10:05 a.m. Portugal has the highest seven-day average rate of new cases per capita

9:20 a.m. The Ministry of Labour is expanding its workplace inspection blitzes

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.

10:16 a.m. (will be updated) Ontario is reporting 2,655 cases of COVID-19 and 89 deaths with more than 54,300 tests completed. Locally, there are 925 new cases in Toronto, 473 in Peel, 226 in York Region, 179 in Windsor-Essex County and 129 in Niagara.

There are 60 more deaths in long-term care. Since the pandemic began, 10 staff members in Ontario’s long-term care homes have died due to the virus, according to the province.

This data is self-reported by the long-term care homes to the Ministry of Long-Term Care. Daily case and death figures may not immediately match the numbers posted by the local public health units due to lags in reporting time.

10:08 a.m. Planning work for #CafeTO is “well underway” to support expanded outdoor dining when weather gets better, COVID levels permitting, Mayor John Tory says. Tory says the program was a “win-win” for businesses and community in 2020.

#CafeTO became very popular with diners and owners. “People loved it, plain and simple,” says Tory. Some restaurateurs said it kept their businesses afloat.

10:05 a.m. Portugal has the highest seven-day average rate of new cases per capita and the second-highest rate of new deaths in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The daily new cases per 100,000 population rose from 51 on Jan. 5 to 98 on Tuesday. The average daily deaths per capita rose from 0.75 to 1.63 during the same period.

Portugal is in lockdown, but the government is reluctant to close schools. Authorities have launched a program of rapid coronavirus tests at schools in the hardest-hit areas of the country. They say if schools close, some children won’t get proper meals, have computer access or help with their studies.

Some teachers are unhappy about the policy, pressing for a national school closure.

The surge is pushing the public health system, especially hospitals, to capacity. The Health Ministry expects to open a field hospital Wednesday with 58 beds on the grounds of the Lisbon University campus. Authorities are opening more temporary medical installations at sites outside the health sector, including hotels, university residences and churches, with 2,300 beds.

Portugal reported 10,455 new confirmed cases and 218 deaths in the last 24 hours. That increased the overall totals to 566,958 cases and 9,246 deaths.

9:20 a.m. The Ministry of Labour is expanding its workplace inspection blitzes, which will include a focus on farms and temporary foreign workers, the Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports. Blitzes will roll out across the province including in Hastings, Prince Edward County, Durham, Niagara, Halton, Huron Perth, Peterborough, Toronto and Leeds

7:40 a.m. Widespread compliance with the new stay-at-home order is being credited for the low number of tickets issued in Peel over the weekend, a shift in behaviour from the illegal parties that thrust the community into the spotlight in the summer.

Peel’s police chief and politicians say the low number of tickets issued over the weekend speaks to the community now understanding the severity of the threat posed by COVID-19.

“Hopefully, it’s an indication of compliance. We did not receive a lot of complaints from the public over the last few days,” Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah told the Star Tuesday.

Peel Regional Police confirmed that it had issued five tickets and one warning since the stay-at-home order came into effect, but was unable to clarify the exact breach the fines were issued for.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jason Miller

7:30 a.m. An “angry” Premier Doug Ford sounded off at Pfizer in colourful fashion after learning Tuesday that the pharmaceutical giant will further cut shipments of its COVID-19 vaccines to Canada, reducing Ontario’s share even more than expected.

While Ontario was announcing changes to prioritize nursing homes, high-risk retirement homes and fly-in Indigenous communities with shipments to be shorted by 66,000 doses over the next four weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated next week’s load will not be delivered at all.

That means another 15,000 lost doses as Pfizer retools a Belgian plant to boost production at time when Ontario has promised to get first shots in the arms of all residents, staff and essential caregivers in nursing and high-risk retirement homes by Feb. 15.

“I’m just angry at the situation that other countries are getting it,” Ford told a news conference at Queen’s Park, encouraging Trudeau to get the attention of Pfizer’s chief executive.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson

7:15 a.m. Following months of concern around the shortage of the flu vaccine in Ontario, the province has reported remarkably few cases of influenza, with no evidence of any community circulation this season, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

But while provinces like Quebec have halted their flu vaccine campaign early due to the low number of cases, Ontario’s pharmacies are still stocking the vaccine and health experts are encouraging residents to get the shot, despite the exceedingly mild flu season so far.

They say it’s not too late for influenza cases to increase and it’s even possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, making it potentially even more difficult for the body to fight off the coronavirus. Limiting influenza as much as possible is crucial as intensive care units are being overwhelmed with growing numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden

5:57 a.m.: In his first official acts as president, Joe Biden is signing executives orders on a broad range of issues, including how the U.S. is handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

MASK REQUIREMENT: Biden is requiring the use of masks and social distancing in all federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and contractors. Consistently masking up is a practice that science has shown to be effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, particularly when social distancing is difficult to maintain.

He is challenging all Americans to wear a mask for the first 100 days of his administration. That’s a critical period, since communities will still be vulnerable to the virus even as the pace of vaccination increases in pursuit of Biden’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Biden also is directing the government to rejoin the World Health Organization, which Donald Trump withdrew from earlier this year after accusing it of incompetence and bowing to Chinese pressure over the coronavirus.

Symbolizing Biden’s commitment to a more prominent global role, White House coronavirus co-ordinator Jeff Zients announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci will deliver a speech Thursday to the WHO as head of a U.S. delegation. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, will lay out how the administration intends to work with the WHO on reforms, supporting the coronavirus response and promoting global health and health security

5:56 a.m.: A Canadian neonatal intensive care nurse who spoke at an anti-lockdown rally in Washington, D.C., has been fired, her employer says.

The London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont., confirms its termination of Kristen Nagle, who had been suspended since November after attending a similar rally in the city.

Nagle was one of two Canadian nurses who drew attention for speaking in Washington on Jan. 6. before supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, leading to five deaths.

In a statement, the London hospital says it suspended Nagle without pay in November for actions “not aligned” with its values and then began an internal investigation.

“Safeguarding the health of our patients and their families, staff and physicians is of the utmost importance and remains our top priority,” the statement says.

Nagle, a 14-year registered nurse, could not immediately be reached for comment.



5:55 a.m.: India has begun supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots.

India’s Foreign Ministry said the country would send 150,000 shots of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 shots to the Maldives today.

It said after that vaccines will be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles.

The ministry in a statement late Tuesday said regulatory clearances were still awaited from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has delayed distribution of its vaccine as part of its efforts to increase manufacturing.

The company is trying to double its production of vaccine doses to two billion this year and is planning to temporarily curb production at its Belgian facility to make upgrades that will allow for that increase.

Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said the delivery delays will affect other countries besides Canada and the European Union, but the company has not identified them.

5:52 a.m.: A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labelled it a pandemic sooner.

In a report issued to the media Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were “lost opportunities” to adopt basic public health measures as early as possible.

“What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” it said.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying disputed whether China had reacted too slowly.

“As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions,” she said, pointing out that Wuhan — where the first human cases were identified — was locked down within three weeks of the outbreak starting.

“All countries, not only China, but also the U.S., the U.K., Japan or any other countries, should all try to do better,” Hua said.

An Associated Press investigation in June found WHO repeatedly lauded China in public while officials privately complained that Chinese officials stalled on sharing critical epidemic information with them, including the new virus’ genetic sequence. The story noted that WHO didn’t have any enforcement powers.

5:50 a.m.: China’s capital Beijing recorded another seven coronavirus cases on Wednesday amid a lingering outbreak in the country’s north.

Another 46 were recorded in Jilin province, 16 in Heilongjiang on the border with Russia and 19 in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing.

China has now recorded a total of 88,557 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, with 4,635 deaths.

China is hoping to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by mid-February and is also releasing schools early and telling citizens to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush that begins in coming days.

A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization criticized China and other countries this week for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier, prompting Beijing to concede it could have done better but also to defend its response.

“As the first country to sound the global alarm against the epidemic, China made immediate and decisive decisions and insisted on timely detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment despite incomprehensive information at the time. We have gained time to fight the epidemic and reduce infections and deaths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday.

“We are firmly opposed to politicizing issues related to virus tracing, as this will not help the international community to unite and co-operate in the fight against the pandemic,” Hua said.

A team of experts from WHO are quarantined in Wuhan ahead of beginning field visits aiming to shed light on the origins of the virus that is thought to have jumped to humans from animals, possibly bats.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 36,473 new vaccinations administered for a total of 651,139 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,718.078 per 100,000.

There were 39,975 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 888,540 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 73.28 per cent of their available vaccine supply.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

There are 719,751 confirmed cases in Canada (71,055 active, 630,430 resolved, 18,266 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 4,679 new cases Tuesday from 67,775 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 6.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 189.03 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 45,281 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,469.

There were 146 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 989 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 141. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 48.59 per 100,000 people.

There have been 16,710,272 tests completed.

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