Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 438 new cases of COVID-19

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.

5:55 p.m. Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu says she and other colleagues are forming what she calls a “mini-caucus” within the Tory caucus to advocate for those concerned about the impacts of vaccine mandates, The Canadian Press reports.

She estimates between 15 to 30 fellow Conservatives, including senators, could join, and imagines it could function as a parliamentary committee would, and call legal or medical experts to speak and allow the public to watch, according to CP.

Gladu says the idea came about after she and her colleagues shared concerns they were hearing from constituents. She and her colleagues have continued to meet.

She says the format depends on what resources they find available and logistics are still being worked out.

She emphasizes the group’s formation is “not about Erin O’Toole’s leadership.”

However, there’s a good chance it could still be perceived that way, given O’Toole’s recent federal election loss and internal discussions around what to do about vaccine mandates, including for MPs.

4:18 p.m. The Saskatchewan government is considering bringing back a program that would privatize some surgeries to deal with a growing backlog of people needing an operation, The Canadian Press reports.

There are 35,000 people in the province waiting for surgery, a list that continues to grow as the province’s healthcare system remains overwhelmed due to COVID-19, according to CP.

In 2010, the Saskatchewan Party government launched its Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative to help reduce surgical wait times.

The program allowed people on the waiting list to choose either a public or private provider for select surgeries, with a goal that no patient would wait more than three months for their procedure.

The final report on the initiative says the four-year program removed 11,528 patients from the waiting list.

Premier Scott Moe says bringing the program back is one option the government is considering, along with expanding surgical capacity in the public sector.

4.15 p.m. Nova Scotia reported a surge of 50 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, which pushed the number of active infections in the province to above 200, as New Brunswick started to see a slowdown in its case count, The Canadian Press reports.

Health officials in Nova Scotia said there were 20 new cases each in the western and northern zones, eight in the central region and two in the eastern zone, according to CP.

They also reported 17 more recoveries, leaving the province with 213 active cases of COVID-19, up from 180 on Wednesday. Nine people were in hospital with the disease.

Meanwhile, in New Brunswick, a month of heightened public health measures seemed to be paying dividends, as the number of active reported cases fell below 500 for the first time in six weeks, to 464.

Chief medical officer, Dr. Jennifer Russell, reported 39 new cases Thursday, adding that circuit-breaker measures would remain in place in the Moncton and Saint John areas, while she expressed concern about a recent outbreak in the Miramichi region.

Russell said residents would be able to gather for Remembrance Day next week, but she said they should remain in their family bubble and socially distanced from other groups.

2:40 p.m. Health Canada says it’s “awaiting the final package of manufacturing data” on an antiviral COVID-19 drug that was authorized Thursday in the United Kingdom.

The federal regulator said it’s still reviewing information from the pharmaceutical company Merck after already receiving pre-clinical and clinical information on molnupiravir, considered the first pill to successfully treat COVID-19.

It offered no timeline for completion of the review process.

“A decision will be made once all of the required information has been submitted by the manufacturer and thoroughly evaluated by Health Canada,” the regulator stated by email.

2 p.m. The path forward for Canada’s biggest movie theatre owner hangs on an upcoming court decision, but the case is being closely watched by businesses across the country because the ruling could have far-reaching implications for pandemic-inspired litigation.

The case in question has been winding through the Ontario Superior Court of Justice since last July, when Toronto-based Cineplex Inc. announced it would sue former suitor and U.K. theatre operator Cineworld Group PLC.

Cineworld walked away from its deal to acquire Cineplex in June 2020 as pandemic-related shutdowns closed theatres, alleging material adverse effects and breaches by Cineplex. Cineplex called Cineworld’s decision to terminate the deal “nothing more than a case of buyer’s remorse.”

Judge Barbara Conway, who is hearing closing arguments this week, must decide whether Cineworld had the right to terminate the takeover agreement without payment.

1:45 p.m. Ontario is boosting health spending, including to add thousands more nurses, as well as investing more in roads and bridges and phasing out COVID-19 supports as it charts a path out of the pandemic.

The province released its fall economic statement Thursday, and it projects a deficit this fiscal year of $21.5 billion, under the $33.1 billion projection from the budget, largely due to higher-than-expected tax revenues and stronger economic growth.

Ontario is putting an additional $549 million over three years into home and community care to expand home-care services, funding an estimated 28,000 post-acute surgical patients and up to 21,000 patients with complex health conditions. It will help in providing nursing and therapy visits and personal support services, the government says.

1:35 p.m. Members of the medical community are expressing disappointment after the Quebec government cancelled its vaccine mandate for health-care workers.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said Wednesday that carrying through with his threat to suspend unvaccinated employees on Nov. 15 would have reduced health services and compromised efforts to improve working conditions.

Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, says that while Wednesday’s decision was clearly “forced,” he’s worried it’s another sign that politics rather than science is guiding the government’s actions.

He added that Dubé’s decision to threaten a vaccine mandate he couldn’t implement shows how much the government is disconnected from the day-to-day reality of the health-care network, which has been severely understaffed for years.

Patient advocate Paul Brunet says he’s disappointed by the decision, but also resigned to the fact it was necessary.

He says patients are stuck between two bad options: either possibly being treated by an unvaccinated health-care worker, or potentially not being treated at all because of staff shortages.

1:20 p.m. For the second straight year a popular holiday event in Mississauga has been called off.

The Streetsville Santa Claus parade has been cancelled, according to local councillor George Carlson, who said Nov. 3 there wasn’t enough time for organizers to pull everything together after the province lifted outdoor gathering limits late last month.

Carlson said most of the work for the event, which is one the largest Santa Claus parades in the city, takes place in the spring and early summer.

11:50 a.m. Quebec is reporting 588 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and no additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials say COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped by seven, to 241, after nine people entered hospital and 16 were discharged.

The number of people in intensive care also dropped by seven, to 63.

Quebec says another 13,496 vaccine doses have been administered, most of which were given in the past 24 hours.

The province’s public health institute says about 90.6 per cent of people 12 and over have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 88 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Quebec has 4,878 active reported cases of COVID-19.

11:35 a.m. Two Swiss skiers that do not want to be vaccinated against the coronavirus will miss the first men’s downhill race of World Cup ski season in Canada because the country requires international visitors to have two doses to enter.

Swiss teammates Urs Kryenbühl and Ralph Weber posted social media messages on Thursday saying they had recovered from COVID-19 infections and do not want to be vaccinated ahead of the races in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Nov. 27-28.

Vaccination status could be a major issue for winter sports athletes ahead of the Beijing Olympics, which open on Feb. 4.

11:20 a.m. Ontario is calling on the federal government to double the number of immigrants allowed into the province under a program aimed at boosting the skilled workforce.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the province is facing a significant labour shortage that has been intensified by the impact…

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