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Coronavirus news and updates for December 19, 2021

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.

10:24 a.m.: Ontario is reporting 4,177 cases and two deaths on Sunday.

Individuals who are not fully vaccinated represent 22.9 per cent of Ontario’s total population and amount to 1,047 of Ontario’s new reported cases. There are 153 cases in individuals with an unknown vaccination status.

Additionally, 283 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 and 159 people are in ICU due to the virus.

In the province, 25,315,780 vaccine doses have been administered — 90.4 per cent of Ontarians aged 12+ have one dose and 87.8 per cent have two doses.

8:48 a.m.: The 40-strong team of workers at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that takes calls from the association’s members has been hearing a lot about loans.

Federal loans, specifically.

As the clock ticked down to 2022, so too did the deadline for those businesses to repay federal pandemic loans under favourable financial conditions. And with it, worries from small businesses grew about how to pay off the emergency loans.

Then, two weeks before Christmas, a small present: Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said, as part of her economic and budget update, the deadline would be extended.

Now, the calls to the CFIB team have changed: How long do I have to repay, and what are the rules?

“And we don’t have an answer to that yet,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly.

“It’s very clear to me that this was an absolute last-minute addition to the fall economic update … given that there’s zero detail.”

8:47 a.m.: Stricter public health measures are once again in effect in Ontario as of today, with capacity limits back in place in restaurants and a smaller cap on social gatherings.

Premier Doug Ford announced the new restrictions on Friday, saying the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is so contagious it threatens to overwhelm the health-care system.

Restaurants, gyms and many other indoor settings now have a 50 per cent capacity limit.

No more than 10 people can attend indoor social gatherings — down from 25 — and there’s a maximum of 25 attendees at outdoor social gatherings, down from 100.

And cinemas, arenas and other large venues are no longer allowed to serve food or drinks.

8:46 a.m.: Thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated in central Brussels on Sunday for a third time against reinforced COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Belgian government to counter a spike infections and the emergence of the worrying omicron variant.

A strong police presence was deployed on streets in anticipation of the crowds, given how previous protests had sometimes descended into violence, arrest and injury.

The marchers — some with placards reading “free zone,” “I’ve had my fair dose” and “enough is enough” — came to protest the government’s strong advice to get vaccinated, and included Belgian health care workers who will have a three-month window in which to get vaccinated against the coronavirus from Jan. 1 or risk losing their jobs.

The Belgian action comes one day after similar protests in other capitals including Paris and London. Nations across Europe moved to reimpose tougher measures to stem a new wave of COVID-19 infections spurred by the highly transmissible omicron variant, with the Netherlands leading the way by imposing a nationwide lockdown.

8:46 a.m.: Britain’s health secretary has refused to rule out imposing tougher COVID-19 restrictions before Christmas amid the rapid rise of infections and continuing uncertainty about the omicron variant.

Sajid Javid said Sunday that the government was assessing the fast-moving situation and urged the public to be cautious as scientists examine the data. Much is still unknown about the new variant, even as hospitals brace for a surge in infections, he told the BBC.

“There are no guarantees in this pandemic, I don’t think,’’ Javid replied when asked about the potential for new restrictions. “At this point we just have to keep everything under review.”

8:45 a.m.: Israel’s prime minister warned citizens against the spread of the new, highly infectious variant of coronavirus on Sunday and urged them to vaccinate.

Naftali Bennett told ministers that there was already community transmission of the omicron variant in Israel and a rise in the country’s coronavirus infection rate. He called the omicron variant “very infectious.”

“It must be understood that the collective and national protection that the state provides is not enough,” Bennett said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. He urged Israelis that “every citizen must see to themselves, their family, and their children. Don’t rely on the neighbours to vaccinate themselves and their child. It won’t help much.”

8:44 a.m.: Iran has detected its first case of infection by the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, state TV reported Sunday.

The announcement comes as the variant spreads around the globe less than a month after scientists alerted the World Health Organization to the concerning-looking version.

Iran has vaccinated some 60% of its population of roughly 85 million people with two doses of coronavirus vaccines.

Sunday 8:41 a.m.: Germany is tightening travel restrictions for people coming from Britain in response to the rapid spread of the omicron variant there.

The country’s national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, added Britain to its list of “virus variant areas” late Saturday. This means anyone travelling from the U.K. to Germany must enter a mandatory quarantine for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status.

The new restrictions, which will go into effect at midnight Sunday, come as the U.K. reports a record high number of new coronavirus infections. On Saturday, the country saw 90,418 new cases.

The U.K. joins eight African countries, including South Africa, on Germany’s list of “virus variant areas.”

The Robert Koch Institute’s announcement comes in the wake of tightened restrictions for other countries across Europe as the continent faces a fourth wave of infections.

Starting Sunday, France and Denmark are considered “high risk areas,” meaning those who are not vaccinated or recovered from the virus must quarantine for 10 days. Dozens of countries, including nearly all of Germany’s direct neighbours, have now been added to this category.

Read Saturday’s coronavirus news.



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