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Today’s coronavirus news: Trudeau announces first batches of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Canada; Five TDSB schools to close Monday; Ontario reports 1,677 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths

Posted: December 14, 2020

(December 13, 2020)

By: Staff, Toronto Star


7:58 p.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter Sunday evening to announce that the first batch Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines had arrived in Canada.

“This is good news. But our fight against COVID-19 is not over. Now more than ever, let’s keep up our vigilance,” tweeted Trudeau.

Ontario is expected to receive about 6,000 doses of the vaccine on Monday.

5:44 p.m. Five schools in the Toronto District School Board are closing their doors beginning Monday for Toronto Public Health to investigate COVID-19 cases at the schools.

Until Jan. 4, City Adult Learning Centre, Humewood CS, RH McGregor ES, David Lewis Public School and Grenoble Public School will be closed to students and staff.

TPH has also advised for Thorncliffe Park Public School and Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy to continue to be dismissed until the end of the winter break.

3:37 p.m.: Italy on Sunday eclipsed Britain to become the nation with the worst official coronavirus death toll in Europe.

Italy, where the continent’s pandemic began, registered 484 COVID-19 deaths in one day, one of its lowest one-day death counts in about a month.

Still, those latest deaths pushed Italy’s official toll up to 64,520, while Britain’s stood at 64,267, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Both numbers understate the true toll of the pandemic. Counting criteria differ in the two countries, and many coronavirus deaths, especially early in the pandemic, are believed to have gone undetected, including those of elderly people in nursing homes who were not tested for COVID-19.

Among the reasons cited for Italy’s high death toll was it that was the first country in Europe to be slammed in the pandemic, leaving health workers to grapple with a largely unknown virus. Italy also has a lower ratio of medical staff to patients compared to other European nations.

1:15 p.m.: The first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine are slated to arrive in Canada later today.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says some of the 30,000 initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will begin to touch down for transport to 14 distribution sites across the country starting tonight, with more crossing the border via plane and truck tomorrow.

Front-line health-care workers and long-term-care residents will be among the first to be inoculated, as soon as tomorrow.

News of the vaccines’ imminent arrival comes as Quebec and Ontario report a combined 3,671 new cases of COVID-19 and 49 additional deaths linked to the virus.

10:55 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 1,677 new cases Sunday. The seven-day average is down to 1,839 cases daily, or 88 weekly per 100,000. Sixteen new deaths have been reported.

Labs reported 58,190 completed tests and a 3.2 per cent positivity rate. Locally, there are 522 new cases in Toronto, 436 in Peel, 185 in York Region and 109 in Hamilton. There are 1,918 more resolved cases.

9:30 a.m.: The newest data from the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) found seven long-term-care and retirement homes in the Peel Region are battling “large outbreaks,” where more than 10 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

The largest outbreak has been reported at Tyndall Retirement Village in Mississauga. According to the OHC’s numbers, which was last updated on Dec. 1, an outbreak at the home was declared on Nov. 5.

On Nov. 24, Tyndall had seen 81 residents and 57 staff members testing positive for COVID-19. At least seven deaths had been recorded since the outbreak was declared.

This is Tyndall’s second COVID-19 outbreak. In total, 26 residents at the home have died from COVID-19. As of Dec. 1, 113 residents and 74 staff members have tested positive at Tyndall.

Other homes included in the report are the Port Credit Residence, King Gardens Place Retirement, Villa Forum, Woodhall Park Care, Hawthorn Woods Care and Extendicare Brampton.

8:18 a.m.: Germany is closing most stores and schools, and further limiting social contacts in an effort to drive down the rate of coronavirus infections that have remained stubbornly high in recent weeks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed Sunday to step up the country’s lockdown measures from Dec. 16 to Jan. 10 to stop the exponential rise of COVID-19 cases.

“We are forced to act, and we’re acting too,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

Existing restrictions imposed in November failed to significantly reduce the number of new infections, she said. Germany recorded 20,200 newly confirmed cases and 321 additional deaths Sunday, a high number for the weekend when many local authorities don’t report figures.

With the exception of Christmas, the number of people allowed to meet indoors will remain restricted to five, not including children under 14.

8:17 a.m.: Chinese authorities have locked down an area of more than 250,000 people after half a dozen coronavirus cases were confirmed near the Russian border in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. Checkpoints have been set up in Dongning and Suifenhe, and people were told not to leave unless necessary.

Bus service has been suspended, schools closed and production halted at factories not making daily necessities. Restaurants were told to stop dine-in service and residential communities to control entry. Four cases have been confirmed since Thursday in Suifenhe and two in Dongning. China, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year, has moved swiftly to stamp out any reappearance of the virus.

The National Health Commission reported 24 new cases nationwide, including four in Heilongjiang and another in Sichuan province in the southwest. The other 19 were imported from outside China.

8:17 a.m.: South Korea has set another record for its daily coronavirus tally with 1,030, as authorities struggle to suppress the virus’s spread.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Sunday the additional cases including two deaths raised the national caseload to 42,766 with 580 fatalities. About 80 per cent of the new cases were found in the densely populated Seoul area, where authorities have shut nightclubs and other high-risk venues, banned late-night dining and taken other steps to slow the spread.

But such measures have shown little effect. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Saturday his government may have to enforce its highest-level social distancing rules if the virus doesn’t slow down. Such restrictions would ban a gathering of more than 10 people, shut down schools, theatres and department stores and suspend professional sports leagues.

8:17 a.m.: Japan’s daily coronavirus cases have exceeded 3,000 for the first time while the government delays stricter measures for fear of hurting the economy ahead of the holiday season.

The 3,030 new cases, including 621 in Tokyo, took Japan’s national tally to 177,287 with 2,562 deaths, the Health Ministry said Sunday.

Experts say serious cases are on the rise around the country, putting an extra burden on hospitals and affecting the daily medical treatment for other patients. They urged authorities to take measures such as suspending out-of-town trips and requesting stores to close early.

Recent media surveys show support ratings for the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have dropped about 20 points from around 70% during his first three months in office amid public discontent over his coronavirus handling.

Japan issued a non-binding state of emergency in the spring and has survived earlier infection peaks without a lockdown. Experts say the ongoing resurgence in the dry and cold season would be a bigger challenge.

8:15 a.m.: The first trucks carrying a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States were set to pull out of a Michigan manufacturing plant Sunday, with the shots that are critical to stopping the nation’s coronavirus outbreak destined to reach states a day later.

An assembly line of workers began in the early morning hours pulling doses out of a freezer, boxing the vaccine and loading the units onto pallets so they could be placed on trucks at a Pfizer plant in Michigan. Dry ice, shipping labels and packing tape were on hand as the workers — donning masks, face shields and gloves — put together the packages inside the warehouse.

One forklift driver transported the boxes to a loading area where a second forklift driver transferred the pallets from inside the facility onto a semitruck.

Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history at a critical juncture of the pandemic that has killed 1.6 million and sickened 71 million worldwide.

Initially, about 3 million doses were expected to be sent out, and the priority is health care workers and nursing home residents as infections, hospitalizations and deaths soar in the U.S. With numbers likely to get worse over the holidays, the vaccine is offering a bright spot in the fight against the pandemic that’s killed nearly 300,000 Americans.

9:20 p.m. Saturday: 9 p.m. (updated): Saskatchewan reported its largest one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began Saturday, while police fined protesters opposed to public health measures to contain the pandemic.

Police said a man and a woman who they identified as organizers of an “antimask rally/convoy” in Regina on Saturday were each ticketed for contravention of public health orders relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tickets each carried a $2,800 fine.

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