• Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • After soliciting advice, Ontario government decides not to let students back into schools.
  • Ottawa ponies up more cash but tells vaccine alliance for developing countries that Canada doesn’t yet have doses it can spare.
  • Israel reports on sporadic cases of myocarditis in young adults after receiving 2nd Pfizer dose.
  • Read more:  Manitoba, Canada’s current hotspot, expands vaccine outreach; a correspondent from the Outlaw Ocean Project, for CBC News, spent a week on a cruise ship Italy is using to quarantine migrants who have been rescued in the Mediterranean. Here’s that report on the conditions.

Members of Australia’s Olympic softball squad became the first foreign national team to land in Japan for pre-Olympic training, arriving at Narita international airport in Narita on Tuesday. The Tokyo Summer Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23. (Issei Kato/The Associated Press)

Newfoundland and Labrador ready to welcome vaccinated Canadians this summer

Recreational travel from within Canada will be allowed to Newfoundland and Labrador “as early as July 1” as long as COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations remain low, and “about” 75 per cent of residents age 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine, the province said Wednesday.

N.L. Premier Andrew Furey said the plan will allow long-awaited reunions for family members, but he also noted the plan is not set in stone and “relies heavily on people getting vaccinated, here at home and those coming to our province.”

Fully vaccinated Canadian travellers will have no testing or isolation requirements, the province said. Partially vaccinated travellers must present a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test result or self-isolate upon arrival until they receive a negative test result. Unvaccinated Canadian travellers must self-isolate for 14 days.

Until further notice, mask wearing in indoor public spaces is still in effect until Sept. 15.

“This is the day many people have been waiting for. The reopening plan is a major milestone on the path to living with COVID-19. After a long 15 months, this is the strongest signal yet that the worst may be behind us,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said.

While provincial case numbers are higher than the same time period last year, Health Minister John Haggie said vaccines are the “game changer” in 2021.

“That is the real difference, with 62 per cent of our population already having had one shot,” he said.

While a co-ordinated restart to the Atlantic bubble has been delayed twice this spring due to COVID-19 outbreaks, the three Maritime provinces released reopening plans over the last week, with different goals, also dependent on epidemiology and vaccination rates.

New Brunswick plans to open its borders to Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and parts of Quebec on Monday. On July 1, it plans to include Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada, if those travellers have received one vaccine dose.

P.E.I. is looking to open its borders on June 27 to other Atlantic provinces, and to the rest of Canada on Aug. 8, with no quarantines required for fully vaccinated travellers

Nova Scotia last week released a three-stage reopening plan, with the final phase allowing travel from other provinces, with officials there saying Wednesday they were mindful of Newfoundland’s announcement but not quite at the same stage yet.

Furey said there’s no consensus among the Atlantic provinces on what a new regional bubble would look like, but said the reopening plans from each jurisdiction essentially amount to one.

From The National

A Nova Scotia doctor helped create a COVID-19 innovation that helps nurses and saves lives by making it easier to put patients in a prone position to improve breathing. 4:45

IN BRIEF

Ontario won’t reopen schools for in-person learning this spring, Doug Ford announces

The vast majority of elementary and secondary school students in Ontario have been learning remotely since April 19 due to soaring rates of COVID-19 amid the third wave of the pandemic, and despite the decline in case rates, they will stay at home for the remainder of the school year.

Premier Doug Ford and his government were reviewing responses to a letter sent last week that solicited advice on reopening schools from a range of expert groups including public health officials and teachers’ unions, but ultimately decided being cautious was the right approach.

The exception is special education students who cannot be accommodated through remote learning.

Ford said on Wednesday the province is focused on a “safe and normal” return to school in September.

“We’ll use this time to get our teachers and students vaccinated,” the premier said, but there were no details provided on whether the province will do anything differently in the fall, such as increasing rapid testing to monitor cases.

Dr. Barry Pakes of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto told CBC News Network it was “unequivocally a wrong decision” for nearly the entire province, arguing it was safer now in June due to vaccination rates than last fall, when kids did attend in person for several weeks.

NDP Leader Andrea Howarth painted Ontario as an outlier in Canada in terms of school closures, and accused the government of not tackling potential mitigation efforts such as “smaller classes, better ventilation and testing.”

Ontario reported its third straight day of case counts below 1,000, with a seven-day rolling average of 978 cases, the lowest it’s been since Nov. 4, 2020.

Read more about the decision

Canada doubles dollar contribution to COVAX alliance, but is among countries not yet sharing doses

Stating that Canada doesn’t currently have excess vaccine supply, International Development Minister Karina Gould told a virtual COVAX summit on Wednesday that Canada will donate another $220 million — exactly matching a previous commitment — to help the global alliance buy more vaccines to deliver to the 92 low and middle-income countries that rely on the facility to vaccinate their citizens.

“At this point in time we’re still very much focused on our domestic schedule but I can assure you that when we do have excess doses, we will be making that announcement.”

NDP health critic Don Davies called the cash-only contribution “a gross disappointment,” while Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said the Liberals are creating a “false security” by only focusing on getting doses to Canadians at first, given the variants that have developed in locations around the globe when case numbers are high.

Wealthy countries have snapped up more than 80 per cent of the almost two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines now administered around the world, and according to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, just 0.4 per cent of the vaccine supply has been administered in low-income countries, a state of affairs he said was “ethically, epidemiologically and economically unacceptable.”

All told, Canada was among dozens of countries that pledged another $2.4 billion US in total to the COVAX vaccine-sharing plan on Wednesday. Canada was not an outlier in deciding to contribute money to helping produce and administer more vaccines, although countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Spain did commit to donations of doses ranging from two to 15 million each.

The United States intends to donate 80 million doses by the end of this month, but hasn’t said yet if they’ll go through COVAX or to other countries directly.

Read more about the alliance summit

Israel sees probable link between Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and myocarditis cases 

Israel’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday it found the small number of heart inflammation cases observed mainly in young men who received Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine in Israel were likely linked to their vaccination.

In Israel, 275 cases of myocarditis were reported between December 2020 and May 2021 among more than five million vaccinated people, the ministry said in disclosing the findings of a study it commissioned to examine the matter.

Most patients who experienced heart inflammation spent no more than four days in the hospital and 95 per cent of the cases were classified as mild, according to the study, which the ministry said was conducted by three teams of experts.

The study found “there is a probable link between receiving the second dose [of Pfizer] vaccine and the appearance of myocarditis among men aged 16 to 30,” with a more demonstrable link in those 16 to 19.

PHAC and Health Canada told CBC News in an email they are aware of the Israeli reports but that at this point, “Canada is not seeing higher rates [of myocarditis] than would be expected in the general population [outside of a vaccine context].”

Pfizer said in a statement that it is aware of the Israeli observations of myocarditis, noting that no causal link to its vaccine has been established and that the rate of myocarditis is not higher than what would normally be expected in the general population.

Israel will likely go ahead with vaccinating those aged 12 to 15 with Pfizer’s product.

“The committee gave the green light for vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds, and this will be possible as of next week,” Nachman Ash, Israel’s pandemic-response co-ordinator, told Radio 103 FM. “The efficacy of the vaccine outweighs the risk.”

Read more about the situation

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

AND FINALLY…

Toronto adult establishment to host vaccination clinic

No appointment, identification, heath card, proof of address or postal code will be necessary at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Zanzibar Tavern in Toronto on Friday. (Grant Linton/CBC )

Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, which bills itself as an organization run for and by sex workers, is hosting a “low barrier” vaccination clinic at Zanzibar Tavern on Friday.

Zanzibar, for the unfamiliar, is a longstanding Toronto strip club.

Usually the marquee at Zanzibar advertises exotic dancers, but this week it beckons: “Get Vaxxed With Maggie’s Toronto!”

Maggie’s is working with Unity Health Toronto, a Catholic health-care network, and Sherbourne Health, an urban health agency in downtown Toronto, to host the clinic that will administer Pfizer-BioNTech shots.

Ellie Ade Kur, a board member at Maggie’s, said she’s “excited” that anyone who needs to get vaccinated in a surveillance-free environment can do so, including sex workers and exotic dancers.

Natalie and Allen Cooper, the owners of Zanzibar, are also pleased to contribute to the effort.

“A lot of people in this industry have been unfairly blamed for spreading illness for a long time and we just wanted to make it very clear that we feel very strongly about stopping the spread of COVID,” Natalie Cooper said.

Last year, outbreaks in Toronto-area strip clubs caused controversy early in the pandemic, and they’ve been closed down by provincial order since.

People who access the clinic will be required to provide a name of their choice and birth date on a consent form. After they receive the vaccine, they will be given a paper certificate. It can be taken to any other clinic for a second dose when such doses become available.

Read more about the unique clinic 

Find out more about COVID-19

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