Air passengers entering Canada will soon need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in the country, the federal government announced today.
Under the new protocol, travellers must receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within a 72-hour period prior to boarding a plane. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he expects the new rule will be in force within a week.
The measure does not replace the federal government’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair warned.
“This is not an alternative to quarantine. It’s an additional layer,” Blair said during a public health briefing.
He said Ottawa is discussing implementing more testing protocols at land points of entry with a number of provincial health authorities, but added that effort involves “issues of some complexity” the government is still working through.
The federal government hasn’t fully explained how the pre-boarding testing will be administered to incoming travellers, though Transport Minister Marc Garneau — who is in talks with airlines and officials in his department — is expected to share more details Thursday.
WATCH | Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on new COVID-19 measures for air travel:
Lack of information ‘causing panic,’ Conservatives say
Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner criticized the Liberal government over the timing of the announcement and said the lack of policy specifics will lead to anxiety and confusion for Canadians abroad.
“I’m glad to hear that the Trudeau Liberals are finally taking our advice and looking at implementing testing protocols for international travellers returning to Canada,” she said in a media statement.
“However, the lack of details around this announcement is causing panic among Canadians currently abroad. The government has had months to implement a system and today put forward a haphazard announcement that is a response to headlines rather than an actual thoughtful and transparent plan.”
Where can Canadians currently abroad get information on this new requirement? Will the federal government be providing a portal or will this responsibility also be downloaded onto already strapped airlines?
A spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, said the provincial government is pleased the federal government responded to Ford’s “ongoing calls for the federal government to take action at our borders.”
“This is welcome news,” said Ivana Yelich. “We look forward to seeing further progress by the federal government when it comes to getting pre-departure testing in place at Toronto Pearson International Airport.”
In response to Wednesday’s news, the National Airlines Council of Canada said the country’s aviation industry has been calling for a more coordinated testing approach “to avoid a rushed and disjointed rollout” of testing requirements.
“Today’s announcement occurred without prior coordination with industry, and with many major operational and communication details still to be determined,” council president Mike McNaney said in a media statement.
“At a broader level, the announcement only addresses one element of the path forward — the utilization of testing to help further protect public health. We strongly believe it must also be utilized in conjunction with measures to reduce quarantine levels, as is being done in countries all around the world.”
An industry source — who spoke to CBC News on the condition of confidentiality — said the airlines were “totally blindsided by the announcement.”
“Airlines were not consulted,” said the source. “It was clear to them that the government had not studied whether or not PCR tests are even available and what the rules would be around who should be denied boarding.”
Blair underlined that the point of the new requirement is not to shorten quarantine times and said it’s “important not to conflate the two issues.”
Travellers unable to get tested won’t be left behind
In an interview with CBC News, LeBlanc said it will be up to travellers to arrange for PCR tests themselves, given that those embarking on non-essential trips overseas have chosen already to flout public health guidelines.
“The Government of Canada obviously is not in a position to set up in hotels or all-inclusive resorts or Canadian consulates,” he said.
Travellers who are unable to procure tests before their flights home won’t be stranded abroad, LeBlanc said. Immediately upon their return to Canada, he said, those passengers will be required to isolate at federally-approved sites until they obtain negative test results and meet other quarantine commitments.
The minister said it would be “irresponsible” for any Canadian traveller to sidestep the testing requirements.
He added that pre-boarding testing would not affect Alberta’s ongoing pilot project for international travellers, which allows people to leave quarantine if they receive a negative test after returning to Canada.
Border agency boosts airport presence
The additional measure comes as Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips is under fire over news that he had travelled to the Caribbean island of St. Barts for a personal vacation earlier this month. Phillips is on his way back to Canada after Ontario Premier Doug Ford demanded his return.
Quebec Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand has also received criticism for visiting Barbados during the holidays, a trip Arcand now says he regrets.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will also be beefing up its presence at airports across Canada to ensure travellers are adhering to public health guidelines, Blair said.
“Additional border officers will be present at various positions to reinforce compliance messaging,” the minister said, adding that teams already have been sent to customs and baggage areas and inspection lines to speak to travellers about their obligations — and the consequences of failing to follow the rules.
The federal government has advised against non-essential travel outside Canada since the start of the pandemic, though officials noted Wednesday that about two per cent of COVID-19 cases have been brought into the country from overseas.
COVID-19 worsening Canadian students' diets, inactivity, alcohol consumption: study – CTV News
A new Canadian study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased unhealthy behaviour in post-secondary students.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, reported that isolation brought on by the novel coronavirus has led to a “significant worsening of already poor dietary habits, low activity levels, sedentary behaviour, and high alcohol consumption among university students.”
Nutrition professor and lead author of the study, Gordon Zello, said in a press release that the findings could be used to help students maintain healthy behaviours going forward.
“Our findings are important because university students, especially those most vulnerable for poor nutrition and sedentary behaviour, should be targeted for interventions aimed at maintaining and improving physical activity and dietary practices during this pandemic and beyond,” Zello said.
Researchers noted the study is the first to assess “changes in students’ dietary intake, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour” amid COVID-19.
The findings were published Friday in the peer-reviewed medical journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
The study looked at 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were living independently or had roommates, but were responsible for buying and preparing their own meals.
Over the course of the four-month study, the students responded to online questionnaires about their food and drink consumption, physical activity and sedentary behaviour before and during the pandemic.
The study started just as Saskatchewan was imposing COVID-19 restrictions, according to researchers. Zello said this timing ensured that details of students’ eating and activity habits prior to the pandemic and during it were “fresh” in their minds.
“With pre-pandemic research already showing university students to be a vulnerable group for inadequate diet and physical activity, the measures imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to examine further impact on their lives,” Zello said.
The study found that the students consumed less food every day during the pandemic compared to before.
Researchers say the students ate 20 per cent less meat, 44 per cent less dairy, and 45 per cent fewer vegetables as the pandemic continued.
While they drank considerably less caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea, Zello said the students’ alcohol consumption “increased significantly.” He added that these dietary habits could pose serious health implications following the pandemic.
“This dietary inadequacy combined with long hours of sedentary behaviour and decreased physical activity could increase health risks in this unique population during COVID-19 confinement and once the pandemic ends,” Zello explained in the release.
The researchers behind the study noted that “several reasons” may explain the students’ dietary shift.
Zello said that public health measures implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as reduced grocery store hours and restaurant closures, may have limited students’ shopping frequency and the availability of healthy food options.
According to the study, previous research has shown that psychological distress brought on by the coronavirus has been linked to “poor diet quality, particularly increased consumption of alcohol.” With that in mind, the study said that students may be eating less to counteract their lack of exercise and “increased sedentariness.”
Researchers found that only 16 per cent of the students studied were meeting Canadian guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week prior to the pandemic. They say that “further decreased” to 9.6 per cent during COVID-19.
Of those that were meeting Canadian activity guidelines before the pandemic, researchers say 90 per cent became less active.
The number of hours spent in “sedentary behaviour,” sitting or lying down with little energy expenditure, also rose by three hours to approximately 11 hours a day, according to the study.
“There’s no doubt that measures such as the closures of gyms and other recreational facilities by the universities and other private and public establishments within the province resulted in reductions in the level of physical activity,” the study said.
Researchers say another reason for the decrease in physical activity may be that many students were no longer walking to school after universities moved to remote learning formats.
The study noted that 55 per cent of students studied were employed before the pandemic, and only 49 per cent continued to be employed in the following months, adding to the overall decrease in activity.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca
- Pfizer says it will increase vaccine deliveries by mid-February.
- China building isolation hospitals in Hebei province to combat increase in infections.
- Brazilian approval of Sputnik V vaccine delayed by missing data.
- Some health-care workers are still hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.
Canada has reached a grim new milestone in its fight against COVID-19, with the country’s case count surging well past 700,000, ahead of an expected reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Saturday said she understands Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.
She said she has been in touch with the drugmaker and been assured it’s “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible,” Anand said on Twitter. The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.
WATCH | CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin answers questions about strained ICUs and vaccine delays:
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said on Friday that Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by 50 per cent for four weeks.
Pfizer said it hopes the upgrade will allow it to produce two billion doses per year, up from 1.3 billion doses. The company said in an email to CBC News on Saturday that it will increase its vaccine deliveries beginning the week of Feb. 15.
As of Friday night, more than half a million Canadians had received inoculations against the virus that causes COVID-19.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 12 35 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 707,354 cases of COVID-19, with 75,558 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,984.
In British Columbia, the B.C. Hotel Association said implementing an inter-provincial travel ban would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators and urged Premier John Horgan — who sought legal advice on such an action — to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19.
WATCH | British Columbia mulls how to keep visitors out:
Alberta saw 717 new cases and 15 new deaths on Saturday.
Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.
In Regina, police fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.
Manitoba recorded 180 new cases and two additional deaths.
The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.
Ontario reported 3,422 new cases on Sunday, after registering 3,056 new cases the previous day. Locally, there are 1,035 new cases in Toronto on Sunday, 585 in Peel Region, 254 in Windsor-Essex County, 246 in York Region and 186 in Niagara Region, Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.
In east-end Montreal, a group of protesters braved a snowstorm on Saturday to denounce the province’s COVID-19 curfew, which has been in place for a week.
The protest took place in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough and was organized by a group called “No police solution to the health crisis.” Montreal police were present at the protest and asked that everyone present wear masks and respect physical-distancing guidelines.
New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases on Saturday.
Nova Scotia added four new cases on Sunday, after reporting the same number the previous day. Last week, mandatory testing for rotational workers in the province came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.
Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.
Meanwhile, officials confirmed the first positive case in Fort Liard, a hamlet nearly 545 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife.
In Nunavut, a worker at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, located about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, has tested positive, the company said. There have now been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 94.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.
WATCH | WHO chief pleads for breaking of COVID-19 transmission:
Brazil‘s health regulator on Saturday said it’s seeking further data on Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use.
Regulator Anvisa wants assurances on Phase 3 clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine by drugmaker Uniao Quimica.
Moscow has approved Sputnik V for Russian domestic use, though clinical trials there have not yet been completed.
The Brazilian regulator was expected to make a decision on Sunday about authorizing emergency use of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca.
In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that despite the U.K. government’s confidence about its coronavirus vaccination plan, the public needed to stay home as the country’s health service was “on the cusp” of being overwhelmed.
Raab told broadcaster Sky News that the U.K. was a “global leader” in its vaccination rollout, and he was confident that the government’s roadmap would meet targets.
In China, officials reported 109 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.
There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.
China had largely contained the virus that was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.
Policy alignment, predictability to mark Canada-U.S. relationship under Biden, ambassador says – CBC.ca
The shared priorities between this country and its southern neighbour — including the COVID-19 crisis, economic recovery and climate policy — will define the Canada-U.S. relationship under a Biden presidency, Canada’s ambassador to the United States says.
“I think that the Biden administration and our government have an enormous amount of policy alignment,” Kirsten Hillman said in an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.
“And I think also that we are going to find a more predictable government to deal with and a bit more traditional relations in terms of how we deal with them,” she added.
Ahead of president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration — which Hillman will attend in person — Canada’s top diplomat in Washington said tackling the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is a chief concern.
“We are both focusing on … ensuring the safety and health of our citizens, respecting science, respecting experts, being clear and consistent in the advice that we give [and] caring about people around the world in that regard as well,” Hillman told CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton.
Getting Canada and the U.S. “back on track economically … in partnership with each other” is also a priority on the countries’ long list of mutual policies, as is climate change, Hillman said.
Trudeau, Biden have ‘very warm’ relationship
Despite their common goals, the United States that Biden will inherit is still reeling from the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol and accusations that outgoing President Donald Trump incited the attack.
“You can imagine how much [Biden’s] got on his plate with COVID and the economy and now the events of last week and the repercussions that are coming out of that,” Hillman said. “I do think that he’s been pretty clear around some of the aspects of his economic policy that are a little more protectionist than we would want to see.”
Biden’s pandemic recovery plan includes a pledge to “Buy American” — a promise to purchase, produce and develop made-in-America goods.
As for whether the relationship between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the incoming president will mirror that of Trudeau and former president Barack Obama, Hillman said such ties are forged among the myriad ways both countries “interact and work together.”
“But of course, the tone at the top matters. It’s not the only thing that matters, but it does matter. And the prime minister and president-elect Biden have a very warm and good relationship. So that is definitely going to be an asset.”
Fostering connections during last 4 years
A change in administration also doesn’t mean the connections Canada formed over the past four years were all for naught.
“We always work really hard to foster strong relations on the Hill, in particular in the Senate and in the House, because in the system of governance here … it’s a co-equal branch of government that has an awful lot of authority over issues that matter a lot to Canada,” Hillman said.
The ambassador pointed to the renegotiated NAFTA deal as an example of those relationships in action.
“We went across the nation, and it was very healthy for the Canada-U.S. relationship, that activity. It was very healthy for us to remind each other of the degree to which we are integrated, the degree to which we are mutually supportive.”
Hillman said she’s in talks with Biden’s transition team but noted that incoming nominees and appointees to the White House are not engaging directly with foreign governments until a new president is sworn in.
“If we look at the slate of appointees and nominees that are coming [into] the Biden administration, many, many of them are well known to Canada and really good friends of Canada,” she said. “So that is also a strong reason for optimism.”
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