Today’s coronavirus news: Four doctors not co-operating with investigations into COVID practices, medical regulator says; COVID-19 vaccine available to elementary-age children in U.S.


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

10:10 a.m. Daily coronavirus cases and deaths in Russia remained at their highest numbers of the pandemic Wednesday as more regions announced extending existing restrictions in an effort to tame the country’s unrelenting surge of infections.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 40,443 new confirmed cases from a day earlier. It was the fifth time in seven days that the country reported more than 40,000 infections. The task force also reported a daily record of 1,189 COVID-19 deaths.

Russia is five days into a nationwide non-working period that the government introduced to curb the spread of the virus. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered many Russians to stay off work between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7. He authorized regional governments to extend the number of non-working days, if necessary.

10:05 a.m. Ontario’s medical regulator says it is turning to the courts in an effort to compel four physicians to co-operate with its investigations into their practices regarding COVID-19, including the issuance of medical exemptions for vaccines.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario says it has launched legal action with the Superior Court against Dr. Mary Elizabeth O’Connor, Dr. Mark Raymond Trozzi, Dr. Celeste Jean Thirlwell and Dr. Rochagne Kilian.

The regulator last week suspended Kilian’s medical licence, after previously barring her from issuing medical exemptions from COVID-19 vaccines.

Trozzi was also prohibited from issuing vaccine exemptions last month.

The regulator has previously urged doctors to be selective in issuing exemptions to COVID-19 vaccines, noting there are very few legitimate reasons to not get immunized against the virus.

10 a.m. The number of coronavirus cases has risen in Europe for the fifth consecutive week, making it the only world region where COVID-19 is still increasing, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.

In its weekly report on the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said new cases jumped by 6 per cent in Europe compared to an 18 per cent increase the previous week. The weekly number of new infections in other regions either fell or remained about the same, according to the report.

The sharpest drops were seen in the Middle East, where new cases decreased by 12 per cent, and in Southeast Asia and Africa, where they fell by 9 per cent.

9:45 a.m. England’s deputy chief medical officer said Wednesday that too many people believe the pandemic is over, warning that the U.K.’s very high coronavirus rates and rising deaths mean that there are “hard months to come in the winter.”

Jonathan Van-Tam also said he was worried that increasing numbers of deaths showed infections were “now starting to penetrate into older age groups.”

Coronavirus “rates are still very high at the moment. They are higher than in most of Europe,” Van-Tam told the BBC. “We are running quite hot. And, of course, it’s of concern to scientists that we are running this hot this early in the autumn season.”

“I personally feel there are some hard months to come in the winter and it’s not over,” he added.

9:20 a.m. The World Health Organization granted an emergency use license Wednesday to a coronavirus vaccine developed in India, offering reassurance for a shot the country’s regulators allowed long before advanced safety and efficacy testing was completed.

The U.N. health agency said in a statement that it had authorized Covaxin, made by India’s Bharat Biotech. The action makes Covaxin the eighth COVID-19 vaccine to receive WHO’s green light.

“This emergency use listing expands the availability of vaccines, the most effective medical tools we have to end the pandemic,” said Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO’s assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products.

Covaxin was developed by Bharat Biotech in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research, the government’s apex research body. The vaccine is made using a killed coronavirus to prompt an immune response and is given in two doses.

WHO said the vaccine was found to be about 78% effective in preventing severe COVID-19 and was “extremely suitable” for poor countries due to its much easier storage requirements.

8:38 a.m. The U.S. enters a new phase Wednesday in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with shots now available to millions of elementary-age children in what health officials hailed as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and disrupted education.

With the federal government promising enough vaccine to protect the nation’s 28 million kids ages 5-11, pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals, schools and health clinics were poised to begin the shots after the final OK late Tuesday.

Kid-sized doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine cleared two final hurdles Tuesday — a recommendation from CDC advisers followed by a green light from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

8:15 a.m. Ontario will unveil its plan for more COVID-19 booster shots Wednesday, clearing the way for AstraZeneca recipients and others to get top-ups as the province continues efforts to get more first and second doses into arms.

The blueprint follows guidance to the provinces last week from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which recommended additional injections for groups of people “at increased risk of severe illness and highest risk of waning protection.”

Those over 70 should get boosters with the mRNA vaccines Pfizer or Moderna, as should anyone who received AstraZeneca, its equivalent Covishield or the one-dose Janssen vaccine, many front-line, health-care workers with direct patient contact, as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in communities vulnerable to outbreaks, the committee advised.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson

8 a.m. The travel industry is one of the hardest-hit economically by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Pearson airport is definitely feeling it.

In a recent update to the Region of Peel, Greater Toronto Airport’s Authority (GTAA), the operator of Toronto Pearson International Airport reported that it is relying heavily on leans to keep the operation running.

“We’re borrowing to keep the lights on and the runways open,” said Michele McKenzie, who sits on the board of directors for the GTAA.

She said that one year ago, the airport was at its lowest point in operation, 98 per cent lower than average traffic.

6:40 a.m.: Security experts say the suspected cyberattack on Newfoundland and Labrador’s health-care system, which led to the cancellation of thousands of medical appointments and forced a local health authority to revert to using paper, isn’t an isolated incident. Hackers’ new tactic is to target health-care institutions, they say, because the COVID-19 pandemic has increased pressure on victims to pay up.

Here are five factors that help explain why hospitals and health-care facilities are being targeted. Read the full story from the Canadian Press here.

6:10 a.m.: When they first landed on the market, the concept of a test you could do by yourself in 15 minutes — no lab or swab-wielding professional required — was billed by some as a game-changer in curbing the pandemic.

Instead of trekking to an appointment and waiting a couple of days for a result, all of a sudden, the power to screen for potential COVID was available in a little, single-serving package.

But a year after Health Canada approved the first rapid test, and officials began to announce deals to purchase millions of the tests from multiple manufacturers, they remain a challenge to get your hands on.

Some people are asking, why are they so hard to get?

Read the full story from the Star’s Alex Boyd.

6:03 a.m.: More provinces in China are fighting COVID-19 than at any time since the deadly pathogen first emerged in Wuhan in 2019.

The highly-infectious delta variant is hurtling across the country despite the increasingly aggressive measures that local officials have enacted in a bid to thwart it. More than 600 local infections have been found in 19 of 31 provinces in the latest outbreak in the world’s second-largest economy.

China reported 93 new local cases on Wednesday, and 11 asymptomatic infections. Three more provinces detected cases: central Chongqing and Henan, and Jiangsu on the eastern coast.

Officials in China say they are committed to maintaining a so-called COVID Zero approach despite the flare-ups that are coming faster, spreading further and evading many of the measures that previously controlled it. The severe responses needed to eradicate the delta variant have led several other countries with zero-tolerance practices, including Singapore and Australia, to shift focus and instead rely on high vaccination rates to live with the virus as endemic.

6:02 a.m.: Millions of coronavirus vaccines remain unused in the Philippines as logistical bottlenecks and hesitancy slow inoculations, health officials said, highlighting another risk to the nation’s economic recovery.

More than 40 million of the 108 million vaccines the nation has received are in warehouses, in transit to the archipelago’s remote islands, or waiting to be used in local health offices, according to the health department. Inoculations are hampered by “logistical bottlenecks,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said at a virtual briefing Wednesday.

Health workers, who administer shots, were infected, while some local governments took their time with inoculations thinking it’s “business as usual,” Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said at a separate briefing. Vaccine hesitancy also continues to be a roadblock, with as many as a quarter of the population doubting COVID-19 shots, she said.

The Philippines, which lags much of Southeast Asia in terms of vaccine coverage, stayed at the bottom of Bloomberg’s COVID Resilience Ranking last month despite decreasing infections. Even with only a quarter of the population fully vaccinated, the government has eased movement restrictions, allowing gyms and cinemas to reopen to help boost a nascent economic recovery.

6:01 a.m.: Chinese President Xi Jinping has been absent from the Group of 20 summit in Rome and this week’s global climate talks in Scotland, drawing criticism from U.S. President Joe Biden and questions about China’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and has pledged to begin reducing that output by 2030 and obtaining carbon neutrality by 2060. The U.S. and others have urged Beijing to make bigger commitments, but Xi’s administration has strongly implied those will only come in exchange for political concessions.

China has enforced tight travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic and Xi hasn’t left the country since making a January 2020 trip to neighbouring Myanmar.

That was just weeks before the outbreak, believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, spread worldwide. China has come under heavy pressure to reveal more information about the origin of the pandemic and has been accused of mismanaging the outbreak and then seeking to cover up its mistakes.

6 a.m.: The U.S. enters a new phase Wednesday in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with shots now available to millions of elementary-age children in what health officials hailed as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and disrupted education.

With the federal government promising enough vaccine to protect the nation’s 28 million kids ages 5-11, pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals, schools and health clinics were poised to begin the shots after the final OK late Tuesday.

“This is not going to be ‘The Hunger Games,’” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s public health commissioner, referring to the chaotic early national rollout of adult vaccines nearly a year ago. Chicago expected to have nearly enough vaccine in just the first week for nearly half of its 210,000 school-aged children, and many more doses later on.

“Our goal is to be ready, have a calm rollout,’’ Arwady said.

Kid-sized doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine cleared two final hurdles Tuesday — a recommendation from CDC advisers followed by a green light from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The actions mean sleepovers, playdates and family get-togethers put off for more than a year will be back on the agenda for many kids, along with a chance for fewer school interruptions.

5:55 a.m.: Anumeha Thakur has spent a large chunk of time during the COVID-19 pandemic trying to complete what used to be a relatively simple task – booking a driving test.

The Brampton, Ont., resident had a test scheduled to obtain her G licence in the spring of 2020, but that was cancelled when the pandemic hit. A test she later booked for January this year was scrapped because of a provincewide lockdown. And she failed a test she managed to secure in September, leaving her hunting once more for an available exam.

Now, Thakur says she can’t find a single road test appointment on the province’s online portal all the way through to the end of next year.

“It’s a real struggle,” Thakur said during a phone interview. “I find it very hard, because I want to be able to pass it. And you know, I’m trying, trying and I just can’t book it.”

The Ministry of Transportation said that roughly 421,827 road tests have been cancelled due to the pandemic since March 2020.

In acknowledging the backlog, the province has given novice drivers with licences expiring between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2022, until the end of next year to pass tests needed to maintain or upgrade their licences.

Thakur said her G2 licence technically expired in May. She said she’s eager to get her G licence and is frustrated at the trouble she’s having securing a test.

Adding to her annoyance is the fact that some third-party sellers have contacted her with the offer of earlier road test appointments, at a price.

Read the full story from the Canadian Press.





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