World News

Price of NHS dental treatments to rise by up to £13 post-lockdown

Dental treatments like crowns and root canals look set to be made more expensive as prices are hiked by £13.

Standard operations such as dentures and removing teeth will be made more expensive as NHS dental charges are set to surge by 5%.

The changes were set to be enforced on April 1 but were pushed back due to the pandemic, The Sun reported.

But the increases will take hold from December 14 meaning patients have just two weeks to avoid the extra charge.

Experts estimate that nearly 19 million dental appointments have been missed this year due to coronavirus.

Under the new prices, a routine check-up will increase by £1.10 from £22.70 to £23.80.

Treatments such as root canals or removing teeth will rise by £3.10 from £62.10 to £65.20.

Meanwhile, more complex procedures like crowns, dentures and bridges rise by £13.50 from £269.30 to £282.80.

Dentists have since fumed that health professionals are "not tax collectors" as they fear expensive procedures will put patients on.

  • Police break up illegal rave after 20 revellers found partying inside locked nightclub

Speaking To The Sun, Dave Cottam, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice, said: "This inflation-busting hike won’t put an extra penny into a service in crisis, or help millions currently unable to get an appointment.

"We’ve appealed to the government for support to bring down the backlogs. Sadly this short-sighted approach will only give lower-income, higher-risk patients more reasons not to attend."

It comes after the BDA warned that practices are operating at a fraction of their usual capacity.

  • Nearly 2,500 coronavirus deaths in 1 week in England and Wales – highest since May

Hundreds of dentists could be forced to close in the next year without extra support, according to reports, as patients avoid sitting in the chair.

Coronavirus regulations mean dentists have had to reduce the numbers they treat in order to clean the surgery between patients to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus.

NHS data shows 19 million fewer treatments – which includes both appointments for emergency treatment and check-ups – were offered in England between March and October in 2020, compared to 2019.

The BDA previously warned that the reduction in the number of patients seen, paired with the closing of dentists, could have a dramatic impact on patients' oral health.

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New nurse uploads pictures to show toll of treating coronavirus patients

A new nurse has revealed the punishing toll of treating coronavirus patients after uploading pictures of herself eight months apart.

In the pre-pandemic snap, the 27-year-old healthcare worker – known only as Kathryn – looks fresh-faced before she graduated, next to recent image of her face scarred by PPE (personal protective equipment) during a weekend shift.

It has since been shared 52,000 times on Twitter, with many saying the photo highlights the strains doctors and nurses battling Covid-19 are facing.

Kathryn, who works at a hospital in the US state of Tennessee, says the worst scar – the wound on her nose – normally disappears just in time for her to begin the next 12-and-a-half-hour shift.

She said: "On Saturday night I was in the middle of a shift, had just come out of a patient's room, and had just taken all my PPE off.

"I had the image in my head of the graduation, and I wanted to show the difference a couple of months can make, and the reality of being a nurse in the pandemic.

"Generally most of the marks fade within a few hours, but the one of my nose disappears just in time for the start of my next shift."

  • Boris Johnson warns Christmas is the season to be 'jolly careful' despite vaccine hopes

The nurse said the hospital experience a surge of coronavirus cases in July, and is now in the middle of another spike.

Kathryn predicts things will get worse around Thanksgiving and Christmas as families and friends meet up, increasing the rate of infection.

She said: "I've resigned myself to the fact that things are going to be at their worst yet in a few weeks, but I just want it to happen now, so we can get it over with.

"We've kind of been in disaster mode, the entire time I've been a nurse. I've no idea what it's like to be a nurse under normal circumstances.

"There’s an antagonism now between doctors, nurses and the general public that there hasn’t been before."

There have been 4,220 deaths in the state of Tennessee and 257,000 deaths in the USA. The worldwide death toll stands at 1.4 million people.

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Boris says Brits could get ‘freedom pass to live normal life’ with Covid test

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The Prime Minister said Brits could get a "freedom pass" for a more "normal life" if they take a coronavirus test and it comes back negative.

Boris Johnson gave given millions of people hope last night and said Brits in Covid-19 hotspots could be allowed to meet with family and friends with the freedom pass.

A mass testing programme will initially be carried out in Tier 3 areas in a bid to tackle the disease and move towards a more normal lifestyle.

If the testing is successful, Brits may be back to normal by Easter, according to The Sun.

Speaking about the coronavirus winter plan, the PM said: “This system is untried. There are many unknowns.

“But if it works, we should be able to offer people who test negative the prospect of greater freedoms – to meet up in certain contexts with others who have tested negative.

“We will give support to those who have tested positive, to help them with isolation.

“But they will know that at the end of their isolation they too will have the prospect of greater freedoms.”

However, despite the announcement, Downing Street advisors say the programme will take time and the plan is still some "way off."

Brits would be given electronic documents to prove they tested negative for the bug.

Using a 15-minute rapid-results test, which is currently being mass-tested in Liverpool, Brits can get swabbed and return to normal life.

Earlier this month it was reported mass testing for coronavirus in Liverpool is having a positive impact after just one day of testing experts suggested.

Liverpool was the first area in England to be plunged into the third tier of the government’s alert levels in the fight against the virus.

Since the tier three order on October 14, the whole of England has been put back into lockdown – with new restrictions blanketing the country since Thursday 5 November.

  • Boris Johnson
  • Coronavirus
  • Lockdown

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Japan's ramen bars struggle to stay open as COVID hammers small firms

TOKYO (Reuters) – Sixty-year-old Yashiro Haga is folding his Tokyo noodle ramen shop after 15 years in December, unable to overcome the prospect of a lasting customer slump due to the coronavirus crisis.

FILE PHOTO: Sixty-year-old Yashiro Haga serves ramen at his noodle shop ‘Shirohachi’, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan November 20, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

“The flow of people has changed due to the coronavirus,” Haga said, standing behind the counter of his ground-floor shop, Shirohachi. “Customers aren’t coming in and queuing up outside shops any longer.”

The pandemic is damaging Japan’s “mom-and-pop” restaurants – including noodle shops like Haga’s – at a growing rate, despite evidence the government’s massive effort to stave off bankruptcies is working in other sectors of the economy.

Hurt by deflationary pressures and growing competition in the run-up to the now-delayed Tokyo Olympics, noodle bars are particularly prone to the economic malaise the pandemic triggered in the service sector.

Small and mid-sized businesses like Haga’s noodle bar employ about 70% of Japan’s workers and account for 99.7% of the total number of enterprises, according to government data, leading some to worry that a COVID-19 resurgence could trigger an increasing number of layoffs among small firms.

While overall bankruptcies among firms with at least 10 million yen ($96,228) in liabilities in the six months to October fell 5.2% from a year earlier, those among restaurants rose 4.5%, data from private credit company Teikoku Databank showed.

Bankruptcies among restaurants with less than 10 million yen in liabilities were up by 137% for the same period, Tokyo Shoko Research, a firm that monitors similar data, said, while the total for the service-sector, including restaurants, rose 64.4%.

But industry insiders expect that is just the tip of the iceberg, as local shops often close up with no official filing.

“Many ramen shops won’t appear in any figures when they’re closing down because they’re small, privately owned businesses,” said Haga, who has gone without salary since April.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

Hiroaki Nakazawa, a 42-year-old pharmacist who has frequented Shirohachi for about a decade, said he felt sad about its closure. “There’s only one place like this.”

At least seven other noodle stalls in the central Tokyo area popular with tourists where Haga has his table-less shop, which seats nine people at the counter, have already closed since March this year.

Nationwide, 34 ramen businesses with at least 10 million yen in liabilities went bankrupt during the first nine months of 2020, also a record high for the period, Teikoku Databank said.

Graphic: Japan’s ramen shop bankruptcies are rising,


Another reason why experts say statistics underestimate the true impact of the pandemic on ramen shops is that winding down is expensive due to requirements from landlords to leave the stores stripped down after a six-month notice period.

“There are many firms with a lack of cash flow,” said Manabu Shintani, CEO of Actpro Co, a property intermediation services provider.

Among noodle shops, the first to fold this year were those whose businesses were already on knife-edge before COVID-19, often run by elderly owners, said Takeshi Yamamoto, an independent ramen critic who tracks shop closures.

Those were followed by a wave of noodle chains closing outlets, and now some places with younger owners are shutting down, said Yamamoto, who has eaten at more than 10,000 noodle shops.

He estimated that the real number of ramen shops shutting down nationwide was about 290 in October and November alone.

The spate of closures has helped some. Actpro’s platform for matching businesses looking to shut down with firms hoping to move into the location being vacated has been a hit.

Once a match is made, a restaurant owner and the incoming owner negotiate with the landlord, cutting costs.

The company has seen the matchings quadruple to about 70 to 80 a month after the crisis started taking its toll, Shintani said.

Shirohachi’s Haga used about $29,000 in government subsidies to get through until his closure.

He tried offering his noodles through takeout but was unable to make up for the income he lost after office workers’ visits fell due to work-from-home restrictions.

“Even among the most popular places, sales from takeout aren’t exceeding” the sales drop from the crisis, ramen critic Yamamoto said.

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Urban Outfitters’ Quarterly Profits Rise 38 Percent

Urban Outfitters is showing signs of strength ahead of the holiday shopping season. 

The retailer — which counts Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and Bhldn among its brands, in addition to rental subscription service Nuuly and a food and beverage business in the company portfolio — revealed quarterly earnings Monday afternoon, with bottom-line profits rising 38 percent for the quarter, year-over-year, thanks to strength in the Urban and Free People brands, along with reduced overhead expenses. 

Investors seemed unsure of how to respond to the news, since the company’s top-line revenues actually decreased. Shares of Urban Outfitters, which closed up 4.44 percent to $31.66 each Monday, teetered back and forth in after-hours trading as a result. 

But Richard A. Hayne, chief executive officer of Urban Outfitters, said in a statement that he was “pleased to announce Urban delivered record Q3 earnings per share in spite of an incredibly difficult operating environment. Our 38 percent increase in net profits was driven by strong product assortments combined with tight control of inventory and expenses.” 

For the three-month period ending Oct. 31, total company revenues were $969 million, down from $987 million the same time last year. But many of the company’s losses (more than $3 million) were in the food and beverage business. In fact, Urban Outfitters, Free People and even Nuuly increased their profit margins, year-over-year. 

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More precisely, Urban Outfitters’ revenues for the quarter were $394 million, up from $374 million the same time last year. Free People’s revenues were $206 million, up from $205 million a year ago, while Nuuly logged $6.7 million in revenues, up from more than $2 million last year. Anthropologie, however, the brand known for its festive occasion wear, registered revenues of $358 million, down from $398 million a year ago. 

As a result, the company had $76.7 million in profits for the quarter, up from $55.6 million a year earlier.

Not surprisingly, comparable retail segment net sales were flat for the quarter as a result of negative retail store sales and reduced in-store traffic with coronavirus cases on the rise and many consumers still fearful of in-person shopping experiences. 

By brand, comparable retail segment net sales increased 17 percent at Free People and 4 percent at Urban Outfitters, but fell 9 percent at the Anthropologie Group.

“We think the Free People and Urban brands are already taking advantage of fashion trends,” Hayne said on Monday evening’s conference call with analysts. “Since COVID-19, Free People has benefited from the highest digital penetration. We believe FP Movement has the potential to be a billion-dollar brand and we plan to invest in this brand aggressively.”

He added that Urban’s home category was also strong during the quarter.

Meanwhile, wholesale segment net sales decreased 24 percent during the quarter. The losses were offset, however, by double-digit growth in the digital channel. 

“Urban has doubled off of its lows this year, holding in quite well throughout the pandemic, primarily due to their existing e-comm penetration [about] 40 percent of sales pre-COVID-19, about [two times] the typical specialty retailer),” Ike Boruchow, senior retail analyst at Wells Fargo, wrote in a note. “Their robust e-comm platform was able to insulate their performance from the staggering in-store declines that brick-and-mortar retail experienced as a result of the pandemic, enabling the company to not see as much multiple contraction [year-to-date] as more store-reliant retailers.”

Possible headwinds include increased carrier rates and markdowns during the fourth quarter.

The company ended the quarter with $624 million in cash and cash equivalents and 630 stores, or 250 Urban Outfitters locations, 234 Anthropologie units and 146 Free People shops, in addition to the company’s e-commerce businesses and catalogues. Free People also opened its first FP Movement stand-alone store during the quarter. 

Company shares are up more than 22.5 percent year-over-year.

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Holiday Sales on the Rise — Online

Santa is going to make his rounds this year, but instead of down the chimney, the gifts are coming via e-commerce delivery — and don’t look for lots of high-priced fashions under the tree. 

The National Retail Federation released its much-watched holiday forecast Monday, predicting overall sales this season would grow between 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent to a range of $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion. 

But all of that growth — which tops the five-year average of 3.5 percent — is coming from the web as people continue to shy away from stores amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Nonstore sales, dominated by the web, are expected to increase between 20 percent and 30 percent, for a total haul of $202.5 billion to $218.4 billion.

Without the web, brick-and-mortar sales are seen falling 1.4 percent to 2.2 percent.

A separate outlook from Customer Growth Partners was even more bullish overall, seeing a 5.8 percent gain, but weakness in apparel-related categories with less costly “comfy and casual” styles ruling the work from home world. The Customer Growth Partners’ crystal ball has apparel specialty store sales falling 13.5 percent while department stores will drop 11 percent. The categories perking up include home improvement (up 8.9 percent), sporting goods/toys (8.5 percent), consumer electronics (8.1 percent) and food and beverage (3.5 percent).  

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There are also concerns all around about just how long the spending will continue into the New Year as consumers hunker down for the winter and try to wait out the pandemic without the motivations of the holiday season. 

The NRF forecast, which covers all of retail outside of automobiles, gasoline and restaurants, comes a month late this year given myriad uncertainties for both retailers and consumers — from rules on which stores can stay open where to when and if additional fiscal stimulus will be coming to shoppers from Washington.

Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the NRF, told reporters on a conference call on Monday that this would be “a holiday season like no other,” but that retailers are prepared to operate safely in the pandemic, in many cases exceeding local regulations.

Shay noted that consumers have responded “very positively” to holidays during the pandemic — from Mother’s Day to the Fourth of July — with many looking for “opportunities to celebrate.”

He also reiterated his pitch to keep stores open through the pandemic, with the appropriate safety measures and pointed to the mammoth retail workforce.

“Those 52 million jobs, they’re all essential,” Shay said.

The NRF’s projection factors in both psychological and economic foundations that should support growth, but also comes with a big COVID-19 caveat. 

Jack Kleinhenz, the trade group’s chief economist, made the case for why consumer will keep spending.

He pointed to the record savings; less spending on travel, dining and entertainment; the wealth effect from rising home prices; lower debt loads; cooler weather in the north, and a general desire to make up for a bad year.

“We owe it to our family to have a better than normal holiday season,” Kleinhenz said, summing up the attitude of at least some consumers. 

And there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Kleinhenz pointed to optimism around the growing number of vaccines nearing approval. 

But he also noted, “There’s a long shadow over many of the positive elements…that includes the surging virus and the expiring government support. This could pump the brakes on momentum and have a consequence to spending. We do believe that there is energy in spending throughout the end of the year. Rising cases could set the recovery into reverse.”

Customer Growth Partners also pointed to solid economic fundamentals, despite the epic pandemic recession and crushing unemployment that is clamping down on so many. 

The group singled out solid disposable income, up 5.4 percent year-over-year; healthy household balance sheets; strong personal savings for many, and the renewed focus on goods over services during the pandemic. 

“After the COVID-19 store closures crushed sales by 12 percent in April, traffic and sales have rebounded ever since, culminating in the most recent actual data from the six mega-retailers that account for almost 30 percent of all U.S. retail sales,” said Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. “The steep 18.5 percent jump in combined third-quarter sales of these retailers (Amazon, Costco, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Walmart) shows that consumers are out and buying — like they haven’t been in over a year.”

Even if that does continue through the holidays, 2021 is still a question mark.

“The key question is how sustainable the growth will be going forward, given the remarkable strength of household finances — and the uncertain pace of COVID-19, particularly on employment growth,” Johnson said. “But if the economy can generate at least the current monthly rate of 660,000 new jobs — retail spending is poised to expand in 2021 at about a healthy 5-plus percent.”

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Police bust underground swingers club with 80 people flouting Covid rules inside

Cops reportedly busted a group of randy swingers who were not exactly social distancing at an underground sex club.

The overnight raid at Caligula, an 'upmarket' club, found 80 raunchy party-goers violating pandemic restrictions.

According to The New York Post, stunned detectives found bumping music, unlawfully served booze and three couples having sex.

The owner of Caligula, which bills itself as a “private upscale on premise swingers club” in Queens, New York, has since been slapped with a $1,000 fine (approximately £750).

Manager Roy Bacoy, 37 and of Queens, now faces charges – and one guest was also charged with disorderly conduct.

Jennifer Hayes, 47, was the only attendee to be hit with a fine and given a summons.

She told The New York Post: “[The chief] kept saying how long have you been working there… I didn’t work there. I heard them laughing and making fun of everybody.”

The woman, who denies being involved any swinging activities and will fight her charges, added: “I just wanted to dance and see and hear a DJ play music, that was it!

  • Pub drinkers must order 'substantial meal' with pints when lockdown ends

"There’s no other options. You can’t go anywhere.”

According to its advertisements, Caligula is “the hottest swingers club in New York”.

When police arrived at the sex club they reportedly found many guests not wearing masks or social distancing, and eating from a buffet.

Photos taken by police officers show four white beds and a black leather sofa crammed together in a small room with a basket of what appears to be condoms on one of the beds.

Another snap shows a large cardboard box filled with condoms and a black bra draped on top of it.

There is also a picture of a white laminated sign showing prices for an apparent VIP room, which started at $30 for 10 minutes and went up to $500 for “ALL NIGHT!”

On top of Bacoy’s fine, his business has been hit with a $15,000 (£11,200) fine for failing to protect public health.

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Thirteen schools close after ‘super-spreader’ parties cause rise in Covid cases

More than a dozen schools are being forced to close following a number of "super-spreading" parties.

Council bosses fumed home to parents that a “significant” number of positive coronavirus cases had developed in Cadigan, Wales.

And a “very high" number of contacts are now waiting for test results after developing symptoms, Wales Online reported.

According to a letter sent home, Meinir Ebbsworth, chief education officer at Ceredigion Council, said she was “extremely concerned” at soaring numbers.

As a result of super-spraying parties and gatherings 13 schools will have to close to contain the virus.

Cases were described as the result of "actions of the community" and not those of local schools.

Council bosses begged residents to follow the rules to stop the virus from ravaging through the area.

The joint letter, written by Ms Ebbsworth and local headteacher Donna Hanley, said: "Schools have worked tirelessly to keep your children safe. These cases are linked to the actions of the community and not to the actions of local schools.

"There is overwhelming evidence that the speed and spread of the virus in the Cardigan area means that immediate action is needed."

  • Time of Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement – and what he may say about Christmas

All schools in Cardigan will now close for two weeks due to the rocketing numbers.

The council said in a statement: “We are now seeing the virus spreading in our communities, several of which can be traced back to super spreader events such as parties and social gatherings.

“This kind of behaviour is totally irresponsible and is putting the health of our loved ones at risk, is having a direct impact on the education of our children and is putting pressure on the NHS.”

According to the latest figures released on Sunday, November 22, Ceredigion had 100.4 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 population in the week to November 19.

That's compared with the figure released seven days previously which was 70.2, a total that was falling at the time.

Council bosses have closed seven schools in Cardigan, and a further five in Pembrokeshire, according to reports.

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Toronto enters virus lockdown as US looks to vaccine rollout

TORONTO, CANADA (AFP) – Canada’s biggest city entered lockdown on Monday (Nov 23) in the latest bid to curb coronavirus infections, with case numbers surging across North America even as US officials said vaccinations could be available within weeks.

Encouraging results from several vaccine trials have raised hopes of a decisive shift in the battle against a disease that has claimed around 1.4 million lives worldwide in the last year.

But seesawing restrictions and lockdowns in countries that successfully contained earlier outbreaks – shattering lives and economies in the process – have highlighted the ongoing risk of contagion.

Toronto banned private indoor gatherings and capped the size of weddings and funerals for four weeks from midnight, with officials warning that hospitals risked being overwhelmed without quick action.

“I’ve been clear on this: the situation is extremely serious and further action is required,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford had told journalists ahead of the lockdown.

Officials had forecast more than 400,000 new infections a week across Canada by the end of the year without new restrictions – more than the total number of cases recorded nationwide since the start of the pandemic.

Australia’s second-largest city, meanwhile, continued its slow emergence from a gruelling four-month lockdown that saw four million people confined to their homes, with authorities lifting a ban on travel across state borders.

Ms Margaret Forster of Melbourne told national broadcaster ABC that she had been allowed to drive into New South Wales for the first time since June.

“When I went across the border I beeped the horn, ‘Yahoo!,'” she said.

British media reports said Prime Minister Boris Johnson was preparing to partially ease social distancing measures in England at the beginning of next month, after concerns about the impact of lockdowns on the economy and mental health.

And staff at Shanghai’s biggest international airport were facing mass testing after the city reported a small Covid-19 outbreak linked to cargo handlers.

Life in China has largely returned to normal after strict testing and harsh lockdowns since the virus first emerged there late last year, but authorities have linked several isolated outbreaks to the import of goods.

Vaccine hopes 

China has been giving experimental Covid-19 vaccines to people, including state employees, international students and essential workers heading abroad since July.

The United States could begin its own vaccination programme as soon as next month, raising hopes of a looming end to the pandemic in the world’s worst-hit nation.

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Two leading vaccine candidates – one by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech and another by US firm Moderna – have been shown to be 95 per cent effective in trials, and Pfizer has already applied for emergency use approval from US health authorities.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunisation sites within 24 hours of approval” by the US Food and Drug Administration, Dr Moncef Slaoui, head of the US government virus vaccine effort, told CNN.

FDA vaccine advisers will meet Dec 10 to discuss approval.

Dr Slaoui estimated that 20 million people across the US could be vaccinated in December, with 30 million per month after that.

But top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned the country’s outbreak could get worse before getting better if people failed to take precautions in the coming holiday season.

With more than 12 million cases and 255,000 deaths nationwide, many Americans were nonetheless heading to airports to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Social distancing edicts and mask-wearing rules have spurred protests in the United States and elsewhere.

German protesters in Germany demonstrated against facemask rules in Berlin at the weekend in a rally that drew in far-left activists, conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists, who claim the measure infringes on their civil rights.

And in Paris, around 300 people attended a clandestine dance party in defiance of a national lockdown, with France now recording the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Europe.

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Coronavirus: Canada tops 330K cases ahead of new COVID-19 restrictions

Regions across Canada braced for a host of new public health restrictions on Sunday as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic sent case counts soaring from coast to coast.

Surging case counts that reached record heights in several provinces over the weekend spelled the short-term end to restaurant and retail service in some infection hot spots, while others prepared to further cap public and private gatherings in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

Across the country, health authorities identified a total of 4,792 new cases of the virus as well as 49 more deaths. The new infections, which now place Canada in its sixteenth day of daily-identified cases topping the 4,000 mark, bring the country’s total cases to 330,201.

A total of 11,455 people have also succumbed to the virus, while at least 261,201 patients have since recovered. Over 13.7 million tests have also been administered.

In Ontario, which reported 1,534 new cases and 14 additional deaths on Sunday, shoppers flocked to local stores in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region a day before both districts were slated to enter the lockdown phase of the provincial pandemic response plan.

Janet Reid visited Toronto’s Eaton Centre on Sunday afternoon to do some last-minute shopping in the hours before non-essential retailers close their doors to in-person visitors.

She said she hoped the restrictions, which also include the closure of salons and the suspension of indoor dining at local restaurants, would help bring the COVID-19 numbers down.

“It’s going to take everybody to do it, and not just a few people to do it,” Reid said.

Public health officials in Atlantic Canada have also announced new limits on gatherings as the region saw a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, marking a reversal from the stable figures reported for months.

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Nova Scotia’s Hants County and the Halifax area will be under stricter rules as of Monday, including a limit of five people who can gather without social distancing, down from the previous cap of 10.

The province reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing its number of active diagnoses to 44.

“I know this will not be easy, but it’s an initial step to contain the community spread and avoid the potential to overwhelm our health-care system,” Dr Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said in a Friday statement outlining the new rules.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, which reported three new cases on Sunday, Memorial University announced plans to postpone staff members’ scheduled return to work, originally set for the coming week.

The small town of Deer Lake, N.L., also sounded the alarm over a regional spike in cases when it announced a two-week closure of some municipal buildings and asked local businesses to follow suit.

The slew of pending restrictions is in line with advice from Canada’s top public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, who on Sunday urged people to limit gatherings and only go out for essentials ahead of the holiday season.

Tam said Canada is seeing “rapid epidemic growth,” as the country has now recorded 330,492 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Alberta added to that tally with 1,584 new cases on Sunday, marking the fourth straight day the daily count has reached a record high.

Health officials in Nunavut reported 18 new cases on Sunday in Arviat, a small community on Hudson Bay that now has 98 active infections.

The territory, which went into a two-week lockdown on Nov. 18, currently has 128 active COVID-19 cases. No deaths have been reported.

“Health teams are working around the clock in Arviat, Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet to trace, test, isolate and contain the spread of the virus,” Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Quebec reported 1,154 new COVID-19 cases and 23 additional deaths on Sunday, bringing the highest provincial total in the country to 132,042 cases and 6,829 deaths since the pandemic began.

Officials in New Brunswick reported six new COVID-19 cases and warned that three schools may have been exposed to the virus. The province set a single-day record on Saturday with 23 new cases.

Saskatchewan logged 236 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while Manitoba recorded 243 new instances of the virus and 12 related deaths.

Manitoba’s most recent round of stringent measures took effect Friday. The Hanover School Division, which includes Steinbach, about 60 kilometres south of Winnipeg, will switch to remote learning only on Tuesday.

Worldwide, cases of the virus surpassed 58.5 million according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,386,454 have also succumbed to the virus, with the U.S., Brazil and India leading in both cases and deaths.

— With files from Global News and CP’s Anita Balakrishnan in Toronto, Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton and Sarah Smellie in St. John’s.

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