Today’s coronavirus news: Ford to have ‘tough conversation’ with minister returning from Caribbean vacation today; Tokyo sees record surge in coronavirus cases
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
6:04 a.m. For the second consecutive day, the United Arab Emirates has shattered its single-day record of new coronavirus infections, with 1,730 cases recorded ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations expected to draw tens of thousands of revelers to Dubai from around the world.
The record figures come after the UAE said it detected its first known cases of the new, fast-spreading variant of the virus in people arriving from abroad.
5:15 a.m. Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, has surpassed 10,000 coronavirus deaths, officials announced Wednesday.
Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, called it a “terrible milestone” during a media briefing. Typically, about 170 people county wide die each day of various causes. The average number of deaths from COVID-19 alone is now 150 people a day.
“Most heartbreaking is that if we had done a better job of reducing transmission of the virus, many of these deaths would not have happened,” Ferrer said.
Officials on Wednesday reported 274 deaths and 10,392 new cases countywide. There are currently 7,415 people hospitalized, 20% of whom are in intensive care units.
5:10 a.m. A Wisconsin health system said Wednesday that 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine that had to be discarded after they were left unrefrigerated now appear to have been deliberately spoiled by an employee.
Aurora Medical Center first reported on the spoiled doses on Saturday, and said they had been accidentally left out overnight by an employee at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton.
In a statement late Wednesday, Aurora said the employee involved “today acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.”
Aurora’s statement said they had fired the employee and referred the matter to authorities for further investigation. Their statement said nothing about a possible motive for the action, and health system officials didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking more information.
5:04 a.m. Tokyo is seeing a record surge in coronavirus cases as the governor of the Japanese capital implored people to stay home.
“The coronavirus knows no year end or New Year’s holidays,” Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters.
She asked people to skip countdown ceremonies, and expressed concern people were out shopping in crowded stores.
“Please spend a quiet New Year’s with your family and stay home,” she said, switching to English for “stay home.”
She said the latest figures for Tokyo showed 1,300 new infections. The previous biggest daily number of cases for the capital was 949 people reported last Saturday.
Japan has had more than 230,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,000 deaths. Sixty-five of the deaths came on Wednesday, the health ministry said Thursday.
5 a.m. South Korea has enforced its toughest physical distancing rules at correctional facilities after a cluster of coronavirus infections flared at a Seoul prison.
The Justice Ministry says 918 people — 897 inmates and 21 staff — at Seoul’s Dongbu Detention Center have tested positive for the virus since one of the centre’s officials was found infected on Nov. 27. One of the infected inmates has died.
South Korea is struggling to contain a viral resurgence tied to a variety of sources such as nursing homes, churches, army bases and family gatherings. Earlier Thursday, South Korea reported 967 new virus cases, taking the country’s total to 60,740 with 900 deaths.
Thursday 4 a.m. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to have a “very tough conversation” with his finance minister today over a controversial Caribbean vacation.
The premier has said Rod Phillips is set to return today from St. Barts, where he has been since Dec. 13.
Ford said Wednesday he wasn’t told about the trip ahead of time, but did learn about it shortly after it began, and should have demanded Phillips return immediately.
He said it’s “unacceptable” for any public official to ignore the province’s COVID-19 guidelines, which urge residents to avoid non-essential travel.
Phillips said earlier this week he chose to go ahead with the trip not knowing the province would be placed under lockdown on Boxing Day.
He said he regrets the decision.
Wednesday 8:49 p.m.: Fifty-nine new members of the Order of Canada, including two promotions, were unveiled Wednesday. The list also includes front-line workers.