Schools in Ontario will move to online learning after the April break, Premier Doug Ford said Monday, following consultations with health officials.
Ford said community spread of COVID-19 is too high to risk having students congregate after the break. “The problem is not in our school, it’s in our community,” he said at a news conference.
He said the government will decide, based on COVID-19 data, when in-person classes can resume. Spring break began Monday after the province postponed it in March to discourage travel during the pandemic.
The provincial government had previously maintained that schools would reopen next week but unions had called for schools to close in the absence of stronger safety measures.
The premier also said that despite the closures, child care for non-school age children will remain open. Before- and after-school programs, however, will be closed. Free emergency child care for school-aged children of eligible health-care and front-line workers is also being provided, the province says.
Last week, the medical officers of health in Peel Region, Toronto and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph decided to close schools in their respective public health units.
Earlier, health officials in the province reported 4,401 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths.
Hospitals across much of Ontario will start ramping down elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures to ensure they have the capacity to treat more COVID-19 patients. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Friday that could increase intensive-care unit capacity in Ontario by up to 1,000 patient beds.
The province on Monday reported having 1,646 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 619 patients in intensive care units.
Hospitals in northern Ontario are exempt from cancelling non-urgent procedures, but a memo from Ontario Health on Thursday night said they should prepare to ramp down quickly in the near future. The memo also asked hospitals to identify staff who may be redeployed to other sites if necessary.
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Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, told CBC News Network on Monday that the surgical backlog in the province is only going to get worse as hospitals adjust and cancel non-emergency services to deal with critically ill COVID-19 patients.
“We’re asking people who need cardiac care, cancer care, even organ transplantation through this pandemic to wait — to wait even longer,” Dale said.
Meanwhile, more than 700 pharmacies are joining Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the province races to slow the spread of the virus. Government officials say the move will rapidly expand availability of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 55 and over this week.
What’s happening elsewhere in Canada
As of 3:30 p.m. ET, Canada had reported 1,066,597 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 75,866 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,333.
In Quebec, health officials on Monday reported 1,599 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths. According to a provincial dashboard, hospitalizations stood at 630, with 142 people in ICUs
The updated figures come after the province, which has moved up its curfew in Montreal and Laval, saw hundreds of protesters gather in Old Montreal on Sunday night.
New Brunswick reported 10 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and announced that two cases from earlier this month were coronavirus variants.
Nova Scotia reported seven new cases on Monday.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on Monday as Health Minister John Haggie announced that the province has administered more than 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
As of Monday, Prince Edward Island — which reported three new cases of COVID-19 — is allowing people aged 55 and up to get the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at 12 pharmacies on the island.
Manitoba reported 114 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, while the provincial government said it may impose more restrictive public health orders very soon.
Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says case counts and test positivity rates are rising, and there are more signs of house parties and other gatherings.
Saskatchewan reported 300 new cases and one related death Monday as the provincial government announced that it is extending all public health measures until April 26.
Public health orders originally announced on March 9, as well as the Regina and area revisions announced March 24, will remain in effect until April 26 and will be reviewed at that time, the government said in a release.
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Roussin is recommending mask use outdoors whenever people gather, and says that is among possible new rules being considered.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that the province is on track to give 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine per week. Kenney’s update came hours before massive, rapid-flow vaccine clinics were set to open their doors in Calgary and Edmonton.
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday afternoon, more than 136.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking site run by Johns Hopkins University in the United States. The reported global death toll stood at more than 2.9 million.
In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to “behave responsibly” as shops, gyms, hairdressers, restaurant patios and beer gardens reopen after months of lockdown. Monday sees the easing of restrictions that have been in place in England since early January to suppress a surge in coronavirus infections linked to a more transmissible new variant of the virus.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following their own, broadly similar plans to ease lockdowns. Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths.
Meanwhile, the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines started to be delivered to the European Union on Monday, the first of 55 million doses that are expected to be provided to the bloc before the end of June. EU Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker said the Johnson & Johnson deliveries “are indeed on track as agreed.”
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In the Asia-Pacific region, the hard-hit Philippine capital and four nearby provinces have been placed under a lighter coronavirus lockdown to avoid further damage to an already battered economy, despite a continuing surge in infections and deaths. The Philippines has long been a Southeast Asian coronavirus hot spot, with about 865,000 confirmed infections and nearly 15,000 deaths.
“Our emerging strategy is to increase our bed capacities instead of closing the economy,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who spoke in a televised news briefing from a Manila hospital after contracting COVID-19, like many cabinet members.
Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees flocked to take a holy bath in India’s Ganges river, even as the nation racked up the world’s highest tally of new daily coronavirus infections.
In the Middle East, Iran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country on Saturday.
In the Americas, the United States had administered 187,047,131 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and distributed 237,796,105 doses as of Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Venezuela has secured the funds to fully pay for coronavirus vaccines via the COVAX system, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday, a day after a surprise announcement that the country had paid more than half the amount due.
In Africa, Tunisia approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and will soon receive 1.5 million doses of the vaccine under an African Union plan.
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