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BC tourism looks to COVID-19 rapid testing to begin recovery – Ashcroft Cache Creek Journal

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For Canada’s airlines and airports, the months-long COVID-19 pandemic has far surpassed 9/11 in its impact on business and employment, and following the lead of European and Asian countries to streamline traveller testing is a key to recovery, tourism and airline executives say.

In a tourism recovery forum organized by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Monday, Vancouver International Airport CEO Tamara Vrooman said a pilot program for rapid testing of arriving international passengers at Calgary Airport was begun two weeks ago, and a program to test arriving passengers is about to be done in Toronto. Testing people days before they fly, screening as they board and testing as they arrive at a destination is the path to carefully winding down the quarantine rules that have put the international travel business on life support, Vrooman and other travel executive said.

The picture is currently grim for Air Canada, senior vice president Ferio Pugliese told the forum, hosted on the Zoom video conferencing platform from Vancouver. Demand is down 92 per cent, 20,000 employees are laid off and 200 aircraft are parked waiting for some easing of travel restrictions as has been seen in Europe and Asia, which have safe country agreements and are deploying rapid testing.

“I do think there will be some movement with the federal government on rapid testing,” Pugliese said. “It’s amazing in a short period of time how much testing has advanced.”

Darryl Brooker, president of Mission Hill winery in West Kelowna, said rapid testing is vital to domestic tourism as well. It not only gives travellers an assurance of their safety, it helps businesses keep their workforce making products and staffing destination facilities when visitors do arrive.

Rebuilding customer confidence that tours and other activities are safe is “really about showing, not telling,” Brooker said. “You can only put up so many signs.”

Royce Chwin, CEO of Tourism Vancouver, said the city is the “anchor tenant” for the rebuilding of tourism business across B.C. Like other urban centres, it has taken a “triple hit” of pandemic effects on residents, office workers and travellers, with an estimated loss of $9.8 billion in visitor spending, $2.6 billion in taxes paid to government and 72,000 jobs.

Vrooman noted that Canada is the only G7 country that has not provided any assistance to its airports and airlines in the pandemic, calling the ability to prove virus-negative status “essential” to a recovery.

RELATED: Board of Trade says businesses need more short-term help

RELATED: Canada seeks to increase immigration due to pandemic

Chwin said another step in tourism and travel recovery is to use testing to find ways to get out from under the 50-person cap on public events that has ground the convention business to a halt. He said restoring public confidence that activities are safe is not just science but art, answering the question: “How do you move from fear of the virus to respect for the virus?”

Board of Trade CEO Bridgitte Anderson, moderator of the forum, said a recent survey of group members found that 26 per cent of them don’t expect their business to survive another 12 months in the current conditions. With the losses that have already taken place, Chwin said confidence is needed because “we’re going to have to attract entrepreneurs to come back into the industry and rebuild it.”


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Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue – Victoria News

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The country’s top doctor is asking Canadians to limit their contacts and gatherings as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in several provinces.

In a statement released Sunday (Nov. 29), chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said there has been an average of 5,335 new cases daily over the past week, compared to 4,739 daily new cases from Nov. 13-19.

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior, while the positivity rate has increased from 6.6 per cent to 7.6 per cent. The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 has increased to 2,111 from Nov. 20 to 26, up from 1,840 the week prior. The number of ICU patients treated daily jumped from 376 to 432 over the same time period, while average daily deaths increased by five to 76.

“More and larger outbreaks are occurring in long term care homes, congregate living settings and hospitals, and spreading in Indigenous communities and more remote areas of the country,” Tam said. “These developments are deeply concerning as they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies.”

Tam said that this time period was crucial, as the weather continues to get colder across the country and gathering indoors becomes more tempting.

“Avoid or limit time spent in the 3Cs – closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings and situations,” she said, as well as urging people to wear masks, stay home if they are sick and wash their hands frequently.

In total, Canada has reported 370,278 confirmed cases and 12,032 deaths due to COVID-19.

B.C. recorded a record-breaking 911 cases on Friday, the last day of a week that has proven to be its deadliest of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave


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Alberta's central zone now has 1101 active COVID-19 cases – Stettler Independent

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The Government of Alberta reported 1,609 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.

The province now has 15,692 active cases, to go along with 40,219 recovered cases, according to the latest statistics on the government’s website.

Alberta Health Services’ central zone has risen to 1,101 active cases, while the Edmonton zone has 7,230, Calgary has 5,756, the north zone has 857, the south zone has 642 and 223 cases are in an unknown area.

The provincial death toll has risen to 533, which is an increase of nine.

The City of Red Deer currently has 191 active cases, Red Deer County has 61, Sylvan Lake has 48, Lacombe County has 42, Clearwater County has 31, the City of Lacombe has 28, Olds has 21, Mountain View County has 15 and Stettler County has six.

Collectively, Ponoka County and Wetaskiwin County have 349.

“The next few weeks will be hard for all of us in light of the restrictions on social gatherings. I want to thank all of you for doing the right thing and making these sacrifices to help bend the curve,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of healthDr. Deena Hinshaw said on Twitter Sunday.

“While we may be physically separated from each other, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your friends and family and stay connected virtually. We are all in this together – so please reach out to a loved one if you need to.”

Provincially, 435 are in the hospital due to COVID-19 – 95 of those individuals have been admitted into an intensive care unit. In the central zone, 27 people have been hospitalized, five of whom are in intensive care.

In the past 24 hours, 23,282 tests were completed in the province, which brings the total number of tests to 2,234,470.

Hinshaw’s next live update is Monday.



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Red Deer up to 191 active COVID-19 cases – rdnewsnow.com

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Another nine deaths from COVID-19 were reported to bring Alberta’s total to 533.

Red Deer has 191 active cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, an increase of 20. There have now been 334 recovered cases, an increase of three, as the total number of cases attributed to the city rose by 24 to 525.

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Red Deer County has 64 active cases as of Saturday, an increase of seven, while Sylvan Lake added four to sit with 48.

Lacombe County has 42 active cases, an increase of seven, while Lacombe has 28, also an increase of six.

Clearwater County (Rocky Mtn. House) added 10 more active cases for a total of 31.

Ponoka County added 12 active cases to sit with 250.

Mountain View County holds steady with 15 active cases, Olds added three for a total of 21, and Kneehill County added one for a total of 16. Starland County remains with four and the County of Stettler is up two for a total of six active cases.

There are now 1,101 active cases in the Central zone, an increase of 110, with 27 hospitalizations, including five in intensive care.

“The next few weeks will be hard for all of us in light of the restrictions on social gatherings. I want to thank all of you for doing the right thing and making these sacrifices to help bend the curve,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Tweeted on Sunday.

“While we may be physically separated from each other, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your friends and family and stay connected virtually. We are all in this together – so please reach out to a loved one if you need to.”

Hinshaw is scheduled to share her next live update on Monday.

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