- Rising COVID-19 cases sparks debate over what appropriate response to second wave should be.
- B.C. chief provincial health officer says she’s received death threats during pandemic.
- One in 10 students in Hamilton public schools aren’t wearing masks, Hamilton Wentworth-District School Board says.
- Pandemic slashes worldwide income from work by a tenth, International Labour Organization finds.
- U.K. government defends strategy for combatting a second wave from criticism that restrictions don’t go far enough.
The recent surge in COVID-19 is sparking debate around what the appropriate response is to a coronavirus second wave and how to keep the economy open while reducing community spread of the virus.
With Ontario reporting its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases since early May on Tuesday, there are mounting calls for the government to take more actions to slow the spread of the virus now, in an effort to avoid a full-scale lockdown later.
The province is facing rapid growth in coronavirus infections. The average number of new cases reported daily over the past week was 383, double what it was just nine days earlier. The daily case count has exceeded 400 on four of the past five days.
On Wednesday, the province reported 335 new COVID-19 cases, marking a considerable drop from the previous two days.
“The premier and I are both very concerned about the rapid increase in numbers, as I know the people of Ontario are, but we do have a plan,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday.
But Elliott and Premier Doug Ford did not announce any new public health measures yesterday to try to rein in those numbers.
WATCH | New lockdowns possible if Canada’s COVID-19 surge continues, say health officials:
They did unveil one element of Ontario’s promised COVID-19 fall preparedness plan — the province’s upcoming flu vaccination campaign. The government intends to roll out the rest of its fall plan piece-by-piece over the coming days. The ostensible reason for the gradual reveal is that the plan is so big that the public wouldn’t be able to absorb it all at once.
Meanwhile, Toronto city councillors say they are committed to avoiding tax hikes or service cuts in the face of a bleak new report on the city’s financial health, though averting those measures will require major funding from the provincial and federal governments.
A new city report that analyzed the first half of 2020 projects a shortfall of $1.34 billion by the end of the year. The figure is largely attributed to a combination of lost revenue and increased spending to combat the novel coronavirus during the spring and summer.
The report and measures to lift the city out of its dire financial situation are expected to be discussed Wednesday at Mayor John Tory’s executive committee.
WATCH | Jump in COVID-19 cases ‘very alarming,’ says respirologist:
“I think we are going to get through it, but it is going to be a very long, hard road ahead,” said Coun. James Pasternak, who sits on the executive committee.
And in Quebec, a similar problem is presenting itself as the province sees large spikes in cases: that is, how to keep things open while stopping the virus’s spread in the community?
On Tuesday, the province recorded 489 new cases today, and the number of hospitalizations increased by 20.
In response to the rising numbers, more regions in Quebec will be facing stricter restrictions as new cases and hospitalizations rise in the province.
WATCH | Why Outaouais is now an orange zone in Quebec’s COVID-19 rating system:
Quebec’s Laval and Outaouais regions will be under “moderate alert,” or the orange alert level, said Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé at a news conference Tuesday. The Centre-Quebec region will move from green alert to yellow alert, he said.
“Primarily, the situations responsible for outbreaks are private gatherings, like parties, family dinners or weddings. These gatherings are closely linked to outbreaks that affect many communities in Laval and undermine the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Jean-Pierre Trépanier, regional director of Laval public health.
Dr. Karl Weiss — who heads the infectious diseases department at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital where there has been a recent surge in hospitalizations related to COVID-19 — said the second wave will “really be something different.”
“What we will have is outbreaks everywhere. We will have outbreaks in schools. We will have outbreaks in bars, associated with private parties, religious gatherings.”
As a result, Weiss said, the challenge will be in ensuring these outbreaks are quickly controlled.
What’s happening in the rest of Canada
As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 147,469 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 127,162 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,274.
About one in 10 students in Hamilton public schools aren’t wearing masks, according to the Hamilton Wentworth-District School Board (HWDSB).
HWDSB spokesperson Shawn McKillop said that roughly 3,800 students are exempt from wearing masks or face coverings. With some 39,848 students in the public board registered for in-person learning, that means just under 10 per cent of students aren’t wearing masks or face coverings.
The Catholic school board said it didn’t have numbers on mask exemptions yet.
Mask wearing has been a contentious issue for the unions and the school board. The number of exemptions also comes as local schools are starting to see their first cases of COVID-19.
The exemption is for children with medical issues that would prevent them from using a face covering or mask or have difficulty breathing in one.
The chief provincial health officer in British Columbia says she’s received death threats during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says she has also received abusive letters and her staff has been harassed, all of which has caused concern for her personal safety.
“There are many people who don’t like what I do or don’t like the way I say it or don’t like my shoes and feel quite able to send me nasty notes, to leave phone calls, to harass my office staff,” she said during a panel presentation at the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“I’ve had to have security in my house. I’ve had death threats. How do we deal with that?”
Henry says she believes the attacks are partly because she is a woman in a high-profile position, and people feel comfortable targeting her in ways they would not necessarily target a male leader.
WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about death threats and added security:
Two patients have died, and 14 other patients and six staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 as outbreaks continue to spread at Foothills hospital in Calgary.
A total of 88 staff members are now in isolation, Alberta Health Services said Tuesday. But the hospital remains fully staffed as it uses overtime and reassignments to cover shifts as needed.
Alberta Health said the outbreak is currently the largest in the province.
Two cardiac units and the hospital’s general unit are affected. The first case in one of the hospital’s cardiac units was detected Friday, and a case in the general unit was detected the next day.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 31.6 million. More than 971,400 people have died, while over 21.7 million have recovered.
Income earned from work worldwide dropped by an estimated 10.7 per cent, or $3.5 trillion US, in the first nine months of 2020, compared to the same period a year ago, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday.
The figure, which does not include income support provided by governments to compensate for workplace closures during the pandemic, is equal to 5.5 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) for the first three quarters of 2019, it said.
“Workplace closures continue to disrupt labour markets around the world, leading to working hour losses that are higher than previously estimated,” the ILO said in its sixth report on the effects of the pandemic on the world of work.
Workers in developing and emerging economies, especially those in informal employment, had been affected to a much greater extent than in past crises, the United Nations agency said. It added that a decline in employment numbers had generally been greater for women than men.
The United Kingdom government is defending its strategy for combatting a second wave of coronavirus infections from criticism that new restrictions didn’t go far enough to stop the exponential spread of the virus.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a slate of new rules on Tuesday to stem the renewed outbreak, including a 10 p.m. local time curfew on bars and restaurants, increased use of face masks and again encouraging people to work from home.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Wednesday that the government’s approach was “focused, balanced and proportionate.” He says that if everyone complies with the measures, they will be enough to prevent a second national lockdown “with all the impact on society and families but also the damage it would do to businesses.”
India added 83,347 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, showing some decline after a record 97,000 a week ago.
The past six days have shown some drop in the new cases. Wednesday’s increase reported by the Health Ministry raised the nation’s total to more than 5.6 million, which is on pace to pass the U.S. total within weeks.
The ministry said 1,085 more people died in the past 24 hours for a total of 90,020.
Confirmed daily coronavirus cases in the Netherlands hit a record high on Wednesday, with 2,357 confirmed over the previous 24 hours, according to data published by health authorities.
The country has had 100,597 confirmed cases since it began registering them in late February, according to data made available by the National Institute for Health (RIVM).
Cases have risen rapidly since late August amid a broader European second wave, leaving the country short of tests and prompting Prime Minister Mark Rutte to urge citizens to recover a sense of “urgency” about social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
Why getting COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada won't be 'overnight solution' to pandemic – CBC.ca
For months, more than 150 teams around the world have been working at an unprecedented pace to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus.
Ten of those vaccine candidates are now in Phase 3 clinical trials, in which each is given to thousands of people to ensure it’s both safe and effective — the final leg of the process before their potential approval.
In the fight against COVID-19, that feels like a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
But once at least one vaccine is approved, what comes next?
“Approval itself is not going to be an overnight solution,” said Matthew Miller, an associate professor at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University in Hamilton.
“There’s going to be a significant amount of time required to distribute the vaccine and then have enough doses prepared to administer to the population.”
Public health and vaccination experts also say the months after Canada starts acquiring a vaccine will be rife with challenges, both logistically and ethically, as public health officials will need to determine which groups should get priority access — be it health-care workers or other vulnerable demographics — as production scales up to meet demand.
“There will inevitably be supply chain issues,” Miller warned. “It’s going to take time for the vaccine manufacturers to produce enough doses, and there’s going to need to be prioritization over who will get those first doses when they become available.”
WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam on the flu and COVID-19 vaccines:
Canada preordering 6 candidates
Earlier this year, the federal government said it put $1 billion into preorders of six foreign vaccine candidates.
It’s a move that hedges our bets, with Canada set to receive 20 million to 76 million doses of each vaccine — if any successfully make it through clinical trials and gain approval from Health Canada.
Should at least one of the preorders prove safe and effective, federal and provincial officials need a strategy in place to roll it out among different groups, ensuring there are no “inequities” between regions, noted Alison Thompson, an associate professor in the Leslie Dan faculty of pharmacy and Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
“This is something that we can get out in front of,” she said. “We know a vaccine could become available in the next few months.”
In September, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said preparations for administering this year’s flu vaccine offered a “good rehearsal” for mass immunization programs for a coronavirus vaccine.
But some Ontario physicians recently warned those efforts fell short, with initial rounds of supplies drying up quickly amid early and higher-than-usual demand.
The province, however, has said more shipments are coming — and stressed the program was meant to take a staggered approach to rolling out the vaccine, first targeting vulnerable populations like long-term care residents before the general public.
Protecting ‘vulnerable’ first
That “prioritization” approach could also prove crucial while rolling out a vaccine for the coronavirus, both to conserve supplies while production scales up and protect those most at risk.
“We may be looking at protection for really important health-care workers, first responders, people who keep the economy running,” Thompson said. “We might want to be protecting vulnerable populations first before anybody else.”
But who should be deemed most vulnerable, and first in line?
There’s no “one size fits all” approach behind that decision, Miller said, and in Canada a lot of factors are at play, from residents’ ages to their socioeconomic status to their pre-existing health conditions.
Health-care workers have proved at risk across the country, with a dozen dying and more than 21,000 falling ill — representing roughly 20 per cent of cases — in the pandemic’s first wave, according to a September report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
The largest death toll, however, was more than 5,300 elderly residents in long-term care, with those facilities accounting for more than 80 per cent of all Canadian COVID-19 deaths in the first wave, CIHI findings show.
Racialized and marginalized communities have also been hard hit in areas like Toronto, where multiple diverse, lower-income neighbourhoods have experienced high case counts and test positivity rates for the virus have been more than triple the city’s average, Toronto Public Health data shows.
Alongside health-care workers on the front lines, it’s remote Indigenous communities which “need to be first priority,” based on the severe comorbidities, residential overcrowding and lack of access to health-care facilities found in many areas, according to Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and faculty lead for Indigenous and refugee health.
“All Indigenous communities are at highest risk compared to non-Indigenous communities — by far,” she said.
Scaling up could take ‘many months’
Miller said the process of scaling up vaccinations from priority groups to the broader public could take “many months,” if not a year or more.
That time frame could also involve a less-discussed stage of vaccine research: Phase 4 clinical trials, after candidates are already on the market.
It’s a time to evaluate vaccines’ effectiveness and safety in a “real world” setting, Miller said, and could offer clues for future generations of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The first vaccines approved may not necessarily be the most effective vaccines,” he said.
The vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, was later expanded to protect people against more strains of the virus, for instance, while an early version of the shot for shingles was far less effective than a later form which has an efficacy of more than 90 per cent.
In those instances, people wound up getting additional rounds of newer vaccines to ensure the highest level of protection, Miller explained, adding it’s still not clear if people will need revaccination to protect against this coronavirus.
The more pressing concern now is getting at least one first option out to the public in hopes of winding down this months-long pandemic.
While the threshold for achieving herd immunity — which occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making its continued spread less likely — isn’t clear yet for COVID-19, it could be as high as 70 per cent of people, said epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa.
That’s a level of protection Canada won’t hit for quite some time after a vaccine becomes available, assuming enough residents get the shot.
“If we don’t get there, then we have a functioning society, with some restrictions still in place, like distancing and mask wearing and maybe limits on gatherings, but no more lockdowns and things like that,” he said.
“So either way, the vaccine is going to help us.”
Front Burner28:37Inside Canada’s race for a COVID-19 vaccine
EU removes Canadians from list of approved travellers because of COVID-19 – CBC.ca
European Union officials are moving to halt Canadians from travelling to the bloc of European countries amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In July, the EU set up a so-called white list of countries whose citizens would be allowed access for non-essential travel.
Canada had been on the approved list from Day 1, along with 14 other countries.
The United States has been on the list of banned countries from the start.
In August, the EU removed Algeria, Montenegro, Morocco and Serbia from the white list because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in those countries.
Officials meet every two weeks to decide if any changes should be made to the white list, and no changes had been recommended since then.
Rising case numbers
On Wednesday, officials met for their regularly scheduled meeting. According to Reuters, Bloomberg and other reports, they decided to remove three countries — Canada, Tunisia and Georgia — while adding Singapore to the approved travel list.
An EU official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed to CBC News that the bloc has decided to change the makeup of the white list, the finalized version of which is expected to be made public within days.
According to CBC’s coronavirus tracker, there are more than 203,000 confirmed cases of the disease across Canada, with 2,251 new cases on Tuesday.
After the changes, the white list consists of nine countries: Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Uruguay.
The decision doesn’t ban travel immediately, nor is it necessarily strictly enforced in every EU country.
Some countries, such as France, have not placed any restrictions on visitors from countries on the white list. Germany has pared the list down while Italy requires a period of self-isolation and demands travellers take a private vehicle to their destinations even if they are on the white list.
The Canada Border Services Agency doesn’t provide a detailed breakdown of how many Canadians have been travelling to various EU countries, but Statistics Canada does note that in July, the month with the most up to date data, 57,000 people came to Canada from France, 11,000 came from the Netherlands and 42,000 from Germany.
Immigration slowdown could prove costly for Atlantic Canada, economist warns – CBC.ca
Hanlyn Barlomento speaks with her husband, Cedric Fuentes, every day by video conference, lifting up their baby girl, Celeine, so her father can talk to her.
With the family separated due to the pandemic, Fuentes hasn’t yet been able to hold his eight-month-old daughter.
“It’s very, very difficult. I’m very emotional,” said Barlomento.
“I remember when I found out about the pandemic and how everything is going on lockdown all over the world. I was crying for weeks because, you know, I’m a first-time mom and I need him to be here with me.”
Barlomento is a Canadian citizen who met her husband on a trip to visit family in the Philippines. They married and began the process for him to immigrate, anticipating he could have his permanent residency this year.
But she’s still waiting for the immigration paperwork to be processed, and she’s been unable to get any kind of time estimate from immigration staff.
“I can’t even explain the loneliness that I feel right now,” Fuentes said. “My family is away from me, especially now that my daughter is growing up without me.”
Barlomento hoped to return to work or school after her husband arrived to help care for the baby, but those plans are on hold for now.
According to a senior economist at RBC, this scenario is a common one and concerning for Atlantic Canada.
“This might be a temporary thing, we might be seeing a rebound in the fall or in the spring, depending on what … happens with the coronavirus and the federal government’s response. However, if this keeps up, we’re in danger of falling off track,” said Andrew Agopsowicz.
Agopsowicz studies immigration and labour trends for RBC and has analyzed the latest numbers released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. He saw what he described as a “complete shutdown” of immigration between late March and June due to border closures.
Days before the border shutdowns, the federal government put forward a goal of bringing in 341,000 new permanent residents in 2020. Based on permanent resident admissions so far, Agopsowicz predicts the country will reach about 70 per cent of that goal.
“It doesn’t look like, from the recent data, we’re in a position to catch up from the last quarter,” he said.
Agopsowicz said even if the loss is temporary, it could still translate to a “very costly” year.
“The Atlantic provinces, it could hit particularly hard,” he said, adding because the region is aging overall it relies heavily on immigrants to grow its labour force, particularly in areas like health care and support for the elderly.
“The Atlantic provinces are less prepared, I think, to handle that shock than say, central Canada or the West,” he said.
Meghan Felt, a St. John’s, N.L.-based lawyer who specializes in immigration law, said many of her clients are frustrated with the slowdown they’ve seen during the pandemic.
“It’s making a problem that was already there, worse, really,” said Felt, a partner with the law firm McInnes Cooper. Felt does a lot of work for employers trying to bring in health-care workers and other critical infrastructure workers.
In her experience, applications from people deemed non-essential workers are at a standstill, and even essential worker applications that might have previously taken a couple of days are taking upward of six weeks. She said some clients are trying to speed up the process by appealing to local politicians.
She thinks some applications could be abandoned.
“You have employers who are working really hard to get people here and want them here yesterday. And then they’re afraid they’re going to lose these people to move to maybe a different country or just decide that they’re going to stay put,” she said.
“And then individuals I’ve seen many times, time and time again, just a complete frustration with the process and with the timelines. And so a lot of them will give up.”
On Prince Edward Island — a province still leading the way on population growth — the head of the Charlottetown chamber of commerce said her members are monitoring the immigration situation, but it’s not time to sound the alarm.
Penny Walsh-Maguire said immigration has been a big part of P.E.I.’s “social story” and economy recently, but given the pandemic, some restrictions had to be expected. Some of her members are re-examining their hiring practices and even reporting a small increase in people arriving interprovincially instead of internationally.
“P.E.I. and the Atlantic provinces are seen as a very safe destination,” she said. “What I am hearing from members is when they do post a job, they are seeing a little bit of an increase … of applications coming from other [places in] Canada, particularly Alberta and Ontario.”
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino plans to deliver an update on Canada’s immigration targets in November. He said there’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had an impact on the immigration system.
“But I am very optimistic and confident that as a result of a number of innovations that we’ve introduced and technologies that we’re taking full advantage of, that we will make actually quite remarkable progress despite the interruption that has been caused by COVID-19.”
Mendicino said those new innovations and technologies include putting more services online, such as virtual citizenship ceremonies. He did not say whether Canada is likely to meet its current targets, or whether the targets would change, but emphasized that immigration will be part of the COVID-19 recovery plan.
As for Hanlyn Barlomento and her family, IRCC said it’s increased the number of people able to make decisions on spousal applications and hopes to process almost 50,000 applications by December.
For now, she remains hopeful that IRCC will be able to respond to the situation.
“I really want them to actually understand what we’re going through,” she said.
“If they have to triple the workforce or get people to actually speed things up, then that’s what I want them to do.”
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