Today’s coronavirus news: Province reveals consequences of defiant protesters; Ontario reporting 1,704 hospitalized and 414 in ICU – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
2:37 p.m. Defiant protesters could face fines, jail time and the loss of their driver or commercial vehicle operator licences under details of the province’s emergency declaration hammered out Saturday morning by cabinet.
After Premier Doug Ford declared the province-wide state of emergency Friday — and his warning of “severe” consequences — police began moving on blockades at Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge the next day.
Under the emergency orders approved Saturday, protesters cannot block highways, airports, canals or ports, railways, power facilities, water/gas and other utility infrastructure, international or interprovincial bridges or crossings — nor any hospitals or COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
Read the full story from the Star’s Kris Rushowy
2:10 p.m. As Russia commands the world’s attention with a military buildup around Ukraine, it faces a stubborn domestic challenge: the coronavirus.
On Friday, the country reported a daily record of 200,000 new coronavirus cases, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant sweeps across the remote parts of the vast country. Though deaths in Russia are off their November peak, the surge has served as a reminder of the vulnerability of Russia’s vaccine-skeptical population.
Omicron, which has also driven case counts up to extraordinary levels in many other European countries, began spreading across Russia in the middle of January, quickly becoming dominant in Moscow and other urban centers. The country recorded more than 170,000 cases over the past week, or 122 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
The number of deaths, however, has remained steady, hovering at about 650 per day. That number is about half of what it was during its peak in November.
1:23 p.m. Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting a total of 79 people in specialized COVID-19-care hospital units today, down slightly from the 82 reported on Friday.
Officials say of the 79 people hospitalized, 73 were admitted during the most recent wave of the pandemic driven by the Omicron variant.
There are currently 14 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
Officials also say there are 133 people in hospital who tested positive for the disease upon arrival but were admitted for another medical reason.
There are also 147 patients who contracted COVID-19 after being admitted.
Officials are reporting 309 new lab-confirmed cases of the disease with 122 cases in the central zone, 86 cases in the western zone, 51 cases in the eastern zone and 50 cases in the northern zone.
1:14 p.m. As police moved at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, there was little sign of a plan to enforce new emergency measures in the nation’s capital.
In Ottawa, the police have not moved to dismantle the downtown self-declared “Freedom convoy” encampment on Parliament Hill, now in its 16th day, insisting they do not have the numbers to take on the protesters.
“We have a plan to end this unlawful occupation and await the necessary reinforcements to do so,” the Ottawa police said in a written release Saturday morning.
The protesters had dwindled to a few hundred during the week, but police said they expected this weekend would see additional supporters arrive and swell their ranks to about the same as the 4,000-5,000 as last weekend.
Read more on what’s happening in Ottawa from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles.
12:07 p.m. Ontario is reporting 414 people in ICU due to COVID-19 and 1,704 in hospital overall testing positive for COVID-19, according to its latest report released Saturday morning.
Of the people hospitalized, 53 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 47 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive. For the ICU numbers, 81 per cent were admitted for COVID-19 and 19 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have since tested positive.
Read the full story from the Star’s Erin LeBlanc.
11:36 a.m. Quebec is reporting 28 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 today as virus-related hospitalizations continue to decline across the province.
The Health Department says 2,143 people are in hospital with the disease, after 144 patients were admitted in the past 24 hours and 215 were discharged.
It says the number of overall virus-related hospitalizations are down by 71.
Officials say 153 patients are listed in intensive care, a drop of 11.
The province is also reporting 2,359 new cases confirmed by molecular testing, which is limited to certain higher-risk groups.
They say 33,661 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered on Friday.
10:22 a.m. Ontario is reporting 1,704 people hospitalized with COVID-19 including 414 in ICU. Fifty-three per cent were admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 and 47 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have tested positive for COVID-19.
9:15 a.m. The Star’s Jacob Lorinc reports that protesters are now dismantling their main encampment.
Follow live updates from Saturday here.
8:15 a.m. The end may be in sight for a devastating Canada-U.S. border blockade but not for what Premier Doug Ford called the “siege” and “illegal occupation” of the nation’s capital.
A court ordered injunction issued late Friday was expected to provide the impetus for police to move against a blockade that sprang up four days ago and jammed the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, halting or diverting the usual flow of $700 million in two-way trade each day.
But in Ottawa, the self-declared “Freedom Convoy” continues to have almost free rein over the chaotic centre of a G7 capital — a situation the prime minister described as an “unlawful blockade.”
Read more from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles and Raisa Patel.
7:45 a.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has received a questionnaire from London’s Metropolitan Police as part of the investigation into parties in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns, his office said Saturday.
If he is found to have broken his government’s own COVID rules, the embattled prime minister could be fined and will face even more pressure to stand down from fellow lawmakers already furious at his proximity to the “partygate” affair.
A growing number of lawmakers from his own party are calling for his ouster, and even former leaders have lined up to warn him against attempting to cling to power if he is found to have broken rules.
Read more from The Associated Press.
7:25 a.m. The U.S. is obsessed with security. Canada is obsessed with trade.
That’s an axiom of international relations I heard first from Lindsay Rodman, an American national security expert, and since then from people whose jobs involve cross-border relations. Its truth often proves to be a kind of skeleton key for understanding how the two countries approach various issues.
It came to mind as the so-called “Freedom Convoy” turned into an international spectacle, in which Canada’s ability to demonstrate it can provide security may be key to its trade future. As this has become clearer, Canadian federal and provincial officials seem to have snapped into crackdown mode.
Extremism expert Caroline Orr Bueno has expressed skepticism that any copycat convoy would be able to shut down a major U.S. city in the same way — and for as long — as the blockade in Ottawa has. Her expectation was that U.S. police would more aggressively quash any attempt.
Read more from the Star’s Edward Keenan.
7:20 a.m. Norway says it is lifting almost all remaining COVID restrictions as it doesn’t see a major health threat to citizens any more, even though the Omicron variant is still spreading in the Nordic nation.
“This is the day we have been waiting for,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere during a news conference in Oslo on Saturday. “We are removing almost all coronavirus measures.”
He justified the move by saying that Norwegians are well protected by vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic and the proportion of citizens who end in up in hospital has remained low despite the spread of the omicron variant.
Read more from The Associated Press.
7:10 a.m. Hong Kong on Saturday reported its daily record of confirmed COVID-19 cases, at 1,514.
The city is struggling with the worst outbreak of the pandemic as it tries to implement China’s zero-tolerance strategy using a mandatory quarantine for all travellers and mass testing.
Hong Kong imposed new restriction this week, limiting in-person gatherings to no more than two households. It plans to allow only vaccinated people in shopping malls and supermarkets. Places of worship, hair salons and other businesses were ordered to close.
Read more from The Associated Press.
7 a.m. New warnings to stand down or face the imminent possibility of harsh consequences have been issued but protesters plugging roads around Parliament Hill as well as Canada’s busiest border crossing still show no signs of budging.
On Friday Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency that will allow his cabinet to impose $100,000 fines and up to one year in jail as punishments against people who continue to illegally block roads, bridges, walkways and other critical infrastructure.
Both Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned the protesters, who are demanding an immediate end to all COVID-19 pubic health mandates and restrictions, that if they don’t go home the sanctions they face could ruin their lives.
Read more from The Canadian Press.
6:35 a.m. Japan is considering easing its stringent border controls amid growing criticism that the measures, which have banned most foreign entrants including students and business travelers, are hurting the country’s economy and international profile.
“I plan to look into easing the border controls,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Saturday.
Kishida did not provide a timeline or other details and said he will make a decision based on a scientific assessment of the Omicron variant, infection levels in and outside Japan and quarantine measures in other countries.
Read more from The Associated Press.
6 a.m. Paris police intercepted at least 500 vehicles attempting to enter the French capital Saturday, in defiance of a police order, to take part in protests against virus restrictions inspired by Canada’s horn-honking “Freedom Convoy.”
The police said on Twitter that several convoys were stopped from entering at key city arteries and over 200 motorists were handed tickets.
Elsewhere, at least two protesters were detained amid a seizure of knives, hammers and other objects in one central Parisian square.
Read more from The Associated Press.
5 a.m. Some countries might send in a riot squad to disperse trespassing protesters. In New Zealand, authorities turned on the sprinklers and Barry Manilow.
Initial moves to try and flush out several hundred protesters who have been camped on Parliament’s grassy grounds since Tuesday had little effect.
The protesters, who have been voicing their opposition to coronavirus vaccine mandates, responded to the soaking from the sprinklers by digging trenches and installing makeshift drainpipes to divert the water.
Read more from The Associated Press.

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