Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 9,826 new cases; Canada’s Olympic mixed doubles curling trials cancelled
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
11:25 a.m.: Canada’s Olympic mixed doubles curling trials have been cancelled because of a rise in athletes testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.
The rate of positive tests along with the “risks associated with travelling” caused the cancellation, Curling Canada said in a statement on Sunday.
The 16-rink trials to determine Canada’s mixed doubles team for February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing were scheduled to begin Tuesday.
The organization’s high-performance staff will consult with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own The Podium on how to nominate a mixed doubles team for China. Arrangements are underway for the refunding of tickets.
10:40 a.m.: Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott reported today that there are 9,826 new COVID-19 cases in the province.
Late Saturday night, the province reported a record 10,412 new cases.
Elliott reported that a total of more than 106,000 vaccine doses were administered on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She tweeted that 90.7 per cent of Ontarians, 12 years old and up, have one dose while 88.0 per cent have two doses.
She reports that 373 people are hospitalized today with COVID and 168 of them are in ICU. The day before, there were 510 people hospitalized, and 167 people in ICU.
But she noted that not all hospitals report on holidays or weekends.
10:17 a.m.: Quebec is tightening restrictions once again as the province struggles to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Starting Sunday, restaurants and private gatherings are limited to six people or two-family bubbles.
Outdoor gatherings are to be kept to a maximum of 20 people.
The province reported 9,206 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths Saturday.
Premier François Legault had asked people to delay their Christmas celebrations as much as possible to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Details on COVID-19-related hospitalizations and vaccinations will be released next week.
9:35 a.m.: Algeria started requiring a “vaccine passport” Sunday to enter a broad range of public venues, in a bid to boost the country’s low inoculation rate and overcome vaccine hesitancy that has left millions of vaccines unused.
The pass is now required for anyone entering or leaving Algeria, as well as for sports facilities, cinemas, theaters, museums, town halls and some other sites. It also applies to hammams — the bath houses that are popular across the region.
Less than a quarter of Algeria’s population has had even one vaccine dose, so the rule will be difficult to enforce. It was announced in a government statement Saturday night and came into effect Sunday, leaving Algerians and businesses no time to prepare.
7:15 a.m. The goal was daunting, seemingly unattainable: Vaccinate 90 per cent of Ontario’s population — more than 13 million people — against COVID-19.
Double doses would help protect our family and neighbours, lower our own risk of getting sick and push us past the pandemic that has upended daily life and led to the deaths of more than 10,000 people in the province.
Thousands took on the monumental task. Health-care providers. Community leaders. Public health workers. Logistics experts. Pharmacists. Countless volunteers.
Here are 20 people who took on the biggest job of the pandemic and helped Ontario get its shots.
6:30 a.m. France has recorded more than 100,000 virus infections in a single day for the first time since the pandemic struck, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled over the past month as the fast-spreading Omicron variant complicates the government’s efforts to stave off a new lockdown.
More than 1 person in 100 in the Paris region has tested positive in the past week, according to the regional health service. Most new infections are linked to the Omicron variant, which government experts predict will be dominant in France in the coming days.
Meanwhile a surge in Delta variant infections in recent months is pushing up hospital admissions. More than 1,000 people in France with the virus died over the past week, bringing the overall death toll to more than 122,000.
Read more from The Associated Press.
6:15 a.m. Before receiving her COVID-19 booster shot Christmas Day, Keyvan Csullog handed out Tim Horton’s giftcards to staff who volunteered to work the holiday at a city-run North York vaccination clinic.
“It’s the least I can do for them giving up their personal time to help us,” Csullog said Saturday after rolling up the sleeve of her red-and-white Christmas sweater to receive her third dose at the Mitchell Field Community Centre.
She brushed off the inconvenience of getting jabbed on a holiday. “This is one of those things, give up that time on the couch or your pyjamas to do something important for yourself and others.” It’s “a little blip at lunchtime then you go back home and spend it with family.”
Located at 89 Church Ave., east of Yonge Street and about halfway between Sheppard and Finch Avenues, the centre was one of two Team Toronto COVID-19 vaccination clinics operating Christmas Day as the highly contagious Omicron variant continues to circulate and the COVID-19 case count climbs in Ontario. The other vaccination clinic open on Christmas was at the Thorncliffe Park Community hub. Both will be running again Boxing Day.
Read more from the Star’s Betsy Powell
6:05 a.m. Christmas arrived around the world Saturday amid a surge in COVID-19 infections that kept many families apart, overwhelmed hospitals and curbed religious observances as the pandemic was poised to stretch into a third year. Yet, there were homilies of hope, as vaccines and other treatments become more available.
Pope Francis used his Christmas address to pray for more vaccines to reach the poorest countries. While wealthy countries have inoculated as much as 90 per cent of their adult populations, 8.9 per cent of Africa’s people are fully jabbed, making it the world’s least-vaccinated continent.
Only a few thousand well-wishers turned out for his noontime address and blessing, but even that was better than last year, when Italy’s Christmas lockdown forced Francis indoors for the annual “Urbi et Orbi” (”To the city and the world”) speech.
“Grant health to the infirm and inspire all men and women of goodwill to seek the best ways possible to overcome the current health crisis and its effects,” Francis said from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica. “Open hearts to ensure that necessary medical care — and vaccines in particular — are provided to those peoples who need them most.”
6 a.m. Ontario reached a grim COVID-19 milestone on Christmas Day as the province reported more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the virus for the first time during the pandemic, according to data released by Public Health Ontario on Saturday.
The public health agency reported 10,412 cases and four more deaths on Saturday. There have been 687,336 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Nearly half of those confirmed to have the virus on Saturday were between the ages of 20 and 39.
Read more from the Star’s Joshua Chong.
5:45 a.m. Australia’s most populous state reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and a sharp jump in hospitalizations while thousands of people were isolating at home after contracting the virus or coming into contact with someone who has.
A major laboratory in Sydney, which is located in New South Wales, said that 400 people who had been informed a day earlier they had tested negative for COVID-19 had in fact tested positive. The lab’s medical director said those people were being contacted and informed of the error.
“An emergency response team is now investigating the cause of this mistake, which is believed to be due to human error. We sincerely apologize,” said SydPath medical director Anthony Dodds.
Doctors and pharmacists in New South Wales have said they are running short of vaccine doses amid a rush for shots spurred by concern over the Omicron variant.
5:30 a.m. Airlines continued to cancel hundreds of flights Saturday because of staffing issues tied to COVID-19, disrupting holiday celebrations during one of the busiest travel times of the year.
FlightAware, a flight-tracking website, noted nearly 1,000 canceled flights entering, leaving or inside the U.S. Saturday, up from 690 flights scrapped on Friday. Over 250 more flights were already canceled for Sunday. FlightAware does not say why flights are canceled.
Delta, United and JetBlue had all said Friday that the omicron variant was causing staffing problems leading to flight cancellations. United spokesperson Maddie King said staffing shortages were still causing cancellations and it was unclear when normal operations would return. “This was unexpected,” she said of omicron’s impact on staffing. Delta and JetBlue did not respond to questions Saturday.
Read more from The Associated Press.
5 a.m. New public health restrictions come into effect in Quebec today as COVID-19 case counts soar across the country.
The province is capping private gatherings at six people or two family bubbles, after reporting more than 10,000 cases of the coronavirus on Friday and another 9,206 yesterday.
The highly infectious Omicron variant of the virus has been driving a surge in COVID-19 cases across much of Canada in recent weeks.