- Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising COVID-19 case counts.
- Most Boxing Day shopping expected to happen online.
- Worldwide cases surpass 80 million.
- Millions of Americans lose jobless benefits as Trump refuses to sign aid bill.
- Have a question about COVID-19 in Canada? Send your questions to [email protected]
A provincewide lockdown meant to bring down COVID-19 case counts takes effect Saturday in Ontario.
The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23 but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.
The move was announced on Monday after the provincial government took part in emergency talks last weekend.
Under the new rules, restaurants can only provide takeout, drive-thru and delivery, including the sale of alcohol.
Supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers that primarily sell food can stay open for in-person shopping but with distancing and limits on capacity.
When the holiday break is over, children enrolled in publicly funded elementary and secondary schools will participate in remote learning from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8, and some longer depending on their age and area.
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The lockdown began with Ontario reporting a two-day total of 4,301 cases of COVID-19.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said 2,142 new cases of the virus were reported on Saturday and 2,159 new cases were logged on Christmas Day.
The 4,301 new infections bring Ontario’s COVID-19 case total to 169,411, including deaths and recoveries. There are nearly 20,000 active cases of novel coronavirus infection across the province.
There were 38 deaths reported on Saturday. Forty-three people died on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths reported since the pandemic began to 4,359.
What’s happening in Canada
As of about 11:30 a.m. ET, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 539,547, with 76,523 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,801.
Aside from Ontario, the only province to release new numbers so far today is New Brunswick, which announced two new cases. The province has 38 active cases. There have been eight deaths and one person is in hospital, in the intensive care unit.
Boxing Day is supposed to be the post-Christmas shopping day that deal hunters have been waiting for, but with non-essential retail shuttered or restricted across much of the country, the usual crowded malls and long lineups are expected to be replaced with internet searches and online orders.
Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba have all closed non-essential retail, while much of the rest of the country has curtailed in-store capacity.
Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, says there will be fire-sale prices on some items.
She said retailers don’t want to get stuck with a backlog of holiday and seasonal inventory and also need to shore up their balance sheets in the face of mounting lockdowns and restrictions.
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What’s happening around the world
As of noon ET on Saturday, more than 80 million coronavirus cases had been reported worldwide, with more than 45.1 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.
In the Americas, millions of people in the U.S. saw their jobless benefits expire on Saturday after U.S. President Donald Trump refused to sign into law a $2.3 trillion US pandemic aid and spending package, protesting that it did not do enough to help everyday people.
Trump stunned Republicans and Democrats alike when he said this week he was unhappy with the massive bill, which provides $892 billion in badly needed coronavirus relief, including extending special unemployment benefits expiring on Dec. 26 and $1.4 trillion for normal government spending.
Without Trump’s signature, about 14 million people could lose those extra benefits, according to Labor Department data. A partial government shutdown will begin on Tuesday unless Congress can agree on a stop-gap government funding bill.
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In Europe, Hungary began vaccinating its people against COVID-19 on Saturday, a day ahead of rollouts in several other European countries. Mass vaccination across the European Union, home to almost 450 million people, would be a crucial step toward ending the pandemic. Hungary administered the vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, to front-line workers at hospitals in the capital, Budapest, after receiving its first shipment of enough doses to inoculate 4,875 people.
The rollout came a day before countries including France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Portugal and Spain are planning to begin mass vaccinations, starting with health workers.
In Asia, South Korea posted its second-highest daily number of coronavirus cases on Saturday as outbreaks at a prison, nursing homes and churches continued to grow, prompting authorities to plead for a halt to all year-end gatherings. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said there were 1,132 new coronavirus cases on Friday, not far off the record 1,241 logged a day earlier.
Meanwhile, China’s capital has urged residents not to leave the city during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays, implementing fresh restrictions after several coronavirus infections last week. Two domestic cases were reported on Friday — a convenience store worker and a Hewlett Packard Enterprise employee. Another two asymptomatic cases were discovered in Beijing earlier in the week.
Beijing is conducting testing on a limited scale in the neighbourhoods and workplaces where the cases were found. To contain any new outbreaks, the Beijing government cancelled big gatherings such as sports events and temple fairs.
Coronavirus infections in Tokyo hit a record daily high of 949 cases on Saturday as Japan heads into the New Year holiday, which normally sees people stream from the capital into the provinces. Serious cases were unchanged from a day earlier at 81. Local media reported subdued scenes at Tokyo transport hubs a day after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, under pressure as daily cases continue to climb, urged the nation to stay home and avoid social mixing.