Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday

The latest:

  • Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising COVID-19 case counts.
  • Most Boxing Day shopping expected to happen online.
  • Most of Canada takes holiday pause from announcing new COVID-19 cases.
  • Millions of Americans lose jobless benefits as Trump refuses to sign aid bill
  • Have a question about COVID-19 in Canada? Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca.

A provincewide lockdown meant to bring down COVID-19 case counts takes effect today in Ontario.

The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

The move was announced on Monday after the provincial government took part in emergency talks last weekend.

Under the new rules, restaurants can only provide takeout, drive-thru and delivery, including the sale of alcohol.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers that sell primarily food can stay open for in-person shopping but with distancing and limits on capacity.

When the holiday break is over, children enrolled in publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools will participate in remote learning from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8, and some longer depending on their age and area.

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What’s happening in Canada

Boxing Day is supposed to be the post-Christmas shopping day that deal hunters have been waiting for, but with non-essential retail shuttered or restricted across much of the country, the usual crowded malls and long lineups are expected to be replaced with internet searches and online orders.

Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba have all closed non-essential retail, while much of the rest of the country has curtailed in-store capacity.

Despite the restrictions forcing most shopping online, industry watchers say retailers are still expected to offer some deep discounts in a bid to raise cash.

People wear face masks as they make their way through a shopping mall in Montreal in December. In-person hopping for Boxing Day is expected to be sharply down compared to previous years. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, says there will be fire-sale prices on some items.

She says retailers don’t want to get stuck with a backlog of holiday and seasonal inventory and also need to shore up their balance sheets in the face of mounting lockdowns and restrictions.

As of Friday morning, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 535,243, with 76,459 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,720.

Most of the country did not release numbers on Christmas Day. The exception was New Brunswick, which announced one new case. The province has 43 active cases and 588 total, with eight deaths.

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What’s happening around the world

As of 8 a.m. ET on Saturday, more than 79.9 million coronavirus cases had been reported worldwide, with more than 45 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.

In the Americas, millions of people in the U.S. saw their jobless benefits expire on Saturday after U.S. President Donald Trump refused to sign into law a $2.3-trillion US pandemic aid and spending package, protesting that it did not do enough to help everyday people. Trump stunned Republicans and Democrats alike when he said this week he was unhappy with the massive bill, which provides $892 billion in badly needed coronavirus relief, including extending special unemployment benefits expiring on Dec. 26, and $1.4 trillion for normal government spending. Without Trump’s signature, about 14 million people could lose those extra benefits, according to Labor Department data. A partial government shutdown will begin on Tuesday unless Congress can agree on a stop-gap government funding bill.

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In Europe, awave of COVID-19 has engulfed prisons in Belarus that are packed with people in custody for demonstrating against the nation’s authoritarian president, and some of the protesters who contracted the coronavirus while incarcerated accuse authorities of neglecting or even encouraging infections. Activists who spoke to The Associated Press after their release described massively overcrowded cells without proper ventilation or basic amenities and a lack of medical treatment.

In Asia, South Korea posted its second-highest daily number of coronavirus cases on Saturday as outbreaks at a prison, nursing homes and churches continued to grow, prompting authorities to plead for a halt to all year-end gatherings. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said there were 1,132 new coronavirus cases on Friday, not far off the record 1,241 logged a day earlier.

A pastor wearing a face mask sits among empty benches during an online Christmas service at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul on Christmas Day. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, China’s capital has urged residents not to leave the city during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays, implementing fresh restrictions after several coronavirus infections last week Two domestic cases were reported on Friday, a convenience store worker and a Hewlett Packard Enterprise employee. Another two asymptomatic cases were discovered in Beijing earlier in the week. Beijing is conducting testing on a limited scale in the neighbourhoods and workplaces where the cases were found. To contain any new outbreaks, the Beijing government cancelled big gatherings such as sports events and temple fairs.

Coronavirus infections in Tokyo hit a record daily high of 949 cases on Saturday as Japan heads into the New Year holiday, which normally sees people stream from the capital into the provinces. Serious cases were unchanged from a day earlier at 81. Local media reported subdued scenes at Tokyo transport hubs a day after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, under pressure as daily cases continue to climb, urged the nation to stay home and avoid social mixing.

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