6:45 a.m.: Sydney’s international airport came alive with tears, embraces and laughter on Monday as Australia opened its border for the first time in 20 months, with some arriving travelers removing mandatory masks to see the faces of loved ones they’ve been separated from for so long.
Australia and other countries in the Asia-Pacific have had some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures and travel restrictions, but with vaccination rates rising and cases falling, many are now starting to cautiously reopen.
Some, like China and Japan, remain essentially sealed off to foreign visitors, but Thailand also started to substantially reopen Monday and many others have already started, or plan to follow suit.
6:45 a.m.: The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 5 million on Monday, less than two years into a crisis that has not only devastated poor countries but also humbled wealthy ones with first-rate health care systems.
Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The U.S. alone has recorded over 740,000 lives lost, more than any other nation.
“This is a defining moment in our lifetime,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. “What do we have to do to protect ourselves so we don’t get to another 5 million?”
The death toll, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined. It rivals the number of people killed in battles among nations since 1950, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Globally, COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and stroke.
The staggering figure is almost certainly an undercount because of limited testing and people dying at home without medical attention, especially in poor parts of the world, such as India.
Hot spots have shifted over the 22 months since the outbreak began, turning different places on the world map red. Now, the virus is pummeling Russia, Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe, especially where rumors, misinformation and distrust in government have hobbled vaccination efforts. In Ukraine, only 17% of the adult population is fully vaccinated; in Armenia, only 7%.
“What’s uniquely different about this pandemic is it hit hardest the high-resource countries,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of ICAP, a global health center at Columbia University. “That’s the irony of COVID-19.”
Wealthier nations with longer life expectancies have larger proportions of older people, cancer survivors and nursing home residents, all of whom are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, El-Sadr noted. Poorer countries tend to have larger shares of children, teens and young adults, who are less likely to fall seriously ill from the coronavirus.
India, despite its terrifying delta surge that peaked in early May, now has a much lower reported daily death rate than wealthier Russia, the U.S. or Britain, though there is uncertainty around its figures.
The seeming disconnect between wealth and health is a paradox that disease experts will be pondering for years. But the pattern that is seen on the grand scale, when nations are compared, is different when examined at closer range. Within each wealthy country, when deaths and infections are mapped, poorer neighborhoods are hit hardest.