Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario to ease visitation restrictions in LTC homes starting July 7; Ontario reporting 299 COVID-19 cases

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.2 p.m. Ontario will ease visitation restrictions in nursing homes on July 7: outdoor visits up to 10 people, a maximum of two visitors and two caregivers for indoor visits; haircuts can resume, no limit on designated caregivers, says new LTC Minister Rod Phillips. When Ontario enters Step 3 of reopening. limits on visitors to nursing homes will be lifted, buffet and family-style dining resumes along with singing, dancing, off-site excursions and overnight trips.1:55 p.m. Peel Public Health is letting residents know that nearly 300,000 vaccine appointments will be available to book through the provincial system starting on the morning on Tuesday.The 290,000 doses have been provided by the province to allow for more appointments in Peel.With delays expected due to the volume of appointments, the region is asking residents to continue trying to book and are also thanking them for their patience.Peel Public Health said confirmed there will be a mix of vaccine brands available based on supply. However, Pfzier will be administered to youths.1:50 p.m. Quebec is reporting 71 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and four more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, none of which took place in the prior 24 hours.Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by two, to 122, and 31 people were in intensive care, unchanged since the last report.Officials say 102,841 doses of vaccine were administered Monday, and the province’s public health institute says 81.1 per cent of Quebec residents over 12 have received at least one dose of vaccine and 27.4 per cent of all Quebec residents are considered adequately vaccinated.Montreal reported 29 new cases today; no other region in the province reported more than 13 new cases.1:40 p.m. Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting three new cases of COVID-19.Two of the new cases are related to travel, involving people in their 30s from the Moncton region, and one case in the Edmundston area is a contact of a previously confirmed case.There are 25 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, and three patients are hospitalized.1:30 p.m. The Manitoba government has selected 25 community groups and businesses to help drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates.The program offers grants of up to $25,000 to make sure vaccines are easily accessible and uptake can be encouraged by people trusted at the community level. One group that helps disadvantaged people in the Steinbach area, where vaccination rates are low, will host a barbecue where medical professionals will answer questions.1:15 p.m. Russian health officials have approved booster shots for people vaccinated against COVID-19 six months after their first immunization, as the country struggles to cope with a surge of infections and deaths.Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told a government meeting Tuesday that the ministry has issued guidelines allowing those who contracted COVID-19 to get vaccinated six months after they recovered, and those who have been immunized to get booster shots six months after their first vaccination. Murashko cited an “unfavorable epidemiological situation in Russia" and said that “after achieving herd immunity and stabilization (of the epidemiological situation), vaccination (against the coronavirus) will be carried out once a year." He didn't offer any data supporting the need for booster shots six months after the first vaccination. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, however, referenced “international and Russian studies” showing that immunity in those who have recovered from the virus persists for six months on average and winds down gradually after 9-12 months. The new guidelines come as infections in Russia soar and vaccination rates lag behind many other nations. Russia’s state coronavirus task force has been reporting over 20,000 new COVID-19 infections daily since last Thursday, more than double the average in early June. On Tuesday, 20,616 new contagions were registered and 652 deaths — the highest daily death toll in the pandemic. Russia was among the first in the world to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine last year, but has since inoculated only a fraction of its 146 million people. Murashko said Tuesday that more than 23 million — just over 15 per cent — have received at least one vaccine shot. 12:50 p.m. Prince Edward Island will reopen its boundaries to travellers from outside the Atlantic region three weeks earlier than planned because of low case numbers and rising vaccination rates.Premier Dennis King said today fully vaccinated Canadians who have registered with the province and obtained a PEI Pass will be able to visit the Island starting July 18 without the need to isolate.Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says Canadian travellers outside the Atlantic region can visit the province "a full three weeks" earli

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario to ease visitation restrictions in LTC homes starting July 7; Ontario reporting 299 COVID-19 cases

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

2 p.m. Ontario will ease visitation restrictions in nursing homes on July 7: outdoor visits up to 10 people, a maximum of two visitors and two caregivers for indoor visits; haircuts can resume, no limit on designated caregivers, says new LTC Minister Rod Phillips.

When Ontario enters Step 3 of reopening. limits on visitors to nursing homes will be lifted, buffet and family-style dining resumes along with singing, dancing, off-site excursions and overnight trips.

1:55 p.m. Peel Public Health is letting residents know that nearly 300,000 vaccine appointments will be available to book through the provincial system starting on the morning on Tuesday.

The 290,000 doses have been provided by the province to allow for more appointments in Peel.

With delays expected due to the volume of appointments, the region is asking residents to continue trying to book and are also thanking them for their patience.

Peel Public Health said confirmed there will be a mix of vaccine brands available based on supply. However, Pfzier will be administered to youths.

1:50 p.m. Quebec is reporting 71 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and four more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, none of which took place in the prior 24 hours.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by two, to 122, and 31 people were in intensive care, unchanged since the last report.

Officials say 102,841 doses of vaccine were administered Monday, and the province’s public health institute says 81.1 per cent of Quebec residents over 12 have received at least one dose of vaccine and 27.4 per cent of all Quebec residents are considered adequately vaccinated.

Montreal reported 29 new cases today; no other region in the province reported more than 13 new cases.

1:40 p.m. Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting three new cases of COVID-19.

Two of the new cases are related to travel, involving people in their 30s from the Moncton region, and one case in the Edmundston area is a contact of a previously confirmed case.

There are 25 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, and three patients are hospitalized.

1:30 p.m. The Manitoba government has selected 25 community groups and businesses to help drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates.

The program offers grants of up to $25,000 to make sure vaccines are easily accessible and uptake can be encouraged by people trusted at the community level.

One group that helps disadvantaged people in the Steinbach area, where vaccination rates are low, will host a barbecue where medical professionals will answer questions.

1:15 p.m. Russian health officials have approved booster shots for people vaccinated against COVID-19 six months after their first immunization, as the country struggles to cope with a surge of infections and deaths.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told a government meeting Tuesday that the ministry has issued guidelines allowing those who contracted COVID-19 to get vaccinated six months after they recovered, and those who have been immunized to get booster shots six months after their first vaccination.

Murashko cited an “unfavorable epidemiological situation in Russia" and said that “after achieving herd immunity and stabilization (of the epidemiological situation), vaccination (against the coronavirus) will be carried out once a year."

He didn't offer any data supporting the need for booster shots six months after the first vaccination. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, however, referenced “international and Russian studies” showing that immunity in those who have recovered from the virus persists for six months on average and winds down gradually after 9-12 months.

The new guidelines come as infections in Russia soar and vaccination rates lag behind many other nations.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force has been reporting over 20,000 new COVID-19 infections daily since last Thursday, more than double the average in early June. On Tuesday, 20,616 new contagions were registered and 652 deaths — the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.

Russia was among the first in the world to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine last year, but has since inoculated only a fraction of its 146 million people. Murashko said Tuesday that more than 23 million — just over 15 per cent — have received at least one vaccine shot.

12:50 p.m. Prince Edward Island will reopen its boundaries to travellers from outside the Atlantic region three weeks earlier than planned because of low case numbers and rising vaccination rates.

Premier Dennis King said today fully vaccinated Canadians who have registered with the province and obtained a PEI Pass will be able to visit the Island starting July 18 without the need to isolate.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says Canadian travellers outside the Atlantic region can visit the province "a full three weeks" earlier than scheduled.

She adds that effective immediately, masks are no longer required at indoor events such as church services or seated concerts aslong as six feet of physical distancing can be maintained.

She says dancing is also permitted starting today at weddings.

Morrison is reporting one new case of COVID-19 Tuesday, involving a person in their 50s who had travelled outside the Atlantic region.

12:40 p.m. After one week with no new cases of COVID-19, Nunavut says it will ease restrictions in Iqaluit starting Friday.

Starting Friday, travel restrictions in and out of Iqaluit will be lifted.

A household can have up to 10 people in their home and up to 50 people can gather outdoors.

Theatres and restaurants can also open at 25 per cent capacity or 25 people, whichever is less.

There are no active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

12:30 p.m. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole promises to implement an emergency preparedness plan if his party is elected to form the next government.

The plan includes measures he says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to take to prevent the worst of the pandemic, such as ensuring Canada has better manufacturing capacity for vaccines.

He also pledges to call a public inquiry to examine the Liberal government's response to COVID-19.

The Conservative preparedness plan includes increasing the domestic production of personal protective equipment and overhauling the country's stockpile.

It also commits to making improvements to Health Canada so that it can review new technologies and innovations faster.

O'Toole says under a Conservative government health officials would "develop a data-driven system of benchmarks for removing bans" to provide more certainty to businesses and individuals.

12 p.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finished his mandatory 14-day quarantine after travelling to Europe earlier this month to attend meetings with G7 and NATO allies.

His office says he received a negative COVID-19 test taken eight days into his stay at his Rideau Cottage residence in Ottawa.

11:15 a.m. Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19 Tuesday.

Health officials say the case involves a person in their 50s who had travelled outside the Atlantic region.

The new case is the only active reported infection in the province.

11:10 a.m. While the province is planning to ease some restrictions soon, Mississauga restaurants continue to face hefty fines for alleged violations of COVID-19 rules.

Four Mississauga restaurants were listed as ticketed and charged as part of the city’s June 21 to 27 COVID-19 enforcement report. Two part 3 summons offences were issued, which could mean fines in the thousands of dollars.

The first of the part 3 summons charges was issued Wednesday, June 23, and the second was laid Friday, June 25, the report showed.

That same Friday, three $880 tickets were issued at different food and drink establishments, and a single $360 fine was levied for a restaurant patron allegedly not following the city’s mask bylaws.

11 a.m. For the second consecutive year, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a British couple to postpone plans for a record-breaking transatlantic balloon flight from New Brunswick.

Deborah Day and Mike Scholes had been planning to fly from Sussex, N.B., to Europe, but they say the Delta variant is becoming more widespread in the United Kingdom and many European countries have imposed restrictions on U.K. residents.

They say they also have moral concerns about making the flight while there are thousands of people suffering from COVID-19 in countries where they may land.

Scholes said in an email statement on Monday they hope to try again in June 2022.

If successful, Day would become the first woman in command of a transatlantic balloon crossing, while Scholes would become the first blind crew member on such a trip.

The couple will be flying a 27-metre Rozière balloon that uses helium in a cell at the top and hot air below.

10:50 a.m. Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin is expected later Tuesday to announce the province will move into Phase 3 of the government's five-step reopening plan on Wednesday.

Rankin confirmed in an interview on Monday Phase 3 will include opening the province's boundaries to travellers from the rest of Canada.

People from outside Atlantic Canada will have to complete a check-in form and will be subject to isolation requirements based on their vaccination status and test results.

Those who are fully vaccinated at least 14 days before their arrival in Nova Scotia won't have to self-isolate, while people with one dose will have to quarantine for seven days and will need two negative test results during that time.

Travellers who haven't had a shot will have to self-isolate for 14 days and will be subject to testing at the beginning and end of that period.

Also on Wednesday, New Brunswickers will be allowed to join residents in the rest of Atlantic Canada and enter Nova Scotia freely without having to complete a check-in form or isolate.

10:25 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 299 COVID-19 cases and 25 more deaths, according to its latest report released Tuesday morning.

Ontario has administered 265,231 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 14,472,741 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 9,909,272 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 76 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 67.3 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Ashleigh-Rae Thomas

9:20 a.m. Overnight camp was an experience Jake Smith looked forward to every summer since he was five years old. Until 2020.

That year, the camp he’d been attending for much of his life, Camp Hurontario in Georgian Bay, did not reopen due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The camp, for boys, is not fully reopening this year to all campers — it’s doing five weeks of family camp and allowing one 10-day session with campers aged 12-14 who are vaccinated.

As of June 30, Ontario is entering Stage 2, which allows overnight camps to open. Day camps were permitted to open as of June 11, when the province entered Stage 1.

Read the full story from the Star’s Olivia Bowden

9 a.m. With the pandemic providing painful lessons on how interconnected the world is, ministers from nations accounting for more than half the world’s population were meeting in Italy on Tuesday to explore how to better cooperate, including on vaccines and climate change efforts.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio cited both as areas where it’s imperative that countries pull together. He opened the appointment, attended by foreign ministers and development ministers from the Group of 20. Together the G-20 nations account for some 80 per cent of the world's GDP.

Some ministers were participating remotely because of COVID-19 travel concerns, including from China, Russia and Brazil.

“In an interconnected world, multilateralism and international cooperation are the only effective instruments in facing global challenges," Di Maio said. “We have had an example of that with the vaccines.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken built on Di Maio's premise in his opening remarks.

“To bring the pandemic to an end, we must get more vaccine to more places,” Blinken said. “Multilateral cooperation will be key to stop this global health crisis.”

Blinken took the occasion to tout U.S. contributions to COVAX, the U.N.-backed program to get vaccines to needy nations, which include around 500 million Pfizer doses and 80 million other doses.

While some wealthier countries are struggling to convince ever more segments of their populations to be vaccinated against the illness that has claimed nearly 4 million lives worldwide in confirmed death tallies, poorer nations, especially in Africa, are desperate to receive vaccine supplies, with only a tiny fraction of their people having access so far to the injections.

Scientists and many political leaders have warned that the pandemic can't be effectively brought under control unless all nations have substantial vaccination rates.

8:45 a.m. Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla has been granted emergency use authorization from the country’s drugs regulator to import the Moderna vaccine.

Dr. V.K. Paul, the head of India’s COVID-19 task force, says the Mumbai-based Cipla must submit a safety assessment of the vaccine before rolling it out for a large-scale immunization program.

Moderna will be the fourth vaccine administered in India after AstraZeneca’s Covishield, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Russia’s Sputnik V.

Paul says the Indian government is expected to close a deal with Pfizer soon. India, with nearly 1.4 billion people, has administered both doses of vaccines to less than 5 per cent of its population.

The country has experienced a huge surge in cases and deaths in the last few months. India has recorded nearly 30.3 million confirmed cases, with a death toll of more than 397,000.

8:05 a.m. British police said Tuesday that they are investigating the circumstances around the seeming harassment and intimidation of England's chief medical officer by two men in a park in central London.

The incident, which was captured in video footage and shared on social media, shows Prof. Chris Whitty struggling to get away from the pair, who appeared to be manhandling him while trying to take a selfie.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the “thugs” accosting Whitty, who has been one of the most prominent voices during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m shocked at seeing the despicable harassment of chief medical officer Chris Whitty,” Johnson said. “I condemn the behaviour of these thugs. Our hard-working public servants should not have to face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it.”

7:54 a.m. Indonesia is set to enforce stricter restrictions of a larger scale in a bid to halt a persistent rise in coronavirus infections.

The new measures will be comprehensive and people living in heavily-infected areas will be asked to stay at home and avoid non-essential travels, Alexander Ginting, a member of the COVID-19 taskforce said in a televised interview with Metro TV on Tuesday. The government is finalizing the plan and an official announcement will be made soon, he added.

Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is battling a resurgence in COVID-19 cases made worse by the more contagious Delta variant. The strain has now spread widely across Java, the most populated island, while hospitalization rates exceeded 90 per cent, according to the health ministry.

7:35 a.m. Unlike most people, Amanda Ferguson was actually hoping to feel sick after the second dose of her COVID-19 vaccine this spring.

“I was worried that I didn’t feel anything,” recalls the 36-year-old manager of public relations for Sinai Health Foundation, who takes drugs that suppress her immune system for Crohn’s disease.

“I wanted the fever. I wanted the chills. I wanted to feel like I got hit by a truck.”

It doesn’t mean the shot isn’t effective if you don’t feel side effects, according to data from clinical trials. But if you’re one of the thousands of Canadians who got a second shot recently, you might also be wondering: did it work?

Read the full story from the Star’s May Warren

7:20 a.m. As vaccination rates skyrocket and new COVID-19 cases counts remain low, pressure is mounting on Premier Doug Ford to accelerate Ontario’s reopening.

The province enters its second step on Wednesday — allowing haircuts and other personal services for the first time in months — having easily surpassed the benchmark of 70 per cent of adults with one shot and 20 per cent fully vaccinated.

But restaurants and fitness centres must wait until Step 3 before indoor dining and workouts will be permitted.

That could be another three weeks away, even though thresholds for that step are between 70 and 80 per cent with one dose and 25 per cent fully vaccinated.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

6:42 a.m.: Australia has removed age restrictions for adults who want the AstraZeneca vaccine as the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads.

Australian health authorities had initially advised against using AstraZeneca for adults under age 50 and then younger than 60 because of the greater risk of rare blood clots in younger people.

The general leading the Australian military’s pandemic response told Nine Network on Tuesday that increasing the availability of AstraZeneca is a risk-based judgment. Lt. Gen. John Frewen says supplies of Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca are adequate.

Only 5% of the Australian population is fully vaccinated. The only other vaccine available in Australia is Pfizer, but manufacturers cannot meet demand.

The cities of Sydney, Perth and Darwin are in lockdown.

6:41 a.m.: Health officials in Los Angeles County are recommending, but not making mandatory that people wear masks indoors in public places regardless of their vaccination status.

The recommendation in the nation’s most populous county is aimed at preventing the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.

The county public health department suggests that people wear masks when inside grocery or retail stores as well as at theatres and family entertainment centres and in workplaces when people’s vaccination statuses are not known.

The county experienced a surge in cases and deaths over the winter. To date, the county has recorded a total of 1.2 million coronavirus cases and more than 24,000 deaths from COVID-19.

6:41 a.m.: Hungary will donate half a million COVID-19 vaccines to other countries in Central and Southeast Europe as its vaccination drive slows and supplies pile up.

An early vaccination leader in the European Union, Hungary has struggled in recent weeks to use up its available stocks of vaccines. With 67% of its adult population having received at least a first dose, until recently Hungary had the second-highest vaccination rate in the 27-member EU.

But other European countries like Belgium and Finland have since caught up as most Hungarians who want a vaccine have already received one. While a daily average of 60,000 first-dose shots were being given in mid-May, on Tuesday that number was scarcely over 9,000.

Speaking to reporters in Poland on Monday, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that Hungary would provide Bosnia and Montenegro with 200,000 doses each of the Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm vaccine, noting that the jab has been approved for emergency use in both countries.

“The more protected our neighbours are, the safer Hungary will be from a health perspective,” Szijjarto said.

The foreign minister said on Sunday that Hungary would donate 100,000 doses of an unspecified vaccine to the Czech Republic, since “there is plenty of vaccine available so the Hungarian government can help those who are less well off.”

Hungary — the only EU country to approve the Sinopharm vaccine — purchased 5 million doses of the jab, contributing to the early surge in its vaccination program.

But according to figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, more than 3.1 million of the country’s Sinopharm doses remain unused.

6:40 a.m.: Russian authorities have reported 652 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday — the highest daily tally in the pandemic. The record comes as Russia struggles to cope with a surge in infections and deaths and low vaccine uptake.

Russia’s state coronavirus task force has been registering over 20,000 new coronavirus cases and around 600 deaths every day since last Thursday. On Tuesday, 20,616 new contagions were recorded.

Russian officials have blamed the surge, which started in early June, on Russians’ lax attitude toward taking necessary precautions, growing prevalence of more infectious variants and laggard vaccination rates. Although Russia was among the first countries to announce and deploy a coronavirus vaccine, only about 14% of the population has received at least one shot.

Russia’s coronavirus task force has reported nearly 5.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the pandemic and 134,545 deaths.

6:39 a.m.: As larger weddings become possible around the country, wedding planners say the COVID-19 vaccination status of attendees has become an important talking point.

Alexandra Slawek of Boutiq Weddings and Events in Calgary said some of her clients have said they only want attendees who are at least partially vaccinated, and expects that more people will specify that requirement on invitations.

“It seems to be the trend right now, people still seem to be scared,” particularly of the Delta variant of the virus, said Slawek

“A lot of weddings have websites now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they put it as an asterisk on the website to please make sure you’re vaccinated before accepting the invitation.”

Read full story from the Canadian Press here.

6:30 a.m.: A new study suggests Canada has vastly underestimated how many people have died from COVID-19 and says the number could be two times higher than reported.

Dr. Tara Moriarty, working group lead for the study commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada, said in an interview while most accounts have put the majority of deaths in long-term care, the new data analysis suggests the toll of COVID-19 was also heavily felt outside the homes in the community.

Many of those deaths likely occurred in lower income, racialized communities and affected essential workers, new immigrants and people living in multi-generational homes, as well as clinically frail seniors living at home, the study says.

“If we’d had some sense early on of who was dying where, if we had had a sense of just how many deaths were actually occurring ... maybe people would have started looking sooner or listening sooner to people in communities who were saying, ‘It’s really bad here, people are dying,’” Moriarty said.

“It might have provided support for those claims that might have caused some kind of action that would have saved lives.”

Moriarty said seeing Canada out of step with similar high-income countries on the proportion of long-term care deaths was a red flag that inspired the analysis by the society.

The new peer-reviewed analysis casts doubt on the widely accepted assumption that 80 per cent of Canada’s deaths due to COVID-19 occurred among older adult residents of long-term care homes.

Instead, it says at least two-thirds of deaths caused by COVID-19 in communities outside of long-term care may have been missed. That would put the proportion of deaths in long-term care at around 45 per cent, much closer to the average of 40 per cent reported by peer countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.