Manitoba is stepping up enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions as it tries to tamp down the spread of the novel virus, while Alberta’s top doctor is warning that more restrictions could be coming there unless the province sees case numbers “decline dramatically” in the days ahead.
Premier Brian Pallister on Thursday backed away from the idea of imposing a curfew in the Winnipeg area, saying the province will spend money to step up enforcement around existing restrictions first.
“There will be consequences for people when they put others in danger, when they put themselves in danger,” Pallister said at a Thursday briefing.
Pallister said that 277 more personnel, including fire safety inspectors, motor carrier enforcement officers and municipal bylaw officers will help make sure public health orders are followed. That brings the total number of enforcers to more than 3,000.
The province has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent days — health officials reported 427 new cases and four more deaths on Thursday — and hospitalization numbers have been climbing.
In Alberta, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw warned that more restrictions could be coming as the province reported a record high number of new cases.
“Unless our numbers decline dramatically in the next few days, we will have to consider additional measures,” she said.
The province wasn’t able to provide an exact number of new cases Thursday because of technical issues, but the range provided was well over its previous one-day record of 622.
“I can tell you that about 800 new cases have been identified in the last 24 hours,” Hinshaw said, noting that there are nine hospitals in Alberta dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.
Faced with mounting case numbers, the province is looking to hire more contact tracers to help existing staff. A spokesperson for Alberta Health Services said there are currently 800 people working with the contact tracing team, and AHS is looking to hire “approximately 380 additional staff” in the coming weeks.
British Columbia also saw a record high daily case number on Thursday as health officials reported 425 new cases of COVID-19.
WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about COVID-19 in Fraser Health region:
Most of the new cases reported by B.C. health officials were in the Fraser Health region, which covers an area east of Vancouver and includes communities like Burnaby and Surrey.
A statement from public health officials said there were 97 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 24 in intensive care.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Friday, provinces and territories in Canada had reported a cumulative total of 253,474 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 208,947 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,420.
In Ontario, case numbers continued to rise a day after Premier Doug Ford’s government unveiled a much-anticipated budget after months of delay attributed to the global pandemic.
On Friday, the province reported 1,003 cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths.
Ontario is reporting 1,003 cases of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>. Locally, there are 300 new cases in Toronto, 280 in Peel and 125 in York Region. There are 949 more resolved cases and nearly 41,300 tests completed.<br> <br>Today’s numbers will be available at 10:30 a.m. at <a href=”https://t.co/ypmgZbVRvn”>https://t.co/ypmgZbVRvn</a>.
Provincial figures updated Friday put the number of people in hospital at 380, with 86 in intensive care.
Quebec on Friday reported 1,133 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 new deaths — including five in the last 24 hours. According to the data on the provincial dashboard, there were 539 people in hospital, with 77 in ICU.
Saskatchewan also reported a record high on Thursday, with 129 COVID-19 cases. According to health officials, many of the new cases were in Saskatoon and the area around Prince Albert.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported two new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, as did Newfoundland and Labrador. Nova Scotia reported one new case. Prince Edward Island has no active cases of the novel coronavirus.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday morning, more than 48.8 million of cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 32.2 million of those listed as recovered, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.2 million, the U.S.-based university reported.
The World Health Organization is looking at biosecurity around mink farms in countries across the world to prevent further “spillover events” after Denmark ordered a national mink cull because of an outbreak of coronavirus infections in the animals.
In the Americas, the U.S. has been dealing with a surge in cases, reporting more than 100,000 new daily cases two days in a row, according to numbers reported by the New York Times.
The American job market showed a burst of strength in October, with employers adding 638,000 jobs and the unemployment rate tumbling to 6.9 per cent. Still, the pace of hiring isn’t enough to rapidly soak up the millions of Americans who were thrown out of work by the pandemic recession.
It’s far from clear that employers can maintain — let alone increase — their pace of hiring. The job market and the overall economy are under intensified pressure from the accelerating pandemic.
On Thursday, the country broke another record in the seven-day rolling average for new cases, hitting nearly 90,000. Daily new cases were also on track for another day above 100,000, with surging numbers reported all around the country, including a combined nearly 25,000 in Texas, Illinois and Florida.
Latin American countries, including those that have brought down coronavirus transmission rates, should take heed of the second wave hitting much of Europe, a Pan American Health Organization official said.
In Europe, Germany’s health minister has warned of hard times ahead unless the country can “break” the rising trajectory of coronavirus cases. Jens Spahn told lawmakers in parliament on Friday that “the situation is serious,” noting that the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in the country’s intensive care units has doubled in the last 10 days.
“As of today, the health system can cope with this,” he said. “But a doubling every 10 days is something the best health system in the world can’t cope with in the long term.”
Germany’s disease control agency reported a new record of more than 21,500 confirmed infections in the country in the past day, and 166 further deaths.
Russia’s daily number of new coronavirus infections topped 20,000 Friday, setting a new record since the beginning of the pandemic. Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases — currently the fourth largest in the world — has exceeded 1.7 million following a quick spread of contagion since September. The government’s coronavirus task force has reported 29,887 deaths since March.
Despite new daily records, authorities insist there is no need to impose a second lockdown or shut down businesses nationwide. They argue that the health-care system is capable of handling a surge in infections. Russian media, however, have reported on overwhelmed hospitals, drug shortages and inundated medical workers in some regions, indicating that the health-care system is under significant strain.
Austria warned that all its COVID-19 intensive care beds could be full within two weeks because of the “much stronger, more serious” second wave of infections.
Oslo has shut down restaurants, cafés, bars, gyms, cinemas and theatres to help curb the coronavirus. On Friday, officials in the Norwegian capital introduced what they called a “social closure of Oslo.”
Mayor Raymond Johansen said that to bring down the infection rates, “we must shut down where people gather.” However, schools will remain open.
Slovenian police said they detained 10 people following violent protests in the capital Ljubljana against lockdown measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has alerted about 1,000 people who attended the memorial of the late Samsung Group patriarch Lee Kun-hee last week to get tested for the coronavirus after one person at the event tested positive.
India has recorded 47,638 new cases of the coronavirus, taking its total to 8.4 million.
Deaths rose by 670 in the last 24 hours, driving total fatalities to 124,985 on Friday, the health ministry data showed. India has the world’s second-highest caseload behind the United States. Even though the country has seen a steady dip in cases since mid-September, its capital is witnessing a surge in infections.
Health authorities in Thailand on Friday announced the country’s 60th death from COVID-19, a 66-year-old Thai man who was diagnosed with coronavirus after he returned from the United Kingdom. It was Thailand’s first coronvirus death since mid-September.
The U.S. mission in Geneva urged World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday to invite Taiwan to a major meeting the body is hosting next week that is expected to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Africa, the coronavirus pandemic is having a knock-on effect on other vital health services as countries are forced to redirect already stretched resources, a regional head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. Lockdowns imposed by countries to halt the spread of the virus in May, June and July contributed to a more than 50 per cent drop in services monitored by WHO.
In Nigeria, for example, more than 362,000 pregnant women missed their antenatal care between March and August.
Iran remained the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, according to the Johns Hopkins tally. The country had more than 663,000 reported cases, with more than 37,400 deaths recorded.
What Canadians need to know about COVID-19 before gathering over the holidays – CBC.ca
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Canadians considering gathering with loved ones over the holidays this year need to come to terms with some harsh realities.
But COVID-19 is insidious, an unwanted guest that can slip in unnoticed and wreak havoc despite our best efforts to control it.
“We have to ask ourselves honestly, must we socialize? And the answer is probably no,” said Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.
“There is no way to eliminate risk except not to do it in the first place.”
But we’ve learned a lot more about how COVID-19 spreads since it first emerged at the beginning of this year, which can help inform us on where we’re most at risk.
Confusion over holiday guidelines
There’s understandably a lot of confusion about what sorts of holiday gathering might be reasonable to consider this year, especially since depending on where you live in this country the rules and recommendations differ.
The official advice from Canada’s chief public health officer is to avoid large gatherings, non-essential travel and to keep things as small as possible within your household.
Certain provinces, like Ontario, recommend skipping extended family gatherings altogether and taking precautions like self-isolating for 10 to 14 days for those travelling home from away, including colleges and universities.
While others, like Quebec, have put a lot of faith in their population by allowing gatherings of up to 10 people for four days over the holidays after a seven day period of self-imposed quarantine.
But Deonandan says we can’t necessarily rely on people to completely self-isolate on their own — that requires not leaving home for groceries, essential items or even to walk the dog.
WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam advises no large gatherings or non-essential travel
“You’re also going to have outliers who have infectious periods longer than two weeks,” he said.
“If enough people do this, you’re going to get a sufficient number of people who do not fall under that umbrella who are indeed infectious and who start outbreaks.”
Silent spread a ‘key driver’ of outbreaks
While we weigh whether it’s even possible to gather safely with friends and family in a pandemic, it’s important to keep in mind the unseen dangers we could be inviting in — even in parts of the country that have low rates of COVID-19.
“The problem with this virus is that it’s like many other viruses,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai hospital who worked on the front lines of the SARS epidemic in 2003. “You shed virus before you get sick and some people who get infected don’t develop symptoms.”
“That’s why what has worked is everybody wearing masks and everybody maintaining social distance, because you can’t tell who the next infected person is going to be.”
McGeer says viruses like influenza, chickenpox and measles typically present symptoms in the body before people are infectious — but the virus behind COVID-19 is different.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated scientific guidance this week that acknowledged asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals account for more than half of all COVID-19 transmissions.
“Silent transmission is one of the key drivers of outbreaks,” said Seyed Moghadas, a professor of applied mathematics and computational epidemiology at Toronto’s York University.
“There is an incorrect notion in the general population that if someone feels fine then they are not infected. A person can certainly be infected, infectious, and feel completely fine.”
Moghadas, the lead author of a study published in the journal PNAS on the silent spread of COVID-19 that was cited in the CDC guidelines, says this underscores how difficult the virus is to control, a challenge “magnified” in close quarters.
In Nova Scotia, which has successfully contained the spread of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic despite the bursting of the Atlantic bubble this week, catching those silent spreaders before they unknowingly infect others is key.
Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University, has partnered with public health authorities in a pilot project to use rapid COVID-19 tests on people without symptoms in high-traffic areas of Halifax.
It’s only been a few days, but what they’ve found was surprising.
On the first day they tested 147 people and found one asymptomatic case, the second day they tested 604 more and found another one, and on the third day they did 804 tests and found five more.
“We recognized that there are a lot of people out there, even if they’re doing the right thing, that don’t know they’re infected, don’t know they’re infectious and could be spreading to other people,” said Barrett.
“When there’s community spread of a virus that has a long period of time when you can be infectious without symptoms, you have to test broadly in the community or you have no idea what’s going on.”
‘A negative test is not a license to socialize’
One novel approach to avoid meeting with loved ones while unknowingly infectious that has emerged is to get a COVID-19 test beforehand to pre-emptively detect it.
But the timing of that test is incredibly important and there’s a lot of room for error, so it may be a less effective strategy than it first appears.
A new study in the journal Science looked at 1,178 people infected with COVID-19 and more than 15,000 of their close contacts to determine when people were most infectious.
It found most of the transition — 87 per cent — happened in a fairly wide window of time, up to five days before or after symptoms appeared, while 53 per cent was in the pre-symptomatic phase.
“It’s possible to be early in the disease cycle such that you won’t detect any viral presence. But in two days suddenly you’re infectious and now we’re screwed,” said Deonandan, at the University of Ottawa.
“So a negative test is not a license to socialize.”
Still, Deonandan says there will be people who are going to socialize anyway, so it’s better they do so with precautions in place like testing and self-isolating than nothing — even if those precautions aren’t perfect.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, Canadians are being told to consider meeting virtually, avoid risky indoor gatherings without masks and instead find ways to connect while still physical distancing.
“I think the pitch to people is that yes, we’re used to having time off school and we’re used to seeing everybody,” said McGeer. “But this is the year to delay.”
WATCH | Tam on the holiday season and how the pandemic won’t go on forever
“The best advice this year is maybe not to go too far from home,” said Barrett. “Is it worth it to lose control of the virus?”
“We’re hanging on by a thread here. Please don’t let that thread break.”
To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.
Trudeau expects most Canadians could be vaccinated by September 2021 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Cassanda Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, November 27, 2020 12:34PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 27, 2020 1:32PM EST
Beset by ongoing questions about Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to assuage the public with assurances most Canadians could be inoculated by September 2021, with distribution led by a former NATO commander.
Trudeau faced a barrage of questions about when and how such a rollout would unfold at a morning press conference on Friday, acknowledging public anxiety amid alarming infection rates and hospitalizations that have already scuttled holiday hopes for much of the country.
But while promising vaccine news offered “light at the end of the tunnel,” Trudeau said “we must hold on a little longer.”
“What really matters is when we get across the finish line … The fact that the doctors highlighted that if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September, puts us in very good stead,” he said, offering the government’s most specific timeline yet.
“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to deliver for Canadians, listening to experts working with top people to make sure that we’re doing this right, and quickly and safely.”
Trudeau said Canada has turned to Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead distribution and handle logistics that include cold storage requirements, data sharing, and reaching Indigenous communities. He insisted Ottawa was committed to working with the provinces and territories on securing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible.
That wasn’t good enough for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who later Friday roasted Trudeau for failing to give provinces and territories specific information they need for a potential vaccine launch.
Ford said a conference call Trudeau held with premiers Thursday night was sorely lacking.
“I didn’t get the answer we wanted to hear, none of the premiers got the answer they wanted to hear,” said Ford, who appeared at a Friday press conference alongside the new head of the Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, retired Gen. Rick Hillier.
“I can’t emphasize enough to the prime minister: The clock is ticking. We’re going to be hopefully getting these vaccines sometime – again, hopefully – in January. I asked him the three simple questions: When are we getting it? What type of vaccine are we getting? And how much of that vaccine are we getting? To have Gen. Hillier make a proper plan, we need to know.”
Ontario called on the federal government to immediately disclose its allocation plan, noting reports that other countries have already announced plans to receive doses.
U.S. officials have said 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine could reach some priority citizens within 24 hours of regulatory clearance, while Moderna’s vaccine could be available by the end of the year, although the general public likely wouldn’t get doses until the spring.
No matter when a vaccine arrives in Canada, Hillier said Ontario’s vaccine distribution plans would be ready on Dec. 31.
In Ottawa, Procurement Minister Anita Anand also faced questions over a precise delivery date but insisted she is in constant contact with suppliers to make sure they can be deployed as soon as they are approved for use.
“This is a complex process. This is an uncertain environment. But we are on top of it,” said Anand.
“I personally will make sure that we have vaccines in place in Canada when Health Canada has provided the regulatory approval.”
Trudeau‘s September timeline was echoed by deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo, who had last week suggested the possibility of a fall goal line for vaccinating the majority of Canadians.
Njoo said Friday the Prime Minister’s prediction is “in the same ballpark” as previous rollout plans, and a good target to work towards.
But he cautioned there are still “a lot of unknowns.”
“Certainly we’ve always been sort of optimistic, cautiously optimistic, about what the vaccination rollout will look like,” said Njoo.
“Right now it’s a bit of a moving target. We have two vaccines which are very promising but they’re still in the process of going through the regulatory process. If all goes well, and they are approved, then they’re the first two out of the pipeline.”
The news follows more alarming daily COVID-19 case numbers from Ontario, which reported a record 1,855 new cases, and 20 more deaths on Friday.
Quebec reported 1,269 new COVID-19 infections and 38 more deaths linked to the virus, including nine that occurred in the past 24 hours.
Ottawa has finalized agreements with five vaccine makers and is in advanced negotiations with two more.
The deals would secure 194 million doses with the option to buy another 220 million, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.
'The clock is ticking': Ontario calls on federal government to provide clear timelines for COVID-19 vaccines – CTV Toronto
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is calling on the federal government to provide a clear timeline on when the province will receive the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying that is “impossible” to plan distribution without that critical information.
The premier made the comments on Friday afternoon alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the new head of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.
“Make no mistake, this will be a monumental effort,” Ford told reporters. “When you look at a province the size of Ontario, with as many variables as we’re facing, without proper planning or the proper information, this can be a logistical nightmare.”
“That’s why, as we continue planning, we need certainty from the federal government. We need to know which kind of vaccines we’ll be getting, because each vaccine will come with unique requirements and potential challenges. And we also need to know how many vaccines we will receive each week. We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments.”
Ford said it is “impossible” to plan distribution of the vaccine, including staffing and storage of doses, without that timeline and “the clock is ticking.”
“I asked (the prime minister) three simple questions. You know, when are we getting it, what type of vaccine are we getting, and how much of that vaccine are we getting,” he said. “To have General Hillier make a proper plan. We need to know.”
The comments come hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to provide a clear timeline for when Canadians will have access to a vaccine, saying only that he hopes to have more than half of Canadians vaccinated by September 2021.
“We have continued to work with the provinces on vaccine delivery and logistics since last spring,” Trudeau said.
“I can understand the eagerness with which people want to know, ‘When is this going to be over? When are we going to get the vaccines?’ What we can say is, we are working extremely hard to deliver as quickly and as safely as possible… if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September,” Trudeau said.
Elliott has previously said the province is likely to roll out the first doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine between January and March of 2021, followed by a second batch from March until “about” July.
But since then the government has rolled back their vaccine rhetoric, saying that it is not clear if those targets will be achieved.
The COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but they could receive the stamp of approval as early as two weeks from now.
Hillier said that while questions remain, the COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force is working to be ready for the new year.
“Our mission is clear,” Hillier said while speaking publicly for the first time since being named head of the task force. “The team is being built. It is largely present and in place and they’re building on the work that’s been done.”
“I’m not an over-the-top optimist, I’m the pragmatic person, but we’re going to be ready on 31 December for what the people of Ontario will need from us.”
Ontario health officials reported a new single-day record of COVID-19 cases on Friday, logging 1,855 new infections and 20 more deaths.
The total number of lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus now stands at 111,216, including deaths and recoveries.
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