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Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 373 new cases of COVID-19; Russia, once again, reports record infections and deaths

  • October 23, 2021

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

10:18 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 373 new cases of COVID-19. Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted that 264 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 109 are in fully vaccinated individuals. More to come.

9:57 a.m.: A former politician who called for the overthrow of the French government has been charged with terrorism in connection with what authorities have said was an extreme-right plot to attack vaccination centres, a masonic lodge and other targets.

Rémy Daillet-Wiedemann was already accused of masterminding the international QAnon-style kidnapping of a girl on behalf of the child’s mother, who had lost custody. He was jailed in eastern France in that case when the new allegations emerged involving many in the same extreme-right circle of his supporters.

During the search for the girl, who was eventually recovered safely in Switzerland, anti-terrorism investigators realized that the abduction involved many people they had placed under surveillance for unrelated far-right extremism. Daillet’s lawyer, Jean-Christophe Basson-Larbi, described his client as a political prisoner.

9:13 a.m.: Canadian ski resorts that rely heavily on international workers are steadying themselves for a labour shortage this winter as the visa approval process by the federal government slows due to the pandemic.

With international borders reopening to vaccinated travellers and vaccine passports allowing for increased guest capacity, Paul Pinchbeck, the CEO of Ski Canada, said the expected busy ski season is “creating a conundrum” for resorts across the country.

“We have significant demand for our products, which is exemplified by early-season travel bookings and season’s pass sales, but we are short many thousands of employees across the country and that’s going to hamper our ability to deliver their services this year,” he said.

8:31 a.m.: The federal Conservatives’ refusal to disclose how many of their elected members are fully vaccinated makes them something of an outlier in the Canadian political sphere.

Most federal and provincial parties are open about the immunization status of their members, even though not all legislatures have adopted a rule requiring that members be fully vaccinated.

All government and main opposition members in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador say they are fully vaccinated.

In Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford made vaccination a requirement to sit in his Progressive Conservative caucus, two of his MPPs say they are medically exempt. All opposition MPPs are fully vaccinated.

A spokesperson for New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says all members of the governing Progressive Conservative caucus are fully vaccinated, except for one who is undergoing cancer treatment and had to delay their second shot until later this month.

All but two MLAs in Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government say they’re fully immunized. The two refuse to reveal their vaccination status.

Mandatory vaccination rules have also been announced for admittance to Nova Scotia’s Province House and Quebec’s National Assembly.

A similar policy was unveiled federally this week by the board of internal economy, the multi-party governing body of the House of Commons. It announced a double vaccination requirement for entering buildings in the Commons precinct, including the House of Commons chamber itself.

Nothing has yet been decided for the Senate, which sets its own rules.

8:28 a.m.: Russia is reporting a record high number of coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths as the country approaches a week of nonworking days aimed at stemming the sharp surge in cases.

The national coronavirus task force said Saturday that 1,075 people had died from the virus in the past day and that 37,678 new infections were tallied — the largest single-day numbers of the pandemic.

The daily death toll is about 33% higher than that recorded in late September and infection cases have risen by about 70% in the past month.

Only about one-third of Russia’s 146 million people have been vaccinated, frustrating officials and placing a strain on the country’s health-care system.

Facing widespread resistance to vaccination, President Vladimir Putin has responded to the worsening situation by ordering Russians to stay away from work between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7.

8:26 a.m.: Ukraine’s coronavirus infections and deaths reached all-time highs for a second straight day Friday, in a growing challenge for the country with one of Europe’s lowest shares of vaccinated people.

Ukrainian health authorities reported 23,785 new confirmed infections and 614 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Authorities in the capital, Kyiv, shut schools for two weeks starting Friday, and similar measures were ordered in other areas with high contagion levels.

Authorities have blamed surging infections on a sluggish pace of vaccination in the nation of 41 million. Ukrainians can freely choose between Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines, but only about 15% of the population is fully vaccinated, Europe’s lowest level after Armenia.

Overall, the country has registered over 2.7 million infections and about 63,000 deaths.

8:25 a.m.: Unvaccinated people in Austria could face new lockdown restrictions if coronavirus case numbers continue to rise, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said Friday night.

The news came after a Friday evening meeting between Schallenberg and state-level leaders to discuss their response to rapidly increasing case numbers.

“The pandemic is not yet in the rearview mirror,” Schallenberg said. “We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Schallenberg announced that if the number of COVID patients in intensive-care units reaches 500, or 25 per cent of the country’s total ICU capacity, entrance into businesses such as restaurants and hotels will be limited to those who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus.

If the number reaches 600, or one-third of total ICU capacity, the government plans to impose restrictions on unvaccinated people. In this case, they would only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons.

Currently, the number of COVID patients in ICUs stands at 220.

8:25 a.m.: Sri Lanka on Saturday announced plans to offer booster shots to front-line workers followed by the elderly as the island nation gears up to further ease COVID-19 restrictions.

Starting Nov. 1, workers in the health, security, airport and tourism sectors will start receiving a third dose of vaccine, said Channa Jayasumana, the state minister of pharmaceutical production, supply and regulation.

The Pfizer booster shots will then include those above 60 years, he said.

So far, 59% of the 22 million population have been vaccinated, and the Health Ministry expects the rate to rise to 70% within three weeks.

The booster rollout comes ahead of the government’s plans to lift months-long travel restrictions between provinces on Nov. 1. The government has also announced that train service that has been halted for nearly two months would restart next week.

Saturday 8:21 a.m.: Federal regulators evaluated for the first time Friday the safety and efficacy of a coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5-11, saying that the benefits of staving off COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine generally outweighed the risks of the most worrisome possible side effects in that age group.

The analysis came on the same day that the Food and Drug Administration posted data from Pfizer showing that the vaccine had a 90.7% efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in a clinical trial of 5- to 11-year-olds.

The findings could add momentum for FDA authorization of the pediatric dose on an emergency basis, perhaps as early as next week, opening up a long-awaited new phase of the nation’s vaccination campaign. The agency’s independent vaccine expert committee is set to vote Tuesday on whether to recommend authorization.

In a briefing document posted on the FDA website, the agency said it had balanced the dangers of hospitalization, death or other serious consequences from COVID-19 against the risk of myocarditis. A rare condition involving inflammation of the heart muscle, myocarditis has been linked to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, especially among young men.

“The overall analysis predicted that the numbers of clinically significant COVID-19-related outcomes prevented would clearly outweigh the numbers of vaccine-associated excess myocarditis cases,” regulators wrote.

Read Friday’s coronavirus news.

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