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Canada's COVID-19 isolation hotels: complaints of secrecy, poor communication – CTV News

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TORONTO —
It has been nearly two weeks since the federal government announced new travel measures that require some international travellers to stay at designated hotel quarantine sites.

The facilities are used to house travellers who did not procure a mandatory PCR COVID-19 test, do not have valid quarantine plans, and “unless exempted, all air travellers entering Canada will be required to take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival, and book a 3-night stay in a hotel to await results,” the federal website reads.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) operates the 11 designated hotel sites across the country, but to protect the privacy and safety of travellers, the sites are meant to be kept secret. 

The PHAC says there have been 5,030 travellers lodged in the designated hotel sites since Jan. 24.

In order to qualify as a listed site, several prerequisites must be met – including close proximity to Canada’s major international airports, no contact meal delivery services, wireless internet and safe transport to shuttle travellers. 

Despite the requests for secrecy, some travellers have been speaking out to CTV News about their stays in the federal isolation hotels – complaining about lack of communication and an environment of secrecy that made one person feel like he was staying in a “jail.”

Mitch Beaulieu landed at Calgary’s international airport after a business trip to Florida, and said he was put into a black van with tinted windows and taken to an undisclosed location.

“I was like… ‘Where am I going, why am I going there?’” Beaulieu told CTV News. “They were like, ‘We’ll tell you everything when you get there.’”

Beaulieu said that when he arrived at the isolation site he thought he “was being punked.”

“Where are the hidden cameras? I thought this was crazy,” he said. “I get out there and there was plastic all over, people walking around in…hazmat suits…it was like jail pretty much.”

Beaulieu said he eventually found out that he was quarantined because he did not have the right kind of COVID-19 test, and that he discovered where he was staying because he caught a glimpse of the building when he was leaving. 

Since Jan. 7, all international passengers returning to Canada must show a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to departure.

Another traveller, Angelo Vanegas, stayed at the same Calgary quarantine hotel as Beaulieu after returning from a personal trip to Mexico. Health officials had rejected his quarantine plan upon arrival and he was brought to the hotel to isolate.

Vanegas told CTV News he was allowed outside for “15 minutes a day,” but could not leave his room because of a toe infection, which he claims he had to fight to receive medical attention for.

“I had to beg them, I had to make threats that I was going to call 911 because they were not going to allow me to see the doctor,” Vanegas said.

He also alleged that he was warned by a nurse against telling anyone where he was, and that he could face a hefty fine for doing so.

A traveller who stayed in Toronto’s quarantine site said he did not experience any threats, but did agree that the stay was not necessarily a comfortable one.

“I wouldn’t say it was like a jail, but it was definitely a detention centre,” Steve Duesing told CTV News.

Duesing is now completing his quarantine at home after returning from a trip to North Carolina. He had to stay in the hotel because he took a rapid COVID-19 test, instead of the required PCR test.

“You got food, there was internet, so its not like it was a jail, it was still a hotel room, but definitely not a hotel experience,” Duesing said. 

For now, those quarantining have been staying in the isolation sites free of charge, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that will soon change, but no official date has been set for when travellers being picking up the bill.

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COVID-19 cases start to climb again as variants spread, in step with dire forecasts – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month of decline.

The “moderate increase” at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless strict public-health measures remain in place to combat more contagious strains of the virus.

“The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends,” Tam said Tuesday.

The uptick also lends new urgency to questions over how provinces will choose to allocate their various vaccines.

Guidance on the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine appears split, with Health Canada authorizing its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization saying it should not be administered to people 65 and over.

The committee cited concern about limited data on how it will work in older people.

Alberta’s health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses.

“With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible,” the B.C. health ministry said in an email.

“When we get confirmation of the exact amount that P.E.I. would be getting from AstraZeneca, we would be targeting AstraZeneca to healthy, younger individuals who are working in certain frontline, essential services,” said Dr. Heather Morrison, chief medical officer of health in P.E.I.

No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions.

Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada showed a steepening rise in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren’t tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons.

But Tam says more ground is being gained on “the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon” every day.

“Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track,” she said.

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said a half-million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine — approved by Health Canada on Friday — will arrive Wednesday.

She said the first shipment of the vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India and formally called Covidshield is on the way, part of about 945,000 total vaccine doses slated for arrival this week.

In the light of the advisory committee’s recommendation, two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with those doses.

Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent.

But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada.

“If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that’s still a win for you,” Colijn said.

“I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

The United States must stick to a two-dose strategy for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Washington Post.

Fauci said delaying a second dose to inoculate more Americans creates risks. COVID-19 has claimed more than half a million lives in the United States, and states are clamouring for more doses to stem cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Fauci’s remarks come as different jurisdictions — including several Canadian provinces — consider extending the interval between the two doses.

The U.S. expert warned that shifting to a single-dose strategy for the vaccines could leave people less protected, enable variants to spread and possibly boost skepticism among Americans already hesitant to get the shots.

“There’s risks on either side,” Fauci was quoted as saying by the Washington Post in a report published late on Monday.

He said that he spoke with U.K. health officials on Monday. Health officials there have decided to offer people their second dose of its approved COVID-19 vaccines 12 weeks after they receive their first jab.

“We agreed that there is a risk of making things worse by doing that — balanced against the risk of not getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as you can,” Fauci told the Post.

He said the science does not support delaying a second dose for those vaccines, citing research that a two-shot regimen creates enough protection to help fend off variants of the coronavirus that are more transmissible, whereas a single shot could leave Americans at risk from variants such as the one first detected in South Africa.

“You don’t know how durable that protection is,” he said.

Fauci has encouraged Americans to accept any of the three available COVID-19 vaccines, including the newly approved Johnson & Johnson shot.

The U.S. government authorized Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, making it the third to be available in the country following the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that require two doses.

Health Canada has not yet approved the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine but did recently approve the two-dose product from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, bringing the number of vaccines approved for use in Canada to three.

B.C. to delay 2nd dose 

Fauci’s comments to the Post about the two-dose regime were reported the same day as an announcement from British Columbia’s provincial health officer about a change in dose timing.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months as it ramps up its age-based immunization plan to free up doses so all residents could get their initial shot by July.

Henry said Monday the change is based on the “miraculous” protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. She said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is expected to issue a statement to align with B.C.’s decision, which is also based on similar data from Quebec and countries including Israel and the United Kingdom. 

“The important thing that we have learned is that these vaccines work, they give a very high level of protection, and that protection lasts for many months,” Henry said on Monday. “Extending this second dose provides very high, real-world protection to more people, sooner.”

In Canada, the current recommendations advise intervals from three to 12 weeks between the first and second vaccine dose, depending on the product.

Ontario, meanwhile, is asking the federal government if it can extend the interval between the first and second dose of its COVID-19 vaccines to four months.

Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones made the request Monday in a joint statement. They said there is growing evidence to suggest that the intervals between the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can be safely extended.

Prince Edward Island is also looking at delaying the second dose of the vaccine, Premier Dennis King said.

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I’s chief public health officer, said at a briefing on Tuesday that the province plans to offer every Islander over the age of 16 a single dose of vaccine by the end of June.

Morrison said this approach would allow the province to achieve herd immunity more quickly and protect more residents from COVID-19.

“If all adults are vaccinated with one dose by July 1st, we will have a better summer than last year,” she said.

WATCH | Canada’s chief science adviser talks about B.C.’s plan:

In response to B.C. extending the gap between first and second doses, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor says “partial immunity is something that people need to be very wary of. And it’s probably best to just vaccinate as recommended and as studied for now.” 2:18

Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, however, told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos on Monday that the studies so far and the “vast majority” of the data on the Pfizer and Moderna products “are from studies where they were given three to four weeks apart, not three to four months apart.”

Nemer cited concerns about a lack of data and variants of the virus, saying that “it’s probably best to just vaccinate as recommended and as studied for now.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert and member of Ontario’s vaccine task force, said Tuesday that given the current public health emergency, people should expect to see more debate about how far the second dose can be extended. 

There is “emerging data from multiple sources, from multiple groups, that do demonstrate that it is OK to extend the second dose,” Bogoch told CBC’s Heather Hiscox. He pointed to Ontario as an example, saying the second doses of Pfizer and Moderna shots were delayed by up to 42 days in certain cohorts. 

WATCH | Public needs open, honest discussion to maintain trust in vaccines, says specialist:

Open communication about evolving decisions around COVID-19 vaccinations is very important to keep public trust, says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 task force. 8:14

-From The Associated Press, The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:10 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 871,596 cases of COVID-19, with 30,198 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,036.

In Quebec, health officials reported 588 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 628, with 121 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

Ontario on Tuesday reported 966 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital stood at 677, with 284 in intensive care units.

In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — including two cases of the B117 variant. The province is currently in a circuit-breaker lockdown as it tries to clamp down on two clusters of cases, one in Summerside and one in Charlottetown.

WATCH | Vaccine advisory committee contradicts Health Canada on AstraZeneca vaccine:

Just days after Health Canada approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for all adults over 18, a committee that advises the federal government on immunization says it shouldn’t be given to people over 65. 3:30

Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, while New Brunswick and Nova Scotia both reported one new case.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 — its lowest daily case number in months — and one additional death on Monday. In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths.

Alberta, meanwhile, reported 291 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Monday. The province is easing COVID-19 restrictions on indoor fitness centres and libraries.

However, it is delaying lifting measures for hotels, banquet halls, community halls and conference centres. Premier Jason Kenney says there has been a sharp decline in hospitalizations and cases in long-term care homes. However, he said caution is needed because the test positivity rate and cases of new, more transmissible variants are rising.

In British Columbia, health officials reported 1,428 new COVID-19 cases from Saturday to Monday, for a total of 80,672 cases in the province since the pandemic began.

Across the North, there was one new case reported in Nunavut and no new cases reported in the Northwest Territories or Yukon.

Here’s a look at what else is happening across the country:

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 114.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 64.6 million of the cases listed on the Johns Hopkins database as recovered. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million, the U.S.-based university reported.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China aims to vaccinate 40 per cent of its population by the end of July, a senior health adviser said, requiring a significant increase in shots even as it ramps up vaccine exports.

Indonesia says it has detected two cases of the more infectious variant first identified in Britain.

A medical officer prepares a dose of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination program on Tuesday in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

South Korea’s decision to allow more doses to be extracted from vaccine vials sparked controversy as it ramped up its vaccinations of health-care workers and the elderly.

In the Americas, Ecuador named a new health minister, after the previous minister resigned following accusations of irregularities in a vaccination pilot program.

Argentina received 732,500 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, while Nicaragua is set to begin its inoculation campaign on Tuesday.

Colombia on Monday became the first country in the Americas to receive a vaccine shipment from the UN-backed COVAX initiative.

Brazilian health officials are urging nationwide lockdowns and curfews because hospitals are running short of intensive-care unit beds as COVID-19 claims more than 1,000 lives each day in the country.

“The return of the pandemic in several states is making their private and their public assistance networks collapse and has brought imminent risk of spreading it to all regions of Brazil,” Brazil’s National Council of Health Secretaries said Monday, noting that the nation is experiencing its worst moment since the pandemic began.

In the Middle East, Iraq received its first 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by China.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has announced that Muslims who want to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage this year will need to prove that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The government says it will consider coronavirus vaccination as “the main condition for participation” in the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims who can are obliged to make once in their lives.

The statement did not specify whether the hajj, which traditionally draws some two million Muslims from across the world, would again exclude pilgrims from outside the kingdom to prevent contagion.

In Europe, Spain’s jobless total reached four million in February, as COVID-19 restrictions led to the first month of job destruction since last May.

Austria’s leader says his country and Denmark intend to stop relying solely on the European Union for coronavirus vaccines and will work with Israel to produce second-generation vaccines.

A worker tests a French national going to Germany at the German-French border near Saarbrucken on Tuesday. Germany announced Sunday that travellers from France’s northeastern Moselle region will face additional restrictions because of the high rate of variant coronavirus cases there. (Jean-Francois Badias/The Associated Press)

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz plans to visit Israel with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Thursday and confer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on vaccine research and production co-operation.

Serbia’s epidemiologists have called for the government to introduce a state of emergency and a strict lockdown to halt a surge in coronavirus infections in the Balkan country.

The numbers of daily new cases have been rising sharply in the nation of seven million despite a mass inoculation campaign that has reached one million people already.

Chief epidemiologist Predrag Kon on Tuesday told the state RTS television that “we must ban contacts or we will break, and then realize what it means when the health system collapses.”

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:15 a.m. ET

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Why Canada's pandemic experience has been easier than some – CBC.ca

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Although difficult months remain ahead — especially for poorer countries lacking the resources to buy vaccines — the end of the coronavirus pandemic in the developed world is now in sight.

Virus variants remain an unpredictable element but trendlines suggest that the great majority of deaths anticipated in developed countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic have occurred already.

The range of impacts on different countries can be seen in the statistics as the first full year of the pandemic draws to a close.

These statistics compare how Canada has fared to the experiences of five other Western countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy.

When historians look back on this pandemic, the first yardstick they’ll apply to measure its severity is, of course, the number of people it killed.

How bad did it get?

The United States is now coming down from its third wave of COVID infections. Canada has only had two so far. The peak came at different times in different places — but each of the six countries in this comparison experienced one week that was worse than any other.

In France and Italy, the pandemic peaked in November 2020, but in North America and the U.K. the first two weeks of 2021 were the worst.

On January 8, Canada reported a single-day record of 9,214 new cases. The following day, the U.S. reported a single-day record of 315,106 new cases.

A health care worker walks through the post-vaccine waiting area at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Peel Region in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, March 1, 2021. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The peak of intensity is measured here by the highest recorded daily caseload, per capita. At the pandemic’s height in the U.K., U.S. and France, COVID-19 was infecting almost one person in a thousand every day. In Canada, that number never reached one in 4,000.

Canada had the least intense pandemic of the six.

Immunizations vs infections

Vaccinations are the magic bullet that will end this pandemic. Some countries have done far better than others in administering them. 

The U.K.’s vaccination effort started strong and stayed that way. Germany and the U.S. showed steady increases week over week. France was slow to start but soon caught up. Italy and Canada faltered and lost ground.

But vaccinations don’t tell the whole story. Vaccines entered the picture as much of the western world was racing to get ahead of a new wave of infections.

Canada placed last among this group of nations in terms of doses per capita. But it also has posted the lowest per capita caseloads through 2021.

The U.K. was the undisputed winner of the vaccine race but posted the worst per capita caseloads and death rates of the six. And the nation with the second-best record on vaccinations — the U.S. — had the second-worst caseloads.

Given this strange inversion, how should we measure each nation’s overall performance?

The next graph attempts to do that by dividing each nation’s total number of vaccines administered, week over week, by the number of new cases it recorded in the same week, to give an overall score — call it the “O Factor” — that may offer a clearer picture of how much progress each country has made so far in 2021.

The O Factor penalizes countries for failing to control infections in the present, but gives credit for the future caseload reductions they can expect to achieve by getting needles in arms now.

The damage to economies

Historians will one day study the pandemic’s social and economic effects. Some of those effects aren’t clear yet.

By killing a vast number of European peasants, the Black Death transformed the labour market, allowing workers to demand more for their work and ultimately helping to free them from feudalism. Perhaps this (far less apocalyptic) pandemic will free workers from the bondage of commuting and cubicles.

Whatever changes it leaves in its wake, it’s clear the economic blow of the pandemic has not fallen evenly on all nations.

The six countries we’re comparing here have taken different approaches to pandemic-related shutdowns and layoffs. Some (such as Canada) went big on public spending, while others held back. And some countries will struggle more than others with the debts they have accumulated.

All six of the nations measured here saw nearly unprecedented spikes in the number of unemployment claims as the pandemic took hold.

But some were hit harder than others and some bounced back faster than others.

The graphs shown here only offer snapshots of a pandemic that isn’t over yet. Although immunization appears to offer a path out of this global disaster, new mutations and new variants have the potential to delay that.

Unless Canada can improve its vaccination performance, other countries probably will be quicker to bend their rates of death and hospitalizations downward, closing a gap that currently favours Canada.

But the numbers suggest that one thing won’t change: when compared with its peers in Europe and North America, Canada’s pandemic experience has been less intense — and less deadly.

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