Students across Canada are returning to class following the holiday break, with some provinces opting to delay bringing kids back into classrooms amid COVID-19 concerns, while others are resuming in-person instruction right away.
In British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said there was no need to delay school after the holidays and that a task force was working to ensure a safe return.
But some B.C. parents remain concerned about sending their kids back to school without more precautions in place to protect against the spread of COVID-19, with more than 50,000 people signing a petition calling on the province to pause in-class learning for two weeks.
“If schools were to reopen the same way that they did prior to the holiday, I am concerned,” said Dr. Amy Tan, a physician and organizer with Masks for Canada. Tan said she wasn’t sure if she would be sending her 11-year-old son back to school in Victoria.
She wants the province to release more information about recent spread of COVID-19 locally as well as within the province so that parents can make an informed decision. She also wants to see asymptomatic and more general, widespread testing in schools.
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In Ontario, where thousands of elementary and secondary school students are returning to remote learning on Monday, the Official Opposition is similarly calling for widespread testing in schools.
Marit Stiles, the NDP’s education critic, said in an interview with CBC Toronto that the Ontario government doesn’t know how many students in publicly funded schools are asymptomatic across the province and that a “comprehensive testing strategy” is needed.
In an open letter to parents released on the weekend, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said “schools are not a source of rising community transmission,” according to medical experts. He said a province-wide lockdown imposed on Dec. 26 has helped to ensure that schools remain safe.
Ontario elementary students, as well as secondary students in northern public health units, will learn remotely for the first week of January but can return to classrooms on Jan. 11. Secondary students in the rest of the province can return to classrooms on Jan. 25.
Meanwhile, Quebec elementary and high schools will remain closed to in-person instruction until Jan. 11.
Roxane Borgès Da Silva, a public health professor at Université de Montréal, told Radio-Canada on Sunday that she is concerned about reopening schools and returning to normal when there are so many new cases every day.
She said 11 per cent of tests are coming back positive while the World Health Organization recommends a lockdown at just five per cent.
“As we have a very high positivity rate of COVID-19, we may have to do a strict lockdown,” she said. “I am very scared for the children.”
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET Monday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 601,656, with 80,817 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 15,865.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador‘s active caseload has dropped to single digits after reporting no new cases and two recoveries on Sunday. The province, which hasn’t recorded a new infection in five days, now has nine active cases.
New Brunswick announced seven new cases on Sunday, while Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia did not report any new cases.
Quebec issued its first COVID-19 update of the new year on Sunday. It shows a total of 7,663 people have tested positive since Dec. 31 and 121 have died.
Ontario reported 2,964 new cases and 25 additional deaths on Sunday. On Monday, the first five health-care workers to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the province are returning to Toronto’s University Health Network to receive their second dose, 21 days after the first.
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Manitoba registered 101 new infections and five more fatalities on Sunday.
In Alberta, the province’s chief medical officer of health on Sunday reported an estimated 400 new cases of COVID-19. Dr. Deena Hinshaw added that Alberta’s hospitalization and ICU totals remained stable, and the province’s death toll stayed at 1,046.
In British Columbia, which doesn’t provide COVID-19 data on weekends, the government has given the green light for the Vancouver Canucks to play home games in the province during the upcoming 2021 NHL season.
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In the North, Nunavut is reporting zero active cases after going from zero to 266 cases of COVID-19 in less than two months. The territorial government announced Sunday that 265 of those cases are now recovered, while one case resulted in a death.
Yukon also did not report any new cases on Sunday, while N.W.T. did not provide updated figures over the weekend.
Here’s a look at what’s happening with COVID-19 across the country:
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 85.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 47.9 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.
In Europe, Britain began vaccinating its population with the COVID-19 shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca on Monday, as it looks to curb a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks fuelled by a new and more transmissible variant of the virus.
Britain is the first country to roll out the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, which can be kept in refrigerators rather than ultra-cold storage, making it easier to distribute than the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
Meanwhile, France’s cautious approach to its vaccine rollout appears to have backfired, leaving just a few hundred people vaccinated after the first week and rekindling anger over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Emmanuel Macron is holding a special meeting with top government officials Monday afternoon to address the vaccine strategy and other virus developments.
In France, a country of 67 million people, just 516 people were vaccinated in the first six days while Germany’s first-week total surpassed 200,000 and Italy’s was over 100,000.
In Asia-Pacific, Sri Lankan authorities on Monday announced that the schools will partially reopen starting next week, after being closed for nearly three months due to a COVID-19 surge. The education ministry has decided to keep schools closed in the capital Colombo and surrounding suburbs.
Mask wearing has become mandatory is some circumstances in Australia’s largest city due to the pandemic risk. People risk a 200 Australian dollar ($196 Cdn) fine in Sydney if they don’t wear masks in shopping malls, on public transport and in various indoor areas.
Thailand has registered 745 new coronavirus cases, with a new death reported in Bangkok, where a semi-lockdown went into effect. The government has ordered all schools closed from Monday but has not yet closed down shopping malls or stores, while restaurants are still allowed to operate but cannot serve alcoholic beverages.
In the Americas, the U.S. health and human services secretary is shooting down the idea of expanding the number of Americans getting a COVID-19 vaccine by giving them only one dose instead of the two being administered now.
Alex Azar told ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday that the U.S. is “holding in reserve that second dose” because that’s what the science says to do. The two vaccines approved in the U.S. so far, one by Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech and the other by Moderna, each require double doses.
Some health experts have suggested that, with vaccine supplies short, people might get partial protection from a single dose and that should be considered as a way to reach far more people faster. But Azar said “the data just isn’t there to support that and we’re not going to do that.”
Azar said the U.S. has reported 1.5 million vaccinations in the last 72 hours, a “very rapid uptick” that he predicts will continue.
Colombia’s capital, Bogota, will implement strict two-week quarantines in three neighbourhoods beginning on Tuesday to try to control a second wave of coronavirus.
In the Middle East, Jordan has struck a deal with Pfizer and partner BioNTech to buy one million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine and another two million doses from the World Health Organization’s s COVAX program.
In Africa, South Africa is aiming to get COVID-19 vaccines by next month but is still in talks with pharmaceutical companies and no deals have been signed yet.
The country remains the hardest hit on the continent, with more than 1.1 million cases and more than 29,000 deaths reported since the start of the pandemic.
Canada working with the U.S. to close travel 'loophole' – CTV News
Canadian officials said Friday they are working with the Biden administration to close what they describe as a travel “loophole” and to get more symmetry with COVID-19 safety protocols between the two countries.
“A loophole, frankly, does exist because the Americans previously had not placed any restriction on international flights coming into the U.S.,” said Bill Blair, Canada’s public safety minister, during a news conference Friday.
“That concerns us because that restriction is at our land border but not at air travel,” he added.
While the Canada-U.S. border remains closed and all nonessential travel is prohibited until at least February 21, in the 10 months since the border restrictions were put in place, hundreds of thousands of travelers have made discretionary trips between both countries as air travel has not so far been subject to the same restrictions.
With the United States not imposing any air travel restrictions from Canada, the loophole has allowed everything from Canadian snowbirds going to the warm climes of Florida and Arizona for winter to family members on both sides of the border setting up nonessential visits.
TRUDEAU TO CANADIANS: AVOID TRAVEL
On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau underscored his plea to Canadians to stay home and avoid travel of any kind, including domestic and international travel.
Trudeau has acknowledged that constitutionally he cannot prevent Canadians from traveling, but he did warn that it might soon become much more difficult to return to Canada.
“We could be bringing in new measures that significantly impede your ability to return to Canada, at any given moment, without warning,” Trudeau said during a news conference Friday, adding, “The bottom line is this: This is not the time to travel either internationally or across the country.”
International air travelers who currently enter Canada must show proof of a negative test result for COVID-19 taken within 72 hours of departure and are also subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine with violators facing stiff financial penalties. There are exceptions for essential workers.
LOOKING FOR MORE MEASURES
Canadian officials say they are looking for more measures that would discourage as much travel as possible, and they are hoping a new agreement with the United States will help.
“We are looking at a number of measures that can include further restrictions on international travel, additional tracing measures, additional quarantine measures and enforcement measures in order to de-incentivize and discourage people from making unnecessary trips,” Blair said Friday.
Officials also indicated that weeks of lockdowns throughout most of Canada are slowly starting to work with new daily cases of COVID-19 falling.
“This gives us hope that community based control measures are starting to take effect,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “But it is still too soon to be sure that these measures are strong enough and broad enough to set us on a steady downward trend.”
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged Canadians to hold off on travelling abroad until mass vaccinations against COVID-19 can be administered.
“If you’ve got [a trip] planned, cancel it, and don’t book a trip for spring break. We need to hang on and hold tight for the next few months and get through to the spring in the best shape possible,” Trudeau said on Friday.
The federal government is mulling a mandatory 14-day quarantine in hotels for returning travellers, as well as other measures that could make it more difficult to re-enter the country, he said.
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“We could be bringing in new measures that significantly impede your ability to return to Canada at any given moment without warning,” Trudeau warned.
Public Health Agency of Canada figures show 153 flights have arrived from outside Canada over the last two weeks on which at least one passenger later tested positive for COVID-19.
Transport Canada now requires people flying into the country to present a negative test result conducted within 72 hours of boarding a plane.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu on Friday said 50,000 tickets for international travel have been cancelled since the new rule was announced on Dec. 31.
Trudeau said these requirements are starting to convince Canadians to stay put.
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The prime minister added that the next few weeks will be challenging for vaccine supply as Pfizer-BioNTech slows deliveries to Canada and other countries while the company retools its plant in Belgium. Trudeau said Pfizer-BioNTech has committed to ensuring Canada will receive four million vaccine doses by the end of March.
Provinces have reported that a total of 738,864 vaccine doses have been administered so far. That’s about 80 per cent of the available supply.
British Columbia’s oldest residents will be able to pre-register to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 starting in March after the most vulnerable groups have been immunized, according to a plan announced Friday.
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April is when the vaccine becomes available for the general population in B.C., starting with the oldest residents and descending in five-year increments until age 18 by September. People who register for the plan will get a reminder to book appointments when eligible,
The province is currently administering the vaccine to people living in long-term care homes and those who look after them or their essential visitors, people waiting for long-term care, people in remote Indigenous communities and hospital workers caring for patients with COVID-19.
They will be followed in February and March by seniors over 80, Indigenous seniors over 65, Indigenous elders, more health-care workers, vulnerable populations and nursing home staff.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 739,766 cases of COVID-19, with 65,032 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,880.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 30 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. The Edmundston region in the northwest will go into lockdown on Saturday at midnight amid climbing case numbers and a series of outbreaks.
Nova Scotia reported four new cases — and Premier Stephen McNeil said the province also detected two variants of the virus in cases previously reported in December. Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Friday; there is currently one person hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the province.
Quebec reported 1,631 new cases and 88 additional deaths on Friday, 18 of which occurred in the last 24 hours.
There were 1,426 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 212 in intensive care. Premier François Legault said on Thursday that there were still too many COVID-19 patients in hospital to consider lifting the provincewide curfew.
Ontario reported 2,359 new COVID-19 cases and 52 more deaths on Saturday. That’s down from 2,662 new COVID-19 cases and 87 more deaths reported on Friday.
Ontario is reporting 2,359 cases of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> and nearly 63,500 tests completed. Locally, there are 708 new cases in Toronto, 422 in Peel, 220 in York Region, 107 in Hamilton and 101 in Ottawa.
While epidemiologists told CBC News that public health measures seem to be working as Ontario nears four complete weeks under “lockdown” conditions, they cautioned that the province is still far from ready for a return to normalcy.
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Meanwhile, local public health officials are expressing concern about a yet-to-be identified variant of COVID-19 at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said the unusually rapid spread of the virus at Roberta Place Long Term Care earlier this month, with 55 people at the nursing home becoming ill within 48 hours of the first COVID-19 case being identified, prompted officials to start testing for a variant strain.
The variant was identified in six cases, and further results are expected in the coming days, the unit said.
At least 122 of 130 residents at Roberta Place have tested positive for COVID-19, the home said in a statement to CBC Toronto on Thursday. Since the outbreak, 19 residents have died and 69 staff are infected.
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Manitoba reported 173 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Friday. The province also announced it will immediately halt bookings of new appointments at its immunization supersites in Winnipeg and Brandon after the federal government advised of another reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Saskatchewan reported 312 new cases and eight deaths on Friday, while Alberta reported 643 new cases and 12 deaths.
British Columbia reported 508 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths on Friday.
In the North, Nunavut reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday, the territory’s first case since Dec. 28.
The positive result is in Arviat and was part of followup surveillance testing in response to the earlier outbreak, said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.
Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 98.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 54.2 million of the cases considered resolved or recovered, according to the coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.
In Asia, thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down in their homes on Saturday in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening coronavirus outbreak.
Authorities said 16 buildings in the city’s Yau Tsim Mong district would be locked down until all residents were tested. Residents would not be allowed to leave their homes until they received test results.
The restrictions, which were announced at 4 a.m. in Hong Kong, were expected to end within 48 hours, the government said.
Hong Kong has been grappling to contain a fresh wave of the coronavirus since November. More than 4,300 cases have been recorded in the last two months, making up nearly 40 per cent of the city’s total.
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In Europe, French doctors have new advice to slow the spread of the virus: stop talking on public transport.
The French Academy of Doctors issued guidance on Friday saying people should “avoid talking or making phone calls” in subways, buses or anywhere in public where physical distancing isn’t possible. Masks have been required since May, but travellers often loosen or remove them to talk on the phone.
Infections in France are gradually rising this month, at more than 20,000 per day. France currently has the longest virus curfew in Europe, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and restaurants and tourist sites have been closed since October.
France has seen 72,647 virus-related deaths.
Canada adds 206 new COVID-19 deaths while officials consider mandatory hotel quarantine – Global News
Another 5,957 cases of COVID-19 were reported by Canada on Friday as government officials considered a mandatory hotel quarantine for all incoming travelers.
The announcement comes amid news of at least one passenger aboard one of the 153 flights that arrived in the country over the last weeks testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Current health protocols require people flying into the country to present a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours of boarding a plane bound for Canada as well as a mandatory two-week quarantine on arrival, but the government is still considering further options to make it harder to return from trips abroad in light of the pandemic.
News of Canada considering further restrictions on incoming travelers comes as the country’s top doctor warned that easing the country’s virus restrictions could rapidly cause new case of the virus to increase again.
“Every day we are one step closer and better times are ahead. But there is no fast track. We must stick with public health measures and individual practices that we know are effective for controlling spread. Unless and until infection rates are low enough to allow public health authorities to test, trace and isolate effectively, easing of restrictions risks even stronger resurgence,” said Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam in a statement Friday.
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“This is why we must all continue to do our part to slow the spread: that means postponing vacation travel to a better time in the future.”
Canada’s total COVID-19 caseload now stands at 737,407 following the release of Friday’s case data. Another 206 deaths linked to the virus were also announced on Friday, with Canada’s COVID-19 death toll now standing at 18,828.
At least 651,000 patients have since recovered from COVID-19 however, while more than 21,041,000 tests have been administered to date. A total of 769,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have also been administered across the country so far.
Coronavirus: Tam reports 31 cases of U.K. variant, 3 cases of South Africa variant of COVID-19 in Canada
Ontario reported another 2,662 cases of COVID-19 Friday, as well as another 87 deaths. While daily case numbers in the province have decreased slightly in comparison to last week, Ontario is still on track to surpass Quebec as the province with the highest number of confirmed cases this weekend.
Quebec, which has been under a province-wide curfew for almost two weeks, reported another 1,631 infections and 88 deaths on Friday.
B.C. added another 508 cases on Friday, as well as another nine deaths linked to the virus. The coastal province’s total caseload now stands at 63,484, of which 565 are considered “epi-linked” — patients who were in close proximity to confirmed infections and display symptoms, but were never formally tested.
Alberta announced another 643 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as well as 12 additional deaths from the virus. A total of 691 Albertans are also currently in hospital with COVID-19, of which 115 are in ICU.
Manitoba added another 171 cases on Friday, as well as two more deaths. In Saskatchewan, eight more deaths were recorded, as well as another 305 confirmed infections.
Several Atlantic provinces reported new cases Friday as well, with Nova Scotia adding another four COVID-19 infections, New Brunswick reporting another 30 and Newfoundland and Labrador reporting just one.
Nunavut reported a single case on Friday as well, its first infections since Dec. 28. Both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories as well as P.E.I. reported new COVID-19 cases on Friday.
Worldwide, cases of the novel coronavirus continue to increase with a total of 98,112,625 patients having been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 2,104,000 people have since died, with the U.S., India and Brazil leading in both cases and deaths.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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