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.
1:30 p.m.: Ontario is back above 1,100 cases of COVID-19 for the first time in three weeks as the number of new infections continued to climb, hospitalizations rose 27 per cent and six new deaths were reported Friday, the highest since early July.
There were 122 new cases, an increase of four from the previous day, along with 12 more Ontarians admitted to hospital with confirmed or suspected cases of the highly contagious illness, for a total of 61, the Ministry of Health reported Friday.
Cases of people recently testing positive and actively fighting the virus have increased by 100 since last Saturday — to 1,103 — and follow warnings from medical officers in Toronto and Peel that an uptick in COVID-19 in their municipalities means residents must improve their precautions.
Active cases fell to a recent low of 891 on Aug. 13.
The Star’s Rob Ferguson has the full story.
1:20 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting its first case of COVID-19 since Aug. 10.
The new case involves a woman under the age of 19 in the province’s eastern health region, which includes St. John’s.
Authorities said today the new case is related to international travel and the infected person is isolating.
The province says the individual, who is a resident of Newfoundland and Labrador, had recently returned from Asia.
Officials say 265 people have recovered from COVID-19 and three people have died from the virus in the province.
Mask-wearing became mandatory in indoor public places across the province on Aug. 24.
1:05 p.m.: The Ontario government is asking the province’s school boards to try to spend $50 million to upgrade air quality in schools by Thanksgiving.
The request comes in a memo sent to boards by the Ministry of Education earlier this week.
The government announced the $50 million in funding for ventilation upgrades earlier this month and is urging boards to speed up spending.
The memo also outlines best practices to improve air quality, including opening school windows to increase air flow and using portable air filtration units where possible.
The co-founder of advocacy group Fix Our Schools says the timeline will be difficult for school boards to meet given how late in the summer the funding has been allocated.
Krista Wylie says the guidelines also fail to take into account the poor condition many older schools are in, making the standards difficult for many boards to achieve.
1 p.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting two new cases of COVID-19.
Health officials said today the two people infected are located in the northern health zone and are connected to previously reported cases.
There are five active cases of the novel coronavirus in the province.
Nova Scotia has reported a total of 1,083 COVID-19 infections and 65 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.
The province says 1,013 cases are considered resolved and says there are no patients in hospital being treated for the disease.
Nova Scotia has reported 73,837 negative COVID-19 test results.
12:20 p.m.: Levee breaches from Hurricane Katrina dumped almost two metres of water into the New Orleans home of Mary Duplessis and her husband in 2005. The house was uninhabitable. Rebuilding meant piles of paperwork in a mountain of bureaucracy. She didn’t return to the city for a year.
But as the 15th anniversary of the storm approaches, and as another monster storm narrowly missed the city, it’s not memories of Katrina that weigh on Duplessis’ mind. It’s the coronavirus.
Black New Orleanians account for 60 per cent of the city’s population but 77 per cent of its coronavirus-related deaths as of June, according to a study by The Data Center, a New Orleans-area think-tank.
Among contributing factors, the study found: African Americans are more likely to live in multigenerational homes where it’s harder to self-isolate, and a larger proportion fill essential jobs that potentially put them in contact with infected people.
12 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting one new case of COVID-19.
Health officials said today the case involves an individual between the age of 10 and 19 who is located in the Saint John area.
Officials say the case is travel-related and the infected person is isolating.
The province has reported a total of 191 cases of COVID-19, 182 of which are considered recovered.
There have been two deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus and there are currently seven active cases of COVID-19 in the province.
As of today, 60,598 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in New Brunswick.
11:30 a.m.: The WestJet Group is implementing a strict new policy to ensure passengers wear a mask on its flights including the possibility of being denied travel for a year if they refuse.
The airline is also requiring the input of all guests’ contact information at online and kiosk check-in to help with contact tracing in the case of infected individuals on board a flight.
The WestJet Group includes WestJet, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link and Swoop.
Passengers have been required to wear a mask during travel since April to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
11:20 a.m. (updated): Ontario is reporting 122 new cases of COVID-19 and six new deaths related to the coronavirus.
The total number of cases now stands at 41,935, which includes 2,809 deaths and 38,023 cases marked as resolved.
There were 83 cases newly marked as resolved in today’s report.
The province says 61 people are currently in hospital with the virus and 18 are in intensive care. It says 12 people are on ventilators.
The province was able to complete 31,823 tests in the previous day.
11 a.m.: Quebec is reducing the mandatory isolation period required for people infected with COVID-19 from 14 days to 10.
Health authorities said today the change was made in response to evolving science regarding the transmission and the duration of contagiousness of the novel coronavirus.
As of today, people can end their isolation period 10 days after their first symptoms appear, or 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19 if they don’t show symptoms.
Public health adds, however, that people must also meet other criteria to end their isolation, including having no fever for at least 48 hours, and having no symptoms for at least a day — other than coughing or loss of taste.
The new rules apply only to confirmed COVID-19 cases involving people who are isolated at home and whose symptoms are considered mild or moderate.
Those who are in preventive isolation due to being in contact with a confirmed case must still isolate for 14 days to see if symptoms develop.
10:30 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 122 new COVID-19 cases, as the province processed more than 31,800 tests, Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted. Locally, 29 of Ontario’s 34 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 17 reporting no new cases. (more details to come)
10:10 a.m.: On Thursday, the Toronto District School Board permitted tours of two schools to show how principals and staff are figuring out all the complications COVID brings — how to screen students in the morning without delaying the start of the day, keeping kids physically distant in the halls and classrooms, and handling lunch and recess safely.
Read the full story from the Star’s Kristin Rushowy.
9:50 a.m.: An upcoming Formula One race in Italy could be open to 3,000 fans. Tuscany region president Enrico Rossi says local health authorities have approved limited spectators for the Tuscan Grand Prix on Sept. 13.
Rossi tells the Gazzetta dello Sport “the circuit contains three big tribunes that are well spaced apart so the limit of 1,000 people per the national rules on public events can reasonably be considered as the capacity limit for each tribune.”
Official government approval is expected by Saturday.
Fans will have their temperature taken upon arrival and be asked to observe social distancing procedures and wear masks if it is approved.
The only spectators at the Italian GP in Monza a week earlier will be 250 specially invited health workers.
9:02 a.m. An LCBO employee at the 2803 Dundas Street W. location near Keele and Dundas has tested positive for COVID-19, the LCBO says.
A notice was posted on the LCBO’s website on Thursday. It’s been two weeks since the employee last worked at the store in the Junction.
The location remains open.
8:47 a.m.: U.S. consumers increased their spending by 1.9 per cent last month, a dose of support for an economy struggling to emerge from the grip of a pandemic that has held back a recovery and kept roughly 27 million people jobless.
The July gain marked the third straight monthly increase in consumer spending, the primary driver of the U.S. economy, but represented a slowdown from the previous two months. Friday’s report from the Commerce Department also showed that income rose 0.4 per cent in July after two months of declines.
The consumer spending report arrives amid a hazy economic landscape, with high unemployment, struggling businesses and deep uncertainty about when the health crisis will be solved and when people and companies will feel confident enough to spend and hire normally again. It also comes weeks after the expiration of a $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit deprived millions of a key source of income and dimmed the outlook for consumer spending.
The economy, after a catastrophic fall in the April-June quarter, is likely expanding again. Home and auto sales have been strong. Stock prices have set record highs.
A persistently high level of confirmed viral cases has damaged several industries, especially those involved with travel, tourism and entertainment, and is holding back growth. On Thursday, the government reported that roughly 1 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — a historically high level that has prevailed for weeks.
8:38 a.m.: Statistics Canada says the economy posted its steepest decline on record in the second quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of non-essential businesses and slowed the economy to a crawl.
The agency says real gross domestic product contracted at an annualized rate of 38.7 per cent for the three-month period.
Economists had expected a contraction in the quarter at an annualized rate of 39.6 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.
Almost every single component of the economy that works into calculating GDP was at its lowest point over April, May and June — driven largely by lockdowns in April.
Economic output rebounded in May by 4.8 per cent, and the agency says June posted an increase of 6.5 per cent.
The agency’s preliminary estimate for July indicates a three-per-cent increase in real GDP.
8:24 a.m.: Cycling’s governing body has relaxed its COVID-19 exclusion rules on the eve of the Tour de France opening stage following complaints from teams that feared their riders would be unduly excluded from the race.
After meeting with team officials, the UCI said Friday that a team won’t be automatically sent home if two of its riders test positive for the virus as was initially planned.
According to the revised protocol, it will be up to Tour de France organizers to decide whether to throw a whole team out of the race.
“In the case of two or more riders from the same team testing positive for COVID-19 within a period of seven days at a Grand Tour, the UCI will give the event organiser authorisation to announce the withdrawal of the team for health reasons,” the UCI said.
Four staff members of the Belgian team Lotto-Soudal were sent home Thursday after “non-negative” coronavirus tests. The team said a mechanic and a member of the rider support staff returned “one positive and one suspicious result.” Both left the race bubble along with their roommates.
8:07 a.m.: Peru has set another grim record by reporting the highest number of deaths per capita from the coronavirus.
With 28,277 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, or 86.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, Peru on Thursday overtook Belgium as the nation with the most victims, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the IMF and Bloomberg. It comes a week after the South American nation of 33 million posted the world’s deepest economic contraction in the second quarter following a drastic lockdown.
More than five months after reporting its first case, Peru has one of the world’s worst outbreaks by other measures too. Over the past seven days, no country has posted more cases. It’s also among nations with most fatalities by population size over the past week.
The outbreak has been so bad that as much as a quarter of Lima’s 12 million population may have already had the virus, according to a government study published last month. Officials warn the country’s real death toll may be close to double the official figure.
Yet there are signs Peru may be past the worst of the pandemic. While the country reported 153 deaths on Thursday, the number of hospitalized patients had fallen 9.2 per cent from a peak reached 10 days earlier.
Despite locking the entire country down early and aggressively, the government has struggled to get control of its outbreak. Cases surged after lock-down measures were eased in July, prompting a ban on social and family gatherings and also delaying plans for reopening the economy.
7:51 a.m.: The International Judo Federation says it is restarting events which should feed into qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
International judo events started to be affected by the coronavirus in February when Chinese teams withdrew from competing in Europe. Cancellations began in March.
The governing body says World Judo Tour events will be organized in Budapest, Hungary, in late-October and Tokyo in December.
The IJF says the events “aim to offer qualification points for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.”
Some continental-level competitions are also planned later in 2020.
7:50 a.m.: A player has tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of a women’s tennis tournament in Prague.
Tournament director David Trunda says the unidentified player was isolating in her hotel room and will be re-tested. Trunda says the player didn’t meet any other participants in the tournament.
All 150 players are tested on arrival and have to wait in their hotel rooms for the results.
The event is for players who would have been at the U.S. Open qualifying tournament. It opens on Saturday.
U.S. Open qualifying was cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
6:18 a.m.: Statistics Canada will report this morning how the national economy fared in the second quarter of 2020, which is widely expected to show the steepest drop on record due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country’s central bank has forecast that April, May and June would be the worst three-month stretch for the economy this year, since those months span the height of prevention-related shutdowns.
Financial data firm Refinitiv says the average economist estimate is for a 39.6-per-cent plunge compared to the same period in 2019.
Much of that drop will be driven by shutdowns beginning in April that have since been rolled back.
Last month, Statistics Canada released a preliminary estimate that economic output rose five per cent in June, following an increase in May.
Refinitiv says average economist expectations are for an increase in output of 5.6 per cent in June.
6:12 a.m.: Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has reported 113 new coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day, with authorities warning that the infection rate will have to fall substantially if a six-week lockdown is to be relaxed on schedule on Sept. 13.
The latest daily tallies are the lowest in more than eight weeks, with a peak of 725 in early August.
The latest death toll dropped to 12 from 23 on Thursday. Thursday’s was the third-highest toll of the pandemic.
Authorities want daily infections to fall at least to low double-digits before they would consider relaxing restrictions.
Elsewhere in Australia, the federal health department said there were 18 new cases. New South Wales state recorded 13, Queensland three and Western Australia two.
6:11 a.m.: China began moving into its final weekend before a full re-opening of schools amid continuing measures to prevent any further spread of the coronavirus.
The country reported just nine new cases on Friday, all brought from outside the country. Hospitals are treating 288 people for COVID-19 and another 361 are being monitored in isolation for showing signs of the illness or having tested positive for the virus without displaying symptoms.
China has reported 85,013 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, with 4,634 dying from COVID-19.
The roughly 25 per cent of students still out of school are due to return to classes on Monday.
Classes are being held on a staggered schedule and mask wearing and social distancing are required. College undergraduates are also due to return to campus next week, with Beijing ordering tests for all 600,000 taking up places at the city’s institutions.
6:10 a.m.: South Korea is tightening social distancing restrictions in the greater capital area, requiring restaurants to provide only delivery and takeout after 9 p.m. and shutting down gyms and after-school academies.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo announced the plans Friday after the country reported 371 new infections of COVID-19, marking its 15th straight day of triple digit jumps and bringing national totals to 19,077 reported cases, including 316 deaths.
The measures will be imposed for eight days starting Sunday.
Park said more than 470,000 businesses in the Seoul area will be affected by the measures.
6:10 a.m.: India has recorded another high of 77,266 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s total to more than 3.38 million reported cases.
Nearly 47 per cent of India’s virus cases were detected this month alone.
The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,057 deaths for a total of 61,529.
India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for nearly three weeks. India’s previous highest daily count was 75,760 on Wednesday.
With up to 900,000 tests every day, India’s cumulative tests reached 39 million on Thursday, the ministry said.
6:10 a.m.: London’s Gatwick Airport says it doesn’t expect air traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels for four or five years after passenger volume dropped 66 per cent in the first half of the year.
The capital’s second-biggest airport said Friday that just 7.5 million people travelled through Gatwick in the first six months of 2020, down from 22.2 million in the same period last year.
Gatwick says it has already eliminated 740 jobs and expects to cut another 600 during the third quarter.
CEO Stewart Wingate says, “like any other international airport, the negative impact of COVID-19 on our passenger numbers and air traffic at the start of the year was dramatic and, although there are small signs of recovery, it is a trend we expect to continue to see.”
6:09 a.m.: Chancellor Angela Merkel is cautioning that the coronavirus crisis will make life more difficult in the coming months than it has been over the summer and is calling on Germans to continue taking the threat seriously.
Germany’s response to the virus is generally viewed as relatively successful, but the country has seen a pickup in new infections in recent weeks, as have many others in Europe.
Merkel said Friday: “We have to expect that some things will be even more difficult in the coming months than in the summer.”
She said it is important to keep infections down as people increasingly meet indoors.
She told reporters in Berlin that “we will have to keep living with the virus.”
The long-time German leader said she had three priorities, including ensuring that children can continue access education despite the pandemic, ensuring economic revival, and maintaining social cohesion at a time when many in society are suffering hardship.
6:07 a.m.: A group of COVID-19 modellers says the British Columbia government should increase physical distancing measures to help it more safely reopen schools next month.
Paul Tupper, a mathematician with Simon Fraser University’s MAGPIE Research Group, says physical distancing has already been relaxed too much, putting schools at risk of possibly becoming centres for new outbreaks.
“Our predictions are that right now we’re set for exponential growth to levels higher than we have seen before in B.C., and that’s even if we do nothing, even if we just keep things as they are,” Tupper said in an interview last week.
Friday 12:03 a.m. Venezuelan security forces and authorities under President Nicolás Maduro have used the coronavirus as an excuse to crack down on dissenting voices on social media and even in private messages, Human Rights Watch reported Friday.
The New York-based rights group said Venezuelan authorities have targeted dozens of journalists, healthcare workers, human rights lawyers and political opponents critical of the government’s response to the pandemic.
Some critics have been physically abused to levels bordering on torture, the group said in a report listing 162 such cases from March through June. Human Rights Watch says it verified several complaints through interviews with alleged victims, while also citing reports by Venezuelan media and human rights advocates.
“In Venezuela today, you can’t even share a private message criticizing the Maduro government via WhatsApp without fear of being prosecuted,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
“The state of emergency has emboldened security forces and armed pro-government groups that already have a record of torture and extrajudicial killings to crack down even more harshly on Venezuelans,” Vivanco said.
Thursday 5 p.m.: Ontario’s regional health units are reporting another 147 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, most new cases in the province were reported in the GTA and Ottawa.
Toronto, with 33 new infections, Peel Region, with 27 cases, Ottawa, at 22, and York Region, 14, all reported in the double digits Thursday.
Windsor-Essex also reported 12 cases, well above that region’s recent trend.
The seven-day average for daily case reports in Ontario has been rising in recent days. On Thursday, it jumped to an average of 117 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.
No new fatal cases were reported Thursday; one previously listed death was removed from the tally in Peel, where the region has reported a total of 326 fatal cases.
The province has now seen a total of 43,943 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,839 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, although that total has been going up in recent days.
The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means 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. In the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”
Read Thursday’s rolling file