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.
12:50 p.m.: The City of Toronto has annouced they will be accepting walk-ins at its five immunization clinics, starting Sunday.
The city says clinics will be open from from Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment and walk-in for anyone five years and older. The city’s walk-in immunization clinics include: the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Cloverdale Mall, Scarborough Town Centre, Mitchell Field Community Centre and Woodbine Mall.
To make an appointment, residents can book an appoint for their first, second or third dose online or call the provincial booking system at 1-833-943-3900 or TTY 1-866-797-0007.
“We are continuing to do everything we can as a city government to help residents get vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Mayor Joh Tory in a news release. “The vaccine is the best protection against this virus and the best way to protect the progress we have made getting through this pandemic.”
12:05 p.m.: Despite hope that the Omicron variant would provide an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitalizations from the virus rose sharply in the past two weeks, at one point reaching their highest levels since the pandemic began. A North Grenville resident reached out to the Times to ask some tough questions about the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province, and whether these numbers are consistent with the claim that the province does not have enough nurses and doctors to care for the influx of COVID-19 patients. The man, who wished to remain anonymous, presented the Times with some numbers he had calculated using data from Statistics Canada. A calculation was done using data that was updated on January 13.
As of that date, 3,630 people in Ontario were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 481 of these people in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It is difficult to obtain an accurate number of hospitals in Ontario, since many statistics include “hospital establishments”, rather than just true hospitals, and when there are several hospitals in the same system – such as with the Ottawa hospital – they are typically lumped in as one. An approximate number is 250 hospitals, leaving an average of about 14 COVID-19 patients per hospital, with approximately two in each hospital in the ICU. These numbers seem low, and indeed raise questions about why patients and nurses cannot be moved around to help reduce the burden on Ontario’s health care system.
But the numbers also call into question whether Ontario’s hospitals were properly staffed, even before the pandemic. Several months ago, dozens of nurses were fired from several hospitals in Ontario as they refused to get a COVID-19 vaccination. This move is now hitting Ontario’s hospitals hard, causing Health Minister, Christine Elliott, to announce earlier in January that internationally-trained nurses would be brought in to help with the staffing shortage. There are also unconfirmed reports that the Ontario government is considering forcing hospitals in the province to re-hire fired unvaccinated nurses.
12:04 p.m.: Quebec continues to report a decline in COVID-19-related hospitalizations as the province is set to start lifting public health measures as of Monday.
The Health Department says 2,895 people are in hospital today, a decline of 80 from the day before.
The number of people in intensive care climbed by two over the past 24 hours to 233.
Authorities are reporting 11 additional deaths linked to the virus.
Officials say 2,838 new cases were detected today, though they warn that number is not reflective of the actual situation because molecular testing has been limited to certain higher-risk groups.
They say 28,491 tests were analyzed in the previous 24 hours, with 11.4 per cent coming back positive.
10:39 a.m.: In Ontario, 3,019 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. There are 587 people in ICU with COVID-19. There are 3,960 new cases of COVID-19.
Also in the province, 30,558,597 vaccine doses have been administered and 91.8% of Ontarians aged 12+ have had one dose, 89.2% have had two doses.
9:48 a.m.: Restaurants in Quebec will be allowed to reopen Monday for the first time in more than a month, but some former workers say they won’t be looking for new jobs in the industry.
Milovan Danielou said he decided to start looking for a new job during the province’s second closure of restaurant dining rooms in the fall of 2020, when his then-employer, taco restaurant Grumman ’78, closed its main location permanently.
With dining rooms closed and no tourists in the city, there was little work to go around. “Everybody was fighting to find even part-time jobs,” he said in a recent interview.
Danielou, who now does data entry, said his new job is less interesting, but the $30-an-hour pay is better, and he’s not worried about losing his job if the COVID-19 situation worsens.
“Nothing compares to restaurant work, the rush, the drive, the energy, the team, the people you meet. Nothing compares to that,” he said. But it’s not enough to draw him back. “You have to pay your rent, you have to survive.”
Quebec restaurant dining rooms were ordered closed starting Dec. 30 as the number of COVID-19 cases in the province shot up. Under the new rules, restaurants will be able to open Monday at 50 per cent capacity and there will be limits on how many people from different households can share a table.
9:48 a.m.: The latest developments on ongoing protests against COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government. All times Eastern. 9:30 a.m.
The Ottawa Police Service says crowds and vehicles clogged the capital’s downtown core through the night as a protest of COVID-19 restrictions and the federal Liberal government extends into its second day.
The force says officers encountered several “challenges” with demonstrators, including trucks sporadically blocking off access to roads, but the incidents were resolved with no arrests.
Police say they continue to monitor the demonstration with a focus on “keeping the peace,” maintaining access to emergency lanes and addressing any “threatening high-risk behaviour.”
They say national monuments will be protected and barricades are installed to block vehicles from accessing the path in front of the National War Memorial.
Public officials condemned the “desecration” of monuments to Canadian heroes after some protesters were seen jumping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier yesterday.
9:46 a.m.: Restaurants, gyms, cinemas and many other businesses in Ontario are set to open their doors once again on Monday to fully vaccinated patrons, but with COVID-19 levels likely just past a peak, some question if “fully vaccinated” should be redefined.
Businesses and facilities that were closed early this month in response to surging cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant are being allowed to reopen with capacity limits and will need to operate under the vaccine certificate system. That means only allowing customers who show proof they’ve received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently considered fully vaccinated.
But experts have noted the vaccine certificate system was designed when the Delta variant was dominant and two doses offered robust protection against both severe illness and infection. Omicron, now responsible for nearly all COVID-19 activity in the province, is a different beast and the government has been urging residents to get a booster shot.
Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario’s science advisory table, said three doses should now be the definition of fully vaccinated.
“I think there’s a lot of us who, understanding vaccine science and looking at how we deal with other kinds of vaccines for various infectious diseases, have really said this is probably a three-dose vaccine,” he said in a recent interview.
8:19 a.m.: Russia’s daily count of new coronavirus infections surged to more than 121,000 on Sunday, an eightfold increase compared with the beginning of the month as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads through the country.
The state coronavirus task force reported 121,288 new infections over the past 24 hours — an all-time high and 8,000 more than a day earlier. The country’s infection numbers have rocketed since early January, when only about 15,000 new cases per day were tallied.
The task force said 668 people died of COVID-19 in the past day, bring Russia’s total fatality count for the pandemic to 330,728, by far the largest in Europe.
Despite the surging infections, authorities have avoided imposing any major restrictions to stem the surge, saying the health system has been coping with the influx of patients.
8:01 a.m.: Concern about the mental health challenges of young Canadians has been growing during the nearly two years of disruptions and repeated isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But experts say we do not have the tools to properly assess the toll that the pandemic has taken on the mental health of Canadian kids. Creating standards for how mental health is measured could help grasp the scale of the problem.
Children’s Healthcare Canada, a national organization representing kids’ health-care providers, said children’s hospitals are reporting higher numbers of kids being admitted for suicide attempts, substance abuse and complex eating disorders.
Young Canadians reached out to Kids Help Phone about 4.6 million times in 2020, up from the 1.9 million connections in 2019, according to a report from the health service for youth.
Keith Dobson, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Calgary, said while certain metrics like hospitalizations and physician contacts are well-recorded, there are no standardized screening tools for mental health assessment in the country.
Dobson, who is also a researcher at the Mental Health Commission of Canada, said different groups and organizations, even within the same health-care system, will use different tools.
“That makes it really difficult to know what the rates are and how to compare them from place to place,” he said.
8 a.m.: Residents of the national capital are again being told to avoid travelling downtown as a convoy of trucks and cars snarl traffic protesting government-imposed vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.
The truck traffic in the city’s core by Parliament Hill has made many streets downtown impassable to vehicles, police say.
Other streets have been closed and local police say they are working to mitigate the impacts of the gridlock on residents and businesses downtown.
It’s not clear when the convoy of vehicles plans end their park-in protest as some protesters have vowed not to move until all their demands are met.
Sitting in his truck, Scott Ocelak said he was warned he was locked into his spot until Sunday, but planned to stay until Tuesday at the latest.
The demonstration was initially aimed at denouncing vaccine mandates for truck drivers crossing the Canada-U. S. border, but the movement has morphed into a protest against a variety of COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
Sunday 7:57 a.m.: Across Southern California, Asian Americans are celebrating a second pandemic Lunar New Year, with the Year of the Tiger set to begin Tuesday — and that means adjusting long-held traditions.
Instead of dressing up for visits to vulnerable elders, young people are sharing wishes for good health on FaceTime. Some are sketching artwork or recording videos to send to grandparents they won’t be seeing in person.
At the sprawling Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, the crowds of worshippers who normally come to make new year’s wishes are absent, with only a few allowed to pray by appointment.
Others are taking calculated risks, attending outdoor festivals or feasting with a small group of family members.