Today’s coronavirus news: Unvaccinated people 8 times more likely to get infected, top doctor says; Ontario reporting 321 COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

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

6:47 p.m.: With Ontario seeing more than three straight weeks of growth in daily COVID-19 cases — primarily in people who have not been vaccinated — the province is “most definitely” in a fourth wave, says a top doctor with the government’s science advisory table.

And with the number of new cases currently doubling every 10 days, Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the science table, warns the province could see as many as 1,200 new cases per day by the time school resumes in less than a month. That’s up from a current average of just over 300.

Full story here from Kenyon Wallace and Ed Tubb.

6:40 p.m.: Toronto is in the early days of a fourth wave of COVID-19 certain to worsen this autumn, experts say after an almost fivefold jump in daily new infections over one month.

The question now is how to ensure the city’s high vaccination rate prevents hospitalizations and deaths from surging along with infections, especially among the legions of unvaccinated young schoolchildren headed back to classrooms.

Defences include continued mask rules and, if necessary, shutting schools and businesses to halt outbreaks, said Toronto infectious diseases expert Dr. Anna Banerji. But she said the best defence is vaccine mandates — a measure the Ontario government is so far rejecting.

Full story here from David Rider

(Updated) 4:30 p.m. Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is forecasting a “slow and steady rise” in COVID-19 cases into the fall.

“This is not a cause for panic. Our case rates will fluctuate over time and we can anticipate that they’ll continue to go up,” Moore said at a briefing Tuesday.

MOore also suggested that rising cases in the future will not be met with provincewide lockdowns.

“Through our tabletop exercises and modelling at present it really is about local control, regional limitation of spread and using the entire health system capacity of Ontario to respond if it’s necessary,” Dr. Kieran Moore said.

Ontario reported 321 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday — the fifth day in a row of more than 300 cases — and two new deaths.

The new cases, Moore believes, are partly a result of long-weekend socializing and activities associated with Ontario’s Step 3 reopening three weeks ago.

Both Moore and the government are trying to emphasize hospitalizations over daily cases, with the Health Ministry rearranging its daily reporting website accordingly.

The numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions vary widely in different areas of the government’s data. The ministry said it’s due to different data collection and reporting processes. But in general, it shows that roughly 80 per cent of the cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are in unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people.

The new framing comes in conjunction with a Star op-ed from Moore, saying the growing case counts won’t have the same meaning now as during previous waves, due to high rates of vaccinations.

He said Tuesday that breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people tend to be milder, but also happen more frequently in older people.

More than 81 per cent of eligible Ontarians have received at least one dose and nearly 72 per cent are fully vaccinated. Moore noted that Ontario is getting close to the thresholds it has set for moving past Step 3, and he expects those targets will be met in a week to 10 days.

2:36 p.m. Ontario is facing growing calls to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for non-essential activities and health-care workers as infections rise, but the government is urging people to focus less on daily case counts and more on hospitalizations.

Health Minister Christine Elliott held the line Tuesday on her government’s staunch opposition to both requiring health-care workers be vaccinated and requiring a vaccine certification system for places such as bars and gyms, as seen in some other jurisdictions.

“There’s a mixture of views on that particular subject and we are not mandating vaccines for anyone, although we strongly encourage people to take the vaccine,” she said after an announcement in Collingwood, Ont.

1:44 p.m. Travellers are sharing pictures and video on social media of long lineups at customs at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Some say they waited hours upon arrival, often in a crowded room full of hundreds of other travellers.

The airport has been quick to respond to passengers on Twitter, and said the major delays are due to arrivals processing times, which are currently “longer than normal given high passenger volumes combined with additional COVID-19 screening processes.”

Some reported waiting on planes for hours before being allowed to disembark.

Robin Smith, a spokesperson for the airport, told the Star the increase of COVID-related screening measures implemented by the government, in addition to the loosening of border restrictions for U.S. travellers, are contributing factors to the delays.

Read the full story by the Star’s Zena Salem: Long lineups at Pearson as passengers say they’re waiting hours on parked planes or in crowded rooms without air conditioning

1:37 p.m. Hit hard by infections, deaths and devastating staff shortages during the first two waves of the pandemic, nursing homes are joining the call for Premier Doug Ford to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all health-care workers.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association cited growing concerns about the Delta variant and a fourth wave expected this fall and said a “clear policy” from the provincial government is needed to ensure consistency across the health system.

“The evidence is clear that the best way to protect yourself, and others, from COVID-19 and its devastating effects is to get vaccinated. Full stop,” Donna Duncan, chief executive of the association representing most nursing homes in the province, said Tuesday.

Ford has rejected previous calls for mandatory vaccinations in health-care and education workers from opposition parties and several medical groups, saying he prefers a voluntary route that has seen Ontario fully vaccinate 72 per cent of the eligible population age 12 and up.

Read the full story by the Star’s Rob Ferguson: Nursing homes join call that Doug Ford make vaccines mandatory for health workers

1:15 p.m. Ontario will now include in its daily COVID-19 reporting data that shows the vaccine status of patients in hospital.

The province says the new data collection is intended to better understand the vaccination status of COVID-19 patients who are currently hospitalized. The new data set also includes vaccine status updates on patients in the ICU.

View the charts and read the full story from the Star’s Ivy Mak: Ontario now tracking vaccine status of COVID-19 patients in hospital. These graphics break down what’s happening

12:36 p.m. The University of Ottawa has announced it will require COVID-19 vaccination for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors who intend to access the uOttawa campus. All visitors will be required to attest to their vaccination status as of Sept. 1. At least one dose is required as of Sept. 7, 2021 and a second dose by Oct. 15, 2021. The university had previously announced students living in residence would need to be vaccinated. On its website, the university said, “any individual who cannot be vaccinated based on medical or other grounds recognized by the Ontario Human Rights Code can request an accommodation. Those who remain unvaccinated and who must access campus will have to follow additional strict health protocols such as: frequent testing, wearing masks and other PPE, if necessary, as well as other possible measures to be announced at a later date.”

12:10 p.m. Prince Edward Island’s chief medical officer is recommending a shorter interval between vaccine doses so Islanders can get vaccinated more quickly.

Dr. Heather Morrison told reporters today COVID-19 case numbers are rising across the country and a fourth wave of the novel coronavirus is “likely going to happen this fall.”

She says the best way Islanders can protect themselves against infection is to get fully vaccinated.

To speed up vaccination she is now recommending residents wait six weeks between doses instead of eight.

Morrison says that as of Saturday, more than 89 per cent of residents aged 12 and over had received one dose of vaccine and nearly 65 per cent were fully vaccinated.

She is also reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today that are linked to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

12:05 p.m. Germany is ending free coronavirus tests for its citizens from October, in part to encourage people to get vaccinated, government officials said Tuesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country had sufficient vaccines for its population — more than half is already fully immunized — and that studies showed they are effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, including ones caused by highly contagious virus variants.

“The not-so-good news is that the speed of vaccination has declined significantly,” Merkel said after a Tuesday meeting with the country’s 16 state governors.

While federal and state officials agreed that people who are fully vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or have recently tested negative should continue to be treated equally in most situations, they also decided that German citizens will have to start paying for their own tests starting Oct. 11.

12 p.m. Americans should avoid travel to France, Israel, Iceland and other destinations regardless of vaccination status, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The health agency moved several destinations into its highest travel advisory tier, “level 4: very high level of COVID-19,” on Monday. Travelers should avoid travel to those destinations, but those who must travel should make sure they are fully vaccinated, the CDC said.

The changes to come on the same day France began requiring a virus pass to access cafes, restaurants and long-distance travel.

France’s special pass is issued to people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have proof of a recent recovery from the virus, or who have a recent negative coronavirus test. The measure also applies to tourists visiting the country.

11:40 a.m. Quebec is reporting seven more people in hospital with COVID-19 today, the highest single-day rise in hospitalizations linked to the pandemic since mid-May.

Health officials say 62 people are in hospital with the disease and 18 are in intensive care.

Officials are also reporting 234 new COVID-19 infections but no more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

They say 40,691 doses of vaccine were administered in the past 24 hours, and the province’s public health institute says 84.8 per cent of residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine and 72.2 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.

The Health Department says the province has received its final scheduled shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Health Minister Christian Dubé is to announce additional details later today about the province’s vaccine passport system, which the government has said it would impose in September.

11:20 a.m. Ontario is reporting another 321 COVID-19 cases and two more deaths, according to its latest report released Tuesday morning.

Ontario has administered 48,278 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 19,950,437 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 10,569,315 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 81.1 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 71.7 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

11 a.m. Some five thousand people rallied outside Lithuania’s parliament to protest COVID-19 health passes that Lithuanians will need shortly to enter cafes, shops, public transportation and other venues as the Baltic government ponders new restrictions.

The government in Vilnius plans to impose the restrictions mid-September that could also mean that those who get infected without vaccination may lose the right for free medical treatment.

Protesters threatened to disobey the new regulations. Some wore brown costumes with yellow stars reminding those worn by Jews in ghettos during the Nazi occupation. Jewish organizations in Lithuania have expressed dismay over the decorations.

Protesters also erected gallows near the Seimas assembly with the text “For Lithuania’s Traitors.”

“This is anti-constitutional. I have a right not to get these fishy jabs and live my life as I like,” Jonas Grabnys, an unemployed teacher said.

The rally is the latest in a series of protests in several European countries that have implemented virus passes, each with different rules.

Lithuania has seen its infection rate continue to rise for the third consecutive week, and 49% of the population have received at least one jab, according to official statistics.

10:47 a.m. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said state and local governments should require teachers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

As back-to-school season approaches and the Delta variant surges across the U.S., Fauci acknowledged that his position might anger some people who’ve resisted vaccine mandates for teachers.

“Yeah I’m going to upset some people on this, but I think we should,” he said Tuesday in an interview with MSNBC. “This is very serious business. You would wish that people would see why it’s so important to get vaccinated.”

But Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there wouldn’t be federal mandates for teacher vaccinations. Local mandates “for schools, for teachers, for universities, for colleges” would be appropriate, he said.

“I’m sorry, I mean I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something, but I think we’re in such a serious situation now, that under certain circumstances, mandates should be done,” he said.

10:23 a.m. Ontario is reporting 321 COVID-19 cases.

The seven-day average is up to 306 cases per day or 14.7 weekly per 100,000 and up to 8.6 deaths per day.

Labs are reporting 16,479 completed tests and a 1.7 per cent positive, according to the Star’s Ed Tubb.

10:12 a.m. (updated) Ontario long-term-care homes are asking the province to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for their staff as well as health-care workers in all settings.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association says making vaccines mandatory provincewide would both protect residents and ensure facilities don’t lose their staff to other health-care facilities.

The province requires staff in long-term care homes to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status, and those who are unvaccinated for non-medical reasons have to undergo education about the importance of immunization.

But Premier Doug Ford has refused to mandate vaccines in any setting.

He has spoken in support of a Toronto hospital network’s policy that unvaccinated staff — and those won’t disclose their vaccination status — have to take a COVID-19 test before coming to work.

The long-term care association’s call to make vaccines mandatory for health workers echoes recommendations from the Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

10:06 a.m. Hospitals across the U.S. are parceling out beds for COVID patients, hunting for doctors and nurses as the Delta variant sweeps coast to coast.

The disease is outstripping any mitigation measures. In a few states, the unvaccinated are entering intensive care at rates matching the winter wave. The vaccinated are coming to realize that a sweet summer of release may have been a fantasy, as they again calculate the risks of working, seeing relatives and circulating in society.

Delta’s march began in the U.S. in the Ozarks and South, in states and regions with low vaccination rates. But the surge has shown that even the best vaccinated areas still don’t have enough immunity against the easy-spreading variant.

In Texas, where only half the population is vaccinated, Governor Greg Abbott on Monday asked hospitals to postpone surgeries and ordered the heath department to seek help from doctors and nurses from other states. The governor, a Republican, didn’t lift his order banning government entities from requiring masks and social distancing.

Many experts believe the Delta wave will crest without last year’s mortality: The vaccinated can get infected but are vastly less likely to die. Hospitalizations in highly vaccinated areas are increasing relatively slowly. Still, those waves are just beginning, and infections can take weeks to send people to the ICU.

In any case, it’s clear the pandemic isn’t done with America, and decidedly so in places where residents have shunned shots or resisted the renewal of mask mandates and other public-health measures.

9:40 a.m. 4,409,590 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto to date, according to a tweet by Mayor John Tory.

9:30 a.m. The U.K. said COVID-19 accounted for 4 per cent of all deaths in the last week of July, the highest weekly share of all deaths in three months.

The Office for National Statistics counted 11,573 deaths in the week through July 30, 468 of which included the coronavirus as a cause. That’s 1,262 above the five-year average.

These figures reflect a progressive loosening of lockdown rules starting in April that resulted in most restrictions being scrapped on July 19. Infections have been rising steadily since, but serious sickness and hospitalizations remain below peak levels last year because of a rapid takeup of vaccines.

9:06 a.m. Nearly 1,500 hospitals — roughly a quarter of all hospitals in the U.S. — now require staffers to get a COVID-19 vaccine, said Colin Milligan, a spokesperson for the American Hospital Association. More follow suit every day as hospital leaders aim to head off staff shortages like those experienced last year and to keep employees from becoming vectors of the disease.

But that’s not an option in Montana, where a law passed this year amid a pandemic backlash prohibits employers, including most health care facilities, from mandating any vaccine for their staffs. Nor is it in Oregon, where a 32-year-old law similarly bans vaccine mandates for health workers.

At least seven states have enacted laws to prevent COVID-19 vaccine mandates or so-called vaccine passports that would provide proof of vaccination, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy. Most restrict only state and local governments or specifically exempt health care facilities, but Montana’s law goes further. It prohibits employers — including hospitals — from discriminating against a worker based on vaccination status. Employers can’t require vaccinations and workers don’t have to tell their bosses whether they’re vaccinated.

8:25 a.m. Used to be that back-to-school was the most wonderful time of the year. For parents, at least. The kids? Not so much.

For the second year in a row, though, elation has turned to anxiety, as many parents brace themselves for another spate of unknowns. Some are concerned about COVID-19 itself, whereas others are bracing themselves for the possibility of another year of surprise closings and hybrid education.

Others just wonder if their kids are ever going to get to experience a sleepover.

“I think everyone is unbelievably anxious, which fits with the rest of the pandemic, because everybody is very worried about a lot of things,” says Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, head of the division of infectious disease in the department of pediatrics at McMaster University. “But if we look at the number of children since the very beginning of the pandemic who were admitted to Canadian hospitals, the numbers are very low, as in almost non-existent.”

8:04 a.m. Portugal is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine rollout to all children between the ages of 12 and 15.

The General Directorate for Health’s announcement Tuesday came after days of uncertainty about the move. Authorities initially limited shots in that age group to children with chronic illnesses.

Officials said the hesitancy was due to a lack of data, but Director General for Health Graça Freitas said studies in the European Union and the United States have dispelled doubts in Portugal.

Classes are set to resume in Portugal’s schools in about four weeks. Officials estimate there are just over 400,000 children in the 12-15 age group.

The European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, has recommended that the coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna be expanded to children older than 12.

7:50 a.m. Ripening melons, gourds and peppers glisten in a community garden beside a Scarborough parking lot. The thick green patch, grown by 5n2, is one of the organization’s many programs to combat food insecurity in the city.

Another is food delivery. Across from the leafy garden, 5n2 volunteers crowd a large square table in an industrial unit, cutting mounds of donated vegetables to bolster meals — such as the pot of fragrant beans and sweet corn dish simmering on the stove — being prepped and boxed to deliver to seniors and families in Scarborough. Then there is 5n2’s by-appointment-only pantry where clients can select free items, like kefir or canned goods, in privacy and without having to line up outside.

All these services, however, are in jeopardy.

5n2, which operates seven days a week, is facing eviction by year’s end after its lease was not renewed. It’s the second Toronto-based organization battling food insecurity in need of a new home; the St. James Community Co-op is also searching for a permanent site after the space it was temporarily using in the Wellesley Community Centre became a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in June.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

7:32 a.m. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appealed for out-of-state help to fight the third wave of COVID-19 while two more of the state’s largest school districts announced mask mandates in defiance of the governor.

Abbott’s request Monday came as a county-owned hospital in Houston raised tents to accommodate their COVID-19 overflow. Private hospitals in the county already were requiring their staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Meantime, the Dallas and Austin school districts announced Monday that they would require students and staff to wear face masks. The Houston school district already announced a mask mandate for its students and staff later this week if its board approves.

The highly contagious Delta variant is fueling the wave.

The Republican governor has directed the Texas Department of State Health Services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from beyond the state’s borders as the Delta wave began to overwhelm its present staffing resources. He also has sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association to request that hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures voluntarily.

Hospital officials in Houston said last week that area hospitals with beds had insufficient numbers of nurses to serve them.

Abbott also directed the state health department and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to open additional COVID-19 antibody infusion centers to treat patients not needing hospital care and expand COVID-19 vaccine availability to the state’s underserved communities.

6:50 a.m. Israel has reported more than 6,000 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily increase since February.

Israel rolled out one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns starting late last year, but in recent weeks has been battling a surge in new cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

Authorities have ramped up travel restrictions and restored mask mandates for indoor settings.

More than 85 per cent of Israel’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, and authorities are now calling on those over 60 to get a third dose. The Health Ministry says 577,899 people have received a booster shot.

6:35 a.m. Monday morning, Jackey Deschamps’s kids got to hug their grandparents for the first time in a year and a half.

Deschamps is an American who lives in Tonawanda, N.Y. — near Buffalo — and her husband is from Fort Erie, Ont., where his parents live. In pre-COVID times, the border was no obstacle for their family — they often visited each other more than once a week. But that stopped abruptly in March 2020 when COVID restrictions went into place. Monday, as the border reopened for fully vaccinated Americans to enter Canada, they were finally reunited.

The experience tugged at Deschamps’s heart even more than she expected. “You kind of just get used to life the way it is and then coming over, you’re just feeling so emotional,” Deschamps says. Waves of nostalgia went through their car as her teenage children asked their father to remind them of once-familiar landmarks. “And then, of course, tears as my mother-in-law opened the door, everyone was hugging and crying. It was exciting.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Edward Keenan

6:20 a.m. Thailand’s government backed down Tuesday from widely-criticized regulations to broaden its ability to restrict media reports and social media posts about the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had long sought to crack down on what he deems fake news. But the new regulations, enacted at the end of last month, included the ability to prosecute people for distributing “news that may cause public fear.”

They also gave Thai regulators the ability to force internet service providers to turn over the IP address of the person or entity distributing such news, and to “suspend the internet service to that IP address immediately.”

Thailand is struggling with its worst wave yet of the coronavirus pandemic, and Prayuth said the new regulations were necessary to combat the spread of inaccurate rumors that could impede government efforts to vaccinate the population and implement measures to slow the pandemic.

But Thai media organizations said the restrictions were overly broad and an attack on freedom of expression, giving authorities license to crack down on the public or news organizations for publishing factual reports that the government didn’t like.

A group of media organizations appealed the measures, and last week a court issued a temporary injunction against the enforcement of the regulations until the case could be heard.

6:11 a.m. Canada is extending its restrictions on direct commercial and private passenger flights from India to Sept. 21 because of COVID-19. The government will also extend testing requirements for passengers arriving from India via an indirect flight.

6:10 a.m. U.S. drug maker Moderna will sign an agreement with the Canadian government Tuesday promising to build an mRNA production plant in Canada.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel will sign the memorandum of understanding with federal Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne in Montreal this morning. It is the second major deal Ottawa has made to get mRNA made in Canada in the last three months.

In May, Champagne said Ottawa would provide $199 million to Resilience Technologies in Mississauga, Ont., about half the cost of expanding its existing plant to make up to 640 million doses of mRNA vaccines every year.

A spokesman for Champagne tells The Canadian Press Moderna and Ottawa are still negotiating specifics on how much the federal government will contribute to the new plant, along with where it will be built and when.

He said Ottawa attracted the attention of a number of life sciences companies last spring, when it promised $2.2 billion for biotechnology research and commercial production over the next seven years. About half of that is a fund directly targeting companies that want to expand or set up production lines in Canada.

Moderna was founded 11 years ago to research and produce messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines and therapeutics, and its COVID-19 vaccine is its first product ever authorized for widespread use.

Scaling up production to meet huge demand has been at times problematic for the young company. Thus far Moderna has partnered only with Swiss-based Lonza to make the drug substance of the vaccine at facilities in Switzerland and New Hampshire.

The vaccine is finished and filled into vials by a number of companies in Europe and the United States.

Canada has played no part in the production of Moderna or any other COVID-19 vaccine to date. Its lacklustre pharmaceutical industry, decimated over the last 30 years, left Canada entirely reliant on imported vaccines to slow COVID-19. Many of the scientists on the teams that made COVID-19 vaccines are from Canada but were lured away to the United States and elsewhere, where life science industries were thriving.

6:05 a.m. This morning, as thousands of fully vaccinated Americans were crossing the Canadian border for the first time since the pandemic began, I was talking with Americans about why the U.S. hasn’t opened its land border to Canadians yet. Just then, I got a statement about the U.S.-Mexican border in my inbox from former president Donald Trump. That the two topics might be related may not strike you as obvious.

Many Canadians are familiar with the often explosive politics in the U.S. regarding the Mexican border — Trump’s longtime cries of “build a wall,” for example, were loud enough to be heard up north. But Canadians considering whether they can vacation in Florida or shop at a Target in Buffalo may not think that has anything to do with them.

Yet in conversations with those inside and outside the U.S. government who follow Canadian border issues closely, the subject of the Mexican border frequently comes up.

Read the full story from the Star’s Edward Keenan

6 a.m. A sharp rise in Ontario’s COVID-19 cases has business groups turning up the heat on Premier Doug Ford to implement a vaccine passport program.

Concerned a fourth wave this fall could force a return to public health restrictions with more than 4 million Ontarians still unvaccinated — including kids under 12 not yet eligible — passport advocates maintain the best defence is a good offence.

“The last thing anyone wants is to be shut down but that’s what will happen if we don’t use every tool in the tool kit,” Ontario Chamber of Commerce President Rocco Rossi said Monday. “It’s about mitigating risk as much as possible. We’re going to be living with this for a while.”

A vaccine passport or certificate program would allow restaurants, gyms, cinemas, theatres, sport and concert venues and other non-essential operations to offer entry only to people who have been fully vaccinated or have a recent negative test result for COVID-19.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson

5:50 a.m. Investor confidence in Germany’s recovery dropped to the lowest level since late last year after a rise in infection rates stoked concerns over a possible tightening of pandemic curbs.

ZEW’s gauge of expectations declined to 40.4 in August from 63.3 the previous month, with the institute’s President Achim Wambach warning of “increasing risks” to the economy. A measure of current conditions improved.

Although more than half of Germany’s population is fully vaccinated, coronavirus infections in Europe’s largest economy are on the rise.

The government has already tightened some travel rules and is set to discuss additional steps during a summit on Tuesday

5:45 a.m. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors are set to meet Tuesday to decide on how to handle measures against the coronavirus pandemic amidst a discussion about whether people who have been fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 should have greater freedoms than those who aren’t vaccinated.

While Germany has relatively low numbers of virus cases compared to other European countries, cases are rising again and authorities are fearing that especially young people who are not vaccinated yet may contract and spread the virus in the coming weeks and months.

On Monday, the country’s disease control agency registered 2,480 new cases, about 700 more than a week ago. Some 45.6 million people, or almost 55 per cent of the population, are fully vaccinated.

After a sluggish start of the vaccination campaign that only really gained traction from March onward, the rate of vaccination has dropped again in recent weeks, and officials worry they may not reach the target set by the country’s disease control agency, of immunizing at least 85 per cent of people between ages 12 and 59 and 90 per cent of those over 60.

In response to the drop in vaccinations, officials have begun pushing for more vaccinations at megastores and in city centers, or offering other incentives to get people to show up to get vaccinated.

The chancellor and the state governors are also expected to decide whether free antigen tests that are available everywhere for those who are not vaccinated and can be used to access restaurants or cultural venues should be paid for again.

Tuesday 5:30 a.m. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that he discussed the reopening of the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration and cooperation in facing the COVID-19 pandemic in a call with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

The president did not provide additional details of their discussions in a brief message he put out on Twitter afterward.

Earlier Monday, López Obrador had said Mexico would ask the United States to send at least 3.5 million more doses of coronavirus vaccine as the country faces a third wave of infections.

López Obrador said the U.S. government had initially offered the Moderna vaccine, but Mexican health authorities could not get the necessary approvals in time so now they are considering Pfizer or another approved vaccine.

Mexico has vaccinated more than 50 million people with at least one dose, representing about 56% of the adult population. It has received 91.1 million doses of five different vaccines.

In June, the U.S. donated 1.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

López Obrador said he would also talk about immigration and the need to reopen the shared border to nonessential traffic.

“I am going to propose today that it can be shown to not pose any risk to the population,” López Obrador said.

Last month, authorities in the U.S. and Mexico decided to extend the closure to at least Aug. 21. Caseloads in both countries of the fast-spreading Delta variant have only increased since.

Mexico is seeing more than 20,000 reported infections per day.

Monday 10 p.m. Arkansas on Monday set a new record for the number of people in the state hospitalized because of COVID-19 as its coronavirus surge continued.

The state reported its COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by 103, its biggest one-day increase, to 1,376. The state’s previous record during the pandemic for COVID-19 hospitalizations was in January when it reported 1,371 virus patients in the hospital.

The Department of Health reported that there are only eight intensive care unit beds available in the state. There are 509 COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the state and 286 on ventilators.

“Today’s report shows some very startling numbers,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted.

Arkansas ranks third in the country for new virus cases per capita, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The state’s cases have been skyrocketing in recent weeks, fueled by the Delta variant of the virus and the state’s low vaccination rate.

Only about 37 per cent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus.

The state’s COVID-19 surge has been straining resources at hospitals around the state.

“The staff is working multiple overtime shifts and they’re worn out,” state Human Services Secretary Cindy Gillespie told a legislative panel that approved using $129 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to aid hospitals.

Monday 7:30 p.m.: COVID-19 outbreaks in pockets around British Columbia have prompted health officials to shorten their recommended delay between vaccinations by three weeks.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the change Monday, saying reducing the interval from 49 days to 28 will help boost the level of community protection in areas of the province that are experiencing outbreaks.

Notices will be sent out to about 170,000 people in the coming days, asking them to book their second-dose appointment.

The optimal time to wait for the second shot is six to 10 weeks for stronger protection, but that must be balanced with the risk of getting COVID-19 during the interval, said Henry, adding those who aren’t in risky jobs or in a current hot spot may want to wait longer than 28 days.

Monday 4:03 p.m. As most of the world learns to live with COVID-19, China is tethering itself to eliminating the virus over the long term — an approach that risks leaving the world’s second-biggest economy isolated for years to come.

China this month saw the contagious Delta variant pop up in more than half of 31 provinces despite water-tight border controls, triggering yet another round of targeted lockdowns, travel curbs and mass testing across the country. While the outbreak is the most widespread in China since the initial flare-up in Wuhan last year, the World Health Organization said total cases last Friday were 141 — around .01 per cent of the new infections that day in the U.S.

The aggressive moves to tame a relatively small caseload in a country with one of the world’s highest vaccination rates shows how politically invested the Communist Party has become in achieving zero COVID-19 infections. Chinese authorities are increasingly trumpeting their success in containing the virus as an ideological and moral victory over the U.S. and other nations now treating COVID-19 as endemic.

In the short term, Chinese leaders have an incentive to maintain strict controls at least through next year: They don’t want any major outbreaks derailing the Winter Olympics or clouding a once-in-five-year Party Congress at which President Xi Jinping is expected to get a third term in office. The problem, however, is the rising economic and political costs in maintaining that policy indefinitely, particularly as the virus spawns new variants that can breach restrictions more easily.

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