Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reports 419 COVID-19 cases and no deaths; court lifts temporary injunction on Toronto hospital network vaccine mandate – Toronto Star

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

7:05 p.m. British Columbia residents can now access the federal government’s proof-of-vaccination record allowing for travel within Canada and internationally, The Canadian Press reports.

The provincial government says residents can now access the federal COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination card in the same way 3.7 million people downloaded their card for non-essential activities within the province, according to CP.

However, the province says the federal government has indicated it will allow British Columbians to use the BC Vaccine Card to travel within the country until Nov. 30, while national proof of vaccination is implemented.

The federal government has said its card can also be used for international travel, but those leaving Canada would need to check the requirements of the country they’ll be visiting.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the federal vaccine card can be accessed through Health Gateway, the ministry’s web service, by phone or at most Service BC offices.

Travellers need two doses of a vaccine, with the second one administered at least 14 days before departure.

The B.C. government also says provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has extended a mask mandate for everyone aged five and up in indoor public spaces in order to continue slowing the transmission of COVID-19.

The mask mandate was due to expire on Sunday.

The province recorded 584 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and nine more people have died, for a total of 2,156 deaths.

It says 85 per cent of eligible residents aged 12 and up are now fully vaccinated.

Thirty-three outbreaks continue, mostly at long-term care facilities. Other outbreaks are at Mission Memorial Hospital, Chilliwack General and University Hospital of Northern BC, a correctional centre on Vancouver Island.

5:56 p.m. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an emergency appeal from healthcare workers in Maine to block a vaccine mandate that went into effect Friday, The Associated Press reports.

Three conservative justices noted their dissents. The state is not offering a religious exemption to hospital and nursing home workers who risk losing their jobs if they are not vaccinated, according to CP.

Only New York and Rhode Island also have vaccine mandates for healthcare workers that lack religious exemptions. Both are the subject of court fights and a court has allowed workers in New York to seek religious exemptions while the lawsuit plays out.

The high court has previously turned away students at Indiana University and teachers in New York City who objected to being vaccinated. Both the university and city allow people to seek religious exemptions.

5:29 p.m. Canada is watching the U.S. Food and Drug Administration closely now that it has approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, reports The Canadian Press.

The FDA approved the vaccine for emergency use on Friday afternoon, citing data that shows the shot is 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children and there have been no serious side-effects, according to CP.

The FDA advisory committee recommended in favour of approving the vaccine after hours of testimony from experts Tuesday.

Health Canada officials attended that meeting and are watching the process in the U.S. carefully as Canada makes its own decision about the pediatric vaccine.

Health Canada received Pfizer-BioNTech’s submission for approval and associated data slightly later than the FDA, and Canadian officials are still reviewing it.

The pediatric COVID-19 vaccine differs slightly from Pfizer-BioNTech’s adult formulation. For that reason, the company will need to deliver new vials of the vaccine before Canadian kids can get their shot.

Canada is expecting 2.9 million child-size doses of the new formulation if it is approved, enough for every child to get their first dose.

But Sharma said it could still be a few weeks until Health Canada makes a final decision.

The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be monitoring the rollout of the children’s’ vaccines for any adverse effects, and Canadian public health officials will be keeping an eye on that data as well.

The CDC will meet next week to discuss clinical recommendations in the administration of the children’s vaccine in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Health Canada is expecting more submissions for pediatric vaccines in coming weeks.

3:59 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting 26 new cases of COVID-19, reports The Canadian Press.

Officials say the bulk of the cases, or 18 of them, have been discovered in the central region of the province, according to CP.

There are also four cases in the eastern zone, three in the northern zone and one in the western zone.

Twenty-eight recoveries have been reported meaning the active case count now sits at 169.

Two more schools have been notified of COVID-19 exposures; one in the Halifax area and one in Cape Breton.

Officials also say more than 83 per cent of the population overall has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 78.3 per cent are now fully vaccinated.

3:34 p.m. A significant part of the Saint John region in New Brunswick will be entering a 14-day circuit breaker today in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, reports The Canadian Press.

Chief medical officer, Dr. Jennifer Russell, previously said while case numbers across the province are trending downward overall, the seven-day average of cases has been steadily rising in the region over the last week, according to CP.

The new, tougher public health measures will begin at 6 p.m. local time and affect several areas, including the Saint John metropolitan area.

Officials say the circuit-breakers in the Moncton, Fredericton, Edmundston and Campbellton regions will continue for another seven days.

Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 48 new cases of COVID-19.

There are 41 new recoveries in the province, bringing the active case count to 556, and 28 people are in hospital.

3:26 p.m. The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency says residents will be required to provide proof of vaccination to enter hospitals and long-term care homes as the province reports no decline in COVID-19 cases, reports The Canadian Press.

Marlo Pritchard, who is president of the agency responsible for emergency management, says the health order is to come into effect on Nov. 8, according to CP.

Pritchard says visitors to healthcare facilities can also show a negative COVID-19 test performed within the last three days.

He says the measure will help prevent vulnerable people in high-risk settings from getting sick.

The province is reporting 238 new cases of COVID-19, and 238 hospitalizations, including 54 patients in intensive care.

Twenty-two Saskatchewan residents are in Ontario receiving care, including three who were taken in the last 24 hours.

Pritchard says two patients a day will be transferred to Ontario between Friday and Sunday.

3:19 p.m. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday paved the way for children ages five to 11 to get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, The Associated Press reports.

The FDA cleared kid-size doses — just a third of the amount given to teens and adults — for emergency use, and up to 28 million more American children could be eligible for vaccinations as early as next week, according to AP.

One more regulatory hurdle remains: On Tuesday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make more detailed recommendations on which youngsters should get vaccinated, with a final decision by the agency’s director expected shortly afterwards.

“With this vaccine kids can go back to something that’s better than being locked at home on remote schooling, not being able to see their friends,” said Dr. Kawsar Talaat of Johns Hopkins University. “The vaccine will protect them and also protect our communities.”

A few countries have begun using other COVID-19 vaccines in children under 12, including China, which just began vaccinations for 3-year-olds.

But many that use the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech are watching the U.S. decision, and European regulators just began considering the companies’ kid-size doses.

With FDA’s action, Pfizer plans to begin shipping millions of vials of the pediatric vaccine — in orange caps to avoid mix-ups with the purple-capped doses for everyone else — to doctors’ offices, pharmacies and other vaccination sites.

Kids will get two shots, three weeks apart.

While children are at lower risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 than older people, five- to 11-year-olds still have been seriously affected, including over 8,300 hospitalizations, about a third requiring intensive care, and nearly 100 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the FDA.

And with the extra-contagious delta variant circulating, the U.S. government has counted more than 2,000 coronavirus-related school closings just since the start of the school year, affecting more than a million children.

Earlier this week, FDA’s independent scientific advisers voted that the pediatric vaccine’s promised benefits outweigh any risks. But several panelists said not all youngsters will need to be vaccinated, and that they preferred the shots be targeted to those at higher risk from the virus.

Nearly 70 per cent of five- to 11-year-olds hospitalized for COVID-19 in the U.S. have other serious medical conditions, including asthma and obesity, according to federal tracking. Additionally, more than two-thirds of youngsters hospitalized are Black or Hispanic, mirroring long-standing disparities in the disease’s impact.

The question of how broadly Pfizer’s vaccine should be used will be a key consideration for the CDC and its advisers, who set formal recommendations for pediatricians and other medical professionals.

A Pfizer study of 2,268 schoolchildren found the vaccine was nearly 91 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections, based on 16 cases of COVID-19 among kids given dummy shots compared to just three who got vaccinated.

The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary reactions — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience.

But the study wasn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second full-strength dose, mostly in young men and teen boys. It’s unclear if younger children getting a smaller dose also will face that rare risk.

Some parents are expected to vaccinate their children ahead of family holiday gatherings and the winter cold season.

The similarly made Moderna vaccine also is being studied in young children, and both Pfizer and Moderna also are testing shots for babies and preschoolers.

2 p.m. An Ontario judge has lifted a temporary injunction that paused enforcement of a Toronto hospital network’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, saying he does not have the jurisdiction to grant the relief sought by a group of unvaccinated workers.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Sean Dunphy issued the interim injunction last week after several unvaccinated employees filed an emergency application as part of a legal challenge against the University Health Network’s immunization mandate.

The hospital network had said staff who didn’t receive both COVID-19 shots by Oct. 22 would lose their jobs. The workers allege the policy is illegal and discriminatory.

1:45 p.m. The Michigan appeals court on Friday again struck down major changes to the state’s ballot drive law, including a limit on how many voter signatures can come from any one region.

The ruling was the latest in a lengthy legal fight that began after Republican lawmakers and then-Gov. Rick Snyder enacted the lame-duck law in late 2018 following voters’ approval of three proposals to legalize marijuana for recreational use; curtail the gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts; and expand voting options.

The law makes it harder to mount ballot initiatives. Major parts have never taken effect because of an opinion from Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and court decisions.

1:30 p.m. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed into law a bill that allows Iowa workers to seek medical and religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates and guarantees that those who are fired for refusing a vaccine will qualify for unemployment benefits.

Reynolds signed the bill a day after the Iowa Legislature passed it in a one-day special session convened to pass the state’s redistricting maps. The law becomes effective immediately.

Reynolds has opposed government requirements for masks and vaccines, even though COVID-19 has killed nearly 7,000 people in Iowa and medical science has shown both tools to be effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

She said in a statement that “no Iowan should be forced to lose their job or livelihood over the COVID-19 vaccine.”

1:10 p.m. Ontario’s health minister says a plan is coming next week about third COVID-19 vaccine doses for residents.

Christine Elliott said on Twitter Friday that the plan will involve timing for third shots, with information “for all Ontarians.”

Her comments came after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued new guidance to provinces and territories about who should be eligible for boosters.

The committee now recommends third shots for people fully vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, people over age 70, more front-line health-care workers, and people from Indigenous communities.

Ontario is currently offering third shots to long-term care residents, transplant recipients, some cancer patients and people receiving specific medications.

12:45 p.m. Health and finance officials who gathered ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Rome warned of a two-track pandemic recovery, with COVID-19 vaccine and spending gaps slowing poorer countries from bouncing back.

Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund, said Friday that efforts to speed vaccinations were short $20 billion needed to pursue a goal of 40% of the world vaccinated by year’s end and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the increasing divergence between developing and developed countries would be “a major strategic risk for the rest of the world.”

The ministers decided to create a G-20 joint task force to ensure efforts to combat the pandemic and prevent future ones are adequately funded.

12:15 p.m. Medical workers at Bulgaria’s main emergency hospital are waging an uphill battle as a surge in coronavirus cases has overwhelmed the country’s ailing health care system.

Following a relatively quiet summer, the Balkan country has been hit hard by another wave of the pandemic as it failed to take tighter containment measures. Bulgaria’s health woes have been compounded by a prolonged political crisis that has left the country without a regular government since last spring, eroding public trust in institutions.

Bulgarian health officials blame public mistrust in vaccines and the government — just 1 in 4 adults is fully vaccinated — for the country’s current virus predicament.

11:55 a.m. Quebec is reporting 511 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death due to the virus.

The number of hospitalizations in the province declined by four, for a total of 250.

There was one more person needing intensive care, bringing the total to 68.

Health authorities say 12,641 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the previous 24 hours.

Among eligible Quebec residents 12 and over, 90.6 per cent have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 87.8 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.

The province has now had 424,802 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and 11,491 deaths from the novel coronavirus.

11:22 a.m. “Next week we intend to release our plan that will provide information to all Ontarians on when they can expect to receive a third dose of the #COVID19 vaccine,” Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted Friday.

11:15 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 419 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths, according to its latest report released Friday morning.

Ontario has administered 21,170 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 22,476,654 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 11,484,924 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 88.1 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 77.3 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

10:55 a.m. The office of New York congressman Brian Higgins says U.S. Customs and Border Protection won’t be requiring a negative COVID-19 test for fully vaccinated travellers in order to cross the land border with Canada.

A spokesperson for Higgins says the agency is expected to release additional details in the next few days before the U.S. relaxes its border restrictions Nov. 8.

Higgins has already called on Canada’s federal government to abandon its requirement that travellers submit the results of a costly PCR test before arriving at a land-border crossing.

He says the $200 test remains a significant deterrent to travel and a drag on the economic recovery in border communities.

As of Nov. 8, fully vaccinated travellers who are flying to the U.S. for non-essential purposes will have to show the results of a negative test that’s no more than 72 hours old before boarding their flight.

10:45 a.m. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has expanded eligibility guidelines for booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines.

The committee now recommends mRNA boosters to people who received two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, adults over the age of 70, front-line health-care workers with a short interval between their first two doses, and people from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

The latest recommendation says the emerging evidence suggests vaccine effectiveness against asymptomatic infection and mild COVID-19 disease may decrease over time, and a booster could help restore protection.

The committee continues to recommend boosters be given six months after the first two doses are received.

10:08 a.m. (will be updated) Ontario reporting 419 new COVID-19 cases and 0 deaths. In Ontario, nearly 88.1 per cent of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 84.3 per cent have two doses.

10:05 a.m. Peel’s top public health doctor says the region’s priority will be those who are unvaccinated if COVID-19 booster shots become more available.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health, said at an Oct. 28 news conference that those without full COVID-19 immunizations, including children five to 11 who are not yet permitted vaccinations, will be prioritized over third doses should their eligibility expand.

“We also continue to deliver third doses in line with ministry guidance, but our priority continues to be first and second doses for those who have no protection at all,” he said.

“There are more than 120,000 children aged five to 11 living in the region of Peel. And while children are usually at lower risk of severe outcomes from COVID, they occasionally do have rare and severe outcomes and may well also pass it on to each other or to someone at home who is at higher risk.”

9:45 a.m. Russia on Friday recorded another record of daily coronavirus deaths as authorities hoped to stem contagion by keeping most people off work.

The government’s coronavirus task force reported 1,163 deaths in 24 hours, the largest daily number since the pandemic began. The latest deaths brought the total toll to 236,220, by far the highest in Europe.

To contain the spread of infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a nonworking period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when most state organizations and private businesses are to suspend operations. He encouraged Russia’s worst-hit regions to start sooner, and some ordered most residents off work earlier this week.

9:04 a.m. Statistics Canada says the economy grew 0.4 per cent in August.

Leading the way in the month was a rise in activity in accommodation and food services, retail trade and air travel, all of which have been hit hard by COVID-19.

The agency also says its preliminary estimate for September suggests real gross domestic product was essentially unchanged for the month.

Statistics Canada says gains in several sectors were more than offset by a significant drop in manufacturing and decline in retail trade.

8:30 a.m. The World Health Organization said Friday that its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is running unopposed for a second five-year term.

The U.N. health agency made the announcement after the deadline for candidacies for the next term expired on Sept. 23. The formal selection of the next director-general takes place at the WHO’s next assembly in May.

Tedros, an Ethiopian national who is the first African to head WHO, has overseen the agency’s complex response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has overshadowed his tenure.

7:15 a.m. After a record-breaking COVID-19 surge over the summer, Florida now has fewest number of average daily cases per capita in the U.S., according to data from the state Department of Health.

An average of eight new coronavirus cases are reported for every 100,000 people in Florida, the data show. Alaska continues to lead the nation in new cases with 94 per capita, followed by Montana with 75.

By late in the summer, Florida was reporting an average of more than 300 cases a day per capita. The rate peaked on Sept. 1 at 385.

Florida has also dropped in its ranking of average daily deaths per capita after soaring in the top three for several weeks late in the summer. As of Wednesday, the state’s 0.53 deaths per 100,000 population was 17th in the U.S. Montana leads in per-capita deaths with 1.53, followed by Idaho with 1.2.

6 a.m.: The pandemic has shed light on how immigrants and foreign workers are the backbone of the essential workforce that keeps the flow of goods and services uninterrupted during the crisis.

Now, for the first time, a new study has looked at the data to back it up.

Based on custom government data, the Conference Board of Canada examined the representation of immigrants and temporary foreign workers in sectors and occupations identified by Ottawa as “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full story from the Star’s Nicholas Keung.

6 a.m.: Nearly 70 per cent of Ontario parents say their children will get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is approved by Health Canada, while about 20 per cent remain unsure their kids will get the shot, according to a new poll by Forum Research.

Just 10 per cent of survey respondents said they intend to keep their kids aged five to 11 unvaccinated, citing worries over potential side effects and concerns the pediatric vaccine has not undergone enough research.

The majority of survey respondents are eager to get their children vaccinated and say their top reasons to line their kids up for the shot are to protect them from the virus, to prevent more missed in-person school days and to feel more comfortable doing extracurricular activities and going to public places.

Read the full story from the Star’s Megan Ogilvie.

5:56 a.m.: The island nation of Tonga on Friday reported its first-ever case of COVID-19 after a traveller from New Zealand tested positive.

Tonga is among the few remaining nations in the world that have avoided outbreaks of the virus. Like many of its neighbours, Tonga’s isolation has helped keep it safe but it faces big challenges should the virus take hold due to its under-resourced health system.

The nearby nation of Fiji avoided significant outbreaks until April, when the delta variant ripped through the island chain, infecting more than 50,000 people and killing at least 673.

Tonga’s Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa said in a radio address that the traveller was among 215 passengers who had arrived on a flight from the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Wednesday and had been isolating at a quarantine hotel.

The prime minister planned on Monday to make an announcement about any future lockdowns, according to news website Matangi Tonga.

5:55 a.m.: Mounting trash. Closed firehouses. Fewer police and ambulances on the street.

That’s the possibility New York City is bracing for come Monday as a COVID-19 vaccine mandate looms and thousands of municipal workers remain unwilling to get the shots.

Police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors and most other city workers face a 5 p.m. Friday deadline to show proof they’ve gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Workers who don’t comply will be put on unpaid leave starting Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio held firm on the mandate as firefighters rallied Thursday outside his official residence, sanitation workers appeared to be skipping garbage pick ups in protest and the city’s largest police union went to an appeals court seeking a halt to the vaccine requirement.

5:55 a.m.: Filled with pink and fuzzy things and cuddly bears, 6%DOKIDOKI, a tiny store in the heart of Tokyo’s Harajuku district, is bursting with “kawaii,” the Japanese for “cuteness.”

What it doesn’t have enough of, as in zero, are foreign tourists. And it could sure use some.

Like much of Asia, including Taiwan, Vietnam and Australia, Japan’s borders remain closed to tourists. While other Asian countries are inching toward reopening, Japanese borders will likely remain shut for some time to come. That’s a hardship for the many businesses that had come to rely on foreign tourists, who numbered 32 million in 2019, before the pandemic.

“Foreigners understand ‘kawaii’ more emotionally than do Japanese. They use, ‘Kawaii!,’ in the same way they say, ‘Wonderful,’ ‘Awesome,’ or ‘Lovely,’ “ said manager Yui Yoshida, noting Japanese tend to use the word mainly for tangible things like cute puppies.

“We had so many foreign customers before the pandemic,” she said. “Then suddenly no one could come.”

6%DOKIDOKI opened 26 years ago and has a loyal following: when it was imperiled by the pandemic downturn, supporters in and outside Japan started up crowd-funding campaigns to keep it afloat. It is also boosting mail-order sales and has introduced colourful face masks in a psychedelic flurry of hues and bear-shaped pouches useful for carrying hand sanitizers.

Yoshida doesn’t expect foreign visitors to return until cherry blossom season next year.

That even might be optimistic.

While mandatory quarantine requirements have been eased somewhat after the number of new coronavirus cases plunged from hundreds per day to a few dozen per day in Tokyo, unlike the Indonesian resort island of Bali and some destinations in Thailand, Japan remains off-limits to foreign tourists.

Japan has also effectively shut out foreign students and business travellers. A big exception, much criticized, was made for athletes and officials arriving for the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year.

5:53 a.m.: Ontario plans to spend $72 million over two years to tackle a courts backlog the province says has reached tens of thousands of cases over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney General Doug Downey says part of the funding will go toward hiring more than 340 new court employees, including Crown prosecutors, victim support staff and bail vettors – experienced Crown attorneys who facilitate faster bail decisions and resolutions when appropriate.

He says the additional staff will help boost trial capacity and reduce the number of cases coming into the justice system, as well as speed up cases already in the system.

Downey says the province will also convene a team of experienced prosecutors to review files involving homicides and other targeted offences to help streamline those cases.

He says the province is also renting space in some areas to boost physical capacity, and plans to continue using technology for remote hearings and build on other processes to help handle cases virtually, such as a digital evidence management program.

The attorney general says he wants to ensure charges related to crimes such as murder and sexual assault aren’t being stayed due to delays in the judicial system.

“I don’t think the justice system has seen this kind of investment in my living memory, quite frankly,” Downey said. “And I think it’s a real opportunity to hold the right people accountable and to move other people through the system.”

Downey said the funding should allow the backlog to return to what it was in 2019 by 2023, but stressed that isn’t the end goal.

“Getting back to where we were system-wise isn’t necessarily success, that’s presuming that the system was working properly before. So I’m a little more ambitious than just getting back to a level that we were at,” he said.

In-person court proceedings were suspended in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with only urgent matters moving forward remotely. Public health restrictions have made it so that very few jury trials were heard during the pandemic.

5:53 a.m.: Statistics Canada is scheduled to report this morning how the economy fared in August, and give a first glimpse of what happened in September.

The flash estimate for gross domestic product for September will also be the first look the statistics agency provides for the third quarter of the year before finalizing the figures next month.

The agency said in August that the economy had its worst quarterly stretch since the start of the pandemic between April and June, contracting at an annualized rate of 1.1 per cent.

Real gross domestic product dropped 0.1 per cent in July, and the agency is set to finalize the size of August’s expected rebound.

A drop in consumer spending in September and shipping bottlenecks that have strained supply chains are expected to weigh down growth in the third quarter.

The Bank of Canada revised down its projection for growth in the third quarter of the year to 5.5 per cent from an annualized rate of 7.3 per cent in its previous forecast.

5:50 a.m.: Friday is the deadline for employees in the core federal public service to declare their COVID-19 vaccination status, but unions say there are still many questions about how requests for accommodations will be handled.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat says 240,000 employees have filed their attestations of their vaccine status to the government, out of approximately 268,000.

Chris Aylward, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says there is a big hole in the policy when it comes to deciding if unvaccinated people should be accommodated under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

He says unions are very concerned that it is left up to individual managers to determine if employee’s religious or conscience convictions about vaccines are valid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said exemptions will be difficult and onerous to obtain, and simply having a personal conviction that vaccines are “bad” will not be sufficient.

Unvaccinated employees who have not been offered some kind of accommodation will be put on unpaid leave as of Nov. 15, and the government said previously those employees will not qualify for employment insurance benefits.