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People walk past businesses on Spadina Avenue, in Toronto, on May 13, 2021.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario’s stay-at-home order lifts today, but most other public health measures are staying in place.

The order enacted in April asked residents to only leave home for reasons deemed essential like exercise, grocery shopping or seeking health care.

As of today, that rule is no longer in effect.

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But other measures like the five-person limit on outdoor gatherings and restrictions on in-person retail and other businesses remain.

The province is aiming to start reopening the economy later this month with looser rules on businesses and outdoor activities.

Officials say the pandemic situation is improving but it’s not time to lift restrictions.

Ontario reports 733 new cases of COVID-19, 25 deaths, over 139,000 vaccinations

Ontario is reporting 733 new cases of COVID-19 today and 25 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 173 new cases in Toronto and 134 in Peel Region.

She says there are also 69 new cases in York Region and 66 in Hamilton.

Today’s data is based on nearly 31,800 completed tests.

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The Ministry of Health says 708 people are in hospital – 576 in intensive care and 399 on a ventilator.

Ontario says 139,901 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Tuesday’s report, for a total of over 9.3 million.

The latest figures come as Premier Doug Ford announced that schools in Ontario will not reopen to in-person learning this month.

Quebec plans ‘normal’ return to school in fall without masks or class bubbles

Quebec’s education minister says children should be able to go back to school without masks or classroom bubbles in the fall – as long as COVID-19 cases are low and students are vaccinated.

Jean-Francois Roberge said today authorities are banking on a relatively “normal” return to class, which will include field trips, open common lunchrooms and full-time, in-person attendance.

He says the success of the plan depends on making sure at least 75 per cent of kids 12 to 17 are vaccinated against COVID-19, and he is encouraging parents and teens to book appointments.

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Roberge says the uptake in that age group is encouraging, with about 45 per cent having already received a vaccine or having made an appointment, and he says many more kids are expected to be vaccinated through their schools in the coming weeks.

He says authorities are willing to adjust the plan if COVID-19 cases rise, but he says health orders such as mask-wearing will likely apply only to affected schools.

The reopening plan requires students frequently wash their hands and includes improved ventilation systems in schools.

N.S. reopens schools, stores and restaurant patios, resumes use of AstraZeneca shots

Nova Scotia is entering the first phase of its five-step COVID-19 reopening plan today.

The province had been under lockdown since April 28 because of a COVID-19 outbreak, which primarily affected the Halifax and Sydney, N.S., regions.

Restaurants patios can open at full capacity as long as there is proper distancing between tables, and retail stores can reopen at 25 per cent capacity.

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Schools reopened today across most of the province and will reopen Thursday in the Halifax and Sydney, N.S., areas.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia is resuming its use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for second doses only.

People who received a first dose of that vaccine can get a booster shot of the same or choose a second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

The decision was announced Tuesday after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization updated its guidance on the interchangeability of vaccines approved for use by Health Canada.

Nova Scotia has about 2,000 doses of AstraZeneca set to expire at the end of the month. Health officials said if the remaining supply is used and there is more demand for AstraZeneca second doses, they will request more of that vaccine.

The province says about 58,000 Nova Scotians have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Newfoundland and Labrador aims to lift travel ban, welcome Canadian travellers July 1

After maintaining some of the toughest pandemic-related travel restrictions in the country, Newfoundland and Labrador is aiming to once again welcome travellers from the rest of Canada as early as July 1.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health, announced the goal of lifting the province’s travel ban on Canada Day as she unveiled a post-pandemic reopening plan Wednesday.

She was joined at a media briefing by Premier Andrew Furey, who said the province’s swift vaccination rollout and residents’ adherence to public health rules allowed the travel ban to be lifted. “What a great moment this is, after everything we’ve all been through,” Furey said.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s so-called travel ban requires potential visitors to apply to the government for permission to enter the province. Only certain types of travellers, such as essential workers, are allowed in, and most are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

The ban was unsuccessfully challenged in court last year by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in a suit led by Kim Taylor, a Nova Scotia resident who was denied entry to Newfoundland and Labrador to attend her mother’s funeral in May 2020.

According to Wednesday’s reopening plan, if the province’s COVID-19 case counts and hospitalization rates stay low, and 75 per cent of all residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, that all changes July 1. Fully vaccinated Canadian travellers will not have to apply for permission to visit, nor will they have to self-isolate or present a negative COVID-19 test when they arrive.

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Partially vaccinated Canadians will have to present a negative result from a COVID-19 test administered within three days of their departure date, or they can isolate until they get a negative test result, the plan says.

On Aug. 15, those rules will loosen again, and partially vaccinated Canadians will be able to visit without isolating or providing test results. Unvaccinated Canadians will have to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.

Saskatchewan looks to lift mandatory mask order by July 11

Saskatchewan residents could be unmasked by July 11.

The provincial government has set vaccination targets required to prompt the removal of COVID-19 public health measures such as mandatory masking and limits on gathering sizes.

Premier Scott Moe says mandatory masking and limits on the size of gatherings will be removed three weeks after 70 per cent of everyone in the province aged 12 and over has received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

That is providing at least three weeks have passed since the beginning of Step Two of the government’s reopening plan.

500 fully vaccinated health-care workers to attend Game 1 between Jets, Canadiens

As many as 500 fully vaccinated health-care workers will be in the stands when the Winnipeg Jets host the Montreal Canadiens tonight for the first game of the NHL’s northern division playoffs.

True North Sports and Entertainment says masks must be worn throughout the game and concession stands will be closed.

It asked interested health-care workers to reply to an e-mail if they want to attend the game, and that 500 fans would be chosen by lottery by noon today.

Premier Brian Pallister says he’s not worried about the spread of COVID-19 at the game, despite current public health orders that ban such gatherings.

Manitoba plans new efforts to boost COVID-19 shots as vaccination levels plateau

The number of Manitobans getting COVID-19 vaccines is starting to plateau, so health officials are planning new ways to get more shots into arms.

“It’s not like we’re not seeing any first-dosers continuing to book (appointments) at supersites and pop-ups across the province, but it is levelling off,” Johanu Botha, a co-lead of the province’s vaccine effort, said Wednesday.

“Of course, it’s up to the individual Manitobans to make that appointment ... but a lot of it is up to us and our community partners, through providing the kind of delivery models that make this choice more feasible or convenient or reasonable.”

Botha said the province is still on track to have 70 per cent of people 12 and older vaccinated at least once by the end of June. Many Manitobans have started receiving second doses.

Pushing that number higher will involve community outreach, vaccination vans and incentives.

A mobile clinic, in the form of a van, is to hit the streets of inner Winnipeg this week to reach out to marginalized people, Botha said.

New community clinics are to be set up in areas where vaccination rates have been low. In some rural areas south of Winnipeg, uptake has been less than half the provincial average.

“The vast majority of those folks are not anti-vaccine,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the vaccine effort.

“The vast majority of people who have not yet been vaccinated are those who have questions about the vaccine ... they just don’t feel the confidence yet in this vaccine.”

The provincial government has also been working on possible vaccine incentives – free meals and payments of up to $100 are among the ideas that have been floated – although Reimer said there are challenges in ensuring the incentives don’t lead to more mistrust in some quarters.

“It’s very easy for people who are already struggling with trust with the government to see incentives as something that the government is using to push people to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise want to do.”

The province announced 267 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths Wednesday. Intensive care units remained swollen and 40 COVID-19 patients were being treated in Ontario and Saskatchewan to free up beds. One patient who was transferred to Ottawa on May 20 – a man in his 30s – has died, health officials said. Alberta has also offered to take up to 10 intensive care patients from Manitoba, according to a news release from Alberta Health Services.

Manitobans have been under strict public health orders, including a ban on social gatherings both indoors and out, but some are being relaxed.

An exception was made to allow up to 500 fully vaccinated health-care workers watch the National Hockey League playoff series between the Winnipeg Jets and the Montreal Canadiens. Immediate relatives of Jets players and staff have also been given the green light to attend.

And with a heat wave forecast for later in the week, municipalities have been given the go-ahead to use libraries and community centres as places for people to stay cool. Some splash pads and outdoor pools can also open as long as people mingle only with members of their own household.

The province also expanded eligibility for second vaccine shots Wednesday to anyone who received a first dose on or before April 20. Health officials are recommending anyone who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine move to a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine for a second.

The province still has almost 2,000 AstraZeneca doses available through pharmacies and medical clinics, geared mostly to people who are allergic to other types of vaccines, or who may have a hard time getting to a larger vaccination site where Pfizer and Moderna shots are administered.

Manitoba health officials have announced residents who got the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can now get a second dose of a different vaccine. The province says it has approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna as a second dose option. The Canadian Press

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