The news of the coronavirus today: the Minister of Civil Protection declares that the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 is of deep concern; The premier of Quebec should update the province

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

6.30 a.m.: A wave of reduced hours and job losses is heading to the hospitality, entertainment and retail sectors, and labor rights advocates say workers will have little or no government income support.

In the midst of the Omicron variant wave, Ontario reduced capacity limits for restaurants and bars and introduced other restrictions on large event spaces. As a result, a growing number of bar and restaurant owners have voluntarily closed temporarily instead of operating at half capacity.

Uncertainty for many low-wage workers is an unwelcome repeat of March 2020 and it could be even worse this time around. The federal government ended the Canadian Recovery Benefit (CRP) program in October and many people were unable to work enough hours this year to qualify for Employment Insurance (EI).

Read the full story of Christine Dobby from Star.

6.30 a.m.: As the Omicron variant takes hold in Toronto, the very form of infections in the city has changed – the hotspot of positive cases now concentrating in the dense downtown area.

While in previous waves the virus had burned down Toronto’s northwest corner – and just a few weeks ago, hot spots started appearing in new areas such as Old East York and Mimico – now the worst-hit part of town has become the waterfront district, with an infection rate of 625 cases per 100,000 people over the past three weeks, excluding cases in nursing homes and long-term care.

Other neighboring regions such as Trinity-Bellwoods and Niagara recorded similarly high rates.

The precise reason for the downtown concentration is unclear, with epidemiologists suggesting theories of uneven access to testing on the impacts of post-infection immunity; while Toronto Public Health and Toronto Board of Health Chairman Joe Cressy point to social gatherings as a likely driver of the outbreak.

Read the full story of The Star’s Victoria Gibson and Irelyne Lavery here.

6:25 a.m .: Life expectancy in the United States fell the most in over 75 years in 2020, according to CDC data. Covid was the third leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer.

6:25 a.m .: The notable drop in new COVID-19 cases in South Africa in recent days may indicate that the country’s dramatic outbreak caused by Omicron has passed its peak, according to medical experts.

Daily counts of virus cases are notoriously unreliable, as they can be affected by uneven testing, reporting delays and other fluctuations. But they offer a tantalizing clue – far from conclusive yet – that Omicron infections can regress quickly after a fierce spike.

South Africa has been at the forefront of the Omicron wave and the world is watching for any signs of how it might play out there to try to figure out what might be in store.

After peaking at nearly 27,000 new cases nationwide on Thursday, the number fell to around 15,424 on Tuesday. In Gauteng province – South Africa’s most populous with 16 million people, including the largest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria – the decline started earlier and continued.

“The nationwide drop in new cases combined with the sustained drop in new cases seen here in Gauteng Province, which for weeks has been at the center of this wave, indicates that we have passed the peak,” Marta Nunes, senior researcher at Vaccines and Infectious Disease Analysis Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, told The Associated Press.

6:24 am: Finland is strengthening existing restrictions on coronaviruses by taking several measures, including stepping up border controls, restricting restaurant opening hours, as well as stepping up its vaccination program to slow the rapid spread of the Omicron variant .

The Finnish government led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin decided at its meeting on Tuesday evening that the Nordic nation of 5.5 million people will further step up vaccination against COVID-19. While the Finnish workforce is currently preparing to receive booster vaccines, some 800,000 citizens, or 15% of the Finnish population, have not yet received any vaccines.

The government has said it will restrict, as of December 24, the use of the European Union’s COVID-19 joint certificates and passports in “high-risk” environments and situations, including nightclubs, karaoke restaurants, bars and mass events where there is no seating.

In practice, this means that these places will either face limited opening hours or be closed and will no longer be able to simply apply for COVID-19 passes.

From December 28, Finland will require negative coronavirus tests for passengers arriving from the European Union. In addition, visitors will also need to prove that they have been fully immunized or have recovered from the disease within the past six months. The restriction remains valid until January 16.

6:23 a.m .: England has reduced the period of self-isolation for vaccinated people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to seven days in many cases, provided two negative lateral flow tests are performed.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Wednesday the decision to shorten the period from 10 days to seven days would help limit disruption in people’s daily lives.

“I think this is a very sensible, balanced and proportionate approach,” he told the BBC. “Of course, this new variant is spreading very quickly, it is disrupting the lives of many people. It’s great that when people get infected and self-isolate properly, I think that clearly helps prevent infection. ”

The U.K. Health Safety Agency has said that from Wednesday, vaccinated people who receive negative lateral flow tests on the sixth and seventh days of their self-isolation period will no longer have to self-isolate. isolate for the full 10 days. Testing should be done 24 hours apart and the first test should be done no earlier than day 6.

There has been no change in the guidelines for positive unvaccinated cases or close unvaccinated contacts of people who test positive, who must always self-isolate for 10 days.

6:22 a.m .: Health professionals and provincial governments are developing battle plans to curb the spread of COVID-19 by reinstating restrictions, while speeding up booster doses as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron sweeps the country.

As the holidays approach, restrictions on social gatherings and hospital visits have been reintroduced, with provincial governments trying to mitigate Omicron’s impact.

British Columbia health worker Dr Bonnie Henry highlighted the risk posed by Omicron on Tuesday, saying it works differently from other variants and more easily infects those who are vaccinated or have had COVID-19 . Omicron is now the dominant variant in British Columbia

“It’s inevitable now that most of us in the province will be exposed at some point,” she said at a press conference. “The way this strain of the virus is transmitted in communities across the province, it’s very likely that we are all exposed to it over time. ”

It is estimated that the Omicron variant accounted for about 88% of cases on Tuesday in Ontario. The variant has far outstripped the growing wave of infections in the province, even for people vaccinated with both COVID-19 vaccines. The province announced 3,453 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths on Tuesday.

The spike has resulted in stricter visitation policies at several Ontario hospitals, while inpatients staying less than seven days will not be allowed to visit.

The Unity Health network, which operates three hospitals in Toronto, said it had made the “difficult decision” to suspend outpatient care and non-essential surgical procedures except for urgent cases.

6:22 a.m .: Premier François Legault is expected to address the province later today and may announce new restrictions as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Quebec.

The province reported a record number of new COVID-19 infections for the third day in a row on Tuesday, with 5,043 new cases.

Legault wrote on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that Quebec faces “very difficult choices”.

Health Minister Christian Dubé on Monday announced new restrictions, closing bars, gyms and schools, and warned that further restrictions could come once the government receives new projections on the spread of the virus and its impact on hospitalizations.

The Quebec public health institute said on Tuesday that the more transmissible Omicron variant now accounts for about 80% of new infections in the province.

Quebec has called on the federal government to provide military support as it attempts to speed up the pace of administration of third doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Late Tuesday, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the increase in the number of cases in Quebec is of deep concern and that the federal government will work with the province.

6:20 am: The rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant prompts more provinces to reinstate and tighten public health restrictions, with new regulations taking effect this week.

Quebec reported a record number of cases for the third day in a row, with the Omicron variant accounting for nearly 80% of the 5,043 new infections.

Public Safety Minister Geneviève Guilbault said she had asked Ottawa for military help to speed up the province’s mass vaccination campaign.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the growing number of cases in Quebec and across Canada is of deep concern and that the federal government will work with the province.

Ontario is investigating complaints from companies or individuals reselling rapid COVID-19 antigen tests, anyone caught doing so faces heavy fines, and several hospitals have introduced stricter policies for them. visitors.

Just before midnight tonight, bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centers and dance studios in British Columbia are scheduled to close.

Starting Friday, Alberta is limiting venues that can accommodate more than 1,000 people, including arenas, to half their capacity.

Prince Edward Island has joined with Newfoundland and Labrador in demanding that visitors self-isolate upon arrival in the province.

Despite plans that Omicron-related cases and hospitalizations will increase dramatically by the end of the month without stronger interventions, Saskatchewan has no plans to tighten public health measures for the holidays.


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