Ontarians lined up for their first haircuts in months on Wednesday as the province rolled back public health restrictions on salons and other businesses in light of a decline in COVID-19 cases.
The second step of the province’s economic reopening plan took effect early Wednesday morning, allowing hair salons to reopen to 25 per cent of capacity, with masking and other rules in place.
Small lines had formed outside some east Toronto salons by mid-morning, with excited residents eager to shed their pandemic hairstyles.
Salons have been shut down across the province since strict measures took effect in April to curb a deadly third wave in infections, but the wait for a fresh cut has been especially long in Toronto and Peel Region. The two virus hot spots have seen the facilities shut since last November.
Capacity limits are also expanding for Ontario retail stores as of Wednesday. Groups of 25 people outdoors and five indoors can gather together, and outdoor events, performances and fitness classes are permitted with restrictions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed up for public appearances on Wednesday sporting a fresh haircut. He had also shaved his beard, which has been a mainstay of his look since January 2020, before the pandemic arrived in Canada.
The changes are taking effect a few days ahead of schedule due to strong vaccination rates and other positive public health indicators.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 14 additional deaths and 184 new cases of COVID-19.
Vaccination rates have moved past the target set for the next stage of reopening, which would see more indoor activities and larger gatherings allowed. But the province’s top doctor said this week that he’d prefer to take a cautious approach and would likely wait the scheduled 21 days before rolling back public health rules further, citing risks posed by the more transmissible Delta variant.
That COVID-19 strain delayed the reopening in Waterloo Region, which is staying in Step 1 of the province’s plan as it battles a surge in Delta cases.
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Next door in Manitoba, health officials reported 70 new cases on Wednesday and two additional deaths.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News last updated at 6:55 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6:50 p.m. ET, Canada had reported 1,415,284 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 7,087 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 26,295. More than 37.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In Quebec on Wednesday, health officials reported 126 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths.
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Newfoundland and Labrador, meanwhile, reported one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a day before the province begins welcoming more travellers from Canada.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories on Wednesday. Health officials in Yukon have not reported figures for the day.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:20 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday evening, more than 182.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to data published by Johns Hopkins University in the United States. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.9 million.
The World Bank on Wednesday pledged to boost available funding for COVID-19 vaccine purchases and deployment to $20 billion from a previous target of $12 billion, citing a sharp increase in overall financing demand from developing countries.
World Bank president David Malpass said the global development bank had already provided more than $4 billion to 51 developing countries for the purchase and deployment of vaccines, and would add billions for 25 more countries soon.
“Much more will follow in coming weeks,” Malpass told reporters, noting that a total of 41 requests had been received from African countries, where less than half the population has been vaccinated.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australian officials extended lockdown and physical distancing measures to more of the country on Wednesday, with four major cities already under a hard lockdown in a race to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious delta coronavirus variant.
Bangladesh is deploying army troops from Thursday to enforce a strict lockdown amid a record spike in coronavirus cases driven by the delta variant first detected in India, the government said on Wednesday.
“No one will be allowed to go out except in case of an emergency during this period,” the government said in a statement, warning that army troops alongside law-enforcement agencies would be deployed to enforce the lockdown.
In the Americas, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the CDC is leaving it up to local officials to set guidelines for mask-wearing as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus surges in areas with low vaccination rates.
Walensky told NBC’s Today show Wednesday that “we’ve always said that local policymakers need to make policies for their local environment.” She said CDC guidelines broadly indicate that those who are vaccinated don’t need to wear masks.
In Africa, the Tunisian government on Tuesday extended the hours of night curfew in an effort to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19, as the North African country reached a daily record of cases since the start of the pandemic last year.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday imposed a dusk to dawn curfew, banned inter-city travel and cut business hours with immediate effect in response to increasing coronavirus infections.
In Europe, Scottish authorities have reported nearly 2,000 coronavirus cases linked to watching European Championship games in stadiums, public gatherings, pubs or private homes.
Russia recorded its highest daily number of deaths during the pandemic for the second day in a row on Wednesday, with authorities reporting 669 deaths. The previous day’s count was 652 deaths.
In the Middle East, Oman said it was expanding its vaccination drive to anyone over the age of 18, as it accelerates what has been the slowest rollout in the Gulf.
-From Reuters, last updated at 9:15 p.m. ET
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