Today’s coronavirus news: Mirvish cancels ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ performances over

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

3:36 p.m.: The lights are going dark on “Jesus Christ Superstar” this Christmas Eve.

A representative for Mirvish Productions says it has called off all remaining performances of the travelling show at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre after three backstage cast, crew and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

In total, 11 performances of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical have been cancelled running through Jan. 2, 2022.

The company says it will be impossible to reschedule the shows since the production is booked to play Boston after its run in Toronto.

Mirvish says it was “regrettable” that the decision had to be made, especially on Christmas Eve, as it affects thousands of theatregoers and hundreds of jobs.

It says ticketholders will be contacted by email for full refunds, an exchange of tickets or a credit.

The announcement comes a day after Mirvish temporarily halted performances of “Come From Away” at the Royal Alexandra Theatre following a positive COVID-19 test among the backstage crew.

The Gander, N.L., musical is scheduled to resume on Dec. 28.

“Come From Away” reopened at the Royal Alexandra Theatre only last week as a new round of tighter capacity restrictions were introduced in Ontario that limited all live theatres and concert halls to 50 per cent capacity.

The uncertainty around how COVID-19 may affect future shows led Mirvish to pull Tom Stoppard’s play “Leopoldstadt” from the schedule in January at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Earlier this week, the Shaw Festival announced it was shutting down its production of “A Christmas Carol” after a company member tested positive for COVID-19.

3:23 p.m.: A COVID-19 outbreak took place on a South Florida-based cruise ship for the third time this week, as the number of coronavirus cases in Florida hit its highest level since the start of the pandemic.

An undisclosed number of passengers and crew aboard the Carnival Freedom cruise caught the virus so the ship was denied entry to Bonaire and Aruba, Carnival said in a statement.

The ship has 2,497 passengers and 1,112 crew members and was scheduled to return to Miami on Sunday following an 8-day cruise. Passengers were required to be vaccinated and they were tested before leaving last Saturday, according to Carnival.

“Carnival Freedom is following all protocols and has a small number on board who are in isolation due to a positive COVID test,” the statement said. “Our protocols anticipate this possibility and we implement them as necessary to protect the health and safety of our guests and crew.”

Ashley Peterson, a passenger on the ship, tweeted a photo of a Dec. 22 letter from the ship’s captain apologizing for being unable to make stops in Aruba and Bonaire. The letter said passengers would get $100 per room in onboard credit, as well refunds for planned excursions.

It was the third outbreak this week affecting cruise ships operated by Carnival and Royal Caribbean departing Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Meanwhile, Florida had 31,758 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, breaking a record for the most cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic in the U.S. in March 2020, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new record was driven by the spread of the new omicron variant through the Sunshine State.

The previous single-day highest number of cases was in last August, during the height of the delta variant wave in Florida, when 27,802 cases were reported.

3:11 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting 265 new COVID-19 cases today, another daily record.

Health officials are also reporting one more death attributed to the novel coronavirus.

They say a person in their 70s died in the Saint John area.

There are 34 people in hospital with the disease, including 15 patients in intensive care.

On Thursday, officials reported 257 new cases, which was a record at the time.

They say 147 cases in the province have been identified as the Omicron variant of the virus.

3:03 p.m.: Prince Edward Island is reporting 40 new cases of COVID-19 today, a record daily high for the province.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said today in a news release that all of the cases are still under investigation.

There are 198 active infections on the Island, and officials say there have been 621 cases since the pandemic began.

Officials say COVID-19 testing will be limited to people with symptoms of the disease or to those who have been identified by public health as close contacts of people who have tested positive.

Testing will also be conducted to confirm results of rapid tests.

Officials say people with positive results will be notified directly within four hours of taking a test.

2:45 p.m.: Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Eve Mass before an estimated 1,500 people in St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday, going ahead with the service despite the resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has prompted a new vaccine mandate for Vatican employees.

A maskless Francis processed down the central aisle of the basilica as the Sistine Chapel choir sang “Noel,” kicking off the Vatican’s Christmas holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

In his homily, Francis urged the faithful to focus on the “littleness” of Jesus, and remember that he came into the world poor, without even a proper crib.

“That is where God is, in littleness,” Francis said. “This is the message: God does not rise up in grandeur, but lowers himself into littleness. Littleness is the path that he chose to draw near to us, to touch our hearts, to save us and to bring us back to what really matters.”

The “Midnight Mass” actually began at 7:30 p.m., a nod to the 85-year-old pope’s endurance and a hold-over from last year, when the service had to end before Italy’s nationwide COVID-19 curfew.

No curfew is in place this year, but cases this week have surged even beyond 2020 levels. For the second day in a row, Italy on Friday set a new pandemic daily record with 50,599 new cases. Another 141 people died, bringing Italy’s official death toll to 136,386.

The Vatican secretary of state on Thursday imposed a new vaccine mandate on all Vatican staff, extending it to all employees except those who have recovered from the coronavirus. Previously, only employees who dealt with the public directly had to be vaccinated, such as staff at the Vatican Museums and the Swiss Guards, while others could access their offices with regular testing.

The mandate does not apply to the faithful attending Mass, but they are required to wear masks. The faithful attending Friday’s Mass, and the priests, bishops and cardinals concelebrating it, all wore masks. Francis, who is missing part of one lung and had intestinal surgery in July, has largely eschewed masks, even when greeting prelates and the general public.

Francis is believed to have received the third booster shot, as has emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Francis has said vaccination is an “act of love” and he has called for wealthier countries to provide the shots to the developing world.

2:33 p.m.: British Columbia has hit its COVID-19 testing capacity as the provincial health officer asked residents to not get tested unless they have symptoms.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province administered 20,000 COVID-19 PCR tests on Thursday.

She says if someone develops symptoms then they need to adjust holiday plans and self-isolate.

As a result of hitting the testing capacity, Henry says health staff are prioritizing those most at risk and giving take-home antigen tests to younger people at less risk.

She says B.C. is in a “different pandemic” as a result of the Omicron variant.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province expects to give out 147,371 vaccinations from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2.

2:06 p.m.: Public health officials in Manitoba are urging residents to significantly scale back holiday celebrations as the province reported nearly 750 new COVID-19 cases Friday, making it the highest daily count since the pandemic started.

The government didn’t implement new restrictions as case numbers continue to climb due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but the province’s top doctor said officials are closely watching developments.

“We’re here today to strongly recommend Manitobans limit their close contacts throughout this holiday season. Manitobans must, and I stress must, follow the current public health orders,” said Audrey Gordon, the minister of health and seniors care.

Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said residents need to adjust their plans this weekend as the province is seeing rapid transmission of Omicron.

“Many people were having multiple gatherings planned this weekend,” Roussin said. “If you were going to three or four gatherings this weekend, this should be down to one. If you’re having 10 people over you should limit that number further.”

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