Today’s coronavirus news: Canadians will no longer need PCR tests for short trips; Toronto to open vaccine bookings for kids ages 5-11 starting Nov. 25 – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
2:44 p.m. Following Friday’s approval by Health Canada for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine use in children five to 11 years of age, the City of Toronto will open 20,000 appointment bookings for children in that age group starting Nov. 25 and running until Dec. 5 at all city-run clinics.
The plan, aptly named Team Toronto Kids COVID-19, hopes to offer COVID vaccine access to all Toronto children between the ages of five and 11 regardless of where they live.
Parents and guardians will be able to book an appointment for children through the provincial booking system. The new bookings are for appointments at the city’s Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Woodbine Mall, Scarborough Town Centre, Cloverdale Mall and Mitchell Field Arena.
Children can also be vaccinated at clinics run by Toronto hospitals or health care partners and at local pharmacies. Plans for school clinics are also being formalized to start as early as next week.
When the province opens up bookings for young kids, vaccinations at city-run clinics will be by appointment only. Additional appointments will be released through the provincial booking system as the vaccination campaign continues.
1:19 p.m. Starting Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents, taking trips outside of the country for 72 hours or less, will no longer require PCR tests to re-enter the country. This includes trips by land and by air.
Health Canada has also expanded its list of acceptable COVID-19 vaccines for travellers to include those from Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Covaxin to match the World Health Organization’s emergency use listing.
The announcement was made at a news conference in Ottawa, with Federal Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Transportation Omar Alghabra and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino. The ministers were joined by Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, and Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer.
11:10 a.m. An Islamic school in Scarborough has been closed starting Friday by Toronto Public Health because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Salaheddin Islamic School will be closed to in-person learning for the forseeable future as at least 13 cases of the virus have been identified.
Toronto Public Health has notifying people who have been in close contact and is asking them to get tested, monitor for symptoms, and stay home.
10:45 a.m. New Year’s Eve celebrations will again be muted in the Netherlands after the government banned fireworks on Dec. 31 for the second straight year amid soaring coronavirus infections.
The ban is intended “to prevent, as much as possible, extra strain on health care, law enforcement and first responders,” the government said Friday.
The number of people treated for fireworks-related injuries dropped by 70% last year, the government said, in a welcome relief for Dutch hospitals already overburdened by COVID-19 patients.
A financial compensation package will be put in place for fireworks sellers hit for the second time by a ban. Fireworks are only sold in the Netherlands in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. On the night, people traditionally take to the streets to set off fireworks around midnight.
10:22 a.m. There are 793 new cases of COVID-19; 470 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 323 are in fully vaccinated individuals.In Ontario, nearly 88.9 per cent of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 85.8 per cent have two doses.
9:31 a.m. Health Canada has approved the first COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 in Canada.
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech submitted a request for approval of a child-sized dose of its mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 on Oct. 18.
The companies say the results of their trials in children show comparable safety and efficacy results to those recorded in a previous Pfizer-BioNTech study in adults aged 16 to 25.
Health Canada said it would only approve the vaccine for children if its analysis showed the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
Pfizer-BioNTech has changed the formulation of the pediatric vaccine slightly, so new vaccines must be delivered to Canada before children can receive a shot.
Canada is expecting an accelerated delivery of 2.9 million child-sized doses, enough for a first dose for every child in the five to 11 age group.
8:45 a.m. COVID-19 booster shots from Moderna Inc. and the partnership of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE were cleared by U.S. regulators for all Americans 18 and older, making millions more people eligible for extra protection as concern about a potential winter wave of infections grows.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said adults who received their second dose of the company’s shots at least six months ago are now eligible to receive a third, according to separate statements from the companies and the agency on Friday.
8:10 a.m. Jamaica is broadening the areas fully-vaccinated travelers can visit without quarantine.
The island country is dropping its quarantine requirement for fully-vaccinated travelers staying outside the country’s “resilient corridor” who meet specific pre-arrival testing requirements.
The changes do not affect visitors staying in Jamaica’s “resilient corridor” areas, which follow “a rigorous set of COVID-19 protocols” according to the Jamaica Tourist Board. The corridor was developed for tourism and segments along the northern and southern coasts.
Under the current entry rules, travelers to the island face up to 14 days of quarantine if they are staying outside the resilient corridor, according to the U.S. embassy in Jamaica. Vaccinated travelers in these areas are asked to quarantine eight days, but can leave the isolation period early with a negative post-arrival PCR test, according to a tweet from Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
7:55 a.m. Norwegian officials said Friday the country is introducing stricter controls at border crossings, requiring everyone to register before entering the country, in a bid to tackle the rise in COVID cases.
Norwegian Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said the move that enters into force Nov. 26, is “to get a better grip on who comes in.” Norway has, like other European countries, seen a recent rise in COVID-19 cases with more hospitalizations.
All people aged 16 and over, both Norwegian nationals and foreigners, are supposed to register on a government website at least three days before entering the country. There, they will get a confirmation that authorities can ask for at border checkpoints. People without it can be refused entry.
Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol also urged people to stop shaking hands and greet others by giving elbow bumps, nods, smiles or a hand on the heart.
7 a.m. Russian authorities on Friday reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for the third day in a row.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 1,254 virus deaths, up 1,251 on Thursday and 1,247 on Wednesday.
The task force also reported 37,156 new confirmed cases. The daily new infections in recent weeks appear to have taken a downward trend but still remain higher than during previous surges of the virus.
The latest surge in infections and deaths comes amid low vaccination rates and lax public attitudes toward taking precautions. Fewer than 40% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though the country approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine months before most of the world.
6:07 a.m. The head of Germany’s disease control agency said Friday that the country has entered into a “nationwide state of emergency” because of surging coronavirus infections.
Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, said regular medical care cannot be guaranteed anymore in some parts of the country because hospitals and intensive care wards are overstretched.
He called for urgent additional measures to tackle the rise in COVID-19 cases, which topped 50,000 for the third day running.
“All of Germany is one big outbreak,” Wieler told reporters in Berlin. “This is a nationwide state of emergency. We need to pull the emergency brake.”
His comments came as the upper house of parliament on Friday approved new measures to control the outbreak proposed by the center-left alliance that emerged after the Sept. 26 national election. The measures include requirements for people to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces or public transport.
5:40 a.m. When the coronavirus first emerged last year, health officials feared the pandemic would sweep across Africa, killing millions. Although it’s still unclear what COVID-19’s ultimate toll will be, that catastrophic scenario has yet to materialize in much of the continent.
Scientists emphasize that obtaining accurate COVID-19 data, particularly in African countries with patchy surveillance, is extremely difficult, and warn that declining coronavirus trends could easily be reversed.
But there is something “mysterious” going on in Africa that is puzzling scientists, said Wafaa El-Sadr, chair of global health at Columbia University. “Africa doesn’t have the vaccines and the resources to fight COVID-19 that they have in Europe and the U.S., but somehow they seem to be doing better,” she said.
Fewer than 6 per cent of people in Africa are vaccinated. For months, the WHO has described Africa as “one of the least affected regions in the world” in its weekly pandemic reports.
5:36 a.m. The task force in charge of Taiwan’s COVID-19 response has acknowledged that the island could have done better in fighting the disease, after 12 families that lost relatives to the pandemic filed a claim seeking financial compensation from the government.
The families allege that the authorities were underprepared despite having more than a year during which there were few cases, resulting in unnecessary deaths and suffering.
Taiwan managed to largely keep out the coronavirus for nearly a year and a half, with 1,199 cases and 12 deaths as of May 10. The virus then swept through the island, powered by the contagious alpha variant, and Taiwan has now recorded 16,516 cases and 848 deaths.
5:35 a.m. Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said Friday that the country will go into a national lockdown to contain a fourth wave of coronavirus cases.
Schallenberg said the lockdown will start Monday and initially last for 10 days. Most stores will close, and cultural events will be canceled.
He initially said said all students would have to go back into home schooling. Wolfgang Mueckstein, the country’s health minister, later said that schools would remain open for those who needed to go there but all parents were asked to keep their children at home if possible.
Starting on Feb. 1, the country will also make vaccinations mandatory, public broadcaster ORF reported.
“We do not want a fifth wave,” Schallenberg said, according to ORF. “Not do we want a sixth or seventh wave.”
Austria had initially introduced a national lockdown only for the unvaccinated that started Monday but as virus cases continued to skyrocket the government said it had no choice but to extend it to everyone.
5:25 a.m. The federal government is set to make two major announcements on the pandemic front Friday, starting with the approval of Canada’s first COVID-19 vaccine for children, then later detailed plans to ease some of the pandemic-related measures at the border.
The government has scheduled a media briefing with officials at 10 a.m. to share news regarding authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children.
Canada is expecting an accelerated delivery of 2.9 million child-sized doses as soon as Health Canada provides regulatory approval, enough for a first dose for every child in the five to 11 age group.
Officials will also give an update on recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
At 1 p.m., federal ministers are set to discuss easing measures taken to prevent importing new cases across the border.
5:23 a.m. An informal survey shows that at least one million doses of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply have gone to waste.
The Canadian Press asked health ministries across the country to provide how many doses had to be disposed of because they had expired or for other reasons.
Not all were able to reply by deadline. Some jurisdictions — including Yukon and Prince Edward Island —only provided the number of expired doses. Ontario refused to provide any information.
The survey suggests at least 1,016,669 doses have been rejected since vaccines first arrived last December. That’s about 2.6 per cent of the entire supply delivered to the provinces and territories that provided their numbers.
Unused doses vary wildly across Canada. Alberta reported disposing of 10 per cent of its doses; Nova Scotia 0.3 per cent.
5 a.m. Campus police at an Ontario university ousted a student from class — once led away in handcuffs and another time carried out by his hands and feet — in a dramatic showdown over the school’s enforcement of its COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
The recent events at Western University in London, captured on video and shared on social media, are among the first to publicly highlight the challenge schools across the province face when upholding a policy that requires staff and students be fully vaccinated on campus.
After being repeatedly warned not to trespass on campus, and removed three times, Harry Wade, 22, was expelled Nov. 18 and told the Star, “if a university is willing to go this far to exclude people then it’s not an institution that I want to participate in.”
Read the full story from the Star’s Isabel Teotonio
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