Today’s coronavirus news: Conservative MPs will oppose return to a hybrid format in the House of Commons; Saskatchewan to begin immunizing children – Toronto Star

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By Star staff

wire services

Wed., Nov. 24, 20215 min. read

Article was updated 41 mins ago

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.

6 a.m. The head of a trucking industry association says thousands of Canadian truckers won’t be vaccinated against COVID-19 by a deadline imposed by governments on both sides of the border, throwing a supply chain already stretched thin by the global pandemic into even more chaos.

“This is making a bad situation a lot worse. It’s the perfect storm,” said Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

A mid-January deadline for the vaccine mandate was announced by the U.S. in mid-October. Last week, Canada announced a Jan. 15 deadline for truckers crossing into this country.

Based on reports from trucking companies, Laskowski estimates that up to 20 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who regularly cross into the U.S. might not be vaccinated by the time the deadline rolls around.

Read more from the Star’s Josh Rubin.

5:45 a.m. Conservative MPs will oppose a government proposal today to return to a hybrid format in the House of Commons, which has allowed MPs to participate virtually in proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen says her party fears hybrid sittings “let the government off the hook” and give ministers an excuse not to turn up to answer questions in the Commons.

MPs will today debate whether to resume the hybrid format, with both the Liberals and NDP supporting the move. They argue that it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allows MPs who are ill, or have sick family members, the ability to participate from their homes or offices.

The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois both want to fully return to normal in-person sittings.

Bergen argued that the hybrid format is designed to protect the government from “scrutiny and accountability,” not to protect Canadians from the deadly virus.

The NDP backs the hybrid format because it allows all MPs — including those forced to self-isolate if they come in contact with someone with COVID-19 — to take part in Commons proceedings.

5:30 a.m. Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic soared to a new record high, reaching almost 26,000 daily cases, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

The daily tally hit 25,864 on Tuesday, about 3,000 more than the previous record registered on Friday.

The country’s infection rate has risen to 1,061 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, almost twice as many as two weeks ago.

As infections soar, the government has been considering mandatory vaccination for certain groups of people, including the elderly, medical and military personnel and police officers.

Just over 58% of the Czech population has been fully vaccinated.

5:15 a.m. Two Conservative MPs on the committee that imposed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate on Parliament Hill sat out the vote, one revealed Tuesday as their party formally objected to the way the rule was imposed.

Conservative whip Blake Richards said he and Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell abstained from voting when the board of internal economy decided last month that everyone working in the Parliament buildings needed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — or have a medical exemption from being vaccinated — by the start of Parliament this week.

Committee decisions are made by consensus and behind closed doors, making Richards’s admission on the floor of the House of Commons very unusual.

Read more from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz.

5 a.m. COVID-19 was a contributing cause in the recent death in Alberta of a child who was less than two years old, the province said Tuesday.

The news emerged the same day Alberta officials announced that parents will be able to start booking vaccination appointments for children ages five to 11 this week.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, addressed the death of the young child at a news conference.

“While I will note that this child had complex pre-existing medical conditions that played a significant role, this does not diminish the tragic loss of one so young,” Hinshaw said.

Read the full story from the Star’s Kieran Leavitt.

4:45 a.m. Clinics in Regina and Saskatoon are to begin immunizing children between five and 11 years old against COVID-19 today.

More clinics are to open in smaller centres on Thursday.

Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday that more than 12,000 appointments for youngsters had been booked.

He is encouraging all families to get vaccinated and has pointed out that children will need to have parental consent to receive a shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s pediatric vaccine.

Saskatchewan is receiving 112,000 initial doses, nearly enough to give a first dose to 115,000 kids in the younger age group.

Moe says making the vaccines accessible to all families is key to having a successful rollout for children.

4:30 a.m. Parents seeking to book more than one child for a COVID-19 shot can use the provincial telephone hotline to get appointments together, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday amid concerns about difficulties with the online system.

Her advice came after the NDP revealed many parents could not get back-to-back appointments for their children through the province’s online portal as bookings for the Pfizer vaccine opened for those ages five to 11.

The snag has left busy moms and dads with appointments for their children at different times, on different days and in different places, New Democrat MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) charged in the legislature’s daily question period, calling the problem a “design flaw.”

Read more from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.

4 a.m. The British Columbia is expected to release details of a paid sick leave program for workers today.

Labour Minister Harry Bains has scheduled a news conference with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry about a permanent program on sick leave, which has been promised for January.

In May, the province gave all workers up to three days of paid sick leave to support those affected by COVID-19 until Dec. 31.

At the time, Bains said the number of entitlement days under a permanent program would be determined through consultation.

The government has said about half of B.C. employees do not have access to paid sick leave.

On its website, the government says it expects new regulations to be passed to define permanent paid sick leave requirements in November and December.