7:30 a.m.: Ontario to present budget on Thursday

5:52 a.m. WHO warns of “further acceleration” in speed of spread

5:20 a.m.: Toronto area home prices, sales rose for fourth straight month

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

9:22 a.m.: A decision by Canadian officials to relax border restrictions will benefit residents of a small Alaska town where the only road out of the community runs through British Columbia.

The Canadian government on Oct. 30 announced a number of exceptions to 14-day quarantine rules for some border towns including Hyder, Alaska, CoastAlaska reported Tuesday.

The town, which is separated from the rest of Alaska by mountain peaks and open water, has been restricted since March by coronavirus regulations that kept its population of about 60 residents largely cut off from their Canadian neighbours.

9:15 a.m.: The number of coronavirus cases among children in the U.S. has soared to unprecedented levels, with unknown implications, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced Monday.

By Oct. 29, more than 853,000 children had tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, the academy said. This included nearly 200,000 new cases in children during October alone — 61,000 of them during the last week of that month, larger than any previous week during the eight-month pandemic.

“This is a stark reminder of the impact this pandemic is having on everyone — including our children and adolescents,” said AAP President Dr. Sally Goza in a statement. “This virus is highly contagious, and as we see spikes in many communities, children are more likely to be infected, too.”

Children on the whole don’t seem to be affected as much as more vulnerable populations, but they can be vectors of infection to their elders and those with underlying conditions who may get more severely ill.

8:55 a.m.: Russian officials on Wednesday reported 19,768 new coronavirus infections and 389 new deaths, both the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.

Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases — currently the fourth largest in the world — is nearing 1.7 million amid a rapid resurgence of the outbreak that has been sweeping the vast country since September. The government’s coronavirus task force has also reported over 29,000 deaths since March.

Despite the number of daily new infections in Russia hitting new records every week this month, authorities have so far shunned imposing a second lockdown or shutting down businesses nationwide, insisting that the health care system is able to cope with the surge.

However, in recent weeks alarming reports have surfaced about overwhelmed hospitals, drug shortages and inundated medical workers, in a sign that Russia’s health system is under a significant strain.

8:55 a.m.: The Vatican is following Italy’s lead and will re-close the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel to the public in a bid to contain surging coronavirus infections in Europe.

The Holy See press office said the Museums, as well as the papal villa south of Rome in Castel Gandolfo and the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica, which are usually open to the public for touring, will close Thursday through Dec. 3.

The decision follows the latest decree approved by the Italian government to shutter museums as part of broader restrictions on movement to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

The Vatican Museums, which provide a major source of revenue for the Holy See, had reopened to the public June 1 after a nearly three-month coronavirus lockdown.

8:22 a.m.: Thirsty drinkers in England will be enjoying their final freshly poured pints in a pub for a month Wednesday while shoppers will get one last dose of retail therapy as the country prepares to join large swathes of Europe in lockdown as part of intensified efforts to contain the resurgent coronavirus.

Pubs, along with restaurants, hairdressers and other retailing outlets deemed to be selling non-essential items, such as books and sneakers, will have to close their doors Thursday until at least Dec. 2 following a sudden change of course last weekend by the British government. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had for weeks argued in favour of more regional strategies to contain the virus, but said he had to be “humble in the face of nature.”

British lawmakers are set to approve the latest lockdown measures later so they can take effect at midnight.

8:10 a.m.: Manitoba’s health minister is facing criticism after questioning a letter written by doctors about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cameron Friesen told a legislature committee he wonders about the motivation behind the letter, which he says was issued at a time when the doctors knew it would cause chaos.

The letter, signed by 200 medical doctors and scientists, said the pandemic is spiralling out of control in Manitoba because case numbers have been rising and outbreaks have been occurring at long-term care homes.

The letter also said Manitoba is in “grave peril,” based on international modelling that forecasts how high case numbers could rise.

7:40 a.m. Algeria’s secretive presidency confirmed Wednesday that the mysterious illness that caused President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to be hospitalized in Germany last month was the coronavirus.

The presidency said that the state of 74-year-old Tebboune’s health is “gradually improving” and he “continues to receive treatment in a specialized German hospital after contracting COVID-19.”

It was the first time that officials explicitly mentioned COVID-19 in connection with the Oct. 28 hospitalization. They previously referred to it as being “care in a specialized structure,” without identifying the ailment.

7:30 a.m.: The Ontario government is expected to lay out the next phase of its COVID-19 response as it presents its first budget since the start of the pandemic on Thursday.

The Progressive Conservative government postponed delivering a full fiscal plan earlier this year, citing the economic uncertainty caused by the global health crisis.

The fiscal update it gave instead in March included $17 billion in COVID-19 relief, a projection that was later revised to $30 billion by the end of 2020-2021.

The province also initially predicted a deficit of $20.5 billion, which was later raised to $38.5 billion in light of the additional spending.

The province has already said Thursday’s budget will include details of the new standard for long-term care announced earlier this week, which would see nursing home residents receive an average of four hours of daily direct care.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips has said the fiscal blueprint will provide a multi-year outlook that will build on the measures presented in the spring.

6:42 a.m.: Doctors in England have been put on standby for the possible roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine before Christmas, which would potentially turn the tide in the fight against the pandemic.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of the National Health Service in England, told the BBC on Wednesday that with more than 200 Covid-19 vaccines in development, one will “hopefully” be available in the first part of next year, but doctors will be “gearing up” in case it is ready sooner.

The U.K.’s drug regulator has started accelerated reviews of vaccines under development by Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc, as Britain gets ready to approve the first successful shot as quickly as possible.

5:55 a.m.: Pope Francis is urging people follow recommendations from government and public health authorities to prevent coronavirus infections as he held his weekly general audience in private amid a surge of infections in Europe.

The Vatican announced last week that Francis was suspending public audiences and would celebrate all upcoming liturgies without throngs of faithful present, after someone who attended his Oct. 21 audience tested positive.

Francis held his audience Wednesday in his private library with around 10 priests on hand to translate summaries of his catechism lesson. The livestreamed audience is the same setup Francis used during the Vatican’s nearly three-month COVID-19 lockdown in the spring and summer.



In his opening remarks, Francis said “unfortunately” it was necessary to return to the library for the audience to prevent infections.

5:52 a.m.: The World Health Organization says there has been a “further acceleration” in the speed of COVID-19’s spread in Europe, which was responsible for about half of the globe’s new cases reported last week.

The U.N. health agency said in a weekly report published late Tuesday that European countries also recorded a 46% increase in deaths compared with the previous week. Although deaths also rose in the Americas, the rate of increase there was only 2%.

In Europe, France, Italy and the U.K. reported the highest numbers of new cases while Andorra, the Czech Republic and Belgium reported the highest rate per capita.

5:50 a.m.: Santa Claus is coming to town, but this year, Elliot Lake residents will be the ones driving through the streets.

On Nov. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m., a static display of floats will be placed at various locations throughout the city and residents will be able to view the floats along a mapped route from the comfort of their own vehicles.

Elliot Lake’s 41st annual Santa Claus Parade will be entirely static – and with no pedestrian traffic, it will also be COVID-safe.

“This summer, for Canada Day, we didn’t have a parade, either. Instead, we sent out requests for families to decorate their lawns,” said events coordinator Darla Hennessey.

“People got to go around and take a look at all the displays that were put up. Judges drove around and chose the winners. I thought, well, let’s do something like that again for the Santa Claus Parade.”

5:45 a.m.: Health officials in South Korea have approved a new test that’s designed to detect both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza from the same samples, which would help prevent disruption at hospitals as the pandemic stretches into the flu season.

The country has struggled to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which some experts say could spread more broadly during cold weather when people spend more time indoors.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday reported 118 new cases of COVID-19, most of them in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area. The national caseload is now at 26,925, including 474 deaths.

People have been increasingly venturing out in public after the government eased social distancing restrictions last month to support a weak economy.

5:20 a.m.: Toronto area home prices and sales rose for the fourth consecutive month in October with the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board forecasting record or near-record sales to continue through the balance of the year.

But as detached house values have soared, a surge in condo supply has rendered prices in that category relatively flat, said the TRREB on Wednesday.

There were 7,441 detached houses listed last month, a year-over-year increase of 6.9 per cent. Condo listings more than doubled to 6,193, compared to October 2019.

Read the full story from Tess Kalinowski here.

5:15 a.m.: The U.S. presidential election remained unresolved Tuesday night, offering no certainty over who would occupy the foreign office most important to Canadian interests.

Critical battleground states including Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania remained without declared winners, leaving both President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden short of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

For live coverage of the U.S. election results from the Star, click here.

Tuesday 8:05 p.m.: Health officials are reminding everyone to keep social circles small, particularly in the Fraser Health region, which remains the epicentre of rising case counts in British Columbia.

The province says in a release much of the recent transmission is connected to social gatherings and Fraser Health officials are asking residents to avoid hosting anyone from outside their household.

B.C. reports 299 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths on Tuesday, bringing the death toll from the illness to 272.

The province says 3,017 cases are currently active, including 92 people who are in hospital, while 12,430 people who tested positive have recovered.

6:35 p.m.: The active number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta’s two largest cities sits at more than 2,500 each and the province’s top doctor says that’s a problem.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says she’s particularly concerned about Calgary, where the infection rate has grown to 1.2 in the last five days.

That means every person who contracts the illness is infecting 1.2 other people.

Read Tuesday’s rolling file here.

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