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Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton listen at Humber River Hospital in Toronto on Nov. 24, 2020.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Residents of Ontario long-term care homes can visit outdoors with friends and family starting this weekend, the province announced Friday after advocates called for the change to safely reunite isolated seniors with their loved ones.

The associate deputy minister of long-term care announced the policy change in a memo to licensees.

“This is a truly important step for residents and their families, and I know despite the rapid notice, our home partners supported outdoor visits last summer and will be adept at making this a success,” Erin Hannah wrote.

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Hannah said the change was being made to align with loosening provincial rules around outdoor activities that were set to go into effect at midnight on Saturday.

“I know you have been planning for this already with the onset of spring and the warmer weather and the impassioned calls from residents and their families to enable them to see one another outside,” the memo said.

Advocates and family members had been calling for the strict rules to change in light of high vaccination rates in the homes, which were devastated by thousands of infections and deaths during the first two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People receive COVID-19 vaccinations at the Ontario Food Terminal, in Toronto, on May 11, 2021.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Ontario reports a record number of vaccines given out in a single day

Ontario says it has recorded a record-high number of COVID-19 vaccine doses given out in a single day.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 158,524 shots were administered in Ontario since Thursday’s report.

More than 7.7 million doses have been administered in Ontario overall.

The province is reporting 1,890 new cases of COVID-19 and 27 more deaths from the virus today.

Elliott says there are 469 new cases in Toronto, 468 in Peel Region, and 165 in York Region.

Meanwhile, Ontario is resuming use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 but only as a second dose, saying health risks posed by the shot are low.

Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Friday that those who received the first dose of AstraZeneca between March 10 and March 19 would be first in line to receive their second dose.

Starting next week, those people could opt to receive the second dose at an earlier 10-week interval in order to use up the 55,000 doses currently in refrigerators in pharmacies and family doctors’ offices – some of which will expire at the end of May.

The province said it is encouraging people who are eligible to reach out to the pharmacy or primary care provider where they received the first dose to book an appointment for the second shot.

Those same pharmacies and primary care providers could also be reaching out to eligible people, the province said.

Nearly one million people in Ontario aged 40 and older have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Williams said the province will provide further information on how individuals who received their first dose of the shot after March 19 can book a second dose appointment in the “near future.”

AstraZeneca is associated with rare, potentially fatal blood clots.

As a result, several provinces stopped using it more than a week ago pending further research.

The province said new data indicates the benefits far outweigh the risk with second doses, with one in 600,000 people developing the rare blood clotting disorder.

New Brunswick reports second blood clot death linked to AstraZeneca vaccine

New Brunswick is reporting a second death related to a rare blood-clotting event from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says a person in their 50s received a first dose on April 11 and developed blood clot symptoms 17 days later and died recently.

Health officials say the case had been reported previously and the person involved had been hospitalized.

Officials are reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19 today.

New Brunswick has 127 active reported cases and seven people in hospital with the disease, including three in intensive care.

Officials are asking the public to follow public health advice and avoid unnecessary travel during the holiday long weekend.

Quebec health minister urges adults to book vaccinations before youth become eligible

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube is encouraging adults to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine before the province’s vaccination campaign opens to people aged 12 to 17 on Tuesday.

Dube said on Twitter today that 340,000 more appointments need to be made to reach the target of 75 per cent of adults in the province with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or an appointment to receive one.

The province’s public health institute says 52.5 per cent of all Quebecers have received at least one dose of vaccine.

The province says it administered 107,261 doses of vaccine in the previous 24 hours, for a total of 4,747,192.

The Health Department is reporting 752 new cases of COVID-19 today and nine more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus but none in the past 24 hours.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 23, to 437, and 106 people were in intensive care, a decline of one.

Nunavut to ease COVID-19 restrictions in some communities in Baffin region

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says it’s safe to ease COVID-19 restrictions in communities in the Baffin region, except for Iqaluit and Kinngait where there are active cases.

Dr. Michael Patterson says the decision was made to loosen public health measures because the territory’s travel restrictions are working to keep the virus out of Nunavut’s communities.

The territory reported 45 active cases Friday – 44 in Iqaluit and one in Kinngait.

Starting Monday, all other communities can reopen schools and gather indoors with up to 15 people.

In Iqaluit, more than 80 per cent of adults have been vaccinated, which Patterson says may mean the city will be able to ease restrictions earlier than during other outbreaks there have been in Nunavut.

The capital city was still under a strict lockdown heading into the long weekend. Schools, non-essential businesses and workplaces remained closed and gatherings were banned.

Canada supports Rome Declaration to fight COVID-19 globally, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada supports the Rome Declaration to fight COVID-19 globally.

Trudeau made the remarks this morning at the Global Health Summit, co-hosted by the European Union and Italy.

The declaration is a series of commitments to ensure access to vaccines, expand drug-manufacturing capacity and invest in health systems.

Trudeau noted that Canada has already contributed $1.3-billion to the World Health Organization’s access to COVID-19 tools accelerator.

Medical staff from Newfoundland and Labrador have been volunteering in Ontario hospitals to help deal with high numbers of severely ill COVID-19 patients. One doctor and two nurses say they feel conflicted about returning home at the end of their postings.

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