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Today’s coronavirus news: Head of Tokyo Olympics again says games will not be cancelled; Ontario set to impose new restrictions Friday to curb surging COVID-19 rates

Today’s coronavirus news: Head of Tokyo Olympics again says games will not be cancelled; Ontario set to impose new restrictions Friday to curb surging COVID-19 rates
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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.

6:36 a.m. As COVID-19 cases and deaths hit new highs, grim new modelling forecasts and possible new lockdown measures are expected Friday.

Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet met for hours Thursday to discuss options, It’s still not clear exactly what they’ll do, but they’ll meet again to make a final decision.

The province has been under a stay-at-home order since April 8, although the police have limited ability to enforce it. Some schools in the province moved online last week, while some are moving online after April break.

A senior official said a curfew was unlikely.

But, “all options are on the table,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones told reporters at Queen’s Park Thursday.

“Unfortunately, the situation is dire,” associate chief medical officer, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, added at a press conference later in the day.

in downtown Seattle, he was less stressed than usual about the injection to come — after all, it was his third COVID-19 vaccine.

The first time he’d shown up to voluntarily roll up his sleeve for an experimental shot had been almost exactly a year earlier.

That shot? Was made by a company called Moderna. Back before the American company was a household name, Haydon was one of the first people in the world to volunteer to help test its experimental dose that, in the past 12 months, has gone from concept, to large-scale clinical trials, to authorization in countries around the world, to an unprecedented global rollout.

Now he’s rolled up his sleeve again, as the company begins a new trial of a shot designed to target the variant that first emerged in South Africa. It could even eventually be an annual booster. Think a flu shot, but for COVID-19.

“Once again, we sort of had to be OK with stepping into that unknown and really seeing what is going to happen, which is, of course, the whole point of this study,” Haydon said, referring to the volunteers who signed up to come back and help test a booster.

Read the full story from the Star’s Alex Boyd

5:30 a.m. The head of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday was again forced to assure the world that the postponed games will open in just over three months and not be cancelled despite surging COVID-19 cases in Japan.

Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto was asked at a news conference if there were any conditions under which the Olympics would be cancelled.

The question comes as the general secretary of ruling LDP political party, Toshihiro Nikai, raised the possibility the day before.

“There are a variety of concerns but as the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee we are not thinking about cancelling the games," Hashimoto said.

Nikai, the No. 2 person in the LDP party, was asked on Thursday in an interview if cancellation was still an option.

“Of course,” he replied, adding that if the Tokyo Games caused a surge in infections “there would be no meaning to having the Olympics.”

Nikai tried to backtrack later, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued a statement Thursday saying there is “no change to the government position to do everything to achieve safe and secure Olympics.”

Hashimoto acknowledged Nikai s concern and suggested it was probably shared by the Japanese public. Polls show as many as 80% in Japan oppose holding the Olympics during the pandemic.

“The fact that he (Nikai) is concerned is a point that we need to take seriously as Tokyo 2020,” she said. “His comment has reminded us of how tedious it was for us to feel confident or be fully prepared for delivering the games.”

COVID-19 cases have been rising across Japan. Despite this, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers are pressing on. The IOC, which relies on selling broadcast rights for 73% of its income, has seen its cash flow stalled by the postponement. Japan has already invested at least $15 billion to organize the Olympics, and national audits suggest it might be twice that much. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

In an editorial this week, the British Medical Journal questioned Japan and the IOC going ahead with the Olympics. Organizers have said the Olympics will be “safe and secure,” which the editorial challenged.

“While the determination is encouraging, there has been a lack of transparency about the benefits and risk, and international mass gathering events such as Tokyo 2020 are still neither safe nor secure,” the editorial said.

On Thursday, the government minister in charge of Japan’s vaccine rollout, Taro Kono, said even if the Olympics go on, there may be no fans of any kind in the venues. He said it’s likely that the Olympics will have to be held in empty venues, particularly as cases surge across the country.

Fans from abroad have already been barred.

5:28 a.m. The pandemic will get worse before it gets better.

After that grim warning from public health officials, Premier Doug Ford is set to impose the third set of new COVID-19 restrictions in three weeks, including further limits on which businesses and industries can stay open.

While Ford’s cabinet met for hours Thursday and discussed a range of options, senior government officials said a province-wide curfew was “unlikely.”

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But with new infection modelling from the government’s science advisers coming Friday that will forecast rates could triple or quadruple if things continue at the current pace, the premier will announce new moves in hopes of curbing the spread.

“Unfortunately, the situation is dire,” associate chief medical officer Dr. Barbara Yaffe said Thursday as new infections, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions all set new records, and more vaccinations clinics closed temporarily because of a lack of supply from the federal government.

5:25 a.m. Unity Health Toronto is closing its clinics for first-dose COVID-19 vaccination appointments at St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s hospitals, due to a shortage of vaccine.

“Our hospital clinics will be closed as of April 18,” the hospital network said in a statement on its website.

Both clinics “will not be open for first dose appointments until at least April 26,” the statement read.

Vaccination appointments already booked at these locations will not be cancelled, “but may be changed to accommodate new clinic hours.”

The network said this is being done to focus available resources on high-risk groups identified by the Province.

Friday 5:23 a.m. The Toronto Transit Commission, Maple Leaf Foods, and UPS are among the employers in COVID-19 hot spots who have approached — or been approached by — the province about hosting workplace vaccination clinics , the Star has learned.

Others who expressed interest include Maple Lodge Farms and, as previously reported by the Star, Amazon . All are employers in hard-hit sectors who have experienced outbreaks over the past year, and are designated essential under lockdown guidelines.

It is part of a critical push to immunize vulnerable residents in communities disproportionately impacted by the virus. But experts are urging a worker-centred approach where those in the highest-risk workplaces are prioritized — and have barrier-free access to vaccines without requirements like government identification.

“If we don’t have the vaccine going first to the people who need it most, the virus will beat us,” said Dr. Kwame McKenzie, the CEO of Wellesley Institute, a policy and health research organization.

Employers wishing to host workplace clinics must be based in a COVID hot spot, have a history or risk of outbreaks, and be willing to vaccinate employees who can’t work from home as well as local community members. They must also assume responsibility for organizing and funding the clinic, according to provincial criteria detailed this week.

Thursday 8:45 p.m.: British Columbia s top doctor says the province likely has Canada s largest proportion of COVID-19 cases involving the more transmissible variant first identified in Brazil, but that s partly because it is testing more for that strain.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the Vancouver Coastal region is leading all other health authorities with about 70 per cent of P.1 variant cases because of a large number of cases linked to the resort town of Whistler.

Overall, just under 60 per cent of daily cases involve variants, including the one first associated with South Africa, though those cases are negligible compared with P.1 and the variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

Henry said the higher risk of transmission with variants prompted the three-week "circuit breaker" imposed last month that included closing indoor dining at restaurants and bars.
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