Connect with us


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



The latest:

Provinces across the country saw COVID-19 case counts fly to new highs Thursday, with highest-ever tallies recorded in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Quebec recorded a whopping 9,397 new cases Thursday, while Ontario recorded 5,790 new cases.

Ontario’s case count eclipsed the previous high of 4,812, set back in mid-April, while Quebec’s previous high of 6,361 was yesterday.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said this week that record-high daily case counts were expected and will likely continue for several weeks.

This chart shows the latest rise in COVID-19 cases in Canada, as well as hospitalizations, which may not spike until weeks after cases do. (Adam Ciolfi and Wendy Martinez/CBC News)

In Montreal, officials confirmed that one of every five Montrealers getting tested for COVID-19 is positive — and the latest data confirms that 90 per cent of infections in the city involve the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Mylène Drouin of Montreal public health says 60 per cent of the positive cases in the city are among people between the ages of 18 and 44, noting that contact tracers cannot keep up with the crush of new infections.

People wait in line to receive a COVID-19 test in Montreal on Tuesday. Quebec is in the midst of an explosive rise in cases. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Several studies (see the “latest science” section below) suggest the Omicron variant is milder than Delta. But researchers say that good news may be overshadowed by the fact that Omicron spreads much faster than Delta and is better at evading vaccines.

As a result, the sheer number of infections linked to Omicron could still overwhelm hospitals.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:16 p.m. ET

What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

For more details on how COVID-19 is impacting your community — including hospital data and the latest on restrictions — check out the coverage from CBC newsrooms around the country.

WATCH | Omicron predominant in several areas across Canada:

Omicron ‘now predominating’ in several areas across Canada, Tam says

1 day ago

Duration 3:41

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says modelling shows the country could have a very high number of cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus by the beginning of January. 3:41

In the Western provinces, B.C. reported 2,046 new cases Thursday, a new high, after the province shut down bars, nightclubs and gyms Wednesday and banned gatherings such as weddings. It’s the third day in a row that the province’s COVID-19 case numbers have hit new highs. On Wednesday, a report from an independent COVID-19 modelling group said hospitalizations due to B.C.’s Omicron-fuelled fifth wave will reach unprecedented heights by around mid-January.

Alberta reported 1,625 new cases Thursday. The province’s chief medical officer of health said Albertans should use rapid tests to confirm whether they have COVID-19 if they show symptoms, rather than booking PCR tests. She noted that lab capacity has been strained in Quebec and Ontario, where Omicron is causing case counts to spike.

Saskatchewan reported 194 new cases and one additional death Thursday. The province’s Opposition and a health analyst are both questioning the government’s lack of response to a potential Omicron surge. Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab released new modelling Tuesday predicting that without additional health measures the province’s daily case count will surpass 300 in one month. Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said “there is a shocking disconnect” between what the modelling is showing and the government not implementing additional measures. “It makes zero sense.”

In New Brunswick, officials announced 257 new cases Thursday and another two deaths. The province’s chief medical officer of health is urging people to keep their gatherings small.

Nova Scotia also reported a new high Thursday, with 689 new cases.

One new death and 556 new cases were reported Thursday in Manitoba. The province warned that it has hit its capacity for processing tests and there is now a four-day wait for results. Current case counts are an undercount because of the delay, the government said.

Prince Edward Island on Thursday announced new restrictions and a record 35 new cases. Starting Friday at 8 a.m., wedding and funeral receptions as well as wakes and visitations will no longer be permitted. Organized gatherings such as worship services, wedding and funeral ceremonies, concerts and shows will be capped at 50 people, and schools won’t return to in-person learning until at least Jan. 10. The province has 165 active cases, more than the total number of cases it had during the entire first year of the pandemic.

Newfoundland and Labrador is back in COVID-19 Alert Level 3 as of Thursday morning, the change brought on by a rapid increase in cases, the emergence of the Omicron variant and outbreaks found across three of the province’s regional health authorities. At Level 3, people are asked to stay home as much as possible and to maintain a household bubble of up to 20 people. The province reported 100 new cases Thursday, the highest count since February.

Yukon reported nine new cases Thursday.

WATCH | Doctors, public officials receiving more threats as pandemic frustrations mount:

Ottawa, provinces promise businesses more financial pandemic support

23 hours ago

Duration 2:02

Canada’s federal and provincial governments are promising more financial support is on the way as renewed COVID-19 restrictions threaten businesses and employees. 2:02

Nunavut is tightening COVID-19 public health restrictions in Iqaluit, including restricting travel in and out of the capital city to essential purposes only.

The territory says starting at noon today the city’s swimming pool, theatre and hair and nail salons must close. Restaurants are limited to takeout food only. Indoor gatherings in homes are limited to five people plus household members.

In the Northwest Territories, people identified as a contact of someone who has COVID-19 by a public health official in the N.W.T. must isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status. The new public health order came into effect Wednesday at 5 p.m.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:26 p.m. ET

The latest science

Two new British studies provide some early hints that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus may be milder than the Delta version.

Scientists stress that even if the findings of these early studies hold up, any reductions in severity need to be weighed against the fact that Omicron spreads quickly is more able to evade vaccines, so infections could still overwhelm hospitals. Some experts also say more people are likely to have some level of immunity at this stage of the pandemic, either through vaccination or a previous infection.

Still, the studies seem to bolster earlier research that suggests Omicron may not be as harmful as Delta, said Manuel Ascano Jr., a Vanderbilt University biochemist who studies viruses.

“Cautious optimism is perhaps the best way to look at this,” he said.

A woman wears a mask as she sits at St. Paul’s Underground station in London on Dec. 16, 2021. The U.K. recorded the highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 infections Wednesday since the pandemic began, and England’s chief medical officer warned the situation is likely to get worse as the Omicron variant drives a new wave of illness during the Christmas holidays. (Alberto Pezzali/The Associated Press)

An analysis from the Imperial College London COVID-19 response team estimated hospitalization risks for Omicron cases in England, finding people infected with the variant are around 20 per cent less likely to go to the hospital than those with Delta, and 40 per cent less likely to be hospitalized for a night or more.

A separate study out of Scotland, by scientists at the University of Edinburgh and other experts, suggested the risk of hospitalization was two-thirds less with Omicron than Delta. But that study pointed out that the nearly 24,000 Omicron cases in Scotland were predominantly among younger adults, who are much less likely to develop severe cases. 
Data out of South Africa, where the variant was first detected, have also suggested Omicron might be milder there.

In other science news, a third dose of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines significantly increased the immune response to the Omicron variant, according to a new study by University of Oxford researchers. 

The laboratory study, which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, compared antibody levels in blood samples from people who received two doses of vaccine with samples from those who received a third dose. 

While two doses provided much less protection against Omicron than earlier variants, levels of neutralizing antibodies rose sharply after a third dose, the study found.

U.S. health regulators on Thursday authorized the second pill against COVID-19, providing another easy-to-use medication to battle the rising tide of omicron infections.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization of Merck’s molnupiravir comes one day after the agency cleared a competing drug from Pfizer. That pill, Paxlovid, is likely to become the first-choice treatment against the virus, thanks to its superior benefits and milder side effects.

The COVID-19 treatment pill molnupiravir, developed by Merck & Co Inc. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is pictured in a photo obtained by Reuters in May. (Merck & Co. Inc./Reuters)

As a result, Merck’s pill is expected to have a smaller role against the pandemic than predicted just a few weeks ago. Its ability to head off severe COVID-19 is much smaller (30 per cent) than initially announced and the drug label will warn of serious safety issues, including the potential for birth defects.

What’s happening around the world

As of early Thursday, more than 277.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.3 million.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates has recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since August. The tourism hub on Thursday reported 1,000 new infections — a drastic surge from record lows just weeks ago, before the spread of Omicron.

In the Americas, Ecuador is making vaccination mandatory. The government said Thursday that only Ecuadorians with a medical condition that could be complicated by vaccination will be exempt. About 33,600 people in Ecuador have died from COVID-19. 

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will hold a special session to weigh challenges to two Biden administration policies covering vaccine requirements for millions of workers and affecting large employers and health-care workers. The high court said it will hear arguments in the cases on Jan. 7, an extraordinarily fast timeline. 

In South Carolina, where COVID-19 cases are rising and only about half of eligible residents are fully vaccinated, hospitals are concerned an Omicron surge would worsen a staffing crunch among doctors, nurses and other frontline workers. Hospitals in some regions are already contending with high vacancy rates, especially among specialty nurses and lower-wage jobs like emergency room registration clerks, according to hospital officials. 

Amelie and Ludo Khayat hold each other during a visit at the COVID-19 intensive care unit of the la Timone hospital in Marseille, France on Thursday. (Daniel Cole/The Associated Press)

In the Asia-Pacific region, officials in Thailand say an Israeli tourist who was the subject of a nationwide police manhunt after breaking out of quarantine while apparently infected with the Omicron variant has been detained. The 29-year-old man will be charged with breaking quarantine regulations, deported and banned from Thailand for life following his release from hospital detention, authorities said.

South Korea has set a new record for daily COVID-19 deaths as it struggles to resolve a shortage of hospital beds amid weeks of surging cases. Officials said Thursday that 109 people died in the last 24-hour period. 

In Europe, two countries in the Balkan region, Albania and Serbia, where less than half of people are fully vaccinated, have reported their first two cases of the Omicron variant. 

Around 1.2 million people in England were likely infected with COVID-19 last week, representing 1 in 45 of the population and a new pandemic record as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly, official estimates showed on Thursday.

WATCH | U.K. breaks daily record with 100,000 new cases:

Doctors, public officials receiving more threats as pandemic frustrations mount

23 hours ago

Duration 1:56

Doctors, public officials and politicians across Canada are increasingly becoming the victims of personal attack and scorn as frustrations grow over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s not just groups upset by restrictions that are engaging in abusive behaviour, as those frustrated with slow booster rollouts take part also. 1:56

Italy is planning to tighten restrictions to try to curb a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections, including making mask wearing mandatory outdoors again, the prime minister’s office said on Thursday. 

Australia has reintroduced curbs such as indoor mask-wearing, capacity limits and QR code check-ins to cover most of the population as daily infections hit a record.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:22 p.m. ET

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are travelling abroad despite Omicron – CBC News



Despite growing concerns across the globe last fall over the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, Sandy Long and her husband departed on Nov. 28 for a 10-day vacation in Mexico. 

Long said they felt comfortable travelling, because they planned to take strict safety precautions. Plus, the couple hadn’t gone abroad for two years due to the pandemic and were yearning to get away.

“Life is short,” said Long, 58, of Richmond, B.C. “We needed to feel some warmth [and] we really missed Mexico.”

It appears many Canadians have a similar attitude toward travel these days despite Omicron’s fast and furious spread, which prompted Canada to repost its advisory against non-essential international travel last month.

Statistics Canada tallied 742,417 Canadian air-passenger arrivals returning home from abroad in December. 

When adjusted to account for recent changes in tracking air travel, that total is almost six times the number of arrivals for the same month in 2020, and more than half the total for pre-pandemic December 2019.

The increase in international travel is likely to continue: there were 216,752 Canadian air-passenger arrivals to Canada during the week of Jan. 3 to Jan. 9, according to the latest data posted by the Canada Border Services Agency. 

Lesley Keyter, owner of The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary, said clients are booking trips despite the threat of Omicron because they want to return to travelling. (submitted by Lesley Keyter)

Travel agency owner Lesley Keyter said that, since October, the number of clients booking trips has jumped by between 30 and 40 per cent compared to the same time last year. 

She said popular destinations for her clients, most of whom are aged 50 or older, include Europe, Mexico and Costa Rica. When Omicron cases started to surge in December, Keyter said some clients cancelled their trip, but most kept their travel plans. 

“People are saying, “Listen, we only have a limited time on this planet.… We’ve put off travel for two years now, I don’t want to put it off anymore,” said Keyter, owner of The Travel Lady Agency in Calgary.

She said travellers also feel confident with the added protection of their COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot. Because Omicron is so transmissible and more able to evade vaccines, even vaccinated people may get infected, however, they’re less likely to wind up in the hospital.

Risk of testing positive abroad

But even if infected travellers only experience mild symptoms, they’ll still face hurdles returning home.

To enter Canada, air passengers must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. If a traveller tests positive, they must wait at least 11 days before boarding a flight home.

Brennan Watson of Milverton, Ont., tested positive for COVID-19 while on vacation in Ireland. (submitted by Brennan Watson)

Brennan Watson, 26, of Milverton, Ont., tested positive on Dec. 28 while travelling in Ireland. 

He was set to fly home the following day, but instead had to find a place to self-isolate in Belfast. Due to Canada’s rules at the time — which have now changed — Watson had to wait 15 days before he could fly home. 

“It was very stressful in the beginning,” he said. “It was a bit of a panic just to think that I’m stuck here.”

Brennan said the delay cost him: he missed 11 days of work as an electrician and spent $2,000 in added expenses, including another plane ticket home. 

“There’s nothing you can really do about it,” he said. “It’s just something I didn’t even think would happen.”

WATCH | Canada once again advises against travel abroad:

Canada warns against non-essential travel abroad as Omicron spreads

1 month ago

Duration 3:14

The federal government is urging Canadians to stay home or, if they must travel, to plan ahead for quarantine and ensure they have travel insurance coverage. 3:14

Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone said travellers can avoid such unexpected costs by purchasing trip-interruption insurance. He said most of his clients now opt for the coverage that will reimburse travellers for some or all of their costs if they test positive and must extend their trip. 

“Trip interruption — which used to be a very rarely [purchased product] — is now being added to all the emergency medical plans, because clients worry terribly about testing positive,” said Firestone with Travel Secure.

“That’s the new world we live in right now with the pandemic.”

Flight cancellations

Another hurdle travellers may face is unexpected flight cancellations. 

Since December, thousands of flights in Canada and the U.S. have been cancelled for pandemic-related reasons including crew members out sick due to the virus. 

This month, Air Canada Vacations announced it will suspend some flights to sun destinations between Jan. 24 and April 30. After cutting 15 per cent of its January flights, WestJet announced on Tuesday it will cancel 20 per cent of its February flights.

Long said she and her husband enjoyed their trip to Mexico so much, they had planned to return again in the upcoming weeks. However, the couple recently nixed their plans due to concerns over flight cancellations.

“It’s the uncertainty right now,” said Long. “I don’t want to get down there and then be stranded.”

However, she’s still optimistic about a trip the couple has booked in May to Spain. 

Despite testing positive while travelling, Brennan hopes to return to Ireland this summer — even if the pandemic hasn’t waned by then.

“I spent a year and a half of my life not seeing family, not seeing friends,” he said. “I’m not going to stop living my life.”

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Immigration: Canada border tragedy a sign of what's ahead – CTV News



The discovery of four people who perished in the cold trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border could put a new twist on the immigration debate in the United States.

The group, which included an infant and a teen, were found Wednesday near Emerson, Man., just metres from the Canadian side.

U.S. officials allege they were part of a larger group of Indian migrants trying to cross into the U.S. from Canada.

Border expert Kathryn Bryk Friedman, a University at Buffalo law professor, calls it a troubling sign that the country’s immigration challenges are getting worse.

Friedman says the discovery is likely a “warning shot” that more people are willing to put their lives on the line to enter the U.S., even on foot in the dead of winter.

Florida resident Steve Shand is to appear in court Monday in Minneapolis to face human smuggling charges.

“I do think it’s a warning shot,” said Friedman, who remarked about the enduring appeal life in the U.S. seems to hold for people all around the world.

Indeed, the crush of South American migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border has become a defining characteristic of American politics in recent years, most notably during the tenure of former president Donald Trump.

Nor is Canada a stranger to the problem: thousands of asylum seekers crossed the border in Quebec each year while Trump was in office, though the numbers have dropped precipitously since then.

But an organized effort to sneak groups of people into the U.S. from Canada is a new one on Friedman.

“It just demonstrates the allure still — maybe the enduring allure — of trying to get to the United States. It’s really kind of fascinating,” she said.

But a single incident isn’t likely to prompt either country to seriously rethink the way they manage and defend their shared frontier, she added.

“This sounds terrible, but I think it’s going to take more than four people dying at the border to really galvanize action on the part of Canada and the United States.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2022.

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Omicron's potential peak has experts cautiously optimistic – CTV News



Canada’s top doctor has said the latest wave of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant may have reached its peak.

But while the modelling appears encouraging, experts say the news should be interpreted with cautious optimism.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters on Friday that there are “early indications that infections may have peaked at the national level” based on daily case counts, test positivity, the reproduction number and wastewater data.

“I hope we’re at or nearing the peak, but the problem that I have is where we’ve got some uncertainty in the counting now since we don’t do as much PCR testing as we once did,” Dr. Ronald St. John, former director-general of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

Due to the shortages in PCR testing capacity, many people who develop COVID-19, particularly if they’re not in a high-risk group and have mild or no symptoms, have been unable to get PCR tests.

“We can’t count people who are asymptomatic, so we have to look at other datasets (like) wastewater concentration, things like that, to try to get an understanding of where we are.” St. John said.

Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, an infectious disease expert at the University of Manitoba, says the news shows “some optimism that things will slowly get back to normal, what they were like prior to Omicron.”

However, Tam said that hospitalizations and ICU admissions are still climbing across Canada and health systems remain under “intense strain.” Kindrachuk says it’s unclear how quickly we might start seeing hospitalizations and ICU admissions start to decrease.

“I think we’ve learned over and over again from the pandemic is that you know, cases rise and then hospitalizations lag behind … and that trend also stays in place when cases start to recede,” he told over the phone on Saturday.

“You may be able to slow down that hospitalization rate over time, but you are still going to have pressure on a health-care system that that has been pushed to its limits.”

Dr. Christine Palmay, a Toronto-based family physician, says the hospitalization and ICU data also leave out a lot of patients dealing with debilitating symptoms. She and her colleagues have seen numerous patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are struggling with the virus at home.

“They’re not captured by ICU stats. They’re not necessarily accessing ER, but they’re not functioning,” she said.


Several provinces have also reported that Omicron may be peaking or close to peaking. In Ontario, Health Minister Christine Elliott said cases are expected to peak this month, followed by a peak in hospitalizations and ICU admissions. Quebec also reported that hospitalizations declined for the third straight day on Saturday.

Wastewater data in B.C. and Alberta have also shown signs that the virus may have peaked. However, health officials in Manitoba and Saskatchewan say it’s too early to tell.

When COVID-19 cases began to reach unprecedented highs throughout Canada last month, provinces and territories imposed numerous health measures affecting restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, in-person schooling and more. Now, some provincial and territorial governments have plans to life some of these restrictions.

Kindrachuk says these restrictions, on top of the rollout of booster shots, appear to have helped plateau cases. However, as these restrictions start to ease, he notes that cases have the potential to rise again.

“When you start to remove those safety breaks, you have the potential that things could start to build back in the opposite direction. So, we have to do it very methodically and certainly with a lot of oversight,” he said.

St. John says he’s also worried about health measures being lifted too quickly.

“We have to wait and stick to our public health measures as long as possible until we can be absolutely sure that we’re coming out of the woods, and I’m not sure that we are yet,” he said.

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading