Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 916 COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths; 550 vaccinated frontline health care workers invited to attend Game 7 of the Leafs-Canadiens series

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

10 a.m. Ontario reporting 916 COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths. The seven-day average is down to 1,078 cases per day or 52 weekly per 100,000, and up to 19.3 deaths per day. Labs are reporting 18,226 completed tests with 4.3 per cent positivity.

9:25 a.m. (updated) Ontario has given the green light for 550 fully vaccinated health-care workers to attend tonight’s Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the visiting Montreal Canadiens in their North Division playoff series.

Premier Doug Ford’s office says the frontline workers received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine more than two weeks ago and will go through screening and other precautionary measures.

The province says the crowd will be “well below” capacity for 19,800-seat Scotiabank Arena.

Some 2,500 people were in the stands in Montreal when the two teams last clashed on Saturday. That was the first crowd for a game in Canada this year.

Toronto has lost six post-season series in a row since beating the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the NHL playoffs in 2004. The underdog Habs have won two consecutive overtime games to set the stage for Game 7.

8:40 a.m. The leaders of New Zealand and Australia downplayed their differences over China and urged more investigation into the origin of the coronavirus Monday after their first face-to-face meeting in more than a year.

The two leaders also indicated an Australian-born mass murderer would remain imprisoned in New Zealand.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, in the tourist resort of Queenstown. Morrison was the first major world leader to visit New Zealand since both countries closed their borders last year to keep out the virus.

Australia has taken a hard stance against China in recent years and the relationship between the nations has deteriorated. New Zealand has opted for a more diplomatic approach at times, which some say is too soft.

But Morrison said he and Ardern had similar philosophies.

“Australia and New Zealand are trading nations,” Morrison said. “But neither of us would ever trade our sovereignty or trade our values. We have stood side-by-side to defend and protect and promote these values. Not just on the beaches of Gallipoli but in Afghanistan and so many other places around the world.”

Ardern said New Zealand maintained a strong and principled stance toward China on human rights and trade, and its positions were very similar to Australia’s.

She said New Zealand remains a committed member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance with Australia, the U.S., Britain and Canada.

“That is not in question, not in doubt,” she said.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the two leaders had made “irresponsible remarks” about China’s internal affairs concerning Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.

8:24 a.m. Hamilton’s COVID-19 cases continued to drop over the weekend even as the city reported more deaths and cases of new variants.

Two deaths were reported on Sunday, one of a person in their 60s and another in their 40s. The city now has 386 deaths. The death of a person in their 60s was reported on Saturday.

Last week, public health reported two deaths of people under 60. To date, two residents in their 30s have died, three in their 40s and eight in their 50s. Forty-six people in their 60s have died. The majority of deaths occurred in residents 80 years and older, at 252.

Public health reported 56 new cases on Sunday, down from the 71 on Saturday. The seven-day average of daily new cases dropped to 61 from 67. The number of active cases decreased to 601 from 637. There were 560 active cases on Sunday, the lowest reported since March 17 when there were 527.

A new subtype of the B.1.617 variant — first detected in India — was found in Hamilton. One case of the B.1.617.1 subtype was reported a day after two cases of B.1.617.2 were found in the city. There are now four cases of B.1.617 overall in Hamilton.

Two cases of yet another variant were also reported, only listed as “other.”

8:15 a.m. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has upgraded its outlook for Canadian economic growth for this year.

The Paris-based think tank says it now expects the Canadian economy to grow by 6.1 per cent this year. The prediction is up from an estimate for growth of 4.7 per cent that the OECD made in March.

It says the rebound will be thanks to reduced COVID-19 restrictions in the second half of the year and external demand.

The OECD says growth in Canada for 2022 is forecasted at 3.8 per cent compared with a March estimate of four per cent.

The improved outlook for Canada came as the OECD forecast global output would rise 5.8 per cent this year, up from its forecast of 4.8 per cent in December.

Statistics Canada is expected to release Canadian gross domestic product figures for the first quarter on Tuesday.

8:10 a.m. Asking when Toronto housing prices will drop is like asking when the Blue Jays will win a World Series: Likely not anytime soon and impossible to predict.

That’s why Ed Rempel, a GTA-based fee-for-service financial adviser and personal finance blogger, says you shouldn’t sell your home to cash in on the boom with the intention of renting until you can buy a discounted new home after prices fall to earth.

“There’s really not much reason for prices to come down in the near future. Prices are always high in Toronto,” Rempel says.

Many market watchers say the housing bubble could pop at any moment — but many of those same pundits were saying the same thing a year ago, and they were wrong. The price of a detached home has risen by over 40 per cent since this time last year. By selling a home today, owners could lose out on another year of appreciating value.

Read the full story from the Star’s Jacob Lorinc

8 a.m. British health authorities are aiming to vaccinate 15,000 people in one day at London’s Twickenham rugby stadium as part of a race to contain a fast-spreading coronavirus variant.

The strain, first identified in India, accounts for a majority of new cases in the U.K., which is seeing a rise in infections after weeks of decline. Scientists say the variant is more transmissible than even the previously dominant strain first found in the U.K. but current vaccines are effective against it.

Many scientists are urging the Conservative government to delay plans to lift social distancing and other restrictions on June 21, arguing that more people need to be vaccinated before measures can be eased safely. The government will announce its decision on June 14.

Three-quarters of U.K. adults have had one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and almost half have had both doses.

The Twickenham walk-in vaccination center is offering jabs without an appointment on Monday to people from northwest London, a hotspot for the Indian-identified variant.

Health officials in the northwest England town of Bolton, which had the highest rates of the new variant, say infections are starting to fall after a mass testing and “surge vaccination” campaign.

7:50 a.m. The Ontario government will not allow fans inside Scotiabank Arena Monday for the Game 7 showdown between the Leafs and the Habs — despite calls for the province to follow Quebec’s lead and let a limited number of spectators through the doors.

Ontario’s Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries confirmed Sunday that “no spectators are allowed to attend games in-person” — hours after Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown issued a call to allow 2,500 fully vaccinated health-care and essential workers to attend Monday’s big game.

“They have sacrificed so much during the pandemic and it would be great to recognize their heroic efforts,” Brown wrote in a letter addressed to outgoing chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams.

Read the full story from the Star’s Wendy Gillis

7:35 a.m. Citing UEFA concerns about local COVID-19 rules in Scotland Croatia’s soccer federation said Monday it canceled plans to stay in St Andrews during the European Championship.

The Croatian delegation had booked to stay and train in the east-coast town that’s the traditional home of golf to prepare for two Euro 2020 group-stage games in Glasgow and one in London.

Citing “a recommendation from UEFA to change the location of its team base camp, due to the potential impact of the Scottish COVID-19 regulations on the national team’s daily routines,” the federation said it will now stay at home in Croatia.

Officials were “unwilling to risk the possibility of positive PCR results causing a large part of the team and team staff to be issued mandatory self-isolation orders,” the federation said.

UEFA has allowed teams to name 26-man squads instead of 23 to protect against disruption from infections before games.

Croatia begins its Group D program on June 13 against England at Wembley Stadium. The team then has games at Hampden Park — on June 18 against the Czech Republic and June 22 against host Scotland.

7:30 a.m. As wealthier countries like Canada begin to vaccinate kids and low-risk populations, health workers and other vulnerable groups in poorer countries remain unprotected, suffering disproportionately from a pandemic with no end in sight.

The widening global vaccine gap is a “scandalous inequity” that is prolonging the pandemic for everyone, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told delegates from 194 member states at the annual assembly Monday.

“There is no diplomatic way to say it: a small group of countries that make and buy the majority of the world’s vaccines control the fate of the rest of the world,” he said. More than three-quarters of the world’s vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries.

Read the full story from the Star’s Lex Harvey

7:12 a.m. This morning at 8 a.m., Toronto is adding 10,000 new appointments across the city-run immunization clinics at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto Congress Centre, Scarborough Town Centre and Cloverdale Mall for individuals age 80 and older to book accelerated second dose appointments.

As of Sunday evening, approximately 740,748 people have booked COVID-19 vaccination appointments at a city-run clinic.

To date, 2,161,925 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto.

Everyone age 12 years or older is encouraged to book an appointment by clicking the blue “Book a Vaccine” button at http://www.toronto.ca/covid-19 or through phone by calling the provincial vaccine booking line at 1-833-943-3900.

6 a.m. Ontario’s government is set to table a motion Monday that would replace the province’s top public health doctor.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province is moving to replace Dr. David Williams with Dr. Kieran Moore.

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Moore currently serves as the top doctor at the Kingston-area public health unit, and is expected to take over as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health on June 26.

Williams had been slated to retire in September, but his last day has been pushed up by several months.

Elliott says Moore will start working with Williams on June 7 to ensure a smooth transition.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of the move, but who are not authorized to speak publicly, Dr. Kieran Moore, the much-respected medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, will replace Dr. Williams. Read more on Dr. Moore from the Star’s Bruce Arthur.

5:45 a.m.: The virus is on the decline but remains invisible and dangerous.

Of the 526,000 people in Ontario who contracted the virus, my old friend is one of the 26,000 who required hospitalization. I am one of the lucky 14 million who has not caught COVID-19.

No matter. We were both thankful to get our AstraZeneca booster shots on Thursday.

In two weeks, fully vaccinated, my friend, myself and thousands of others in the same boat will enjoy stronger protection against COVID-19 and help propel the province to the economic reopening everyone craves.

Read more from the Star’s Rob Ferguson, who is grateful that he received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine — twice.

5:25 a.m.: Canada is set to receive 2.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses this week thanks in large part to an increase in planned deliveries from Pfizer and BioNTech.

The two pharmaceutical companies had been delivering about 2 million shots per week through the month of May, but will increase that to 2.4 million doses per week starting on Monday.

The federal government says the other 500,000 shots due to arrive this week will come from Moderna, which will deliver the jabs in two separate shipments.

The first will arrive in the middle of the week while the second is due for delivery next weekend, with the doses set for distribution to provinces and territories next week.

The government is also expecting another 1 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of June, though a detailed delivery schedule has not been confirmed.

The fate of more than 300,000 shots from Johnson and Johnson that were first delivered in April remains unclear as Health Canada continues reviewing their safety following concerns about possible tainting at a Baltimore production facility.

The arrival of more Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots comes after Health Canada’s Saturday decision to extend the expiry date of tens of thousands of AstraZeneca doses by one month. Many Canadians had been scrambling to get a second shot before the original best-by date of May 31.

The department stressed in a statement that the move was supported by ample scientific evidence.

Ontario resumed the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for second doses this past week, citing evidence that the likelihood of developing the condition is even lower after the follow-up shot than it is after the first injection.

5:20 a.m.: Several Quebec regions are being downgraded from the highest pandemic alert level today, allowing restrictions to ease.

Premier François Legault announced last week that the COVID-19 situation had improved enough to allow eight different regions to move fully or partially from the red to the orange alert level.

Five regions, including Quebec City, will move completely to the orange level, which will allow gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen.

5:15 a.m. Vietnam plans to test all 9 million people in its largest city for the coronavirus and imposed more restrictions Monday to deal with a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

People in Ho Chi Minh city are only allowed to leave home for necessary activities and public gatherings of more than 10 people are banned for the next two weeks, the government announced. Prior to the order, the city, also Vietnam’s economic hub, shut down non-essential business last Thursday when cases started to increase.

State newspaper Vietnam News said the city authority is planning to test its entire population with a testing capacity of 100,000 samples a day.

Read more from The Associated Press.

5 a.m. Authorities say a COVID-19 cluster in Australia’s second-largest city has spread into to nursing homes.

Victoria state began a seven-day lockdown on Friday due to a cluster in its capital Melbourne.

State health authorities on Monday announced 11 new cases.

A second staff member and a 90-year-old resident of the Arcare Maidstone Aged Care facility in Melbourne were among the new infections. The first infected staff member was reported on Sunday.

4:45 a.m.: Thailand reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Monday as the governor of Bangkok announced an easing of some restrictions in effect for more than a month — including people visiting parks for exercise.

Thailand has been fighting to deal with a virus surge that began in early April in a group of nightclubs in Bangkok and has since spread around the country.

The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration reported a record 5,485 new cases, of which 1,953 were in prisons. Confirmed deaths increased by 19 to bring the total to 1,031 since the pandemic began last year.

The total number of confirmed cases has now risen to 159,792, of which 82% occurred during the latest surge. Many of the cases are concentrated in prisons, housing for construction workers, factories, slums and low-income housing areas. Officials have in some cases been criticized for allowing companies to isolate and quarantine workers inside factories.

Thailand had been considered a success story last year for largely containing the virus, though at great economic cost, especially to its tourism sector, because foreign visitors were largely banned from entering the country.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday May 31, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 315,187 new vaccinations administered for a total of 23,471,446 doses given. Nationwide, 2,012,849 people or 5.3 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 61,931.118 per 100,000. There were no new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 26,018,414 doses delivered so far.

The provinces and territories have used 90.21 per cent of their available vaccine supply.Please note that Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis

4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday May 31, 2021.

There are 1,378,971 confirmed cases in Canada.

Canada: 1,378,971 confirmed cases (35,935 active, 1,317,524 resolved, 25,512 deaths). The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 2,238 new cases Sunday. The rate of active cases is 94.55 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 19,112 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,730.

There were 34 new reported deaths Sunday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 281 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 40. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 67.13 per 100,000 people.

There have been 34,717,353 tests completed.