July 24, 2021

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario sets record for vaccinations in a day; Ontario reports 346 new cases; Sydney, Australia enters two-week lockdown

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

3:30 p.m.: Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 today in the province’s Central Zone.

The province says 10 are close contacts of previously identified cases, and one is related to travel.

A mobile health unit has been deployed to the Halifax North Memorial Library on Gottigen Street in Halifax this weekend to provide community-based COVID-19 testing.

The National Microbiology Lab has confirmed two Delta variant cases and one Gamma variant case, both of which were previously reported.

The province says all three deaths are linked to the B.1.1.7 (alpha) variant of concern.

There are now 175 people in hospital with COVID-19. Fifty-three are in intensive care units in the province, while 12 remain in intensive care outside Manitoba in either Ontario or Alberta.

The provincial government is still urging residents “to continue to follow the fundamentals and adhere to public health orders.”

1:05 p.m.: COVID-19 vaccine rates are continuing to rise quickly in New Brunswick, with more than 76,000 doses administered over the past week.

In the last seven days, more than 84,000 eligible New Brunswickers have booked appointments for their first or second dose of a vaccine.

Currently, 27.4 per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated, and 77.2 per cent have received their first dose.

Provincial health officials are reporting one new case of COVID-19 in New Brunswick today, bringing the number of active infections to 33.

The case, which is travel-related, involves a person in their 40s in the Bathurst region.

11:56 a.m.: Victoria, B.C., will feel like home court for Canada’s men’s basketball team after all.

Organizers for Canada’s last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament, which tips off Tuesday in Victoria have been given the green light to have fans at games.

“After working closely with BC Public Health, we have just now been approved to host up to 10 per cent of capacity at the Save on Foods Memorial Centre for games on July 1, 3 and 4,” the West Basketball Festival organizing committee tweeted on Saturday.

The centre has a capacity of 7,500.

Canada, which must win the tournament to play in Tokyo, opens Group A action on Tuesday versus Greece, which will be missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Canadians play China on Wednesday.

10:54 a.m.: Ontario reported that 256,260 vaccinations were administered on Friday, a new one-day record. Almost a tenth of the province’s population has gotten a shot in the last week, though second doses have come to predominate — just 29,376 of Friday’s total were first shots.

10 a.m.: On Saturday Ontario reported 346 new cases, down slightly from last Saturday’s total of 355. There were 503 recoveries, 13 deaths, leaving province’s active case total down 170, to 2,729.

Per the Star’s Ed Tubb, the seven average is down slightly to 291 cases/day or 14.0 weekly cases per 100,000 of population. Labs report 25,626 completed tests and a positivity rate of 1.1 per cent.

Locally, according to a tweet from Health Minister Christine Elliott, there are 64 new cases in Toronto, 39 in Waterloo, 34 in Peel Region, 32 in Grey Bruce and 24 in the Porcupine Health Unit region.

9:14 a.m.: In Australia, Greater Sydney has been put into a two-week lockdown to fight an outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, straining Australia’s so-called “COVID-zero” strategy as vaccinations lag behind other developed nations.

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Residents can only go out for reasons such as food shopping, medical care or essential work and education that can’t be done from their own homes, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Saturday. The decision followed the detection of a dozen more new local infections and increased exposure sites that are complicating contact tracing. The curbs will apply until July 9.

New Zealand on Saturday announced a halt in quarantine-free travel from all of Australia until June 29, widening the suspension from New South Wales earlier. The decision will be reviewed on Monday.

New South Wales recorded 29 new local cases in the 24 hours through 8 p.m. Friday, of which 17 had already been announced previously. Some 82 local infections have been detected since the first case in the current cluster came to light in Sydney, according to a statement.

Australia, a nation of 26 million, has reported fewer than 31,000 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, but than five per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

7:15 a.m: The Public Health Agency of Canada has released new colour-coded guidance on what you can safely do, once you’re fully vaccinated.

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That means you completed the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized in Canada at least 14 days ago — so two shots if you’re taking a two-dose vaccine (Moderna, Pfizer BioNTech, AstraZeneca) or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

If that applies to you, it means you can gather outdoors with a small group of other fully vaccinated people for things like a camping trip or a barbecue, without masks or physical distancing.

You can also gather indoors with a small group of people who are fully vaccinated (for a dinner party or movie night). You can even hug.

Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, called the guidelines “very clear and sensible.”

Read more on what health experts say you can do safely right now from the Star’s May Warren and Jenna Moon.

6:45 a.m.: The“Our Winning Shot” vaccine clinic, to be held at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday, is fully booked; 25,000 people have appointments.

Both Canada’s previous one-day immunization record of 10,470 people, set in May, and North America’s record of 17,003, set by Texas in April, should be shattered.

The clinic will be vaccinating people with appointments for up to 14 straight hours Sunday. Even though there are no appointments left, the city said there may be some openings if cancellations happen, and it encourages people to check the provincial booking system regularly. Those that can’t make it should call 1-833-943-3900 or cancel online. There will be no walk-ins. The majority of the shots available will Moderna, with doses of Pfizer reserved for children aged 12 to 17.

With more than 700 volunteers present, the team estimates it will vaccinate up to 30 people a minute and that lines will be short, provided people show up just before their scheduled appointments to avoid congestion.

All 25,000 appointment holders will be getting free rally towels commemorating the day. Fifty tickets to either a Leafs or Raptors game will be given out.

Read more from the Star’s Ben Cohen.

6 a.m.: Ontario youth between the ages of 12 to 17 who live in designated hot spots for the Delta COVID-19 variant can book accelerated second vaccine dose appointments today.

Health units covering Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Peel, Porcupine, Simcoe-Muskoka, Toronto, Waterloo, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and York are considered hot spots for the more transmissible variant.

That demographic will have the option to re-book their second doses as of 8 a.m. today, through the provincial booking portal, pharmacies or their local health unit.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only shot currently authorized for use in youth in Canada.

Vaccines have been booked four months apart in Ontario, but the province is offering more people the option to shorten the interval based on increasing vaccine supply.

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Youth elsewhere in the province will keep their second-dose appointments for now, but the province says it’s aiming to accelerate doses for them before school returns in September.

5:30 a.m.: Ontario will allow outdoor concerts, open-air movie screens and performing arts shows starting next Wednesday as it moves to the next stage in its reopening plan.

Audience capacity will be capped at 25 per cent of the outdoor space or seating area, with organizers required to have the maximum capacity restrictions visibly posted within the outdoor space. All tickets must be sold as reserved seats.

Other measures also allow musicians to perform at indoor concert venues for a limited number of reasons.

Live streaming shows are permitted after being outlawed by the province in April. However, the performances cannot host any spectators.

Indoor venues can hold band rehearsals with certain distancing and safety measures in place.

The film and TV industry will see its restrictions lowered as well. In particular, a cap of 50 performers on a set is being eliminated, though studio audiences are still not allowed.

The second stage of reopening was originally slated to begin July 2, but the province moved the plan forward two days, saying COVID-19 vaccination targets have been met.

Indoor cinemas and public concerts still won’t be permitted with capacity restrictions until the third stage.