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Today’s coronavirus news: Toronto convention centre to serve as backup location for jury selection; Madrid to impose lockdowns in some areas; Trump denies downplaying virus

Today’s coronavirus news: Toronto convention centre to serve as backup location for jury selection; Madrid to impose lockdowns in some areas; Trump denies downplaying virus
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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

5:45 a.m.: Fielding compelling questions about voters’ real-world problems, President Donald Trump denied during a televised town hall that he had played down the threat of the coronavirus earlier this year, although there is an audio recording of him stating he did just that.

Trump, in what could well be a preview of his performance in the presidential debates less than two weeks away, cast doubt on the widely accepted scientific conclusions of his own administration strongly urging the use of face coverings and seemed to bat away the suggestion that the nation has racial inequities.

“Well, I hope there’s not a race problem,” Trump said Tuesday when asked about his campaign rhetoric seeming to ignore the historical injustices carried out against Black Americans.

Face-to-face with everyday voters for the first time in months, Trump was defensive but resisted agitation as he was pressed on his administration s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and why he doesn t more aggressively promote the use of masks to reduce the spread of the disease.

“There are people that don’t think masks are good,” Trump said, though his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urges their use.

Trump sought to counter his admission to journalist Bob Woodward that he was deliberately “playing it down” when discussing the threat of COVID-19 to Americans earlier this year. Despite audio of his comments being released, Trump said: “Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action."

“My action was very strong,” Trump added. “I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic.”

5:37 a.m.: The new president of the U.N. General Assembly is warning that unilateralism will only strengthen the COVID-19 pandemic and is calling for a new commitment to global co-operation including on the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines.

Turkish diplomat and politician Volkan Bozkir, who took over the reins of the 193-member world body on Tuesday, announced that the General Assembly will hold a high-level special session on the COVID-19 pandemic in early November, though diplomats said the date may slip.

Bozkir takes over from outgoing General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who presided over a unique year-old session that he said was “defined by a pandemic” and included virtual meetings and new voting procedures.

5:28 a.m.: The British government plans to ration coronavirus testing, giving priority to health workers and care home staff after widespread reports that people throughout the country were unable to schedule tests.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday will face questions about his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the House of Commons and before a key committee amid the outcry over the shortage of testing.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland says the government is in the process of drawing up a new priority list for testing, suggesting that students and their families could be next in line after the National Health Service and social care.

5:18 a.m.: The Spanish capital will introduce selective lockdowns in urban areas where the coronavirus is spreading faster.

Deputy regional health chief Antonio Zapatero said Wednesday that the measures will most likely affect southern, working-class neighbourhoods of Madrid where infection rates have been steadily soaring since August.

Zapatero said that Madrid wants to “flatten the curve before the arrival of autumn and the complications that cold weather could bring,” adding that the measures to be taken will be decided by this weekend.

Madrid and its surrounding region of 6.6 million people have accounted for nearly one third of Spain’s new cases, which have averaged 8,200 per day for the past week.

5:15 a.m.: South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has stayed below 200 for two weeks, but the government is urging people not to lower their guard. Authorities said Wednesday that the 113 cases added in the last 24 hours took the country’s total to 22,504, including 367 deaths. Eighty-one of them were in the Seoul metropolitan area, the heart of a recent viral resurgence in South Korea.

5:11 a.m.: Vietnam will resume international commercial flights connecting the country to several Asian destinations starting Friday, after a months-long shutdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

According to a report posted on the government website, flights connecting Vietnam’s two largest cities — Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City — to destinations in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan will operate on a weekly basis. Flights connecting the cities with Cambodia and Laos will resume next week.

The flights, however, are reserved for Vietnamese nationals, diplomats, experts, managers, skilled workers, investors and their families. They are not yet available for tourists.

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To board a flight, passengers must hold a certificate showing they have tested negative for the coronavirus no more than five days before the departure date. Upon arrival, they will be tested and placed under quarantine, the report said.

4:05 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to wrap up two and a half days of cabinet meetings today aimed at plotting a course through the COVID-19 health crisis.

Bold talk of an audacious plan to rebuild the shattered economy gave way during the meetings to the more immediate challenge of confronting the potential for a second deadly wave of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Cases of COVID-19 have been on the rise across the country for the past several weeks.

Consequently, ministers have been focused almost exclusively on how to protect the health of Canadians and avert the potential for another economy-ravaging, nation-wide shutdown like the one that threw millions of Canadians out of work last spring.

The pandemic has already upended the government’s plans to deliver on platform commitments upon which the Liberals won re-election just last fall, when the climate change crisis was at the top of their agenda.

4 a.m.: Some prospective jurors will be summoned to a downtown Toronto convention centre as the province resumes jury selection following a six-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a notice issued Tuesday to those in the legal field, the Ministry of the Attorney General says the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is “prepared to host jury events” on its targeted date of Sept. 16.

The ministry says the centre will be used as a backup location for the Superior Court of Justice and the Civil Superior Court of Justice.

The Ontario Superior Court temporarily halted in-person operations in mid-March due to concerns over the novel coronavirus, with all criminal and civil matters suspended or adjourned until June.

Dozens of courthouses reopened in July, with more doing so this week.

12 a.m.: The Australian PGA tournament has been postponed to February because of uncertainties over coronavirus-enforced restrictions.

The PGA of Australia on Wednesday said the European Tour co-sanctioned golf tournament, scheduled for early December at Royal Queensland in Brisbane, is now tentatively scheduled for Feb. 18-21, but the status of the event will be reviewed again in December.

It follows the postponement of November’s Australian Open at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath to sometime next year. Victoria state is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths, and the city of Melbourne is in lockdown with nightly curfews.

Tuesday 11:57 p.m.: India’ coronavirus confirmed cases crossed 5 million on Wednesday, still soaring and testing the country’s feeble health care system in tens of thousands of impoverished towns and villages.

The Health Ministry reported 90,123 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s confirmed total to 5,020,359, about 0.35% of its nearly 1.4 billion population. It said 1,290 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 82,066.

India’s total coronavirus caseload is closing in on the United States’ highest tally of more than 6.6 million cases and expected to surpass it within weeks.
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