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Thousands of people wait for their COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up mass vaccination clinic at Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre in Toronto on June 17.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Federal COVID-19 modelling warns the Delta variant could make a possible fourth wave of the pandemic worse that initially thought.

Health officials providing an update on the pandemic focused on what could happen to the spread over the fall and winter.

Data currently shows the number of infections and hospitalizations continue to fall across the country, as more Canadians get vaccinated against COVID-19.

As that happens, provinces are moving ahead with plans to lift public health restrictions put in place to limit socializing and keep the spread down.

Saskatchewan and Alberta both plan in July to remove nearly all of their measures, including provincial rules around mask wearing.

Federal health officials say the Delta variant is the “latest hurdle” to the country’s fight in the pandemic, and could cause hospital capacity to be exceeded if it takes hold throughout the fall and winter.

The government’s modelling was based on assumptions the strain is more transmissible than other variants of concern, and leads to more severe illness based on its spread in the United Kingdom.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the Delta variant is the most contagious strain seen to date and its presence has increased in Canada.

Federal data shows most of the cases are found in people who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 or only have one shot.

Quebec loosens rules for fully vaccinated as it reports 88 new COVID cases, no deaths

Fully vaccinated Quebecers can gather indoors without masks starting today as the province further relaxes COVID-19 health orders.

The new rule comes as health officials report 88 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Officials say COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped by eight, to 135, and 40 patients were in intensive care, a rise of two.

The province says 65,578 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Thursday, one day after a record was set with more than 116,000 doses administered. About 80 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received a first dose of vaccine, and about 23 per cent are considered fully vaccinated.

The province is also increasing the capacity for festivals and outdoor events to 3,500 spectators as of today.

All of Quebec will be at the green pandemic-alert level on Monday, under which rules for gatherings and sports are further relaxed.

Live theatre, concerts organizations urge clarity from Ontario on reopening plans

Advocates for Ontario’s live music and performing arts industries say a lack of transparency around reopening the province is putting their futures at risk.

Provincial and municipal leaders, including Toronto Mayor John Tory, met virtually with lobbyists for the arts and culture sector to hear their concerns over an unclear roadmap for reopening in the third step of the pandemic recovery and beyond.

The resounding message was that arts industries that hope to welcome live audiences back into venues need more than a week’s notice from health authorities as they struggle to book musical acts and plan live stage shows.

On Thursday, the province dropped details on moving into Step 2 six days before it takes effect.

“Come From Away” actor Ali Momen, speaking on behalf of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, says such short notice is “crippling our hard-hit sector further by crushing our ability to prudently plan.”

He says theatre companies “have received little indication” of what reopening may look like in Ontario later this year.

Jesse Kumagai, chair of the Canadian Live Music Association, told leaders that reaching full capacity at concert venues after Step 3 is “something we believe we can and should be able to do” if taking the lead from other regions that are “more advanced” in the return to live events.

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.

More than 76 per cent of adults in Ontario have received one vaccine dose, while 29 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses, meaning the province has already met further targets to enter the third step of its reopening plan.

However, provincial health officials say they don’t intend to move into the next stage until “approximately 21 days” after the start of the second step.

Ontario expands faster second vaccine shots for adults, youth in hot spots

Ontario is offering faster second COVID-19 vaccine doses to more residents.

Starting tomorrow, youth aged 12 to 17 who live in hot spots for the Delta variant can book faster appointments starting at 8 a.m.

All adults in Ontario who received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine can book accelerated second appointments on Monday.

That change means approximately 1.5 million Ontarians are eligible for an accelerated second dose.

The province says it’s expanding eligibility as 76 per cent of Ontarians have at least one vaccine dose and more than 30 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Shots were initially booked four months apart in Ontario but the province is shortening the interval based on supply and risk from the more infectious Delta variant.

Nova Scotia continuing push to get booster shots in arms to hit vaccination target

Nova Scotia is continuing its push to get COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of those eligible for a shot.

As of today, people who got their first dose on or before May 20 can reschedule their appointment for a booster shot.

Residents can go to any clinic across the province that has an available appointment and can select a different available vaccine as their second dose.

During a briefing Thursday, Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said 71.9 per cent of all Nova Scotians aged 12 and older have had at least one dose of vaccine, while 13.4 per cent are now fully vaccinated.

Strang said public health is working to administer another 400,000 doses of vaccine over the next month.

He said the province can reach its target of having 75 per cent of the population fully inoculated by the end of August, but it ultimately depends on people continuing to get vaccinated.

Ontario reports 256 new cases of COVID-19, two deaths, record high vaccinations

Ontario is reporting 256 new cases of COVID-19 today and two deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 39 new cases in the Region of Waterloo, 38 in Peel Region, and 36 in Toronto.

She says there are also 18 new cases in Grey Bruce and 17 in Hamilton.

Today’s data is based on nearly 26,600 completed tests.

The Ministry of Health says 284 people are in intensive care because of the virus and 202 are on a ventilator.

Ontario says it administered a record high 246,393 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine since Thursday’s report, for a total of more than 13.5 million.

The Delta variant of COVID-19, first identified in India, is becoming the globally dominant variant of the disease, the World Health Organization's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Friday.

Reuters

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