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Coronavirus: Canada reports record infections – CTV News

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Canada reported 14,995 new COVID-19 infections Wednesday, setting a new record for daily cases since the start of the pandemic.

The record number comes amid a steady increase in infections after the country logged a total of 11,690 new cases on Tuesday and 10,665 on Monday, according to data collected by CTVNews.ca.

According to the data, the country’s seven-day average is also the highest it has ever been during the course of the pandemic at 10,487.7 cases.

The new record marks a grim milestone as provinces across Canada impose new restrictions and speed up rollouts of booster shots to help curb the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Omicron is now the dominant variant in several provinces, according to chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, prompting the closure of businesses and tight restrictions on capacity limits ahead of the holidays.

“Modelling shows that by the beginning of January we could have very high number of cases, which underscores the need to act urgently now to reduce the acceleration,” Tam said during a press briefing Wednesday.

Health officials stress that severe illness trends are also on the rise in Canada, but note it is unclear if those more serious cases are linked to the lagging effect of the Delta variant or Omicron.

However, Tam says a fast-spreading wave of Omicron could make the problem in Canadian hospitals worse even if the variant turns out to be less severe.

To avoid a sudden rush on the health-care system, Tam urged all Canadians to do what they can to lessen the spread of the virus, including changing their Christmas plans.

“This variant spreads extremely quickly and the situation can rapidly get out of hand anywhere,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also present at the press conference on Wednesday, said he plans to adjust his own festivities.

“There have been lots of conversations about not seeing friends, not gathering for New Year’s, not gathering outside immediate family for Christmas in our household like in a lot of households,” he said.

NEW RESTRICTIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY

Just before midnight tonight, bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centres, and dance studios in B.C. must close. Starting Friday, Alberta is limiting venues that seat more than 1,000 people, including arenas, to half capacity, while Prince Edward Island has joined Newfoundland and Labrador in requiring visitors to isolate upon arrival in the province.

Quebec reported a record number of cases for the third day in a row Wednesday, with the Omicron variant accounting for nearly 80 per cent of the 6,361 new infections.

In response to the rapid spread of the variant, Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced gatherings in homes will be limited to six people or two family bubbles starting Boxing Day. This rule will also apply to gatherings at restaurants. Earlier this week, the province abruptly closed bars, gyms and schools.

Ontario health officials reported 4,383 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, marking the highest daily case count in the province since late April. The Omicron variant has largely overtaken the rising wave of infections in the province, even for those vaccinated with both COVID-19 shots.

The recent spike in case numbers has brought stricter visiting policies in several Ontario hospitals and some facilities have paused non-essential care and surgical procedures.

Despite projections that Omicron-driven cases and hospitalizations will increase dramatically by the end of December without stronger measures, health officials said they will not tighten public health measures for the holidays.

In Manitoba, tighter capacity restrictions came into effect on Tuesday with gyms, movie theatres and restaurants limited to half capacity, despite people being required to show proof of vaccination to enter these establishments.

The federal government announced Wednesday it intends to temporarily expand the eligibility of several support programs to apply to those impacted by these new public health restrictions driven by the Omicron surge.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Canada ends contract with Malaysia’s Supermax over labour allegations

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Canada has terminated its sourcing contract with Malaysian glove maker Supermax Corp following allegations about forced labour, the country’s public services and procurement department said on Tuesday.

“Based on the seriousness of the allegations and expected timelines for the final audit results, the Government of Canada has decided, and Supermax Healthcare Canada has agreed, to terminate by mutual consent the two existing contracts for the supply of nitrile gloves,” the department told Reuters in an emailed statement.

Supermax did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ed Davies)

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Russia fines Google for not deleting banned content

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A Moscow court on Monday said it had ordered Alphabet’s Google to pay 4 million roubles ($52,526) for not removing access to content banned in Russia, the latest in a string of fines for the U.S. tech giant.

Russia upped the ante late last year in its efforts to increase pressure on Big Tech, handing massive, revenue-based fines to Google and Meta Platforms for repeatedly failing to remove content Moscow deems illegal.

Google declined to comment.

The TASS news agency reported that Google had been fined for providing access to links of banned websites.

($1 = 76.1530 roubles)

 

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Jan. 17 – CBC.ca

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Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks at Dubai Airport after the Australian Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa to play in the Australian Open, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 17, 2022. REUTERS/Abdel Hadi Ramahi (REUTERS)

Health Canada approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 therapeutic

The good news for Canadian health practitioners and burned-out hospital staff is that Health Canada has just approved Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid for treatment in COVID-19 patients.

The downside is, as explained in Friday’s newsletter, demand far exceeds supply even in the United States, where the drug is manufactured.

The approval came Monday, weeks after positive results in a clinical trial were published in which Pfizer said the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 per cent compared to a placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19. While the trial involved unvaccinated individuals, further studies have shown desired effects for vaccinated people.

Experts say an effective pill that’s easy to self-administer at home for those infected could relieve some of the pressure on the health-care system and change the trajectory of the pandemic, although it’s unlikely to be of major impact for this Omicron wave.

“This is welcome news — we have one more tool in our toolbox,” said federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos. “But no drug, including Paxlovid, can replace vaccination and public health measures.”

Canada has placed an order for an initial quantity of one million treatment courses but at a Monday briefing, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the federal government is expecting “supply at the beginning will not be great anywhere.”

Health Canada is authorizing it to treat adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of progressing to serious disease, including hospitalization or death.

The drug is intended for use as soon as possible after diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of the start of symptoms. The treatment consists of two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir taken together by mouth twice per day for five days.

Paxlovid could be useful for people who have underlying conditions that increase the risk of hospitalization and death related to the coronavirus, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Health Canada has warned, however, that the product shouldn’t be used while a patient is on any of a long list of other drugs, including common medications used to treat erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol and seasonal allergies, among others.

Pfizer is promising to churn out 120 million courses of the treatment by year’s end. That means in the absence of new, vaccine-evading coronavirus variants — a big if — next fall and winter could look a lot different in Canada in terms of the impact of COVID-19.

From The National

Parents weigh risks, benefits ahead of return to in-class learning

23 hours ago

Duration 2:26

Parents in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia are weighing the risks and benefits of sending their children back to the classroom as in-person learning resumes despite the Omicron surge. 2:26

Hundreds of air passengers broke in-flight mask rules in 2021

The issue of passengers flouting COVID-19 rules on airplanes has been in the spotlight in recent days after passengers on a Sunwing chartered flight from Montreal to Mexico were seen partying and vaping while not wearing masks.

Between January and December 2021, Transport Canada received 1,710 reports of passengers refusing to wear masks. In the vast majority of those cases — 1,594 — passengers refused to wear masks or to resume wearing them after they had finished eating or drinking.

In seven cases, passengers were not allowed to board the plane; in 108 cases, passengers who had boarded were ordered to leave the plane.

Figures collected by Transport Canada show that 959 of those cases resulted in enforcement action, ranging from warning letters to fines.

Wesley Lesosky, head of the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ airline division, which represents 14,000 flight attendants with nine Canadian airlines, said staff are in the uncomfortable spot of being the “mask police” in addition to their other duties.

“We have had incidents that have escalated to a physical nature,” he said. “We have had issues of obviously being sworn at, we have had issues of being spit at. We have had issues of just disgruntled people. We have had people [who] are just ticked off with the mask policy.”

Unruly behaviour has been a frequent problem in the U.S. Last week, three people were charged in connection with an incident in September at New York’s JFK Airport, where a security guard was allegedly assaulted as a pandemic-related exchange escalated.

The wearing of a mask to mitigate COVID-19 has been politicized in the U.S., with several Republican governors overruling mask mandates imposed by local authorities in their states. Travellers from all 50 states, however, have to abide by the mask mandate imposed in the pandemic if they enter an American airport or board a plane.

According to a CNN report last week, citing Federal Aviation Administration data, there were 5,981 reports of unruly passengers logged in 2021. Of those, 4,290 — nearly 72 per cent — were for mask-related incidents.

From 1995 to when the pandemic began in 2020, the FAA averaged 182 such incidents a year, per the report.

In contrast to Canadian data, which indicate there were more incidents as 2021 progressed, the first six months of the year in the U.S. had far more reports of adverse behaviour than the second half of 2021. That could partially be explained by the fact that, in general, the U.S. has had more business activity open and fewer societal disruptions than Canada, including airline travel.

Another wrinkle in the U.S. concerns Southwest Airlines, whose CEO has been the most vocal among the big airlines in criticizing the mask mandate. Unionized flight attendants at Southwest have just filed a grievance, indicating some pilots are not masking up in accordance with the FAA guidelines.

How the flouting of COVID-19 restrictions by leaders damages credibility and trust

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government have been on apology blitz after a woeful week of revelations concerning hypocritical behaviour in regards to the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

First, Johnson acknowledged public “rage” after it was learned he attended a May 2020 garden party involving dozens of Downing Street staff, held in contravention of COVID-19 restrictions that Britons were supposed to be following at the time. Then just two days later, Johnson’s office offered a separate apology to Queen Elizabeth over a pair of parties held by Downing Street staff on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021 — a time when pandemic restrictions prompted the Queen to sit alone in her grief in St. George’s Chapel the following day.

It will be up to the British people and the Conservative Party to see if Johnson can ride out the firestorm, but experts say the contradictory, rule-defying behaviour by rule-makers undermines key pandemic messaging and does little to build trust with the people paying attention to what their leaders say and do.

Maya Goldenberg, an associate professor of philosophy at Ontario’s University of Guelph who studies vaccine hesitancy, said such erosion of trust is a problem for people trying to lead the way out of a pandemic.

“The leadership in this pandemic, both politicians and scientists, needs a lot of public buy-in to successfully implement pandemic containment measures,” she said in an email to CBC News.

“When the leadership act as if the rules don’t apply to them, they damage public trust in the leadership — and by doing that, they undermine their own ability to lead effectively.”

Monica Schoch-Spana, who has worked in public health emergency management for more than two decades, said she fears that the repeated coverage of such stories may potentially be “reinforcing people’s lack of trust in government.”

Schoch-Spana, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said the stories about leaders who aren’t abiding by the rules are becoming fodder “for a proxy war for people in how they feel about politicians and governments more generally.”

They can also lead to distortion, as for every story about California Gov. Gavin Newsom or the Dutch king, dozens of political leaders have seemingly been modelling the correct behaviour for their constituents.

Closer to home, Canada has seen some of its own political leaders doing what they wanted, not as they urged others to do in the name of public health.

The list includes premiers going places they told others not to visit or holding gatherings that were questionable under the rules in place, as well as politicians taking verboten trips outside of Canada in the middle of the ongoing global health emergency. As recently as last month, a Liberal MP was removed from parliamentary committee duties after taking a non-essential trip outside the country.

Today’s graphic:

Find out more about COVID-19

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

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See the answers to COVID-19 questions asked by CBC viewers and readers.

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

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