The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available
3:50 p.m.: The omicron wave, which broke U.S. records for cases and hospitalizations, has given regulators and scientists an opportunity to better assess vaccine efficacy in children ages six months to four years old, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday.
Gottlieb, who sits on the board of the vaccine-maker Pfizer, said he hopes key data expected on Friday will shed additional light on whether the federal government should grant emergency authorization for two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children in this age group.
Gottlieb, who appeared on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” emphasized that the toll omicron took on children in particular gave Pfizer a stronger basis for comparison of those given vaccines and those not.
At the urging of the federal government, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech applied last week for authorization for two doses of its vaccine to children ages four and younger. But results released in December did not show the hoped-for immune response in children ages two to four. Children six months to two years old showed a comparable response to that of older teenagers and young adults.
The disappointing finding has led the companies to test a third shot in young children, but those results will not available for a few weeks.
2:40 p.m.: Family gatherings and celebrations during last weekend’s long break for the Lunar New Year holiday may be taking a toll on South Korea. The nation of nearly 52 million recorded 38,691 new coronavirus cases Sunday — and its 1 millionth case — setting another daily record, according to local health authorities.
In the current surge driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, South Korea has been reporting records week after week. While public health officials had predicted that cases would reach 30,000 a day by the end of the month, such figures have come weeks earlier.
The nation was able to keep the virus under control from the beginning of the pandemic through last year with its meticulous contact tracing system and social distancing campaign. As recently as the summer, South Korea’s total case count was only in the triple digits. The nation has fully vaccinated 85 per cent of its population, according to the Central Disease Control Headquarters. About 55 per cent of its population has received booster shots.
In response to the omicron surge, the government shifted from trying to limit the total number of cases to focusing on decreasing severe cases through early detection and treatment.
2:08 p.m.: The southern Chinese city of Baise began a citywide lockdown of its 4 million residents on Sunday after 98 people tested positive for COVID-19, China Central Television reported, citing a local press conference.
The city had previously reported a total of 43 positive cases during the mass testing.
An additional 87 results are still pending review, the report said. Mass testing of 207,506 people was rolled out after a person who travelled to Baise from Shenzhen tested positive on Feb. 4.
2 p.m.: Australia plans to open its borders to international tourists as soon as possible, a government minister said Sunday, following a report they will be allowed back by the end of February after a pandemic hiatus of almost two years.
“We are getting ready to open as soon as we can,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said in an ABC TV interview. “We don’t have all the information we need to be able to take the decision, but we are very close.”
Overseas tourists could be back within two or three weeks, the Herald Sun paper reported earlier on Sunday, citing an unnamed senior government source. An announcement from the government may come as soon as Monday, the paper said.
1:52 p.m.: Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting 12 people in hospital as a result of COVID-19, including one person in intensive care.
In a statement Sunday, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said there are also seven additional people in hospital who were admitted for other reasons and have tested positive for COVID-19.
She said there are 154 new cases of COVID-19 and 500 new recoveries. There are 1,861 active cases in the province.
Officials are also monitoring outbreaks at two hospitals, seven long-term care homes and two community care facilities. As well, 23 early-learning and child-care centres have reported cases or outbreaks of COVID-19.
1:30 p.m: Nova Scotia health officials say 95 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 — down seven from Saturday.
Those in hospital range in age from four to 95 years old. There are 13 patients in intensive care. There are also 135 people in hospital who were admitted for another reason and tested positive for COVID-19. There are 139 people who contracted the virus after being admitted to hospital.
Officials say there are 142 new cases in the province’s Central Zone, 90 in the Eastern Zone, 40 in the Northern Zone and 77 cases in the Western Zone.
11:32 a.m.: COVID-19 hospitalizations in Quebec remain high but continue to slowly decline as the province is set to reopen its cultural sector at half capacity as of Monday.
The Health Department says 2,411 people are in hospital today, a decline of 36 from the day before.
The number of people in intensive care dropped by four over the past 24 hours to 177.
Authorities are reporting 22 additional deaths linked to the virus.
Officials say 2,568 new cases were detected today, though they warn that number is not reflective of the actual situation because molecular testing has been limited to certain higher-risk groups.
They say 26,131 tests were analyzed in the previous 24 hours, with 10.4 per cent coming back positive.
11:28 a.m.: Ontario says 56 more people have died of COVID-19.
The province is reporting 2,230 people hospitalized with the virus and 486 patients in intensive care.
Health Minister Christine Elliot cautions that not every hospital reports data on weekends.
There were 2,887 new COVID-19 cases reported, but Public Health Ontario has said the true number is likely higher because of changes to the province’s testing policy that limit access for many residents.
Elliott says some of the vaccination data is currently unavailable, but said Saturday that 89.4 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and over have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while about 84 per cent of Ontarians over four have had two shots and 46 per cent have received booster doses.
There were 313 long-term care homes with COVID-19 outbreaks as of Friday as the province prepares to ease visitor restrictions on Monday.
7:21 a.m.: Quebec’s theatres and concert halls are preparing to reopen to the public on Monday, but leaders in the industry say it will be a long road back to normalcy for a sector that is grappling with successive COVID-19 closures and rising mental health concerns.
Jon Weisz, the head of a group that represents small music venues, says that while he’s pleased the government is allowing spaces to open, albeit in a limited fashion, he believes it will take three to five years for the music scene to recover financially, due in part to changes in audience behaviour.
He and others who spoke to The Canadian Press believe the culture sector has been treated unfairly by a government that has been quick to shut down cinemas, concert halls and theatres with no evidence that they’re the source of outbreaks.
7:20 a.m.: Russia is reporting a record daily count of new coronavirus infections of 180,071, a tenfold spike from a month ago as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads through the country.
The figure released by the state coronavirus task force on Sunday was about 2,800 cases more than recorded the previous day and continued a surge that began in mid-January, when daily new cases were around 17,000.
Although the number of infections has increased dramatically in recent weeks, the task force reported that daily deaths from COVID-19 are holding steady or marginally declining: 661 deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, compared with 796 on Jan. 6.
Sunday 5:36 a.m.: Thousands of protesters across Canada took to the streets Saturday for the second weekend in a row, snarling traffic, disrupting business and residential neighbourhoods and leading police to compare the demonstrations to a “siege” on the nation’s democracy.
What began last month with truckers complaining about mandated vaccines for crossing the border from the United States has grown into a catch-all movement for a variety of anti-government causes, laying bare deep resentments within Canada’s political right.
While police and officials braced for rowdy crowds and potential violence, the atmosphere of the demonstrations by Saturday evening, though boisterous, remained mostly peaceful and festive.
But police in Ottawa, the capital, admitted they were overwhelmed by the crowds and warned that the noisy and disruptive protests posed a real threat.
Ottawa police are conducting criminal investigations into 50 alleged incidents connected to a long-running protest against COVID-19 measures in the city’s core.
Police say 11 of those alleged offences were hate crimes, and four people are facing charges.
The so-called Freedom Convoy rolled into the nation’s capital last weekend, and while some people went home over the course of the week, participation surged again yesterday.
Officials estimate 500 heavy vehicles associated with the demonstration were in the city centre.
Meanwhile, solidarity protests are ongoing across Canada.
Read Saturday’s coronavirus news.
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