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Good evening, here are the coronavirus updates you need to know tonight.

Top headlines:

  1. The majority of Canadians are not entitled to paid sick leave. Amid the pandemic, more businesses are warming to this benefit.
  2. The Liberals will spend more than expected this year on a wage-subsidy program – that’s according to the Parliament’s budget watchdog.
  3. 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 reopeningCanada’s vaccine distribution planDeveloping/approved vaccinesPfizer’s vaccine, explained Essential resources

Photo of the day

Didzis Gavars, chief scientist at E. Gulbja Laboratory in Riga, scans a code on a test kit for the novel coronavirus on the first contact-free testing station set up in Latvia.GINTS IVUSKANS/AFP/Getty Images

Coronavirus in Canada

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.

Globe opinion

  • 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.

More reporting

Information centre

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.

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