The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file is no longer updating. Click here to read the latest coverage. Web links to longer stories if available.
10 p.m.: Canadian health authorities are keeping a watchful eye on European investigations of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots following inoculations, but say there is no evidence they were caused by the vaccine.
At least nine European countries hit pause on their use of AstraZeneca’s doses — some entirely, and others only on specific batches — pending further investigation of blood clots, though none suggested there is a link between the clots and getting the vaccine.
Canada’s first 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca are being put to use just this week.
Late Thursday, Health Canada issued a release saying it is aware of the reports out of Europe and would like to reassure Canadians “that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks.”
Health Canada said it authorized the vaccine based on a thorough, independent review of the evidence and determined that it meets Canada’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements.
“At this time, there is no indication that the vaccine caused these events,” reads the release.
“To date, no adverse events related to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, or the version manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, have been reported to Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada.”
Health Canada said none of the identified batches under investigation have been shipped to Canada.
Officials in several provinces said Thursday they don’t intend to stop the rollout.
8:19 p.m. President Joe Biden is delivering a sombre but optimistic message on the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking from a lectern in a flag-draped backdrop in the East Room of the White House, Biden is reflecting on the worst public health crisis in more than a century. It has killed nearly 530,000 Americans, sickened millions more and ravaged the global economy.
Biden says, “We all lost something, a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice.”
Biden said urged all residents to continue wearing masks. “I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part,” he said.
“We’re actually on track to reach this goal of 100 million shots on my 60th day in office,” said Biden. He said the U.S. will likely surpass the president’s initial goal of 100 million “shots in arms” within his first 100 days in office.
He announced the goal of having each state and local government make all adults eligible to be inoculated by 1 May.
As more and more adults, including teachers and public transportation employees, are vaccinated, “we can accelerate the massive nationwide effort to reopen our schools safely,” Biden said. The aim is to do this within the next 50 days.
“I will not relent until we beat this virus,” he said.
Biden condemned the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic. The “vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who’ve been harassed, blamed and scapegoated” are “wrong, it’s un-American and it must stop,” he said.
By 4 July “small groups” should be able to get together for barbeques, Biden said, not only to mark Independence Day, but also to mark “independence from this virus.”
8:07 p.m. There have been 899,757 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, according to The Canadian Press, of which 30,672 are active, and 22,371 are deaths.
There were 3,022 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 80.7 per 100,000 people, CP reports. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 21,366 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 3,052.
There were 36 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 214 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 31. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.86 per 100,000 people.
There have been 25,542,543 tests completed.
- Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,011 confirmed cases (72 active, 933 resolved, six deaths).
There was one new case Thursday. The rate of active cases is 13.79 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been nine new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people.
There have been 207,216 tests completed.
- Prince Edward Island: 143 confirmed cases (28 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths).
There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 17.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of five new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.
There have been 114,737 tests completed.
- Nova Scotia: 1,665 confirmed cases (19 active, 1,581 resolved, 65 deaths).
There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 1.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people.
There have been 378,355 tests completed.
- New Brunswick: 1,462 confirmed cases (35 active, 1,398 resolved, 29 deaths).
There were two new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 4.48 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 19 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.
There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days, there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.02 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.71 per 100,000 people.
There have been 246,704 tests completed.
- Quebec: 295,390 confirmed cases (7,134 active, 277,738 resolved, 10,518 deaths).
There were 738 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 83.2 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,013 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 716.
There were 15 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 67 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 122.67 per 100,000 people.
There have been 6,543,383 tests completed.
- Ontario: 313,520 confirmed cases (11,283 active, 295,128 resolved, 7,109 deaths).
There were 1,092 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 76.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 8,763 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,252.
There were 10 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 85 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 48.25 per 100,000 people.
There have been 11,377,376 tests completed.
- Manitoba: 32,509 confirmed cases (1,204 active, 30,394 resolved, 911 deaths).
There were 91 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 87.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 458 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 65.
There were three new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of nine new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 66.05 per 100,000 people.
There have been 549,310 tests completed.
- Saskatchewan: 30,193 confirmed cases (1,395 active, 28,397 resolved, 401 deaths).
There were 165 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 118.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 973 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 139.
There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 34.02 per 100,000 people.
There have been 599,227 tests completed.
- Alberta: 137,137 confirmed cases (4,488 active, 130,716 resolved, 1,933 deaths).
There were 364 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 101.5 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,352 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 336.
There were five new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 22 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.71 per 100,000 people.
There have been 3,482,872 tests completed.
- British Columbia: 86,219 confirmed cases (4,993 active, 79,829 resolved, 1,397 deaths).
There were 569 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 96.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,746 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 535.
There were three new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 21 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.06 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 27.14 per 100,000 people.
There have been 2,010,911 tests completed.
- Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death).
There were zero new cases Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people.
There have been 8,289 tests completed.
- Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths).
There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.
There have been 15,124 tests completed.
- Nunavut: 381 confirmed cases (20 active, 360 resolved, one death).
There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 50.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.
There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people.
There have been 8,963 tests completed.
5:41 p.m. Mayors in Peel Region are asking the province to further loosen restrictions in their communities days after a stay-at-home order was lifted, The Canadian Press reports.
Peel Region, made up of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, was moved into the “grey lockdown” category of the province’s pandemic framework on Monday, under which stores can open at a quarter their capacity, following nearly two months under the stay-at-home order, according to CP.
The “grey” category allows non-essential retailers to reopen with capacity limits, while gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining remain closed.
The mayor of Mississauga said she has asked the premier and Peel’s top doctor to move her city into the second-strictest “red” zone, which would allow gyms to reopen with capacity limits and indoor restaurant dining and personal care services to resume with restrictions.
“I believe this is the right time for Mississauga to move into the red zone, with or without the rest of the region,” Mayor Bonnie Crombie said Wednesday.
Small business owners are seeing Mississauga residents go to neighbouring cities like Oakville in Halton Region to shop and dine, said Crombie, arguing that Mississauga’s case numbers warrant it being in the “red” zone.
“We can no longer afford to be held back, just because case numbers in other cities in our region aren’t quite there yet,” she said.
Brampton’s mayor also said Peel should be placed in the “red” zone and councillors in his city voted Wednesday to ask the province to make that move as soon as possible.
Caledon’s mayor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh had called for the region to be placed in the “grey” zone, saying it would preserve the progress made in the fight against the virus.
At that time, Crombie said she would have preferred a move to the “red” level but understood the region being placed in the “grey” zone.
Loh said Thursday that his health unit is monitoring the latest COVID-19 data for the region closely and he will soon be making a recommendation to the province on where Peel should be in the pandemic framework.
“I understand the mayors desire to move to the red zone and appreciate the support they’ve given me and my team throughout this pandemic,” Loh in a statement on Thursday.
“COVID-19 activity remains high in Peel and it is imperative that we continue to move forward cautiously to avoid a third wave and another shutdown.”
Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford’s office said the government is taking a very cautious approach, rooted in data, and any decision on restrictions for regions will be made in consultation with the local medical officer of health.
5:30 p.m. Alberta has recorded 364 new COVID-19 infections and five more deaths, The Canadian Press reports.
Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says about four per cent of tests in the past day came back positive, according to CP.
There are 259 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 38 in intensive care.
The province also reported 41 more variant cases over the past day, bringing its total to 775.
5:12 p.m. British Columbia’s provincial health officer is allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, The Canadian Press.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says restrictions on indoor gatherings and rules for restaurants, bars, retail stores and other venues remain in place, according to CP.
Provincial health orders prohibit social gatherings of any size at residences beyond those in a household, which meant no gatherings in backyards or elsewhere on someone’s property.
Henry is also restricting liquor sales at bars and restaurants on St. Patrick’s Day from 8 p.m. to the following day at 9 a.m.
She says while the infection curve of the pandemic is trending down on Vancouver Island and in the Interior and Northern health regions, COVID-19 is still circulating in communities, particularly in the Lower Mainland.
She announced 569 new cases today and three more deaths, pushing the death toll in the province to 1,397.
B.C. has administered more than 360,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine so far.
3:14 p.m. The rapid case growth some Ontario health units are seeing at the moment isn’t random, according to the dean of the University of Toronto’s Public Health Department, Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, tabling the latest Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table projections.
Said Brown: “It’s a function of how loosening public health measures, increased mobility and growth in new variants come together.”
Progress in reducing COVID-19 “is stalled” with more contagious variants soaring since mid-Feb as early strains subside, reports Ontario’s Science Advisory Table. Almost 2,000 cases a day are predicted within three weeks, and that prediction represents the most optimistic forecast.
“The risk of catching the disease has increased,” says Brown.
Ontario’s science advisors say the province’s ability to control the spread of COVID-19 variants over the next few weeks will determine if there will be a third wave of infection.
The province’s Science Advisory Table says residents must continue masking and physical distancing even as vaccinations increase in order to prevent further cases of the more contagious variants.
The group says that while the drive to vaccinate residents and workers in long-term care has paid off in declining deaths and illness, progress against the virus has stalled outside that sector.
Declines in community cases and test positivity rates have leveled off as mobility rates jump in the aftermath of a provincial lockdown lifting.
The group says the actions of people over the new few weeks will determine the quality of summer in Ontario.
2:20 p.m.: Marking a year of loss and disruption, President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law the $1.9 trillion relief package that he said will help the U.S. defeat the coronavirus and nurse the economy back to health.
The signing came hours before Biden delivers his first prime-time address since taking office. He’s aiming to steer the nation toward a hungered-for sentiment — hope — as he marks one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 529,000 Americans.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.
Biden originally planned to sign the bill on Friday, but it arrived at the White House more quickly than anticipated.
2:15 p.m.: Flags across the country were flown at half-mast and tributes poured in to lost loved ones on Thursday as Canada marked the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Commons on Thursday and said March 11, 2020 will always be marked by a before and an after.
Since the pandemic began, 2.5 million people around the world have died due to COVID-19, with more than 22,000 of them in Canada.
“For families and close ones, each death has a before and an after,” Trudeau said.
“Since the great wars of the 20th century, there is a sentence we often evoke, and it’s a sentence that we can bring back for those that we lost this year during the pandemic: We will remember them.”
2:10 p.m.: Brazil’s hospitals are faltering as a highly contagious coronavirus variant tears through the country, the president insists on unproven treatments and the only attempt to create a national plan to contain COVID-19 has just fallen short.
For the last week, Brazilian governors sought to do something President Jair Bolsonaro obstinately rejects: cobble together a proposal for states to help curb the nation’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak yet. The effort was expected to include a curfew, prohibition of crowded events and limits on the hours nonessential services can operate.
The final product, presented Wednesday, was a one-page document that included general support for restricting activity but without any specific measures. Six governors, evidently still wary of antagonizing Bolsonaro, declined to sign on.
In Brazil’s wealthiest state, Sao Paulo, at least 30 patients died this month while waiting for ICU beds, according to a tally published Wednesday by the news site G1. Occupancy of ICUs is above 90 per cent in 15 of 27 capitals, according to the state-run Fiocruz institute. In southern Santa Catarina state, 419 people were waiting for transfer to ICU beds. Neighboring Rio Grande do Sul’s capacity was at 106 per cent. Alexandre Zavascki, a doctor in its capital, described a constant arrival of hospital patients struggling to breathe.
2 p.m.: All three Ontario opposition leaders are demanding Premier Doug Ford apologize for accusing an Indigenous NDP legislator of vaccine queue-jumping.
The leaders of the NDP, Liberal and Green parties all condemned the comments made by Ford during debate at the provincial legislature Thursday.
Ford alleged that NDP legislator Sol Mamakwa, who represents the riding of Kiiwetinoong, cut the line to get a COVID-19 vaccine in a Northern Indigenous community.
Mamakwa says he was invited by community elders to take the shot to help combat vaccine hesitancy among Indigenous residents in Ontario.
Ford said he had been contacted by some Indigenous leaders who were upset that Mamakwa got the shot early, but did not name them.
Mamakwa says he has heard no complaints from Indigenous leaders about his immunization and called Ford’s comments “disrespectful.”
1:55 p.m. Manitoba is reporting three COVID-19 deaths and 91 new cases.
However, three cases from unspecified dates have been removed due to data corrections, bringing the net increase to 88.
1:50 p.m.: Premier Francois Legault gathered with bereaved families, front-line service workers and political leaders for a ceremony Thursday in Quebec City to mark the one-year anniversary since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.
One by one, they laid a white rose before a large wreath outside the legislature to the music of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Kent Nagano, playing remotely from Montreal.
The province has been the hardest hit in Canada by the novel coronavirus: 10,518 deaths and 295,390 reported infections since the beginning of the pandemic. Quebec flags were lowered to half-mast on government buildings and a moment of silence was observed at 1 p.m. as bells rang in different cities across the province.
1:15 p.m.: Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19.
The case involves a man in his 50s in the eastern region, where officials beat back an outbreak that spread through the metro region last month.
Officials say the outbreak initially spread through high school students, ultimately affecting at least 185 staff and students in 22 different schools.
The Department of Education announced today that St. John’s-area schools will reopen next week for students in kindergarten through Grade 9, but remote learning will continue for high school students across the province.
1:10 p.m.: A cross-partisan effort by MPs to be united in a call for the Liberal government to increase foreign aid spending on the humanitarian crisis created by the global pandemic devolved quickly into partisan bickering Thursday.
But the members of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee insisted they are on the same page in believing that without increased efforts, and a leading role by Canada, the pandemic’s effect on the developing world will be profound and long-lasting.
“If Canada fails to work with donor countries, for the global good, millions more people will unnecessarily die,” said NDP MP Heather McPherson.
“Dangerous variants will increase, threatening Canadians and our global economic recovery. And this will take years if not decades to correct.”
The committee made 10 recommendations aimed at bolstering Canada’s role, including a call for more foreign aid funding, both in money directly for pandemic response but also to Canada’s overall overseas development budget.
1:05 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today.
Health officials say the two cases are in the Moncton area.
Officials are also announcing that starting today, residents aged 85 and older can set up COVID-19 vaccine appointments at pharmacies, which will begin administering doses March 17.
New Brunswick has 34 active reported cases of the disease.
11:30 a.m.: Edmonton’s mayor says flags on municipal buildings will fly at half-mast to honour those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Don Iveson says the city’s iconic High Level Bridge across the North Saskatchewan River will be lit in white to mark the national day of observance.
There have 810 deaths from COVID-19 recorded in the Alberta capital, which has a population of just under a million people.
Nearly 2,000 people have died from COVID-19 across the province.
10:35 a.m.: Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is using a white rose in the House of Commons to remember those who have died from COVID-19 over the past year.
Blanchet is also calling for Canada to address the inequality and shortcomings in the national health-care system that were exposed during the pandemic.
He is also marking the sacrifices of health-care and other front-line workers, many of whom are women.
10:30 a.m. (updated): The Ford government is activating its “emergency brake” and will be moving Sudbury to the “grey” lockdown level of the reopening framework as of midnight.
“The decision was made due to the concerning trends in public health indicators and in consultation with the local medical officer of health,” the government said in a news release.
Sudbury has been in the “red” category of the framework.
The government says the Sudbury region’s case rates increased by 54 per cent between March 3 and March 9, to 75.9 cases per 100,000 people.
The lockdown will take effect in the Sudbury and Districts public health region Friday at 12:01 a.m.
The emergency brake measure was applied in the Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka areas last month, moving those regions into lockdown from less restrictive levels of the framework after worrying pandemic trends emerged.
10:25 a.m.: The Ontario government also attempted to clarify the confusion over how old you have to be to qualify for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“You are eligible if you are 60-64 (years old) as of the day of vaccination OR, if you will be, or have been, 60-64 in 2021,” said a health ministry spokesperson.
Some residents were confused by the original statement that you must have been born in 1957-1961, which excluded some people who were born in 1956 and haven’t turned 65 yet.
10:20 a.m.: Ontario has topped the one million mark in vaccine doses administered.
The province reported that 40,610 vaccine doses have been administered for a total of 1,019,407 as of 8 p.m. Wednesday. There are 281,714 people who are fully vaccinated which means they’ve had both shots.
10:20 a.m.: Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is using an address in the House of Commons marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by listing the many ways in which Canadians have suffered over the past year.
He’s also criticizing the Liberal government for what he describes as the slow pace of vaccinations to date.
O’Toole says many Canadians have lost their jobs over the past year, while many others are struggling with mental-health challenges, domestic violence and opioid addictions.
The Conservative leader says most Canadians remain unsure when they will get vaccinated, and Canada must learn from the past 12 months and ensure the country is not caught by surprise again in the future.
10:20 a.m.: Quebec will honour the memory of the more than 10,500 people who have died in the province since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared one year ago today.
The province has been the hardest hit by the novel coronavirus with 10,503 deaths and just under 295,000 confirmed infections since the beginning of the pandemic.
Premier Francois Legault will deliver remarks at an afternoon ceremony in Quebec City, joined by bereaved families, front line service workers, political leaders and senior cabinet ministers.
Quebec flags were lowered to half-mast on government buildings, and there will be a minute of silence at 1 p.m. Municipalities are holding their own events.
The province has chosen the white rose as the emblem for the day, saying the flower evokes both strength and delicacy.
Legault marked the anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring a global pandemic with a message on Twitter.
“We have been fighting the battle of our lives for a year,” Legault wrote. “On this #11marsQC, we remember. We honour the memory of all those who have passed away too soon.”
10:15 a.m. (updated): Ontario is reporting 1,092 more COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths.
The seven-day average is up to 1,252 cases daily or 60 weekly per 100,000, and flat at 12.1 deaths per day.
Locally, there are 293 new cases in Toronto, 199 in Peel and 79 in York Region.
Labs are reporting 60,619 completed tests, and a 2.4 per cent positivity rate.
10:10 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic by remembering the more than 20,000 people who have died from the illness.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Trudeau also praised the health-care workers, military personnel and others who have stepped up over the last year to help Canadians through the pandemic.
The prime minister describes the past 12 months as “a tough year, a heartbreaking year, but it is a year we have faced together.”
10 a.m.: U.S.-based vaccine maker Moderna says it has now started giving doses of a B.1.351 COVID-19 variant booster shot to 60 people who have already been vaccinated with the company’s original shot.
The phase two trial is testing various combinations, including two different sizes of doses of just the booster shot that has adjusted the original vaccine to account for the changes seen in the variant first identified in South Africa.
A third version combines both the original vaccine and the booster shot, attempting to see if one jab can cover the original virus and the new variant.
Lab tests showed Moderna’s original vaccine did produce antibodies when put up against multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, but the level of response against B.1.351 was as much as six times less than that against the original virus.
9:35 a.m. (updated): Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy is set to table a fiscal blueprint awash in red ink.
Bethlenfalvy will unveil the Ontario budget on March 24 and it is expected to be another record-spending plan with a massive deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed about 7,100 people here in the past year.
“Our focus has got to be protecting health and jobs today,” the treasurer told reporters Thursday at Queen’s Park.
“We’re going to take nothing for granted. The job is not done,” said Bethlenfalvy, warning the government will continue to spend what is required.
The Star’s Rob Benzie has more details.
9:10 a.m. Four former U.S. presidents are urging Americans to get vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 doses are available to them, as part of a campaign to overcome hesitancy about the shots.
Two public service announcements from the Ad Council and the business-supported COVID Collaborative feature Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter as well as first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Rosalynn Carter. All of them have received doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.
In a 60-second spot, the former presidents say what they’re most looking forward to once the pandemic ends.
Clinton, 74, says he wants to “go back to work and I want to be able to move around.” Obama, 59, says he wants to be able to visit with his mother-in-law, “to hug her, and see her on her birthday.” Bush, 74, talks about “going to opening day in Texas Rangers stadium with a full stadium.”
Carter, 96, says he got vaccinated to help end the pandemic “as soon as possible.”
The video features photos of the former presidents and their spouses with syringes in their upper arms as they urge Americans to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” by getting vaccinated.
9 a.m.: The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 712,000, the lowest total since early November, evidence that fewer employers are cutting jobs amid a decline in confirmed coronavirus cases and signs of an improving economy.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for unemployment aid dropped by 42,000 from 754,000 the week before. Though the job market has been slowly strengthening, many businesses remain under pressure, and 9.6 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic that flattened the economy 12 months ago.
In February, U.S. employers added a robust 379,000 jobs, the most since October, reflecting an economy in which consumers are spending more and states and cities are easing business restrictions. Thursday’s figure, though the lowest weekly figure in four months, showed that weekly applications for jobless benefits still remain high by historical standards: Before the viral outbreak, they had never topped 700,000, even during the Great Recession.
All told, 4.1 million Americans are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits. Counting supplemental federal unemployment programs that were established to soften the economic damage from the virus, an estimated 20.1 million people are collecting some form of jobless aid.
8:40 a.m. In Ontario, the live performing arts are still shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. But on the other side of the world, live theatre is back and business is booming.
Thanks to Australia’s successful measures to contain COVID-19, theatres have been reopening there since last September and, as of this month, some of the world’s most successful musicals will be playing on Australian stages, including “Hamilton,” “Frozen” and the Canadian-made hit “Come from Away.”
Such live assembly is possible because Australia successfully drove down its COVID numbers through strict lockdown and quarantine measures and effective contact tracing. The fact that the country is an island and can closely track traffic over its borders was doubtless a factor in its success.
The Australian production of “Come from Away” opened at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre in July 2019 and was going strong when it was forced to shut down in March 2020 due to the pandemic, along with shows around the world. The show reopened in Melbourne this January, and will tour to Brisbane in March and Sydney in June.
“It’s wonderful to see ‘Come from Away’ reopening safely,” said David Mirvish, the Toronto founder of Mirvish Productions and a producer of the musical. “It demonstrates that theatrical events can work safely as long as community spread of the virus is negligible and that everyone is united to keep it that way.”
Read the full story from theatre critic Karen Fricker
8:32 a.m. Austria embarked on an ambitious drive Thursday to inoculate residents of a district that has been particularly hard-hit by the virus variant first found in South Africa, a move that is part of a research project into vaccinations.
Around 48,500 of the 64,000 people eligible for vaccinations in Tyrol province’s Schwaz district have signed up to get shots and the goal is to have them all done by Monday, Schwaz Mayor Hand Lintner told reporters. A second shot will be given four weeks later.
The district, east of the provincial capital of Innsbruck and home to about 84,000 people, has been a source of concern for weeks.
It has seen the majority of the cases of the more transmissible variant in the province, peaking at 193 active confirmed cases of it, before dropping down to a current 47, authorities said.
In addition to protecting the people of Schwaz, the idea of the program, overseen in part by the Medical University of Innsbruck, is to collect data on how well the vaccine protects people and in particular how effective it is on the South African variant.
“For us here today, it is a day of joy,” Lintner said.
In preparation for the drive, the district has received a special tranche of 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the European Union. It is being administered at 26 different facilities set up in the area’s 39 municipalities.
8:20 a.m. The Pakistan Super League will resume in June after it was suspended last week when six players and a staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
The Pakistan Cricket Board and owners of the six clubs made the decision on Thursday, a week after the Twenty20 league was postponed.
The remaining 20 games will be played in Karachi — which also staged the first 14 games — before the national team’s departure to England on June 26.
June was the most practical window due to Pakistan’s international commitments in March-April and late August-September.
8:15 a.m. The sun was shining bright and warm Wednesday morning as the parking lots filled up at M&T Bank Stadium. A steady stream of people walked past the statues of “The Golden Arm” Johnny Unitas and Ray Lewis, calling out greetings to the uniformed staff directing traffic.
It wasn’t quite tailgate-party, game-day excitement, but the place was hopping.
Normally home to the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, the stadium is now serving as a COVID-19 mass vaccination site. National Guard greeters directed those arriving into a snaking, swift-moving line to the entrance. Each day this week, 2,400 people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine here, approximately 300 per hour. That number has ramped up since the clinic opened Feb. 25, and by the end of the week, the site’s leader, Dr. Jason Marx, expects it to be vaccinating 4,000 per day. In the future, it could increase to 6,000 or 8,000, depending on vaccine availability.
“This is an exciting event,” Marx said. “This is really a way out of this pandemic. The people working at the vaccination site are dedicated to the mission and excited about the mission, and it warms their heart when they see the happiness that people feel after they get vaccinated.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Edward Keenan
8:10 a.m. As the largest mass-vaccination effort in this province’s history marches on, questions continue to arise about the logistics of inoculating millions of Ontarians.
To meet the stated goal of retired Gen. Rick Hillier, head of the province’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, to give every eligible adult in Ontario one dose by June 20, the pressure is on to get more needles into more arms as quickly as possible — especially under the threat of a possible third wave of the virus.
The Star is compiling a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the vaccinations, to be updated as we learn more.
Read the FAQ
8:05 a.m. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is renewing her call to get her city to move to the COVID-19 red zone with or without Brampton and Caledon.
Crombie said she’s asked Premier Doug Ford and Peel’s top health official, Dr. Lawrence Loh, to move Mississauga into Ontario’s red-control measures, which would allow personal care services, gyms and food establishments to open for indoor service.
Places of worship would also get more indoor capacity in the red zone.
“We can no longer afford to be held back just because case numbers in other cities in our region aren’t quite there yet,” she said at her March 10 press conference.
“I think it’s time that Mississauga be opened. I think many people agree with me.”
Mississauga’s COVID-19 numbers have improved over last week, but a testing positivity rate of 4.4 per cent and an average of 63 cases per 100,000 people are high for the criteria to move into Ontario’s red measures.
The city is also part of a single-health unit with Brampton and Caledon, making a move for a lone municipality unusual.
However, Crombie pointed to the Windsor-Essex health unit, which the province split last June, keeping Leamington and Kingsville in stricter COVID-19 measures while easing them in the City of Windsor.
8 a.m. Transat AT Inc. reported a loss attributable to shareholders of $60.5 million in its latest quarter compared with a loss of $33.8 million a year earlier.
The travel company says the loss for the quarter ended Jan. 31 amounted to $1.60 per diluted share compared with a loss of 90 cents per diluted share in the same quarter a year ago.
Revenue totalled $41.9 million, down from $692.8 million a year ago before the pandemic devastated the travel industry.
On an adjusted basis, Transat says it lost $2.89 per share for its most recent quarter compared with a loss of 54 cents per share a year earlier.
Transat says the future of its deal to be acquired by Air Canada remains uncertain as the deadline for it to be completed passed last month.
7:50 a.m. Woodbridge College in Vaughan has been closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
According to York Region District School Board, the number of infections there surged by 12 on March 10, bringing the total confirmed cases to 20. The school will reopen March 25.
Two other Vaughan schools report new cases of COVID-19.
Maple High School has one new case and three confirmed cases in total, while Michael Cranny Elementary School has a new case.
Markham’s Beckett Farm Public School also has a new case of COVID-19.
Two public schools in Richmond Hill, Silver Pines and Walter Scott, each have a new case of the virus.
Thornhill Public School has two new cases of COVID-19 and another Thornhill school, Ventura Park Public School, has one confirmed case.
Good Shepherd Catholic Elementary School in East Gwillimbury and St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic High School in Aurora each have a new case of COVID-19.
York Region Public Health says it will communicate directly with people who had contact with the cases.
7:40 a.m. At the height of the global scramble for critical COVID-19 medical supplies like N95 masks and ventilators, Justin Trudeau’s government privately warned the Trump administration not to go down a protectionist road. Or else.
New documents show the Liberals warned the U.S. that if it did, important Canadian exports to the U.S. would also be on the line.
In April, Canada was caught off-guard when then-president Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order a halt to American exports of 3 million much-needed specialized medical masks made by 3M and other medical supplies like ventilators to Canada and Latin American markets.
Publicly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would not retaliate, that his government was working to ensure the U.S. understood trade in essential medical supplies goes both ways across the border.
Read the full story from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles
7:30 a.m. A year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Toronto remains at risk of a third wave of infection as the number of cases involving variants that are more contagious continues to rise, the city’s top doctor said Wednesday.
“We continue to see concerning growth in cases with variants of concern, which spread more easily and cause more severe illness,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, the medical officer of health, speaking at a COVID-19 update from city hall.
“There remains a real risk that we will begin to see an increase in COVID-19 cases over the coming days and weeks.”
De Villa reported 473 new cases of COVID-19. In all, 2,327 cases have screened positive for mutations; the majority of them were the B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the U.K. variant.
Read the full story from the Star’s Francine Kopun
7:25 a.m. In her pre-COVID commute to work, Amanda Jeysing would often stare out of the bus window, her thoughts wandering to a number of places.
Sometimes, the 25-year-old Ottawa freelance writer and communications assistant would dream up ideas for projects she wanted to start. Other times, she’d reflect on current issues and draft solutions for problems plaguing her and others. Almost always, Jeysing would envision expansive ideas of a future full of possibilities.
“It was a moment of rest for me,” Jeysing reflected. “Like, ‘there’s something else I want that’s not this, and I can see beyond this.’”
These daydreams have largely changed for Jeysing over the course of the pandemic, and some have ceased entirely. But as vaccination efforts ramp up, so does the promise of a life after lockdown that is free of limitations — and with it, the ability to daydream freely again.
Read the full story from the Star’s Nadine Yousif
7:14 a.m. A feast of Korean chicken, a comedy bar, soccer at BMO Field, Diane Arbus photos at the AGO, a dance party at Sneaky Dee’s.
These are some of the last normal things Toronto Star readers remember doing before COVID-19 silenced the rhythm of daily life.
“Imagine dancing at an enclosed space with tons of other people without a single worry,” said Maggie Castro, one of the hundreds of people who responded to the Star’s Twitter request for stories.
“Miss those days.”
Registered midwife Remi Ejiwunmi oversaw a lovely, uncomplicated birth at Mississauga Hospital.
“In retrospect, it was probably one of the last times I got to see my client’s face and they got to see my face during a birth,” said Ejiwunmi.
“I used to hug my clients at the end of a birth or when they left my care, but I think that was the last time it happened.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Francine Kopun
6:43 a.m. The Israeli military says it has vaccinated the vast majority of its soldiers, allowing the military to resume many of its normal operations.
The army announced Thursday that nearly 80% of its soldiers have either been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. It expects that number to increase to 85% in the coming days.
Military officials say they cannot force remaining soldiers to be vaccinated. But Brig. Gen. Alon Glazberg, the army’s chief medical officer, says units in which 90% of the soldiers have been vaccinated or recovered have been branded “green” status. Such units have much more flexibility in terms of training, gathering and operating.
6:21 a.m. Health officials in Hungary on Thursday reported more than 8,300 new COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic.
Officials say the increase in new infections is likely due to a variant of the virus first discovered in Britain, which has led to a sharp surge in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Hungary has more patients being treated in hospitals now than at any other time during the pandemic, putting a strain on its understaffed healthcare system. Doctors at several hospitals say intensive wards are filling up, and that they are having to give priority to younger critical patients with higher chances of survival when determining who to admit to intensive care.
A new round of lockdown restrictions were introduced on Monday to curb the surge, including mandatory closure of most businesses and suspension of kindergartens and primary schools.
As of Thursday, 16,497 coronavirus-related deaths were confirmed in the country of fewer than 10 million.
5:18 a.m. The Philippine capital placed two villages and two hotels on lockdown Thursday and police have renewed warnings against kissing and other “public display of affection” after a new surge in coronavirus infections.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said police would not allow people to go in and out of their houses and the two hotels during the three-day lockdown and violators would be forced into 14-day quarantine. Isolated residents would be given food boxes, and medical workers and other authorized personnel would be exempt.
Other cities in the capital reimposed lockdowns in several neighbourhoods and longer night curfews after detecting new infections.
National police chief Debold Sinas said a ban on “public display of affection” like holding hands and kissing would be strictly enforced again due to infection spikes. Violators would be reprimanded, he said.
5:10 a.m. Cambodia on Thursday confirmed its first death from COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than a year ago as it battles a new local outbreak that has infected hundreds of people.
The 50-year-old man was confirmed infected last month while working as a driver for a Chinese company in coastal Sihanoukville and died at the Khmer-Soviet friendship hospital Thursday morning, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Cambodia has confirmed only 1,163 cases of infection with the coronavirus since the pandemic began, but it is battling a new local outbreak that has infected several hundred people.
According to the Health Ministry, the new outbreak was traced to a foreign resident who broke quarantine in a hotel and went to a nightclub in early February. That caused a slew of infections and led the government on Feb. 20 to announce a two-week closure of all public schools, cinemas, bars and entertainment areas in Phnom Penh.
The government has since extended the closures for more two weeks for schools, gyms, concert halls, museums and other entertainment venues in Phnom Penh, nearby Kandal province and the coastal province of Sihanoukville.
On Thursday, the Health Ministry said 39 cases were reported from local transmission.
5:02 a.m. Canada will mark the one-year anniversary today of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic.
Earlier this week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is to deliver a statement in the House of Commons this morning, designated March 11 a national day of observance to commemorate those who have died.
The government has asked Canadians to think about those whose lives were claimed by the novel coronavirus, as well as the health-care and other essential workers who have been on the front lines.
Other politicians, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Quebec Premier Francois Legault, are also expected to speak today about the devastating effect the virus has had on Canadians.
Since the pandemic began, 2.5 million people around the world have died due to COVID-19, with more than 22,000 of them in Canada.
Health Canada has approved four COVID-19 vaccines so far and 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
4:55 a.m. The British Columbia government says it will speed up its COVID-19 vaccine roll out after a slow start this week.
Health Minister Adrian Dix says as of noon today, health authorities across the province can schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments for people aged 85 and older.
Health authorities started scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments for people aged 90 and older Indigenous people 65 years and up on Monday, but the phone system experienced major delays.
Dix says after the rough start the appointment scheduling system has caught up to the point where it can now begin to book the lower age group, several days ahead of the original March 15 date.
The government has been under pressure in the legislature from the Opposition Liberals to provide answers about the government’s contract with Telus, the provider whose call centres for COVID-19 vaccine appointments were swamped.
Dix says vast improvements have been made since Monday and the system’s capacity to book people for COVID-19 vaccines has expanded.
Thursday 4 a.m. The Ontario government says it will make its tribunals, including one tasked with handling disputes between landlords and tenants, more accessible online in an effort to combat delays and case backlogs exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The province is to announce plans today to further modernize the justice system, including a new digital case-management system for Ontario’s 14 adjudicative tribunals.
Attorney General Doug Downey says the new system, modelled on a similar one in British Columbia, will go beyond simply filing documents online and allow for virtual dispute resolution that could significantly reduce the number of cases that require a hearing.
He says the system will be accessible 24 hours a day and will be in place at the Landlord and Tenant Board and the Human Rights Tribunal — two of the busiest tribunals — by the end of the summer.
The government says the rollout for the remaining tribunals will be phased in and is expected to be complete by December 2023.
The announcement expected today also includes expanding remote hearings and digital document-sharing, and plans to modernize courthouses to make them more accessible and less intimidating to the public.
Wednesday 8:34 p.m.: Public Safety Minister Bill Blair is facing harsh questions over security under the federal quarantine program after reports of two incidents of alleged sexual assault.
At a parliamentary committee hearing Wednesday, Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs grilled Blair over safeguards for hotel guests and background checks for screening officers who work at the federally mandated hotels and do compliance checks at homes.
Blair told the committee that quarantine measures have been effective and that any allegations should be thoroughly investigated.
He diverted questions on the hotel quarantine program to the Public Health Agency of Canada that oversees it, saying he has no jurisdiction over it.
A government order that took effect Feb. 22 requires anyone entering Canada by airplane to stay in a federally approved hotel for the first three nights of a 14-day quarantine.
Police have arrested two men accused of sexual assault related to quarantine measures, including one at a Montreal hotel another involving a compliance check in Oakville.
Click here to read more of Wednesday’s COVID-19 coverage.