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Today’s coronavirus news: Federal government is sending more help to NWT to deal with surge; Pfizer officially applies for Canadian authorization for kids aged 5-11

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

6:20 a.m.: The federal government is sending more help to the Northwest Territories to deal with a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says Ottawa has approved a request from the territory to provide “surge capacity support” for infection prevention and control, contact tracing and testing.

The support — 10 specialists from the Canadian Red Cross — will be effective until Nov. 14, with the possibility of a two-week extension.

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That’s on top of previous help provided through the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada for infection control and contact tracing.

After months of zero new cases of COVID-19, the territory began seeing a spike in cases in mid-August.

As of Monday, there were 263 active cases in the Northwest Territories, which last week extended a territory-wide public health emergency until Oct. 26.

5:45 a.m.: Russia registered another daily record of coronavirus deaths Tuesday as rapidly surging contagion raised pressure on the country’s health care system.

The government task force reported 1,015 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought the total death toll to 225,325 — by far the highest in Europe. It also registered 33,740 new infections over the past day.

The daily coronavirus mortality numbers have been surging for weeks and topped 1,000 for the first time over the weekend amid sluggish vaccination rates and the government’s reluctance to toughen restrictions.

Russian authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccinations with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials have hampered the efforts. The task force said Monday that about 45 million Russians, or 32% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

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The Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that dealt a heavy blow to the economy and eroded President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. It has empowered authorities acros the country’s 11 time zones to decide on restrictions depending on the local situation.

5:30 a.m.: Many scientists are pressing the British government to re-impose social restrictions and speed up booster vaccinations as coronavirus infection rates, already Europe’s highest, rise still further.

The U.K. recorded 49,156 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the largest number since mid-July. New infections averaged 43,000 a day over the past week, a 15% increase on the week before.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 1 in 60 people in England had the virus, one of the highest levels seen in Britain during the pandemic.

In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government lifted all the legal restrictions that had been imposed more than a year earlier to slow the spread of the virus, including face coverings indoors and social distancing rules. Nightclubs and other crowded venues were allowed to open at full capacity, and people were no longer advised to work from home if they could.

Some modelers feared a big spike in cases after the opening-up. That did not occur, but infections remained high, and recently have begun to increase.

So have hospitalizations and deaths, which are averaging more than 100 a day — far lower than when cases were last this high, before much of the population was vaccinated, but still too high, critics of the government say.

Some say Britons have been too quick to return to pre-pandemic behavior. Masks and social distancing are gone in most settings in England, including schools, though other parts of the U.K. remain a bit more strict. Even in shops, where masks are recommended, and on the London transit network, where they are mandatory, adherence is patchy.

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A plan to require proof of vaccination to attend nightclubs, concerts and other mass events in England was dropped by the Conservative government amid opposition from lawmakers, though Scotland introduced a vaccine pass program this month.

5 a.m.: Ontario’s QR-code vaccine certificates have arrived early, but while the system does speed up the process of vetting customers at gyms and restaurants, experts are concerned that the new system does nothing to help prevent fraud.

The Star reported in September that Ontario’s initial vaccine certificate could be easily doctored in Microsoft Word. Business owners responsible for checking the certificates worried they would be on the hook if they failed to spot a fake.

Now, even though the QR-code vaccine certificates are available, the original certificates will still be accepted as proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Kris Klein, a lawyer with nNovation LLP and an expert on privacy, access to information and information security, thinks it’s a “real shame and potentially very dangerous” that Ontarians can still use an easily edited vaccine certificate to access gyms, restaurants and other venues.

Given the percentage of the population that has yet to be vaccinated, “I’m afraid there will be some fraud with respect to vaccine receipts,” said Klein in an email. “I think the government should do better to recognize that fraudsters are out there and they should implement safeguards to try and stop them.”

Read more from the Star’s Rosa Saba.

4:45 a.m.: The NHL has suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games for submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

The league on Monday announced the suspension without pay and said Kane will not be eligible to play until Nov. 30 at New Jersey. Kane will forfeit about $1.68 million of his $7 million salary for this season with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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The league also announced that a concurrent investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse made against Kane by his estranged wife, Anna, could not be substantiated.

“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols,“ Kane said in a statement. ”I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey.”

4:30 a.m.: On Monday, Pfizer officially applied for Canadian authorization for its kid-sized COVID-19 vaccine meant for those aged five to 11, bringing the country one step closer to protection for the school-aged population.

The news means that the final data from the drug manufacturer still has to be vetted by experts from Health Canada, who will comb through the results of a trial done on thousands of child volunteers before signing off.

The government isn’t starting from scratch, since Pfizer, which is working with German biotech company BioNTech, submitted a first look at its numbers at the beginning of the month. But the official submission means the ball is now in Health Canada’s court.

In a statement, Health Canada confirmed it had received the submission for the vaccine, now known as Comirnaty, but did not have a timeline for a decision.

Read more from the Star’s Alex Boyd.

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