Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 304 cases of COVID-19, 4 deaths; White House details plans to vaccinate 28M children age 5-11

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.

12:35 p.m. (updated) The federal Conservatives are challenging the decision-making process behind the move to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations on Parliament Hill.

On Tuesday evening, the group of MPs charged with setting rules for the House of Commons declared that as of Nov. 22, all members of Parliament and their staff members will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter the Parliament buildings.

While the decision was heralded by the Liberals and New Democratic Party, both of which have advocated for that approach, the Conservatives were initially silent.

Read the full story from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz

But on Wednesday, one of the Conservative MPs on the board of internal economy, which made the decision, said his party objects to the way it was made.

12:20 p.m. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is taking over operations of a Vancouver care home where dozens of residents died during a COVID-19 outbreak that began last November and took months to contain.

A statement from the health authority says the Ministry of Health has approved the transfer of operations and assets from Little Mountain Residential Care and Housing Society.

The transfer includes Little Mountain Place, a 116-bed long-term care home for seniors, where 41 deaths and many more COVID-19 illnesses were reported last winter.

The statement says the transition, which also includes a 96-unit independent living facility and a 73-bed long-term care home for younger adults with complex needs, is expected to be completed in the next few months.

12:10 p.m. Quebec is reporting 458 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

The Health Department reports there are 287 people hospitalized with the virus, 10 fewer than the day before, and 72 of those patients are in intensive care, a decline of three.

According to the province’s public health institute, 90.2 per cent of those aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, with 87.2 per cent considered adequately vaccinated against COVID-19.

Health Minister Christian Dubé tweeted a chart today showing that since he delayed mandatory vaccinations for health-care workers last week by one month, about 1,000 have received a first dose and 2,000 have received their second dose.

11:45 a.m. Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes must be vaccinated to compete at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Wednesday, saying the decision was made with support of the boards of directors and athlete commissions.

Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker pointed out that 840 coaches and staff travelled to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this past summer without a positive case.

“We want to do the same for Beijing,” he said in a statement.

The United Stated Olympic Committee announced a similar vaccine mandate recently.

The Olympic open Feb. 4 and the Paralympics on March 4.

11:20 a.m. CaféTO, Toronto’s popular pandemic innovation that saw restaurant and bar patios spill into sidewalks and roadways, will become permanent if city council approves a proposal supported by Mayor John Tory.

A city staff report going to Tory’s executive committee next week, and then city council, suggests making the program permanent through a “phased” approach.

The report also advocates waiving fees for next year to give a further boost to hospitality businesses hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions.

The hastily developed, enthusiastically received way to let pandemic-struck eateries and bars expand patios onto new public and private spaces was launched in June 2020 amid fears over infection risk from indoor dining.

Read the full story from the Star’s David Rider

10:45 a.m. A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund says its same-store sales grew nearly 17 per cent in its latest quarter as COVID-19 public health restrictions eased, allowing the fast-food chain to reopen more restaurants and serve more customers.

The Vancouver-based company’s gross sales in the royalty pool totalled $409.5 million for the three months ended Sept. 12, up from $340.6 million in the same quarter of 2020.

The company reported net income excluding non-cash items of $9.2 million for the third quarter, up from $7.7 million in the same period the previous year.

It says there were 994 open restaurants in the royalty pool at the end of the quarter, compared to 971 in 2020.

The company says its monthly distribution rate will increase to 15.5 cents per unit, up from 15 cents per unit, beginning with its October 2021 distribution payable Nov. 30.

A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund owns the A&W trademarks used in the A&W quick service restaurant business in Canada.

10:15 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting another 304 COVID-19 cases and four more deaths, according to its latest report released Wednesday morning.

Ontario has administered 25,284 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,290,203 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,421,523 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 87.6 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 76.8 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

10 a.m. Morocco is suspending until further notice all flights to and from the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands amid rising coronavirus infections in those countries. The new restriction will come into force just before midnight Wednesday, the North African kingdom’s airports authority said.

In a tweet, national carrier Royal Air Maroc said the move was due to “the pandemic situation.” It did not provide further detail.

Morocco’s Health Ministry warned Monday of the threat of a new virus surge, stressing “the need to avoid possible a relapse of serious and critical cases and COVID-19-related deaths, which have occurred in several European countries.”

COVID-19 cases have been rising sharply in the Netherlands over the past two weeks and also are climbing in Germany.

9:50 a.m. (updated) Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy will table a mini-budget on Nov. 4 to outline the Progressive Conservatives’ plans for tackling the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bethlenfalvy emphasized “the job is not done” in dealing with a global health crisis that has killed more than 9,800 Ontarians since March 2020 and upended the province’s economy.

“Our government’s next fiscal update (is) a plan that will protect the hard work and sacrifice of the people of Ontario in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said Wednesday.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

9:45 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered the country’s workers to stay off work for a week starting later this month amid rising coronavirus infection and death numbers, and he strongly urged reluctant citizens to get vaccinated.

The government task force on Wednesday reported 1,028 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought Russia’s total death toll to 226,353 which is by far the highest in Europe.

Putin said Wednesday he supports the Cabinet’s proposal to introduce a nonworking period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days already are state holidays. He added in some regions where the situation is the most threatening, the nonworking period could start as early as Saturday and be extended after Nov. 7.

9:30 a.m. Children age 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID-19 shot at their pediatrician’s office, local pharmacy and potentially even their school, the White House said Wednesday as it detailed plans for the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for younger children in a matter of weeks.

Federal regulators will meet over the next two weeks to weigh the benefits of giving shots to kids, after lengthy studies meant to ensure the safety of the vaccines.

Within hours of formal approval, expected after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory meeting scheduled for Nov. 2-3, doses will begin shipping to providers across the country, along with smaller needles necessary for injecting young kids, and within days will be ready to go into the arms of kids on a wide scale.

“We’re completing the operational planning to ensure vaccinations for kids ages 5-11 are available, easy and convenient,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients on Wednesday.

9:10 a.m. It’s a scary Halloween season for retailers that are scrambling to stock their shelves in time for the holiday.

Geoff Waszek, owner of Candy’s Costume Shop in Toronto, said he was wary of placing orders in January, as is customary in the industry for Halloween, out of fears that another lockdown would cancel the festivities.

Once he did start ordering, Waszek said he had to scrounge to source stock from a patchwork of suppliers who were struggling with supply chain issues.

U.S.-based, which ships directly to Canadian consumers, said many of the goods they ordered won’t even arrive until after the holiday.

8:45 a.m. Statistics Canada says the annual pace of inflation picked up in September to reach its highest level since February 2003.

The agency says its consumer price index in September was up 4.4 per cent compared with a year ago.

The reading compared with a year-over-year increase of 4.1 per cent in August.

Driving most of the increase were prices at the pumps as consumers paid 32.8 per cent more last month for gasoline than in September 2020.

The statistics agency says the annual inflation rate would have been 3.5 per cent had it excluded gasoline prices from its calculation.

Statistics Canada also says that food prices overall rose 3.9 per cent year-over-year, compared to the 2.7 per cent recorded in August.

8 a.m. Immigration authorities in Singapore seized 23,100 tablets of the parasite-killing drug ivermectinat the country’s border in recent weeks. Despite the Centers for Disease Control’s warnings, ivermectin has surged in popularity as a bogus COVID-19 cure.

Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority stopped the thousands of tablets from entering the country between Sept. 10 and Oct. 6 and posted a spicy Facebook meme about it Tuesday.

In three of the ICA’s five busts, the tablets were not declared at all. In one bust, they were labeled “health care products” and in another they were described as a “supplement pharma product.” One of the “no declaration” shipments included 2,000 tablets of hydroxychloroquine, the ICA said.

Side effects of ivermectin include nausea, comas, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, it can be fatal to take ivermectin.

7:40 a.m. Canadian airline ticket prices are bouncing back from their deep pandemic lows — and with Christmas around the corner consumers can expect sky high prices for the holidays.

Experts say a perfect storm of pent-up demand, higher costs and rising fuel prices mean round-trip tickets this holiday season may be higher than ever.

As recently as June, one-way flights between Toronto and Vancouver were as low as $114. While there are still low-cost tickets available from now until mid-December, tickets closer to Christmas are back up to seasonal highs, currently going for between $450 and $1,200 each way for economy flights from Toronto to Vancouver on Air Canada and WestJet.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba

7:20 a.m. New York City will require police officers, firefighters and other municipal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, giving an ultimatum to public employees who’ve refused and ensuring a fight with some of the unions representing them.

The mandate affecting the nation’s largest police department and more than 100,000 other Big Apple workers — including trash haulers and building inspectors — carries a Nov. 1 deadline for getting the first vaccine dose, de Blasio announced.

Jailers on Rikers Island, where the city has been grappling with staffing shortages creating unsafe conditions, will be subject to the mandate on Dec. 1.

Of the workers affected by the new mandate, 71 per cent have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the city.

The city previously mandated vaccines for public school teachers and the state has previously mandated vaccines for hospital workers.

6:25 a.m.: What do you call someone who graduates last in their class at medical school? Doctor. It’s an old joke, but the point is that not everyone who attains the rank has the same level of acumen. Monday, two doctors were censured by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for peddling flimsy vaccine, masking, and even COVID test exemptions. Physicians, heal thyselves.

By Tuesday, there were four such quacks on the docket, and there are clearly more. It’s a clear breach of proper medical practice, and in this time of plague, it’s clearly a loophole that needs to be filled. So, how?

Read the full column from the Star’s Bruce Arthur here.

6:24 a.m.: An Ontario mayor who has pushed COVID-19 disinformation may lose part of his pay following a scathing report by an integrity commissioner.

West Lincoln Mayor David Bylsma is one of a small band of politicians in the fiercely conservative communities of western Niagara who have embraced anti-vaccination or anti-lockdown rhetoric. He is the only one to face sanctions from the political bodies he is a part of.

First, his own council stripped him of most of his powers, and now the regional council that his mayoralty entitles him to sit on will consider suspending his pay.

Bylsma’s decision earlier this year to ask a St. Catharines woman, Emily Spanton, through Facebook if the COVID-19 vaccine impacted her menstruation was “alarmingly invasive,” “arguably insulting” and “irresponsible,” Niagara Region’s integrity commissioner found in an Oct. 8 report.

Read the full story from Torstar’s Grant LaFleche here.

6:22 a.m.: Russia’s coronavirus deaths surged to another daily record Wednesday as soaring infections prompted the Cabinet to suggest declaring a nonworking week to stem contagion.

The government task force reported 1,028 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought the total death toll to 226,353 — by far the highest in Europe.

Amid a spike in infections and deaths, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova suggested introducing a nonworking period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days already are state holidays. The proposal is yet to be authorized by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates, lax public attitude toward taking precautions and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions. About 45 million Russians, or 32% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

6:21 a.m.: The Czech Republic has been hit by a steep rise in coronavirus infections that have reached levels unseen since late April, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

The government was set to meet later in the day to approve new measures to tame the surge.

The day-to-day increase in new cases reached 3,246 on Tuesday, more than double the cases a week ago when it was 1,507. It was the highest number since April 20.

The new infections surpassed 100 per 100,000 people in seven days with 117 positive cases.

The fast rise of infections is accompanied by increasing numbers of people who need hospitalization and those who die.

6:20 a.m.: The World Health Organization said there was a 7% rise in new coronavirus cases across Europe last week, the only region in the world where cases increased.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released late Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week, similar to the numbers reported the previous week. Britain, Russia and Turkey accounted for the most cases.

The biggest drop in COVID-19 cases were seen in Africa and the Western Pacific, where infections fell by about 18% and 16%, respectively. The number of deaths in Africa also declined by about a quarter, despite the dire shortage of vaccines on the continent. Other regions including the Americas and the Middle East, reported similar numbers to the previous week, WHO said.

But for the third consecutive week, coronavirus cases have jumped in Europe, with about 1.3 million new cases. More than half of countries in the region reported a rise in their COVID-19 numbers, WHO said.

In the past week, Russia has repeatedly broken new daily records for COVID-19 cases and the number of infections in the U.K. has surged to levels not seen since mid-July.

6:19 a.m.: Statistics Canada is scheduled to say this morning what the country’s headline inflation barometer registered in September.

The consumer price index in August rose 4.1 per cent compared with the same month one year earlier, marking the largest year-over-year increase since March 2003.

The pace of increases in August reflected the rebound in prices from the lows witnessed one year earlier, a surge in consumer demand and supply-chain bottlenecks that have driven up transport costs being passed on to buyers.

RBC economists Nathan Janzen and Claire Fan say they expect to see an annual inflation rate of 4.2 per cent in September with home and gasoline costs as key drivers.

They also write in a note that supply-chain issues may be more persistent and over time fuel higher, longer-run inflation expectations for households and businesses.

Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem has said the central bank would act to rein in inflation if the current bout of price increases look to become more than one-off pressure points.

6:18 a.m.: It’s a scary Halloween season for retailers that are scrambling to stock their shelves in time for the holiday.

Geoff Waszek, owner of Candy’s Costume Shop in Toronto, said he was wary of placing orders in January, as is customary in the industry for Halloween, out of fears that another lockdown would cancel the festivities.

Once he did start ordering, Waszek said he had to scrounge to source stock from a patchwork of suppliers who were struggling with supply chain issues.

U.S.-based, which ships directly to Canadian consumers, said many of the goods they ordered won’t even arrive until after the holiday.

Spokeswoman Ashley Theis said the company will just have to use the late items as stock for next year.

The retailers said supply shortages made it difficult to bounce back from a dismal 2020, when many didn’t celebrate Halloween because of high COVID-19 numbers. This year, however, Waszek says he’s happy to see how excited people are to celebrate the holiday again.

6:15 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue today consulting with opposition leaders about how the House of Commons should resume work and what the priorities should be once it is back in operation.

He is scheduled to have separate phone conversations with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and the parliamentary leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May.

On Tuesday, he exchanged ideas on the resumption of Parliament with Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

First on the agenda is whether the House of Commons should resume the hybrid sittings adopted to get through the COVID-19 pandemic or return to normal in-person operations.

That is likely to be a testy topic with O’Toole in the wake of a decision Tuesday by the multi-party board of internal economy to allow only fully vaccinated individuals to have admittance to the House of Commons precinct.

The Liberals, Bloc Québécois and NDP all support mandatory vaccinations and have said all their MPs have had two shots of approved vaccines; but O’Toole has refused to say whether all his 118 MPs are fully vaccinated and has opposed making it mandatory.

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