The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
5:55 a.m.: According to Ontario’s regulatory body of nurses, there are currently at least 41 applicants who meet all of its registration requirements but are waiting for the immigration authorization to work in Canada. It’s not sure what the numbers are for other provinces.
Statistics Canada reported that in the first three months of this year, the health-care and social-assistance sector had the largest year-over-year increase in job vacancies compared to other sectors, rising by 27,700 to 98,700 vacancies — an increase of 39 per cent. The positions with the largest vacancy increase were registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses. Half of those positions had been vacant for 90 days or more, according to Statistics Canada.
Ontario has, so far, been hardest hit. With a ratio of 725 registered nurses per 100,000 people, it ranks as the lowest province in Canada and well below the national average of 811 nurses per 100,000 people, according to 2019 data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Hospitals across the province currently have a vacancy rate of 18 to 22 per cent for nurses, the Ontario Nurses’ Association says.
5:53 a.m.: Hong Kong will tighten COVID-19 restrictions despite a lack of local outbreaks to better align with China’s policies and increase chances of quarantine-free travel between the territory and mainland, leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday.
It will step up contact tracing, such as requiring the use of its LeaveHomeSafe app in government premises to record the coming and going of visitors. It will also tighten quarantine rules to exempt only emergency workers or those in essential industries such as logistics. Currently, those exempt from quarantine include airline crew, banking and insurance executives, directors of public companies, as well as crew members on cargo and passenger ships, among others.
Hong Kong has not had a major local outbreak since the beginning of the year, with virtually no local transmission in recent months. But it is largely closed to international travel, and travellers from countries deemed high-risk such as the U.S. must serve a 21-day quarantine.
Authorities say resuming quarantine-free travel with the mainland is the top priority, compared to reopening travel internationally.
Lam said tightening restrictions to be “more in line with mainland practices” is necessary to give Chinese authorities confidence to resume quarantine-free cross-boundary travel.
“If Hong Kong were to loosen the border controls for people arriving from overseas or adopt what other countries have done … to live with the COVID-19 virus, then the chances of resuming travel with the mainland will be reduced,” she said at a weekly news conference where she wore a brace after recently breaking her arm.
5:52 a.m.: Children under 18 and people from dozens of countries with a shortage of vaccines will be exempt from new rules that will require most travellers to the United States be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Biden administration announced.
The government said Monday it will require airlines to collect contact information on passengers regardless of whether they have been vaccinated to help with contact tracing, if that becomes necessary.
Beginning Nov. 8, foreign, non-immigrant adults travelling to the United States will need to be fully vaccinated, with only limited exceptions, and all travellers will need to be tested for the virus before boarding a plane to the U.S. There will be tightened restrictions for American and foreign citizens who are not fully vaccinated.
The new policy comes as the Biden administration moves away from restrictions that ban non-essential travel from several dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran — and instead focuses on classifying individuals by the risk they pose to others.
It also reflects the White House’s embrace of vaccination requirements as a tool to push more Americans to get the shots by making it inconvenient to remain unvaccinated.
Under the policy, those who are vaccinated will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of travel, while the unvaccinated must present a test taken within one day of travel.
Children under 18 will not be required to be fully vaccinated because of delays in making them eligible for vaccines in many places. They will still need to take a COVID-19 test unless they are 2 or younger.
Others who will be exempt from the vaccination requirement include people who participated in COVID-19 clinical trials, who had severe allergic reactions to the vaccines, or are from a country where shots are not widely available.
5:52 a.m.: New Zealand’s government said Tuesday it will expand a vaccine mandate to include thousands of workers who have close contact with their customers — including employees at restaurants, bars, gyms and hair salons.
The changes will mean that about 40% of all New Zealand workers will need to get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or risk losing their jobs, up from about 15% previously.
Speaking with reporters, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she didn’t believe the new rules were an overreach of government power.
“This requirement means staff and customers are treated equally and it will play a big part in helping to minimize the spread of the virus in the highest-risk venues by reducing the potential for COVID to enter the business in the first place,” Ardern said.
Workers who had previously been told they needed to get their shots included teachers and health care professionals.
5:51 a.m.: Coronavirus indicators are shooting upward in Belgium, pushing the government on Tuesday to consider re-imposing some pandemic measures that it only relaxed a few weeks ago.
Daily infections in the nation of 11 million increased 75% to reach 5,299 case on a daily basis last week. Hospitalizations have increased by 69% to reach 102 daily cases. Deaths have increased slightly, with an average of 13 a day.
To turn around this trend, the government and regional officials are set to decide later Tuesday to boost measures again, although stopping well short of a going into a lockdown. Indications are that authorities are looking at increased mandatory use of face masks and virus passports.
The urgency is such that the meeting has already been brought forward three days.
5:51 a.m.: Moderna says it will make up to 110 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine available to African countries.
Tuesday’s announcement says Moderna is prepared to deliver the first 15 million doses by the end of this year, with 35 million in the first quarter of 2022 and up to 60 million in the second quarter. It says “all doses are offered at Moderna’s lowest tiered price.”
The company called it “the first step in our long-term partnership with the African Union,” which has been outspoken about the need for many more COVID-19 vaccine doses. Africa and its 1.3 billion people remain the least-vaccinated region of the world against COVID-19, with just over 5% fully vaccinated.
Moderna said this agreement is separate from its deal with the global COVAX project to supply up to 500 million doses from late this year through 2022. COVAX aims to supply doses to low- and middle-income countries.
5:50 a.m.: The deadline for British Columbia health-care workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is today.
The provincial health officer’s order covers doctors, nurses, students, residents, contractors, volunteers and all other health-care professionals.
Premier John Horgan says he’s hopeful that the small number of workers who are resistant to getting vaccinated will get the information they need to get their shots.
Those who don’t have their first dose of vaccine by the deadline can’t work unless they have a recognized exemption.
The order says unvaccinated workers who get their first shot before Nov. 15 can resume working seven days after the first dose, but they must wear personal protective equipment and take other precautions until they get their second shot.
The Health Ministry says 94 per cent of B.C. health workers were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 24, three per cent were unvaccinated and two per cent had one dose.
Overall, B.C. has reached an 89.6 per cent vaccination rate for first shots among eligible residents age 12 and up and 84.4 per cent have received their second dose.
5:50 a.m.: Many parents are planning to let their children go trick-or-treating this year — but a new poll suggests they may find fewer doors open than in pre-pandemic Halloweens.
Some 93 per cent of respondents whose kids trick-or-treated last year intend to have them go candy hunting again this Sunday, according to a new survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies.
But the online poll suggests fewer than half of Canadians will open their doors to trick-or-treaters due to COVID-19.
Of the 56 per cent who checked no, half said they would typically dole out candy on Halloween but will not this time “given the current pandemic.”
Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says some parents who kept their kids at home last year may allow them to hit the pavement on Oct. 31, given the high vaccination rates now versus the absence of vaccines a year ago.
Either way, the poll figures suggest they’ll face a few more darkened doorways.
“If you’re opening your door do you fear that you’re going to let the virus in? I don’t know,” Bourque said. “Usually you stay on the porch.
“We’ve already bought the candy to open the door.”
Many Canadians also trick or treat in condo and apartment buildings, where open-air interactions are not an option.
Of the 447 respondents who had children of trick-or-treat age, 252 let them costume up and go porch to porch last year, with the vast majority of those planning the same for Sunday. The sample size is small and may not be fully reflective of Canadians’ Halloween plans.
Conducted Oct. 22 to 24, the online poll surveyed 1,512 Canadians and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.
5:45 a.m.: Reducing patient wait times; expanding mental health, addiction and home care services; and preparing for the next pandemic are among top priorities for a group representing Ontario doctors.
The Ontario Medical Association shared its recommendations for improving the province’s health system in a new report published today.
It also highlights the need to strengthen public health units and assign a linked team of health-care providers to every patient.
The group is calling on political parties to include its recommendations in their platforms leading up to next June’s provincial election.
It says tackling the pandemic backlog of services must be done along with reducing the long-standing problem of patient wait times.
The report calls for adequate funding to address the backlog, ensuring services are fully staffed, educating people about healthy lifestyles, offering more services outside hospitals and improving data collection.
To respond to the “tsunami of new patients” seeking mental health care, the report says there must be more affordable, publicly funded services in people’s communities.
It recommends setting provincewide standards for mental health and addiction services, more funding for those services, providing mental health supports to health workers and increasing the number of supervised drug consumption sites.
Investing more funds in home care recruitment and retention is recommended as a priority that the report says will save space in hospital beds and reduce wait times for other patients.
It also recommends ensuring people without family doctors can access home care, reducing administrative paperwork requirement and providing tax relief for families who employ full-time caregivers.