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

The latest:

  • Immigrants call on Canada to hold online or physically distanced citizenship tests.
  • Students in three of Saskatchewan’s major urban centres will have access to voluntary COVID-19 tests at school in the coming days.
  • Nova Scotia’s private or independent schools are adding extra measures to protect against virus.
  • India registered a single-day spike of 94,372 new confirmed coronavirus cases, driving the country’s overall tally to 4.75 million.
  • Austria’s leader says his country is seeing the start of a “second wave” of coronavirus infections.

Six months after the federal government cancelled citizenship tests due to COVID-19, many immigrants say they fear a growing backlog in the citizenship queue will delay indefinitely their goal of becoming Canadians.

Before the pandemic hit, the entire citizenship process took an average of 12 months. Now, applicants say they have no idea when in-person tests will resume — and they’re calling on the federal government to hold online or physically distanced exams.

Myrann Abainza came to Canada from the Philippines as a live-in caregiver in 2009 and was joined by her husband and two daughters six years later.

Her family was on track to obtain citizenship when COVID-19 struck. Frustrated by the delay and a lack of information from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), she said the government should find a way of holding in-person tests that respect public health guidelines.

“If schools are reopening, why not?” she said.

“It is very important for me because I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time. It’s my dream. It’s my dream to become a Canadian citizen.”

IRCC’s website states that all citizenship tests, retests, hearings and interviews were cancelled since March 14 due to the pandemic. Citizenship ceremonies were also halted at that time but have resumed since as virtual events.

IRCC told CBC News it is looking at alternatives to provide citizenship tests but offered no timeframe.

As of 8 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 136,141 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 120,075 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,211.

Katelyn and Donna Schell, right, pictured in this supplied photo. The Schell family says they’re on the fence about in-school testing, as they’re worried testing healthy children may result in a test not being available for a person in greater need. (Submitted by Donna Schell)

Students in three of Saskatchewan‘s major urban centres will have access to voluntary COVID-19 tests at school in the coming days, but some parents have mixed emotions about sending their kids to get swabbed.

Last week, Saskatchewan’s Health Minister Jim Reiter announced the on-site testing would commence in Regina, with Campbell Collegiate being the first school in the province to have kids tested on site. 

Donna Schell has a daughter set to start high school at Campbell this year. While she feels the province and Saskatchewan’s Health officials have done a good job managing the pandemic, she’s “on the fence” when it comes to the in-school test. 

WATCH | Canada’s struggling airlines plea for help as pandemic stalls travel:

COVID-19 continues to keep Canada’s airlines at stalling speed and the industry is crying out for aid before it takes an irreparable nosedive. 2:00

Schell said one of the reasons she’s hesitant is because the province has been unable to reach its goal capacity of 4,000 tests a day in a sustainable fashion. Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone said last week while the authority could handle a single day of 3,000 to 4,000 tests, it does not have the capacity to sustain that level for a prolonged period of time.

The SHA is currently in the process of recruiting lab staff to increase its capacity.

A student at Sacred Heart School of Halifax uses hand sanitizer on the first day of school. (Sándor Fizli)

Nova Scotia is taking a different approach. Students entering the Halifax Grammar School last week may not have noticed the thermal imaging cameras as they walked inside the building, but that was exactly the point.

The cameras, pointed at the two entrances to the school, immediately let staff know if a student’s body temperature is running above average.

“What I didn’t want was the anxiety that would come with a [temperature] wand at your head every day,” said Steven Laffoley, headmaster of the Halifax Grammar School.

If someone appears red on the camera, they are sent for a secondary temperature check with a handheld wand and brought to the infirmary if they have a fever.

This is just one of the ways that Nova Scotia’s private or independent schools are adding extra measures to protect against COVID-19, which includes air purifiers in each classroom, Plexiglas around desks and bringing students outside to learn.

WATCH | It’s time for a ‘different balance’ in handling COVID-19, says Dr. Bonnie Henry:

Rising COVID-19 case numbers have B.C.’s chief public health officer feeling anxious, but she’s also confident in the lessons learned over the last six months of the pandemic. 12:03

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 28.7 million. More than 920,000 people have died, while over 19.4 million have recovered.

India registered a single-day spike of 94,372 new confirmed coronavirus cases, driving the country’s overall tally to 4.75 million. The Health Ministry on Sunday also reported 1,114 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 78,586.

Even as infections are growing faster in India than anywhere else in the world, the number of people recovering from the virus has also risen sharply. The country’s recovery rate stands at 77.77 per cent, and nearly 70,000 recoveries have been reported every day in the month of September, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry attributed India’s COVID-19 recovery pace to aggressive testing and prompt surveillance, but experts say India needs to test more due to its huge population. It’s climbed to the second-worst-hit country behind the United States, and is now testing more than one million people every day.

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample to test for coronavirus in Hyderabad, India, on Sunday. India’s coronavirus cases are now the second-highest in the world behind the United States. (Mahesh Kumar/The Associated Press)

In the Asia-Pacific region, police in Australia’s Victoria state arrested 74 people and fined 176 for breaching public health orders as scattered protests against a weeks-long coronavirus lockdown continued for a second straight day across Melbourne.

Victoria police said in a statement that there were between 200 and 250 people involved in the protests.

On Sunday, there were 41 new coronavirus cases reported and seven more deaths, showing a steady downward trend from a peak of more than 700 cases in a single day in early August.

Victoria accounts for about 75 per cent of Australia’s more than 26,600 COVID-19 cases and more than 90 per cent of the country’s total 810 deaths. The state capital, Melbourne, has been under strict lockdown for six weeks.

The city will remain under hard lockdown, but the amount of time people will be able to spend outside will double to two hours per day and the overnight curfew will be shortened by an hour as of Monday.

People gather at a so-called Freedom Day protest in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 5. Police arrested 74 people and fined 176 Sunday for breaching public health orders as scattered protests against a weeks-long lockdown continued for a second straight day across the city. (James Ross/AAP Image/The Associated Press)

In China, domestic air travel in Wuhan, the epicentre of the global coronavirus outbreak, has returned to pre-pandemic levels, authorities say.

The virus was first detected in Wuhan late last year and the city underwent a Draconian 76-day lockdown as its hospitals struggled to deal with a tidal wave of cases that required the rapid construction of field hospitals to handle the overflow.

Since reopening in early April, life gradually returned to normal and numbers of domestic flights serving the city, as well as the number of passengers, had both fully recovered, according to the operator of Wuhan Tianhe International airport. It said 64,700 passengers were transported aboard 500 domestic flights on Friday.

The airport is preparing to eventually resume international passenger flights to destinations such as Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, Qu Xiaoni, an airport representative was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Travellers wearing face masks sit at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, China, on April 8. Domestic air travel in Wuhan has returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to authorities. (Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press)

South Korea says it will ease physical distancing rules in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area following a declining number of new coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told an online briefing Sunday that the greater Seoul area recorded about 80-110 new virus cases each day last week, down from 110-180 in the previous week.

Under eased rules that are effective from Monday for two weeks, Park says authorities will lift a ban on dining at restaurants after 9 p.m. in the Seoul area. They’ve been allowed to provide only takeouts and deliveries after 9 p.m. since late August.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Sunday that the country is seeing the start of a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections. (Ronald Zak/The Associated Press)

In Europe, Austria’s leader says his country is seeing the start of a “second wave” of coronavirus infections. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is appealing to his compatriots to comply with newly reinforced rules to keep down infections.

Kurz told the Austria Press Agency Sunday in a written statement that “what we are experiencing at the moment is the beginning of a second wave.” He added that developments in the capital, Vienna, are “particularly dramatic,” with the city accounting for around half of new cases.

Kurz said that Austria will soon hit the 1,000-per-day mark in new cases. He called on Austrians to reduce social contacts, wear masks and keep their distance “as well as possible.”

He predicted “a tough autumn and winter,” though he stuck to his assessment that things should be largely normal by next summer.

People wearing face masks leave a mall in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday. Russia has seen an uptick in new cases of coronavirus in recent weeks, and hospitalizations have started to increase. (Dmitri Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

On Sunday, Russia reported 5,449 new coronavirus cases, pushing its national tally to 1,062,811, the fourth largest in the world.

Authorities said 94 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 18,578.

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