As concerns about internationally imported COVID-19 variants hit closer to home, public health authorities are asking — and increasingly, ordering — people to find alternative accommodations so they can self-isolate safely.
Here are some examples of how hotels and quarantine facilities are being used to keep the virus from spreading through communities.
TRAVELLERS WAITING FOR TEST RESULTS
As the federal government rolls out new restrictions to prevent contagious mutations of the COVID-19 virus from crossing the border, more travellers are set to be sent to hotels and other facilities to serve at least part of their mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Under the new rules, which are expected to take effect soon, returning travellers will have to take a COVID-19 test at the airport at their own expense. They’re then required to spend the first three days of their quarantine at a supervised hotel while awaiting their results, and foot the bill for their stay, upwards of $2,000.
Those with negative results can serve the remainder of their two-week quarantine at home, while those with positive tests will be sent to government-designated facilities.
FEDERALLY DESIGNATED FACILITIES FOR TRAVELLERS IN QUARANTINE
Since the outbreak took hold in Canada, Ottawa has been putting up travellers in hotels and other lodging sites as a “last resort” for those without a suitable place to self-isolate, said a spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Tammy Jarbeau said in an email that the agency currently operates 11 designated quarantine facilities in nine cities across Canada, with access to two provincially run sites.
These sites had lodged 5,030 travellers, as of Jan. 24, said Jarbeau. She said the cost of the program wasn’t readily available.
As of last Thursday, all international passenger flights must land at one of four airports — Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary or Montreal. Jarbeau said the government designates or cancels quarantine sites as needed, but declined to disclose their locations to “protect the privacy and safety of travellers.”
Ottawa unveils new measures to discourage travel
ISOLATION SITES FOR NORTHERN TRAVELLERS
Two of the northern territories have long required travellers to make a public-health pit stop before entry.
To fly back to Nunavut, residents must first spend two weeks at health isolation sites in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife before they can be cleared to return to their home community. The territory covers costs such as a hotel room, meals and internet access, but travellers are responsible for any additional flight expenses.
Travellers headed to Northwest Territories must self-isolate in one of four communities: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith. Those who don’t have a place to quarantine are sent to isolation centres.
Last month, the territory said it would no longer pay to put up residents travelling for recreational reasons. Non-residents still have to cover their own accommodations.
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VOLUNTARY ISOLATION SITES
A growing number of jurisdictions are setting up voluntary COVID-19 isolation sites to help people recover from the virus without putting other members of their household at risk.
Public health officials say many Canadians can’t safely self-isolate at home because of crowded housing conditions, contributing to the disproportionate spread of infections in low-income neighbourhoods.
The centres offer people a free, safe place to self-isolate as well as other services such as meals, security, transportation, income support and links to health care.
The federal government has committed roughly $29 million to support municipally run isolation sites in Toronto, Ottawa and the regions of Peel and Waterloo. The Ontario government is also spending $42 million to create and expand centres in locations across the province, adding up to1,525 more beds in coming weeks.
Joe Cressy, chair of the Toronto Board of Health, said people may be referred to the city’s self-isolation sites by COVID-19 case managers and community outreach workers, but individuals can access the facilities on their own accord.
Cressy said the city also runs a COVID-19 isolation site out of a hotel where people who are experiencing homelessness can stay while they’re sick. He noted that this recovery program is distinct from the hotels that are being used as temporary homeless shelters to support physical distancing.
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ISOLATION HOTEL INCENTIVES
In Alberta, people who need to self-isolate because of COVID-19 concerns can not only stay in a hotel room free of charge, but may qualify for a $625 relief payment upon checkout.
Earlier this week, the province expanded a temporary financial aid program intended to incentivize Albertans to self-isolate in a hotel if they can’t safely do so at home.
Since December, residents of hard-hit neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Calgary have been eligible for a $625 government payment at the end of their stay.
Now, the aid is open to all Albertans who have been referred by a provincial health authority.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
So few influenza cases, Canada can't declare start of flu season yet – CTV News
There have been so few cases of influenza this year that Canadian public health officials still can’t declare the official start of flu season.
“Influenza activity remains below the threshold required to declare the start of the 2020-21 influenza season,” reads the latest FluWatch report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). On a national level, flu season typically starts in mid-November.
“All indicators of influenza activity remain exceptionally low for this time of year, despite continued monitoring for influenza across Canada.”
So far this season, there hasn’t been any evidence of community circulation of the virus, nor have any laboratory-confirmed outbreaks of influenza been reported. However, in Canada’s schools and daycares, there have been 117 outbreaks of influenza-like-illness — a broad descriptor where the source may or may not have been the flu.
The news that flu has been seemingly stopped in its tracks is likely welcomed by front-line workers who have spent the past year grappling with staying safe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
PHAC also noted that flu testing and vaccinations were at higher and comparable levels, respectively, to previous years.
Approximately 32 per cent of adults 18 years old and older were vaccinated for the flu, with 70 per cent of seniors 65 years and older being vaccinated, according to the 2020-2021 Seasonal Influenza Immunization Coverage Survey.
According to PHAC, the trend of low cases is likely “influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, including changes in healthcare-seeking behaviour, impacts of public health measures and influenza testing practices.”
There have been so few cases in circulation this season that the National Microbiology Laboratory hasn’t received samples of flu viruses from the 2020-2021 season to examine.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca
- Israel reopens much of its economy after vaccinating over 52 per cent of its population.
- More than 2.2 million vaccine doses have been administered across Canada, latest data shows.
- Toronto businesses set to reopen Monday, but the spectre of ‘back-and-forth’ closures still looms.
- U.S. Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
- Have a question about the coronavirus pandemic? You can reach us at COVID@cbc.ca
Israel has opened most of its economy as part of its final phase of lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions, some of them in place since September.
Bars and restaurants, event halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary education may reopen to the public on Sunday, with some restrictions on entry and capacity. The move comes after months of government-imposed shutdowns.
The Israeli government approved the easing of limitations Saturday night, including the reopening of the main international airport to a limited number of incoming passengers each day.
Most large public activities, including dining at restaurants, are available to people vaccinated against the coronavirus. Israel has sped ahead with its immunization campaign. More than 52 per cent of its population has received one dose and almost 40 per cent have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, one of the highest rates in the world.
Meanwhile, Canada’s chief public health officer pointed to the country’s accelerating vaccine campaign as a reason for optimism, but she also warned against complacency.
Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement on Saturday that more than 2.2 million vaccine doses have been administered across Canada as of Friday and that cases have “levelled off” after experiencing a decline from mid-January through mid-February.
But she noted that these encouraging signs don’t mean pandemic challenges have ended, and she urged Canadians to continue following public health guidance and practising individual precautionary measures.
In an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday, Tam said it’s important to “just hang on in there for a bit longer” so that vaccines can be provided “to as many people as possible” and Canadians can “break the most severe consequences, the crisis phase of this pandemic.”
Canada is expanding its stockpile of shots to protect against COVID-19, prompting provinces to accelerate their vaccine rollouts.
Health Canada approved the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, making it the fourth to be approved for use in the country. Meanwhile, the manufacturer of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is ramping up shipments ahead of the summer.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has also recommended that time between doses of COVID-19 vaccines can be changed from three weeks to four months, which would allow provinces to at least partially inoculate as many people as quickly as possible.
What’s happening in Canada
As of 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 886,100 cases of COVID-19, with 30,042 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,235.
Alberta announced 341 new COVID-19 cases and an additional death on Saturday.
WATCH | Alberta senior says vaccine changed her life:
Saskatchewan added 163 new cases and three more fatalities.
Manitoba on confirmed 71 more cases of COVID-19 and one more death from the illness.
The COVID-19 hot spots of Toronto and Peel Region — which have been under stay-at-home orders since Dec. 26 — will move into the less strict grey zone of Ontario’s reopening framework, starting Monday. Non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen with strict capacity limits.
Stay-at-home orders are also being lifted in North Bay-Parry Sound, and the region will return to the framework’s red-control level.
WATCH | Toronto doctor talks of ‘resounding success’ of shelter vaccine program:
Quebec reported 707 new cases and seven new deaths on Sunday.
Quebec provincial police handed out 36 tickets of $1,500 to a group of people who gathered in a chalet in Stoneham, outside Quebec City, on Saturday night. Police say neighbours called them about an illegal gathering at a rented chalet.
Police say most of the people came from outside of the Capitale-Nationale region, which is slated to go from being a designated red zone to a less-restrictive orange zone on Monday.
New Brunswick confirmed six new cases Saturday as the entire province prepares to return to the less-restrictive yellow phase at the end of the weekend.
Nova Scotia reported two new cases and two new recoveries on Sunday.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case and one new recovery on Sunday.
Yukon has unveiled its strategy on what the territory will need to achieve before it will reduce or modify some of its COVID-19 restrictions, including changes to self-isolation requirements, expanding social bubbles and easing capacity limits inside bars and restaurants.
Nunavut reported four new cases on Saturday.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 116.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with more than 65.9 million of the cases listed on the Johns Hopkins University tracking site as resolved. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million.
Austrian authorities have suspended inoculations with a batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as a precaution while investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after the shots, a health agency said on Sunday.
“The Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BASG) has received two reports in a temporal connection (closeness in time) with a vaccination from the same batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the district clinic of Zwettl” in Lower Austria province, it said.
One 49-year-old woman died as a result of severe coagulation disorders, while a 35-year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering, it said. A pulmonary embolism is an acute lung disease caused by a dislodged blood clot.
“Currently there is no evidence of a causal relationship with the vaccination,” BASG said.
Swiss newspaper Niederoesterreichische Nachrichten, as well as broadcaster ORF and the APA news agency, reported that the women were both nurses who worked at the Zwettl clinic.
BASG said blood clotting was not among the known side-effects of the vaccine. It was pursuing its investigation vigorously to completely rule out any possible link.
AstraZeneca had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.
In the United States, the Democratic-led Senate has passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion US COVID-19 relief bill by a razor-thin margin, sending it back to the House of Representatives, which could pass it on Tuesday and have it ready for a presidential signature before unemployment aid programs expire on March 14.
After an all-night debate, the Senate voted 50-49 for the package on Saturday, with no Republicans voting in favour.
The package includes a third round of stimulus payments up to a maximum of $1,400 for individual Americans earning $75,000 or less per year.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – 95.7 News
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Ontario is reporting 1,299 new cases of COVID-19 today and 15 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 329 new cases in Toronto, 192 in Peel Region, and 116 in York Region.
Today’s data is based on 46,586 completed tests.
The province also says 30,192 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Saturday’s update.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021
The Canadian Press
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