Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 114 COVID-19 cases and 0 deaths; Ontario movie theatres facing ‘unreasonable’ reopening restrictions, industry group says – Toronto Star

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.

12:35 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 for the seventh consecutive day.

The number of active reported cases is five and one patient is hospitalized with the disease.

About 51 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated and 79.6 per cent have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

12:30 p.m. Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta will not be following the lead of Quebec and Manitoba by implementing a vaccine passport system.

Quebec intends to bring in the vaccine passports beginning in September that would require people to prove they are vaccinated to access non-essential businesses in parts of the province where the COVID-19 rate is high.

Manitoba authorities have been issuing a proof-of-immunization card to residents who are two weeks removed from their second shot.

But Kenney told reporters at his annual Stampede breakfast that Alberta has been clear from the beginning and will not implement or accept vaccine passports.

He says they would likely contravene the Health Information Act and possibly the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Kenney was again met by anti-vaccination protesters at the pancake breakfast, but he says they are a vocal minority who spread fear and misinformation that could ultimately cost lives.

12:20 p.m. Ontario is reporting another 114 COVID-19 cases and zero deaths, according to its latest report released Monday morning.

This is the lowest reported single-day COVID-19 case count in the province since Sept. 1.

Ontario has administered 121,653 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 17,119,624 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 10,153,351 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 77.9 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 68.9 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The province says 6,966,273 people have completed their vaccinations, which means they’ve had both doses. That works out to approximately 53.4 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 47.3 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

12:10 p.m. The head of the World Health Organization called on drugmakers to prioritize supplying their COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries instead of lobbying rich countries to use even more doses, just as some pharmaceuticals are seeking authorization for a third dose to be used as a booster.

At a press briefing on Monday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the massive disparity in vaccines between rich and poor countries means that “we are making conscious choices right now not to protect those in need.” He said the priority now must be to vaccinate people who have received no doses.

Tedros called on Pfizer and Moderna to “go all out to supply COVAX, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and low and middle income countries with very little coverage,” referring to the U.N.-backed initiative to distribute vaccines globally. Both Pfizer and Moderna have agreed to supply small amounts of their vaccine to COVAX, but the vast majority of their doses have been reserved by rich countries.

Last week, Pfizer said it would seek authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying a booster shot could dramatically boost immunity and perhaps help ward off worrisome variants.

12:05 p.m. Ontario movie theatres will be back in business on Friday as the province moves into Step 3 of reopening in the heat of summer movie season, but strict capacity limits have sent a chill through exhibitors’ hopes of drawing the big crowds for the latest blockbusters.

It’s another twist in the storyline for movie exhibitors that hope to recover whatever business they can from what’s usually the busiest time of the year.

Making those goals tougher are the province’s new COVID-19 rules which say cinemas can operate at a maximum capacity of 50 per cent inside each auditorium and a cap of 1,000 people within the entire building.

Ellis Jacob, chief executive of the country’s largest exhibitor, Cineplex Inc., said it’s those overarching capacity limits that he considers “unfair,” as they put all theatres — no matter their size — under the same restrictions.

Smaller cinemas with fewer screens, for instance, will need to follow the same guidelines as megaplexes that often have more than 20, which could mean Cineplex will be forced to turn away moviegoers at some of its bigger locations.

Jacob said he anticipates the summer will be characterized by pent-up demand similar to what he’s observed in other reopened Canadian markets.

Theatres in Ontario have been closed longer than anywhere else in North America, with locations in the Greater Toronto Area shuttered for nine months.

With titles such as “F9,” the latest in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and Marvel’s “Black Widow” already on standby, and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and G.I. Joe action flick “Snake Eyes” set for later this month, Jacob suggested some cinemas might near capacity limits for Stage 3.

10:41 a.m. President Joe Biden said the United States supports the Cuban people and called their rare protests a “clarion call for freedom and relief” from the pandemic and generations of dictatorship.

“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” Biden said in a statement obtained by McClatchy.

“The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights,” Biden said. “Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”

The president’s response comes one day after thousands of people took to the streets in cities and towns across Cuba, including Havana, to call for an end to the nation’s decades-old dictatorship and demand food and vaccines, as shortages of basic necessities have reached crisis proportions and COVID-19 cases have soared.

The unprecedented protests erupted in several of the island’s largest cities — Havana, Santiago, Santa Clara, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Holguín — but also in smaller towns like San Antonio de los Bañols, Palma Soriano, Cárdenas, Colón, Guira de Melena, Artemisa and others.

Videos show members of the police beating and even shooting demonstrators, after Cuba’s handpicked president told his loyalists to go out and confront protesters. “We´ll do anything,” he said, to stop the uprising. “The streets are for the revolutionaries.”

On a televised Sunday address, Cuba’s handpicked president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, blamed the protests on the United States as a plan to “asphyxiate” the country through sanctions to trigger a social uprising. On Monday morning, Díaz-Canel called the Sunday events a “historical day in defense of the revolution.”

On Sunday evening, National Security adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted that the U.nited States “would strongly condemn any violence or targeting of peaceful protesters who are exercising their universal rights.”

10:15 a.m. (updated) Ontario is reporting 114 COVID-19 cases and 0 deaths. The province recorded 15,933 completed tests and a 0.9 per cent positivity rate.

The seven-day average is down to 184 cases per day or 8.8 weekly per 100,000 down to 5.1 deaths per day, according to the Star’s Ed Tubb; 114 is the fewest reported cases in a single day since Sept. 1.

Ontario administered 121,653 vaccine doses Sunday, the fewest in three weeks; 11,326 of those were first doses and 110,327 were second doses.

10 a.m. Singaporean authorities found eight new cases of coronavirus locally, the Ministry of Health reported Monday. Five of the cases were linked to existing infections.

There were 18 imported cases of the virus, 13 of which were detected upon arrival in Singapore.

9:50 a.m. Recent spikes in coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County and elsewhere in California underscore a pandemic divergence, in which the unvaccinated face growing danger, while the vaccinated are able to move back to regular activities without fear of getting sick.

Some who have not been inoculated may have hoped that the dramatic decline in COVID-19 cases this spring and summer — which officials attribute to a robust vaccination campaign — would be enough to protect them without getting a shot. But with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, infections are again on the rise — and communities with low vaccination rates are in the crosshairs.

Los Angeles County reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases cumulatively over the last three days. It was the first time since early March that the county has reported three consecutive days with more than 1,000 new cases.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are also up. On Friday, they reached 373 — the most since early May and 76% higher than the record low of 212 on June 12. On Saturday, L.A. County reported 372 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Unvaccinated people may be playing an increasingly risky game of chance. The coronavirus case rate for California’s unvaccinated residents is eight times higher than it is for vaccinated residents: For every 100,000 unvaccinated residents, 4.9 per day become infected, while for every 100,000 vaccinated residents, 0.6 are infected.

“In prior times, when we saw surges occurring, everyone had to be very concerned,” said medical epidemiologist and infectious-diseases expert Dr. Robert Kim-Farley of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “However, in the current situation, it is really those who are unvaccinated that should be highly concerned.

9:07 a.m. Is a four-day work week in your future?

Quite possibly yes.

This week, a detailed analysis of Iceland’s four-year experiment with shorter work weeks was released. It shows improvement in quality of working life and in work-life balance during a lengthy trial period from 2015 to 2019.

There was no reduction in pay with the shorter work week of 35 to 36 hours, and employers saw either an increase or no change in productivity.

Those encouraging results are not surprising.

In 2019, productivity rose about 40 per cent during Microsoft Japan’s experiment with a four-day work week.

Also in 2019, the University of Reading, in an oft-cited report, found similar improvements in productivity and employer loyalty among the approximately 250 U.K. companies it surveyed that had experimented with four-day work weeks.

8:50 a.m. South Africa’s rand slumped to its weakest level against the dollar in more than two months as rioting that started with last week’s arrest of former President Jacob Zuma spread, weighing on the outlook for an economy already strained by a resurgence of the coronavirus.

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The violent protests shuttered businesses and disrupted transport networks in the nation’s two richest provinces, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail for defying a court order to testify at a graft inquiry. The riots added to disruption sparked by the extension of a pandemic lockdown that’s hurting businesses and has robbed many people of wages in a nation with an unemployment rate of 32.6 per cent.

“It is difficult to tell which is the greater emergency in South Africa right now: the riots, which have resulted in significant property damage, looting and affected the movements of goods along an important trade corridor, or the continued spread of COVID-19,” Siobhan Redford, an analyst at Rand Merchant Bank in Johannesburg, said in a client note. “It will be important to see the government take action.”

8:42 a.m. Thousands of Cubans took to the streets in a wave of demonstrations in Havana and at least 14 other cities throughout the Communist island, demanding an end to the 62-year dictatorship and protesting the lack of food and COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are not afraid! We are not afraid!” people shouted as they marched through the streets on Sunday, videos posted on social media showed. “Freedom! Freedom!”

The protests are unprecedented in a country with tight police control and surveillance on dissidents, analysts say.

In a televised address on Sunday, President Miguel Díaz-Canel blamed the protests on the U.S., which he said seeks to economically strangle Cuba and bring about a social explosion.

“Revolutionaries to the street,” he said, asking government supporters to rally support and take back control of the streets. “The order for combat has been given,” he said.

The Biden administration said it was deeply concerned by the government’s response.

“We stand by the Cuban people’s right for peaceful assembly. We call for calm and condemn any violence,” said Julie Chung, the State Department’s senior official in charge of Latin America.

7:50 a.m. European governments are pushing ahead with reopening their economies, banking on a mix of vaccinations, hygiene guidelines and common sense to let life return toward normal amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Despite concerns about the rapid spread of the delta variant, officials are bowing to public frustration and pleas from businesses, and moving further away from the strict lockdowns of 2020. The view, summed up by a French minister, is that it’s time to “live with the virus.”

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to confirm that mandatory curbs will end as planned on July 19, including the legal requirement to wear masks in indoor settings.

But Johnson’s announcement will include a cautionary note, warning of a surge in virus cases and advising people to act sensibly. He’s counting on that, along with the country’s vaccination rollout, to limit the spread of the disease. More than half of the U.K. population is fully vaccinated, compared with an average of 40 per cent among EU countries.

“Vaccines are fantastic but you have to give them time to work,” Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College, said on BBC radio. “In the meantime keeping up all those measures which we’ve learned do reduce transmission is, to me, really vital.”

7:40 a.m. Dr. Tara Kiran knew she was close. The family physician had spent weeks trying to convince her patients, a mom and daughter who lived and worked in a COVID-19 hot spot in Toronto, to get vaccinated. Months had passed since they became eligible for their shots. Now they were in her office together for an appointment and it seemed like they might finally be ready.

The patients, Esther, 66, and her daughter Alice, 39, trusted Kiran. She had been their family doctor for nearly a decade. She knew their health histories, their families, what they did for a living, what kept them up at night. If they decided to get the vaccine, there was only one person they wanted holding the syringe.

“I’m not getting it unless I can get it from Dr. Kiran,” Alice told her husband before the appointment.

There was only one problem. Kiran didn’t have any vaccine to give.

Read the full story from the Star’s Amy Dempsey

7:30 a.m. Some Canadians have amassed significant savings since the COVID-19 pandemic began. From eating at home to avoiding travel, households are estimated to have saved more than $170 billion in excess cash. What to do with this extra money?

For many homeowners, now’s the time to think about major financial priorities. Do you focus on paying off a mortgage, or do you accelerate your investing for retirement?

Read the full story from the Star’s Jacob Lorinc

7:25 a.m. With vaccination rates climbing, the province’s new chief medical officer has announced the entire province can move into Step 3 of reopening as of Friday.

The new rules will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, allowing indoor dining, indoor gym classes and more.

The threshold for Step 3 was 70 to 80 per cent of all adults 18 and older to have at least one dose and 25 per cent to be fully vaccinated for at least two weeks.

“I’m happy to say we achieved those goals early,” said Dr. Kieran Moore.

As of Thursday, more than 77 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and over had one dose and over 50 per cent had two.

Here’s what will change, from the Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro

7:13 a.m. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Scarborough subway extension last month, Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney had a message for the doubters.

When Premier Doug Ford announced his subway expansion plan two years ago, she said, critics scoffed that it couldn’t be done.

“But look where we are today … We’re building transit for the people, and we’re full steam ahead,” Mulroney said at the June 23 event at an East Toronto work site. “To the critics out there: Premier Ford has made the impossible possible.”

But while the groundbreaking marked a milestone for the Ontario government’s subway program, it still has a lot of work to do before it can claim it’s turned its transit plans into reality.

Those plans are massive and far from finished. Over the next decade or so the province hopes to deliver more than $60 billion worth of transit projects in Toronto and the surrounding area, including completing at least eight new subway and LRT lines or extensions, and making major upgrades to the regional rail network.

Getting so much built at once would be difficult under any conditions. But to keep its transit program on track the province will have to overcome market disruptions caused by the pandemic, address a looming construction labour shortage and repair a fractious relationship with private sector contractors tasked with building the new lines, some of whom charge that provincial agencies’ contentious management of rail projects is driving up costs and hampering their completion.

Read the full story from the Star’s Ben Spurr

Monday 5:43 a.m.: Canada is expecting vaccine shipments to keep rolling in this week as the country inches closer to matching the percentage of people in the United States fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The federal government expects another 1.4 million doses of the shot from Pfizer-BioNTech to arrive in the next seven days.

It also plans to distribute the 1.5 million doses from Moderna that came in last Friday.

By the end of the week, Canadian officials expect to have received a total of more than 55 million doses including the latest shipments, though those figures may change.

The federal government has promised that it would reach 68 million shots delivered by the end of July and says it’s still on track to hit that target.

To date, around 42.7 per cent of eligible Canadian residents have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, giving them full protection against the virus.

The figures come courtesy of COVID-19 Tracker, a volunteer-run project that relies on data from provincial and territorial governments.

The U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data tracker lists 48 per cent of that country’s population as being fully immunized.

Read Sunday’s coronavirus news.