Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario residents in long-term care to start receiving vaccines within days; Toronto sees record 957 new COVID-19 cases

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file is no longer updating. Click here to read the latest coverage. Web links to longer stories if available.

10:16 p.m.: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration Tuesday for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines and predicted that “things will get worse before they get better” when it comes to the pandemic.

“We need to be honest — the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic,” Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday.

His comments come as the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 336,000 Americans, with experts warning holiday travel and gatherings could precipitate yet another spike in virus cases even as the virus has already been surging in states nationwide.

9:54 p.m.: Residents in long-term care will start receiving COVID-19 vaccines within days, and more than half of Ontarians — including some in the general population — are slated to be immunized by midsummer, the head of the province’s inoculation campaign said Tuesday.

In an update on Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, retired Gen. Rick Hillier said the province expects to receive roughly 50,000 doses of the Moderna shot on Wednesday, and distribute them to long-term care and retirement homes.

Immunizations should begin at those sites within 48 to 72 hours after the vaccine is received, he said as the province marked another record high in new daily COVID-19 infections.

9:41 p.m.: The first United States case of the more contagious coronavirus variant that was initially discovered in Britain was found in Colorado on Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis said, raising the worrisome possibility that the variant is already well established in the patient’s community — and perhaps elsewhere.“It didn’t teleport across the Atlantic,” said William Hanage, a public health researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The variant was detected in a man in his 20s with no travel history, Polis said. The man was in isolation in Elbert County, southeast of Denver, he said.

Hanage said the newly reported case “should not be cause for panic.” But, he added, “it is cause to redouble our efforts at preventing the virus from getting the opportunity to spread,” he said.

Scientists are worried about variants but not surprised by them. It is normal for viruses to mutate, and most of the mutations of the coronavirus have proved minor. There’s no evidence that an infection with the variant — known as B.1.1.7 — is more likely to lead to a severe case of COVID-19, increase the risk of death, or evade the new vaccines.

8:50 p.m.: A delivery of precious cargo is anticipated to make its way amid the COVID-19 pandemic to Anahim Lake west of Williams Lake Tuesday, Dec. 29.

Ulkatcho First Nation members and surrounding non-Indigenous residents of Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake will be among the first in B.C. to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Prior to the start of inoculation, available for residents 18 years and older, First Nations Health Authority representatives will be holding a meeting outside the Ulkatcho First Nation Community Hall Tuesday morning to help individuals make an informed decision on the benefits and risks associated with the vaccine.

The first of two doses will be offered to Indigenous elders first, followed by the remainder of Ulkatcho residents on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31. A second dose is required 28 days later.

“I think it’s great it’s getting into the northern communities, and it’s important,” said Cariboo Regional District Area J director Gerald Kirby.

“The exciting part is that the rural communities are getting it in the early stage which as you know in the rural area, there are fewer health care services available.”

8:08 p.m.: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the province missed its initial COVID-19 vaccination goal, but it is working as close to around the clock as possible to catch up.

The province had planned to give 29,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of the year, but on Tuesday it said it had given shots to about 7,000 health workers.

Kenney said Alberta Health Services, the front-line operational arm of Alberta Health, was holding back half of its vaccine shipments to ensure those who received a first dose would get a required second shot.

But his COVID-19 cabinet committee has now directed health services to follow what some other provinces are doing and administer all doses as soon as possible.

“We hope to start catching up towards that goal,” Kenney told a news briefing.

“We expect the pace to pick up significantly.”

He said immunizations were paused on Christmas Day as it was difficult to get vaccine clinic staff, and community partners in charge of vaccine delivery also had the day off. Vaccinations were not scheduled as well for New Year’s Day, but that has changed.

Vaccinations will take place every day “as close to around the clock as possible,” the premier said.

“Every day that we waste is ultimately going to represent lives lost and we should be using every available working hour to administer vaccines.”

7:45 p.m.: In the five days between Dec. 24 and 29, Vancouver Island had 44 new COVID-19 cases, and zero deaths. This brings the Island’s total number of cases to 893 since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been 11 deaths.

There was one new outbreak in a Nanaimo care home where one resident tested positive. Vancouver Island currently has three outbreaks, all in care homes.

The province had a total of 2,206 new cases over Christmas, and 74 deaths.

The first known case of the COVID-19 UK variant was identified in a Vancouver Island resident who returned from the U.K. on Dec. 15, before that border was closed to stop the spread of that highly contagious strain.

B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has been doing genome sequencing on positive tests, looking to map the mutation of the virus. When the variant was identified in the U.K., the BCCDC went back and tested each positive case over the last few weeks. There could be more people with the variant already in B.C.

Dr. Henry said cases like this reiterate why it’s so important for international travellers to follow the mandated 14-day quarantine.

7:33 p.m. (Updated 8:37 p.m.): Following direction from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Finance Minister Rod Phillips said he was on his way home after taking a “personal trip” to St. Barts during the ongoing pandemic.

Ford released a statement Tuesday nig
ht, denouncing the actions of Phillips, after news Phillips and his wife took the trip earlier this month. As early as November, Ford urged Ontarians to limit contact outside their household during the holidays.

“I deeply regret travelling over the holidays. It was a mistake and I apologize. I left on a personally paid for trip to St. Barts on December 13 following the end of the Legslative Session,” Phillips said in a statement Tuesday night.

“I am making arrangements to return to Ontario immediately and will begin a 14-day quarantine as soon as I arrive.”

Earlier in the night, Ford’s statement revealed the premier’s reaction to Phillips being abroad.

“At a time when every Ontarian has been asked to make sacrifices, I am extremely disappointed in Minister Phillips and his decision to travel abroad,” Ford said.

“I have let the minister know that his decision to travel is completely unacceptable and that it will not be tolerated again — by him or any member of our cabinet and caucus. I have also told the minister I need him back in the country immediately.”

“The only way we will beat COVID-19 is by following the advice provided by our public health experts. Public officials are no exception,” Ford concluded.

Phillips, the Ajax MPP, went on the trip with his wife.

Read Sara Mojtehedzadeh‘s story here.

7:32 p.m.: Ontario is planning to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations after facing criticism for scaling down operations over the holidays, while Alberta acknowledges it over-estimated how quickly it would be able to get shots into people’s arms.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who is leading Ontario’s vaccine program, said the decision to close clinics over Christmas Day and Boxing Day was the wrong one.

“We’ve heard the voices of the people of Ontario saying ‘get on with this’ and that’s what we are going to do,” he told a news conference Tuesday.

“We will not take any more days off.”

7:31 p.m.: Quebec Liberal member Pierre Arcand is vacationing with his wife in the Caribbean despite warnings from the federal and provincial governments to stay home during the pandemic.

The Canadian Press has obtained a statement from Arcand, who led the Quebec Liberals between 2018-20, saying he is in Barbados, a place he called “one of the safest places in the world today.”

Canada and Quebec have repeatedly asked Canadians not to travel abroad during the pandemic, especially in the winter, when the country is reporting record numbers of infections and hospitals are overburdened by COVID patients.

Arcand, who represents a Montreal constituency in the national assembly, says he took two COVID-19 tests, on Dec. 22 and Dec. 27, and was negative.

He adds he will “scrupulously” respect the 14-day self-isolation period required by the federal government for travellers who return to the country from abroad.

According to Radio-Canada, which first reported the news, Arcand was spotted by a witness in the Glitter Bay district of the country.

Arcand says in his statement he “regrets this decision given the current situation in Quebec and the respect we owe to health-care workers.”

7:30 p.m.: Alberta’s premier says the province missed its initial COVID-19 vaccination goal, but is working as close to around the clock as possible to catch up.

Jason Kenney says Alberta Health Services was holding back half of its vaccine shipments to ensure those who received a first dose would get a required second shot.

He says his COVID-19 cabinet committee has now directed AHS to follow what some other provinces are doing and administer all doses as soon as possible.

The province had planned to give 29,000 doses by the end of the year, but has so far given shots to about 7,000 health workers.

The premier says instead of pausing immunizations on New Year’s Day, like it did on Christmas Day, vaccination clinics will be running.

Kenney says 16,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine have also arrived in Alberta and they will be offered to residents in continuing care facilities across the province.

6:27 p.m.: With its dozen intensive care beds already full, Cullman Regional Medical Center began looking desperately for options as more and more COVID-19 patients showed up.

Ten beds normally used for less severe cases were transformed into intensive care rooms, with extra IV machines brought in. Video monitors were set up to enable the staff to keep watch over patients whenever a nurse had to scurry away to care for someone else.

The patch did the job — for the time being, at least.

“We’re kind of like a bathtub that’s filling up with water and the drain is blocked,” the hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. William Smith, said last week.

Alabama, long one of the unhealthiest and most impoverished states in America, has emerged as one of the nation’s most alarming coronavirus hot spots.

6:25 p.m.: A former state lawmaker and his wife died from COVID-19 on the same day.

The family’s obituary says Vic and Terry Bass Stelly died within hours of each other on Saturday from complications brought on by the coronavirus. A memorial ceremony will be held Thursday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles.

Daughter Toni Stelly Hébert wrote on Facebook that after 60 years together, her parents could not be without each other.

“You don’t see marriages like that too often anymore,” state Sen. Ronnie Johns, a Republican from Sulphur, told The Advocate. “At first it shocked me that they both died the same day, but as I looked back at how they lived their lives and how they felt about each other, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Vic Stelly served 16 years in the state House and later was a member of Louisiana’s higher education policy board. He was 79. Terry Bass Stelly was 80.

6:23 p.m.: The first reported U.S. case of the COVID-19 variant that’s been seen in the United Kingdom has been discovered in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday.

The coronavirus variant was found in a man in his 20s who is in isolation southeast of Denver and has no travel history, state health officials said.

The Colorado State Laboratory confirmed the virus variant, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was notified.

Scientists in the U.K. believe the new virus variant is more contagious than previously identified strains of the SARS-CoV-2. The vaccines being given now are thought to be effective against the variant, Colorado health officials said in a news release.

Public health officials are investigating other potential cases and performing contract tracing to determine the spread of the variant throughout the state.

“There is a lot we don’t know about this new COVID-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious. The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority, and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely,” Polis said.

Polis and state health officials are expected to address the public Wednesday.

4:31 p.m.: Toronto is reporting a single-day record of 957 new COVID-19 cases, with 10 more reported deaths.

The record reported Tuesday, well above the city’s previous high of 850 on Dec. 16, comes after a holiday weekend over which Toronto Public Health paused its daily reports for four days.

Despite the record, the city’s long-term case average is slightly down from immediately before the holiday. Toronto’s seven-day average for new cases hit 644 daily Tuesday, down from 684 daily for the seven days ending Christmas Eve. Adjusted for population, the current rate is third highest in the province, behind Windsor-Essex and Peel Region.

Toronto resumed its daily updates Monday by reporting 2,226 added cases in the four days since Christmas Day.

A total of 1,918 people have died of COVID-19 in Toronto.

3:30 p.m.: A top health official in Manitoba says the province is headed in the right direction when it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19, but the fight is far from won.

The province has announced 133 new cases of the virus and five additional deaths

Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, says the test positivity rate for the province and in Winnipeg remains high at about 12 per cent.

He adds that 1,300 COVID-19 tests were done Monday, and it’s typical to see lower numbers following a holiday.

With the province’s current public-health rules set to expire next week, he says officials will have to see how the virus is spreading closer to Jan. 8 to determine whether restrictions can be loosened.

Atwal urges residents not to socialize, particularly for any New Year’s Eve events.

He told a news briefing Tuesday, “133 cases and five deaths does not mean we can be careless with our actions.”

“It does not mean we can take the restrictions currently in place less seriously.”

3 p.m.: Provincial Finance Minister Rod Phillips left the country earlier this month on a “personal trip,” despite guidance issued as early as November urging Ontarians to stay home during the holiday season.

The Ajax MPP and his wife left Canada on Dec. 13 — shortly after the legislature closed — and are still abroad, according to minister’s spokesperson Emily Hogeveen, who did not confirm his location.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Phillips described his travels as “previously planned” and said he continued to “work daily” including “dozens” of constituency and cabinet calls and meetings.

“Had I been aware then of the eventual December 26 Province wide shutdown, we would have cancelled the trip,” Phillips said.

Read the full story here: Ontario’s finance minister Rod Phillips abroad on ‘personal trip’ — despite COVID-19 guidance

2:05 p.m.: There are no new cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut today.

Nunavut has a total of six active cases, four in Arviat and two in Whale Cove.

Arviat and Whale Cove remain under lockdown, with non-essential businesses closed in both communities and travel restricted.

To date, 259 Nunavut residents have recovered from COVID-19.

2 p.m.: There is one new case of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Authorities say the case affects a man in his 40s and the source of his infection is under investigation by public health.

The province has 19 active cases of COVID-19 with one person in hospital.

1:50 p.m.: Manitoba is reporting 133 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths.

Acting deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal says the province is headed in the right direction, but urged residents not to let up on following public health advice.

In particular, he says people shouldn’t gather for New Year’s Eve parties.

Atwal says Manitoba’s test positivity rate is still too high and the vaccine rollout is in the early stages.

1:45 p.m.: Ontario hopes to have 8.5 million people vaccinated against COVID-19 by July, says retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccination distribution task force, amid criticism of a slow rollout.

Hillier told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that so far, 14,000 people have received the first shot so far of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. The province currently has 95,000 doses.

Ontario doesn’t have any yet of the Moderna vaccine, recently approved by Health Canada, but is expecting about 50,000 doses on Wednesday, which will be taken into a few long-term care homes at first.

That vaccine does not require the deep freeze that the Pfizer one does so can be moved into the homes, he said.

“We can’t do it any faster — we don’t have the vaccines coming to us any faster, and if we did we will use them more quickly,” he said.

Read the full story by Star reporter May Warren here: 8.5 million Ontarians to be vaccinated by July, says head of provincial task force

1:40 p.m.: Quebec’s health minister is calling on the federal government to take stronger action to ensure returning international travellers respect quarantine rules.

Christian Dube is also asking Ottawa to require that returning travellers be tested before getting on a plane home, and for officials to administer more rapid COVID-19 tests in Canadian airports.

Dube says he was shocked and worried by reports of Quebecers partying in southern destinations and says he is concerned by rising case numbers and hospitalizations in Quebec.

He says Ottawa has agreed to implement the changes beginning in January, but he wants the federal government to move more quickly

1:15 p.m.: Federal officials say they have issued eight charges to travellers who have failed to heed warnings about mandatory quarantine rules.

Most people entering the country from abroad are required to quarantine for 14 days.

In a statement today, the federal government says 98.8 per cent of instances where local law enforcement officers had to get involved have resulted in the rules being followed.

But a few of the over 41,100 incidents have resulted in something more.

The government says officers have issued 185 verbal warnings, 20 written warnings, 130
tickets and eight charges.

The statement comes in the wake of criticism that the federal quarantine rules aren’t being strictly followed.

1:09 p.m.: Police say they’ve charged a 48-year-old woman after a church gathering that violated COVID-19 rules in Woodstock, Ont., on Sunday.

She’s being charged under Ontario’s Reopening Act for organizing an event that exceeded the number of permitted people.

All of Ontario moved into lockdown on Saturday to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Under those provincial restrictions, religious services are limited to 10 or fewer people both indoors and outdoors.

Police say that well over 10 people were inside the place of worship on Sunday, with many not physically distancing or wearing masks.

Other Ontarians are facing similar charges from over the weekend.

Chatham-Kent police say they charged a 50-year-old Merlin, Ont., man following a church service in Wheatley, Ont., on Sunday

Police also charged a 37-year-old man from Malahide, Ont., following a church service in Aylmer, Ont. He is also facing charges for obstructing a peace officer and intimidation of an officer.

12:46 p.m.: Health officials in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island each reported two new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday.

In Nova Scotia, there are 30 active reported infections. One new case is located in the central zone and linked to a close contact of a previously reported infection, and the other is in the northern zone, linked to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

One person is currently in hospital with the disease.

In New Brunswick, the two new cases involve a person in their 20s in the Edmundston region and someone in their 50s in the Bathurst area. Both cases are isolating and under investigation.

The number of active reported cases in New Brunswick is 31, and three patients are hospitalized with the disease, with two in intensive care.



Two new travel-related cases in Prince Edward Island are not connected to each other and involve a woman in her 30s and a male in his late teens.

Both individuals had travelled outside Atlantic Canada and have been isolating since their arrival in the province. Prince Edward Island has six active reported cases of COVID-19 and has reported a total of 96 infections since the start of the pandemic.

Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief medical officer of health, stressed the importance of isolating after returning from travel outside Atlantic Canada.

“It continues to be one of the most effective public health measures that we’ve put in place, along with handwashing, physical distancing and wearing a non-medical mask, to help keep Islanders safe during the pandemic,” she said Tuesday in a statement.

The premiers of all four Atlantic provinces are cautioning against non-essential travel into neighbouring provinces.

All non-essential travel into Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador requires a 14-day isolation period. While in Nova Scotia, visitors from outside Atlantic Canada must isolate for 14 days upon arrival unless they completed their isolation requirement in another Atlantic province.

12:35 p.m.: Prince Edward Island is reporting two new travel-related cases of COVID-19 today.

The new cases are not related to each other and involve a woman in her 30s and a male in his late teens.

Both individuals had travelled outside Atlantic Canada and have been isolating since their arrival in the province.

Prince Edward Island has six active reported cases of COVID-19 and has reported a total of 96 infections since the start of the pandemic.

12:15 p.m.: Ontario expects to receive its first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who is leading the province’s vaccine program, says roughly 50,000 doses are set to be delivered to four sites, then redistributed to long-term care and retirement homes.

He says immunizations should begin at those sites within 48 to 72 hours after the vaccine is received.

Vaccinations in Ontario were also expected to return to full operations today after being scaled down over the holidays.

Hillier said the call to close clinics over Christmas Day and Boxing Day was the “wrong decision.”

11:15 a.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today.

There are now 30 active reported infections in the province.

One new case is in central zone and linked to a close contact of a previously reported case, and one is in northern zone, linked to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

One person is currently in hospital with the disease.

10:30 a.m.: Quebec’s health minister is confirming the province’s first case of a more contagious COVID-19 variant that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

Christian Dube said today the person who tested positive is a family member of someone who returned from the U.K. on Dec. 11.

The Health Department says the traveller and three members of their family all tested positive, but only one of them has been confirmed to be carrying what’s know as the “S” variant.

The variant was first identified in the U.K. but has since spread to several other countries and has been confirmed by health authorities in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Canada’s public health agency says while early data suggests the new variant may be more transmissible, there is no evidence the variant causes more severe symptoms of COVID-19 or impacts vaccine effectiveness.

Meanwhile, Montreal police said today they received nearly 700 calls from citizens who reported people allegedly breaking health orders during the week of Dec. 21 to Dec. 27, and said they issued 34 tickets.

10:30 a.m. (updated): Ontario is reporting 2,553 cases of COVID-19 and 41 deaths today, and 1,939 cases and
37 deaths reported yesterday.

Despite the single-day record of cases today, the province’s long term average for new cases is down slightly from before the Christmas holiday, reaching 2,236 cases a day over the seven days ending Tuesday, down from a high of 2,306 daily as of Christmas Eve, the Star’s Ed Tubb reports.

The province’s labs also reported a significant slowdown in testing since the holiday weekend, falling to a low of just 34,112 completed tests Monday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 39,565 were completed the previous day.

Meanwhile, the province’s long-term average for fatal cases continues to go up. As of Tuesday, Ontario is averaging 38.1 reported deaths a day over the previous seven days — the most for the second wave.

Today, there are 895 new cases in Toronto, 496 in Peel, 147 in Windsor-Essex County, 144 in Hamilton and 142 in York Region, Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted.

9:15 a.m.: A protest by family members of residents living at Tendercare Living Centre in Scarborough is being planned at 12:30 p.m. today as relatives gather to demand answers and more help at the home.

Two more residents have died at the long-term-care home at McNicholl and Victoria Park avenues bringing the death toll there to 43, according to the latest numbers released Monday.

There are 107 residents with an active COVID-19 case at the home, North York General Hospital says. More than 90 per cent of the 180 residents had been infected over time.

Twenty residents now have resolved cases, the hospital says. A resolved cases means that it has been 10 days since the lab test confirming COVID-19 and the individual is no longer showing COVID-19 symptoms.

As of Monday, 43 staff have COVID-19 and are in isolation at home and 34 staff have resolved cases, nine of whom have returned to work.

9 a.m.: A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health says that more than 13,200 vaccines have been administered to Ontarians as of Monday afternoon.

Alexandra Hilkene says that the ministry expects to get through 90,000 doses at 19 hospitals in the next several days.

The storage requirement of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine means it will be used primarily in hospitals, while the more recently approved Moderna vaccine will go to long-term care homes, congregate settings and more rural communities.

Critics have taken issue with the pause in vaccinations over the holidays, saying the province can’t afford to delay immunizations.

8:50 a.m.: Yukon’s Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost says the territory has received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine and the arrival marks a turning point in Yukon’s fight against COVID-19.

Frost says 7,200 doses of vaccine arrived Monday and more shipments are expected in early January.

She says teams are being trained on safe storage, handling and delivery of the vaccine before vaccinations start next week, immunizing vulnerable groups first, such as high-risk long-term care residents and staff.

The territory has had 60 total cases of COVID-19 but none are currently active and 11 test results are still pending.

8:40 a.m.: A former senior health official has called the Netherlands’ coronavirus vaccination strategy “embarrassing,” as the nation waits until Jan. 8 to begin administering shots while other nations in Europe and elsewhere already have started vaccinations.

Roel Coutinho, a respected former director of the Center for Infectious Disease Control at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, told Dutch current affairs show Nieuwsuur on Monday night: “Every week counts.”

Delaying the start of the vaccination program means that “the overburdening of health care will continue for a long time. That means it has an effect not only for people who have COVID, but also for others, because they cannot be admitted or operations have to be postponed.”

The first batch of vaccines made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already have arrived in the Netherlands, but will not be administered until Jan. 8. The government has said it is still involved in preparations including getting IT systems ready to register all the vaccinations and training staff.

8:30 a.m.: Russia’s updated statistics on coronavirus-linked deaths showed that over 100,000 people with COVID-19 had died in the pandemic by December, a number much higher than previously reported by government officials.

According to the data released Monday by Russia’s state statistics agency, Rosstat, a total of 116,030 people with COVID-19 died in Russia between April and November. The count included cases where the virus was not the main cause of death and where the virus was suspected but not confirmed.

The data also showed that the number of deaths from all causes in the first 11 months of this year grew by 229,700, or nearly 14 per cent, compared to the same period in 2019.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova told a government meeting Monday that the increase reported by Rosstat for the most part is related to the coronavirus.

7:50 a.m.: Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus variant?

Experts believe so, but they’re working to confirm that.

A coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom has caused alarm because of the possibility that it might spread more easily. But even if that turns out to be true, experts say the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out will likely still work on the variant.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said data coming from Britain indicates the vaccines still will block the virus. But the U.S. also will do tests to be sure.

Viruses often undergo small changes as they reproduce and move through a population. In fact, the slight modifications are how scientists track the spread of a virus from one place to another.

But if a virus mutates significantly enough, one worry is that current vaccines might no longer offer as much protection. And although that’s a possibility to watch for over time with the coronavirus, experts say they don’t believe it will be the case with the variant in the U.K.

“My expectation is, this will not be a problem,” said Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for the U.S. government’s COVID-19 vaccine push.

7:30 a.m.: As COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Canada, many are asking themselves whether they can trust them or not. Since the first news of this COVID-19 there has been such an incredible amount of information, disinformation and barefaced lies that it is almost impossible to work out what is going on.

Science has changed so rapidly that treatments first thought to be effective have now become discounted. In addition, the clash of politics and science has fostered tons of misinformation.

Yes, there are a lot of knowns, some unknowns and many myths about
this vaccine.

As a group of medical professionals, doctors, health care workers, here is our summary of what we do know — not what we think we know about the Pfizer-BioNTech’s Vaccine — the first one authorized for general use in Canada, the UK, the USA and increasingly in other countries.

Read the full explainer from Dr. Mel Brecknell, Dr. Zain Chagla and Semir Bulle here.

7:15 a.m.: A new poll suggests the premiers of Canada’s three Prairie provinces are lagging counterparts from the rest of the country when it comes to how local residents feel they are managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The poll from Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found 30 per cent of respondents in Alberta were satisfied with the job Premier Jason Kenney was doing when it comes to COVID-19 — the lowest level of satisfaction for Canada’s 10 provincial leaders.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, whose province has also been battered by new infections during the second wave of COVID-19, fared slightly better than Kenney with 31 per cent of provincial respondents approving of his management of the pandemic.

The only other premier with less than 50 per cent satisfaction was Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe at 39 per cent. Moe’s government has also been criticized for not responding sooner to a steady increase in infections in the province.

5:21 a.m. India has found six people who returned from the United Kingdom in recent weeks infected with a new variant of the coronavirus.

The Health Ministry in a statement on Tuesday said that all the six patients were isolated and their fellow travellers were tracked down. Close contacts of the infected patients were also put under quarantine.

India previously suspended flights from and to the UK until the end of the year, noting the new variant is “spreading and growing rapidly.”

5:17 a.m. Israel’s Health Ministry says the country has vaccinated more people in nine days than have been infected with the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

The ministry said Tuesday that nearly 500,000 people, or about 5 per cent of Israel’s population of 9 million, have already received the vaccine since the country began its inoculation drive last week. More than 407,000 people have caught the virus in Israel, and over 3,200 have died.

Israel is hoping a mass vaccination campaign will help bring its current outbreak under control and ultimately wipe out the virus entirely. This week the country entered its third national lockdown, with much of the economy shut down to help bring down surging infection numbers.

5:12 a.m. German authorities say the coronavirus variant found in Britain has been detected in samples from two patients who were infected in northern Germany in November.

The Health Ministry in Lower Saxony state said late Monday that the samples were tested more thoroughly after news of the new variant emerged in Britain, regional public broadcaster NDR reported. They were taken in November from an elderly man with other medical conditions who later died and from his wife.

The ministry said the man’s daughter had been in England in mid-November and likely was infected there.

5:10 a.m. Official figures show more people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in England than at the first peak of the outbreak in the spring.

There were 20,426 patients in hospitals as of Monday morning — the last day for which figures are available — compared to the previous high of 18,974 on April 12.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of Britain’s National Health Service, said health care workers are back in “the eye of the storm” as they had been in the spring.

British authorities are blaming a new variant of the coronavirus, first identified in southeast England, for soaring infection rates. Almost half of England’s population is under tight restrictions on movement and on everyday life in an attempt to curb the spread.

5:04 a.m.: The first study of the safety and effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine in Iran began Tuesday, state TV reported, with dozens due to receive the domestically developed shot in the hardest-hit country in the Middle East.

The vaccine, produced by Shifa Pharmed, part of a state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate, is the first in the country to reach human trials. President Hassan Rouhani has said Iran is co-operating with a “foreign country” to produce another vaccine expected to run in tests in human volunteers in February, without offering further details.

Iran has struggled to stem the worst virus outbreak in the region, which has infected over 1.2 million people and killed nearly 55,000.

The study, a Phase 1 clinical trial, will enrol a total of 56 volunteers to receive two shots of Iran’s vaccine within two weeks, according to Hamed Hosseini, a clinical trial manager, with results to be announced roughly a month after the second shot. Three people received the first injections on Tuesday at a ceremony at a Tehran hotel attended by the country’s health minister. Authorities expect to the vaccine to hit the market by late spring 2021.

Tuesday 5 a.m. COVID-19 vaccinations in Ontario are expected to return to full operations today after being scaled down over the holidays.

The province says five vaccination clinics were open on Sunday, 10 were back in action Monday and all of them are set to resume immunizations today.

The latest numbers released show more than 11,000 shots have been administered in Ontario since the province received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine midmonth.

The drug’s storage requirements mean it will be used primarily in hospitals, while the more recently approved Moderna vaccine will go to long-term care homes, congregate settings and more rural communities.

Critics have taken issue with the pause in vaccinations over the holidays, saying the province can’t afford to delay immunizations.

The province did not release its daily tally of new COVID-19 cases and deaths on Monday, meaning today’s numbers will cover two days.

Monday 9:57 p.m.: South Korea says 40 more coronavirus patients have died in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number since the pandemic began.

Officials also reported 1,046 new confirmed coronavirus infections Tuesday, taking the total caseload to 58,725, with 859 deaths.

South Korea’s previous daily high for COVID-19 deaths was 24, reported on both Dec. 21 and Dec. 22.

Some observers say surging fatalities reflect an increase in cluster infections at nursing homes and long-term care centres where elderly people with underlying health problems stay.

Click here to read more of Monday’s COVID-19 coverage.