Ontario students will not be returning to school for the remainder of this academic year, Premier Doug Ford confirmed Wednesday.
He said while many of the stakeholders he consulted last week suggested reopening schools on a regional basis, he said the medical input he got could not guarantee that sending kids back to in-person learning wouldn’t lead to thousands of new COVID-19 cases in the province. He said the focus instead would be to get kids outdoors.
“I want schools to host in-person outdoor graduation events and other opportunities for you to meet with your friends and reconnect outside before the end of the year,” he said.
“It is unequivocally a wrong decision,” said Dr. Barry Pakes of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, following the announcement. Pakes told the CBC’s Andrew Nichols that schools have never been a primary source of virus transmission in the population.
WATCH | Pakes reacts to Ford’s decision:
Ford said he is also hopeful that the province might be able to enter Stage 1 of reopening before mid-June as currently planned, depending on what public health officials advise.
Ontario health officials on Wednesday reported 733 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 708, with 576 people in ICU due to COVID-19.
Ontario’s stay-at-home order lifted Wednesday, but most other public health measures remain in place.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 1:10 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Variant 1st seen in India a ‘major concern’ for Canada, respirologist says:
As of 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,385,279 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 29,277 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,612. More than 24.5 million vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, with nearly 60 per cent of adults now immunized with at least one dose, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
Nova Scotia entered the first phase of its reopening plan on Wednesday, just hours before Newfoundland and Labrador residents learned the details of that province’s plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions.
The first step in Nova Scotia reopens schools in most of the province and allows retail stores to operate at 25 per cent capacity and restaurant patios to reopen at maximum capacity. Schools in the Halifax and Sydney areas are set to open their doors on Thursday.
The province reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and two additional deaths. The province has also confirmed its first case of a rare blood-clotting condition known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia — a man in his 40s who received his first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in early May.
Officials say he developed symptoms about two weeks after vaccination and is recovering after receiving treatment.
Nova Scotia’s five-step plan is based on vaccination rates and other health indicators, including case numbers and hospitalizations, but a spokesperson for hotel operators is urging the government to add a “little bit of clarity” around timelines.
The shift in Nova Scotia came just hours before health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador outlined their plan for reopening.
Newfoundland and Labrador — which will move through a multi-phase reopening plan tentatively set to begin with a transition period on June 15 — reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
New Brunswick health officials reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The province had 140 active reported cases of the infection with seven patients in hospital, including two in intensive care, officials said.
There were no new cases reported on Prince Edward Island on Wednesday.
In Quebec, health officials reported 288 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths on Wednesday.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut, Yukon or the Northwest Territories on Wednesday.
The Northwest Territories said visitors from Yukon are now exempt from its isolation requirements.
Northwest Territories residents and non-residents need to submit an exemption request to the public health office. Travellers applying for the exception must have been in Yukon or the Northwest Territories for at least 14 days.
In Manitoba, where dozens of critical care patients have been transferred out of province for treatment, health officials on Wednesday reported 267 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths.
Alberta has also offered to help ease some of the stress on Manitoba’s health-care system, and said it will take up to 10 patients at ICUs in Edmonton or Calgary. Forty-six patients have already been sent to Ontario and Saskatchewan.
Manitoba Health announced Wednesday that a 30-year-old man from the province who had been treated in an Ontario ICU since May 20 died of COVID-19.
Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 130 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and one additional death. The update came one day after Premier Scott Moe said that the province’s mandatory mask order could be lifted as early as July 11.
Health officials in Alberta reported four deaths and 410 new cases on Wednesday, nearly double the case number from the previous day. The government is facing questions about a dinner attended by Premier Jason Kenney and three of his ministers, which appeared to break public health guidelines.
British Columbia health officials reported four deaths and 194 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the second day in a row the province has recorded fewer than 200.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday evening, more than 171.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a database from Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.6 million.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a “month of action” to urge more Americans to get vaccinated before the July 4 holiday, including an early summer sprint of incentives and a slew of new steps to ease barriers and make getting shots more appealing to those who haven’t received them.
Biden is closing in on his goal of getting 70 per cent of adults at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day — essential to his aim of returning the nation to something approaching a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy this summer.
In the Asia-Pacific region, 50 days out from the Olympics, COVID-19 case numbers are still high and hospitals remain under strain despite a state of emergency in Japan. The country is also one of the least vaccinated in the world.
Still, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga remains determined to host the Summer Games, already postponed for a year, and has extended the current emergency until June 20, a month before the Games are to start.
Taiwan reported a rise in domestic infections after six days of falls, and unveiled details of a mass vaccination plan that aims to eventually cover 1.7 million people a week.
In the Middle East, Israel’s Health Ministry said it found the small number of heart inflammation cases observed mainly in young men who received Pfizer’s vaccine in Israel were likely linked to their vaccination.
In Africa, Egypt aims to vaccinate 40 per cent of its population against coronavirus by the end of 2021, the prime minister said in a televised address on Wednesday. By the end of Wednesday, 2.5 million people will have been vaccinated from a total of six million people who signed up on the government’s registration platform, Mostafa Madbouly said.
In Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron is moving up the COVID-19 vaccination schedule, saying youths aged 12 to 18 can get inoculations starting June 15. The announcement came just three days after 18-year olds began getting vaccinated.
Spain’s government and regional authorities have agreed to allow some bars and night clubs to reopen, 10 months after they closed nationwide. Health Minister Carolina Darias says low-risk regions could open their bars until 2 a.m. with 50 per cent of indoor capacity, while bars in high-risk areas will remain closed.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:45 p.m. ET