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.

8:45 a.m. France midfielder Paul Pogba has tested positive for COVID-19 and been left out of the national team squad, coach Didier Deschamps said Thursday.

“I had to make a change at the last minute because Paul Pogba was supposed to be in the squad,” Deschamps said. “Unfortunately for him, he had a test yesterday which was positive this morning.”

The Manchester United midfielder’s place in the squad will be taken by 17-year-old Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga ahead of upcoming Nations League qualifiers against Sweden and Croatia.

8:41 a.m.: Just over 1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the coronavirus outbreak continues to threaten jobs in the U.S even as the housing market, auto sales and other segments of the economy rebound from a springtime collapse.

The number of people seeking jobless aid last week dropped by 98,000 from 1.1 million the week before. The number of initial claims has exceeded 1 million most weeks since late March. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they never topped 700,000 in a week.

More than 14.5 million are collecting traditional jobless benefits — up from 1.7 million a year ago — a sign that many American families are depending on unemployment checks to keep them afloat.

8:22 a.m.: Born from a desire to know more about a new town before packing up and leaving, and from the mobility that working from home during COVID-19 offers, new website Ninety minutes from Toronto maps out 55 towns and cities outside Toronto along with everything you could want to know about them.

The site is the brainchild of Audra Williams and her partner, Haritha Gnanaratna. The pair often take day trips to smaller towns throughout southern Ontario and fantasize: about a new life, in a new town, in an affordable home.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jenna Moon

7:48 a.m. A Europa League game in Israel on Thursday was postponed because visiting soccer players from Bosnia-Herzegovina tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s the fifth Champions League or Europa League qualifying game this month to be postponed at least once by virus cases. All involve infected players on teams from eastern Europe.

Maccabi Haifa and Željeznicar both published statements Thursday to say their game was postponed by the Israeli health ministry.

The Bosnian club said five of its players were positive for the coronavirus in pre-game tests Wednesday that are mandatory for UEFA-organized matches during the pandemic.

7:24 a.m. Italy, Spain and France saw the number of new coronavirus cases rise further Wednesday as outbreaks among returning tourists and party-goers continue to expand.

Despite the grim numbers, Italy joined France and Spain in rejecting the possibility of reintroducing the nationwide lockdown that clobbered the economy. Health minister Roberto Speranza ruled out the measure in an interview earlier Wednesday.

“I exclude the hypothesis of a lockdown for our country now,” the minister said. “We have few cases and the situation is under control, with pressure on hospitals that is very low, minimal.”

Italy, the original European epicenter of the pandemic, registered 1,367 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, the most since May 12. France reported 5,429 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, a four-month high that comes after important surges in recent days. Spain reported 3,594 infections, close to the four-month high of 3,715 recorded earlier this month.

The Spanish government has announced that it is ready to make 2,000 soldiers available for contact tracing if requested by regional authorities, who oversee health policy. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Tuesday that another lockdown is not on the table. Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron had ruled out another general lockdown, saying though that targeted, local confinements could be implemented.

7 a.m.: The National Arts Centre is working with theatre companies across Canada to bring the performing arts to the public square.

The Grand Acts of Theatre initiative, announced on Thursday, will see large-scale outdoor works staged in 11 communities from coast to coast as the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered live venues.

NAC English Theatre artistic director Jillian Keiley hopes the project will help prop up Canada’s struggling theatre sector while appealing to a whole new audience.

“We have the opportunity to reach a public who might not even enter a theatre,” Keiley said in a recent phone interview.

“Maybe this is part of how people might think of theatre from now on.”

Keiley partnered with Vancouver theatremaker Sherry Yoon to find companies up for the creative challenge of putting on a show that could weather the natural elements and COVID-19 constraints.

The results outperformed Keiley’s expectations.

Audiences in Barrie will be invited to a wedding celebration attended by well-dressed guests in inflatable plastic orbs in “Something Bubbled, Something Blue” from Talk Is Free Theatre in association with Outside the March.

6:37 a.m.: Doctors don’t understand why some COVID-19 patients aren’t recovering, and as the first wave of people living with lingering impacts of the new virus, they could hold some of the keys for unlocking some of its mysteries. But many feel ignored by the medical establishment, uncounted in official case tallies, and falling through the cracks of care, instead turning to online communities to crowdsource their own recoveries.

Demand has been growing around the world for special post-COVID centres, which have already been set up in New York City, and the U.K. In Canada, a major research study is tracking survivors and can assist in connecting them to help.

Read the full story from the Star’s May Warren here.

6:36 a.m.: No lockers, assemblies or agendas. Libraries and cafeterias closed.

The return to school this fall is going to be like no other for students in the GTA’s 10 public and Catholic boards, as well as throughout the province.

With the school year about to begin, we took a look at the plans of the 10 GTA boards to make schools safe for kids, from cleaning to way-finding and everything else in between.

View the Star’s interactive graphic here.

6:33 a.m.: The UN children’s agency says at least a third of children couldn’t access remote learning when the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, creating “a global education emergency.”

At the height of lockdowns meant to curb the pandemic, nearly 1.5 billion children were affected by school closures, UNICEF said.

“For at least 463 million children whose schools closed due to COVID-19, there was no such a thing as remote learning,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

“The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” she said in a statement. “The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.”

6:27 a.m.: Australia’s hot spot Victoria state recorded its third deadliest day of the pandemic as well as the lowest tally of new infections in more than eight weeks. The 23 dead followed 24 deaths on Wednesday.

Victoria’s Health Department said 22 of the most recent deaths were related to aged care. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 8 per cent of Australia’s aged care homes had residents or staff infected with the virus. But he said the outcomes in four Melbourne aged care homes were “unacceptable.”

Those four were “acutely effected,” he said. “My fear when the COVID pandemic hit in Victoria was that we could have potentially seen far more.” The 113 new cases reported on Thursday was the lowest count since July 5.

6:27 a.m.: North Korea told the World Health Organization it tested 2,767 people for the coronavirus as of Aug. 20 and all have tested negative.

In an email to The Associated Press, Edwin Salvador, WHO’s representative to North Korea, said the country is monitoring 1,004 citizens under quarantine.

Edwin Salvador said the North told WHO it has released 29,961 people from quarantine, including 382 foreigners. The North has yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19, but outsiders doubt its virus-free claim.

6:26 a.m.: India recorded its highest single-day increase with 75,760 new coronavirus cases as it ramps up testing, raising the country’s total virus tally to over 3.3 million.

The Health Ministry on Thursday also reported 1,023 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 60,472. India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks.

With more than 800,000 average tests every day, India has scaled up testing per million to more than 27,000, the ministry said.

6:25 a.m.: South Korea reported 441 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest single-day total in months, making lockdown-like restrictions look inevitable as transmissions slip out of control.

The country has added nearly 4,000 infections to its caseload while reporting triple-digit daily jumps in each of the past 14 days, prompting health experts to warn about hospitals possibly running out of capacity.

The 441 cases reported Thursday was the biggest daily increase since the 483 reported on March 7. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 315 of the new cases were from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers have struggled to track infections linked to various sources, including churches, restaurants, schools and workers.

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The National Assembly in Seoul was shut down and more than a dozen ruling party lawmakers were forced to isolate Thursday following a positive test of a journalist who covered a ruling party leaders’ meeting.

6:25 a.m.: The Saskatchewan government will provide its first update on the size of a budget deficit it says is a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s also the last time residents will get a look at the government’s books before voters go to the polls in a general election this October.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer will today deliver the first quarter results for the 2020-21 fiscal year — including the updated deficit number.

Premier Scott Moe’s government delivered a provincial budget in June that projected a $2.4-billion deficit it says was a result of the economic shutdowns from the health crisis.

6:24 a.m.: Virus or no virus, European authorities are determined to put children back into classrooms, to narrow the learning gaps between haves and have-nots that deepened during lockdowns — and to get their parents back to work.

Facing a jump in virus cases, authorities in France, Britain, Spain and elsewhere are imposing mask rules, hiring extra teachers and building new desks en masse.

While the U.S. back-to-school saga has been politicized and chaotic, with a hodgepodge of fast-changing rules and backlash against U.S. President Donald Trump’s insistence on reopening, European governments have faced less of an uproar.

And even though the virus has invaded classrooms in recent days from Berlin to Seoul, and some teachers and parents warn that their schools aren’t ready, European leaders from the political left, right and centre are sending an unusually consistent message: Even in a pandemic, children are better off in class.

6:23 a.m.: Albertans are to get a look at the province’s biggest deficit in history when the government releases its financial update today.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been warning that the deficit in the first quarter of the fiscal year will be “well north of $20 billion” and won’t be improving any time soon.

He says the province has suffered a “double whammy” — a total collapse of energy prices that has “clobbered” the oil and gas industry and a global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

6:22 a.m.: Thousands of Quebec schoolchildren are heading back to class today, putting the provincial government’s controversial back-to-school plan to the test.

As Montreal’s French-language schools open their doors, kids can expect fewer hugs but lots of handwashing, some mask-wearing and schoolyards sectioned off with tape to prevent extra mingling.

Each roomful of kids will be kept in a separate bubble and masks will be required in hallways and in common areas for children in Grade 5 and up.

The government has faced criticism from groups who say the plan doesn’t go far enough and doesn’t include a distance-learning option for parents who prefer to keep their children home.

More than 150 doctors and scientists also published an open letter this week urging François Legault’s government to require social distancing within classrooms, mask-wearing for all students, and to oblige schools to screen children for symptoms of COVID-19.

6:11 a.m.: The federal Conservatives are calling on a speaking agency through which WE Charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family to hand over all documents about the arrangements.

The request is contained in a letter from Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett to Speakers’ Spotlight on Thursday that notes the agency was first asked by the House of Commons ethics committee to produce the documents last month.

The initial deadline was July 29 for all records pertaining to speaking appearances by Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, mother Margaret Trudeau and brother Alexandre Trudeau at different WE events dating back to October 2008.

The agency subsequently asked for an extension and the committee agreed to a new date of Aug. 19. Trudeau prorogued Parliament one day before that new deadline, ending the committee investigations that were underway into the WE controversy.

Parliament is set to return Sept. 23 with a new speech from the throne.

In his letter, Barrett said the committee agreed to the request for an extension “in good faith,” and that the decision to prorogue Parliament represented “an attack on our democracy and the ethics committee’s duty to Canadians to pursue truth and justice.”

Despite prorogation, however, Barrett said there was nothing to stop the agency from “doing the right thing” and delivering the documents.

Wednesday 5 p.m.: As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Ontario’s regional health units are reporting another 119 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, according to the Star’s latest count.

As has been the case in recent days, the vast majority of new cases in the province were reported in the GTA and Ottawa. Among Ontario’s 34 health units, just Toronto, with 33 new infections, Peel Region, with 29, and Ottawa, with 16, reported in the double digits Wednesday.

The three units were also the only ones to report more than 10 cases Tuesday.

The seven-day average for daily case reports in Ontario has been rising in recent days. On Wednesday, it jumped to an average of 110 cases daily over the last week.

Even with the recent increases, the rate of infection remains well below the worst of the pandemic; Ontario saw the same average reach a mid-April peak of nearly 600 cases daily.

Another three fatal cases were reported Wednesday, two in Peel and one in Toronto.

The province has now seen a total of 43,796 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,840 deaths.

The vast majority of the province’s COVID-19 patients have since recovered; the province lists slightly more than 1,000 active cases of the disease.

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

The province cautions its separate data, published daily at 10:30 a.m., may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

Read Wednesday’s rolling file



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