3:40 p.m.: Regina police issue $2,800 fine after 15 people found in home on Valentine’s Day
1:34 p.m. WHO gives emergency authorization for vaccine
6:34 a.m. Feds expect Pfizer to start ramping up vaccine deliveries to Canada this week
6 a.m. Reports of domestic, intimate partner violence continue to rise during pandemic
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.
5:35 p.m.: Canada’s Wonderland could soon be the site of a COVID-19 vaccine drive-thru, according to York Region medical officer of health Dr. Karim Kurji.
“York Region is planning for multiple fixed COVID-19 vaccination clinic sites, drive-thru sites, mobile clinics in combination with an outreach program for areas disproportionally impacted by COVID-19,” Dr. Kurji said in a statement to the Star.
Details are being finalized, with plans to set up one such clinic at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan and another at the Markham Fairgrounds.
York Region is planning for another five vaccine sites in Newmarket, Georgina, Richmond Hill, Markham and Vaughan, said Kurji, with locations “being chosen based on accessibility criteria, population distribution and vulnerability.”
Full story from Kieran Leavitt here.
5:22 p.m.: The city of Toronto will reach the milestone of offering both COVID-19 vaccine doses to all 87 long-term-care homes in the city as of Tuesday.
Ten of those homes are city-run, and more than 90 per cent of consenting residents in the municipal homes have now received both doses of vaccine, the city said in a press release Monday.
The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines both require two shots in order for the recipient to be fully immunized.
That rate of vaccination is a testament to the competence of city-run homes compared to private homes, according to Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate professor at Ontario Tech University and a long-term-care advocate and researcher.
“This is just another example of how well our public system of long-term care functions compared to the private sector,” Stamatopoulos said.
Stamatopoulos emphasized that although residents and staff in long-term-care homes across Toronto have been offered the vaccine, rates in private homes could be much lower.
Black, Indigenous and otherwise racialized people may be cautious of the vaccine due to a history of medical neglect and abuse, Stamatopoulos said.
“There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy when there’s not clear information provided,” she said. “We need to have broader public health campaign campaigns.”
Vaccine clinics will continue to operate in city-run homes to ensure more staff, residents and essential caregivers are vaccinated, the city’s release said.
Read the full story Manuela Vega here.
5 p.m.: The Canadian Armed Forces is deploying reconnaissance teams to the border as the federal government prepares to enlist the military’s help in screening travellers for COVID-19.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week that all non-essential travellers arriving at the border by land will be tested starting Feb. 22 before they are allowed to enter the country.
Travellers will still be required to quarantine for 14 days, after which they will be tested again.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is now looking at setting up testing sites at 16 border crossings with the U.S. with assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces and other federal departments.
Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande says that military assistance includes sending some service members to different sites to help with planning and logistics.
“In co-ordination with PHAC and Public Safety, CAF planners from regional joint task forces are assisting in the assessment of options, in some cases through on-the-ground assistance in reconnaissance, related to planning and logistics,” she said in an email.
The preparations come amid ongoing discussions among the Canadian Armed Forces and various federal departments around the exact nature of the assistance that the military will provide in staffing those testing sites.
The government announced the plan for the new border controls last month, but how they will work, who might be exempted and how the rules will be enforced were only laid out on Friday.
The Canadian military has been called upon several times throughout the pandemic, including by providing assistance last spring at long-term care facilities struggling with COVID-19 and, more recently, in the distribution of vaccines.
3:40 p.m.: Police in Regina say they have given a resident a $2,800 ticket after officers found 15 people gathered inside a home.
A provincial public health order for COVID-19 prohibits residents from having guests in a home other than to provide services such as child care.
The Regina Police Service says it received a complaint Sunday about a large number of people at the home.
A 48-year-old man was ticketed for failing to comply with the public health order.
On Monday, officials reported 143 new COVID-19 infections. There were 183 people in hospital, 22 of them in intensive care.
The province’s current health rules related to COVID-19 are set to expire Friday.
2:45 p.m.: Saskatchewan is reporting 143 new cases of COVID-19.
There are 183 people in hospital with the disease, including 22 in intensive care.
The province says it is providing limited data today because of the Family Day holiday.
2:15 p.m.: Ontario’s Health Department is developing a web portal for booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments.
A spokesperson for the department says a customer service desk will be available for people who aren’t comfortable booking online.
The booking system will be part of Ontario’s vaccine rollout, which was updated Sunday to include adults over 80 years old among the demographic groups next in line for a shot.
Public health units are also developing mobile vaccination clinics, but the ministry says planning is dependent on vaccine supply.
1:34 p.m. The World Health Organization has granted an emergency authorization to the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, a move that should allow the company’s partners to ship millions of doses to countries worldwide as part of a U.N.-backed program to tame the pandemic.
In a statement Monday, the U.N. health agency said it was authorizing the AstraZeneca vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India and South Korea’s AstraZeneca-SKBio.
WHO’s green light for the AstraZeneca vaccine should trigger the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses to countries that have signed up for the U.N.-backed COVAX effort, which aims to deliver vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable.
Although WHO does not approve or regulate vaccines, it assesses their safety and effectiveness for developing countries that don’t have a strong regulatory system.
1 p.m.: Enhanced safety measures will be in place when in-person learning resumes at Toronto-area schools on Tuesday.
Six school boards in Toronto, York Region, and Peel Region will be restarting in-person classes after a stretch of online learning that began in January as part of a provincial lockdown.
The three COVID-19 hotspots are the last to have students return to physical classrooms — the government allowed other regions to reopen shuttered schools in phases over the last few weeks.
A more detailed COVID-19 screening form must now be filled out by students or their guardians every day before coming to school.
Students in Grade 1 and above will also be required to follow provincial health guidelines and wear a mask whenever they’re indoors and during outdoor recess when physical distancing is not possible.
The province is also expanding asymptomatic COVID-19 testing at schools.
Safety measures designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 were created for the start of the school year in September but the new rules have been put in place as Ontario deals with the pandemic’s second wave.
1 p.m. Dr. Anthony Fauci has won the $1 million Dan David Prize for “defending science” and advocating for vaccines now being administered worldwide to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The Israel-based Dan David Foundation on Monday named President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser as the winner of one of three prizes. It said he had earned the recognition over a lifetime of leadership on HIV research and AIDS relief, as well as his advocacy for the vaccines against COVID-19.
In its statement, the private foundation did not mention former President Donald Trump, who undermined Fauci’s follow-the-science approach to the pandemic. But it credited Fauci with “courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging COVID crisis.”
12:03: COVID-19 vaccination is expected to ramp up across the country this week as manufacturer Pfizer-BioNTech begins boosting deliveries after a month-long slowdown.
The federal government says beginning this week, it expects to receive weekly shipments of more than 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine until at least April 4.
That number represents a significant jump in vaccine shipments to Canada, which has received a total of about 928,200 Pfizer doses since December.
Both Quebec and Ontario have said they’re planning to expand their vaccination programs in response to the increase in deliveries, with Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube tweeting today the province expects more than 90,000 Pfizer vaccines this week.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says a more predictable delivery schedule will make it easier for provinces to plan vaccine rollouts.
The University of Toronto professor says while the plans look good on paper, it remains to be seen whether provinces will carry them out smoothly, especially when it comes to the more complex operation of vaccinating the general population.
10:38 a.m.: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce plans to lift national pandemic restrictions on socializing, shopping and traveling to work, including where possible target dates for when the curbs will be eased.
“What we want to see is progress that is cautious and irreversible,” Johnson said in a pooled interview with broadcasters Monday. The premier will detail his “road map” for ending lockdown in a statement on Feb. 22.
Johnson said his priority remained to reopen schools from March 8, but no decision has yet been taken on whether all age groups will return to classrooms at the same time.
Six weeks into a third national lockdown, Johnson’s government is drawing up options for how to relax rules that are compounding the damage to an economy which suffered its worst slump in more than 300 years last year.
Members of Johnson’s Conservative Party are pushing him to reopen the hospitality sector by early April, now that the government has provided vaccines to the most vulnerable 15 million people and carers in the country.
The prime minister said he had to be cautious and warned he would push back dates for reopening sectors of the economy if the infection rate does not come down quickly enough, and then stay low. Infection rates are still “very high,” he said. “We’ve got to keep looking at the data.
10:30 a.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.
Health officials say the new case was identified in the health region that includes Halifax and that the individual is isolating.
Premier Stephen McNeil says the recently low daily case count is proof the province’s public health orders are working.
The province says it completed 1,620 COVID-19 tests yesterday.
10:00 a.m.: New rules went into effect this morning for travellers crossing from the U.S. into Canada at land border points.
With exceptions for essential travellers, people driving into the country must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken in the U.S. within 72 hours.
Or they must offer proof of a positive test result between 14 and 90 days before arrival, which is long enough for the illness to have passed, but not so long that immunity might have waned.
As of Feb. 22, travellers arriving at land border points will also be required to take COVID-19 tests upon arrival.
That is also the date that air travellers will be forced into a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine at their own expense and required to take multiple COVID-19 tests.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the measures are meant to help prevent new and more transmissible variants of COVID-19 from entering the country, adding nobody wants a third wave to start.
8:33 a.m. At home, Josh Suresh’s aging mother Indrani enjoyed meals like string hoppers, a rice noodle dish common in Sri Lanka where she grew up.
But after being diagnosed with dementia and having to move into a long-term-care home in Scarborough in 2015, all those comforts were gone. Instead, Indrani was faced with dishes like boiled potatoes and pasta.
She wouldn’t touch them. She stopped eating altogether, losing 40 lbs. She also reverted to communication solely in her first language: Tamil.
Though the nurses at the home were “excellent,” said Suresh, they couldn’t communicate with Indrani, and were not equipped with the tools to help her. “She went into a shell.”
Shutting off seniors from their cultural needs can have a huge impact on their well-being, say experts who urge that any post-pandemic reforms of long-term care include not only the safety, staffing and physical space of these homes, but also ensure the elderly are treated like human beings. That includes incorporating all aspects of who they truly are, like language and culture.
COVID-19 has devastated Ontario’s long-term care homes, exposing gaps in care and leaving 3,706 residents and 11 staff dead. And as that toll rises in this second wave, families and advocates are demanding changes to a flawed system. In an increasingly diverse city like Toronto, that includes ensuring robust, culturally relevant care.
Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden on the shortage of nursing homes geared to ethnic groups becoming a ‘disaster’ for aging immigrant population.
8 a.m. Exhausted after 10 months of caring for the elderly and sick, Veleta Davis will never forget the moment the needle filled with COVID-19 vaccine pricked her arm: “I felt ready to conquer the world.”
Davis, 51, received her first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 15 as a personal support worker at Castleview Wychwood Towers Long-Term Care residence. “I felt I was part of a movement to make a difference,” she said.
But when she returned to her family, nothing changed. She didn’t kiss her children, hug her sister or hold her two nieces. She didn’t visit her parents. As she had done throughout the pandemic to protect her family from the risks of her work, she sanitized her hands and put on her mask. Then she braced herself for a difficult conversation.
Her family “thought that since I got the vaccine, I’m OK, which means they’re OK,” Davis said. “I had to explain that’s not how it works … and the more I explained, the more questions they had.”
Until Ontario’s three-phased vaccine rollout is completed, the province will likely experience a tiered society in which some people will have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, some just one, and others will still be waiting. Currently, with the province in Phase 1 and vaccines prioritized for long-term-care staff and residents and some health-care workers, the idea of a home where one family member is vaccinated well before the others is something many will have to navigate.
Read the full story from the Star’s Maria Sarrouh on how people who have been vaccinated should continue to act as if they haven’t been vaccinated.
7:53 a.m. Officers trying to bust a clandestine Carnival celebration in eastern Germany were left red-faced when most of the revelers escaped police on skis.
German news agency dpa reported Monday that police in the town of Marienberg, near the border with the Czech Republic, received information that about 100 people were partying Sunday without abiding by the requirements to wear face masks or respect minimum social distancing.
Police were unable to determine how many people had broken the law, however, because their arrival prompted a hasty on-ski departure by most of the party-goers.
Saxony, where Marienberg is located, has the second-highest infection rate of Germany’s 16 states. Germany has restricted entry from the neighbouring Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol state to prevent the spread of variant viruses from those countries.
7:35 a.m. Police across Spain have wrapped a weekend of cracking down on parties and boozing in public contravening restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Large parties ignoring social distancing, mask wearing and existing curfews were closed down in Ibiza, northeastern Tarragona and many other parts of the country, which has only recently slowed down the sharp increase of contagion seen after the end-of-year celebrations.
In Madrid alone, police fined 450 people for street alcohol consumption in groups and busted 418 illegal parties in entertainment venues and private homes from Friday to Sunday, including a rave in a warehouse with 55 adults and 11 minors who were not wearing masks and were using drugs.
The National Police also found over 50 people in a small apartment rented for tourists in the centre of the Spanish capital.
7:03 a.m. German authorities say police have turned back some 5,000 people at the country’s borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region since tight controls were introduced on Sunday.
Germany imposed checks to slow the spread of the British coronavirus variant from the Czech Republic and the South African variant from Tyrol. It is restricting entry to German citizens and residents, truck drivers, transport and health service workers and a few others including cross-border commuters working in “systemically relevant sectors.” All have to show a negative coronavirus test.
Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said, by Monday morning, federal police had checked about 10,000 people and turned back some 5,000.
The checks have prompted strong criticism from Austria.
6:45 a.m. As people in Auckland adjusted to a new lockdown on Monday, health officials said they’d found no evidence the coronavirus had spread further in the community, raising hopes the restrictions might be short-lived.
New Zealand’s largest city was hurriedly placed into a three-day lockdown Sunday after three unexplained virus cases were found. It’s the country’s first lockdown in six months and represents a setback in its largely successful efforts to control the virus.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the negative test results since the first three were found was an encouraging start, but cautioned a fuller picture of the outbreak wouldn’t emerge until Tuesday, when the results from an expanded testing regimen would be known.
New Zealand also announced its first batch of vaccine had arrived. Officials said the shipment of about 60,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech would initially be prioritized on border workers.
6:41 a.m. Peru’s foreign minister resigned Sunday amid an uproar over government officials being secretly vaccinated against the coronavirus before the country recently received 1 million doses for health workers facing a resurgence in the pandemic.
President Francisco Sagasti confirmed that Elizabeth Astete stepped down and told the local television channel America that Peruvians should feel “outraged and angry about this situation that jeopardizes the enormous effort of many Peruvians working on the front line against COVID.”
The scandal erupted Thursday when former President Martín Vizcarra, who was dismissed by Congress on Nov. 9 over a corruption allegation, confirmed a newspaper report that he and his wife had secretly received shots of a vaccine from the Chinese state pharmaceutical company Sinopharm in October. Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti resigned Friday after legislators accused her of concealing information
Sagasti said on Twitter that during Vizcarra’s administration, an extra 2,000 doses of the vaccine had been received from Sinopharm and that “some senior public officials were vaccinated.”
6:34 a.m. Canada’s sluggish COVID-19 vaccination efforts are expected to get a big boost starting this week as the federal government prepares for a ramp up in the delivery of shots from Pfizer-BioNTech following a month-long lull.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has stated on its website that it expects more than 335,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be delivered this week, though the company says the figure will be closer to 400,000.
That is because the health agency’s number is based on five doses per vial, even though the federal government recently agreed with Pfizer’s request to have six doses administered per vial.
Either way, the expected delivery will represent the single largest shipment to Canada since the start of the pandemic as Pfizer continues scaling up production after a month-long slowdown while it expanded a plant in Belgium.
6 a.m. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop a rising tide of reports of domestic violence, experts say, warning that the stress of life in lockdown continues to put victims at risk.
Canada’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline fielded 20,334 calls between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, compared to 12,352 over the same period the previous year, said Yvonne Harding, manager of resource development at the organization.
“It’s very disturbing to know that there are so many women who are in this really precarious situation,” she said. “There may have been limited support for them beforehand, but at least they had outlets.”
Harding said opportunities to leave the house to get help — such as daily trips to and from school — have in many cases been eliminated during the pandemic.
Access to friends and family has also been cut off, she said, leaving victims with fewer options.
Call volumes spiked almost immediately when swaths of Canada first locked down, Harding said.
Between April 1 and Sept. 30, the centre received 51,299 calls, compared to 24,010 in the same time in 2019.
“Everything closed overnight, and our crisis lines lit up,” she said.
“We saw a range of calls. We saw those who were feeling immediately threatened because their situation had escalated, and we saw those for whom fears were kicking in, because things were starting to change and they were used to being able to access community supports in person that were no longer available to them.”
The Assaulted Women’s Helpline has had to expand services, she said, and has received government funding to do so.
Police, too, are seeing a spike in domestic-related calls, albeit not as pronounced.
Data from 17 police forces across the country show that calls related to domestic disturbances — which could involve anything from a verbal quarrel to reports of violence” — rose by nearly 12 per cent between March and June of 2020 compared to the same four months in 2019, according to a Statistics Canada analysis.
Monday 4 a.m. Federal data, obtained through the Access to Information Act, provides the most detailed picture yet of where billions of dollars in emergency aid went last year.
The data is broken down by the first three characters of postal codes, known as “forward sortation areas,” to determine the number of active recipients at any time anywhere in the country.
The Canadian Press used population counts from the 2016 census to calculate what percentage of the population over age 15 in each forward sortation area received the CERB in any four-week pay period.
Some forward sortation areas in the data from Employment and Social Development Canada were created after the 2016 census and weren’t included in the analysis.
Over its lifespan between late March and October of last year, the CERB paid out nearly $82 billion to 8.9 million people whose incomes crashed because they saw their hours slashed or lost their jobs entirely.
Some three million people lost their jobs in March and April as non-essential businesses were ordered closed, and 2.5 million more worked less than half their usual hours.
The data from Employment and Social Development Canada show that 6.5 million people received the $500-a-week CERB during the first four weeks it was available, or more than one in five Canadians over age 15.
What emerges from that initial wave is a largely rural-urban split, with higher proportions of populations relying on the CERB in cities compared to rural parts of the country.
Neighbourhoods in Brampton, Ont., on Toronto’s northwest edge, had the largest volume of CERB recipients with postal-code areas averaging over 15,160 recipients per four-week pay period.
CERB usage also appears higher in urban areas that had higher COVID-19 case counts, which was and remains the case in Calgary’s northeast.
“As cities relied more on accommodations, tourism and food as drivers of economic growth, the more they would have been sideswiped by the pandemic, and larger centres have a higher concentration of jobs in these areas,” said David Macdonald, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, who has studied the CERB.
“More rural areas of the country and certain cities that have a higher reliance on, say, natural resources wouldn’t have been hit as hard.”
Sunday 10:03 p.m. All residents of a Mississauga condo building will be tested for COVID-19 after five people living in the building tested positive for a fast-spreading variant of the virus, says Peel Public Health.
The on-site testing will be conducted on Monday to help keep track and also curb the spread of the B.1.351 variant, first discovered in South Africa.
Testing in the central Mississauga building will be conducted floor by floor, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Read the full story here from the Star’s Akrit Michael.
Click here to read more of Sunday’s COVID-19 coverage.