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Canada adds 6,381 new coronavirus cases as country watches for new strain – Global News



Canada added 6,381 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the country’s total number of infections to 514,895.
Provincial health authorities also reported 68 new fatalities associated with COVID-19, pushing Canada’s total death toll to 14,332.

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Read more:
Ontario to enter ‘provincewide shutdown’ on Boxing Day

The new cases come as the federal government began halting all incoming flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours in a bid to quell the spread of a potentially more transmissible variant of the virus, which has been running rampant in Britain.

A statement from Health Canada Sunday evening said the strain has not yet been identified in the country, but added that work continues to determine whether it is present.

However, while the new variant may be more transmissible, the World Health Organization said vaccines which were recently approved to combat the virus should still be effective.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, also said the mutated variant may be more transmissible, but said there is no evidence it would increase the “severity associated with this disease.”

“The U.K. has informed us that they don’t believe that there’s an impact on the vaccine. So that’s good news,” she said during a press conference Monday.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: WHO says new virus strain from U.K. being studied'

Coronavirus: WHO says new virus strain from U.K. being studied

Coronavirus: WHO says new virus strain from U.K. being studied

In a series of tweets on Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to “remain vigilant” as the holidays approach.

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“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “COVID-19 cases are rising across the country.”

“We need to keep doing the things we know work — things like wearing your mask, washing your hands, and avoiding gatherings,” he wrote.”

As of Monday, 3,544 people were in hospital across the country after contracting the virus, while 421,743 people have recovered after falling ill. 

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Thousands of new cases in the provinces

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In Ontario, 2,123 new cases were reported on Monday, and health officials said another 17 people have died after contracting COVID-19.

To date, the province has seen 158,053 confirmed cases of the virus and 4,167 fatalities.

The new cases come as Ontario premier Doug Ford announced a “provincewide shutdown” will begin on Boxing Day in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

Read more:
‘Good news’: Coronavirus vaccine will still protect against new U.K. variant, WHO says

Meanwhile, in Quebec, 2,108 new cases were detected, bringing the provincial case load to 179,093.

Health authorities also said 30 more people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, pushing the total death toll to 7,766.

Three hundred and seventy two new cases of the novel coronavirus were detected between Manitoba and Saskatchewan on Monday.

Saskatchewan added 206 new cases for a total of 13,761, while Manitoba saw 166 new infections, pushing the provincial case load to 23,025.

Four new deaths were reported in Saskatchewan, pushing the death toll to 122, while three new deaths in Manitoba bring the provincial fatalities to 572.

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Click to play video 'Coronavirus: WHO still needs more funding for vaccine distribution to low-income countries'

Coronavirus: WHO still needs more funding for vaccine distribution to low-income countries

Coronavirus: WHO still needs more funding for vaccine distribution to low-income countries

New Brunswick saw four new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total case load to 578. However, health authorities said the provincial death toll remained at eight. 

Nova Scotia reported two new cases COVID-19, pushing the total number of infections to 1,447.

However, the province did not see any new fatalities, meaning the death toll remained at 65. 

Newfoundland and Labrador did not report any new infections or fatalities on Monday.

To date the province has seen 382 cases and four deaths. 

Prince Edward Island did not report any new COVID-19 data on Monday, but the latest numbers suggest the province has seen a total of 91 cases, 73 of which are considered to be recovered. 

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Read more:
Canada watching for new COVID-19 variant, warns against travel to U.K.

Health authorities in Alberta said 1,240 new cases have been detected, and nine more people have died.

The new cases bring the province’s total case count to 91459. To date, 860 people have died after contracting the virus in Alberta.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia 529 new infections and five additional fatalities were reported.

In an interview with Global News, British Columbia’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, said no cases of the new coronavirus strain have been detected in the province, but added that officials are watching “very, very carefully.”

“We went back and looked through all of the virus sequences we have here in B.C. and we do not have that strain that is seen in the U.K.” she said. “But clearly we need to be on the lookout for it.”

New cases in Nunavut

Nunavut reported three new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing the territory’s total number of cases to 262. 

The territory reported its first two deaths associated with the virus on Sunday.

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Click to play video 'Coronavirus: WHO says new virus strain transmits easier, no evidence it’s deadlier'

Coronavirus: WHO says new virus strain transmits easier, no evidence it’s deadlier

Coronavirus: WHO says new virus strain transmits easier, no evidence it’s deadlier

Neither the Northwest Territories nor the Yukon reported any new cases of the virus on Monday.

So far, the territories have reported 24 cases and 59 cases respectively.

Global deaths surpass 1.7 million

Since the pandemic began, a total of 77,296,617 cases of the novel coronavirus have been detected worldwide, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

As of 7:30 p.m. ET, the virus had claimed 1,700,932 lives around the world.

The United States remained the viral epicentre, with over 18 million confirmed cases and 311,190 deaths to date.

— With files from Emerald Bensadoun

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada continues to ‘make the case’ for Keystone XL to Biden’s team, feds say – Global News



Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan says the government is continuing to “make the case” for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion despite reported plans from Joe Biden to immediately quash the project.

Read more:
Biden plans to block Keystone XL pipeline with day 1 order, documents show

His comments come on the heels of reports that Biden is planning to cancel the planned pipeline expansion as one of his first moves after becoming U.S. president on Wednesday.

Click to play video 'Calgary political scientist analyzes what it means should Biden cancel Keystone XL'

Calgary political scientist analyzes what it means should Biden cancel Keystone XL

Calgary political scientist analyzes what it means should Biden cancel Keystone XL

Transition documents, which The Canadian Press has seen, show that one of his to-do list priorities for inauguration day includes a plan to rescind the Keystone XL construction permit granted in 2019 by predecessor Donald Trump.

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“Our government’s support for the Keystone XL project is long-standing and well-known. And we continue to make the case for it to our American colleagues,” O’Regan said in a statement sent to Global News.

“Canadian oil is produced under strong environmental and climate policy frameworks, and this project will not only strengthen the vital Canada-U.S. energy relationship, but create thousands of good jobs for workers on both sides of the border.”

He added that workers in Alberta and across Canada “will always” have the government’s support.

Click to play video 'Oil and gas industry forecasts small spending rise after slashed budgets in 2020'

Oil and gas industry forecasts small spending rise after slashed budgets in 2020

Oil and gas industry forecasts small spending rise after slashed budgets in 2020

Meanwhile, the reaction in Alberta to the news has been explosive. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s government invested $1.5 billion into the project last year, and on Monday he slammed Biden’s plan to shut the door on the pipeline’s expansion.

“That would be, in our view, an economic and strategic error that would set back Canada-U.S. relations with the United States’ most important trading partner and strategic ally: Canada,” Kenney said during a Monday press conference.

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“All we ask at this point is that president-elect Biden show Canada respect to actually sit down and hear our case about how we can be partners in prosperity, partners in combating climate change, partners in energy security.”

Read more:
‘Show Canada respect’: Kenney prepared to defend Keystone XL as critics slam project

Kenney has also said his government is prepared to use any legal avenues it can to protect its interest in the project.

Click to play video 'Trudeau says his government ‘very well-aligned’ with incoming Biden administration'

Trudeau says his government ‘very well-aligned’ with incoming Biden administration

Trudeau says his government ‘very well-aligned’ with incoming Biden administration – Dec 16, 2020

Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, has also weighed in on the planned cancellation of the pipeline project, imploring the soon-to-be Biden administration to reconsider the plan.

“This infrastructure will safely transport Canadian crude oil that is produced under one of the strongest environmental and climate policy frameworks in the world, and will strengthen the vital Canada-U.S. energy relationship,” she said in a statement issued over the weekend.

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“My team and I will continue to work with Alberta and the industry to make sure American lawmakers and stakeholders understand the facts about energy production in Canada, and that KXL will strengthen US energy security safely, sustainably and responsibly.”

However, not all Canadians were aghast at the decision. Green Party Leader Annamie Paul applauded Biden’s planned move on Monday, urging the feds not to push back.

“We have a real chance, because this is a…president-elect who has made it very clear that the climate is going to be on the top of his agenda.”

“We should be working with the United States…rather then pushing them to reverse the commitment to end the Keystone pipeline.”

Click to play video 'Green party leader says Canada shouldn’t push Biden admin to reverse Keystone XL pipeline cancellation'

Green party leader says Canada shouldn’t push Biden admin to reverse Keystone XL pipeline cancellation

Green party leader says Canada shouldn’t push Biden admin to reverse Keystone XL pipeline cancellation

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also applauded the decision on Monday.

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“I support the decision, because I know that this is the direction that the future requires,” Singh told reporters.

“We’ve got to fight the climate crisis.”

Biden has yet to formalize the decision to kill the project, meaning the government has at least two more days to change the new administration’s mind. That’s exactly what they intend to try to do, O’Regan said, in addition to hitting the ground running in working with the new president.

“We’re looking forward to working with the incoming Biden administration and further strengthening the relationship with our closest ally.”

With files from The Canadian Press and 630CHED’s Kirby Bourne

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday –



The latest:

With hospital intensive care units in parts of Ontario reaching capacity due to COVID-19, a new hospital will open in Vaughan, Ont., next month to help relieve pressure on other facilities in the Greater Toronto Area, the province announced Monday.

The Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, due to open Feb. 7, will be a “dedicated resource to support the province’s COVID-19 response,” taking in critical patients from other hospitals, Premier Doug Ford said.

“It’s like reinforcements coming over the hill,” Ford said, adding that the province is also adding 500 additional surge capacity hospital beds in Toronto, Durham Region, Kingston, Ont., and Ottawa.

Canada’s vaccination efforts against COVID-19 took a notable step forward on Monday with the opening of mass immunization centres in Toronto and Brandon, Man. This follows the opening of a similar immunization supersite in Winnipeg two weeks ago.

Toronto’s supersite is being described as a “proof-of-concept” clinic that will help the city fine-tune the operation of its future clinics, “ensuring safety and increasing efficiency in advance of wider immunization,” according to a city news release.

Retired general Rick Hillier, who heads the province’s vaccine distribution plan, told CBC News on Sunday that Ontario wants to have everyone vaccinated by late July or early August.

The Toronto site is not open to members of the public and will instead operate with a sample group of health-care workers, including those involved in harm reduction and Streets to Homes staff who support the city’s vulnerable populations. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, right, and Toronto Mayor John Tory tour the mass vaccination clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Sunday, the day before it opened. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The clinic aims to vaccinate 250 people per day. However, due to the delay in obtaining the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Europe, the clinic inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is set to close until further notice after the work day on Friday, said Matthew Pegg, head of the city’s immunization task force.

He said anyone who got a first dose of the vaccine at the clinic will be able to receive a second dose within the recommended time frame.

Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, which is the fewest logged on a single day in about two and a half weeks. However, the province’s labs processed just 40,301 test samples for the novel coronavirus, nearly 20,000 fewer than the day before.

The province also reported 24 new deaths and a total of 1,571 patients with COVID-19 in hospital. Of those, 394 were being treated in intensive care units and 303 were on ventilators — the first time the latter has climbed above 300 since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, vaccinations got underway at the mass vaccination site in Brandon on Monday morning, following an initial hiccup in which hundreds of health-care workers with immunization appointments were given the wrong address.

Joanna Robb, a cytotechnologist who works at Shared Health’s Westman Lab, which deals with COVID-19 specimens, was the first to receive a dose of the vaccine. 

WATCH | Manitoba opens 2nd COVID-19 vaccination supersite:

The Keystone Centre in Brandon, Man., is now a supersite for COVID-19 vaccinations. It opened on time Monday despite incorrect information about its location originally being given out. 1:51

“You hear the death tolls every day and the numbers, and it’s heartbreaking,” Robb said. “And we can do something.”

The Brandon site was slated to give out more than 550 shots on Monday alone, provincial officials said. The centre will be open 12 hour a day, seven days a week, for eligible health-care workers.

Manitoba registered 118 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Monday. Forty-six of the new cases are in the province’s North Health Region.

Robert Farquar of Westman Lab gets vaccinated by public health nurse Jennifer Cochrane in Brandon, Man., on Monday morning. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun/Pool)

What’s happening across Canada

As of 3:15 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 713,269 cases of COVID-19, with 74,475 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,078.

Over the weekend, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand sought to allay Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international vaccine deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.

Anand said on Twitter she has been in touch with the drugmaker and was assured that it is “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible.” The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.

New Brunswick has rolled back the Edmundston and Grand Falls region to a more restrictive red phase, and other regions face the same prospect as the province continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The province reported 26 new cases on Monday. That follows a tally of 36 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — 24 of them in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, about 380 kilometres northwest of Saint John — marking its highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.

The move to red-phase restrictions, which took effect in the region at midnight, mean some businesses — including movie theatres, barbershops and hair salons — must close, while restaurants can only operate with takeout and delivery. However, schools will remain open with additional health measures in place.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions are ‘on the cusp’ of a return to red as the province moved the Edmundston and Grand Falls region back to the more restrictive phase. (Submitted by the Government of New Brunswick)

The rest of Atlantic Canada has not seen the recent spread of COVID-19 infections to the extent that New Brunswick has. 

Nova Scotia reported no new cases on Monday, after reporting four additional cases on Sunday, all of which are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case on Sunday, in a person who returned home from work in Alberta.

P.E.I. reported four new cases on Monday, three of them linked to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and one involving someone who was in contact with a previously reported case, the province said in a news release.

In Quebec, high schoolers headed back to classrooms on Monday after a month at home, joining elementary students who returned to in-person instruction a week before the older kids. Among other health precautions, students must wear medical-grade masks and will be tested immediately if they show any COVID-19 symptoms.

The province reported 1,634 new cases on Monday, though it noted that a delay in the transmission of laboratory data caused a delay in the reporting of cases to public health departments on Sunday, as well as a drop in the number of new cases reported.

It also reported 32 deaths, nine of which occurred in the last 24 hours and 23 that occurred between Jan. 11 and 16.

Saskatchewan added 290 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Monday.

The province administered 2,449 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday. The total number of vaccines administered in the province has now reached 22,618.

Alberta will have no more COVID-19 doses available to administer by the end of Monday or early Tuesday due to the Pfizer supply disruption, Premier Jason Kenney has announced.

The premier told a news conference on Monday that the province is putting a temporary hold on the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure it has enough vaccine to provide a second dose to people who have already received their first shot.

Alberta eased some public health restrictions on Monday, allowing personal and wellness service businesses to reopen by appointment only. The province reported 750 new COVID-19 cases and 19 new deaths on Sunday.

In British Columbia, Kelowna RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the organizer of a protest in the city’s downtown area on Saturday that contravened provincial public health orders related to COVID-19. Police did not name the organizer but said this is the third time they have issued a fine to this person for organizing a large gathering of people opposed to measures meant to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

WATCH | Risks of hockey arenas amid pandemic:

Air quality research and a growing understanding of how COVID-19 spreads are helping to explain why facing off in hockey arenas can be risky during the pandemic. 8:27

In the North, Northwest Territories health officials placed the hamlet of Fort Liard under a two-week containment order after three cases were discovered in the community.

A dozen employees of Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine in Nunavut are now in self-isolation after a worker at the mine tested positive for COVID-19, the company said in a news release on Friday. There have 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.

Meanwhile, members of Yukon‘s two mobile COVID-19 vaccination teams held one last dry-run at a Whitehorse high school on Friday before hitting the road.

What’s happening around the world

As of Monday afternoon, more than 95.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.4 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than two million.

The head of the World Health Organization says it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in rich countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people in poorer countries.

Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus kicked off WHO’s week-long executive board meeting — virtually from its headquarters in Geneva — on Monday by lamenting that only 25 vaccine doses have been provided in a single poor country, while more than 39 million doses have been administered in nearly 50 richer nations.

“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country — not 25 million, not 25,000 — just 25. I need to be blunt,” Tedros said. He did not specify the country.

Tedros again criticized “bilateral deals” between drug companies and countries that hurt the ability of the WHO-backed COVAX program, which aims to get vaccines to all countries based on need.

“Most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries, where the profits are highest, rather than submitting” data to WHO, he said, so it can approve vaccines for wider use.

In Europe, France on Monday began a campaign to inoculate people over 75 against the coronavirus, as its death toll rose past 70,000 over the weekend.

French singer and actress Line Renaud receives an injection of a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Rueil-Malmaison, west of Paris, on Monday. (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)

The new variant of COVID-19 first detected in Britain is now starting to gain a foothold in Belgium, officials say, with cases reported in several northern schools on top of an outbreak in a nursing home.

Officials in the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz quarantined employees and guests of two luxury hotels, closed ski schools and kept schoolchildren home from class on Monday after a dozen positive tests for a highly infectious coronavirus variant.

In Asia, a Chinese province grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases is reinstating tight restrictions on weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, threatening violators with criminal charges.

The notice from the high court in Hebei province did not give specifics but said all types of social gatherings were now being regulated to prevent further spread of the virus.

A large quarantine facility capable of holding several thousand people is being built in Shijiazhuang, in northern China’s Hebei province, as shown in this photo released by the country’s Xinhua News Agency on Saturday. (Jin Liangkuai/Xinhua/The Associated Press)

In the Americas, incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain says the coronavirus pandemic will get worse in the U.S. before it gets better, projecting another 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the first five weeks of president-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Klain said Biden was inheriting a dire situation, saying even with vaccines, “it’s going to take a while to turn this around.” Biden has set a goal of injecting 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine in his first 100 days in office, a goal Klain said they were on pace to meet.

Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to months of delay and political disputes.

Brazil currently has six million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days and is awaiting the arrival of another two million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.

A man pulls boxes containing a batch of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in Campinas as vaccination starts in São Paulo, Brazil, on Monday. (Amanda Perobelli/Reuters)

In Africa, South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine, has been promised nine million doses by Johnson & Johnson, the Business Day newspaper reported.

South Africa has delayed reopening schools as it faces a rapid resurgence of COVID-19 overwhelming the country’s hospitals and driven by a more infectious variant of the virus.

Ghana’s president said Sunday that infection rates are skyrocketing and include variants of the virus not before seen in the country, filling treatment centres and threatening to overwhelm the health system.

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How well has Canada fought the COVID-19 pandemic? 3 experts weigh in – Global News



As new cases of COVID-19 surge across Canada, the federal government and the provinces have been imposing stricter measures to try to limit the illness’s spread.

The Canadian Press interviewed three leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology, asking their thoughts on Canada’s handling of the pandemic, the new restrictions on activities — and what else can be done. Here’s what they had to say.

Read more:
Canada’s COVID-19 deaths have now surpassed 18,000

John Brownstein, Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital

Having a national testing strategy in Canada that uses rapid tests people could do at home would limit the spread of the virus, Brownstein says.

“That would enable us to get insight on infection and actually have people isolate,” he says.

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No such tests have been approved in Canada yet.

Click to play video 'The push to expand the use of rapid COVID-19 testing'

The push to expand the use of rapid COVID-19 testing

The push to expand the use of rapid COVID-19 testing

“We’ve been saying this all along, so it’s not just a purely Canadian issue, but having a strategy that implements that kind of information would go a long way to drive infections down in communities while we wait for the vaccine.”

Brownstein says curfews have unintended consequences because they force people to get together over a shorter period of time during the day.

“We haven’t seen a lot of evidence that curfews have driven down infection.”

He says a mix of testing and quarantine is the best way to make sure international travellers don’t cause outbreaks when they return from the pandemic hot spots.

Testing alone is not enough, he says, because tests can come back negative during the novel coronavirus’s incubation period; people should be careful about relying on test results that could give a false sense of security.

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Read more:
Protesters demonstrate against Quebec’s curfew, argue it creates a ‘climate of fear’

Brownstein says pandemic fatigue is real and the governments’ support for people suffering in the crisis should continue.

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He says promoting low-risk activities, including walking and exercising outdoors, is also important.

“Whatever we can do to allow for people to spend more time outside, probably the better.”

David Juncker, professor of medicine and chair of the department of biomedical engineering at McGill University

Canada needs a national strategy for how to use rapid tests for the virus that causes COVID-19, says Juncker.

Juncker is an adviser for Rapid Test and Trace, an organization advocating for a mass rapid-testing system across Canada.

“Initially the Canadian government (spoke) against (rapid tests) and then they pivoted sometime in October or September,” he says. The federal government then bought thousands of rapid tests and sent them to the provinces, where they’ve mostly sat unused.

“Every province is trying to come up with their own way of trying them — running their own individual pilots. There’s a lack of exchange of information and lack of guidelines in terms of how to best deploy them,” he says.

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Click to play video 'Private COVID-19 testing in Alberta'

Private COVID-19 testing in Alberta

Private COVID-19 testing in Alberta – Jan 8, 2021

Juncker says the testing regime based on swabs collected in central testing sites was working in the summer but it collapsed in the fall.

He says medical professionals prefer those tests because they are more accurate and can detect low levels of the virus, which is important for diagnoses, but rapid tests can be useful for public health through sheer volume, if they’re used properly.

A federal advisory panel’s report released Friday, laying out the best uses for different kinds of tests, is a step in the right direction, he says.

“I’m happy to see we’re slowly shifting from the point of view of ‘Should we use rapid tests?’ to a point of view (of) ‘How can we best use them?”’

More recent research suggests that rapid tests are more accurate than was previously thought, he says.

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“We still don’t have enough capacity to test everyone so we’d have to use them in a strategic way.”

Juncker says the lockdowns in Ontario and Quebec should have happened earlier in the fall, when cases started to rise.

He says the late lockdowns in Canada won’t be as effective as those in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, where early lockdowns effectively stopped the disease from spreading.

Read more:
Here’s what you can and can’t do in Ontario during coronavirus shutdown

“Countries that were most aggressive early on, are the ones that have, I think, the best outcome.”

He says countries where health decisions are fragmented across the country, including Canada, have added challenges.

“If you live in Ottawa-Gatineau, you have one province (that) allows one thing, the other province allows another thing, so this creates confusion among the citizens,” he said.

Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and member of Canada’s COVID-19 therapeutics task force:

Canada’s federal-provincial sharing of power over health care is highly inefficient and has led to major problems, says Sheppard.

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“There’s a lot breakdown in communication, a lot of territorialism. It’s greatly impacted the efficiency of the response,” he says.

Click to play video 'Alberta eases COVID-19 restrictions as cases drop'

Alberta eases COVID-19 restrictions as cases drop

Alberta eases COVID-19 restrictions as cases drop

The problems in long-term care homes are examples.

“Quebec is screaming they want money but they’re refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long term care,” he says. “I think it’s heinous.”

He says highly centralized authority and decision-making has had a stifling effect on innovation.

“It puts up roadblocks, and has led to the Canadian health-care system having lost any attempt to be innovative and nimble,” he says.

Sheppard says he doesn’t think there will be mass vaccinations for Canadians this summer and the September timetable that the federal government is talking about for vaccinating everybody is optimistic.

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Read more:
Canada secures 20M more Pfizer doses as vaccine makers monitor 2nd dose controversy

“Remember that we don’t have vaccines that are approved in under-11-year-olds,” he says. “There will still be opportunities for the virus to circulate in children, particularly children are in school settings.”

He suggested that the current immunization campaign’s goal is not herd immunity, eliminating transmission of the virus and rendering is extinct.

“The goal here is to create an iron wall of immunity around the ‘susceptibles’ in our population, such that this becomes a virus of the same public health importance as influenza.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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