The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
7:19 a.m.: Hundreds of thousands of students in government-controlled parts of Syria began taking final exams Sunday after a three-week schools closure to limit the spread of the coronavirus, state news agency SANA reported.
Syria has witnessed a sharp increase in cases in recent weeks leading to the closure of schools and universities as well as some state institutions.
Some 1.5 million students from fifth grade through high school went to 10,550 schools to take exams amid measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including wearing masks and sanitizing classrooms, SANA said.
The exams are being given nearly a month earlier than scheduled as schools will close early this year because of the pandemic that has sickened tens of thousands of people in the war-torn country.
SANA quoted a Ministry of Education official as saying that over the past two days all schools were sanitized in preparation for the exams in government-held areas.
Tens of thousands of people have tested positive for the virus in Syria, including about 22,000 in government held parts of the country. More than 1,500 people have been killed by COVID-19 in areas under the control of President Bashar Assad’s government.
Sunday’s exams came a day after the Syrian government received the first batch of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, a gift of 150,000 jabs to Damascus.
5:53 a.m.: India’s medical oxygen shortage has become so dire that a Sikh house of worship began offering free breathing sessions with shared tanks to COVID-19 patients waiting for a hospital bed.
They arrive in their cars, on foot or in three-wheeled taxis, desperate for a mask and tube attached to the precious oxygen tanks outside the gurdwara in a neighbourhood outside the capital, New Delhi.
After having largely tamed the virus last year, India is in the throes of the world’s worst coronavirus surge and many of the country’s hospitals are struggling to cope with shortages of beds, medicines and oxygen.
The gurdwara management has promised to provide free oxygen to patients until they can be admitted to a hospital. Teams of volunteers check oxygen levels of newly arrived patients and provide what they need.
The gurdwara started the initiative Thursday evening, and by Friday evening had seen over 700 patients come through, reported The Hindu newspaper.
Most hospitals in India aren’t equipped with independent plants that generate oxygen directly for patients, primarily because they require an uninterrupted power supply, which is a rarity in many states.
As a result, hospitals typically rely on liquid oxygen, which can be stored in cylinders and transported in cryogenic tankers. But amid the surge, supplies in hard-hit places like New Delhi are running critically short.
Last year, India kept its hospitals sufficiently stocked by diverting oxygen from industries that were shuttered by one of the world’s strictest virus lockdowns. As Indians were cooped up indoors for months, industrial tanks were repurposed for medical use. Tanker trucks raced over empty highways to transport oxygen across the vast country to hotspots.
But with the current wave, blamed on a highly contagious variant that has spread quickly and widely without the limiting benefit of a nationwide lockdown, the situation is different.
5:46 a.m.: India’s crematoriums and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by the devastating new surge of infections tearing through the populous country with terrifying speed, depleting the supply of life-saving oxygen to critical levels and leaving patients to die while waiting in line to see doctors.
For the fourth straight day, India on Sunday set a global daily record for new infections, spurred by an insidious, new variant that emerged here, undermining the government’s premature claims of victory over the pandemic.
The 349,691 confirmed cases over the past day brought India’s total to more than 16.9 million, behind only the United States. The Health Ministry reported another 2,767 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing India’s COVID-19 fatalities to 192,311.
Experts say that toll could be a huge undercount, as suspected cases are not included, and many deaths from the infection are being attributed to underlying conditions.
The crisis unfolding in India is most visceral in its graveyards and crematoriums, and in heartbreaking images of gasping patients dying on their way to hospitals due to lack of oxygen.
Burial grounds in the Indian capital New Delhi are running out of space and bright, glowing funeral pyres light up the night sky in other badly hit cities.
In central Bhopal city, some crematoriums have increased their capacity from dozens of pyres to more than 50. Yet officials say there are still hours-long waits.
At the city’s Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, workers said they cremated more than 110 people on Saturday, even as government figures in the entire city of 1.8 million put the total number of virus deaths at just 10.
“The virus is swallowing our city’s people like a monster,” said Mamtesh Sharma, an official at the site.
The unprecedented rush of bodies has forced the crematorium to skip individual ceremonies and exhaustive rituals that Hindus believe release the soul from the cycle of rebirth.
“We are just burning bodies as they arrive,” said Sharma. “It is as if we are in the middle of a war.”
The head gravedigger at New Delhi’s largest Muslim cemetery, where 1,000 people have been buried during the pandemic, said more bodies are arriving now than last year. “I fear we will run out of space very soon,” said Mohammad Shameem.
5:45 a.m.: A Spanish man with COVID-19 symptoms who coughed on work colleagues and told them “I’m going to give you all the coronavirus” has been charged with intentionally causing injury after allegedly infecting 22 people.
Spanish police said their investigation began after a COVID-19 outbreak at the company where the 40-year-old man worked on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.
Days before the outbreak, the man showed COVID-19 symptoms but refused his colleagues’ suggestions to go home and self-isolate, police said in a statement.
After work, and showing no improvement, he went for a PCR test before visiting a gym and returning to work the next day. Though his superiors told him to go home after he allegedly had showed a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius, the man refused.
He walked around his workplace, lowering his face mask and coughing on people, saying “I’m going to infect you all with the coronavirus,” according to police.
At the end of the day, his PCR test came back positive. His colleagues were then tested, with five returning positive results. They in turn infected family members, including three infants, police said. At the gym the man visited, three people tested positive and also infected family members.
None of those infected required hospitalization, police said.
4 a.m.: As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks.
The military commander handling logistics for Canada’s vaccine distribution program says there will be enough vaccine delivered to give a first dose before Canada Day to every adult who wants one.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin says that’s if provinces follow the advice to delay second doses up to four months.
He also cautions that it is dependent on having no production delays again.
Health Canada anticipates a total of 36.5 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India by June 30.
Most Canadian provinces have suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in people under age 55, acting on an advisory committee’s concerns about a possible link between the shot and rare blood clots. However, Ontario and Alberta have lowered the age eligibility to those 40 and older.
There are approximately 31 million Canadians over 16, and no vaccines are approved for anyone younger than 16.