Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday

The latest:

  • Quebec urges residents to continue to follow public safety measures this coming weekend.
  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford implements new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Officials shut down high school in Ottawa Valley, first in the province to close.
  • Ontario health experts struggling to trace the source of new COVID-19 infections.
  • Trudeau says dealing with COVID-19 remains his government’s number one job.
  • India has confirmed another record jump in coronavirus cases.
  • United States sees economic damage from coronavirus outbreak as 860,000 people apply for employment benefits.
  • 10 fans told to quarantine after Kansas City Chiefs game

With climbing cases of COVID-19 across Canada, health experts are struggling to trace the source of new infections — raising concerns that several provinces are lacking crucial information to curb a potential second wave this fall. 

In Quebec, Health Minister Christian Dubé and chief public health officer Dr. Horacio Arruda held a press conference on Thursday, to encourage residents to continue practising safe social distancing as the weekend approaches. Dubé said this weekend is not the time to go out partying and risk pushing a region into a higher COVID-19 alert level.

He said regions will remain yellow, but will be changed to orange in the coming days depending on the progress and the number of active cases over the weekend.

Dubé also reminded people that bars, even if they sell food, cannot sell liquor after midnight and that includes restaurants and microbreweries.

WATCH | Quebecers warned to heed health measures to slow coronavirus:

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said this weekend is not the time to go out partying and risk pushing a region into a higher COVID-19 alert level. 1:15 

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 66,356 confirmed cases in Quebec. 

B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have all reported a bump in cases throughout September, and some have paused their reopening plans as a result. 

As of 3:40 pm ET on Thursday, Canada had 140,556 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 122,842 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,238.

Meanwhile in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford unveiled a series of new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including restrictions on social gatherings in three regions and significant fines for violating the new rules. 

Ford held a news conference Thursday afternoon saying the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases “are concerning,” and that the province has decided to “implement further restrictions,” starting Friday.

He also announced that Ontario will have the “highest fine anywhere in the entire country,” with a minimum amount of $10,000 for organizers of illegal social gatherings, and a $750 fine for individuals who “break the rules and show up to these parties.”

WATCH | Ford announces new COVID-19 gathering limits, freeze on rent increase:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled a series of new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including restrictions on social gatherings in three regions and significant fines for violating the new rules. 4:41

As a result of the growing pandemic in Ontario, health officials have shut down a high school in the Ottawa Valley after a third staff member tested positive for COVID-19 — making it the first school in the province to close since the new school year began.

All in-person classes at Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ont., were halted Wednesday after the latest case was linked to two previous ones, also involving staff members.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Renfrew County District School Board spokesperson Jonathan Laderoute said the closure will remain in place until further notice.

“The decision was made shortly after a third case was confirmed earlier today that was linked to two previous cases,” the email reads. “The school will reopen only with public health approval.” 

WATCH | Alarms raised after COVID-19 cases close Ontario high school:

An Ottawa-area high school is the first in the province to shut down after three staff test positive for COVID-19, prompting concerns about cases in schools and how outbreaks are handled in schools. 2:02

Despite the school closure and an increasing caseload, health officials in Ontario say they can’t trace how roughly half of its latest COVID-19 cases became infected, even as Ford announced new measures to try to slow the pace of spread.

To gain insights into the September surge of COVID-19 in Canada’s largest province, CBC News has analyzed Ontario’s data on active cases — those who have most recently tested positive for the virus and are either hospitalized or still considered to be infectious. 

Data suggests that many Ontarians are currently contracting COVID-19 through unmemorable interactions with others in the course of their daily lives. Experts are worried that failing to track the source of so many new infections will hamper efforts to rein in the spread of the virus. 

A health-care worker walks along the lineup of people waiting outside a COVID-19 testing facility in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Those under 40 are driving the spread in most provinces. In Ontario, health officials have identified smaller, indoor gatherings as the culprit. Younger people may also be working in precarious jobs where their exposure is increased, or where sick days may not be readily available. 

“If we don’t understand how and where people are getting infected, it’s very hard to control this disease,” said Ashleigh Tuite, epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “It suggests that our contact tracing is not up to the level that we wanted it to be.”  

Alberta is starting to see a caseload similar to that in Ontario and Quebec, which is concerning as the prairie province has a much lower population, said Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. 

For the first 15 days of September in Alberta, the province has reported an average of 137 new cases of COVID-19 per day. That’s up from an average of 88 cases for that same period in August, meaning that cases have gone up by about 55 per cent in the last month.

The province is also facing widespread community transmission of COVID-19, Smith said, rather than the disease appearing in a few specific hotspots, like a long-term care facility.

While some of the increase in Alberta cases could be attributed to more testing in September with upwards of 30,000 people tested per day, Smith said these jumps in case counts are still concerning.


What’s happening around the rest of Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says dealing with COVID-19 remains his government’s number one job.

Trudeau says Canadians deserve an ambitious plan for a healthier and safer Canada, a country that’s fair and inclusive and clean and competitive.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says dealing with COVID-19 remains his government’s number one job. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

He made his comments at the end of a two-and-a-half day cabinet retreat.

A COVID-19 testing site is opening up for Indigenous people in Toronto, just in time for the cold and flu season. 

“There’s not much trust for some Indigenous folks in our health-care system because of discriminatory practices or blatant racism,” said Steve Teekens, executive director of Na-Me-Res, an emergency shelter and housing organization.

“We have a vacant building here and one of our managers thought this would be a fabulous idea to offer it up as a COVID testing facility for Indigenous people,” Teekens said. 

Roughly 250 students have been sent home from John Pritchard School in Winnipeg as the number of COVID-19 cases linked to it climbed to seven, Manitoba’s education minister said on Wednesday.

Students at the North Kildonan school in Grades 6, 7 and 8, as well as those in a split Grade 4/5 class and the Henderson Early Learning Centre (the school’s before and after program), started remote learning on Wednesday, Kelvin Goertzen said at a news conference.

“Of course, we knew that there would be cases within the school system, and we wanted to ensure that there could be quick response when those cases arose,” Goertzen said.

Those students may continue learning from home for up to two weeks, the Winnipeg school said in a letter to parents on Tuesday.

Alberta’s health minister and chief medical officer of health have said they would support repealing a piece of legislation that gives the government the power to make vaccines mandatory. 

WATCH | Rapid rise in cases in many parts of Canada, infectious disease specialist says:

Parts of Canada are seeing ‘exponential’ growth in COVID-19 cases with Ontario headed toward a thousand new cases per day, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam. 0:58

The Public Health Act currently contains a section that allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to order Albertans to be immunized or re-immunized against a communicable disease in certain circumstances, like an epidemic. 

That power has never been used in the province’s history, nor can Dr. Deena Hinshaw imagine a scenario where it would be.

“I think if we have a piece of legislation that we’re unlikely to use, I’m not sure it provides much benefit,” she told the legislative review committee examining the act in August. “I would be comfortable with that particular piece of the legislation being removed.”

Travellers flying out of Halifax will soon have their temperature taken before liftoff to scan for one of the symptoms of COVID-19.

Next Wednesday, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is rolling out temperature screening stations in the departure sections of 11 airports, including Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

All passengers who have a fever (38 C and above), and don’t have a medical certificate to explain a condition that would result in an elevated temperature, will not be allowed to continue their travel and will be asked to rebook after 14 days.

Leah Batstone, spokesperson for the Halifax International Airport Authority, said they’re happy to have another feature to help ease people’s fears and concerns about air travel.


What’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 29.9 million. More than 941,000 people have died, while 20.3 million have recovered.

Authorities in Pakistan have closed as many as 22 schools across the country after detecting violation of physical distancing regulations amid a steady decline in COVID-19 cases.

The government action comes only two days after authorities allowed schools to reopen.

Thursday’s announcement by the military-backed command and control centre came after health officials alerted the government that students at some schools were violating distancing guidelines.

The number of new confirmed coronavirus infections have hit a record in the Czech Republic, surpassing 2,000 cases in one day for the first time.

The country’s health ministry said a total of 2,139 cases were registered on Wednesday, about 450 more than the previous number recorded a day earlier.

The ministry said 388 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, 55 more than the previous day, with 81 in serious condition.

India has confirmed another record jump in coronavirus cases, logging 97,894 cases in the past 24 hours.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a man for a coronavirus test at a public health centre in Hyderabad, India. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

The country’s health ministry said on Thursday the new cases raised the nation’s confirmed total to more than 5.1 million since the pandemic began. It said 1,132 people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 83,198.

At the current rate of infection, India is expected within weeks to surpass the 6.6 million reported cases in the United States, which is currently the country with the most reported infections.

The number of people in the United States applying for unemployment benefits dropped to 860,000 last week, a historically high figure that reflects economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

Airline industry workers hold signs during a protest in Federal Plaza in Chicago. (AFP via Getty Images)

Before the pandemic hit the economy, the number signing up for jobless aid had never exceeded 700,000 in a week, even during the depths of the 2007-2009 Great Recession. Now they’ve topped 700,000 for 26 straight weeks.

Meanwhile, 10 fans who attended the Kansas City Chiefs game last week have been told to quarantine after one tested positive for COVID-19, Kansas City health officials announced Thursday.

A person who watched the NFL game from the group’s box in Arrowhead Stadium’s lower level tested positive a day later, the health department said.

The health department and Chiefs organization worked together to track down those who had contact with the person.

Multiple provinces are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. What needs to be done now?

Multiple provinces are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. What needs to be done now?

A resurgence in coronavirus infections  in several provinces over the last few weeks has raised alarms about current disease control measures in place and what steps need to be taken to curb the spread of the virus. 

B.C, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have all reported a bump in cases throughout September, and some have paused their reopening plans as a result. 

Those under 40 are driving the spread in most provinces. In Ontario, health officials have identified smaller, indoor gatherings as the culprit. Younger people may also be working in precarious jobs where their exposure is increased, or where sick days may not be readily available. 

Officials will need to determine which reopening policies to roll back and which to keep, as cases mount. Those choices will need to be made quickly, infectious disease experts told CBC News. 

“In pandemics, it’s all about the speed of response,” said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist at Jewish General Hospital and assistant professor at McGill University in Montreal. 

“The slower you are for something that spreads and expands exponentially, the father and farther behind you’re going to get.” 

CBC News spoke to experts in three provinces that are seeing stark increases in caseloads — Alberta, Ontario and Quebec — about what needs to be done immediately in order to keep COVID-19 case numbers as low as possible. 

‘Difficult decisions’ on keeping businesses open

Alberta is starting to see a similar case load to Ontario and Quebec, which is concerning as the prairie province has a much lower population, said Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. 

For the first 15 days of September in Alberta, the province has reported an average of 137 new cases of COVID-19 per day. That’s up from an average of 88 cases for that same period in August, meaning that cases have gone up by about 55 per cent in the last month.

The province is also facing widespread community transmission of COVID-19, rather than the disease appearing in a few specific hotspots, like a long-term care facility, said Smith.

While some of the increase in Alberta cases could be attributed to more testing in September, with upwards of 30,000 people tested per day, these jumps in case counts are still concerning, said Smith.

WATCH| How will a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus cases need to be handled?:

Infectious disease specialists answer questions about a second wave of COVID-19 including when it might hit and if increases need to be handled differently than the first wave. 7:57

“If there’s ongoing, rising cases, I think public health will have to make the difficult decisions to look at whether we should be closing certain types of businesses,” she said. 

“It makes it more challenging for public health, because there’s a huge reluctance to go backwards … when it’s so detrimental to the economy.”

Targeted information about public health measures needs to be given to young people and those who face health inequities in urban centres, said Smith. 

“Each individual public health unit need to determine where they are seeing cases and determine the best steps in terms in trying to mitigate those rising numbers,” she said. “It does very much depend on the particular demographics.” 

Large indoor gatherings need to be halted in Ontario: professor

As Ontario continues to report a surge in coronavirus cases, the province plans to reimpose public health restrictions on residents.

Ontario has seen an average of 184 cases a day for the first 15 days of September, compared to 90 cases a day for the same period in August. This amounts to a 104 per cent increase in reported infections, month over month.

On Wednesday, the Ford government announced that limits on social gatherings would be implemented in some regions. Ontario has taken a staged approach to the pandemic since March and allowed for variation in the reopening plan depending on the case load in a particular region. 

WATCH| Ontario looks to the private sector to handle long line-ups at testing centres:

Health minister Christine Elliott told reporters the province has received reports of “significant lineups in many parts of Ontario” at COVID-19 testing centres. As Chris Glover explains, the premier is negotiating with private pharmacies to step in to help. 2:39

The source of the uptick in COVID-19 cases is being driven by younger people in Ontario, just as some are beginning to return to university campuses, said Gerald Evans, an epidemiologist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

And a rise in infections within that age demographic is consistent with what’s been reported in other countries, such as Austria, France and Spain, he said.

While younger people tend to have less serious infections, there’s no guarantee the virus won’t spread to more vulnerable groups.

“We know from heat maps from lots of countries where you look at the continued rising numbers in that age demographic, is that it emerges into the general community … and into the elderly,” he said, adding that it will also impact children and staff in schools. 

The Ontario government also needs to look into curtailing some businesses that opened in Stage 3, such as limiting bar hours and pausing events like indoors weddings, said Evans. 

Harder hit neighbourhoods need increased support

Neighbourhoods bearing the brunt of COVID-19 in urban centres like Toronto need more targeted supports as cases rise, said Arjumand Siddiqi, an associate professor at Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Canada Research Chair in population health equity.

WATCH| Neighbourhoods at higher risk for COVID-19 in Toronto require more supports:

Data released by Toronto Public Health reveals that systemic inequities have made high-density communities with low-income residents particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. 1:58

These neighbourhoods, where more people of colour live, are facing long-standing health inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, said Siddiqi. 

Eighty-three percent of Toronto’s COVID-19 cases are Black people and other people of colour, according to July data from the City of Toronto. 

 A real investment in these neighbourhoods by governments is required to keep people safe, she said. 

“COVID is the umpteenth health outcome to show a disparity because we never get to that conversation about what we fundamentally need to do to fix the fact that health care is unequally distributed.”

In the short term, that investment could look like more isolation centres for those in high-density housing that don’t have room to distance, as well as better access and transportation to testing facilities, she said.

As well, many people of colour who live in these areas are in low-paying jobs that put them at greater risk of COVID-19, said Siddiqi.

“A lot of low wage jobs don’t have sick leave. So providing that, and encouraging the kind of policies that would make sure that people can actually use their sick leave.”

Policing private, indoor gatherings a challenge in Quebec

Dr. Matthew Oughton says cases in Quebec are “picking up speed” in terms of community spread and that the majority of cases are happening with a younger population.

The average number of cases Quebec has reported in the first 15 days of September has been around 204 per day, compared to 90 per day the province recorded for the same period in August.

“The major contributor seems to be not one huge outbreak … but seems to be much more community transmission based on small family and friend gatherings,” said Oughton.

WATCH| Cases climb in Quebec despite months of restrictions:

Quebec faces the highest rate of new cases in months despite businesses and the government enforcing safety rules. 1:55

If cases continue to climb in Quebec, “there’s a real risk” schools will need to be shuttered, Premier François Legault said at a press conference Wednesday.

“It’s very complex to see how we can enforce the maximum of 10 [people in private gatherings] or social distancing in every house in Quebec,” Legault told reporters. 

While Oughton says he sympathizes with the challenges the government is facing — he says the province has been “aggressive” with their reopening plan in recent months and it was likely too much, too fast.

“The Quebec government was very aggressive at getting children back to school. Their list of medical exemptions that would allow a child to stay home and do distance learning was very, very restrictive,” he said. 

On Tuesday, Quebec reported at least 377 cases of COVID-19 across 223 schools. 

“We don’t have a well-established broad-scale program for distance learning and it looks more and more if this trend continues that we’re going to need that,” said Oughton.

Businesses like bars may be hard to keep open as infections rise if keeping schools open remains a priority, he said. 

“That’s no where near sufficient. [COVID-19] spreads exponentially, and we need to be ahead of this, not constantly playing catch-up,” he said.

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday

The latest:

Ontario is planning to lower the limits on social gatherings in a bid to stem a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

Premier Doug Ford’s office has confirmed the move but won’t say when the new health guidelines will be available. The current limit on social gatherings is 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

Provincial health officials have attributed the spike in cases largely to people not following public health guidelines at social gatherings.

As of 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 139,747 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 122,449 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,235.

Ontario reported another 315 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — more than half of which are in people under 40. Quebec reported 303 new cases, marking the first time since May 30 the province has had more than 300 in day. Alberta reported 171 new cases.

Ford has promised to take action in Ontario regions where most of the cases have emerged — Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa. He has also not ruled out further lockdowns in those areas if virus case numbers aren’t brought under control.

Infection control epidemiologist Dr. Colin Furness says the surge is either the sign of a “vicious” second wave beginning or — more likely — a reflection of recent fatigue with coronavirus guidelines and regulations. He says one thing that would help slow the surge is to close bars and restaurants.

“Right now, you can book a big table in a restaurant with lots of people not wearing masks, but you can’t do the same thing in your living room,” he told CBC News. And he said that doesn’t sit well with some people. 

“We need a very clear, simple rule. And really, we need to have people not in the same air space not wearing masks.”

With the sudden spike in cases prompting more people to get tested, Canadians are coping with hours-long lineups at COVID-19 testing centres across the country — and some medical experts are calling on Health Canada to approve new devices to deliver faster results.

WATCH | How Ford says Ontario is preparing for a second wave: 

Saying a second wave of COVID-19 may be even more complicated than the first one, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government has been working around the clock to prepare for it. 3:05

Concerned parents and their children faced four-hour waits at Ottawa’s primary testing facility on Monday. A similar scene greeted those looking for a test on Tuesday. At Toronto’s William Osler drive-thru testing centre, residents were kept waiting for more than three hours.

Health Minister Patti Hajdu said Wednesday that the Canadian government is not yet ready to deploy a rapid test because it is not yet satisfied with any of the options it has reviewed.

She said Health Canada will not approve a test that in any way endangers the health of Canadians. 

“I will say tests that don’t have a degree of accuracy to the satisfaction of the regulators can actually create further harms in communities,” Hajdu said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two antigen testing devices several months ago. 

A medical staff member conducts a COVID-19 test at North York General Hospital. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Health officials in Ottawa are urging people who don’t have symptoms or have not been referred to stop clogging up test sites.

There have been what they’ve described as record-breaking lines at testing centres recently as the city’s positive tests surge to levels not seen since early May.

Officials say most people coming for testing don’t need to be there, which is causing a backlog. 

“Most simply, [get tested] if you have symptoms or you’ve been referred by public health,” said Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, in a news conference Tuesday. 

Epidemiologist Furness says that is not a solution. He said anyone who feels they might have been exposed to the virus should get a test, whether they have symptoms or not. 

“There are two very opposing schools of thought among public health officials,” he said. “One is that we should limit testing as a scarce resource and only use it when we need to. That perspective … is flat out wrong and dangerous in my view.” 

He said instead, testing capacity should be increased.

WATCH | Furness’s full thoughts on how to slow the surge of cases:

Infection control epidemiologist Dr. Colin Furness talks about some of the causes and possible solutions to the surging number of cases in several Canadian provinces. 1:28

What’s happening around the rest of Canada

As schools reopen across much of the country, some are voicing concern about the rising number of COVID-19 cases among students and worrying that not enough is being done to protect both children and teachers. 

Ontario’s Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board has confirmed its first student case of COVID-19 at one of its schools, marking the region’s first reported infection in a school. 

Stella Maris Catholic Elementary School in Amherstburg, Ont., was first notified of the diagnosis Tuesday morning, board officials said, and classmates of the COVID-positive student were dismissed through the day and asked to self-isolate for two weeks.

WATCH | How the first day of school looks in a pandemic:

The National follows a Toronto family on their first day of school during the COVID-19 pandemic. 3:24

“As soon as we were made aware of the positive case we contacted the health unit,” said Melissa Farrand, the school board’s COVID-19 lead. She said the health unit then worked with the school principal to find those who had been in close contact.

Five positive cases of COVID-19 have also been recorded within the Saskatoon school and daycare systems since students began returning to class last week.

“Due to the block scheduling and safety protocols that are currently in place, the SHA has determined the risk to be very low for our school community and there is no evidence of community transmission,” said a letter shared with parents.

Meanwhile, in Hamilton, Ont., educators and their unions are becoming increasingly worried about what they say is a large number of students not wearing masks in local public schools.

A teacher looks out into the hallway at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Jeff Sorensen, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers’ Local, told CBC News there are complaints coming from staff at schools, with one school apparently reporting 25 per cent of students not wearing masks.

Families can opt out of mandatory masking in Hamilton schools if their children have medical issues that would prevent them from using a face covering or mask or if they have difficulty breathing in one. But they don’t need to provide any proof.

“It’s alarming,” Sorensen said.

Internationally, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said closing schools again should be a “last resort” and only applied in places with high levels of transmission.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus touted the importance of keeping schools open, when possible, and warned that the more kids are out of school, the less likely they are to return in many places.

He said “distance learning” should be available where possible. 

WATCH | Students ask: What do we do with masks at recess?

An infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist answer questions about COVID-19 and back to school, including what to do with masks during recess and whether reusable lunch kits should be avoided. 7:13

In Canada, the transition to virtual schooling has not been a smooth one, with issues like parents feeling left in the dark, postponements, enrolment lists in flux and technical hiccups.

“I have zero faith that [schools are] organized… The feeling I get is that they don’t have a plan, they’re not prepared,” said Ashley St John, a Toronto mother of a blended family of five children between the ages of two months and 12 years.

Parents in Calgary are also decrying a lack of key information and details about the Calgary Board of Education’s Hub online learning program, which was slated to begin as early as Monday.

“We just don’t have any information as to what time we need to be home and in front of our computers to be able to let the kids connect with their teachers,” said Tamara Rose, who is working from home full time due to multiple autoimmune diseases. 

In Quebec, the wife of Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said she is in self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

In a tweet, Nancy Deziel said she was tested Monday after losing her sense of smell.

Deziel said she and those close to her will be in isolation until next Tuesday. She’s continuing to work remotely as a scientist and city councillor in Shawinigan, Que.

Blanchet himself, along with the Bloc Québécois caucus, was already in isolation as a precaution, after a member of his staff tested positive Monday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 early in the pandemic but has recovered.

What’s happening around the world

The head of the United Nations says the COVID-19 pandemic remains “out of control,” with the world approaching “the grimmest of milestones: one million lives lost to the virus.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference Wednesday that the coronavirus “is the number one global security threat in our world today,” posing a crisis that is “unlike any in our lifetimes.”

He said that’s why he called for a global ceasefire of all armed conflict on March 23 to tackle the pandemic.

He stressed that a vaccine “must be seen as a global public good, because COVID-19 respects no borders,” and also said that a vaccine must be “affordable and available to all — a people’s vaccine.”

(CBC News)

Spain’s official death toll for the coronavirus surpassed 30,000. The total cases increased beyond 600,000, as Spain became the first European country to reach that threshold.

The Health Ministry added 9,400 new confirmed infections to the total and 156 deaths.

The country has been experiencing one of Europe’s steepest second curves of contagion, with new cases increasing since mid-July.

With 1,273 patients in ICUs, Spain has as many beds devoted to treat grave patients of COVID-19 as France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy together. Officials say selective lockdowns could be back in place by next week. 

Amid growing anger over a bottleneck in the United Kingdom’s creaking coronavirus testing system, the government promised on Wednesday to do whatever it takes to boost laboratory capacity, which has left people across the land with no way to get a COVID-19 test.

In an attempt to slow one of the highest coronavirus death tolls in the West, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised in May to create a “world-beating” system to test and trace people exposed to the virus.

A worker opens a COVID-19 test site in South London on Wednesday. The Department of Health has appealed to the U.K.’s biomedical sector for 400 further laboratory technicians as the nation’s return to school increases demand for tests. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

But repeated attempts by Reuters reporters to get COVID-19 tests failed, while at a walk-in testing centre at Southend-on-Sea in eastern England, hundreds of people were queuing to get a test — some from as early as 5 a.m. GMT.

“Laboratory capacity has been an issue. We are working our way through that,” Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News.

WATCH | Respirologist describes ‘alarming’ wait times for COVID-19 testing:

Testing capacity for the coronavirus could be boosted with a rapid testing device, even if it’s not entirely accurate, says Dr. Samir Gupta, an associate professor at the University of Toronto. 5:48

The WHO regional director for Latin America is warning the region is reopening too soon.

During a virtual briefing, Carissa Etienne said coronavirus cases in Colombia’s border area with Venezuela have increased ten-fold in the last two weeks, and that death rates are climbing in parts of Mexico, with similar trends in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bolivia and areas of Argentina. 

“We must be clear that opening up too early gives this virus more room to spread and puts our populations at greater risk. Look no further than Europe,” she said.

Virtual schools face rocky start — with delays, confusion and technical problems

Virtual schools face rocky start — with delays, confusion and technical problems

Some Canadian parents might have looked longingly at neighbouring provinces getting the option of distance learning this school year, but getting virtual schools off the ground has proven to be a tricky undertaking.

With many parents feeling left in the dark, postponements, enrolment lists in flux, technical hiccups and teachers still being hired or reassigned as classes begin, heading back to school online this fall has gotten off to a bumpy start during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of ‘I don’t know’ and ‘We’ll figure it out as we go.’ I’m a planner, so that kind of stuff makes me very anxious,” said Ashley St John, a Toronto mother of a blended family of five children between two months and 12 years old.

Because St John is currently on maternity leave, she said she feels lucky to be able to choose online learning for her school-aged children — a decision made because two members of her multigenerational household are immunocompromised. 

But school-related emails being sent to an outdated address and no followup phone calls forced her to rush around to confirm that her kids had indeed been enrolled in virtual school this fall.

“I have zero faith that they’re organized…. The feeling I get is that they don’t have a plan, they’re not prepared,” she said.

WATCH | Parent reacts to Toronto school board’s latest postponement:

Ashley St John speaks to Dianne Buckner about the postponement and what this means for her blended family.  6:58

Parents in Calgary are also decrying a lack of key information and details about the Calgary Board of Education’s Hub online learning program, which was slated to begin as early as Monday.

“We just don’t have any information as to what time we need to be home and in front of our computers to be able to let the kids connect with their teachers,” said Tamara Rose, who is working from home full time because of multiple autoimmune diseases. 

Rose said she feels frustrated: She wants to be able to schedule her video meetings for work apart from the time her daughter, Scarlett — who had expected to start Grade 2 virtually this past Monday morning — will need the computer for school. She also needs to juggle the times her seven-year-old will join her grandfather outdoors for some physical activity, like hiking.

“We’re kind of all just in the dark right now,” she said.

Tamara Rose, with her seven-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is among the Calgary parents who are waiting to receive details about their children’s online learning classrooms. ‘We’re kind of all just in the dark right now,” she says. (Submitted by Tamara Rose)

Though some parents have received emails identifying their children’s Hub teachers, what school supplies will be needed and details of their kids’ virtual school day, others — like Rose — are still waiting. 

“Some moms are sitting there hitting refresh [on their email] all day,” she said.

‘A monumental task’

Creating virtual classes for so many students — and then staffing and supporting them accordingly — has been “a monumental task,” Toronto District School Board chair Alexander Brown said Tuesday morning, a day after Canada’s largest school district announced it was once again delaying the start of its virtual option. 

The TDSB has begun a staggered entry for in-class learning this week, but its virtual school will now start on Sept. 22, with the latest postponement due to a large influx of families — about 72,000 students from the board’s roughly 250,000 total enrolment — opting for online learning. 

The 72,000 students in the Toronto District School Board’s virtual school this fall represent an enrolment bigger than most school boards in Ontario, says Carlene Jackson, the board’s interim director of education. Tuesday was the deadline for parents to enrol their children in virtual school. (CBC)

“That’s bigger than most school boards in Ontario. We’ve seen increases of over 6,000 in just the last couple of days, and we are expecting that to grow,” said Carlene Jackson, the board’s interim director of education.

“We did decide to allow parents to have choice and flexibility in terms of whether or not they wanted to send their children in person or do online learning,” she said, clarifying that Tuesday was the deadline for virtual school. 

“We do need the additional time to get the additional teachers in place and to develop those timetables.”

The Toronto public board isn’t alone: School boards in Peel Region, Hamilton-Wentworth and Waterloo region were among the other Ontario districts that announced delays to the start of virtual learning in recent days due to a significant last-minute uptick in sign-ups, which has required reassigning or hiring many more teachers.

“It’s a buyer’s market right now for teachers. They’re needed all over the place…. There’s a huge teacher shortage right now,” said Patrick Etmanski, head of the Waterloo unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. 

“They’ve delayed the online stuff because they can’t find people to do the work.”

E-learning can overload internet  

Getting the Calgary Board of Education’s massive virtual effort ready has taken a Herculean effort over the past weeks — from finalizing the student registrations to reallocating existing teachers and hiring new ones, said Joanne Pitman, the board’s superintendent of school improvement. 

She said that earlier communication from the board — which included a link to some independent assignments to familiarize students with online learning — had indicated that real-time instruction would begin sometime this week. 

“We’re actually, in under two weeks, reassigning and building in over 700 teachers to be able to support the just under 20,000 students who have registered for Hub,” Pitman said.  

Anticipating the complexity of a brand-new virtual offering was why Regina Public Schools chose to start its e-school program the week after beginning a staggered in-class return, said Terry Lazarou, the board’s supervisor of communications.

“We have to build infrastructure. We have to get it staffed. We have to do all of the stuff necessary to have that work successfully,” he said Tuesday. This initial week would be “very much a ‘getting to know you'” experience for elementary students, but “actual learning” for high-schoolers, he said. 

On the first day of the e-school program at Regina Public Schools on Monday, a server exceeded capacity and prevented anyone from logging in for about 20 minutes before being quickly resolved, spokesperson Terry Lazarou says. ‘The internet is a lovely thing, but it’s not magical.’ (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

“There were obviously hiccups,” Lazarou said about Monday’s inaugural day of e-school, which has about 2,000 students enrolled. A server exceeded capacity and prevented anyone from logging in for about 20 minutes before being quickly resolved, he said.

“We’re very reliant on infrastructure that everyone else in the province is also using. The internet is a lovely thing, but it’s not magical. When volume goes up or when other things happen, it’s susceptible to overuse sometimes.” 

Moving forward, Regina Public Schools is focused on improving its offering, Lazarou said. Key will be ensuring that technological systems stay “robust enough to be able to handle the need” and that all families in e-school continue to have the equipment and internet access required to participate online. Officials are also making the necessary accommodations for students with intensive needs. 

“There is a lot more work that needs to be done,” Lazarou said. “We’re flying the plane as we build it…. This is going well, but everything can go better. And we’re working on ensuring that it does go better.”

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce urged patience as “tens of thousands” of students get started virtually from kindergarten to Grade 12 this school year.

Referring to the fact that even without COVID-19, class numbers typically fluctuate somewhat before settling later in September, Lecce told a daily Ontario press briefing on Monday that there will indeed be consolidation — and perhaps reorganization — of classrooms in some regions this fall. 

“While we’re seeing the migration of tens of thousands [of students] … it creates operational challenges for boards,” he said. “It’s not an excuse, but it’s important context for families to understand.”

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Monday

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Monday

The latest:

  • Trudeau urges Canadians to follow public health guidelines as COVID-19 cases rise.
  • Resurgence of COVID-19 in Ontario puts pressure on Doug Ford government.
  • Quebec sees highest number of new cases since beginning of June. 
  • Manitoba health officials warns of possible COVID-19 exposures at two Winnipeg schools.
  • India reopens its parliament after more than five months.
  • New Zealand extends virus restrictions for at least another week.

‘We cannot let our guard down’: Tam

Canada’s top doctor released a statement this afternoon urging Canadians to continue physically distancing and complying with public health guidelines, as cases have spiked across the country. 

“As fall approaches, I continue to urge all Canadians to keep up our collective efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in Canada,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Thersa Tam in statement Monday.

As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had 136,972 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 120,564 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,211.

Around 47,800 have been tested daily in the last week and around 1.1 per cent of those individuals have tested positive, amounting to about 618 new cases reported daily, said Tam. 

“We cannot let our guard down now,” she said. “We have worked too hard and come too far. Continue good public health practices to reduce your risk of getting infected and spreading the infection to others.” 

She warned Canadians to be aware of the risk for exposure in their areas and to stay home even with mild symptoms, leaving only to get tested. 

Tam’s statements echo messaging from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Monday morning, who similarly appealed to Canadians to strictly follow public health guidelines. 

Speaking to reporters before he embarked on a two-day cabinet retreat in Ottawa, Trudeau emphasized that Canadians need to continue practising physical distancing, washing hands frequently and wearing masks. 

“The last thing anyone wants is to go into this fall in a lockdown similar to this spring,” he said. “And the way we do that is by remaining vigilant.”

Ontario COVID-19 cases surge, mostly in urban centres

The steady rise of coronavirus cases in Ontario — an uptick largely fuelled by the province’s most populated areas — is cause for concern among provincial officials, and could lead to targeted measures aimed at curbing growth in cases even as the province has already hit the pause button on further relaxing pandemic restrictions. 

On Monday, Ontario reported 313 new COVID-19 cases, as the average number of daily infections in the province has doubled over the last three weeks. The province’s daily count had exceeded 200 on each of the previous three days, something that hadn’t happened since early June.  

The trend in Ontario is worrisome, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, said in an interview with CBC News. 

“I thought that we were going to see this rise in cases a little bit later,” Bogoch said Sunday. “But it’s real and it’s happening now and it certainly is concerning. We certainly want to make sure that this doesn’t continue to grow.”   

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing pressure as the province’s COVID-19 cases rise at a rate not seen in months. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Many are also worried that the reopening of schools will compound the issue of a second wave of COVID-19 cases, with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) warning parents that some of its elementary classes will likely exceed size caps set out in its reopening plan.

The TDSB said it does not yet know how many of its classes will exceed those caps, since final registration numbers are still in flux with the new school year set to begin Tuesday.

“We are getting to those caps as best we can,” said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird. “The difficulty is, though, since we’ve received the student registration information, the numbers keep changing.”

The TDSB approved a plan in late August to reduce class sizes in elementary schools with a particular focus on areas deemed by Toronto Public Health to be at higher risk of COVID-19.

Meanwhile in London, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) declared a community outbreak after five Western University students tested positive for COVID-19.

Three of the cases were confirmed Saturday and two Sunday, according to a news release issued by the MLHU. It said the cases are related and will be added to the city’s case count on Monday.

WATCH | Quebec on edge as COVID-19 cases rise:

Quebec faces the highest rate of new cases in months despite businesses and the government enforcing safety rules. 1:55

While the infected students have not attended classes or activities on campus, they have been to downtown bars and restaurants, and socialized with students in neighbouring housing units, the health unit said. It expects there to be more cases in the coming days. 

On Friday, during his most recent news conference, Ford described the trend as an “uptick” limited to the most densely populated urban areas of Ontario.

“Where we are seeing an uptick is a couple regions,” Ford said. “It’s not the City of Toronto or the Peel Region’s fault. This is happening. We’ve got to work together.” 

WATCH | Online learning registration spikes as COVID-19 cases rise in Peel Region:

A spike in online learning registration in Peel Region west of Toronto has prompted a delay to the start of virtual classes. The region has seen rising COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. 1:47

A senior provincial official told CBC News that there is “a growing sense of concern” in the government and among public health leaders over the rise in Ontario’s COVID-19 numbers. If the trend continues, the official said the province would consider measures targeted at the specific locations and activities that are contributing to the infection rate. 

Last Monday, the province announced a four-week pause on any further relaxing of pandemic restrictions. Yet case numbers have since risen, even though classes have yet to resume for the roughly 500,000 students in the public and Catholic school boards of Toronto and Peel. 

In Brampton, which is a part of Peel Region, a lack of testing capabilities is contributing to a spike in cases, Mayor Patrick Brown told CBC News Monday. 

Compared to nearby cities of a similar size, like Mississauga, Brampton hasn’t had access to the same health infrastructure needed to support mass testing, said Brown.

“There has been some pretty significant inequalities,” he said. Mississauga has three testing centres, while Brampton has just one; a second is set to open this Wednesday. 

Brampton also has to ship its coronavirus tests to Toronto rather than processing them locally, which contributes to a delay in sending residents their results, Brown said. 

That means individuals who may be positive for the coronvirus don’t begin isolating until they hear back from public health, which is a danger to the community, he said. 

“You tell people to quarantine after a test; in many instances they’re not, so it creates a risk,” he said. 


What’s happening around the rest of Canada

Manitoba public health officials are warning of possible COVID-19 exposures at two Winnipeg schools.

A person who was asymptomatic went to Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute in the West End on Wednesday in the morning and Thursday in the afternoon, according to a release from the province issued on Sunday.

WATCH | No signs of Atlantic bubble bursting:

Like an extended family, the four Atlantic provinces have walled themselves in, creating measures to restrict outsiders and COVID-19 cases. So far, it’s worked and there doesn’t seem to be much of a rush to burst the Atlantic bubble. 5:09

Meanwhile, another person went to John Pritchard School in North Kildonan all day Tuesday through Thursday also while asymptomatic. Neither of the two people are believed to have caught the virus at school.

Both schools confirm they’ll be open for classes Monday.

Quebec saw its highest number of new cases since the beginning of June over the weekend, with 279 cases reported Sunday and 244 cases Saturday. 

The number of deaths remained low, with just one additional death yesterday. 

Cases in Quebec’s Lower Saint Lawrence region also continued to the climb over the weekend, after public health authorities linked dozens of cases to recent house parties. 

The union representing British Columbia teachers is urging the province to close schools on Monday citing the combined threat of wildfire smoke, which is affecting air quality, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Twitter post Sunday night, the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) said it wants the province and other health officials to step in and keep teachers and students at home.

For many B.C. students, Monday is set to be the first full day of instruction. Last week, many schools provided orientation sessions to advise students how the year will proceed amid the ongoing threat of the pandemic.

Educators worked to put in place protocols such as staggered start times, enhanced cleaning and physical distancing rules to keep schools safe.

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared Sunday at a public high school in west Edmonton after a second person tested positive. 

Alberta Health Services has advised the school that an additional 53 Grade 10 students and two staff members at Ross Sheppard High School need to be tested and will be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days. 

The first case at Ross Sheppard was confirmed by Alberta Health Services on Sept. 8. Three classes of Grade 10 students and their teachers — close to 100 people — were placed in quarantine at home for 14 days after someone in the group tested positive.


What’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 28.3 million. More than 912,000 people have died, while 19 million have recovered.

India reopened its parliament after more than five months Monday even as the country continues to report the most daily new infections of the coronavirus in the world and daily virus deaths remain above 1,000.

Lawmakers must wear masks and follow other sanitization protocols, sit on seats separated by transparent plastic sheets and keep their meetings limited.

Question Hour, when lawmakers ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries, will not be allowed.

People wait in long queues to get a coronavirus test at the Northcote COVID-19 testing facility in Auckland, New Zealand on Monday. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

New Zealand will keep its virus restrictions in place for at least another week as the country continues to battle a small outbreak that began in Auckland last month.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday the country had taken a cautious approach to the virus from the beginning, which had helped save lives and allowed the economy to reopen in a sustained way.

Ardern said New Zealand will continue its strategy of trying to eliminate the virus.

WATCH | Western U.S. fires complicate COVID-19 diagnosis, says cardiologist:

Smoke from U.S. wildfires could confuse people, who may not know whether their breathing troubles are from the poor air quality or the coronavirus, says Montreal cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos. 5:56

Experts in the Philippines described a decision to cut the physical distancing minimum to 30 centimetres on public transport as dangerous and premature on Monday.

Reducing gaps between passengers incrementally to a third of the one metre minimum could backfire, experts and medical professionals warned, and prolong a first wave of infections that the Philippines has been battling since March.

The new rules took effect on Monday, when the country reported 259 new confirmed deaths, a record for the second time in three days. Total fatalities increased to 4,630, while infections have doubled in the past 35 days to 265,888, Southeast Asia’s highest number.

A commuter wearing a face mask walks in Cologne’s main train station. On Monday, Berlin’s top health official expressed concern about the rising number of coronavirus cases in Germany. (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters)

Berlin’s top health official has expressed concern about the rising number of coronavirus cases in Germany, particularly among young people.

Dilek Kalayci told public broadcaster RBB that experience showed young people could easily become “super spreaders,” resulting in older, more vulnerable people becoming sick with COVID-19, too.

Germany’s disease control centre on Monday reported 927 new cases across the country in the past day.

Romania reopened schools for 2.8 million children on Monday after a six-month closure to fight a coronavirus outbreak, ordering pupils to wear face masks as infections rise.

WATCH | Minor hockey lurches toward fall opening amid COVID-19:

No face-offs, no penalty box and no parents are part of the myriad changes that one youth hockey league is making as it tries to get kids safely back into hockey this fall. 2:31

With 104,000 cases, and new infections jumping above 1,000 a day since July, millions of teachers, students and parents face a tough challenge to adapt after months of online teaching at home.

The spike has been among Europe’s fastest, together with Spain, France, Malta and Croatia, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief said on Monday that we need to fundamentally rethink our relationship with the elderly after huge losses to COVID-19 in nursing homes across the world “robbed us of a generation of wisdom.”

In a speech about the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic at the United Nations in Geneva, Dr. Mike Ryan urged countries to see elder care as a “rights issue.”

“We need to fundamentally rethink the relationship we have with older generations and the way in which we provide care for that generation,” said Ryan. “We need to see the needs of our older generation as a rights issue — the right to be cared for, the right to social contact.”

WATCH | ‘Rule of six’ takes effect in U.K.:

The CBC’s Cindy Pom explains the U.K.’s new ‘rule of six’ that prohibits social gatherings of more than six people after a big spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. 2:54
Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

The latest:

  • Ontario coronavirus cases cross 200 mark for the first time since July.
  • Calgary doctor worried lack of shelter space could hamper pandemic efforts over winter.
  • Quebec to ban karaoke after event linked to 80 cases of coronavirus.
  • UN warns worst impacts from pandemic on poverty yet to come.
  • India edges closer to recording nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours.
  • Reproduction number of infections in U.K. has risen above 1. 

Ontario reported 213 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, marking the first time the province’s numbers have crossed the 200 mark in months. 

The last time Ontario reported more than 200 cases was on July 21, with 203.

Data shows more than 32,500 tests were completed by public health units across the province. 

Locally, 26 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, with 18 reporting no new cases. 

WATCH | Bonnie Henry says ‘the optimist’ in her sees COVID-19 vaccine by next summer:

Instead of waiting in a long line for a COVID-19 test that involves getting a swab stuck up the nose and sometimes waiting days for results, scientists are developing saliva-based tests and produce results in minutes. Is the future of testing more comfortable and done at home? 5:58

There are 71 cases in Toronto, with 38 in Peel and 37 in Ottawa. Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet that 67 per cent of today’s cases were found in people under the age of 40. 

The new patients bring Ontario’s total case count to 44,068, which includes 2,813 deaths and 39,598 cases classified as resolved.

This week Ontario saw 170 new cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed on Thursday, 149 on Wednesday, 185 on Tuesday and 190 on Monday.

The province says four students have also tested positive for COVID-19, all in Ottawa, along with nine school staff who have tested positive for the disease.

People line up to be tested at a COVID-19 assessment centre in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

With coronavirus case numbers climbing, the Ontario government is launching a public website tracking all cases in schools and child-care centres.

Premier Doug Ford promised this week that his government would report all outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

The province says the site will be updated every weekday and include a summary of cases, as well as more detailed information on where the numbers come from.

Ford says he believes parents should know where school outbreaks are occurring, but it will take time to report.

WATCH | Is the future of COVID-19 testing at home?

Russia has started inoculating 40,000 volunteers with its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine as part of its accelerated trials. The scientific community has concerns about the vaccine, but the Kremlin says the vaccine is safe, citing results published in a respected medical journal that said the treatment had a strong safety profile. 2:04

Under current provincial guidelines, schools are required to report coronavirus cases to parents online or with a letter home.

As of Friday morning, the website showed 13 cases at schools in Ontario


Here’s what’s happening around the rest of Canada

As of 11:45 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 135,356 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 119,337 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,206.

Quebec will soon ban karaoke across the province after one karaoke event in a Quebec City bar was linked to more than 80 cases of coronavirus.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has promised that his government will report all outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Radio-Canada has confirmed that the Quebec government is preparing to announce the banning of karaoke in the province’s bars.

Jean-Jacques Beauchamp, CEO of the Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries et tavernes du Québec, told CBC News in an interview the association is extremely disappointed.

“Why only us? What’s the problem with karaoke?” Beauchamp said.

Universities across Saskatchewan began largely remote fall semesters this week. Now, students at the University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Polytechnic have learned they will not be returning to campus in the new year. 

Universities have announced their intention to continue delivering most classes online through winter 2021 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. A small number of labs, studios and seminars will continue to be taught in person. 

University of Regina interim president and vice-chancellor Thomas Chase said this plan, while disappointing to many members of the university community, was necessary for public health.

Health officials in British Columbia say they’re prepared for the likelihood that there will be cases at schools and will alert the public when there’s an outbreak.

WATCH | Back-to-school questions and answers on Instagram Live:

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said if there are exposures at school, learning groups or individual schools could be closed.

However, Henry said she does not foresee a scenario where the entire public school system shuts down again as it did at the outset of the pandemic.

Schools across British Columbia reopened yesterday, as the province set a new daily record of coronavirus cases with 139.

A doctor who has been working with some of Calgary’s most vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic is worried homeless shelters won’t have enough space to keep everyone safe once the cold weather hits.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepared for the likelihood that there will be coronavirus cases at schools and will alert the public when there’s an outbreak. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

“Currently — at least in Calgary, and I expect it’s reflected in other parts of the province — there just simply isn’t enough space for people to be much more than, in the peak of winter, inches apart,” said Dr. Richard Musto, a retired public health officer who is volunteering during the pandemic.

Beds, cots and mats are to be spaced two metres apart if there is enough room, according to the Alberta government’s guidelines for shelters. But, acknowledging space limitations, the document says it’s acceptable for people to sleep one-metre apart head-to-foot when there isn’t an outbreak.

Musto said the rules mean staff may have to scramble to move people if cases arise.


Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 27.9 million. More than 906,000 people have died, while over 18.8 million have recovered.

The United Nations independent expert on poverty is warning that the worst impacts from the coronavirus pandemic on poverty are yet to come, and that measures taken by governments to protect people so far have been insufficient.

“Current measures are generally short-term, the funding is insufficient and many people will inevitably fall between the cracks,” said Olivier De Schutter, a Belgian legal scholar appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

WATCH | Russia begins mass testing of expedited COVID-19 vaccine:

Infectious diseases researcher Craig Jenne says he expects to see cases of COVID-19 appear in schools, but the real concern is cases becoming outbreaks. 1:06

De Schutter said the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic is unprecedented in times of peace since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

India edged closer to recording nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours as it ordered retesting of many people whose first results were from the less reliable rapid antigen tests being widely used.

There were a total of 96,551 confirmed cases, taking the tally to over 4.56 million. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported another 1,209 deaths for a total of 76,271.

Myanmar on Friday reimposed tough measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, banning travel out of the country’s biggest city, Yangon, and grounding all domestic flights. Both measures, announced just hours before taking effect, will be in place until Oct. 1.

A homeless camp is seen under an overpass in Calgary. A doctor is worried homeless shelters in Alberta won’t have enough space to keep everyone safe once the cold weather hits. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

An upsurge in coronavirus cases that began in August in the western state of Rakhine has since spread to other parts of the country. Health authorities had already ordered partial lockdowns in 29 of Yangon’s 44 townships, and roadblocks were set up Friday closing some smaller streets in the city.

South Korea posted a slight rise in daily coronavirus cases on Friday, as infections eased from a church and political rally that sparked a second wave of outbreaks, and new cases emerged in religious and sporting groups and a university hospital.

The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 176 new cases as of midnight Thursday, which brought the total infections to 21,919, with 350 deaths.

The fresh wave of infections is being blamed on a church whose members attended a large protest in downtown Seoul last month, which drove the number of daily cases to its peak in months of 441 in mid-August.

WATCH | Be concerned about outbreaks in schools, not individual cases, says expert:

Thai health authorities on Friday confirmed another coronavirus infection had been detected in the country, in an Uzbek professional soccer player, eight days after the virus resurfaced following a more than three-month absence.

The man had a positive result following a mandatory pre-match test on Tuesday, despite having completed quarantine on Aug. 27 after three prior negative tests, health officials told a news conference. The man, 29, arrived in Thailand on Aug. 13.

Yong Poovorawan, a virology expert from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said the virus incubation period in the man would have been longer than 14 days and it was unlikely to have been domestically transmitted.

The reproduction (R) number of COVID-19 infections in the United Kingdom has risen above 1, the Government Office for Science said on Friday, indicating a risk that the overall epidemic is growing.

People wearing face masks cross a road in Seoul. South Korea largely overcame an early COVID-19 outbreak with extensive tracing and testing, but is now battling several outbreaks. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.K. R number, which represents the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to, is believed to be between 1.0 and 1.2, the government said, up from 0.9 to 1.1 last week.

An R number above 1 can lead very rapidly to exponential growth, although the figures are driven by local outbreaks, and scientists have said that the estimates are less reliable when overall incidence of the virus is low.