- Ontario cracks down further on social gatherings as 407 new cases are reported.
- Chief medical officer of health points to ‘indicator of accelerated epidemic growth.’
- Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers.
- Quebec police to visit bars and restaurants to ensure rules are followed.
- Conservative leader tests positive for COVID-19; Quebec premier self-isolating.
- COVID-19 task force worries Trump’s rush to approve vaccine will spook Canadians.
Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam has urged Canadians to “redouble their efforts” to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus after the country reported an average of 779 new cases daily during the week, more than double the level in July.
“The ongoing increase in the national daily case counts is an indicator of accelerated epidemic growth. This situation increases the likelihood that we could lose the ability to keep COVID-19 cases at manageable levels,” Tam said on Friday.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Saturday blamed the number of rising cases on people who think they can “carry on as if things are back to normal” and announced his government is lowering the allowable size of private social gatherings in every region of the province, effective immediately, after more than 400 cases of COVID-19 were added to the province’s total for the second consecutive day.
The province had lowered the number of people permitted at social gatherings in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa on Thursday, but it extended the order on Saturday, when 407 new cases were reported — the highest daily case count since June 7 — following 401 new cases on Friday and 293 on Thursday.
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The rule will be enforced with possible fines of $ 10,000 for the organizers of illegal parties and $ 750 for an individual attending parties with more than 10 people gathering indoors, down from the previous limit of 25. The number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings has been dropped from 100 to 25.
“Folks, the alarm bells are ringing, and too much of it is being tied to people who aren’t following the rules,” Ford said in announcing the new order, while noting there were around just 80 new cases reported in Ontario three weeks ago.
Among other provinces reporting new cases on Friday, the highest counts were in Quebec, with 297 newly reported infections, British Columbia with 139 and Alberta with 107.
Quebec, meanwhile, has announced a blitz to enforce COVID-19-related public health rules, which will send officers to 1,000 bars and restaurants across the province over the weekend. Pandemic rules prohibit food and alcohol from being served after midnight. Physical distancing must also be maintained between tables, while dancing and karaoke are not permitted.
“We have to use every tool and every gesture at our disposal to avoid a second wave in Quebec,” Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault told reporters in Quebec City as the police operation was announced Friday.
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Figures released this month from the Canadian Institute for Health Information indicate that 19.4 per cent of those who tested positive for COVID-19 were health-care workers.
The numbers cover up to late July and are almost double the 10 per cent figure gathered by the World Health Organization for health-care workers infected worldwide.
Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, said governments in Canada weren’t prepared for the virus, although research as early as March showed it was possible the virus could be airborne.
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Silas said her federation has launched an investigation into why Canada didn’t better protect its health-care workers.
As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 142,318 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 123,900 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,245.
What’s happening around the rest of Canada
Two federal party leaders have now tested positive for COVID-19, and one premier may have been exposed.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and his wife, Nancy Déziel, have both tested positive and are in isolation until the end of September, the party confirmed on Friday.
It was also announced on Friday that federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had a COVID-19 test come back positive and he is now isolating.
Quebec Premier François Legault and O’Toole met one-on-one last Monday in Montreal for the federal Conservative leader’s first official visit to a sitting premier. Legault said he will be getting a test for COVID-19 and self-isolate.
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Members of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine task force are casting worried eyes at the Trump administration’s political push to get a vaccine approved before the U.S. presidential election in November.
Dr. Joanne Langley, the task force co-chair, and member Alan Bernstein said they are concerned about “vaccine hesitancy” in Canada, the phenomenon where people have doubts about taking a readily available vaccine because of concerns about its safety.
Langley said that when a vaccine against COVID-19 is eventually found, governments and health-care professionals will have to mount a vigorous information campaign to counter opposition.
And it won’t help that U.S. President Donald Trump has said a pandemic-ending vaccine could be rolled out as soon as October, stoking concern that he is rushing the timeline to further his re-election chances on Nov. 3.
Countering concerns that an apparent hurry to approve a vaccine could spook people out of getting it is an ongoing concern among the approximately one dozen health experts on the government’s vaccine advisory panel.
It’s tasked with recommending which vaccine candidates the government should be spending money on.
“All the decisions are made based on the evidence of science, which includes the immune response, how well it protects, all of the adverse events,” Langley said. “And really, politicians have nothing to do with that.”
In the two weeks since classes resumed across Alberta, at least 1,000 students and staff in Edmonton schools have been ordered into isolation for 14 days after potential exposure to COVID-19.
On Friday, as Alberta’s top doctor confirmed the first likely-case of in-school transmission, the caseload continued to increase, with schools across the province reporting new cases.
To date, there have been 78 confirmed cases in 57 of Alberta’s 2,415 schools.
As of Friday, outbreaks had been declared at 13 Alberta schools. Outbreaks are declared when a school has two or more cases of COVID-19.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 30.5 million. More than 952,000 people have died, while 20.8 million have recovered.
The state at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak in Australia recorded its lowest number of daily new coronavirus cases since June on Saturday.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews praised Victorians and said they should be hopeful for the weeks ahead.
There were 21 new infections in the past 24 hours. An average of between 30 and 50 is the key target for lockdown restrictions in Melbourne to be further relaxed on Sept. 28.
Seven more people have died — six of those deaths are linked to care homes for seniors.
Andrews’ comments came as police broke up anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne on Saturday. He said reopening further would not be viable “if we don’t first get these numbers down to a low level.”
India has maintained its surge in coronavirus cases, adding 93,337 new confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.
The country’s Health Ministry on Saturday raised the nation’s caseload to more than 5.3 million out of its nearly 1.4 billion people. The ministry said 1,247 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 85,619. The country has over a million active cases with a recovery rate of about 80 per cent.
India has been reporting the highest single-day rise in the world every day for more than five weeks. It’s expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced scathing criticism from opposition lawmakers in India’s parliament for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy that has left millions jobless.
More than 10 million migrant workers, out of money and fearing starvation, poured out of cities and headed back to villages when Modi ordered the nationwide lockdown on March 24. The migration was one key reason that the virus spread to the far reaches of the country, while the lockdown caused severe economic pain. The economy contracted nearly 24 per cent in the second quarter, the worst among the world’s top economies.