As concerns about internationally identified COVID-19 variants hit closer to home, public health authorities are asking — and increasingly, ordering — people to isolate safely, away from others in their household.
Here are some examples of how hotels and quarantine facilities are being used to keep the virus from spreading through communities.
TRAVELLERS WAITING FOR TEST RESULTS
As the federal government rolls out new restrictions to prevent contagious mutations of the COVID-19 virus from crossing the border, more travellers are set to be sent to hotels and other facilities to serve at least part of their mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Under the new rules, which are expected to take effect soon, returning travellers will have to take a COVID-19 test at the airport at their own expense. They’re then required to spend the first three days of their quarantine at a supervised hotel while awaiting their results, and foot the bill for their stay, expected to cost upwards of $2,000.
Those with negative results can serve the remainder of their two-week quarantine at home, while those with positive tests will be sent to government designated facilities.
On Monday, the federal government outlined some of the application requirements for privately owned hotels looking to be part of the three-night stay program.
The hotels must be within 10 kilometres of one of the four international airports currently accepting flights from abroad in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
Hotels will be responsible for providing three nights of lodging in keeping with public health requirements. That includes safely shuttling guests to their accommodations; offering contactless meal delivery to rooms; access to phones and internet; and reporting traveller information to authorities, such as check-in and check-out.
Safety protocols include measures to monitor movement within the hotel and ensure compliance with isolation requirements. Travellers must be sequestered from regular clients, and the hotel must have process to allow “essential and short outside time,” such as smoke breaks.
FEDERALLY DESIGNATED FACILITIES FOR TRAVELLERS IN QUARANTINE
Since the outbreak took hold in Canada, Ottawa has been putting up travellers in hotels and other lodging sites as a “last resort” for those without a suitable place to self-isolate, said a spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Tammy Jarbeau said in an email that the agency currently operates 11 designated quarantine facilities in nine cities across Canada, with access to two provincially run sites.
These sites had lodged 5,030 travellers, as of Jan. 24, said Jarbeau. She said the cost of the program wasn’t readily available.
As of last Thursday, all international passenger flights must land at one of four airports — Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary or Montreal. Jarbeau said the government designates or cancels quarantine sites as needed, but declined to disclose their locations to “protect the privacy and safety of travellers.”
ISOLATION SITES FOR NORTHERN TRAVELLERS
Two of the northern territories have long required travellers to make a public-health pit stop before entry.
To fly back to Nunavut, residents must first spend two weeks at health isolation sites in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife before they can be cleared to return to their home community. The territory covers costs such as a hotel room, meals and internet access, but travellers are responsible for any additional flight expenses.
Travellers headed to Northwest Territories must self-isolate in one of four communities: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith. Those who don’t have a place to quarantine are sent to isolation centres.
Last month, the territory said it would no longer pay to put up residents travelling for recreational reasons. Non-residents still have to cover their own accommodations.
VOLUNTARY ISOLATION SITES
A growing number of jurisdictions are setting up voluntary COVID-19 isolation sites to help people recover from the virus without putting other members of their household at risk.
Public health officials say many Canadians can’t safely self-isolate at home because of crowded housing conditions, contributing to the disproportionate spread of infections in low-income neighbourhoods.
The centres offer people a free, safe place to self-isolate as well as other services such as meals, security, transportation, income support and links to health care.
The federal government has committed roughly $29 million to support municipally run isolation sites in Toronto, Ottawa and the regions of Peel and Waterloo. The Ontario government is also spending $42 million to create and expand centres in locations across the province, adding up to1,525 more beds in coming weeks.
Joe Cressy, chair of the Toronto Board of Health, said people may be referred to the city’s self-isolation sites by COVID-19 case managers and community outreach workers, but individuals can access the facilities on their own accord.
Cressy said the city also runs a COVID-19 isolation site out of a hotel where people who are experiencing homelessness can stay while they’re sick. He noted that this recovery program is distinct from the hotels that are being used as temporary homeless shelters to support physical distancing.
ISOLATION HOTEL INCENTIVES
In Alberta, people who need to self-isolate because of COVID-19 concerns can not only stay in a hotel room free of charge, but may qualify for a $625 relief payment upon check-out.
Earlier this week, the province expanded a temporary financial aid program intended to incentivize Albertans to self-isolate in a hotel if they can’t safely do so at home.
Since December, residents of hard-hit neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Calgary have been eligible for a $625 government payment at the end of their stay.
Now, the aid is open to all Albertans who have been referred by a provincial health authority.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2021.
Canada to take COVAX vaccines, won't share doses until every Canadian is inoculated: Anand – CBC.ca
Canada will take its share of vaccine doses from the internationally funded COVAX initiative and will not give any doses to other countries until all Canadians are vaccinated, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
“We are going to make sure that all Canadians have access to vaccines. That’s our priority, that’s the role of the federal government,” Anand told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics Friday.
“We will then make sure that we are sharing vaccines with the rest of the world and I will say that motivates us every day.”
COVAX is a global vaccine-sharing initiative jointly coordinated by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.
The program pools funds from wealthier countries to buy vaccines for those countries and ensure low- and middle-income countries have access to vaccines as well.
Canada will receive 1.9 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the program by the end of June.
The federal government bought into COVAX with $440 million in September and committed an additional $75 million last month.
Half of the original $440 million secured doses for Canadians, and the other half is directed toward providing doses for 92 countries that need help securing vaccines.
“We are entitled under our agreement with COVAX to draw down on that commitment that we made with them back in the summer,” she told guest host Catherine Cullen. “We are committed to the COVAX facility … and we are one of the largest contributors to that facility and will continue to support it.”
‘We have enough doses,’ says former UN envoy
Canada has been criticized for saying it will take vaccine doses from COVAX, despite having signed supply contracts that would ensure each Canadian could be vaccinated ten times over.
Last month, Canada’s former ambassador to the UN added his voice to those questioning Canada’s decision to accept COVID-19 vaccines from the global vaccine sharing initiative.
Watch: Procurement minister says Canada will still use its share of COVAX vaccines:
“We don’t need it. We will have enough doses to do the job and we’re getting them online very quickly,” Stephen Lewis told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics
Green Party leader Annamie Paul has also criticized the move.
“Canada is part of a global family, and Canadians know that caring for our neighbours extends beyond our borders. Canadians want to be responsible members of the international community, and the government should refuse to take any doses from the COVAX facility. It’s not smart, but most importantly, it’s not right,” she said in a statement published on her party’s website last month.
September schedule remains
Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said vaccine manufacturer Pfizer has agreed to move up the delivery of 3.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine — originally scheduled to arrive in the summer — to the next three months.
The company will deliver an additional 1.5 million doses in March, one million more doses in April and another million in May, Trudeau said, bringing the total number of doses of all approved vaccines expected to arrive by the end of this month to 8 million.
Anand said that even with Canada now in a position to receive two million more doses than it had planned for by the end of the first quarter of the year, she’s not prepared to move up the September deadline to deliver vaccines to all Canadians who want them.
She said that global supply chains remain volatile and until the federal government can be completely sure vaccine deliveries will arrive on schedule, the government will stick with its initial deadline.
“We’ve seen manufacturers make decisions about retooling their plants and indeed, that’s an important thing to remember — these global supply chains are still volatile and we are protecting our vaccine supply chain every step of the way,” she said.
Canada spent $24M on COVID-19 vaccines received in January: StatCan – CTV News
Canada spent $24 million on the hundreds of thousands of vaccines the country received in January, according to newly released estimates of trade data from Statistics Canada.
StatCan did not provide a per-dose figure or breakdown costs between Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech shots in their Friday release. Health Canada told CTV News that Canada received 695,275 doses from both Moderna and Pfizer in January. On a per-dose basis that would mean the Canadian government would have paid roughly $34.51 per dose.
The StatCan review of vaccine shipments is a rare look into the cost of the immunization effort. Despite calls from opposition parties, the government has not released any details from the seven vaccine contracts Ottawa has signed with suppliers. On November 5, Procurement Minister Anita Anand told the House of Commons Health Committee that “the confidentiality provisions which prevent me from providing specifics relating to price” but the government has paid “fair value for vaccines.”
In the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, the government said they “had invested more than $1 billion in vaccine agreements to secure a domestic supply of seven promising vaccine candidates,” but have provided no other specifics on the file.
Previous analysis from StatCan stated the federal government spent $16 million in December to receive their first shipments 423,900 doses of both Pfizer and Moderna, costing an average of 37.74 per dose.
While not official numbers, Canada seems to have paid more per dose compared to other countries that received early shipments.
In July, BNN Bloomberg reported that the U.S. government paid just over $24.50 per dose of the Pfizer vaccine and Reuters has reported the U.S. has paid $19.27 per dose for the Moderna one.
While the European Union attempted to follow Canada’s lead and not publicly share information related to vaccine contracts, Belgium’s budget state secretary Eva De Bleeker posted then quickly deleted the confidential price list on Twitter. The list, published in The Guardian, shows the EU paid $18.32 per dose for Pfizer and $27.48 per dose for Moderna.
India's top diplomat touts improved relations with Canada, open to sending more vaccines – CTV News
India’s top diplomat to Canada says relations between the two countries are in a “much better space” and that improvement could open the door to more AstraZeneca vaccines, should Canada request them.
Speaking to CTV News, India’s High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria said that the two countries are on better footing following a February phone call between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During the call Trudeau asked India for help boosting Canada’s vaccine supply, and it was a conversation that Bisaria described as “very warm” and “very friendly.”
“We have had some difficult and candid conversations but this is what strategic partners should be doing,” Bisaria said. “We believe there is a much greater understanding in Canada now across the political spectrum on India’s handling of the farm’s protest in which a great deal of disinformation had been spread earlier.”
For months, farmers in India have been living in tents on the outskirts of Delhi, protesting new laws passed in September by the Modi government to deregulate wholesale trading. The farmers say the new laws will devastate their livelihoods and allow big companies to drive down prices. The government, however, insist the reforms are long overdue and will modernize the agriculture industry by giving farmers greater freedom over who they can sell their products to and for what price.
In December, Trudeau said he was “concerned” about the treatment of farmers and that Canada would always support the right of farmers to protest peacefully. His statement prompted a sharp rebuke from India’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, which called out Canada’s “interference,” threatened that continued actions by Canada would have a “seriously damaging impact on ties” and even summoned Canada’s High Commissioner to India.
The High Commissioner’s comments come a day after 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from India’s Serum Institute – the largest drug manufacturer in the world – arrived in Toronto. In total, India is scheduled to deliver two million doses to Canada by the end of May.
The Prime Minister’s Office would not discuss exactly what the prime minister said during his February phone call with Modi, or whether he softened his stance with India in order to help secure doses of that country’s locally-made AstraZeneca vaccine. Instead, the PMO referred to a public readout provided after the bilateral call which only mentions “recent protests, and the importance of resolving issues through dialogue” as topics of discussions.
Asked about the status of Canada-India relations today and why India provided Canada with AstraZeneca vaccines, Bisaria suggested the deal was an attempt to start smoothing over relations that have been strained at times over the last few years, including as a result of Trudeau’s troubled 2018 India trip.
“India has the capacity and the ability to provide more vaccines,” Bisaria said. “Certainly the vaccine diplomacy, as you called it, and vaccine sharing is a part of India’s approach.”
While no discussions are currently ongoing with Canada for more doses, India’s vaccine diplomacy has led to tens of millions of doses being shipped to countries from Cambodia to Afghanistan and Nepal. Experts say that like China, India is using the vaccines as a diplomatic tool to find favour or even thaw frosty relationships with other countries.
“India is proud of its position as the pharmacy of the world and now as a major vaccine maker in the world,” Bisaria said, adding the country is “very aware of its and conscious of its global responsibility of being part of the global vaccine solutions.”
CTV News has reached out to Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau’s office for comment.
The Prime Minister’s Office refused to provide an official statement.
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