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Coronavirus: Champagne says efforts to repatriate Canadians ‘on a scale we’ve never seen’ – Global News

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Though hundreds of Canadians were repatriated on a flight from Morocco on Saturday, thousands more remain stranded abroad over tight travel and border restrictions put in place to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Speaking to Mike Le Couteur on Global News’ The West Block, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne shed some light on Canada’s efforts to repatriate those desperate to get back home.

He described the operation as “on a scale that we’ve never seen” before.


READ MORE:
How many Canadians have coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

According to Champagne, Canada’s operation centres have received at least 14,000 emails and 10,000 phone calls within the last 48 hours and they have 600 people staffed around the clock to answer those calls for help.

“You know, if you look at the scale of what we’re trying to achieve, Canada and any other country, this has never been seen in the history of the world, where you have all these issues at the same time: air space closure, airport closure, martial law in some countries,” said Champagne.

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Champagne said that Canadians should expect more updates on their work to bring citizens home as the process remains extremely complicated.


READ MORE:
What are coronavirus symptoms? In mild cases, just like the common cold

“Getting the plane is usually the easiest piece. You know, that’s step one,” he said. “After that, I need to negotiate country by country.”

“So that’s why information is key in times of crisis and in times where people are nervous, and it’s understandable.”

Canada needs to obtain landing permissions, ensure safe passage for the crew and then make sure only asymptomatic passengers are boarding, Champagne explained.

Those who are returning from international destinations have to self-isolate for 14 days.

“So there’s a lot of things happening, but obviously what you hear, sometimes is those are the most difficult cases. You know, we have people in Guatemala. We have people in Ecuador and there, that’s where I need to intervene almost on an hourly basis because countries change the rules. … Situations on the ground are moving. We need to make sure people can get to these airports, so that’s what we’re doing on a 24/7 basis.”


READ MORE:
Your coronavirus questions, answered: Medical experts respond to your COVID-19 concerns

In a tweet on Sunday, Champagne confirmed that they were working with Canadian airlines to organize flights from Peru, Spain, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the coming days.

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Champagne was also asked what he’d say to those Canadians who felt abandoned by their government following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments on Saturday that the government wouldn’t be able to get all Canadians home.

“So what we have to accept is that there’ll be some Canadians who can’t come back home,” he said, echoing Trudeau. “And what we’ll do with our missions around the world is to provide them services, to assist them the best we can.”

Kristina Stoyanova, a Canadian currently stranded in Honduras, told Roy Green Show guest host Shane Hewitt that the situation there is fairly calm and that many international travellers were accepting that they might be stranded there for some time.

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“I think we went through a little bit of a wave of panic as a lot of the closures were being announced, and the commercial airlines were cancelling their flights, but I think now we’re sort of past that stage and just all sort of accepting our fate and that we might be stranded here for an extended period of time,” said Stoyanova.






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Coronavirus outbreak: Canadian government’s efforts to fly Canadians home continue


Coronavirus outbreak: Canadian government’s efforts to fly Canadians home continue

Champagne previously said at a press conference on Saturday that officials were working with and in touch with “hundreds of thousands” of Canadians abroad.

The foreign affairs minister also tweeted on Saturday night that he had spoken with his counterparts in the U.K., Australia, Brazil, Germany, Morocco, Turkey and Peru on how to repatriate Canadians abroad — including the estimated 4,000 still stuck on cruise ships.

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Canada’s borders were closed to most foreign travellers on Wednesday, while a mutual shutdown to non-essential travel between the U.S.-Canada border went into effect Saturday morning — all in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

To date, there are more than 1,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 20 deaths linked to the disease, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial governments. (The death toll was lowered from 21 after Quebec announced that one deceased person believed to have contracted the virus tested negative.)


READ MORE:
Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

Champagne tested negative for the virus earlier this week after he said he felt flu-like symptoms following an international trip.

“I was nervous, but I mean in a sense, I knew that at the end of the day, I had a job to do,” he said.

“You know, we’re facing unprecedented circumstances and in this case, like many of our folks who are on the front line, you don’t think too much about yourself. It’s about serving. It’s about making sure we have thousands — tens of thousands — of Canadians who depend on me and my team to fly them back home.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada not looking to retaliate after U.S. restricts coronavirus mask exports: Trudeau – Global News

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is not considering retaliation after U.S. President Donald Trump told a manufacturer of medical masks not to export them to Canada.


READ MORE:
Coronavirus: Canada to receive ‘millions’ of masks from China, Trudeau says

“We are not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive,” he said.

Trudeau said he would be speaking with Trump in the coming days and looking for a positive solution on the issue.






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Coronavirus outbreak: Freeland says Canadian government will ‘pull out all the stops’ on medical equipment distribution


Coronavirus outbreak: Freeland says Canadian government will ‘pull out all the stops’ on medical equipment distribution

“We’re continuing to engage at all levels with the administration, having very constructive conversations highlighting that the flow of goods and services that are essential to both of our countries flow both ways across the borders,” he said.

He was referencing the medical professionals who live in Canada and work in the United States, as well as supplies such as gloves and testing kits that Canada ships to the country.

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“It is in both of our interests to maintain this extraordinary close relationship,” he said.

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Trudeau made the remarks in his daily address to Canadians from outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.


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Coronavirus: Trump asks medical supply firm 3M to stop selling N95 respirators to Canada

On Friday, 3M said it was asked by the Trump administration not to supply N95 respirators (medical-grade face masks) to Canada and Latin America amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has ordered the Minnesota-based company to produce and sell as many masks as the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it needs. He invoked the Defence Production Act in order to speed up the distribution of masks.






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Trump criticized for telling 3M to stop sending masks to Canada


Trump criticized for telling 3M to stop sending masks to Canada

Trump later released a statement saying that nothing in his order “will interfere with the ability of PPE manufacturers to export when doing so is consistent with United States policy and in the national interest of the United States.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Friday that 3M would continue to export masks to Canada.

READ MORE: Trudeau announces $40M for women’s shelters, $10M for Indigenous women and kids amid pandemic

“3M is basically going to be helping the American people fight this battle,” he said. “There will still be some exports from the United States factories to our friends in Mexico and Canada but as for the rest of 3M’s production around the world, we’re going to try to get our fair share.

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“We will get our fair share.”

It was not immediately clear how many masks would be sent to Canada, or whether the Trump administration had walked back its request to the company.

3M did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Trudeau said Canada is working “day and night” to secure additional supplies, using Canadian companies along with suppliers around the world.

A chartered cargo flight with “millions” of masks will be arriving in the next 48 hours from China, he said.

—With files from Maham Abedi, Global News

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: Canada to receive ‘millions’ of masks from China, Trudeau says – Global News

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Canada is set to receive “millions” of medical masks from China, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Saturday.

Trudeau made the comments from Rideau Cottage, where he is currently self-isolating.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Trump asks medical supply firm 3M to stop selling N95 respirators to Canada

According to Trudeau, in the next 48 hours Canada will be receiving a shipment of millions of masks by a chartered cargo flight from China.

Trudeau said included in the shipment are items ordered for Quebec, where the most cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Canada.

Trudeau said the federal government is working with provinces in order to transport the medical supplies.






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Coronavirus outbreak: Freeland says Canadian government will ‘pull out all the stops’ on medical equipment distribution


Coronavirus outbreak: Freeland says Canadian government will ‘pull out all the stops’ on medical equipment distribution

He said Canada has also leased a warehouse in China to collect and distribute additional supplies “as quickly as possible.”

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Trudeau said Air Canada and Cargojet are assisting in this effort.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“I want to take a moment to thank everyone, whether you’re working in a warehouse, flying the plane or part of the ground crew, for your dedication,” he said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — More than 11M masks recently arrived in Canada, Trudeau says

Trudeau’s comments come a day after U.S. President Donald Trump asked Minnesota-based company 3M not to supply N95 respirators to Canada.

Trump on Friday ordered 3M to produce and sell as many medical-grade masks as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it needs.

He invoked the Defence Production Act in order to speed up the distribution of masks.

But, speaking to reporters on Saturday, Trudeau said Canada is not considering retaliatory measures in response to Trump’s move.






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Coronavirus outbreak: Freeland says Canadian government will ‘pull out all the stops’ on medical equipment distribution


Coronavirus outbreak: Freeland says Canadian government will ‘pull out all the stops’ on medical equipment distribution

“We are continuing to engage in constructive discussions with different levels within the administration to highlight that the U.S. will be hurting itself as much as Canada will be hurting if we see an interruption of essential goods and services flow back and forth across the border,” he said. “We continue to demonstrate that this is a good thing for both of our countries and we look to continue to ensure that essential supplies get across the border.”

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Trudeau said the government has been working “day and night”to source medical supplies for Canadian frontline workers.

“We have shipments coming in in the next 24 hours. We’ve received shipments over the past days,” he said. “We continue to work with suppliers around the world to ensure that we do get the medical equipment that we need and we have more coming in regularly.


READ MORE:
Canada not looking to retaliate after U.S. restricts coronavirus mask exports: Trudeau

Trudeau said the government is also turning to Canadian manufacturers to develop “made in Canada products, PPE, security equipment and medical supplies.”

“That is going to actually not just supply Canada, but be there to supply other countries who need them as we meet our own needs,” he said. “This is part of what Canada is doing to ensure that we are protecting our front line workers and all Canadians every single day.”

Canada’s chief medical health officer echoed Trudeau’s remarks at a press conference on Saturday, saying Canada was “pulling out all the stops” to secure personal protective equipment PPE for frontline workers.

Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada is looking at “multiple streams of supply” including domestic and international.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Why COVID-19 testing varies so much across Canada – CBC.ca

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If you just came back from an overseas trip with a fever and a cough, you’ll be prioritized for a COVID-19 test in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, but not B.C., Alberta or Quebec.

Some provinces are expanding the groups of people who can get tests as others narrow them — and that may change from day to day. Why? And what does it mean for the accuracy of numbers of infections in different provinces and territories?

Here’s a closer look.

How variable is testing across Canada?

Each province or territory has a different rate of testing and different groups that are targeted, sometimes unique to that region. For example, the Northwest Territories lists people who have had lab exposure to biological material, while Manitoba and Ontario prioritize people in remote areas or work camps. 

Many don’t test people outside those targeted groups, even if they have symptoms, and most even require people within those groups — such those who’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive — to have symptoms before they can be tested.

To make things even more confusing, the priority groups change from day to day: Alberta, Manitoba and P.E.I. have all announced changes to their testing criteria in the past two weeks, and Quebec has announced multiple changes in that time.

Why are only certain groups prioritized for testing?

There is generally a shortage of tests, materials needed to run the tests and lab workers to run them. Exactly what is in short supply — and how short those supplies run — varies from province to province and possibly from week to week. That’s why some provinces, such as New Brunswick, are running relatively few tests, and some, such as Ontario, have long backlogs.

But to some extent, the shortage is Canada-wide — and worldwide.

“You’re just not going to be able to test everybody,” said Greta Bauer, a professor of epidemiology at Western University.

That means tests need to be rationed and each province or territory decides exactly which groups get priority, based on two main goals:

As a result, patients who need treatment in hospital are usually prioritized. Those who don’t need medical treatment, such as those with mild symptoms, often aren’t tested at all — they’re just told to self-isolate at home.

“We’re going to save the tests for the people who are really sick,” said Gaston De Serres, an epidemiologist practitioner at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec and a professor at Laval University, in an interview in French.

And to make sure those people can be properly treated, he said, health-care workers must also have good access to testing to ensure they can continue to safely work with patients.

Many people may think testing — and the daily infection numbers that come from the results — are an important way to measure the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. And more widespread testing would presumably better do that.

But while that is a way that governments might use testing, right now it “is not the primary use of tests,” said Bauer.

Why are priority groups changing so much?

Bauer acknowledged testing criteria are changing quickly — something that she called “appropriate” as the pandemic moves through different stages, particularly since a main goal of testing is to improve government response.

“That is, I think, what’s driving most of the changes we’ve seen,” she said.

Testing also needs to be responsive to what’s happening in different communities, she noted.

A medical staff member of a COVID-19 testing unit collects samples from people at a drive-thru location at the Santa Maria della Pieta hospital complex in Rome on April 3. (Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press)

Why are some regions broadening their testing?

Initially, most cases across Canada were travel-related, so travellers and their close contacts were prioritized for testing in the hopes that COVID-19 could be contained in the way SARS was.

But now more than half of cases in Canada have been spread through community transmission and the numbers are getting higher, prompting many provinces to de-prioritize travellers.

Some provinces, such as P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, have broadened who they test in a bid to get a better handle on community spread.

Why are others making their testing more targeted?

Many provinces are now facing a shortage of tests and a strain on their health-care systems from COVID-19 infections, forcing them to narrow their criteria.

Alberta, for example, used to test more broadly, but on March 23 announced it would stop testing contacts of someone with COVID-19 and returning travellers to instead prioritize health-care workers, long-term care residents and clusters of cases.

And Quebec has changed its criteria twice in the past two weeks, as it struggles to balance testing shortages and a growing strain on its health-care system with a desire to get a better handle on community spread.

On March 19, the province announced that it would test more widely, and as recently as earlier this week, it said it would test asymptomatic contacts of people with symptoms. But on April 2, Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said the province was no longer testing travellers, contacts of people who tested positive and people with mild symptoms.

The province’s priorities for testing are now hospitalized patients, people in long-term care, health-care workers, people in remote regions, and first responders, police and other essential services.

“There are lots of practical considerations that determine how the tests are going to be used,” said De Serres.

There has been a lot of debate about which groups should be considered priority in Quebec, he said, as the current list is beginning to represent a lot of people.

Members of the RCMP are seen at a COVID-19 testing area in Burnaby, B.C., on April 1. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Who will be the big priorities for testing going forward?

Health-care workers and others who work in health-care settings are getting increasingly important, said Bauer. “And that’s because our response to the pandemic depends on those people.” 

While other people are being told to self-isolate for two weeks if they have any respiratory symptoms, doing that for health-care workers could lead to a severe shortage. We need to know for sure whether they have COVID-19 or a different respiratory illness, she said, and then get them back to work as soon as possible after they recover.

But she said she thinks testing should be broadened to other groups that help to supply essentials to locked down communities, such as those connected to pharmacies, groceries and deliveries of things like food. 

“Those are workers who are being asked to put themselves at risk and they are workers who we need on the job,” she said. “We need to not just think of essential services as people working in health-care settings.”

A nurse wears a protective mask and shield at a drive-thru clinic at Sainte-Justine children’s hospital in Montreal on April 1. Health-care workers are now prioritized for testing in many parts of Canada. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

How do differences in testing change the apparent number of confirmed infections?

“They’re a function not just of what’s happening with the underlying pandemic, but with what’s happening with testing as well,” said Bauer.

An increase or decrease in testing, more targeted testing and changes to delays in getting test results can all impact the numbers of positive tests — even if the number of actual infections stays the same.

In a plot of the number of new cases to new tests before and after Alberta made its testing criteria more targeted, there were suddenly a lot more new cases, or positive tests, even while the same number of people were tested. 

You can also see a pretty dramatic rise when Quebec removed a requirement to get lab results verified on March 23.

Small delays in getting results can have a big impact on the number of apparent cases, as the disease spreads exponentially; in Canada, it has been doubling about every three days.

For example, in Ontario, tests have been delayed at least four days — the same length of time it takes for the number of cases to double in that province. That means there are about half the number of cases reported than you would expect to see if test results were immediate.

An infected person detected through testing is not typically counted until two weeks after infection anyway, and obviously, only certain groups of infected people are even tested, so testing results are huge underestimates of actual cases. 

“We’re looking at, you know, multiple cases that are undiagnosed for each one of those diagnosed at present,” Bauer said. “We have to remember that what we’re seeing is the tip of [the] iceberg. We’re seeing cases that have become symptomatic, where people have met testing criteria, [and] enough time has passed for them to have that positive test.”

Those are some reasons why epidemiologists like Bauer say hospitalizations and deaths provide a better understanding of the course of the pandemic than test-based reporting of cases.

Given that testing is so varied among the provinces, when it comes to the number of confirmed infections in each province, “we have to remember we’re almost never comparing apples to apples right now,” said Bauer.

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