Canada

Today’s coronavirus news: Opposition hoping for answers in government documents about WE Charity deal; Newfoundland and Labrador's top doctor to testify during hearings on travel ban order

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

4 a.m. Opposition parties are hoping the imminent release of government documents related to the WE Charity affair will shed some light on how an organization with close ties to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was awarded a deal to administer a federal student grant program.

The government has until Saturday to table with the House of Commons finance committee all memos, briefing notes, correspondence and other documents related to the now-cancelled agreement.

In the meantime, however, the committee's efforts to delve deeper into the controversy could be stymied due to the unavailability of key witnesses.

The committee, which heard last week from Trudeau and WE Charity founders Craig and Marc Kielburger, is scheduled to hold another video conference meeting Thursday.

But committee chair Wayne Easter says it could be cancelled because, as of late Wednesday, none of the invited witnesses had yet confirmed their appearance.

Thursday 5 a.m. Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health is set to take the stand Thursday in a legal challenge of a travel ban limiting entry to the province she ordered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald will appear as a witness at the case being heard in provincial supreme court in St. John's this week.

The special measures order from Fitzgerald came into effect in May, banning anyone but permanent residents and workers deemed essential from entering the province.

Halifax resident Kim Taylor and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a claim in May alleging the restrictions violate the charter and fall outside the province's jurisdiction.

Taylor's request to travel to Newfoundland after her mother died was initially denied and though the decision was later reversed and she was granted an exemption, she said it came too late.

Dr. Proton Rahman, who is leading the team preparing models on COVID-19 in the province, will also appear as a witness Thursday.

A court in Myanmar on Thursday sentenced the Canadian pastor of an evangelical church to three months imprisonment after finding him guilty of violating a law intended to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Myanmar-born David Lah was charged with flouting a ban on large gatherings by holding a religious meeting in Yangon on April 7.

Lah's lawyer, Aung Kyi Win, said the court had found his client guilty of violating an article in the Natural Disaster Management Law because he failed to comply with a directive against gatherings.

The judge credited Lah with time served since he was jailed in May, so it appears he may be released within a couple of weeks.

A Myanmar colleague of Lah, Wai Tun, received the same sentence.

At least four people have died after swallowing hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

In a report, the CDC said more than a dozen adults have landed in hospitals in Arizona and New Mexico since May 1 after drinking disinfectants.

"Alcohol-based hand sanitizer products should never be ingested," the CDC said in the report.

In addition to the four fatalities, which included a trio of people in their 30s, another three patients suffered visual impairment after swallowing sanitizer, according to health authorities.

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The cases involved methanol, a toxic substance, the CDC said. The Federal Drug Administration has issued warnings about sanitizers containing methanol and has piled up a list of more than 100 types of cleaners that it advises Americans to avoid.

As COVID-19 remains in the community, B.C. health officials say so does the anxiety and stress that comes with the uncertainly and increased isolation.

A joint statement from Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says younger people may not understand why activities they enjoyed have been restricted, and they urged family members and friends to offer mental health support.

The government announced 47 new positive tests of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 3,834.

There are 351 active cases of COVID-19, with nine people hospitalized and six of those are in intensive care.

There have been no new deaths since the province's last update and the toll stands at 195.

Dix and Henry asked B.C. residents to treat the summer of 2020 as a time of consideration and care for others.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Ontario’s regional health units are reporting a total of 41,760 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,821 deaths, up 78 new infections in 24 hours.

The province continues to be at its lowest rate of new infections since well before the pandemic first peaked in Ontario in the spring. Ontario has averaged 96 cases per day over the last seven days, down from a peak of nearly 600 daily, seen in mid-April.

On Wednesday, 20 of Ontario 34 health units reported no new cases; none reported more than 20 cases.

Meanwhile, one fatal case was reported Wednesday in the province, in Chatham-Kent. The southwestern Ontario health unit is the only area of the province that’s currently experiencing its worst rate of infection since the beginning of the pandemic — a still-relatively low 8.3 cases per day over the last week.

Earlier Wednesday, the province reported that 66 Ontarians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 30 in intensive care, of whom 15 are on a ventilator.

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

The province cautions its separate data, published daily at 10:30 a.m., may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

Read Wednesday rolling file

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