The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
5:46 p.m.: It was a day of disparity in Canada’s protracted battle against the novel coronavirus, with some provinces recording alarmingly high numbers of infections while at least one province managed to whittle new cases to zero.
Ontario set a new daily record with 3,945 COVID-19 cases today, while neighbouring Quebec’s elevated case load showed little sign of abating with 2,588 new infections.
The country’s lopsided pandemic is evident when comparing those figures with provinces farther east, where Newfoundland and Labrador saw its first new case in several days and Nova Scotia – the most populous province in Atlantic Canada – had none.
In the west, while Saskatchewan had no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in a week, it still had 307 new infections.
Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, says on Twitter that disease activity remains widespread and the country remains on a path of “continuing resurgence.”
Quebec’s new curfew is perhaps one of the most severe steps taken by a province to curb its rising caseload, though Ontario Premier Doug Ford also warns on Twitter his province will see some “real turbulent waters” over the coming months.
4 p.m. (Update): Dozens of Quebec residents are facing fines for violating the province’s newly enacted curfew on Sunday as the COVID-19 infection rates the measure is meant to curb continued their sharp upward trajectory.
Provincial police said they targeted about 20 locations across multiple municipalities in response to protests against the curfew, which took effect across the province at 8 p.m. on Saturday and issued more than 150 tickets.
Under the terms of the curfew, all but certain exempt groups of residents will be required to stay off the streets between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. until at least Feb. 8.
Fines for violating the curfew start at $1,000 plus $550 in additional fees, and can go as high as $6,000.
4 p.m.: Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador say the province has one new confirmed case of COVID-19.
They say the new case is a female in the Eastern Health region and is related to international travel. Officials are asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 690 from Toronto to St. John’s last Tuesday to call 811 to arrange a test.
The province currently has five active cases of the virus.
3:30 p.m.: Saskatchewan is reporting no new COVID-19 deaths today for the first time in a week. The province is reporting 307 new cases, however, and 187 people are in hospital with COVID-19 including 31 in intensive care.
2:00 p.m.: Manitoba is reporting 151 new cases of COVID-19 and five new deaths among virus patients as of this morning. The provincial death toll since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 738. There are 36 people with COVID-19 in the province’s intensive care units.
3:32 p.m.: The Vancouver Canucks have cancelled their training camp practices and workouts Sunday due to potential exposure to COVID-19.
The Canucks said in a release the cancellation was made “out of abundance of caution” and provided no further details.
The Canucks’ decision comes as NHL teams gear up for an abbreviated 56-game season that is set to start Wednesday, when the Canucks are scheduled to visit the Edmonton Oilers.
Vancouver is the fourth team to have its training camp affected by COVID-19.
The Dallas Stars announced Friday six players and two staff members had tested positive for during camp, while the Columbus Blue Jackets kept some of their roster off the ice due to possible exposure.
On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguins cancelled practice for the same reason.
The governments of the five provinces where the NHL has a presence have given approval for Canadian teams to play at their home arenas this season.
1:45 p.m.: Meredith Coulas has several lessons planned for students returning to her classroom, but none so pressing as how to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Coulas teaches French immersion in Sudbury, Ont., and her collapsed class of Grades 1 through 3 will be returning to in-person learning on Monday. She wants to take a little extra time to review all the safety protocols as her students, like children across northern Ontario, come back to the classroom for the first time since December.
“I probably will try to get to school a little bit earlier, for my own sanity, just to ensure that my classroom is setup,” said Coulas. “I will be reviewing all my safety protocols but I’ll also spend a few minutes in the classroom, or maybe longer than a few minutes, reviewing with the children. …some kids probably haven’t left their house or apartment in the past three weeks.”
The provincial government announced on Thursday that schools across southern Ontario would not be returning to in-person classes on Monday as planned, but would instead continue attending classes remotely until at least Jan. 25.
In-class learning will resume on Monday in the northern half of the province, where positivity rates for the novel coronavirus are comparatively low.
Coulas said she expects her class will be smaller than it was in December, as parents become more cautious with COVID-19 numbers on the rise in the Sudbury. The local public health unit reported 19 more local cases on Saturday for a total of 64 active cases.
“Not everyone is comfortable going back,” said Coulas. “There are lots of people that I know that are very concerned.”
Leonard Grey, who teaches in the Near North District School Board outside of Huntsville, Ont., has been back in class since Wednesday. He teaches special education, which was allowed to resume in-class learning earlier in northern parts of the province.
Grey said he expects his school will smoothly return to the cohort-based system it has been using since September when regular classes resume on Monday. He said the biggest challenge will be reminding children that they have to maintain physical distance at all times.
“Kids, especially in the younger ages, love to be together, love to hang out,” said Grey. “Kids are used to close physical contact, whether they’re playing out in the yard, playing on equipment. It’s really strange to operate under those rules for the kids.”
Grey said his biggest challenge as a teacher has been finding ways to turn group-based assignments into individual projects.
Lessons on preparing simple meals, for instance now look radically different. Grey said he must now dole out ingredients and utensils individually rather than allowing students to share materials as they have in the past.
The Near North District School Board straddles different public health units. The North Bay Parry Sound District Public Health Unit reported 23 active cases of COVID-19 in the region on Friday. The neighbouring Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit, which includes the Huntsville area, reported 1,164 active local cases that day.
1:30 p.m.: Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting no new cases of COVID-19 today, the first time in nearly two months the province hasn’t logged any new infections.
As much of the rest of Canada continues to see record-breaking numbers, Nova Scotia has managed to whittle its total caseload down to 28 active infections with no one currently in hospital.
Premier Stephen McNeil says the low infection rate reflects the good work of Nova Scotians following public health protocols.
He says Monday will be a big day in the province as students return to school and says students, teachers and staff must remain vigilant.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says it’s been more than eight weeks since the province last reported no new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus,
But he says Nova Scotia is “not out of the woods yet” and says residents must continue following public health guidelines.
The last day the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 was on Nov. 12.
1:00 p.m.: On Friday, exactly two weeks after Christmas, Premier Doug Ford appeared before television cameras looking shaken.
“This is the most serious situation we’ve ever been in ever, ever, since the start of this pandemic,” he said of the province’s latest record-breaking COVID-19 numbers.
But this “desperate situation” is one many experts say they could have predicted in the days and weeks before Christmas, when they urged stricter and broader restrictions ahead of the holiday season. Instead, the province announced new restrictions starting on Boxing Day — after people would have already done their last-minute shopping and gathered for the holidays.
Experts now say the holiday period accelerated what was already an alarming trajectory before Christmas. According to mobility data shared exclusively with the Star, some health units that have seen dramatic increases in post-holiday infection rates also had among the province’s highest rates of movement.
Warning people of a lockdown several days in advance is a “ghastly” way to communicate risk and gave people implicit permission to proceed with their holiday plans, said Dr. Jody Lanard, a risk communications expert who has consulted with the World Health Organization.
Read the full story here: Why did Ontario COVID-19 rates surge after Christmas? New cellphone mobility data offers some clues
12:13 p.m.: U.S. House lawmakers may have been exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19 while they sheltered at an undisclosed location during the Capitol siege by a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump.
The Capitol’s attending physician notified all lawmakers Sunday of the virus exposure and urged them to be tested. The infected individual was not named.
Dr. Brian Moynihan wrote that “many members of the House community were in protective isolation in the large room — some for several hours” on Wednesday. He said “individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”
Dozens of lawmakers were whisked to the secure location after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol that day, breaking through barricades to roam the halls and offices and ransacking the building.
Some members of Congress huddled for hours in the large room, while others were there for a shorter period.
No further details were provided on which person has tested positive for the virus.
Some lawmakers and staff were furious after video surfaced of Republican lawmakers not wearing their masks in the room during lockdown.
Newly elected Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a presidential ally aligned with a pro-Trump conspiracy group, was among those Republicans not wearing masks.
Trump is now facing impeachment after having incited supporters who were rallying near the White House before they marched to the Capitol. The House could vote on impeachment in a matter of days, less than two weeks before Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
A Capitol Police officer died after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher as rioters descended on the building and many other officers were injured. A woman from California was shot to death by Capitol Police and three other people died after medical emergencies during the chaos.
Authorities on Sunday announced the death of a 51-year-old Capitol Police officer. Two people familiar with the matter said the officer’s death was an apparent suicide. Officer Howard Liebengood had been assigned to the Senate Division and was with the department since 2005. He is the son of a former Senate sergeant-at-arms.
It was not clear whether his death was connected to Wednesday’s events.
The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
11:45 a.m.: Africa passed the milestone of 3 million confirmed cases COVID-19 Sunday, including more than 72,000 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Africa accounts for more than 30% of the continent’s total with more than 1.2 million reported cases, including 32,824 deaths. The high proportion of cases in South Africa could be because the country carries out more tests than many other African countries.
South Africa is battling a resurgence of the disease, driven by a variant of the virus that is more contagious and spreading quickly. Many hospitals are reaching capacity, yet the numbers of those infected are expected to continue rising, according to health experts.
South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 19.86 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 26 to 30.18 new cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 9, according to Johns Hopkins University.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will meet with his Cabinet this week to consider if further restrictions should be taken to slow the spread of the disease, while balancing the need to encourage economic growth.
11:32 a.m.: Ontario has recorded another 3,945 cases of COVID-19, and 61 more deaths, according to its latest report Sunday morning.
The seven-day average is at 3,546 cases daily, or 170 per 100,000, and the seven-day average for deaths is now 47.6.
Sunday’s tally set a daily record for new COVID-19 cases in the province.
There are 1,483 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario, including 388 patients in intensive care. There are 266 people on ventilators.
Ontario has administered 9,983 doses of the vaccine since its last daily update, with 113,246 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. Saturday night. The number of people who have received the two doses required is 5,884.
Read the full story here: Ontario reports a record 3,945 new cases of COVID-19, with 1,160 of them in Toronto
11:30 a.m.: Police forces across Quebec handed out dozens of tickets to people protesting the province’s new COVID-19-related curfew shortly after it went into effect at last night.
Quebec City police spokesman Const. Etienne Doyon says approximately 20 people protesting the curfew were ticketed around 8:20 p.m. adding some of those individuals were detained after they refused to identify themselves.
Montreal police spokeswoman Const. Caroline Chevrefils says 17 tickets were issued to people protesting the measure in the city’s Plateau borough.
Sherbrooke police said they issued around a dozen fines to people protesting the province’s COVID-19 regulations.
Quebec’s Public Security Minister, Genevieve Guilbault thanked Quebecers for cooperating with the measure in a post on Twitter today.
The curfew, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, will be in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. over the next four weeks.
Those caught violating the new measure could face fines of up to $6,000.
11:15 a.m. Quebec is reporting 2,588 new cases of COVID-19 today and 39 additional deaths associated with the novel coronavirus.
The Health Department says 1,380 people are currently hospitalized in association with the virus, a decline of 12 from the day before.
The number of people in intensive care declined by three from the previous day to 203.
The province says 9,264 doses of vaccine were administered yesterday for a total of 84,387.
10:15 a.m. Ontario is reporting 3,945 COVID-19 cases, with more than 62,300 tests completed, tweeted provincial health minister Christine Elliott.
More than 113,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province as of Saturday evening, she added.
The province also reported 61 deaths on Sunday, according to the Star’s Ed Tubb.
The seven-day average is at a record 3,546 cases daily, he reported.
9:00 a.m.: Thousands of people 80 and older have started receiving invitations to get the coronavirus vaccine in England, officials said Sunday, as Britain ramps up its national vaccination program in a bid to meet its target of inoculating about 15 million people by the middle of February.
More than 600,000 invitations are due to arrive at doorsteps across England this week, asking the elderly to sign up for jabs at new mass vaccination centres near them.
The government has given a first dose of the vaccine to more than 1.2 million people so far.
The seven new large-scale vaccination centres join some 1,000 other sites across the country, including hospitals, general practitioners’ clinics and some drugstores.
Officials are hoping a speedy mass vaccination rollout will help get Britain out of its third national lockdown, which was ordered this month to curb an alarming surge of COVID-19 infections and deaths. Britain has seen 81,000 deaths in the pandemic, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
8:00 a.m.: Frederik Andersen has an interesting way of looking at the NHL season ahead:
“It’s going to be both a sprint and a marathon,” the Maple Leafs goalie says.
He’s not wrong. It will count as a full season, but it will be only 56 games, 26 games shorter than usual. The spectre of COVID-19 will hang over teams’ heads, the possibility of postponed games or games played with fewer than normal players.
There will be constant testing. Repeated quarantining. A taxi squad of four to six players, including a mandated extra goalie, existing outside the salary cap, and practising with the regular team, designed to be at the ready to fill in at a moment’s notice.
“Obviously, we’re going to rely on more guys,” Andersen says. “There’ll be less games in a really tight schedule. It’s going to put a lot of pressure on guys to have to work hard, and perform, and play well when we do get chances to play.”
Read the full story here: The NHL thinks it can play through a pandemic. Here’s how the league plans to go about it
5:13 a.m. More than 380 people have tested positive in a growing COVID-19 outbreak south of Beijing in China’s Hebei province.
Hebei health authorities said that 40 new cases had been confirmed Sunday morning, bringing the total to 223. Another 161 people tested positive but showed no symptoms. China does not include such asymptomatic cases in its official tally.
The outbreak has raised particular concern because Hebei borders the nation’s capital. Travel between the two has been restricted, with workers from Hebei having to show proof of employment in Beijing to enter the city.
Almost all the cases are in Shijuazhuang, the provincial capital, which is about 260 kilometres (160 miles) southwest of Beijing. A handful have also been found in Xingtai city, 110 kilometres (68 miles) farther south.
Both cities have conducted mass testing of millions of residents, suspended public transportation and taxis, and restricted residents to their communities or villages for one week.
Earlier Sunday, China’s National Health Commission reported that 69 new cases had been confirmed nationwide the previous day, most of them in Hebei. The others included 21 people who had arrived recently from overseas.
Beijing had one new case, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 32 in a smaller outbreak that surfaced about three weeks ago. Almost all the cases have been in Shunyi in the city’s northeastern suburbs.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
Japanese opposition lawmakers slammed the government’s emergency declaration as too late to stem the surging coronavirus cases. They also pushed for more testing, which have lagged in Japan, being expensive and hard to get unless people who take them are severely ill. “It’s essential to consider the worst possible scenario, but the response has always been based on an overly optimistic outlook,” Yukio Edano, a former economy minister, said on public broadcaster NHK TV.
Opposition lawmakers Toranosuke Katayama and Kazuo Shii also criticized the state of emergency as too limited in scope, area and duration. The declaration, which kicked in Friday, centres around asking restaurants to close at 8 p.m. It lasts a month and focuses on the Tokyo area. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga defended the measure and stressed that the rising curve will get flattened in a month.
Deaths related to COVID-19 have totalled about 4,000 nationwide. Worries are growing about hospitals getting stretched thin. Tokyo’s cases have surged recently to more than 2,000 a day. Other urban areas have also asked the central government for similar emergency measures.
Sunday 4:01 a.m.: First Nations across Canada have begun to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccines as provincial immunization programs get underway and Indigenous leaders encourage people to roll up their sleeves.
Six of 14 Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations on Vancouver Island were priority recipients of doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week, said Mariah Charleson, vice-president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council that serves about 10,000 members.
The council employs nurses who are among those administering vaccinations so people see a familiar face they know and trust, she said.
Health officials need to work with communities to ensure the COVID-19 vaccination program is culturally appropriate, she said, given impacts of the residential school system and discrimination in health care as outlined in a recent report by former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
“There are many people in our communities who our nurses may not have ever seen, because (they) will just never go for help,” said Charleson.
Released in November, Turpel-Lafond’s report sheds light on widespread racial profiling based on harmful stereotypes that affect the care Indigenous patients receive in British Columbia. Of more than 2,700 Indigenous people surveyed as part of the investigation, 84 per cent reported experiencing some form of health-care discrimination.
It’s understandable that many are reluctant to trust Canadian health officials, said Charleson, who’s encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“If you’re not doing it for yourself, do it for the elders in the community and the vulnerable,” she said in an interview.
Chief Simon John of Ehattesaht First Nation said he noticed some hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccines among residents of the Ehatis reserve on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.
The community of about 100 members was hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 that spread to 28 people last month, so when John learned they would soon receive Moderna’s vaccine, he decided to lead by example.
“For us, as council, to take it first was our priority,” he said.
John said he received his first dose last Monday along with about 30 other Ehatis residents and 40 people in the nearby village of Zeballos, including some elders and band members living off-reserve.
B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to at-risk members of remote First Nations for distribution by the end of February. As of last Monday, 10,700 doses of Moderna’s vaccine were available to First Nations and 5,300 had been distributed to 18 communities.
Indigenous Services Canada had confirmed nearly 10,000 cases of COVID-19 in First Nation communities across the country as of Friday, including 3,288 active infections, 452 hospitalizations and 95 deaths.
Canada’s advisory committee on immunization has identified Indigenous communities among priority groups for vaccine that’s in limited supply.
In Alberta, residents of remote First Nations and people age 65 or older living in any First Nation or Metis community are among those the province is prioritizing in its third phase of immunization starting in February.
In Saskatchewan, 4,900 doses of Moderna’s vaccine have so far been sent to northern regions, where health-care workers, staff and residents of long-term care homes, and people age 80 or older are first in line to be immunized, including those living in First Nation communities.
Initially, “First Nations were not really engaged in terms of where this vaccine should be allocated,” said Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, medical health officer for the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority.
More recently, communication about vaccine distribution has improved between communities and the Saskatchewan Health Authority, he said.
The province said it’s expecting to receive 5,300 more doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, with smaller cities serving as regional distribution hubs.
Manitoba, meanwhile, began shipping 5,300 doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week in order to reach people in all 63 First Nations in the province.
Saturday 9:45 p.m.: The post-Christmas surge of coronavirus cases is worsening in Los Angeles County, a much-feared scenario that officials say will result in more crowding at already overwhelmed hospitals and an increase in deaths. On Saturday, L.A. County reached new milestones in the pandemic: more than 12,000 dead from COVID-19 and more than 900,000 cases of the coronavirus.
The coming days are expected to be critical in determining how bad this surge will get and how much it will affect conditions at hospitals.
L.A. County’s average number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, Friday and Saturday was 17,879 — significantly above last week’s average of 14,000.
Saturday 8:55 p.m.: A small protest broke out in Montreal’s Plateau district shortly before the curfew was set to take effect. Some chanted “freedom,” while one carried a sign urging people to disobey the lockdown.
A helicopter trailed the group through the residential neighbourhood and police cruisers lined the streets.
It ended after about 15 minutes, as officers arrested some of the protesters and others dispersed into a nearby park.
Saturday 8 p.m.: A curfew meant to stem the spread of COVID-19 has now taken effect across Quebec.
Premier Francois Legault says the 8 p.m. curfew is needed to prevent gatherings that have fueled the rampant spread of the virus.
The rules will see most residents face police questions or stiff fines if they’re out between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.
There are exceptions for essential workers, people walking dogs, and those who have medical reasons to be out, such as a doctor’s appointment.
Under the rules, grocery stores and convenience stores will have to close at 7:30 p.m. in order to allow workers and customers to get home. Stores connected to gas stations can stay open to serve essential workers.
Click here for all of Saturday’s coverage about COVID-19.