Today’s coronavirus news: Quebec reports 9,206 cases of COVID; The Pope uses the Christmas address to pray for vaccines to reach the poorest countries; Canadians Assess COVID-19 Danger During Vacation


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

4:55 p.m .: Three members of the global K-pop phenomenon BTS have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Big Hit Music, the group’s management company.

The company said RM, 27, and Jin, 29, tested positive on Saturday after returning from the United States to South Korea this month. The day before, Big Hit Music announced that Suga, 28, who returned from the United States on Thursday, discovered he was infected while in quarantine and after passing a PCR test.

All three received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine in August, the company said. Suga, the stage name of artist Min Yoon-gi, had tested negative before traveling to the United States, the company said. RM (Kim Nam-joon) and Jin (Kim Seok-jin) initially tested negative upon their return to South Korea.

Read the full story here: Two other members of K-pop group BTS tested positive for coronavirus

4:21 p.m .: Three more players entered NBA health and safety protocols on Saturday, making the Raptors the most COVID-19 ravaged team in the league.

Isaac Bonga, Khem Birch and Justin Champagnie have been added to our group for COVID-related reasons, which includes Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Malachi Flynn and Scottie Barnes.

That’s 10 players in the protocols – an astonishing 62.5% of a 16-player list of fully vaccinated players.

Read the full story here: Raptors up to 10 on NBA’s longest COVID-19 list

4:00 p.m .: Quebec is reporting 9,206 new cases of COVID-19 and four other deaths.

The province’s open data portal says Christmas Day saw 825 fewer cases than Friday.

Quebec has reported 530,002 positive cases since the start of the pandemic.

There have been a total of 11,664 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Officials have said in recent days that daily numbers are likely underestimated as testing centers across the province are overwhelmed and unable to meet demand.

Details on COVID-19-related hospitalizations and vaccinations will be released next week, as the provincial government has said it will not share daily numbers during the holidays.

12:25 p.m .: Christmas Day for many Canadians this year means fewer people gathered around a glittering tree to tear up presents, but others say COVID-19 hasn’t changed their holiday plans.

12:10 p.m .: Christmas arrived around the world on Saturday amid an outbreak of COVID-19 infections that separated many families, overwhelmed hospitals and curbed religious observances as the pandemic was set to spread into a third year.

Yet there have been homilies of hope, as vaccines and other treatments become more available.

Pope Francis used his Christmas address to pray that some of these vaccines reach poorer countries. While rich countries have vaccinated up to 90 percent of their adult population, 8.9 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated, making it the least vaccinated continent in the world.

10:30 am: The daily count of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario will not be available today due to the Christmas holidays, but will resume on Sunday.

8:46 am: Goodbye eggnog, shrimp cocktail and pet-shaped sugar cookies.

It has been a less cheerful holiday scene at the White House this year under the shadow of COVID-19. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have replaced the crowded parties and overflowing buffets of the past with open houses without food, face masks and testing for the unvaccinated.

Beyond the impact on Biden’s first Christmas in power, the virus and its variants have largely put kibosh on the entire White House social scene for 2021, starting with an inauguration that positioned flags instead of people on the National Mall.

“I think it was very hard for them,” said Philip Dufour, who was vice president Al Gore’s social secretary. He noted that many events did not take place as the President and the First Lady made others on Zoom.

Major social events removed from the calendar included the White House Ball for the country’s governors and the Easter Egg Roll, the second year in a row that the spring ritual has been canceled.

The Democratic president has yet to toast a foreign counterpart at a lavish state dinner at the White House because he has yet to invite a world leader for a state visit. In fact, months passed before Biden could welcome a foreign leader into the Oval Office for even more low-key discussions.

Still, the White House has been successful in hosting some events despite the pandemic, such as bill signing and Medal of Honor ceremonies. The Bidens have also hosted large receptions for Hanukkah and for artists recognized by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

But the pandemic’s biggest blow to the calendar came over Christmas, forcing the White House to overhaul its holiday entertainment – and cut the guest list.

8:45 am: Christmas Day for many Canadians this year means fewer people gathered around a glittering tree to tear up presents, but others say COVID-19 hasn’t changed their holiday plans.

Several provinces have reported a record number of daily infections, and health officials have urged people to reduce gatherings.

They say the fast-spreading Omicron variant drives the peak.

Quebec reported a record high of just over 10,000 cases on Christmas Eve, and Ontario beat its highest number with nearly 9,571.

British Columbia announced a new high of 2,144 infections and Manitoba broke its record with 742.

Nunavut, with eight infections in several communities, has ordered a complete lockdown of the territory.

8:45 am: Airlines have cut more than 1,600 U.S. flights for one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, stranding passengers over the Christmas holidays, as spike in COVID infections has led to a shortage crippling crew.

The global count of abandoned flights has exceeded 5,400 trips Friday through Sunday, according to data tracker China Eastern recorded the most cancellations and the worst-affected airport was in the Chinese city of Xi’an, where the Beijing government cracked down on its COVID Zero policy after an outbreak.

Delta Air Lines Inc.’s 479 cancellations for the holiday weekend dominated the U.S. industry, according to data from FlightAware, closely followed by United Airlines Holdings Inc., with 474 flights removed from its vacation routes. JetBlue Airways Corp. cut 50 flights on Friday, or 7% of its schedule, and plans at least 120 cancellations on Saturday, according to FlightAware.

For Christmas Day in particular, some 820 US flights have been canceled so far.

Travel growls have highlighted the reach of the omicron COVID variant that is pushing the number of cases in the United States up, increasing nearly six times in just one week to become the dominant national strain. United said in an email Thursday that a jump into the omicron is limiting the availability of flight crews and ground personnel. Delta attributed its disruption to a mix of reasons, including COVID.

8:45 am: Australia’s two most populous states have reported an increase in COVID-19 infections, with New South Wales recording the most new cases in a 24-hour period since the start of the pandemic.

8:45 am: Hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines, Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, celebrated Christmas on Saturday without shelter, food, water, electricity and adequate cell phones after a powerful typhoon killed at least 375 people during the week last and devastated most of the central island provinces.

Elsewhere, New Zealanders are celebrating Christmas in the heat of midsummer with few restrictions, in one of the few countries in the world largely untouched by the omicron variant of COVID-19.

Australia marks the holiday amid a wave of COVID-19 cases, worse than at any stage of the pandemic, which has forced states to reinstate mask warrants and other measures.

And adding even more pain to travelers, airlines around the world have canceled hundreds of flights as the omicron variant scrambled schedules and downsized.

According to FlightAware, there are more than 3,900 canceled flights on Friday and Saturday, with nearly half of the cancellations by Chinese airlines. About 30% of the affected flights – over 1,100 – were to, from or within the United States. This is still a small fraction of global flights. FlightAware says it has tracked more than 100,000 arrivals in the past 24 hours.

8: 45: 45: Pope Francis prayed on Saturday for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, using his Christmas Day address to urge health care for all, vaccines for the poor and for dialogue to prevail in resolving conflicts in the world.

Amid a record spike in COVID-19 cases in Italy this week, only a few thousand people flocked to a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square for Francis’ annual “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the city and to the world ) Christmas address. Normally, the square would be filled with tens of thousands of holiday supporters.

At least they could get together this year. The holiday lockdown in Italy in 2020 forced Francis to deliver a televised address from inside the Apostolic Palace to prevent crowds from forming in the plaza. Although Italy this week counted more than 50,000 cases in a single day for the first time, the government has not ordered another lockdown.

The pope’s speech on Christmas Day gives him the opportunity to draw the attention of a global audience to conflicts large and small. This year was no different. François deplored the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, the new tensions in Ukraine and Ethiopia and an “unprecedented crisis” in Lebanon.

“We have become so used to them (to conflicts) that immense tragedies have now been overlooked; we risk not hearing the cry of pain and distress from so many of our brothers and sisters, ”he said from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica as the Swiss guards stood at attention on the square below.

Francois warned of the pandemic tendency to withdraw and isolate himself, instead urging dialogue to try to resolve global conflicts. He especially prayed for those most affected by the virus, including women and children who have suffered increased abuse during the closures.