Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario to give update on COVID-19 vaccination plan this morning; Toronto Congress Centre opens up to walk-ins for vaccinations – Toronto Star

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

8:19 a.m.: German authorities say more than 40% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, the pace of the country’s vaccination campaign has eased off. Calls are growing for more creative efforts to reach people who haven’t made appointments to get inoculated, ranging from vaccinations at events to an incentive lottery offering prizes.

Germany’s disease control center says more than 33.9 million people — 40.8% of the population — are fully vaccinated. Nearly 47.9 million — 57.6% of the population — have received at least one shot.

The government wants people to get vaccinated because of the risk posed by the more contagious delta variant, which is now dominant among Germany’s relatively low number of new cases.

Health Minister Jens Spahn tweeted, “With a view to the fall and winter, every vaccination counts now!”

The disease control center says there were an average 710,000 vaccinations per day last week, down from 800,500 a week earlier.

8:18 a.m.: International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has arrived in Tokyo as Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihde Suga announced a state of emergency that could result in a ban on fans at the games.

The state of emergency will run Monday through Aug. 22. Suga says it’s needed to “prevent the resurgence of the future spread on cases across the country.”

Tokyo reported 920 new cases on Wednesday, up from 714 a week earlier. Only 15% of the Japanese population are fully vaccinated.

The focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the games on TV from home.

The IOC and local organizers are attempting to hold the games during a pandemic despite opposition from the Japanese public and medical community. The postponed Tokyo Olympics are set to open on July 23.

8:15 a.m.: Days before her death in November, Sharon Ogilvie called her daughter, Erica Lazarakos, weeping so desperately she could barely speak.

The 77-year-old woman had contracted COVID-19 during a massive outbreak that left her Stratford retirement home severely short-staffed. Ogilvie told her daughter, whom she called Rick, that she had soiled herself but nobody was responding to her bell.

Ogilvie, who suffered from a musculoskeletal degenerative disease, was in severe pain and had been lying in her own waste for more than four hours. She begged her daughter: “You have to do something.”

But Lazarakos felt helpless; she lives in the Sarnia area, an hour and a half away. Relatives weren’t allowed to visit during the outbreak and staff were no longer answering the phones. All she could do was cry and pray with her mother from the other side of the line.

When her mother called back again, less than an hour later, Lazarakos’s heart sank — but this time, something had shifted.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jennifer Yang.

7:57 a.m.: The harms of pandemic-related disruptions on young people will be deeper and may last longer if schools don’t return to in-person learning in the fall, according to findings from an ongoing COVID-19 mental health study from researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children.

More than half of children aged eight to 12 reported clinically significant depressive symptoms during the second wave of the pandemic. That number jumps to 70 per cent among adolescents surveyed.

The preliminary findings are significant as Ontario prepares its back-to-school plan for the fall, with researchers warning that just opening school doors without offering extracurricular activities and mental health supports will not be enough to reverse the impact.

Researchers said the results are worrying, as the findings reveal children and youth’s mental health did not bounce back in the aftermath of the pandemic’s second wave during February and March.

Read the full story from the Star’s Nadine Yousif here.

7:38 a.m.: South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic as long lines snake around testing stations in the capital, where the virus has accelerated following months of complacency.

The 1,275 new cases announced Thursday marked the second straight day above 1,200 and exceeded the previous one-day record of 1,240 set Christmas Day.

More than 1,000 of the infections were in the greater Seoul area, which is home to half the country’s 51 million people.

The viral surge is a worrisome development in a country where 70% of the people are still waiting for their first vaccine shot.

The country has struggled to maintain public vigilance with warmer temperatures and months of fatigue luring larger crowds to restaurants, bars and parks.

7:37 a.m.: Australia is attempting to accelerate its sluggish COVID-19 vaccination rollout by encouraging Sydney residents to get their second AstraZeneca shot after two months instead of three.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday he encouraged people to take a second dose of AstraZeneca after two months given a growing cluster of the delta variant that has locked down Sydney for at least three weeks.

Only 10% of Australians over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated. That combined with Australia recording fewer than 31,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began leaves the population particularly vulnerable to the delta variant, which was first identified in India and is thought more contagious than the original virus and other variants.

Sydney reported on Thursday 38 new cases involving the delta variant in the latest 24-hour period. That was the largest daily tally since a cluster emerged after a limousine driver tested positive on June 16. He is thought to have been infected while transporting a U.S. flight crew from Sydney airport. Around 400 cases are now linked to that driver.

Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca was supposed to become the backbone of Australia’s vaccination program when its rollout began in March. AstraZeneca was initially recommended for all adults in two doses 12 weeks apart.

The vaccine is now only recommended in Australia for adults over age 60 after two women aged 48 and 52 died from rare blood clots that were blamed on AstraZeneca’s product.

7:36 a.m.: A closely monitored coronavirus infection survey indicates that men gathering to watch England’s progress in soccer’s European Championship may be a reason why women were less likely to test positive for the virus in recent days.

Interim findings covering June 24 to July 5 from Imperial College London and polling firm Ipsos Mori showed infections quadrupled since the previous so-called React-1 study. According to the survey, one in 170 people in England is infected, and there was a recent doubling time of six days.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React program at Imperial’s School of Public Health, said the prevalence of the virus also was higher in men — 0.7% against 0.5% for women. He speculated that men gathering at homes and pubs to watch the Euros was one reason for the trend.

The study was conducted before tens of thousands of spectators watched England beat Denmark 2-1 in a semifinal match on Wednesday evening at London’s Wembley Stadium. England’s win prompted scenes of wild jubilation elsewhere as fans celebrated the national team making its first final in a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup. In Sunday’s final, England will play Italy, again at Wembley.

7:30 a.m.: Ontario is set to update its COVID-19 vaccination plan today.

Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones are scheduled to speak at a news conference this morning.

The province has passed its COVID-19 vaccination target for entering Step 3, with 78 per cent of adults vaccinated with one dose and 49 per cent fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.

Cases have declined as well, with 194 new infections reported on Wednesday and no new deaths linked to the virus.

Ontario is in Step 2 of its reopening plan after a provincewide lockdown through the spring.

Mayors and chairs from the largest municipalities in the Toronto and Hamilton areas called for clear guidance on Step 3 earlier in the week so that businesses and organizations can plan effectively for the changes.

6:44 a.m.: The Canadian Human Rights Commission confirms it has engaged in “informal discussions” about vaccine passports with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada at a time when experts and advocates are debating how to safely reopen Canada’s borders and economy while respecting privacy and human rights.

It’s a complicated issue, and one the commission will be watching closely to assess the human rights at play, said Sue Butchart, manager of policy at the human rights commission.

“Because vaccine passports are just beginning to be implemented, we still don’t know all the scenarios that might arise.”

One example she cites is equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and “whether requirements for a passport might potentially discriminate on the basis of disability or religious belief.”

The commission did not disclose any other information about its role in consultations.



6:43 a.m.: There is no sign that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been inoculated against the coronavirus and his country hasn’t received any foreign vaccines, South Korea’s spy agency said Thursday.

The National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing that it hasn’t detected any information that North Korea has acquired vaccines, according to Ha Tae-keung, one of the legislators who attended the session. He quoted the NIS as saying there were no signs that Kim has been inoculated.

6:12 a.m.: The City of Toronto is opening up one of its mass vaccination clinics to walk-in clients.

Doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available without an appointment at the Toronto Congress Centre starting today.

Officials say approximately 2,000 shots will be available each day at the site from noon until 7 p.m. until Sunday.

Walk-in vaccinations are open to anyone age 18 or older to receive a first or second dose of mRNA vaccine.

Toronto says it will be evaluating the effectiveness of the walk-in program and will consider expanding walk-in appointments to other City-operated clinics..

Residents without OHIP health cards can reach out to one of the City’s vaccine registration partners to create the necessary “proxy ID” in the provincial vaccine system.

6:11 a.m.: Taiwan on Thursday received 1.13 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Japan in the second such donation this year.

Once desperately lacking jabs, Taiwan has benefited from vaccine diplomacy, receiving near 5 million doses from the United States and Japan following its worst outbreak starting in May that was being driven by a more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Taiwan has also accused China, which claims the self-ruled island as its renegade territory, of intervening to block the delivery of vaccines. China denies it as an attempt by the island’s government to shift responsibility for a recent surge.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung thanked Japan shortly before the vaccines arrived. “We are once again expressing our gratitude,” he said.

5:53 a.m.: The global death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 4 million Wednesday as the crisis increasingly becomes a race between the vaccine and the highly contagious Delta variant.

The tally of lives lost over the past year and a half, as compiled from official sources by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the number of people killed in battle in all of the world’s wars since 1982, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute Oslo.

The toll is three times the number of people killed in traffic accidents around the globe every year. It is about equal to the population of Los Angeles or the nation of Georgia. It is equivalent to more than half of Hong Kong or close to 50% of New York City.

Even then, it is widely believed to be an undercount because of overlooked cases or deliberate concealment.

With the advent of the vaccine, deaths per day have plummeted to around 7,900, after topping out at over 18,000 a day in January.

But in recent weeks, the mutant delta version of the virus first identified in India has set off alarms around the world, spreading rapidly even in vaccination success stories like the U.S., Britain and Israel.

5:52 a.m.: A fourth wave of COVID-19 now surging across the United Kingdom doesn’t have to become a reality in Canada as long as people keep getting vaccinated as quickly as possible, some infectious disease experts say.

That optimistic prediction comes even with the dominance of The Delta variant, which is proving to be harder to stop with just one dose of vaccine.

Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 immunity task force, said the U.K. has been a “useful bellwether” for Canada in the pandemic, often a few steps ahead as infections rise and fall.

With one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns and strict public health measures after Christmas, the U.K. was a beacon of hope for Canada. In mid-May, while much of Canada was still deep into third-wave lockdowns, the U.K. was opening restaurants and bars, having curbed infection rates so much it had days when not a single person died of COVID-19.

But in the weeks since, The Delta variant is proving its heft, pushing infections in the U.K. from below 2,000 a day in the third week of May to more than 26,000 a day over the last week.

“We may likewise find with multiple provinces opening up that the same thing happens here,” said Naylor. “But it’s also possible that Canada may chart a slightly smoother course with Delta in the next month or so.”

5:51 a.m.: Japanese Prime Minister announces state of emergency for Tokyo with Olympics opening in just two weeks.

5:50 a.m.: Most of us are familiar with the good news: In recent weeks, rates of COVID-19 infection and death have plummeted in California, falling to levels not seen since the early days of the pandemic. The average number of new COVID-19 infections reported each day dropped by an astounding 98% from December to June, according to figures from the California Department of Public Health.

And bolstering that trend, nearly 70% of Californians 12 and older are partially or fully vaccinated.

But state health officials are still reporting nearly 1,000 new COVID-19 cases and more than two dozen COVID-related deaths per day. So, where does COVID-19 continue to simmer in California? And why?

An analysis of state data shows some clear patterns at this stage of the pandemic: As vaccination rates rose across the state, the overall numbers of cases and deaths plunged. But within that broader trend are pronounced regional discrepancies. Counties with relatively low rates of vaccination reported much higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths in May and June than counties with high vaccination rates.

5:50 a.m.: IOC President Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo on Thursday to find Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihde Suga set to declare a state of emergency, which is likely to result in a ban on fans at the Tokyo Olympics as coronavirus infections spread across the capital.

Bach largely avoided cameras at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and, on a rainy afternoon, went to the International Olympic Committee’s games headquarters in Tokyo, a five-star hotel located in the centre of the city. He is reported to need to self-isolate for three days.

Bach’s arrival comes just two weeks before the postponed Tokyo Olympics are set to open. The IOC and local organizers are attempting to hold the games during a pandemic despite opposition from the Japanese public and medical community.

At a meeting with medical experts on Thursday, government officials proposed a plan to issue a state of emergency in Tokyo from next Monday through Aug. 22. The Olympics are to begin on July 23 and close Aug. 8.

The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlours serving alcohol to close. A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the Games on TV from home.

Thursday 5:48 a.m.: The California state Capitol in Sacramento has toughened its mask policy after finding nine recent cases of COVID-19 in the Assembly, including four cases in people who had been fully vaccinated, legislative officials said.

The Capitol’s mask mandate is being tightened at a time when the highly contagious Delta variant, with its enhanced capacity to sidestep vaccines, accounts for nearly a third of cases in the state and for more than half of cases in the country, according to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the new policy, legislators and staff members, regardless of their vaccination status, must wear masks at all times in the Capitol, the Legislative Office Building and district offices.

The policy, which went into effect Tuesday, extends to legislators and staff members working in office suites. Under the previous policy, masks had only been required in public areas like hallways and hearing rooms.

In addition, the Senate and the Assembly will begin twice-weekly COVID testing of employees who are not fully vaccinated, according to memos from administrators in both chambers.

Read Wednesday’s coronavirus news.