10:13 a.m. Ontario is reporting 78 cases of COVID-19

7:43 a.m. The TDSB is holding a webinar Thursday to discuss the safe re-opening of schools in September

7 a.m. Premier Doug Ford will meet with local leaders in Windsor-Essex today

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

10:28 a.m. Children can safely wear masks starting at age 2 — and they should be mandatory in schools to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for the safe return of children to school, child care, and other group settings must include the universal use of cloth face coverings by children two years of age and older and the adults with whom they interact,” says the guidance from the prestigious academy, issued Thursday.

It comes as teacher unions across Ontario continue to push for changes so that all students — not just those from Grades 4 to 12 — wear masks when they return to class this fall.

The province has urged younger children, from junior kindergarten to Grade 3, to wear masks.

Ontario is the only jurisdiction to require masks all day when school returns, though a handful of other provinces have said teens need to wear them in the hallways, or on buses.

Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy: Make masks mandatory for all students, urges American Academy of Pediatrics

10:13 a.m. Ontario is reporting 78 cases of COVID-19, Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter. Hospitalizations declined again as ICU admissions and vented patients remain stable. With 99 more resolved, the number of active cases in the province continues to decline.

9:46 a.m. U.S. stocks wavered Thursday after data showed fewer Americans applied for jobless benefits, potentially signaling that the pace of recovery in the labour market is starting to pick up.

The S&P 500 edged down 0.3 per cent a day after the benchmark U.S. stock index climbed to a hair’s breadth from its first record close since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index moved higher 0.3 per cent. Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 slipped 0.6 per cent.

Initial jobless claims fell to 963,000 in the week ended Aug. 7, ending a 20-week streak of results above 1 million. This compares with the previous week’s 1.186 million applications for unemployment benefits, indicating a moderate decline and coming below economists’ estimates of 1.1 million.

9:40 a.m. An Africa-wide study of antibodies to the coronavirus has begun, while evidence from a smaller study indicates that many more people have been infected than official numbers show, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Experts are eager to know the real number of COVID-19 cases in Africa, as confirmed cases and deaths have been relatively low on the continent of 1.3 billion people. Poor data collection, however, has complicated efforts.

But recent surveys in Mozambique found antibodies — proteins the body makes when an infection occurs — to the virus in 5 per cent of households in the city of Nampula and 2.5 per cent in the city of Pemba. That’s while Mozambique has just 2,481 confirmed virus cases. Further studies are underway in the capital, Maputo, and the city of Quelimane.

“What is important is far fewer people are coming down with the disease,” Africa CDC director John Nkengasong told reporters. “How many people are infected and asymptomatic on our continent? We don’t know that.”

Africa’s young population, with a median age of 19, has been called a possible factor.

9:16 a.m. Mexico and Argentina have reached agreements to produce the U.K. drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc’s promising COVID-19 vaccine for Latin America, the nations’ governments said.

The countries will make 150 million to 250 million initial doses of the potential COVID-19 vaccine designed by scientists at the University of Oxford after the required trials, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in messages on Twitter on Wednesday night. Billionaire Carlos Slim’s foundation is helping finance the plan, Ebrard said.

The goal is to produce the vaccine as of the first half of next year, and there will be no profits from it during the pandemic, Fernandez said in his statement following a meeting with representatives of AstraZeneca. His health minister said Argentina will prioritize getting the vaccine to the elderly, medical professionals and people with pre-existing conditions.

8:51 a.m. An additional $305 million to support Indigenous people during the COVID-19 pandemic will top up the Indigenous Community Support Fund first announced in late March.

Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller made the announcement yesterday, stressing that Indigenous people are among the most vulnerable in Canada, and during the pandemic, face unique challenges often exacerbated by social inequalities and systemic barriers.

The fund is part of the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

As with previous funding, it can be used to support elders and vulnerable community members, to address food insecurity, for educational and other supports for children, for mental-health assistance and for emergency response services and preparedness measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Further, Miller said Indigenous leaders, governments and organizations best know the needs of their people and are best placed to develop community-based solutions to respond to the challenges.

“It is a testament to Indigenous leadership and indeed Indigenous Peoples that community exposure to the virus has been limited,” Miller said.

8:09 a.m. (updated) Against the backdrop of a recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and saddled with a record budget deficit, Premier Doug Ford has resumed his campaign-style tour of the province.

“It’s bright and early, 6:30 a.m., and we’re off to Windsor, I just can’t wait to see the people of Windsor,” Ford enthused as he motored down Highway 401 on Thursday.

Windsor-Essex, which had been hit by coronavirus outbreaks among migrant farm workers, was the last region in Ontario to reopen its economy, entering Stage 3 on Wednesday, meaning restaurants and bars can offer indoor service and gyms and playgrounds can open.

That was the same day Finance Minister Rod Phillips delivered the sobering first quarterly financial results, confirming the province has been plunged into an economic recession by a virus that has killed more than 2,800 Ontarians since March.

Phillips said a deficit that had been forecast to be $20.5 billion in 2020-2021 — up from $9.2 billion last year — has jumped to $38.5 billion.

Pandemic relief efforts expected to cost $17 billion are now projected to exceed $30 billion, including a $9.6 billion contingency fund to cover things like schools reopening next month amid fears of a second wave of the virus.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

7:47 a.m. Fans will be allowed into MotoGP races for the first time this season, at the Misano circuit in Italy next month.

The region of Emilia Romagna has given the circuit permission to open to a maximum of 10,000 fans a day for the doubleheader of the San Marino and Emilia Romagna MotoGP rounds.

There will be strict measures in place to protect against the coronavirus, and fans will not be allowed to roam around.

The circuit has a capacity of around 110,000 including more than 40,000 in the stands and welcomed approximately 160,000 people across the three-day weekend last year.

Organizers say in a statement: “It is a decision that makes us emotional because it also represents a green light for the restart of world sport finally in front of the fans.”

The first three MotoGP rounds were held without fans and no spectators will be allowed into the upcoming doubleheader in Austria.

7:43 a.m. The TDSB is holding a webinar Thursday to discuss the safe re-opening of schools in September beginning at 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Families will learn more about the board’s “Safe Reopening of Schools.”

7:25 a.m. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic not only threatens gains in fighting global poverty and building peace but risks exacerbating existing conflicts and generating new ones.

The U.N. chief told a Security Council meeting on the challenge of sustaining peace during the pandemic that his March 23 call for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus led a number of warring parties to take steps to de-escalate and stop fighting.

“Yet, regrettably, in many instances, the pandemic did not move the parties to suspend hostilities or agree to a permanent ceasefire,” Guterres said.



His predecessor as secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, told the council: “It is truly astonishing that in response to this pandemic, the world has placed billions of people under lock-down, closed international borders, suspended trade and migration, and temporarily shut down a whole variety of industries — but has not managed to suspend armed conflicts.”

Ban criticized the U.N. Security Council for wasting valuable months “in arguments over the details of the text” and not adopting a resolution until July 1 demanding an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in key conflicts including Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo to tackle COVID-19.

“This has weakened the message that this council needs to send to all warring parties: now is the time to confront our common enemy,” Ban said.

And he said delayed council action “further aggravated the current volatile global security situations.”

7 a.m. Premier Doug Ford will meet with local leaders in Windsor-Essex today after the region entered Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan on Wednesday.

Ford will spend the day in the city of Windsor and will meet with mayors from across the region to discuss economic recovery.

The premier is also set to tour the Ford Motor Company’s Essex Engine Plant.

A portion of the facility was retooled to produce plastic face shields for front-line workers during the pandemic.

Ford is also expected to hold his daily COVID-19 media briefing from Windsor alongside the province’s labour minister and associate transportation minister.

Windsor-Essex moved to Stage 3 on Wednesday after being held back because of COVID-19 outbreaks on local farms.

6:20 a.m. Researchers at Imperial College in London, England estimate that 6 per cent of England’s population — or 3.4 million people — have been infected by COVID-19, a figure far higher than previous findings.

The estimate is based on a study of 100,000 randomly selected volunteers who used home finger-prick tests to find antibodies for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The study, which covers infections through the end of June, found that London had the highest infection rate at 13%. Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups were two to three times more likely to have had COVID-19 than white people.

The nationwide estimate is much higher than the number of reported cases posted by Johns Hopkins University, the main reference for monitoring the disease. As of Thursday, it listed 270,971 cases throughout England.

5:22 a.m. New locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus reported in China have fallen into the single digits, but Hong Kong is seeing another rise in hospitalizations and deaths.

China’s National Health Commission said Thursday that eight new cases were registered in the last 24 hours in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose main city of Urumqi has enacted lockdown measures and travel restrictions. An additional 11 cases were brought by Chinese returning from overseas.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, has 62 new cases, up from 33 on Wednesday, along with an additional five deaths.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city has required masks be worn in all public settings and limited indoor dining among other measures to curb a new outbreak.

5:00 a.m. Toronto says it’s moved more than 1,500 homeless people into permanent housing since mid-March as it’s battled COVID-19 — a nearly 50 per cent increase over the same period last year.

But some outreach workers say that figure doesn’t fairly represent Toronto’s pandemic-specific response, since more than 40 per cent were already on waitlists before the virus hit, and the number reflects the total instead of this year’s COVID-specific increase.

While the city says it has moved 1,570 people into permanent housing since mid-March, using rent-to-geared-income (RGI) assistance and housing allowances, last year during the same time period it moved 1,050 people using the same programs, according to data provided to the Star.

Read more from reporter Victoria Gibson here.

4:45 a.m. German authorities worked through the night to clear a backlog of coronavirus tests from travellers after it emerged 900 people who were positive for COVID-19 had yet to be informed.

Bavarian Health Minister Melanie Huml said all people with positive results would be informed Thursday and that systems were being improved to prevent any further delays.

Bavaria has been offering free voluntary tests at airports, as well as specific train stations and highway rest areas, and has carried out some 85,000 since the end of July, Huml said.

Thursday 12:57 a.m. A puzzling new outbreak of the coronavirus in New Zealand’s largest city grew to 17 cases on Thursday, with officials saying the number will likely increase further.

And a lockdown in Auckland designed to extinguish the outbreak could be extended well beyond an initial three days.

It was a turnabout from Sunday, when the South Pacific nation of 5 million marked 100 days without any cases of local transmission. For most people, life had long returned to normal as they sat down in packed sports stadiums and restaurants or went to school without the fear of getting infected.

The only cases for months had been a handful of returning travellers who have been quarantined at the border. But then earlier this week, health workers discovered four infections in one Auckland household.

The source of the new infections continues to stump officials. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said genome testing has not yet matched the new cluster with any infections that have been caught at the border, although the testing has indicated the strain of the virus may have come from Australia or Britain.

New Zealand first eliminated community transmission of the virus by imposing a strict lockdown in late March when only about 100 people had tested positive for the disease.

Read more of Wednesday’s coverage here.

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