The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world on Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
6:15 am: The COVID-19 outbreaks in Ontario elementary schools are at the height of the pandemic, surpassing the peak of the third wave when increasing cases forced schools across the province to switch to online learning afterward. April spring break.
The province reported 219 active outbreaks of COVID in elementary schools on Tuesday, a number of experts say indicating a need for greater protections to keep students in school and prevent further learning losses and disruptions for families.
And with some public health units already identifying the new and potentially more communicable Omicron variant connected to schools, experts emphasize that additional public health tools, including take-home COVID tests for students, are critical in this point in the pandemic, especially with elementary school students only. recently eligible for vaccinations.
Read the full story of Isabel Teotonio and Megan Ogilvie from Star here.
6:13 am: New coronavirus infections in South Korea topped 7,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday, as hour-long lines snaked around testing stations in the capital Seoul amid a worsening. of the virus crisis.
More than 5,600 of the new 7,175 cases were reported in Seoul and the nearby metropolitan region, where a delta-driven surge has caused a shortage of hospital beds and affected an already depleted healthcare workforce.
The death toll in the country surpassed 4,000 after 63 patients with the virus died in the last 24 hours. The 840 patients in serious or critical condition were a historic record, the Korea Agency for Disease Prevention and Control said.
“Last week, the daily increase level reached 5,000 and today the count surpassed 7,000; the viral spread has been fierce,” said Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, Seoul’s number two behind President Moon Jae-in. , during a virus. meeting.
“The region of the great capital is where 80% of infections have been concentrated. While we have been working with hospitals to increase the number of hospital beds (designated for COVID-19 treatment), we have not been able to keep up with the speed of transmissions, ”he said.
Officials have struggled to administer booster shots and are monitoring more mild cases at home to preserve hospital beds for the sickest patients.
Wednesday’s daily infection count was 1,800 more than a previous day’s record of 5,352 set on Saturday, illustrating how the delta variant has spread across the country after it relaxed social distancing rules in November to address financial concerns.
6:12 am: Poland and several other Central and Eastern European countries are battling their latest surges in coronavirus cases and deaths, while continuing to post much lower vaccination rates than in Western Europe.
In Russia, more than 1,200 people with COVID-19 died every day for most of November and several days in December, and the daily death toll remains above 1,100. Ukraine, which records hundreds of virus deaths a day, is emerging from its deadliest period of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the death rate is Poland, although lower than in the spring, it has recently caused more than 500 deaths per day and has not yet reached its peak. Intensive care units are full and doctors report that more and more children require hospitalization, including some who went through COVID-19 without symptoms but later suffered strokes.
The situation has created a dilemma for the Polish government, which has urged citizens to get vaccinated but clearly worries about alienating voters who oppose vaccine mandates or any restrictions on economic life.
6:11 am: The reproductive number, an indicator of how quickly the coronavirus is spreading, nearly doubled in South Africa last month when it took hold of an outbreak of the omicron variant.
The measure increased to 2.55 on Nov. 27 from 1.37 on Nov. 17, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said in a report on Wednesday. The number means that, on average, each infected person transmitted the disease to 2.55 other people.
The data is the latest indicator of how quickly the virus has spread in South Africa since the appearance of omicron, which was first detected last month.
The indicator was at 3.06 at the Gauteng Mall, the epicenter of the outbreak that is home to Johannesburg and Pretoria. The number more than doubled to 1.63 in the Western Cape, where Cape Town is located, and increased to 2.18 from 1.23 in the northern province of Limpopo. The rate increased in eight of the nine provinces, falling slightly in the sparsely populated Northern Cape.
South Africa announced the discovery of omicron on November 25 and the number of daily infections has increased since then. International markets have been shaken and travel bans have been imposed on South Africa and its neighbors.
6:11 am: A leaked video showing members of staff in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office joking about holding a Christmas party that violates the lockdown is fueling allegations that government officials disobeyed coronavirus rules they imposed on everyone else.
For days, the prime minister’s office has been trying to disprove reports that Johnson’s staff held an office party in December 2020, with wine, food, games and an exchange of festive gifts, when the pandemic regulations they banned most social gatherings.
According to various British media outlets, the party took place on December 18, when restrictions in London banned most indoor gatherings, and a day before Johnson further toughened the rules, ruling out Christmas celebrations familiar to millions. of people.
The prime minister’s office said in response to footage the ITV broadcaster broadcast Tuesday night that “there was no Christmas party. COVID rules have been followed at all times. ”
The video, recorded on December 22, 2020, shows then-press secretary Allegra Stratton joking about an illicit party at the Prime Minister’s office in Downing Street.
The recording appears to be a mock press conference, held as a rehearsal for the daily televised briefings with the government media.
Another attendee, playing a journalist, says: “I just saw reports on Twitter that there was a Christmas party in Downing Street on Friday night, do you recognize those reports?”
6 am: Canadian business owners are optimistic about the rebound in the COVID-19 economy, with a new report finding that investment plans and sales expectations for the coming year exceed pre-pandemic levels.
However, the bright outlook for 2022 is clouded by a persistent labor shortage and supply chain disruptions expected to continue into the new year, the Business Development Bank of Canada found in its annual survey of business owners.
Canadian Entrepreneurs’ 2022 Investment Outlook, released Wednesday, said 84 percent of companies plan to hold investments or invest more in their businesses over the next 12 months.
In addition, 83 percent of companies expect their sales to increase or stay the same, with accommodation and food service companies the most optimistic, according to the study.
“Confidence in the economy is strong,” said Pierre Cléroux, vice president for research and chief economist at BDC. “We returned to the pre-crisis level for the first time in 18 months.”
While economic growth slowed in the fall, the report said the Canadian economy should return to pre-pandemic levels in early 2022.
6 am: The Bank of Canada is ready today to announce what will happen to its trend setting interest rate with rising employment and inflation figures.
The central bank’s key interest rate target has been at the lowest level of 0.25 percent since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and is unlikely to be raised as part of the last rate call scheduled for 2021. .
The bank has said it will not raise the rate until the economy has recovered enough to handle an increase.
The economy grew at an annual rate of 5.4 percent in the third quarter, almost in line with the bank’s expectations, and labor gains in November reduced the unemployment rate to 0.3 percentage points from what was recorded in February 2020, just before the pandemic.
At the same time, inflation remains above the central bank’s target range of one and three percent.
Although senior bank officials have said a rate hike could take place in April, updated economic indicators released last week by Statistics Canada led some economists to say that a rate hike in January could not be ruled out.