KEY FACTS

9:42 a.m. RBC says Canada will not be on track for an economic rebound until millions are vaccinated

8:46 a.m. South Africa is struggling to cope with a spike in COVID-19 cases

7:42 a.m. Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister said Monday the country has entered a very critical zone

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

10:15 a.m.: Ontario is reporting another 3,338 COVID-19 cases Monday, with 61 deaths. The seven-day avg is a record 3,555 cases daily, or 171 weekly per 100,000. The average for deaths is 47.6 per day.

Locally, there are 931 new cases in Toronto, 531 in Peel, 241 in York Region, 168 in Niagara and 165 in Waterloo.

As of 8 p.m. Sunday, 122,105 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.

10:05 a.m. (will be updated): Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa is calling on the province to provide 10 paid sick days during infectious disease emergencies. Her report also calls on the Ministry of Labour to devote additional resources to protect temporary workers.

10:02 a.m. Anyone applying for three federal benefits will now need to say whether they are in quarantine because they travelled outside the country.

The Canada Revenue Agency announced the new requirement following an uproar over the possibility of Canadians applying for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit after ignoring public-health advice to not engage in non-essential travel.

The sickness benefit pays $500 per week for up to two weeks for anyone who has to quarantine because of COVID-19.

The CRA says it was intended to help frontline workers and others who may have been exposed to the illness but whose employers do not offer paid sick leave.

The new requirement will apply to anyone applying after Jan. 3 for the sick-leave benefit and two other federal support programs, the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.

The CRA says it will delay processing applications to those programs from Canadians who have travelled until new legislation taking aim at non-essential travellers can be adopted.

9:54 a.m. Toronto Mayor John Tory wants the Ontario government to immediately impose an almost total lockdown on the region and says he supports some restrictions on people’s movements.

Tory told CP24 on Monday that COVID-19 indicators show the city and region are at risk of the health-care system being overwhelmed to the point that doctors have to choose who gets life-saving treatments and who does not.

“People have no idea,” of potential virus impacts, he said. “Unfortunately, we are heading toward that situation they’ve seen on television elsewhere, where decisions are having to be made about which person gets treatment.

“We’re not there,” he said, but will be soon “on the course and speed that we’re on.”

Tory told CP24 that Premier Doug Ford should — in new restrictions the mayor expects to be southern Ontario-wide — force more businesses to close, including big-box stores and banks.

Read the full story from the Star’s David Rider

9:42 a.m. Royal Bank of Canada’s chief executive says the country will not be on track for an economic rebound until millions of people are vaccinated against COVID-19.

While 319,938 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given out so far, Dave McKay predicts between 4 million and 4.5 million high-risk Canadians will have to get the shots before the country can get back to opening the economy.

In an interview during RBC’s Canadian Bank CEO conference on Monday, McKay estimated the country could reach that target this year.

Once people are vaccinated, McKay believes people who have been sitting on cash and not spending it because so many things are closed will race back to pastimes like travel and entertainment.

9:30 a.m. England’s chief medical officer warned Monday that the coming weeks would be the worst of the pandemic for the National Health Service as he appealed to the public to strictly follow guidelines meant to prevent the spread of the disease.

Chris Whitty said political leaders are considering tightening the rules as a new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19 aggravates an already difficult situation. Hospitals are overflowing and exhausted medical staff are under strain.

“I think everybody accepts that this is the most dangerous time we’ve really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,’’ Whitty told the BBC.

The warning comes as hospitals in England struggle to keep up with a surge in coronavirus infections that has seen the number of beds filled by COVID-19 patients rise steadily for more than a month. English hospitals are now treating 55 per cent more COVID-19 cases than during the first peak of the pandemic in April.

8:46 a.m. South Africa is struggling to cope with a spike in COVID-19 cases that has already overwhelmed some hospitals, as people returning from widespread holiday travel along the coast spread the country’s more infectious coronavirus variant.

Of particular concern is Gauteng province, the country’s most populous, which includes the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Authorities say it is already seeing a spike in new infections after people travelled to coastal areas, where the variant is dominant.

“We expect that Gauteng is going to be hit very soon and very hard,” said Professor Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute. “It is anticipated Gauteng will have a steep curve of increased cases and hospitalizations.”

8:19 a.m. Becoming a landlord is not for the faint of heart.

The appeal is understandable: Ontario home prices have been jetting up for more than a decade and renting out your home or buying an investment condo can seem like a great way to cash in on the trend and supplement your income.

But while many succeed and become happy long-term landlords, others quickly run into trouble, finding only aggravation, frustration and financial woe. (For more on how to avoid this, see “How to avoid difficult situations with your tenants,” on page B6.)

The difficulties landlords can run into have only increased since the pandemic lockdown went into effect last March. Both tenants and small landlords lost their jobs in droves, new rules came into effect preventing evictions and Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) hearings were suspended.

Read the full story

7:42 a.m. Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister said Monday the country has entered a “very critical zone” in the battle against the coronavirus as his government mulls tightening the nationwide lockdown announced last week.

Following a new post-holiday surge in infections, the Lebanese government imposed a nationwide lockdown and a nighttime curfew. But many were critical of the measures, calling them lax for exempting many sectors, such as factories, plant nurseries and exchange bureaus.

Lebanon’s handling of the virus surge amid a deepening economic crisis has been under scrutiny, with many saying hesitant policies have failed to contain it.

Despite a rise in infections, the government relaxed restrictions ahead of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, hoping to boost a crumbling local economy. Bars and nightclubs, which had been ordered shut for months, were allowed to open.

Penalties against big holiday gatherings and parties were not evenly and strictly imposed. On Sunday, a soccer match was allowed to take place in the northern Tripoli province with an audience.

Doctors and experts say the extent of the spread has yet to be felt, predicting numbers will skyrocket in the coming days, overwhelming health facilities in the country of nearly 6 million. Daily infection rates have hovered above 3,000, hitting an all-time high of over 5,000 last week.

7:30 a.m. Scottish soccer authorities have suspended the professional game below the top two divisions for three weeks because of an escalation in coronavirus cases in the country.

The suspension applies to the men’s leagues below the Championship, the leading two women’s leagues, and the men’s Scottish Cup.

The Scottish Football Association says the top-flight Premiership is exempt “provided it continues to adhere to the stringent testing protocols” while teams in the second-tier Championship must start weekly testing.

Scottish FA chairman Rod Petrie says “the risk of mass transportation of untested, largely part-time players is something that cannot be sustained as the cases continue to rise and available hospital beds become increasingly scarce.”

A national lockdown is in place in Scotland until the end of January at least.

7:20 a.m. Lululemon Athletica Inc. says revenue and earnings for its fourth quarter are forecast to come in at the top end of its earlier expectations.

The athletic clothing retailer says it now expects its percentage growth rate for net revenue compared with a year ago to be at the high end of its earlier expectations for mid-to-high teens.

Lululemon also says it expects its growth rate for adjusted diluted earnings per share to now be at the high end of its earlier expectations for a result in the mid-single digits.

The fourth quarter of Lululemon’s 2020 financial year ends on Jan. 31.

6:15 a.m. Since COVID-19 first arrived in Ontario and began spreading in long-term-care homes, it shed light on an area of the health-care system that has laid broken for decades. In 2003, the Star spent a year investigating the cracks in the long-term-care system, and in years since, has kept tabs on issues of neglect, understaffing, poor wages and more. We asked residents’ family members, health-care workers, lobbyists and thought leaders what one thing is that they would like to see happen in order to bring change to long-term care.

Read the full story from the Star’s Angelyn Francis here.

5:53 a.m. England’s chief medical officer warned Monday that the coming weeks would be the worst of the pandemic for the National Health Service as he appealed to the public to strictly follow guidelines meant to prevent the spread of the disease.

Chris Whitty said political leaders are considering tightening the rules as a new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19 aggravates an already difficult situation. Hospitals are overflowing and exhausted medical staff are under strain.

“I think everybody accepts that this is the most dangerous time we’ve really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,’’ Whitty told the BBC.

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The warning comes as hospitals in England struggle to keep up with a surge in coronavirus infections that has seen the number of beds filled by COVID-19 patients rise steadily for more than a month. English hospitals are now treating 55% more COVID-19 cases than during the first peak of the pandemic in April.

5:16 a.m. The Japanese Health Ministry has found a coronavirus variant in people arriving from Brazil that’s different from the ones in Britain and South Africa.

The variant was found in four people tested at the airport, the ministry said Sunday. Japan was working with other nations, the World Health Organization and other medical experts to analyze the variant.

The previously identified variants from Britain and South Africa are more contagious, but the behaviour of this variant and the illness it causes are not yet known.

5:12 a.m. Authorities in northern France launched a weeklong mass testing program on Monday to assess the rate of coronavirus infections and the spread of a more contagious variant that first appeared in southern England in November.

In the city of Roubaix, health officials said they hope to test 10% of the population by Saturday. That represents 10,000 people.

Sequencing will be carried out on the positive samples to detect whether the variant is present.

France has been criticized for its slow vaccination program, having vaccinated only a fraction of some of its neighbours.

5:10 a.m. South Korea’s president says it’ll offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all its people free of charge in phases.

President Moon Jae-in made the comments in his New Year’s address on Monday. He has maintained an earlier government announcement that the inoculation will start from February.

South Korean officials have said they’ll have vaccines for 56 million people, an amount seemingly enough for the country’s 52 million people.

Who will get vaccinated first has not yet been decided but is likely to be people at long-term care centres and nurses and doctors.

After weeks of a resurgence, South Korea’s virus caseload has gradually slowed amid tough distancing rules that include a ban on social gatherings of five or more people. Earlier Monday, South Korea reported 451 new virus cases, the first time for its daily tally to come below 500 in 41 days. The country’s total stands at 69,114 with 1,140 deaths.

5:05 a.m. More than 80% of people in Japan who were surveyed in two polls in the last few days say the Tokyo Olympics should be cancelled or postponed, or say they believe the Olympics will not take place.

The polls were conducted by the Japanese news agency Kyodo and TBS — the Tokyo Broadcasting System.

The results are bad news for Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee as they continue to say the postponed Olympics will open on July 23.

Tokyo is battling a surge of COVID-19 cases that prompted the national government last week to call a state of emergency. In declaring the emergency, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he was confident the Olympics would be held.

5:02 a.m. Experts from the World Health Organization are due to arrive in China this week for a long-anticipated investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Monday.

The experts will arrive on Thursday and meet with Chinese counterparts, the National Health Commission said in a one-sentence statement that gave no other details.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the experts would be travelling to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

Negotiations for the visit have long been underway. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed disappointment last week over delays, saying that members of the international scientific team departing from their home countries had already started on their trip as part of an arrangement between the WHO and the Chinese government.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China had approved the visit following consultations between the sides and called it an opportunity to “exchange views with Chinese scientists and medical experts on scientific co-operation on the tracing of the origin of the new coronavirus.”

4:54 a.m. Alberta kids return to full-time in-person classes this week, but the back-to-school story is a bit more complicated in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced last week that lockdown restrictions imposed last month would continue until Jan. 21, but schools were an exception and would reopen Monday.

A full return to classes in Manitoba, however, won’t happen until Jan. 18, although in-person learning has been available as an option for children in kindergarten through Grade 6 as well as for older kids with special needs.

Students’ return to the classroom in Saskatchewan depends on the schedule of each school division.

Regina Public Schools kept elementary and high school students learning at home last week with the plan to resume in-person learning today.

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, meanwhile, already welcomed students back last week.

Monday 4 a.m. Elementary school students across northern Ontario can return to in-class learning Monday.

The northern portion of the province is allowed to return to school buildings as positivity rates for COVID-19 are relatively low.

The provincial government announced on Thursday that schools across southern Ontario, meanwhile, would not be returning to in-person classes today as planned.

Instead, students in southern Ontario will continue attending classes remotely until at least Jan. 25.

To account for the change, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Saturday that the list of essential workers eligible for emergency child care would be expanded.

It now includes RCMP officers, custodial and clerical education workers and postal staff.

Sunday 9:30 p.m.: Now that COVID-19 vaccines have started arriving in Canada, where’s the national public awareness campaign around their safety and effectiveness?

It’s a question public health experts have been asking as vaccinations have begun for high-risk populations, with access for the general public likely to start in the spring.

“You always want to start this stuff sooner rather than later,” said Dr. Nitin Mohan, a physician epidemiologist and partner at ETIO Public Health Consultants, on the need for a public awareness campaign.

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada told the Star that a “mass campaign” is planned for the spring, although a budget estimate hasn’t been finalized.

In the meantime, a campaign for winter 2021 budgeted at $4.5 million “will include regular updates on vaccine distribution and administration, as well as advertising, outreach and social media marketing to provide Canadians with vaccine information, including facts and expert answers, and to address misinformation,” the agencies said in a written statement.

Read the full story here.

Click here to read more COVID-19 coverage from Sunday.



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