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

7:45 a.m. Days before Christmas, Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell is checking off the wish lists of more than 30 low-income families and providing them with grocery gift cards through the Yonge Street Mission.

Despite being in Tampa, Fla., with the Raptors for the first half of the NBA season, Powell wanted to give back to the Toronto community. The 30 families will be picking up their gifts from Yonge Street Mission Tuesday, the Christian organization that aims to end chronic poverty in the city said in a news release.

“A lot of people I know and families around the world are losing people due to COVID,” Powell said. “So, I think it’s a time where you have to really cherish the time you can get and spend with your family.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Manuela Vega

7:40 a.m. After months of praise and kind words for the federal Liberals, Premier Doug Ford accused Ottawa of “shutting the door” in Ontario’s face on testing international travellers for COVID-19.

The abrupt shift in tone came as Ford announced a month-long lockdown across Ontario to try to get the second wave of the pandemic under control in the province.

In a Queen’s Park press conference Monday, Ford raised concerns about international travellers coming into Ontario, saying “at minimum” they should all be tested. Ford suggested that recommendation was not accepted by the federal government.

Read the full story from the Star’s Alex Boutilier

7:30 a.m. After dire warnings of a COVID-19 surge that threatens to crash Toronto’s health system, and news that the virus killed a local 30-year-old and hospitalized an 11-year-old, city officials are unsure if new provincewide restrictions are enough.

Mayor John Tory congratulated Premier Doug Ford on provincial restrictions effective Boxing Day. But he acknowledged officials won’t know what they mean for Toronto, already in lockdown, until Ford’s government releases detailed regulations.

“It’s not entirely clear yet what will change,” Tory told reporters Monday shortly after Ford’s announcement that closely resembles rules already in place in Toronto, with some modifications to how many people essential stores can let in at once and a switch to curbside only service for some businesses.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro

7:20 a.m. If you’re confused about Ontario’s mixed messaging on COVID-19, join the club.

Some public health and policy experts agree it’s tough to make heads or tails of rules that seem, on one hand, to urge caution, while signalling with the other hand that we’re good to throw it to the wind and spend Christmas in the close physical presence of our loved ones.

Amid escalating cases of COVID, the Ford government announced Monday that a province-wide lockdown will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Boxing Day. We try to answer some of your questions about the new lockdown, its timing and possible impact.

Read the full story from the Star’s Michele Henry and Brendan Kennedy

6:12 a.m.: New construction single-family home sales continued to soar in November, up 68 per cent year over year and 58 per cent above the 10-year average as the race for more space continued in the Toronto region.

The benchmark price of a single-family home hit $1.27 million last month, 15.8 per cent above November 2019.

The 1,914 single-family homes that sold is the highest number for November since 2015, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) said on Tuesday.

Condo prices crossed the $1 million mark last month with the benchmark price up 17.9 per cent year over year.

Read the full story from the Star’s Tess Kalinowski here.

5:57 a.m.: Turkey has identified and quarantined 4,603 airline passengers who arrived from the United Kingdom on and after Dec. 14, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Tuesday.

Flights from the U.K., South Africa, Denmark and the Netherlands were suspended on Sunday evening in response to a new strain of coronavirus said to be circulating there.

Koca tweeted that 335 passengers flying from those countries at the time of Sunday’s announcement were tested for the virus on arrival in Turkey and isolated.

Many countries have restricted travel, primarily from Britain, after the new strain was described as spreading rapidly there.

5:57 a.m.: Germany has expanded its ban on passenger flights from the U.K. to forbid passenger transport by rail, bus and ship.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said the expanded measure took effect at midnight, a day after flights were halted. A similar measure applies to South Africa, where a new variant of the coronavirus also has been detected.

The measures apply through Jan. 6. There are exceptions for freight and mail transport, and for medical and humanitarian flights.

A string of European and other countries halted air travel from Britain because of a new and seemingly more contagious strain of the coronavirus in England.

A leading German virologist who was initially skeptical about reports that the strain was much more contagious voiced concern after seeing more data. Christian Drosten, a professor of virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, tweeted that “unfortunately it doesn’t look good.”

But Drosten added: “What is positive is that cases with the mutation so far only increased in areas where the overall incidence was high or rising. So contact reduction also works against the spread of the mutation.”

5:53 a.m.: The first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 in more than eight months was reported in Taiwan, ending what was the world’s longest stretch without a domestic infection and providing a reminder of the virus’s ability to outfox even the most successful efforts to contain it.

A 30-year-old woman was confirmed to have caught Covid-19 in Taiwan, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said at a briefing in Taipei Tuesday. While it has seen cases in travellers arriving from outside, Taiwan’s last infection within the community was April 12.

The woman came into repeated contact between Dec. 7 and Dec. 12 with a pilot from New Zealand who had caught Covid-19 in the U.S. before travelling to Taiwan, according to Chen. The government will fine the Eva Airways Corp. pilot up to NT$300,000 ($10,000) for failure to report details of his close contacts and steps.

5:52 a.m.: South Korea will prohibit private social gatherings of five or more people and shut down ski resorts and major tourist spots nationwide starting from Christmas Eve as it contends with surging coronavirus infections.

The restrictions revealed by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Tuesday widen similar plans announced by authorities in the Seoul metropolitan area to a national level and are the most serious step the government has taken so far to reinstate social distancing after months of complacency.

Chung said the measures will be in place at least until Jan. 3.

The capital area has been at the centre of a viral resurgence in past weeks that has overwhelmed hospitals and increased death tolls and raised questions to how the government is handling the outbreak.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Tuesday reported another new 869 infections, mostly from the capital area, which brought the country’s caseload to 51,460. Forty-eight COVID-19 patients have died in the past 48 hours, the deadliest two days since the emergence of the pandemic. The death toll could rise as the agency said 281 among 14,810 active patients were in serious or critical condition.

The viral resurgence has put pressure on the government to raise social distancing restrictions to maximum levels, something policy-makers have resisted for weeks out of economic concerns.

Visitors will also be prohibited at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where residents and workers will be tested every one or two weeks. Churches and other religious facilities will be shut, and restaurants will face fines if they receive large groups and must maintain social distance between people dining there.

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“It will be crucial to prevent the upcoming two holiday periods from triggering a further spread of COVID-19,” Chung said during a virus meeting, referring to Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Around 180 skiing, sledding and skating venues around the country will be closed, which officials saw as necessary following a series of outbreaks as winter sports venues in recent weeks. National parks and coastal tourist spots, where thousands travel to every year to watch the sun rise on the new year, will close. Hotels will be banned from selling more than 50% of their rooms.

5:52 a.m.: Health officials in Thailand reported 427 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, most of them from a cluster involving migrant workers in Samut Sakhon province, near Bangkok. The mass outbreak in Samut Sakhon was revealed over the weekend when authorities reported more than 500 new cases, the country’s biggest single-day increase by far.

The combined increase of 1,385 cases over the past few days boosts the country’s overall total to 5,716, including 60 deaths. The exact origin of the outbreak in Samut Sakhon is not yet known, though the first of the recent cases to be confirmed was a 67-year-old shrimp vendor at a major seafood market.

Following his case, mass testing was carried out and many of those who tested positive did not display symptoms. The affected market was sealed off and a night curfew and travel restrictions for the province were imposed until Jan. 3. Many public places, including shopping malls, schools, cinemas, spas and sports stadiums, have been ordered closed.

5:52 a.m.: The spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs appeared to continue to slow on Tuesday, raising hopes that a lockdown will be eased by Christmas.

Only eight new infections were reported in the latest 24-hour period, New South Wales state authorities said. State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would announce on Wednesday whether a lockdown of more than 250,000 people in the northern beaches that has been in force since Saturday would be eased.

She said while the numbers were lower, more places have been identified with ties to cases. Previously, cases had centred on two live music venues. One new case, however, was a nurse involved in transferring infected arrivals from the airport.

5:48 a.m.: More than 1,500 trucks were stranded in England on Tuesday morning amid fears that Britain could face food shortages if travel restrictions put in place to slow the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus aren’t lifted soon.

Dozens of countries around the world have slapped tough travel curbs on the U.K. in recent days: From Canada to India, nations banned flights from Britain, while France barred the entry of trucks from the country for 48 hours from late Sunday while the strain is assessed.

Home Secretary Priti Patel told BBC radio that the British government is “speaking constantly” with France to achieve a swift resolution in order to get freight moving again. In the meantime, trucks were piling up in Kent, the county in southeast England that is home to some of the most popular cross-Channel ports.

Patel said 650 vehicles were lined up on the main highway into the Port of Dover, while another 873 had been redirected to the nearby disused Manston Airport.

“It’s in both our interests, both countries to ensure that we have flow, and of course there are European hauliers right now who want to be going home,” she said.

While the French ban does not prevent trucks from entering Britain, the move stoked worries about shortages at a time of year when the U.K. produces very little of its food and relies heavily on produce delivered from Europe by truck.

5:48 a.m.: Ontario Premier Doug Ford wants the federal government to move faster on COVID-19 testing for incoming international travellers as a new variant prompted more border closures.

The federal government has announced a ban on Sunday night on all incoming passenger flights from the U.K. for 72 hours due to the new manifestation of the novel coronavirus in that country.

Canada had been easing the near-total shutdown at the border that went into effect in March.

First, a tight list of essential workers were allowed in. It was expanded to allow more workers, such as agricultural labourers. Then the government expanded the list of eligible family members able to join or visit relatives in Canada, and has since expanded that list further.

Most incoming travellers are required to quarantine for 14 days and are screened for symptoms of COVID-19. If they violate quarantine, they can face heavy financial fines or jail time.

But Ford compared the way the border is being managed to a leaky roof on Monday.

He said close to 64,000 people arrived at Toronto’s Pearson airport last week alone and suggested they were basically unchecked.

“Let’s get the testing at the airport and stop the leak,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if there’s 10 people getting through, that’s 10 too many that are going to be out in the community spreading COVID.”

5:45 a.m.: German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but further studies are need to be completely sure, its chief executive said Tuesday.

The variant, detected mainly in London and the southeast of England in recent weeks, has sparked concern worldwide because of signs that it may spread more easily. While there is no indication it causes more serious illness, numerous countries in Europe and beyond have restricted travel from the UK as a result.

“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” CEO Ugur Sahin told a news conference the day after the vaccine was approved for use in the European Union. “But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.”

Sahin said that the proteins on the UK variant are 99% the same as on the prevailing strains, and therefore BioNTech has “scientific confidence” that its vaccine will be effective.

“But we will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data,” he said. “The likelihood that our vaccine works … is relatively high.”

Should the vaccine need to be adjusted for the new variant the company could do so in about 6 weeks, Sahin said, though regulators might have to approve the changes before the shots can be used.

Read the full story from the Associated Press here.

Monday 10:40 p.m.: If you’re confused about Ontario’s mixed messaging on COVID-19, join the club.

Some public health and policy experts agree it’s tough to make heads or tails of rules that seem, on one hand, to urge caution, while signalling with the other hand that we’re good to throw it to the wind and spend Christmas in the close physical presence of our loved ones.

Amid escalating cases of COVID, the Ford government announced Monday that a province-wide lockdown will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Boxing Day. We try to answer some of your questions about the new lockdown, its timing and possible impact.

Read the full story by Toronto Star reporters Michele Henry and Brendan Kennedy here: COVID-19 numbers are on the rise, but the province-wide lockdown is still days away. Why the delay? Aren’t we in the midst of a crisis?



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