Good evening, here are the coronavirus updates you need to know tonight.
- The majority of Canadians are not entitled to paid sick leave. Amid the pandemic, more businesses are warming to this benefit.
- The Liberals will spend more than expected this year on a wage-subsidy program – that’s according to the Parliament’s budget watchdog.
- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in quarantine after contact tracing.
In Canada, there have been at least 481,630 cases reported. In the last week 46,300 new cases were announced, 2 per cent more than the previous week.
There have also been at least 391,946 recoveries and 13,799 deaths. Health officials have administered more than 14,656,944 tests.
Sources: Canada data is compiled from government websites, Johns Hopkins and COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group; international data is from Johns Hopkins University.
Coronavirus explainers: Coronavirus in maps and charts • Lockdown rules and reopening • Canada’s vaccine distribution plan • Developing/approved vaccines • Pfizer’s vaccine, explained • Essential resources
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Coronavirus in Canada
- Premier François Legault ordered all non-essential businesses in Quebec to close from Dec. 25 until at least Jan. 11. Meanwhile, a medical expert said the province’s plan to start its immunization campaign with residents of long-term care centres is “the correct way to do things.” The province reported 1,897 new infections and 43 more deaths today.
- Ontario will provide municipalities an additional $695-million to help cover pandemic-related expenses. The province reported 2,139 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and 43 new deaths due to coronavirus.
- Saskatchewan has the third highest rate of active infections per capita in the country, with about 4,200 active infections and 124 people in hospital.
- In British Columbia, where hosting or visiting people from different households is prohibited with few exceptions this holiday season, Premier John Horgan warns the province will be cracking down on those who refuse to follow the rules. Also in B.C., the province has identified priority groups for the vaccine as the Premier says B.C. is flattening the curve in the second wave of the pandemic.
- Elsewhere in Canada, four more provinces continue Canada’s rollout of the vaccine as cases of the virus mount.
In Ottawa, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux’s office said in a report today that the cost of this year’s federal wage-subsidy program could be $85.5-billion – $2-billion more than expected – and nearly $13.9-billion next year.
- The most recent figures for the program show the government has paid out just more than $54-billion in subsidies designed to keep employees on payrolls at 368,240 companies.
Vaccine efficacy: Can the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech vaccine provide lasting immunity and reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to others? The answers to those questions may be harder to find if the volunteers in the trial’s control group decide to take the now-approved vaccine.
Also today: Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam has warned of an expected holiday spike in cases.
Coronavirus around the world
- In the United States, president-elect Joe Biden is preparing to move his staff to the White House, a no-Zoom zone where many employees will need to be physically present to access classified information. Meanwhile, a health care worker in Alaska had an allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has drawn criticism for joining end-of-year parties after imploring residents to avoid such gatherings as the country sees record numbers of coronavirus cases.
Coronavirus and business
Increasing calls for paid sick days has heightened the debate among business owners on how to protect workers during the pandemic.
- The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which has long opposed paid sick days and other increases to employment standards, has signed on to support a bill that would introduce seven paid sick days in Ontario.
- Some Ontario businesses are voluntarily offering paid sick days to workers, while others grapple with how to manage another financial hit when their margins are already at their thinnest.
Also today: Many employers say they won’t continue work-from-home flexibility after the pandemic ends. That could create a disconnect with the 45 per cent of working Canadians polled who say they would prefer working remotely at least three days a week.
And: Today, Twitter said it will start removing false or misleading tweets about COVID-19 vaccines.
- Graham Barron: “The lockdown was tough – especially on our kids, aged 6 and 10. But it has been hugely successful, and very much worth it. Now, as friends and family back home suffer through their own winter wave with months to go before vaccines fully roll out, and as Melbourne celebrates 40 straight days of zero cases, I can’t help but think that if Canada had taken a similar approach, it would have the same results.”
- Robyn Urback: Saskatchewan is currently grappling with the third-worst COVID-19 outbreak in Canada. Premier Scott Moe needs to realize, the most important fight is inside the province, not out.
- A top legal clinic in Toronto has asked Eileen De Villa, the city’s top doctor, to suspend evictions during the pandemic, arguing they amount to a health risk.
- Officials in Quebec and Manitoba say they think the NHL could plan for a safe return to play. Meanwhile, the Western Hockey League is pushing back the start of its season indefinitely owing to uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Canadians who dealt with food insecurity were more likely to perceive their mental health as poor, Statistics Canada says.
- What to watch: This week’s virtual concerts range from Gordon Lightfoot and Chance the Rapper to Barenaked Ladies.
- What will vaccine success look like? The unknown length of immunity makes it hard to tell.
- When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available in Canada? How well do they work? Here’s what you need to know.
- Rob Carrick’s 10-point checklist of things you should have done by now to protect or improve your money situation. Tips for minimizing damage to your credit score; how to manage retirement anxiety during difficult times; and things to think about if you’re considering home delivery.
- Here are the expectations for self-isolation; tips for managing anxiety and protecting your mental health; and what to do if you think you have the virus. Wash your hands. How to break a bad habit (like touching your face). Is flying safe?
- The best foods to eat to maintain an immune system-friendly diet; and how to keep a healthy diet while working from home; four eating tips when working from home; and five mistakes that might cause you to gain unwanted weight. Here are the essentials to stock up on and how to shop safely for groceries; the best pantry staples and how to stop stress-eating.
- Find answers to your coronavirus and employment questions.
Sources: Canada data are compiled from government websites, Johns Hopkins University and COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group; international data are from Johns Hopkins.