Airlines say a slew of questions remain about the federal government’s decision to require passengers returning to Canada to show negative results on COVID-19 tests taken abroad.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Thursday that air travellers overseas will have to present proof of a negative molecular test — known as a PCR test, conducted with a nasal swab — that was taken within 72 hours of departure, unless the testing is unavailable in that country.
National Airlines Council of Canada chief executive Mike McNaney says the Transport Department has yet to provide a list of foreign agencies whose tests are considered acceptable or to establish how airline employees should determine whether a test document is valid.
He says the new rule, which mandates a 14-day quarantine in Canada regardless of the test result, will cause “confusion” and “frustration” for carriers and passengers alike.
Air Transat vice-president Christophe Hennebelle says Ottawa announced the requirement, which takes effect this Thursday, “out of the blue” without any prior consultation or notice to industry.
Transport Canada did not immediately respond to questions Monday.
New testing rule for air travellers begins Jan. 7
The rule comes as a devastated airline sector continues to bleed cash following a collapse in demand caused by the pandemic.
It also arrives amid growing criticism of the federal sick-leave benefit that pays $500 per week for up to two weeks to Canadians quarantined after touching down from abroad, including after vacations.
Some federal and provincial politicians are among those who chose to travel beyond Canada’s borders over the holidays, despite public-health recommendations against non-essential travel.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
B.C. looking into possibility of mixing and matching, further delaying COVID-19 vaccine doses – CTV News Vancouver
B.C. announced its full COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan through September on Friday, and while it relies on regular shipments of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, officials are looking into the safety of mixing doses between the two.
Dr. Bonnie Henry explained during a morning news conference about vaccine rollout that discussions have been ongoing across the country, especially after a recent delay in Pfizer shipments.
The top doctor said Canadian health officials are in contact with their counterparts in the U.K., where some second doses of the vaccine are being delayed by as much as three months.
“We’re trying to understand the impact that has on effectiveness of the vaccine,” she said.
Henry said there has been “some permissive language” around using the same type of vaccine. In other words, she explained, because both Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines, there’s a better chance they could be interchangeable.
“But that is a last resort. It’s only if the original vaccine is not available,” she said. “We’re still looking at the best advice on that and whether it’s better to delay the second dose for longer or to provide the second dose with the alternate product.”
One example scenario Henry gave is if an individual is at the 42-day mark after receiving their first Pfizer dose but there is no longer any Pfizer vaccine available, health officials are discussing what they would do in that instance.
“We would have to make a decision about whether we use available doses of Moderna or whether we extend and wait for Pfizer to become available. So that’s the situation we’re not yet in, but that we may be facing,” she said.
“Right now we don’t have good information to inform one or the other of those decisions.”
Henry said there is little data on the matter right now, but added there’s been weekly discussions on the topic with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, with another call planned for this weekend.
Alberta received shipment of 21,450 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines this week – Global News
About 97,785 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered to Albertans and more are likely going to be able to get their second dose thanks to another shipment.
Alberta Health confirmed the province received a shipment of Pfizer vaccine this week. That shipment included 21,450 doses.
“With 96,500 doses of vaccine delivered, thousands of the most vulnerable seniors and health-care workers now have an extra layer of protection,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday.
As of Wednesday, Alberta Health Services had administered just 7,272 second doses.
On Monday, after learning of a delay in Pfizer vaccine, Premier Jason Kenney said first dose appointments were being paused to ensure there was enough vaccine available for committed second dose appointments.
On Tuesday, Hinshaw said it seemed like there was enough vaccine in hand as well as what had been committed, even with the reduction in Pfizer supplies, to be able to offer that second dose to those who have booked it.
Alberta Health Services prioritizing second doses of COVID-19 vaccine
On Thursday, Alberta’s top doctor reiterated the province would do its “utmost” to ensure “that every individual who’s received their first dose does get their second dose within the 42-day timeline.
“If not, they’ll continue to be eligible and will receive it as soon as possible after that.”
Hinshaw said Alberta was working with the federal government and other provinces to use current allocations “as wisely as possible.”
What to know about 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta as shortages persist
She added that while there are many unknowns with the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, health officials can consider evidence from other types of vaccines.
“We know that with other vaccines, that when someone has their first dose, there is no end date at which time they’re no longer eligible for a second dose,” Hinshaw said.
“And we know, sometimes, with some other vaccines, that if there is a little bit of a longer interval between first and second dose, the overall long-lasting immune response can sometimes be better.”
On Friday, Alberta Health said 643 new COVID-19 cases had been identified in the last 24 hours and 13,019 tests had been completed. That puts Alberta’s positivity rate at about 4.9 per cent.
There are currently 9,987 active cases in Alberta.
As of Friday, there are 691 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, with 115 of those in ICU.
Twelve additional deaths were reported to Alberta Health, bringing the provincial death toll to 1,512.
Of the 12 deaths reported Friday, five were in the Edmonton zone: a man in his 70s from Jasper Place Continuing Care Centre, a man in his 80s from Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre, a man in his 80s from Shepherd’s Care Vanguard, a woman in her 90s from Laurier House Lynnwood and a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital. Alberta Health said all of these cases included comorbidities.
Three deaths were reported in the Calgary zone: a man in his 80s from Bethany Calgary, a woman in her 90s from Revera Scenic Acres Retirement Residence and a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Foothills Medical Centre. All of these deaths included comorbidities.
Three deaths were reported in the Central zone: a woman in her 50, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Seasons Camrose. All three included comorbidities.
A woman in her 90s with comorbidities who was linked to the outbreak at Prairie Lake Supportive Living in the North zone also died.
Alberta will not relax public health restrictions yet, despite falling cases of COVID-19
In terms of vaccine, the province said 97,785 doses had been administered as of Jan. 21.
“Our positivity rate, active cases and hospitalizations continue to decline,” Hinshaw said Thursday. “This is good news and shows restrictions are helping to prevent more people from being exposed and getting sick with this virus, and that the overwhelming majority of Albertans are doing their part.
“We are not in the clear just yet,” she said.
“Our cases are falling, but we still have the second highest active case rates per capita in Canada.
“While our hospitalizations have decreased significantly from the peak, they remain extremely high.”
An additional 16 deaths were also announced, bringing Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,500.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
WestJet Boeing 737 MAX flight grounded at Calgary airport after ‘potential fault’ warning – Global News
According to WestJet, Flight WS658 had passengers on board and was getting ready to take off, when it was “returned to the gate after push back.”
“After a normal engine start, a standard function of the health monitoring system indicated a potential fault that needed to be verified and reset,” WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart said in an emailed statement.
“This process takes time and requires a subsequent engine run, which we do not perform with guests on board.”
1st Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada after grounding
Stewart said the flight was cancelled, and the 35 passengers were instead put on Flight WS662, boarding a planned Dreamliner flight “only because we didn’t want to keep them waiting.” The aircraft’s return flight, WS665 from Toronto to Calgary, was also cancelled.
The Boeing 737 MAX was cleared for flight shortly after the passengers got off, and is set to return to service on Sunday, Stewart said.
According to the Calgary airport’s website, WS658 was set to take off at 8 a.m. Stewart said all of the guests on the original flight have since landed in Toronto.
WestJet flew Canada’s first commercial flight on a 737 MAX in almost two years just one day prior, after the aircraft was taken out of Canadian skies following two deadly crashes.
Chris Bauenbusch, president of CUPE Local 4070 which represents WestJet’s flight attendants, was on the cancelled flight, working as a flight attendant, when the plane had to return to the gate.
He said in the airline industry, it’s “common to have the odd hiccup here and there.”
“Obviously there’s a heightened focus on a model of aircraft coming back into service, such as what’s happening with that aircraft,” he said. “But these are common things that happen on a daily basis.”
Bauenbusch said from a union perspective, they have no issues with their members flying on the aircraft.
“The union maintains… that this is a safe aircraft, through all the rigor that it’s been put through,” he said.
In a statement, Transport Canada said it was aware of the flight that “opted to return to the gate.”
“We understand the pilots made this decision due to a cockpit warning light that signaled before departure,” the agency said.
“This incident is not related to the previous grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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