Today’s coronavirus news: Visitor restrictions begin to ease today in Ontario long-term care homes; Ottawa residents and protesters scheduled to clash in court


The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

6:25 a.m. After two years of COVID-related cancellations or virtual events, many of Toronto’s major festivals have confirmed plans to come back live and in-person for the summer of 2022.

The Star contacted the organizers of 10 large-scale events and the response was unanimous: They’re ready to party like it’s 2019 (with some safety protocols, of course).

Luminatean arts festival featuring local and international talent which premiered in 2007, will formally announce a full slate of events running from June 9 to 19.

Read more from the Star’s Bruce DeMara.

5:55 a.m. The odd visual of players wearing white COVID-19 masks under their hockey masks appeared in Beijing’s Olympic Games with Canada’s 6-1 win over Russia in women’s hockey Monday

Players on both teams and on-ice officials stepped onto the ice for the game wearing KN95 masks after a delay of over an hour.

The teams and the International Ice Hockey Federation provided few details on the reason for the masks and the delay, but late test results were the issue.

Read more of the Star’s live Olympic coverage.

5:46 a.m. Papua New Guinea’s prime minister tested positive for COVID-19 when he arrived in Beijing last week to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games and had to cut short his stay.

Prime Minister James Marape was immediately given medical treatment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Monday.

Marape missed Friday’s opening ceremony and returned home Sunday night, canceling a planned trip to France. However, he held a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang via video link while in Beijing, Zhao said at a regular briefing.

Read more from The Associated Press.

5:40 a.m. School boards are increasingly having trouble filling teacher absences related to COVID-19 — Toronto’s public board has hit historic levels — and some worry that while students may be supervised, they question if they are actually learning.

Staffing issues have existed throughout the pandemic, and before, but the highly transmissible Omicron variant — and the number of people ill or isolating — has exacerbated the situation, say educators.

“The challenges are really, really severe at this point,” said Patrick Daly, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, which represents English Catholic boards in the province. “School boards and staff are doing everything they can to keep classes and schools open.”

Read more from the Star’s Isabel Teotonio and Kristin Rushowy.

5:30 am As a registered psychologist who specializes in stress and anxiety, Dr. Melanie Badali says it’s been difficult to watch some of her wait lists grow over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two years in, many are dealing with built-up anxiety and depression, and Badali said she wants to help.

“It feels horrible to have to wait-list people in need,” she said, adding she does what she can to empower them with online tools and other available resources while they wait.

Read more from the Canadian Press.

5:15 a.m. Ontario long-term care residents can start taking social trips and see more caregivers as of today.

The loosened visitor restrictions come after more than a month of strict rules aimed at slowing down the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Starting today, the number of designated caregivers per resident increases from two to four, though only two can visit at a time.

Read more from the Canadian Press.

5:07 a.m. China’s capital city returned to work Monday after a weeklong Lunar New Year holiday that was mutated by the pandemic — especially for the thousands of people inside the Winter Olympics bubble.

For volunteers and competitors at the Games, there’s no hong bao – red envelopes – with gifts of cash, no lucky tang yuan rice cakes with sesame filling, no dramatically-choreographed lion dance.

Across China, the pandemic has meant a subdued Lunar New Year for the third year in a row. The government discouraged residents of the capital from traveling home to visit family to limit the spread of the virus. Those who did needed two negative virus tests before heading back to Beijing and a third test within 72 hours of returning.

Read more from The Associated Press.

5 am An Ontario court is scheduled to hear arguments in a proposed multi-million-dollar class-action lawsuit by Ottawa residents who want protesters encamped in their downtown to stop honking their horns.

Superior Court Justice Hugh McLean had set a 1 pm deadline to get all documents and cross-examinations done before he would rule on one part of the proposed class-action.

A group of downtown residents is asking for an injunction to prevent truckers parked on city streets from honking their horns repeatedly throughout the day.

4:45 a.m. Venues across Quebec’s cultural sector are set to partially reopen today as the province eases health restrictions put in place to contain COVID-19.

Places of worship, entertainment and sports venues are allowed to reopen after being shut down since December, with capacity limits in place and proof of vaccination required for entry.

Cinemas, theatres, concert halls and sports venues such as the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens, can reopen at 50 per cent capacity or a maximum of 500 people.

Read more from The Canadian Press.

4:30 a.m. Many Asian countries are facing a spike in COVID-19 infections after the widely-celebrated Lunar New Year holidays, as health officials grapple with the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and expectations that numbers will continue to rise in coming weeks.

The Lunar New Year, which is China’s biggest holiday, was celebrated across Asia on Feb. 1 even as pandemic restrictions in many countries kept crowds and family outings to a minimum.

Hong Kong’s authorities are confronting record cases that are straining its so-called “zero-COVID” policy. The city has reported more than 300 local infections two days in a row, the highest since the pandemic began. Authorities require all cases to be hospitalized.

Read more from The Associated Press.

4 a.m. Ottawa Major Jim Watson has declared a state of emergency in the city over ongoing trucker protests.

in to news release Sundaythe city said the decision, “reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations.”

It also “highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government,” and will give the city more flexibility to procure supplies, the release added.

Read more from the Star’s May Warren.

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