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Coronavirus: Travellers coming back to Canada now mandated to isolate, feds say – Global News

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Anyone returning to Canada from abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic will no longer just be asked to self-isolate upon their return — that order is now mandatory.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said during an appearance at the Senate on Wednesday that the government is done asking those returning to Canada from other countries to respect the request to go directly home and stay there for 14 days.

READ MORE: Senate passes Trudeau’s $82B coronavirus support package

She is now invoking the Quarantine Act to force them to do so, effectively immediately.

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The move comes after repeated reports of travellers, including Canadians rushing to return as the border closed and commercial travel options disappeared, stopping to pick up groceries or do errands after they had crossed the border back into Canada.

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It also comes after Global News reported that border officials allowed a Markham woman back into the country who was so ill with the coronavirus that she died within hours of re-entry.

READ MORE: CBSA ‘looking into circumstances’ of traveller who died of COVID-19 hours after landing in Toronto

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that mandatory isolation will apply to all travellers, including those from the U.S., but that it will not apply to those deemed to be doing “essential work.”

Travellers will also be barred from using public transit to get to the place where they will be isolating.

“It will, from midnight tonight, be a legal obligation of people entering Canada from outside Canada to self-isolate for 14 days,” Freeland said.

“In terms of the specific penalties and enforcement mechanisms, we will be giving you more information later today.”

She added the measures will not be retroactive for people who have already entered Canada in recent weeks, but said border officials will be taking the contact information of everyone entering the country as of midnight so that they can monitor whether they are obeying the mandatory isolation.

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Hajdu told reporters in a scrum on Wednesday that there will be “significant penalties” for those who don’t obey the new law.

“There will be follow up. There will be random screening and there will be spot screening based on particular situations.,” she said. “My officials are working with CBSA right now to ensure that people know that this will be serious and that there will be significant penalties if people violate the quarantine.”

The government has faced questions over its border screening measures for weeks, particularly with regards to whether the screening being done on the ground was effective and why measures like temperature testing were not being rolled out at re-entry points.






1:43
Kenney issues special warning to snowbirds returning from U.S. to self-isolate


Kenney issues special warning to snowbirds returning from U.S. to self-isolate

Officials have said things like taking temperatures are not effective and that the screening being done at borders includes questions about a person’s travel history and health designed to identify who needs to be directed to further resources.

Even earlier on Wednesday, Trudeau had been asked about why his government had not made isolation mandatory for travellers coming into the country.

“It is required for people to stay at home for 14 days,” he said, but was repeatedly pressed by reporters who noted that there was no legal obligation to that request.

He gave no indication that the government had, just hours earlier, invoked the Quarantine Act.

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1:54
Prime Minister Trudeau losing patience with people who don’t practice social distancing


Prime Minister Trudeau losing patience with people who don’t practice social distancing

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

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COVID-19 is hitting First Nations in Western Canada especially hard – CBC.ca

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While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces.

The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines.

“So what we’re saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard,” Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. “This is not the time to ease public health restrictions.”

The CBC’s David Thurton asks Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, associate deputy minister Valerie Gideon and Chief Medical Officer of Public Health Dr. Tom Wong about the concentration of active cases of COVID-19 in Prairie provinces. 4:29

As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces:

  • British Columbia: 580
  • Alberta: 1,312
  • Saskatchewan: 1,196
  • Manitoba: 2,241
  • Ontario: 93
  • Quebec: 144
  • Atlantic: 5

Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada:

  • British Columbia: 1,348
  • Alberta: 4,459
  • Saskatchewan: 3,525
  • Manitoba: 3,643
  • Ontario: 428
  • Quebec: 462
  • Atlantic: 8

First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations communities in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work.

Lack of housing

With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn’t before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“It’s quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities,” Banerji said. “They’ve held the forts for so long.”

Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding.

Dr. Anna Banerji is an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. (Michael Cooper/University of Toronto)

Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nation communities, they can’t find places to self-isolate.

Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. 

“When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen,” Sinclair said.

“We’re second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country.”

Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada.

The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services.

Opaskwayak Cree Nation Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair says overcrowding is one of the main causes of COVID-19’s spread in Prairie provinces, where there is a shortage of houses. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Close to 350 First Nations communities across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added.

But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members.

Call for stricter provincial measures

Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. 

“We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor,” said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19.

“When you’re on alcohol, you’re more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check.”

Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels would like to see stricter travel measures put in place to prevent transmission. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel.

Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations communities to urban areas.

“I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible,” Daniels said.

Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19.

Concern for loss of elders

Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn’t enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can’t detect infections in their first few days.

“It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community,” McDonald said.

Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer for the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, is worried about the knowledge and language that is being lost with elders as a result of the pandemic. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties.

“I always worry about our elders,” McDonald said. “Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that.”

Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle.

“I don’t know if I had time to really grieve because it’s one thing after the other,” Latender said. 

“It’s like you’re focused on one death and then you’re, well … ‘OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'”

Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered.

Lawrence Letander lost an uncle and two aunts during a COVID-19 outbreak last year in Dauphin River First Nation. From left to right: Walter Anderson, Lorraine Stagg and Ida Beardy. (Supplied/Lawrence Letander)

Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations.

But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there’s hope the chain of transmission will break. 

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

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The latest:

President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the United States will cease reducing U.S. staff counts at the World Health Organization and pay its financial obligations to it as it vows to stay fully engaged with the UN health agency to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am honoured to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci told the WHO’s executive board meeting in Geneva via video conference. The administration announced just hours after Biden’s inauguration that the United States would revoke a planned pullout from the WHO in July that had been announced by the Trump administration.

Fauci’s quick commitment to WHO — whose response to the coronavirus outbreak was repeatedly berated by the Trump administration — marks a dramatic and vocal shift toward a multilateral approach to fighting the pandemic.

He said the Biden administration “will cease the drawdown of U.S. staff seconded to the WHO” and resume “regular engagement” with WHO. He added: “The United States also intends to fulfil its financial obligations to the organization.”

Biden will sign 10 executive orders on Thursday to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including directing that disaster funds be used to help reopen schools and requiring that people wear masks on planes and buses, officials said.

Biden, a Democrat who took over from Republican President Donald Trump on Wednesday, has promised a fierce fight against the pandemic that killed 400,000 people in the United States under Trump’s watch.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, seen in this photo from last year, said Thursday that the U.S. will help the WHO’s efforts to bring vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to people in need. (Patrick Semansky/Getty Images)

The U.S is entering “what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus and must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation,” Biden said in his inauguration speech.

One order will require mask-wearing in airports and on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses, officials said.

He also plans to sign orders on Thursday to establish a COVID-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address supply shortfalls, establish protocols for international travellers and direct resources for minority communities hit hard by the infectious disease.

He plans to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse states and Native American tribes fully for the costs associated with National Guard and emergency supply efforts to combat the virus. Biden’s measures also restore “full reimbursement” from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund for costs related to reopening schools.

FEMA funds are typically disbursed after hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters. Institutions including hospitals can apply after Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency in March. The fund had previously been reimbursing 75 per cent of costs.

Biden plans to partner with state and local governments to establish vaccination spots in conference centres, stadiums and gymnasiums.

The new administration will also deploy thousands of clinical staff from federal agencies, military medical personnel and pharmacy chains to increase vaccinations, and make teachers and grocery clerks eligible.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

COVID-19 case counts are dropping in the two provinces hardest hit by the pandemic, offering some hope that newly imposed restrictions are working.

Quebec and Ontario have both seen new infections trend downward compared to last week’s totals, weeks after each province enacted a series of more stringent pandemic measures.

Quebec marked a fourth consecutive day on Wednesday with fewer than 2,000 new cases, reporting 1,502 new cases. Ontario, meanwhile, recorded 2,655 new cases on Wednesday.

As of early Thursday, Canada had reported 725,496 cases of COVID-19, with 68,414 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,462.

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

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A worker unloads boxes containing coronavirus vaccine manufactured in India, at the Department of Health Services in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 96.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 53.4 million of the cases considered resolved or recovered, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than two million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India has sent one million doses of a coronavirus vaccine to Nepal, a gift that is likely to help repair strained ties between the two neighbours. Nepal’s health minister says the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine, manufactured under license by Serum Institute of India, will be given to health workers and other front-line personnel. He says Nepal would like to purchase four million more doses, and asked for the Indian government’s help.

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, began supplying coronavirus vaccine to its neighbours this week. Relations between India and Nepal have been strained by a territorial dispute.

Police cordon off an area around a residential neighbourhood in Shanghai’s Huangpu district on Thursday after Chinese officials discovered at least three new coronavirus cases in the area near the historic Bund riverfront. (AFP/Getty Images)

China is imposing some of its toughest travel restrictions yet as coronavirus cases surge in several northern provinces ahead of the Lunar New Year. Next month’s festival is the most important time of the year for family gatherings in China, and for many migrant workers it is often the only time they are able to return to their rural homes.

This year, however, travellers must have a negative virus test within seven days of departure, and many local governments are ordering quarantines and other strict measures on travellers.

A national health official had this message Wednesday for Chinese citizens: “Do not travel or have gatherings unless it’s necessary.”

The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says access to medical oxygen is a “huge, huge critical need” across the continent as Africa’s case fatality rate from COVID-19 is now above the global average and health centres are overwhelmed.

John Nkengasong said the case fatality rate across the African continent is 2.5 per cent while the global average is 2.2 per cent. And while confirmed coronavirus cases in the past week across Africa dropped by seven per cent, deaths rose by 10 per cent.

“It’s beginning to be very worrying,” Nkengasong told reporters Thursday. He noted that a Nigerian colleague has said struggling health workers are having to decide which cases to manage and which not to manage in Africa’s most populous country.

Health workers wait to take throat swabs as part of COVID-19 testing at the Denlyn Mall taxi rank in Mamelodi township in South Africa on Wednesday. (Phill Macakoe/AFP/Getty Images)

Twenty-one of Africa’s more than 50 countries have case fatality rates above the global average, led by Sudan at 6.2 per cent. The continent has seen more than 6,000 deaths in the past week, with more than 81,000 overall. Africa has had more than 3.3 million confirmed virus cases. Almost all African countries are still waiting for COVID-19 vaccines.

In the Americas, Mexico has had a second consecutive day of COVID-19 deaths surpassing 1,500. Officials reported 1,539 such deaths Wednesday, a day after 1,584 deaths were listed. There was also a near-record one-day rise in new virus cases of 20,548.

Mexico has seen almost 1.69 million confirmed coronavirus infections and over 144,000 test-confirmed deaths related to COVID-19. With the country’s extremely low testing rate, official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000. Mexico City is the current epicentre of the pandemic in the country, and 89 per cent of the capital’s hospital beds are in use. For the nation as a whole, 61 per cent of hospital beds are filled.

In the Middle East, authorities in Lebanon on Thursday extended a nationwide lockdown by a week to Feb. 8 amid a steep rise in coronavirus deaths and infections that has overwhelmed the health-care system.

Despite increasing the number of hospital beds in the country of nearly six million, doctors and nurses have struggled to keep pace with patients flooding their facilities. Intensive care unit bed occupancy has been rising, hitting 91 per cent late Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization.

Registered daily infections have hovered around 5,000 since the holiday season, up from nearly 1,000 in November. The death toll has surpassed 2,000 with new deaths of between 40 and 60 a day in the past week.

Doctors say with increased testing, the number of confirmed infections has also increased, recording a positivity rate of over 20 per cent for every 100 tests. Nurses and doctors are overwhelmed, and more than 2,300 health-care workers have been infected since February.

In Europe, Germany is pushing its partners in the European Union to reduce coronavirus infections in an effort to keep a new variant first detected in Britain at bay, and says new border checks might be needed if they don’t co-ordinate.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors agreed on Tuesday to extend the country’s lockdown by two weeks until Feb. 14. Although Germany’s infection figures are finally declining, officials worry that more infectious variants could push them back up quickly if allowed to take hold.

Merkel said on Tuesday: “If countries were to go very different ways — which I don’t see at the moment, but it could happen — then we would have to be prepared [to] say, ‘then we have to reintroduce border controls.'” She stressed that “we don’t want this.”

Her chief of staff, Helge Braun, on Thursday emphasized the need to push infections down “to keep the mutation out of core Europe.”

Braun told ARD television: “All countries must do this, and if a neighbouring country doesn’t do this we can hardly protect ourselves against the mutation, and then even tougher entry measures on our internal borders are unavoidable. And since everyone doesn’t want that, it’s important that we act together now.”

A man walks past a restaurant temporarily shuttered during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday in Berlin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed to extend a hard lockdown into mid-February in an effort to bring down high COVID-19 infection rates. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Sweden’s government extended on Thursday several national COVID-19 restrictions, including requirements to work from home and a ban on selling alcohol after 8 p.m. Both were extended to Feb. 7.

A requirement that face masks be worn on public transportation was also extended through the spring. A national recommendation on remote education also was extended to April 1 but adjusted so that distance learning and teaching on site will be mixed. It will be up to local principals to work that out.

“To Sweden’s high school students: now a tough time continues. But you have shown that you can meet this challenge,” said Sweden’s Education Minister Anna Ekstrom.

The country of 10 million has opted to keep parts of its society open and lifted in September a national ban on visiting elderly care homes. It has reported 537,967 cases, including 10,797 deaths

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Americans fleeing Trump's presidency faced Canada's stiff immigration process – CBC.ca

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After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, many Americans considered moving to Canada, but some have realized it’s not that easy leaving their country behind.

Heather Vargas was one American who actually made the move after Trump’s inauguration in early 2017.

She moved to Halifax that same year, a plan that started as a joke the night Trump was elected.

But she has since moved back to her home state of Arkansas.

“America is my home,” she said. “Yes, America is currently a dumpster fire, but it’s my dumpster fire and I love it.”

After Donald Trump won the presidency back in 2016, hoards of Americans planned to escape to Nova Scotia, but four years later, some have realized it’s not so easy to leave their own country and culture behind. CBC’s Shaina Luck has that story. 2:13

Vargas lived in Halifax for a year and a half.

Rob Calabrese would consider Vargas one of the lucky few.

The radio announcer started the website Cape Breton if Trump Wins in early 2016 as a way to attract Americans to rural areas of Nova Scotia.

During Trump’s campaign and his eventual election, Calabrese had thousands of inquiries from Americans wanting to move to Atlantic Canada.

But only a handful of people followed through.

“People who contacted me about moving to Canada, who had means or professions that likely made them a good candidate for immigration, found that our countries are alike, but there is a culture shock even for Canada and the United States,” he said. 

“So I found that people would rarely make that move even if they were able.”

Rob Calabrese started the website ‘Cape Breton if Trump Wins’ in 2016 as a way to attract Americans to the rural area. (CBC)

And if that was the case, Calabrese discovered immigrating to Canada isn’t as easy as it seems.

David Nurse, an immigration lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Bridgewater, N.S., has witnessed this first-hand.

Nurse said he immediately started receiving calls from people who were interested in immigrating to Canada “largely or entirely because of Trump’s election” in 2016.

“What I saw in practice, though, was that not all of these individuals would have a pathway to Canada,” he said.

David Nurse is an immigration lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. (CBC)

To immigrate to Canada, individuals must be supported through specific programs offered through the federal government, which are designed to attract the young and educated who are skilled in in-demand occupations.

“A lot of people, I guess I would say, were somewhat exploring the opportunity,” Nurse said. 

“They never obviously considered emigrating from the United States before and once they found out what was involved in terms of the effort, the cost and the time, many of them backed away.”

Vargas said she doesn’t regret her decision to move to Canada, despite it being a brief stay.

“Overall, it was an amazing experience. I’m very, very thankful that I moved to Canada,” she said.

However, she said she won’t be leaving the U.S. again.

“I want to stay, and I want to try to fight for everything that I can to make America the best country that I know it can be.”

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