Today's coronavirus news: Ontario investigating 4 other possible Omicron cases in Ottawa, Hamilton; Ontario reports 788 new cases – Toronto Star

Sign In
Sign In
The Star Edition
CHANGE LOCATION
This copy is for your personal non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies of Toronto Star content for distribution to colleagues, clients or customers, or inquire about permissions/licensing, please go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.com
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
9:21 p.m.: Enforcement began Monday in Los Angeles for one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the U.S., a sweeping measure that requires proof of shots for everyone entering a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to theaters and gyms to nail and hair salons.
While the latest order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus took effect Nov. 8, city officials spent the past three weeks providing business owners the information and resources business they need to comply. A first offence will bring a warning but subsequent ones could produce fines running from $1,000 to $5,000.
Los Angeles is among a growing number of cities across the U.S., including San Francisco and New York City, requiring people show proof of vaccination to enter various types of businesses and venues. But rules in the nation’s second-most-populous city, called SafePassLA, apply to more types of businesses and other indoor locations including concert halls, museums and convention centres.
7:57 p.m.: Ontario has a total of four cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in the province. Having earlier revealed two cases, Ottawa Public Health confirmed on Monday evening that two more travellers have tested positive for the variant.
“Yesterday the government of Ontario announced two individuals in Ottawa tested positive for the COVID 19 omicron variant with recent travel to Nigeria. We are now aware of two other returned travellers who have tested positive for the omicron variant,” CP24 quotes the health unit as saying in a statement.
Ontario’s top doctor warned that additional infections would likely be detected. “I would not be surprised if we find more in Ontario, because we’ve got a very robust surveillance system,” Dr. Kieran Moore said, noting that Ontario is performing genome sequencing on all eligible positive COVID-19 tests.
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, said all four of Ottawa’s cases are unrelated, in people who had independently travelled to Nigeria. Dr. Moore said earlier Monday that the first two cases were in people who had travelled to Ottawa through Montreal, where they were tested.
4:37 p.m.: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday strengthened its recommendation for people 18 and older to get COVID-19 boosters, reflecting the risk posed by the Omicron variant recently identified in South Africa.
The CDC said that everyone 18 or older should get a booster. Previously, the agency said that people in that group could choose to get an additional shot.
“The recent emergence of the Omicron variant … further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
Officials in South Africa identified the new variant last week, and the World Health Organization labelled it a “variant of concern” on Friday.
4:09 p.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting two more COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, including one linked to an outbreak at a long-term care home in Pugwash.
Health officials say a man in his 60s who was a resident at the East Cumberland Lodge in Pugwash has died, while a man in his 70s, who was not a resident of a long-term care home, has died in the province’s western zone. The death at East Cumberland Lodge was the fourth since officials linked an outbreak there to an October gathering organized by a Baptist church in the Amherst, N.S., area.
A total of 32 residents and 11 staff members at the 74-bed long-term care home have since tested positive for novel coronavirus. The province also reported 59 new cases of COVID-19 and 58 recoveries since its last update on Friday.
3:57 p.m. Quebec health officials have confirmed a case of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
Health Minister Christian Dubé made the announcement today at a news conference updating the province’s COVID-19 situation.
Dubé says 115 people who recently travelled to the province, principally from countries in southern Africa, have been asked to take a PCR test and to isolate.
He says experts are working to sequence the tests and to determine whether the variant is more contagious or more vaccine-resistant than previous strains.
3:55 p.m. U.S. President Joe Biden says he has no immediate plans to impose additional travel bans to limit the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Biden says the U.S. strategy is to emphasize urging Americans to get vaccinated, or to get the newly available booster shot if they are eligible.
Effective today, the U.S. is barring foreign visitors from eight African countries where the number of cases of the heavily mutated variant is already high.
But Biden says that decision was less about countering the spread than it was about buying the U.S. valuable time in order to encourage wider vaccination.
3:51 p.m. Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 46 new cases of COVID-19 today and another COVID-19-related death.
They confirmed that a person in their 70s in the Moncton region has died as a result of COVID-19.
The number of active cases in the province is now 706, and 64 people are hospitalized, including 17 in intensive care.
Almost 3,000 children aged five to 11 have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
3:40 p.m. Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting nine new cases of COVID-19 today.
Public health says in a news release eight new cases involve contacts of previously reported infections and that the remaining case is linked to international travel.
The release says four of the cases reported today involve people younger than 20.
There are now 21 active reported cases of COVID-19 in the province, and one person is in hospital with the disease.
2:48 p.m. The World Health Organization warned Monday that global risks posed by the new omicron variant of the coronavirus were “very high,” despite significant questions about the variant itself. Still, countries around the world rushed to defend against its spread with a cascade of border closures and travel restrictions that recalled the earliest days of the pandemic.
Scotland and Portugal identified new cases of the highly mutated variant, and Japan joined Israel and Morocco in banning all foreign visitors, even as scientists cautioned that the extent of the threat posed by omicron remained unknown — and as the patchwork of travel measures were so far proving unable to stop its spread.
Many of the restrictions aimed at corralling omicron, which was first identified last week by researchers in South Africa, were aimed at travellers from southern Africa, drawing accusations that Western countries were discriminating against a region that has already been set back by vaccine shortages caused by rich nations hoarding doses.
2 p.m. South Africa’s rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new Omicron variant is resulting in mostly mild symptoms, doctors say.
“We’ve seen a sharp increase in cases for the past 10 days. So far they have mostly been very mild cases, with patients having flu-like symptoms: dry coughs, fever, night sweats, a lot of body pains,“ said Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province where 81% of the new cases have been reported.
“Most of these patients have been treated at home,” Pillay told an online press briefing Monday. “Vaccinated people tend to do much better. We have not seen a vast increase in hospitalizations, but this is still early days. Hospitalizations often come several days after a rise in confirmed cases.”
1:45 p.m. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Sunday temporarily blocked San Diego Unified’s student COVID-19 vaccine mandate from going into effect — one day before the school district’s deadline for students to get their first dose.
The court sided with a 16-year-old, junior at Scripps Ranch High School who had sued last month saying San Diego Unified’s vaccine mandate violated her religious beliefs.
The San Diego Unified School Board voted in late September to require that staff and students age 16 and up be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 20, meaning they have to get their first dose by Monday, Nov. 29, in order to continue to attend school in person. Those who don’t comply would have to attend school remotely.
1:30 p.m. The impact from the new COVID-19 variant is being felt in the sports world.
The Winter Universiade in Lucerne, Switzerland, was cancelled on Monday, less than two weeks before the Games were scheduled to open.
Canada was to send a team of 102 student athletes to the Games, in nine teams across seven sports.
Originally scheduled to be held in January 2021, the Games had already been postponed almost a year.
1:05 p.m. Amid a rash of COVID-19 cases on his team, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was placed in the NFL’s protocol on Monday and will not travel to New Orleans for Thursday night’s game at the Saints.
McCarthy has said he is vaccinated; vaccinated staffers only land in protocol upon testing positive.
“Although he will not be on the field for the Saints game, McCarthy will continue to direct, and be in involved in, all meetings and game preparations on a virtual basis for the remainder of the week, including Thursday’s meetings in New Orleans,” the Cowboys said in a statement.
12 p.m. President Joe Biden is racing to show Americans that his administration is prepared for the Omicron variant even though scientists have yet to determine how dangerous it could be or how it might alter the course of the pandemic.
He received another briefing from his COVID-19 team on Monday, his second in two days, and he’s scheduled to speak from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Later in the week, he’s expected to visit the National Institutes of Health, headquartered just outside of Washington, D.C.
The swiftness of Biden’s public response to Omicron, which was first identified by South Africa last week, reflects the potential danger posed by the variant to the country and his administration, which has already struggled to bring the lingering pandemic to a close.
However, much about Omicron remains unclear. Although there are fears that it will prove highly contagious or evade protection from vaccines that have already been developed, public health officials said it could take two weeks to develop clearer answers to those questions.
“The challenge is in conveying uncertainty in unanswered questions without engendering panic among policymakers,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “That is a very nuanced and difficult message to convey.”
10:20 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting another 788 COVID-19 cases and three more deaths. Of the three, one of the deaths occurred more than one month ago and was added to the cumulative count due to a data cleanup, according to the province’s latest report released Monday morning.
Ontario has administered 22,442 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,950,908 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.
According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,696,852 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 89.7 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 78.7 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan
9:53 a.m. Ontario is investigating two more suspected cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Ottawa and another two in Hamilton as it prepares an “enhanced strategy” to fight the virus, says chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore.
The four potential cases are in addition to two in Ottawa who travelled from Nigeria to Montreal, were tested there, and continued on to the nation’s capital, Moore told a news conference Monday.
There are 375 people who travelled to Ontario in the last two weeks from seven southern Africa countries named in travel restrictions by the federal government on Friday, and who need to be tested for COVID-19. Nigeria, however, was not on that list.
Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson
8 a.m. Norway is extending isolation times for those testing positive to the coronavirus and where there’s reason to believe that the infection is the Omicron variant, the Health and Care Services Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Other household members will be required to quarantine for 10 days and close contacts to those infected must undergo testing under the new measures, which will apply regardless of vaccination status. The requirements will be lifted as soon as it is confirmed the infection isn’t a result of the new variant, which is so far not yet confirmed in the country.
7:35 a.m. Australian authorities announced on Monday that they would delay plans to relax border restrictions by at least two weeks, as the country reported its fifth case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
New South Wales state authorities reported on Sunday that two travellers from South Africa to Sydney had become Australia’s first cases of the new variant. Both were fully vaccinated, showed no symptoms and were in quarantine in Sydney.
On Monday, another two Sydney cases were confirmed after arriving in Australia’s most populous state on a flight from southern Africa on Sunday, the state government said.
A South African man in his 30s who flew from Johannesburg to the northern Australian city of Darwin last Thursday also tested positive for the Omicron variant, officials said.
Australia’s government decided later Monday that plans to relax border restrictions from Wednesday would be postponed until Dec. 15.
“The temporary pause will ensure Australia can gather the information we need to better understand the Omicron variant, including the efficacy of the vaccine, the range of illness, including if it may generate more mild symptoms, and the level of transmission,” a government statement said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had announced last week plans to allow vaccinated students, skilled workers and travellers on working vacations to land at Sydney and Melbourne airports without quarantining.
6:55 a.m. Nations around the world sought Monday to keep the new Omicron variant at bay with travel bans and further restrictions, even as it remains unclear what it means for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan announced it would suspend entry of all foreign visitors, while new cases of the variant identified days ago by researchers in South Africa appeared as far apart as Hong Kong, Australia and Portugal. Portuguese authorities were investigating whether some of the infections there could be among the first reported cases of local transmission of the variant outside of southern Africa.
The stream of new cases showed the near impossibility of keeping the genie in the bottle in a globalized world of travel and open borders.
Yet, many tried to do just that, even against the urging of the World Health Organization, which noted that border closures often have limited effect but can wreak havoc on lives and livelihoods. Some argued that such restrictions still could provide valuable time to analyze the new variant. Little is known about it, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines.
Read more from The Associated Press.
6:30 a.m. On Sunday, Dec. 12, 2,000 children between the ages of five and 11 will have a chance to receive their COVID-19 vaccine at Scotiabank Arena as part of “Toronto Kids Vaccine Day,” Mayor John Tory announced.
The superhero-themed event will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, according to a statement. Appointments are needed and can be made as of 8 a.m. this morning by calling the provincial vaccine booking line at 1-833-943-3900 or through the Province of Ontario’s How to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment webpage.
Read here for the full story from the Star’s David Rider.
6 a.m. The World Health Organization is urging countries not to impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new Omicron variant.
WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, called on countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid using travel restrictions.
WHO praised South Africa for following international health regulations and informing WHO as soon as its national laboratory identified the Omicron variant.
Cases of the Omicron variant popped up in countries on opposite sides of the world Sunday and many governments rushed to close their borders.
Many countries, including Canada, have announced plans to ban travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries.
5:55 a.m. For the past four months, Soji Adesokun’s children have been eagerly asking when they too would get vaccinated against COVID-19.
On Thursday, that wait came to an end, when Ruth, 10, and Philip, 6, were among the first children in Toronto to get the jab at a school-based clinic.
“They know what COVID is, they know it’s dangerous and they know the vaccine is supposed to help,” said Adesokun, as he picked up his children after school at St. Francis de Sales, near Jane and Finch, a neighbourhood that has been a hot spot of COVID-19 infection rates.
That school was among three that launched vaccination clinics for those aged five to 11. In the coming weeks, more will be up and running, with a total of 230 school-based clinics servicing 390 schools in 34 priority neighbourhoods.
Read more from the Star’s Isabel Teotonio: School-based vaccination clinics for kids begin rollout in Toronto, but not all parents on board
5:45 a.m. Ontario’s chief medical officer of health is set to speak to the media this morning, after Canada’s first two cases of a new COVID-19 variant of concern were detected in the province.
Dr. Kieran Moore is expected to speak about the cases of the Omicron variant, which were found in patients in Ottawa who had recently been in Nigeria.
The World Health Organization has cautioned that the variant could be more contagious than others. It was first detected in South Africa, and has been linked to a spike in cases there.
The federal government on Friday barred visitors from seven southern African countries in an effort to prevent the variant from crossing into Canada, but Nigeria was not among them.
The province has called on Ottawa to implement point-of-arrival COVID-19 testing for everyone entering Canada regardless of where they came from, instead of just requiring them to get tested before leaving for Canada.
5:40 a.m. Children in British Columbia between five and 11 years old can start getting shots of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine Monday.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week that about 350,000 children are eligible to receive the modified dose of the Health Canada-approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Health Canada approved the pediatric shot for use in Canada after an independent scientific review confirmed the first vaccine formulated for younger children is safe and effective.
5:35 a.m. Nova Scotia has established what is believed to be Canada’s first 24-hour helpline exclusively for men in response to an urgent need that arose as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
Soon after the province was locked down in March 2020, officials noticed an increasing number of men were calling the province’s 211 service, which offers information about government and community services.
“The service providers were saying, ‘Something is happening here,’” says Nancy MacDonald, executive director of the Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia.
It soon became clear that more men were actively seeking help as they struggled with job losses, relationship breakdowns, loneliness, anger and the added stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
“We all heard the same thing: men are vulnerable, men are hurting, men are socially isolated, men are impacted dramatically by loss of employment and the closure of informal social networks,” MacDonald says.
5:30 a.m. Dutch military police arrested a husband and wife Sunday who had left a hotel where they were being quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19 and boarded a plane.
Local media reported that the couple were trying to fly home to Spain.
A spokeswoman for the local security authority that covers Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport said Monday that an investigation was underway into whether the couple had committed a crime and should be prosecuted.
“Quarantine is not obligatory, but we assume people will act responsibly,” spokeswoman Petra Faber said. “But there was a couple that wanted to go home and they tried to fly home.”
5:15 a.m. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says Canada supports the development of a new global convention on pandemic preparedness and response that will be debated at a special meeting of the World Health Assembly today.
It is only the second time in its history that the group has held an emergency summit of this kind.
If member countries agree, the assembly would go to work developing what would essentially serve as an international treaty on pandemic preparedness.
The idea is to prevent another global crisis like the one posed by COVID-19 and it’s new, more transmissible variants.
Duclos, who would serve as the federal government’s chief delegate, says the convention would help countries to collaborate and would allow Canada to more easily share its expertise on the world stage.
5 a.m. Portuguese health authorities said Monday they have identified 13 cases of Omicron, the new coronavirus variant believed to be more contagious, among team members of a professional soccer club.
The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said Monday that one of those who tested positive at the Lisbon-based Belenenses soccer club had recently travelled to South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first identified.
The others, however, had not travelled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the very first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.
Those who have been in contact with the positive cases have been ordered to isolate, regardless of their vaccination status or their exposure to possible contagion, and will be regularly tested for COVID-19, the institute said.
4:45 a.m. As cases of a new coronavirus variant are confirmed around the world, Japan announced Monday that it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors, joining an increasing number of countries that are tightening their borders as fear spreads of yet another extension of pandemic suffering.
Japan, which has yet to detect any cases of the recently identified Omicron variant, reimposed border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers.
Despite the global worry, however, scientists cautioned that it’s still unclear whether Omicron is more dangerous than other versions of a virus that has killed more than 5 million people. Some countries are continuing with previous plans to loosen restrictions, with signs of reopening in Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand.
“We are taking the step as an emergency precaution to prevent a worst-case scenario in Japan,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said of the measure that begins Tuesday. Japan has kept its border closed to foreign tourists from all nations.
4:30 a.m. The World Health Organization is opening a long-planned special session of member states to discuss ways to strengthen the global fight against pandemics like the coronavirus, just as the worrying new Omicron variant has sparked immediate concerns worldwide.
In the wake of diplomatic wrangling, a draft resolution at the special World Health Assembly stops short of calling for work toward specifically establishing a “pandemic treaty” or “legally binding instrument” sought by some, which could beef up the international response when — not if — a new pandemic erupts.
European Union member states and others had sought language calling for work toward a treaty, but the United States and a few other countries countered that the substance of any accord should be worked out first before any such document is given a name. A “treaty” would suggest a legally binding agreement that would require ratification — and would likely incur domestic political haggling in some countries.
4:20 a.m. The Scottish government has announced the discovery of six new cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, taking the U.K. total to nine.
It said Monday it has asked public health authorities to undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases.
Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said authorities need to be “cautious” until more is known about the variant.
Over the weekend, health authorities found three cases of the variant, which prompted the British government to tighten rules on mask-wearing and testing of arrivals in the country.
4:10 a.m. French authorities are waiting Monday for laboratory confirmation of eight suspected cases of the new variant of the coronavirus, involving people who travelled recently to southern Africa.
Testing already conducted determined that the travellers were positive for the virus but not for one of its previous variants. Follow-up genetic testing was being done to see if they were infected with the new Omicron variant.
The Health Ministry said Sunday night that results could take several days.
If confirmed, they would be France’s first known cases of the Omicron variant.
Copyright owned or licensed by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or distribution of this content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited and/or its licensors. To order copies of Toronto Star articles, please go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.com

source