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Live updates: Ontario closes schools and indoor dining facilities

TORONTO -- Schools in Canada's largest province will close down and be moved to online education because of record numbers of coronavirus infection caused by the ultra-contagious Omicron variant. Ontario's premier announced Monday.

Premier Doug Ford announced also the closing of indoor dining. The closure of cinemas and gyms is also announced. Ontario is experiencing record-breaking levels of infections. There are also concerns about hospital capacity.

Ford stated, "I am well aware that online learning is not ideal." "The truth is that omicron spreads like wildfire."

Schools will reopen on Wednesday, but it has been delayed to Jan. 17. The government had just announced that schools would reopen on Wednesday last week.

Due to record numbers of cases caused by the delta variant, schools were forced to close in April for in-person learning. However, they have since resumed. Hospitals were also instructed to suspend all non-urgent procedures and surgeries in order to maintain critical care.

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Here's what you need to know about the CORONAVIRUS Panemic:

What will happen to pandemics? Omicron clouds predicts the endgame

Fauci suggests that the CDC might add a test requirement for people infected to end isolation

Austin, Pentagon chief, says he tested positive for COVID

British government rushes tests to schools

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Follow AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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Here's WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW:

LISBON (Portugal) -- Nearly 90% of COVID-19 patients under intensive care are not vaccinated against coronavirus, according to a senior Portuguese health official.

Antonio Lacerda Sales, Deputy Health Minister, said that Portugal's high vaccination rate has allowed it to avoid the worst effects of COVID-19, despite recent spike in infections caused by the omicron variant.

He stated that Portugal has fewer patients than last year, less than one-fifth as many deaths and more than half of its hospitalized patients.

He stated Monday that the government was not going to delay the return of schoolchildren next Monday.

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ROME -- According to Italian news reports, at least 100 passengers on a cruise ship in Mediterranean tested positive for COVID-19.

RaiNews24, an Italian state television, stated that 150 passengers tested positive aboard the MSC Grandiosa. It docked Monday in Genoa. Most of the passengers were Italian.

Genoa Daily Il Secolo XIX reported on Monday that 40 people who had tested positive for HIV got off the cruise ship in Genoa. Others would disembark in Civitavecchia (a port that services Rome) or Palermo, Sicily.

The cruise company did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

According to the newspaper, there were almost 4,000 passengers aboard the ship that arrived in Genoa from Marseille, France.

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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has confirmed the first death due to the new omicron version.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported Monday that the deceased was in his 90s and lived in a Gwangju nursing home. According to the agency, the deceased received a second dose COVID-19 vaccine in October.

Since the initial case was reported Dec. 24, all 21 patients have tested positive for COVID-19, three with the omicron variant.

According to the agency, the patient was later confirmed to have the omicron variant. The variant was also found in the body of another patient who died at Gwangju's facility.

South Korea has confirmed 1,318 cases so far of the omicron variant. Experts predict that it will soon replace the dominant delta variant in South Korea.

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ROME -- The Italian government set the prices for Ffp2 masks at 75 cents each. They are required to use public transport, museums and other indoor activities.

Monday's announcement by the office of Italy’s virus czar was that a deal was reached with key Italian drugstore and pharmaceutical associations. Ffp2 masks made in Italy can cost upwards of 2 Euros per piece.

In an attempt to curb the recent surge in cases, the government imposed a mandate for outdoor masks and required that Ffp2 masks are worn indoors.

Italy was the country where the European pandemic erupted in February 2020. There was a severe shortage of protective and surgical masks during the initial wave. After supplies increased, the government set the price of surgical masks at 50c each in April 2020.

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin's largest school district will transition to online teaching within the next week due to an increase in COVID-19-positive staff.

In a Monday statement, the district stated that it aims to resume in-person learning in January 10.

Six schools offer COVID-19 testing for staff and students. According to the district, students and teachers will have access to testing once in-person learning resumes at each school.

Milwaukee's public schools are home to more than 75,000 students.

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PROVIDENCE (R.I.) -- The combination of wintry weather and the pandemic caused frustration among air travelers returning home from the holidays. Many flights were cancelled or delayed during the first day of the new year.

According to FlightAware, more than 2,500 U.S.-bound flights were grounded on Sunday and over 4,100 around the world.

This was in response to Saturday's mass cancellations of more than 2,700 U.S. flight and more than 4,700 around the world. The single-day U.S. death toll on Saturday was the highest since right before Christmas when airlines started blaming increased COVID-19 infection among crew members for staffing shortages.

Chicago was the most dangerous place for travelers in the United States during the weekend due to a winter storm that struck the Midwest. The region's airports were still recovering Sunday morning after the storm. Around 25% of O'Hare Airport flights were cancelled Sunday.

American Airlines stated that most Sunday's cancelled flights were canceled in advance to avoid any disruptions at the airport.

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WASHINGTON -- The omicron variant is exploding across the United States. Federal health officials are considering adding a negative test to the five-day isolation restrictions that would be in place for coronavirus-infected Americans, according to the White House's top medical advisor.

Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now considered including the negative test in its guidance following significant backlash to its revised recommendations last week.

The Dec. 27 guidance reduced isolation restrictions for COVID-19-infected people from 10 to 5 days, if they no longer feel symptoms or run a fever. They are then asked to wear a mask for five days if they are around others.

Many health professionals have criticized the guidelines for not requiring a negative antigen test to be able to leave isolation.

Fauci stated that there has been some concern over why people are not asked to be tested within the five-day time frame. "Reviewing it again, there may have been an option in that. That testing could be part of that. The CDC will likely share more information about this in the coming days.

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JERUSALEM -- The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has announced that authorities will expand the country's second booster program to include people over 60 to help with the omicron variant.

Last week, Israel approved the booster for a small number of people with underlying diseases.

Bennett spoke on national television Sunday, stating that the "new layer of protection" will be provided by giving older Israelis a fourth booster shot.

Bennett had warned Israel that it will soon be seeing tens to thousands of cases per day as the variant spreads. Bennett spoke at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem. Bennett said that despite having given more than 4.2million coronavirus booster shots since July to the country's 9.3 million inhabitants, "the storm is coming at us these very moments."

Each day, Israel has reported approximately 700 cases to the over 4,000 on Sunday.

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PARIS -- In spite of a rise in coronvirus infections across France, Olivier Veran, the Health Minister, spoke up on Sunday to say that the "fifth wave" of COVID-19 was perhaps the last in what has been a worldwide pandemic.

The Macron government insists on getting as many people vaccinated and boosted as possible to stop fast-spreading omicron variant. He added that it's the only way to avoid any new lockdowns or damage to the country’s economic recovery, and to relieve the strain on already overburdened hospital systems.

France has vaccinated 77% its population. It is now rushing to get booster shots against omicron. More than 4 million adults are still unvaccinated, with more than 1,000,000 people over 65.

They fear that the government will rush to issue vaccine passes, which will severely restrict public life.

Veran stated that anyone who is not vaccinated will be "watched, and punished" for contracting the virus. They will be required to isolate themselves for 10 days, and seven days for those who were in direct contact with infected persons. The quarantine period for infected residents has been reduced from seven to five days, and to five if they have a negative test. Veran stated that those who have been vaccinated or come in contact with infected persons will no longer need to be quarantined.

On Sunday, authorities registered 58.432 new cases, which is a far lower number than the previous four days, when infection rates soared to over 200,000.

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PARIS -- Lionel Messi, the soccer great, is at home in Argentina.

Messi was one of four Paris Saint-Germain players who tested positive for coronavirus before the team's French Cup match at Vannes on Monday night. The team returns to action from the winter break.

Mauricio pochettino, coach at PSG, is unsure when the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner can return to France or if Messi will be able recover in time to play away in Lyon next Sunday in the French league.

Pochettino claims that Messi tested positive in Argentina and, until he is negative, he will not be able travel to France. We will see what happens when he returns."

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LONDON -- In the wake of the record-breaking rise in coronavirus infection rates in the UK, the U.K. government has prepared contingency plans for schools, hospitals and other places where staff shortages could occur.

The Cabinet Office stated that public sector employers have been prepared for staff absences of between 10% and 25% because COVID-19 sickens or isolates more people.

Britain's highly transmissible Omicron variant has seen its daily caseload soar over Christmas, the New Year and beyond. The daily highest daily number of cases was 189,000 Dec. 31. The Office of National Statistics estimates that COVID-19 was present in approximately 1 in 25 English citizens, or 2 million people. This figure is based on data from the Office of National Statistics. London had 1 in 15.

Stephen Barclay, Cabinet Office Minister, stated that there have been "significant" absences already and that the government was prepared for "every eventuality". He also cited increased support for virus tests in schools and warehouses as well as better ventilation to illustrate how disruptions can be prevented.

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LONDON -- Students in secondary schools across England will have to wear masks to return to school after the Christmas holidays.

Nadhim Zahawi, Education Secretary, stated Sunday that the move was made to minimize disruption in schools. The highly transmissible Omicron variant has driven coronavirus infections to record levels in the U.K.

Schools in Scotland and Wales already have similar guidance regarding masks for students aged 11 and over.

After two weeks of being off, teachers and students will return to class on Tuesday. This is after a period in which Britain's daily caseload grew to 189,000 by Dec. 31.

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SOFIA (Bulgaria) -- The first cases of highly transmissible Omicron variant have been identified by the Bulgarian health authorities.

Angel Kunchev, the country's chief inspector of health, said that the variant was found in 12 people. He said that the new variant could spread quicker and quickly become dominant.

Kunchev stated that all but one of these cases are from Sofia. All of them have mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. Seven people had not been vaccinated while five others were fully vaccinated.

Bulgaria is the member of the 27-member European Union with the lowest level of vaccination. Only one-third have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Balkan country with 7 million inhabitants has reported 748,184 cases. This includes 30,983 deaths. On Sunday, 1,076 new coronavirus cases were confirmed and 28 deaths were reported by authorities.

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