The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
11:30 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 182 people in intensive care due to COVID-19 and 551 in hospital overall testing positive for the virus, according to its latest report released Sunday morning.
The numbers represent a 1.6 per cent decrease in the ICU COVID-19 count and a 10 per cent decrease in hospitalizations overall. Thirty-one per cent of the province’s 2,343 adult ICU beds remain available for new patients.
Given new provincial regulations around testing that took effect Dec. 31, 2021, case counts — reported at 1,680 on Sunday, down 19.1 per cent from the previous day — are also not considered an accurate assessment of how widespread COVID-19 is right now.
Three new deaths were reported in the latest numbers.
Read the full story by the Star’s Erin LeBlanc.
10:30 a.m.: Masks will no longer be part of the required dress code in most Ontario public spaces come Monday, as the government turns the public health measure into an individual choice.
Weeks after the province lifted proof-of-vaccination rules and capacity limits, face coverings won’t be mandatory in schools, retail settings and other spaces.
Hospitals, long-term care homes and public transit and some other areas will keep masks until the end of April, when the province aims to roll back all remaining public health rules.
Provincial politicians and top health officials say COVID-19 indicators have improved enough to remove mask rules, which have also been lifted in other jurisdictions across Canada and around the world.
Some are celebrating the change, but other Ontarians remain wary of the virus risk – as well as a lack of data on cases since the province stopped widespread PCR testing – and say they plan to keep masking after Monday.
Lisa Lam said she will keep wearing a mask at her retail job.
“There’s no freaking way I’m going to change my mind about it,” she said outside a Toronto shopping mall. “I think it’s way too soon.”
Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s top doctor, has said the true number of cases is close to 10 times higher than the daily case counts, which had a seven-day average of 1,821 as of Friday. The province’s expert science advisers said last week that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 cases in the province each day.
7:52 a.m.: As Nova Scotia prepares to lifts its mask mandate for most indoor public spaces Monday, the province’s chief medical officer of health is warning that it’s not a sign the pandemic is over.
Dr. Robert Strang wants people to know that there is “still plenty of virus around” and that they should continue to practise many of the public health measures that have been in place over the past two years and are now voluntary.
“We still strongly recommend that people continue to wear masks, especially in indoor public places,” Strang said in an interview last week. “That doesn’t change, whether it’s mandated or not.”
According to data released late last week, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 remains highly active in the province, resulting in a steady hospitalization rate and 120 deaths since the variant first appeared in December.
7:51 a.m.: Buckhorn Maplefest organizers are optimistic about once again offering its maple sugar bush festival next year, after seeing it cancelled for three years in a row now due to COVID-19.
The McLean family made the “difficult” decision to cancel this year’s event, said Erin McLean, because of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic when planning began for it in December.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to set up the festival so we really had to make that call before there was any talk of lifting restrictions back when things were even worse than they are now,” she said.
“It’s a lot of time and effort and investment and it’s just hard to do all of that work and not know how it’s going to pan out, especially since we’d have to completely revamp the festival to make it as safe as we want it to be for everyone to come out. It just wasn’t in the cards this year.”
She said they are hoping for a good maple season this year. In early March they began collecting sap and boiling it down on the McLean farm’s sugar bush south of Buckhorn to produce maple syrup to sell at local farmers markets and directly from their farm.
Sunday 7:49 a.m.: Hong Kong’s leader said Sunday that the government would consider lifting strict social distancing measures as new COVID-19 infections in the city continued trending downward.
“I wouldn’t promise now that there’s room for adjustment,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said. “But following a review, we have a duty to account for the findings in this review and the direction we will take.”
Hong Kong is in the middle of a massive outbreak, recording over 1 million total cases in the city of 7.4 million. The city has been hit hard, with mortuaries full as they try to cope with a high number of deaths. Hong Kong has so far refrained from a strict city-wide lockdown like those that China regularly imposes to control the spread of the virus.