Today’s coronavirus news: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew; Canada to get 1 million vaccine doses this week; Canada Post employee working in Toronto facility dies

KEY FACTS

  • 7:20 a.m. Montreal businesses clean up after anti-curfew protest turns violent

  • 7:10 a.m. Ontario hospitals ramp down elective surgeries to increase ICU capacity

  • 6:15 a.m. Toronto’s downtown office vacancies have hit a 13-year high of 9.1 per cent

  • 5:36 a.m. The Ontario government intends for schools to be open for in-person learning after April break

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

7:50 a.m. New supply issues of the COVID-19 vaccine will force York Region to close four of its vaccination clinics this week, including the drive-thru site at Canada’s Wonderland.

The Town of Georgina’s clinic and two physician-led clinics are also affected by new delays in the Moderna shipment for York Region, which had been expected to arrive Monday.

“Since the beginning of York Region’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, our efforts have been contingent on the vaccine supply,” said Patrick Casey, the region’s director of corporate communications.

“Regrettably, we are now facing an imminent and serious reduction in vaccines,” he added.

“Due directly to this delay, we are now unable to accommodate many of the newly announced eligibility groups outlined this week by the provincial government, including offering COVID-19 vaccines to residents between the ages of 60 and 64.”

The health department will also reduce the hours of operation at the remaining three public-health clinics, effective Monday, which will remain in place until additional vaccine supply is received.

Hospital-led COVID-19 vaccination clinics are not affected, primarily due to their reliance on the Pfizer vaccine.

7:45 a.m. People across Britain flocked to shed shaggy locks and browse for clothes, books and other “non-essential” items as shops, gyms, hairdressers, restaurant patios and beer gardens reopened Monday after months of lockdown.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to “behave responsibly” as the country that has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak took a big step on its roadmap toward a resumption of normal life.

Monday brought the easing of restrictions that have been in place in England since early January to suppress a surge in infections linked to a more transmissible new virus variant first identified in the southeast of the country.

Long lines formed outside some stores, including a branch of Nike Town on London’s busy Oxford Street, and pubs and restaurants with outdoor space reported a flood of bookings.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said businesses that have endured months of enforced closure were “excited and desperate” to welcome customers back.

At a hairdresser in Birmingham, customer Amy Smith said she was thrilled to be getting a trim at last.

“It’s great to be here, I’ve been going with this weird little topknot for a few months now,” she said. “I’m going to a go to a beer garden experience later, so it’s going to be good.”

Many people were planning outdoor meals and drinks, despite unseasonably cold weather that brought springtime snow flurries to many areas — including, briefly, London.

7:35 a.m. Tim Sauvé has few memories of the hours before he was wheeled into a Toronto operating room for a double-lung transplant.

Weak and in pain, his lungs irreversibly damaged from COVID-19, Sauvé understood little except that the surgery offered a final chance at life.

The then-60-year-old had been in hospital since mid-December after collapsing in his Mississauga condo the same day he tested positive for COVID-19. Though he had survived the viral infection, the disease had ravaged his lungs and a sophisticated life support machine was keeping him alive.

“I was praying I’d be a good candidate for a transplant and tried to have hope up until the last moments,” Sauvé told the Star. “I didn’t know until after I woke up that I was the first.”

Physicians at University Health Network believe Sauvé is the first person in Canada to receive a double-lung transplant after becoming ill with COVID-19.

Read the full story from the Star’s Megan Ogilvie

7:20 a.m. Business owners in Old Montreal will be assessing the damage this morning after an anti-curfew protest turned violent.

Hundreds gathered in defiance of an 8 p.m. curfew that took effect in Montreal and Laval Sunday night.

The mostly young crowd danced to music from loudspeakers while lighting fireworks and chanting, “freedom for the young.”

However, the festive atmosphere quickly soured as a few protesters lit a garbage fire in Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Square.

Police fired tear gas and rushed the crowd, prompting dozens of protesters to scatter and cause mayhem down the cobblestone streets of Montreal’s historic tourist district.

Some protesters lit garbage fires at many intersections and seized projectiles from city streets, hurling them at nearby windows and shattering many.

A police spokeswoman said seven arrests were made, though there was no immediate word on charges, and that 107 tickets were issued for public health infractions.

The spokeswoman said police were still investigating possible incidents of mischief, arson, breaking and entering, and obstruction of police.

7:10 a.m. Toronto is opening three more mass immunization sites Monday: Carmine Stefano Community Centre, Cloverdale Mall and North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, in addition to the six existing clinics.

7:05 a.m. Ontario hospitals will start ramping down elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures Monday to ensure they have the capacity to treat more COVID-19 patients.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Friday that could increase intensive-care unit capacity in Ontario by up to 1,000 patient beds.

The province reported on Sunday that 605 people were in ICU.

Ontario also said that there were 4,456 new COVID-19 cases in the province on Sunday, marking a new single-day high for new infections.

Hospitals in northern Ontario are exempt from cancelling non-urgent procedures but a memo from Ontario Health on Thursday night said they should prepare to ramp down quickly in the near future.

The memo also asked hospitals to identify staff who may be redeployed to other sites if necessary.

7 a.m. The recent flood of COVID-19 vaccine doses into Canada is expected to wane this week, with a little more than 1 million shots scheduled for delivery over the next seven days.

Canada has fielded vaccine deliveries from various pharmaceutical firms in recent weeks amid dramatic spikes in COVID-19 case counts across the country.

Yet the Public Health Agency of Canada says the only shipment expected this week will come from Pfizer and BioNTech, which have been consistently delivering more than 1 million doses each week since March.

While Canada received more than a million combined doses of the Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines last week, the Public Health Agency is not expecting any of either over the next seven days.

Moderna, which delivers shots every two weeks, is scheduled to ship more than 1.2 million doses to Canada the week of April 19.

Canada has also approved a vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson, but it is not clear when the first of those doses will be delivered.

The federal government is hoping this week’s lull in deliveries will be the exception, with Public Procurement Minister Anita Anand promising on Friday that millions more shots are on their way in the coming weeks and months.

“We are accelerating rapidly in terms of our deliveries,” Anand said. “We have moved 22 million doses from later quarters to earlier quarters in the year, including … 44 million doses expected prior to the end of June.”

The rush to get vaccines into Canadians’ arms has grown more urgent as Canada continues to see a massive spike in the number of new COVID-19 infections.

Thousands of new cases were reported on Sunday, including a record 4,456 in Ontario alone. Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief medical health officer, noted admissions to intensive care units surged 23 per cent last week compared to the one before and said the Canada is approaching the peak of the current pandemic wave.

Tam said many of those getting sick are younger than in previous COVID-19 surges, which experts have blamed on virus variants that are spreading across the country.

That has prompted some provinces to start looking at changes to how they are distributing their vaccines.

More than 10 million doses had been distributed across Canada as of Sunday afternoon, according to covid19tracker.ca, with nearly 8 million having been administered.

6:55 a.m. Yukon residents head to the polls today, marking the fifth election in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The Yukon Liberals were elected in 2016 with a majority government, only their second ever.

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver says now is not the time to change course, and a vote for his party would ensure stability.

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon, whose party ran the territory for 14 years before the last election, says he would follow through on election promises — unlike his Liberal opponent.

The NDP and leader Kate White have pitched themselves as the progressive alternative to their two rivals.

White says the pandemic has highlighted gaps in equality, and an NDP government would freeze rents and improve access to health care.

6:41 a.m. A Canada Post employee working in Toronto has died after they contracted COVID-19.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) confirmed the news Sunday, saying that “an outbreak was declared last week at the South Central Letter Processing Plant where the deceased member worked.”

Thirteen other employees tested positive for the virus over a 14-day period which is what began rapid testing at the facility.

“I know I speak for all CUPW members when I share my deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the member’s family, friends, and co-workers, and respect their privacy during this difficult time,” said Jan Simpson, National President of the CUPW.

Read the full story from the Star’s Breanna Xavier-Carter

6:30 a.m. Niklas Edin’s fifth world men’s curling title was memorable not only because

of the history the Swede made.

That he and his teammates were able to play in a final Sunday for a third straight crown — another men’s curling record — made achieving both milestones feel even sweeter.

Sweden doubled Scotland’s Bruce Mouat 10-5 in the championship game in Calgary.

The 2021 BKT Tires and OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship reached the finish line late Sunday night despite four participants, including an athlete on a playoff team, testing positive for COVID-19.

None showed symptoms of the coronavirus. No games were played Saturday while mass testing was carried out. Alberta Health approved the resumption of Sunday’s playoffs.

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“Obviously super, super happy we could keep playing,” Edin said. “It would have felt so awkward if the event had just ended and medals are going somewhere because of a round robin.

“That just wouldn’t have been fair. That wouldn’t have felt good. I’m really happy we could play today.”

Edin and his third Oscar Erikkson are the only two men to win five world championships. Along with second Rasmus Wranaa and lead Christoffer Sundgren, they were the first team to win three in a row.

Canada’s only large-scale sports events since the global pandemic descended just over a year ago have been the world junior men’s hockey championship and last year’s NHL playoffs in Edmonton, and Calgary’s run of seven curling competitions with four now complete.

The men’s championship’s final day reflected the varying levels of risk tolerance around the virus clashing with a desire for sport to happen.

The athlete who competed Sunday had tested positive in an “exit” test in preparation to leave the curling bubble. His subsequent test Saturday was negative.

The WCF initially barred the athlete from competing Sunday and then allowed him on the ice.

His full vaccination before arriving in Canada, and the argument he posed little risk to teammates and opponents, were the WCF’s justifications for the reversal.

6:15 a.m. As the pandemic enters a third wave, Toronto’s downtown office vacancies have hit a 13-year high of 9.1 per cent, according to a first quarter report from CBRE.

It shows that vacancies are up nearly two per cent since the final quarter of 2020 with rents falling about a dollar to $ 34.88 per sq. ft. for Class A space in the same period.

It’s the highest office vacancy rate since 2008, when Toronto’s downtown hit 9.5 per cent in the second quarter of the year.

But there are signs the trend is moderating. With the rollout of vaccines, businesses are beginning to make plans to bring their employees back to the office, said Jon Ramscar, managing director of the commercial real estate company.

“Whilst we’ve seen rising vacancy, which is predominantly from sublets, through the pandemic, we’ve actually seen that stabilize in the first quarter of this year. We’ve seen tour activity pick up significantly,” he said.

Read the full story from the Star’s Tess Kalinowski

5:36 a.m. The Ontario government intends for schools to be open for in-person learning following the April break, Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce confirmed in a letter issued to the province’s parents Sunday afternoon.

All publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools will be open for in-person learning despite the province’s stay-at-home order, except in regions that have directed schools to move to remote learning, Lecce wrote.

Despite in-person classes being omitted from the stay-at-home order, Toronto and Peel regions have moved students to remote learning in the face of growing COVID-19 cases. Regions have the authority to move schools to virtual learning on their own, without permission from the province.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jenna Moon

5:35 a.m. Denmark’s Health Minister declared Monday “the big vaccine day,” with 100,000 people to be vaccinated in one day as officials test the system ahead of a June rollout where four times as many people as that will be vaccinated each day.

The shots will be given in 68 inoculation centres across the country of nearly 6 million. The number will be lower Tuesday.

Minister Magnus Heunicke said Danes will “set a new record,” and urged people to arrive on time and have high spirits.

The bulk of the vaccination will be in Copenhagen and surroundings, where one-third of the population lives.

At the Oeksnehallen exhibition centre in downtown Copenhagen where makeshift vaccination booths have been installed inside the building that once housed cattle to be slaughtered, the plan is to inoculate 6,000 people.

“There will be no breaks and it will run continuously with people taking turns,” head of the Oeksnehallen vaccination centre Lone Munk Andersen told broadcaster TV2. “There should not be a single booth empty.”

So far 868,461 people, or nearly 15% of the population, have received the first shot and 445,566 people, or nearly 8%, have had both.

Soeren Riis Paludan, a professor of virology with the Aarhus University in Denmark’s second largest city told Danish broadcaster DR that when Danes get vaccinated “the basis for shutting down society will soon disappear.”

5:32 a.m. Tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathered by the Ganges River for special prayers Monday, many of them flouting social distancing practices as the coronavirus spreads in India with record speed.

The Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, is one of the most sacred pilgrimages in Hinduism. The faithful congregate in the northern city of Haridwar and take a dip in the waters of the Ganges, which they believe will absolve them of their sins and deliver them from the cycle of birth and death.

The Kumbh Mela, which runs through April, comes during India’s worst surge in new infections since the pandemic began, with a seven-day rolling average of more than 130,000 new cases per day. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with patients, and experts worry the worst is yet to come.

Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party say the festival has been allowed at a time when infections are skyrocketing because the government isn’t willing to anger Hindus, who are the party’s biggest supporters.

With the surge showing no sign of slowing, India’s confirmed infections since the pandemic began surpassed Brazil’s total on Monday to make it the second-worst hit country in the world.

The current surge has hit hardest in Western Maharashtra state, home to the financial capital Mumbai. The state has accounted for nearly half of the country’s new infections in the past two weeks.

Amid concerns the Kumbh Mela festival could turn into a superspreader event, Uttarakhand state’s chief minister, Tirath Singh Rawat, last week said “the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus.”

Health experts had appealed for the festival to be cancelled, but the government went ahead saying safety rules would be followed. There are concerns that pilgrims could get infected and then take the virus back to their cities and villages in other parts of the country.

Authorities in Haridwar said the length of the festival has been shortened from previous years, but it has been extremely difficult to implement social distancing measures. Coronavirus tests are mandatory for those entering the area.

“We are continuously appealing to people to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. But due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible,” senior police officer Sanjay Gunjyal said.

Government critics have compared the government’s response to the festival to the response last year when Indian Muslims faced rising Islamophobia following accusations that an initial surge in infections was tied to a three-day meeting of an Islamic missionary group, the Tablighi Jamaat, in New Delhi.

Some leaders from Modi’s party and India’s freewheeling TV channels, which have long favoured the government’s Hindu-nationalist policies, labeled Muslims as “jihadis” and “super spreaders” in March 2020 when the seven-day rolling average of coronavirus cases in the country was not even 200 per day. The blame triggered a wave of violence, business boycotts and hate speech toward Muslims.

Monday 5:30 a.m. High schools have reopened in Greece to students in the final three grades with the mandatory use of test kits for COVID-19 being rolled out across the country to help with mass screening for infections, with an eye to further reopening the economy and tourism.

Students from grades 10 to 12 were allowed to return to class Monday — most for the first time in five months — if they provided a negative test result using the kits being distributed at pharmacies. Some teachers chose to hold classes outdoors.

Students in other grades continued online classes.

The kits “are a valuable screening tool,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. “Some 613 students and teachers were found to be positive, most of them showing no symptoms, and are staying at home and not exposing their classmates and colleagues to danger.”

Greece’s centre-right government is keen to start reopening the economy and its crucial tourism industry after lockdown measures were imposed in early November. But the rate of infections and death has remained high since early February, with mortality currently above the European Union average.

Self-test kits are being made available on a weekly basis at no charge to all residents registered with the public health service, with the use to be made mandatory for workers in various sectors including food delivery and retail.

The government plans to officially launch the tourism season in mid-May. With less than 7% of the population fully vaccinated, the government has promised to ramp up its campaign through the rest of April.

Sunday 9:40 p.m.: Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montréal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew.

The curfew had been at 9:30 p.m. but Quebec’s premier advanced it as a preventive measure because COVID-19 cases had risen sharply over the past week.

The mostly young crowd danced to music from loudspeakers, lit fireworks and chanted, “freedom for the young.”

But the festive atmosphere quickly turned violent as a few protesters lit a garbage fire in Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Square, which was met with tear gas from riot police.

Soon after police rushed the crowd, dozens of protesters scattered to create mayhem down the cobblestone streets of Montreal’s tourist district.

Read Sunday’s COVID-19 news

TORONTO STAR