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Canada in for ‘intense’ weeks of Omicron infections, hospitalization surges: data – Global News

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Canada is set for several “intense” weeks of COVID-19 activity as Omicron will continue to drive record infections and hospitalizations, new federal data suggests.

The projections, made by Canadian health officials on Friday, indicate the Omicron wave could peak at 170,000 cases a day this month, though officials say the numbers are estimates of the “true number of daily cases” that may be occurring due to testing restrictions limiting reported cases.

Meanwhile, officials project that new hospital admissions could peak at 2,000 a day later this month.

“While Canada could see a sharp peak and decline in cases in the coming weeks, given disease activity far exceeding previous peaks, even the downside of this curve will be considerable,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.

“With several weeks of very intense activity expected to come, we need to do our best now to limit the size and impact of the Omicron surge in order to maintain the health system and critical functions of society.”

Across Canada, more than 37,500 new infections are being reported daily, though that number is likely an underestimate due to testing restrictions, Tam said. The number of hospitalizations is giving a clearer picture of how the virus is impacting the population, she added.

On hospitalizations, Tam said while evidence shows the risk for hospital admission from Omicron is lower than Delta, the sheer volume of infections is driving an increase in severe illness trends nationally.

While infections are increasing among all age groups, 20-to-39-year-olds have experienced the most infections in recent weeks, Tam said.

Furthermore, unvaccinated people are 19 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated people.

Tam said next week will be “quite important” to see if Canada will hit its Omicron peak.

“It’s quite possible in the next days that we’ll see that peak at least in the cases,” she said, adding hospitalizations could continue to increase sharply, and then decline quickly.

“We all just need to be cautious about pronouncing on that until we’ve seen more information.”

As of Jan. 10, 6,926 hospital beds in the country were occupied by COVID-19 patients – up from 4,113 on Jan. 3, the government reports.

Across Canada, new infections and related hospitalizations remain at or near record levels.

In the meantime, some governments are easing pandemic restrictions while others are tightening them depending on their perceptions of whether the curve is flattening or has yet to peak.

On Monday, Quebec is lifting its controversial 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew because researchers there believe the latest wave of the pandemic is peaking.

Also, Nunavut said its tough measures implemented just before Christmas have been so effective that it’s cancelling travel restrictions on Monday, allowing businesses to reopen and schools will resume in-person learning on Jan. 24.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Canadians showing symptoms after Dec. 20 should assume Omicron infection, Tam says'



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COVID-19: Canadians showing symptoms after Dec. 20 should assume Omicron infection, Tam says


COVID-19: Canadians showing symptoms after Dec. 20 should assume Omicron infection, Tam says

However, in New Brunswick new restrictions are now in effect, limiting residents to a single-household bubble. Gyms, entertainment venues and indoor dining at restaurants have been closed.

In nearby Prince Edward Island, chief medical health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says the “worst of this wave” is yet to come. Current restrictions that include business capacity limits and remote learning for school students will be extended.

While Canada moves through the Omicron wave, vaccination against the disease continues.

As of Jan. 1, 87 per cent of Canadians 12 years of age and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Out of the total population, that represents 77 per cent, data shows.

Tam continued to urge Canadians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and get their boosters once eligible.

“We need to continue efforts to increase vaccine coverage to enhance protection for everyone we can,” she said.

At its last modelling update in December 2021, government officials projected a COVID-19 resurgence in Canada driven by Omicron.

It said at the time if infections continue to rise as they were and if Omicron took hold, the variant drive infections up to 26,600 a day by mid-January.

Omicron’s impact on Canadian society has been vast, as several governments have had to reimpose restrictions and limit testing capacity to deal with the onslaught of cases and hospitalizations.

— with files from The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Amid Omicron, 700,000 Canadians flew abroad in December – CTV News

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TORONTO —
For many Canadians, the Omicron variant wasn’t going to stop their holiday travel plans.

Despite the federal government’s advisory against travelling outside of Canada amid surging COVID-19 cases taking effect midway through December, last month saw more international travel to and from Canada than any other period since the start of the pandemic.

Data collected by the Canada Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that 742,400 Canadians flew back into the country through Canadian airports in December. That’s a nearly eight-fold increase from December 2020, which only saw 93,800 Canadian travellers.

The week of Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, right after Christmas, saw the highest volume of travel into Canada. There were 215,665 Canadian citizens who returned to Canada by air that week.

For foreign nationals flying into Canada, Dec. 20 to 26 was the busiest week for travel. The data says 125,526 foreign nationals flew into the country that week and 352,900 for the entire month of December.

Although air travel appears to have rebounded significantly, these numbers are still a far cry from December 2019, which saw over 1.1 million Canadians and 577,800 foreign nationals travel by air.

At the land border, there were 608,900 Canadians returning from the U.S. in December, which is up four times from the previous year. Americans also took 291,600 trips to Canada that month.

In response to rising COVID-19 cases driven by Omicron, the federal government on Dec. 15 issued an advisory urging Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country. The feds also tightened testing requirements at the border on Dec. 21, once again mandating that all travellers entering Canada present a negative molecular test result, regardless of trip length or vaccination status.

Cross-border trips also plummeted after the testing requirement went into effect. In the first 20 days of December, 24,600 Canadians on average returned from the U.S. After Dec. 21, the average fell to 10,600, less than half of what it was earlier in the month.

Travellers returning to Canada by air from any country other than the U.S. may also be randomly selected to undergo a PCR test on arrival. But as provinces struggle with their own PCR testing capacity, airports and airlines say testing arrival testing is not the best use of resources and have called on the federal government to drop the requirement.

On the U.S. side, the Department of Homeland Security now requires Canadians and other foreign travellers entering through its land borders to be fully vaccinated as of Saturday. Foreign travellers flying into the U.S. had already been required to present proof of vaccination.

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Pope confers lay ministries on women, formalising recognition of roles

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Pope Francis on Sunday for the first time conferred the lay Roman Catholic ministries of lector and catechist on women, roles that previously many had carried out without institutional recognition.

He conferred the ministries at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where, in an apparent reference to resistance to change by some conservative, he criticised those who need to have rigid regulations and “more rules” in order to find God.

Last year, Francis changed Church law on the ministries of lector and acolyte, which mainly had been reserved to seminarians preparing for priesthood, saying he wanted to bring stability and public recognition to women already serving in the roles.

Lectors read from scripture, acolytes serve at Mass, and catechists teach the faith to children and adult converts.

The ministries of lector and acolyte existed before but were officially reserved to men. Francis instituted the ministry of the catechist last year.

At Sunday’s Mass the pope installed six women and two men as lectors and three women and five men as catechists. Francis gave a bible to each lector and a crucifix to each catechist.

The formalisation, including a conferral ceremony, will make it more difficult for conservative bishops to block women in their dioceses from taking on those roles.

The change will be particularly important as a recognition for women in places such as the Amazon, where some are the de facto religious leaders of remote communities hit by a severe shortage of priests.

The Vatican stressed that the roles are not a precursor to women one day being allowed to become priests. The Catholic Church teaches that only men can be priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.

Supporters of a female priesthood say Jesus was conforming to the customs of his times and that women played a greater role in the early Church than is commonly recognised.

Francis has appointed a number of women to senior jobs in Vatican departments previously held by men.

 

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Pope calls for world day of “prayer for peace” over Ukraine crisis

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Pope Francis on Sunday called for an international day of “prayer for peace” on January 26 to stop the Ukraine crisis from worsening, saying the tensions were threatening the security of Europe and risking vast repercussions.

Francis announced the prayer day and made the appeal for dialogue to defuse the crisis during his weekly address and blessing to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.

Top U.S. and Russian diplomats failed https://www.reuters.com/world/top-diplomats-us-russia-meet-geneva-soaring-ukraine-tensions-2022-01-21 on Friday to make a major breakthrough in talks to resolve the crisis over Ukraine, although they agreed to keep talking. On Sunday, Britain accused Russia of seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine.

“I am following with concern the rising tensions that threaten to deliver a new blow to peace in Ukraine and put the security of Europe in doubt, with even more vast repercussions,” he said.

He appealed to “all people of good will” to pray next Wednesday so that all political initiatives “be for the service of human fraternity” rather than partisan interests. The Vatican gave no immediate details on how the pope would mark the day.

“Those who pursue their interests by damaging others are in contempt of his vocation as a man, because we were all created as brothers,” he said, without elaborating.

On Friday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and warned of a “swift, severe” response if Russia invades Ukraine after massing troops near its border.

(Reporting by Philip PullellaEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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