Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 Canada Ontario Toronto GTA Sept. 23, 2020

KEY FACTS

  • 5:31 a.m.: UK government defends virus control strategy

  • 5:20 a.m.: Coronavirus cases soar as Israel prepares tighter measures

  • 4 a.m.: Ontario hiring 98 more labour inspectors to speed up pandemic workplace response

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

5:31 a.m.: The British government is defending its strategy for combating a second wave of coronavirus infections from criticism that new restrictions didn’t go far enough to stop the exponential spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a slate of new rules on Tuesday to stem the renewed outbreak, including a 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants, increased use of face masks and again encouraging people to work from home.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Wednesday that the government’s approach was “focused, balanced and proportionate.” He says that if everyone complies with the measures, they will be enough to prevent a second national lockdown “with all the impact on society and families but also the damage it would do to businesses.”

Many health experts said the government’s plan wouldn’t be enough to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections.

The dean of epidemiology and population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, John Edmunds, says the government needs to quickly impose much wider restrictions or risk losing control of the virus.

5:28 a.m.: India reported more than 83,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, showing some decline after reaching a record a week earlier.

The country has now confirmed more than 5.6 million cases. The health ministry also reported 1,085 new fatalities, raising the death toll to 90,020.

India is expected to become the world’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States, where nearly 6.9 million people have been infected by the virus.

But the past week has seen some improvement in India, with the numbers dropping after a record 97,894 new cases were reported on Sept. 16.

5:20 a.m.: Israel on Wednesday reported a new record level of daily cases of coronavirus, shortly before government officials were to meet to discuss tightening a new nationwide lockdown.

The Health Ministry reported 6,861 new cases Wednesday as a raging outbreak showed no signs of slowing. Israel, a country of some 9 million people, now has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus on a per capita basis, and health officials say hospitals are quickly approaching capacity.

The government last week imposed a nationwide lockdown that closed schools, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants. The coronavirus cabinet was meeting later Wednesday to discuss further tightening the restrictions.

Israel won international praise for its handling of the outbreak last spring, moving quickly to seal its borders and impose a lockdown that appeared to contain the virus. But the government reopened the economy too quickly, and a new outbreak has quickly spread throughout the summer. The economy, meanwhile, has not recovered from a serious downturn caused by the first lockdown.

The Health Ministry has instructed hospitals to delay non-essential surgeries and to open additional coronavirus wards as the number of serious cases continues to rise.

5:14 a.m.: An Austrian consumer protection group said Wednesday it has filed four civil lawsuits against the country’s government for failing to contain a coronavirus outbreak at an Alpine ski resort during the early phase of the pandemic that has been blamed for thousands of infections around the world.

Peter Kolba, who heads the VSV consumer association, said the four cases —involving an Austrian and three Germans — will test the ground for a further 1,000 people who have asked to be represented by the group after falling ill with COVID-19 following a trip to Ischgl in February and March.

The outbreak in Ischgl, a resort in western Austria that’s popular with skiers across Europe, is considered one of the earliest ‘superspreader’ events on the continent.

5:09 a.m.: The first day of the B.C. election campaign featured conflicting views on just how well the three parties were getting along in the minority legislature.

NDP Leader John Horgan says he called the election because he feared “contempt” and “acrimony” between the parties would divert focus away from the COVID-19 pandemic, making an election necessary.

He also wasn’t sure the minority NDP government would be able to pass a budget in February with the prospect of a confidence vote forcing an election.

But Green Leader Sonia Furstenau disputes Horgan’s take on how things were going, adding she told him as recently as Friday that her party was committed to a stable government.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, meanwhile, called for three televised debates during the Oct. 24 election campaign so voters can hear what each party has to offer.

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5:05 a.m.: A promised reset of federal priorities to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic begins today with the Liberal government’s speech from the throne. The nearly hour-long speech is expected to address three areas: immediate action to push back against a second wave of the pandemic, supports for those still not back on their feet after the first wave, and how the economy might be further rebuilt once it can stand more on its own. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan comes as public health officials are warning the country is but a few house parties away from plunging into a full-blown second wave.

He’s expected to address that potential crisis in a televised address tonight following the throne speech.

4 a.m.: Ontario says it will hire 98 new labour inspectors this fall as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the government will begin to recruit the workers in October.

The hiring blitz will increase the number of government inspectors from 409 to 507 and will cost $11.6 million.

McNaughton says the inspectors will allow the government to respond faster to situations that may arise during the pandemic.

Labour inspectors investigate workplace hazards, injuries, fatalities and work refusals.

Tuesday 8:45 p.m.: A faculty member at Branksome Hall and two students at The York School have tested positive for COVID-19, as confirmed by notices put out by the schools on Monday.

Toronto Public Health is working with both school communities on further precautions to take now that they have positive cases, which includes contact tracing.

Karen Jurjevich, the principal of Branksome Hall, says the employee who contracted the virus at her school was teaching Grade 8 classes on Sept. 18 and symptoms started showing over the weekend.

The employee went to get tested and is now recovering in self-isolation, she says.

“We recognize how challenging this is for you and your child as we are only two weeks into the academic year. Our priority will always be the health and safety of your child and the broader community,” said Jurjevich.

Struan Robertson, the head of The York School, confirmed that two students who are siblings and attend the Junior School contracted the virus.

The two students were considered asymptomatic when they were last at the school on Sept. 17, Robertson says. Both siblings have been self-isolating at home since last week.

Click here to read more COVID-19 coverage from Tuesday.