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Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario opens COVID-19 vaccine bookings to hot-spot residents 18 and older; Canada to receive 2M vaccine doses this week

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario opens COVID-19 vaccine bookings to hot-spot residents 18 and older; Canada to receive 2M vaccine doses this week
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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. Web links to longer stories if available.

7:30 a.m. Quebecers aged 45 and up are now eligible to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The province announced last week that it is gradually widening vaccine access to the rest of the general population in descending order of age.

Quebecers aged 50 and up became eligible late last week, and the minimum age limit was lowered by five years on Sunday afternoon.

The province says all adult Quebecers will be able to register for vaccines by May 14 and receive their first shots by June 24.

Most primary school students in the Quebec City and Chaudiere-Appalaches areas are also returning to class today after several weeks of online learning.

Premier Francois Legault said last week that the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations had also stabilized enough to push back the curfew in the Montreal and Laval regions from 8 p.m. to 9:30 starting today.

7:15 a.m. Toronto Public Health is investigating COVID-19 cases linked to a quarantine hotel near Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The local health authority confirmed to the Star on Sunday morning that the cases are connected to the Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport, which is a 10 minute drive from the airport.

Canada’s quarantine rules for international air travellers require incoming passengers to book three nights in one of 18 approved hotels in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, and to stay there until they get the results of a COVID-19 test that they take upon arrival.

Those with negative test results can continue their 14-day quarantine at home.

“We have assigned staff to initiate an investigation and to work with the facility to identify all cases, and review and advise on all appropriate public health measures and infection prevention and control measures,” Dr. Vinita Dubey, the city’s associate medical officer of health, said in a statement.

Toronto Public Health did not disclose how many confirmed cases are associated with the hotel.

7:06 a.m. A photo of a national volleyball team member who was told to stop practising on a Toronto beach drew strong reactions on social media this weekend, renewing the debate over COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor sports facilities.

Sophie Bukovec is seen talking to a Toronto police officer at Woodbine Beach in the photo posted to Twitter on Saturday by Canadian Press photojournalist Frank Gunn.

This came on the first day of ActiveTO , a city program in which streets are closed to traffic to allow people to walk, run and bike while staying physically distanced.

Gunn said the beach was 50 metres away from Lake Shore Boulevard, where eastbound lanes were open between Leslie Street and Woodbine Avenue for ActiveTO.

Toronto police Const. Laura Brabant said the officer explained that sports facilities in Toronto were closed due to health restrictions and no ticket was issued.

The incident reignited a fierce conversation over whether outdoor activities should be banned during Ontario’s provincewide lockdown to combat the third wave of COVID-19.

6:11 a.m.: On a Tuesday morning last September, shortly before Ontario schools reopened, Kingston teacher James Griffith posted a photo of his packed high school classroom on Twitter.

“I managed to squeeze in 34 desks. There’s no distancing,” Griffith tweeted. “But (Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce) say we have the ‘best plan in the country’ and the ‘lowest class sizes’. Uh huh.”

Within hours, the tweet , which included the hashtag #FireLecce, came to the attention of deputy education minister Nancy Naylor’s office.

Naylor’s executive assistant, Vanessa Bennett, asked staff to contact the director of education for the local school board to find out more about Griffith’s claims, internal ministry emails obtained by the Star show. The ministry wanted to get ahead of possible news coverage.

“Apparently educator will be on media later today so we will need to hear back ASAP on this one,” Bennett wrote.

Seven months later, in the midst of a brutal third wave. With the province’s approach to school safety now under renewed scrutiny, the internal emails offer a glimpse into how ministry officials responded to concerns that were raised on the ground about the back-to-school plan.

While in the days and weeks that followed there were no COVID cases in Griffith’s class or at his school, there were in other schools across the province where the government departed from its earlier public health recommendations by allowing large classes. Critics say the emails show that, when facing public blowback, officials worked behind the scenes to minimize bad press.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rachel Mendleson here.

6:08 a.m.: Some nurses in Japan are incensed at a request from Tokyo Olympic organizers to have 500 of them dispatched to help out with the Games. They say they’re already near the breaking point dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Olympic officials have said they will need 10,000 medical workers to staff the games, and the request for more nurses comes amid a new spike in the virus with Tokyo and Osaka under a state of emergency.

The appeal for more nurses is typical of the impromptu changes coming almost daily as organizers and the International Olympic Committee try to pull off the games in the midst of a pandemic.

The Olympics are set to open in just under three months, entailing the entry into Japan — where international borders have been virtually sealed for a year — of 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and thousands of other officials, judges, sponsors, media and broadcasters.

In a statement from the Japan Federation of Medical Workers Unions, secretary general Susumu Morita said the focus should be on the pandemic, not the Olympics.

“We must definitely stop the proposal to send as Olympic volunteers those nurses, tasked with protecting the fight against the serious coronavirus pandemic," Morita said.

“I am extremely infuriated by the insistence of pursuing the Olympics despite the risk to patients and nurses health and lives.”

A protest message saying that nurses were opposed to holding the Olympics went viral on Japanese Twitter recently, being retweeted hundreds of thousands of times.

6:07 a.m.: India recorded 368,147 new coronavirus cases on Monday, including 3,417 deaths, as a catastrophic surge ripples through the country.

The latest numbers came after leaders of 13 opposition parties penned a letter to urge the government to launch a free vaccination drive as well as ensure uninterrupted flow of oxygen to all hospitals.

Several hospital authorities over the weekend sought court intervention over oxygen supplies in New Delhi, where a lockdown has been extended by a week to contain the wave of infections. The New Delhi High Court said it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals were not delivered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been severely criticized over the handling of the surge, which has pushed India’s already fragile and underfunded health system to the brink. Massive election rallies organized by the BJP and other parties as well as a giant Hindu festival on the banks of the Ganges may have exacerbated the spread, experts said, adding that new variants could also be increasing cases.

India has confirmed 19.9 million cases of infection since the start of the pandemic, behind only the U.S., which counts more than 32.4 million. More than 218,000 people in India have died from COVID-19, according to the health ministry. Both figures are thought to be vast undercounts.

India opened its vaccination campaign to people ages 18-44 on Saturday, a mammoth task being undermined by limited supplies. India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, but even the ongoing effort to inoculate people above 45 is stuttering. Since January, 10% of Indians have received one dose, but only around 1.5% have received both required doses.

6:07 a.m.: Australia has expanded its coronavirus vaccine eligibility to include all people 50 and older.

Until Monday, eligibility had been limited, in most cases, to people 70 and older, as well as those with front-line jobs or medical conditions.

Health authorities say AstraZeneca shots for those 50 and older will be available immediately at special clinics, although people will have to wait another couple of weeks before they can get the shots at the clinics of their regular doctors.

Australia’s vaccine rollout has been running far behind schedule, in part because Europe temporarily blocked some vaccine exports. About 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered among Australia’s population of 26 million.

6:06 a.m.: Ontario is making good on its promise to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, opening its provincial booking portal today to hot-spot residents aged 18 and older.

Adults living in the 114 specific postal codes designated as hot spots can start booking their shots at 8 a.m.

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This week and next, the province will send half of its vaccine supply to the hot spots, based on recommendations from the government s scientific advisers.

Adults in some hot-spot neighbourhoods had already been able to make vaccine appointments, but not through the province s online booking portal.

Eligibility expands further across Ontario on Thursday, when online bookings open up to residents aged 50 and over.

People with high-risk health conditions and some groups of people who can t work from home will also become eligible.

Ontario has said it expects everyone aged 18 and over to be able to book a vaccine by the end of May.

6:06 a.m.: Quebecers aged 45 and up are now eligible to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The province announced last week that it is gradually widening vaccine access to the rest of the general population in descending order of age.

Quebecers aged 50 and up became eligible late last week, and the minimum age limit was lowered by five years on Sunday afternoon.

The province says all adult Quebecers will be able to register for vaccines by May 14 and receive their first shots by June 24.

Most primary school students in the Quebec City and Chaudiere-Appalaches areas are also returning to class today after several weeks of online learning.

Premier François Legault said last week that the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations had also stabilized enough to push back the curfew in the Montreal and Laval regions from 8 p.m. to 9:30 starting today.

6:05 a.m.: Broken isolation rules, shared cigarettes and fear of extended isolation periods are some of the findings in a report that sheds light on how Nunavut s first cases of COVID-19 suddenly appeared last November.

For eight months, while outbreaks erupted across the country, Nunavut remained free of infection, with the exception of some cases among mine workers from outside the territory.

That was partly because Nunavut has some of the tightest public health measures in the country. In March 2020, the territory restricted travel to residents only and required anyone who left to complete a 14-day isolation period in a hotel outside Nunavut before returning.

But health officials repeatedly warned that it was not a matter of if, but when COVID-19 would show up.

On Nov. 6, 2020, Nunavut reported its first case of the novel coronavirus in Sanikiluaq, a Hudson Bay community of about 850 people. It soon appeared in other communities, including Arviat, where an outbreak swelled to 339 cases in the community of about 2,800.

Health officials confirmed the first cases came from Nunavummiut who had completed 14 days of isolation down south, but there were no further details.

6:04 a.m.: The trial of an Alberta pastor accused of not following public health orders meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 is to begin today.

Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church spent a month in jail for violating a bail condition not to hold church services that officials have said ignored measures on capacity limits, physical distancing and masking.

He was released March 22 after pleading guilty and was fined $1,500.

The pastor and the Edmonton-area church still face one charge of violating Alberta s Public Health Act.

Lawyers for Coates have said they will argue that the provincial government needs to be held accountable for COVID-19 rules that the lawyers say infringe on the constitutional right to freedom of religion and peaceful assembly.

Alberta Health Services has said GraceLife and its pastor continued to hold services exceeding capacity despite the charges and multiple warnings.

The church was shut down and fenced off by health officers in early April.

The trial in Edmonton provincial court is expected to last three to four days.

6 a.m.: Canada is set to begin receiving more than 2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine each week as the two pharmaceutical firms ramp up their deliveries and begin shipping shots from the United States.

Pfizer and BioNTech have been consistently delivering around 1 million doses from Brussels each week since mid-March, but those numbers will double over the next month before increasing further in June.

This week’s doses will also be the first to arrive from Pfizer’s plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., after the U.S. government previously restricted vaccine exports to inoculate its own citizens.

There was no immediate word, however, on progress in talks with the U.S. over the provision of more doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is in high demand across the country.

Federal Public Service and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said on Friday that Ottawa was “being very aggressive, especially with the supplier.”

4 a.m.: In Canada, the provinces are reporting 173,101 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,825,476 doses given. Nationwide, 1,128,778 people or 3.0 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 36,479.524 per 100,000.

There were no new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 14,862,134 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 93.02 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Monday May 3, 2021.

There are 1,234,180 confirmed cases in Canada (83,744 active, 1,126,136 resolved, 24,300 deaths).

There were 7,147 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 220.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 53,466 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 7,638.

There were 39 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 321 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 46. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 63.94 per 100,000 people.
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