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Ontario Long-term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton answers questions during a news conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, on May 27, 2020.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Nurses and personal support workers can now be granted anonymity when testifying for a commission examining Ontario’s response to COVID-19 in long-term care homes.

Long-term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton says the government has changed the terms of reference for the independent inquiry to ensure the workers don’t fear reprisal from their employers.

Opposition critics called the move a good start, saying whistleblower protections should be strengthened across the sector.

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The commission is investigating how the novel coronavirus spread in the long-term care system and will submit its final report on April 30, 2021.

In interim recommendations issued late last week, the commission said the province must address critical staffing shortages at long-term care homes as the second wave of the pandemic intensifies.

The province says there are currently 88 long-term care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 827 new cases of COVID-19 today, and four new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 355 cases are in Toronto, 169 in Peel Region, 89 in York Region and 58 in Ottawa.

The province has conducted 23,945 tests since the last daily report, with an additional 22,636 being processed.

In total, 312 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 75 in intensive care.

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The province also reported 144 new COVID-19 cases related to schools, including at least 82 among students. Those bring the number of schools with a reported case to 593 out of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools.

Countries around the world are working on a coronavirus vaccine, including right here in Canada. Globe and Mail science reporter Ivan Semeniuk discussed the timeline and challenges in developing COVID-19 vaccines during a Facebook live. The Globe and Mail

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