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



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Many provinces indicated Wednesday they would not rush to follow the lead of Alberta and Saskatchewan by quickly dropping COVID-19 vaccination passports and indoor mask requirements.

“Just because one province is doing something doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to do that,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s deputy chief public health officer.

Manitoba is hoping to lift all restrictions by spring, but Atwal said the plan will be dictated by science — not the decisions of other jurisdictions or demands from protesters.

Easing public health orders in Ontario will also be done with caution and only when it’s safe to do so, said Health Minister Christine Elliott. She added that proof of vaccination and masks will be required for some time.

“We have no plans currently to drop the passport vaccination situation or masking. We believe that masking is going to be important for some time to come,” Elliott said at a news conference in Kitchener, Ont., adding that the province is following advice from the chief medical officer and other expert advisers.

“We are not in the clear yet,” Elliott said.

WATCH | ‘We believe that masking is going to be important for some time to come,’ Ontario’s health minister says:  

Ontario not dropping vaccine passport or masking for now, says minister

11 hours ago

Duration 1:25

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province is sticking to a cautious path toward loosening public health restrictions because of the spread of highly transmissible coronavirus variants. 1:25

Ontario is tracking on a best-case projection, she said, after gradually lifting some restrictions on businesses and social gatherings late last month. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals Wednesday was down 195 from Tuesday to 2,059.

Saskatchewan and Alberta announced Tuesday their intentions to get rid of vaccination passports, mandatory masks and nearly all other COVID-19 rules in the coming weeks.

The proof-of-vaccination requirement, known in Alberta as the restriction exemption program, and capacity limits at most venues ended Wednesday. And starting Monday, masks will no longer be mandatory in all settings for children under 12 and for all students in schools.

Saskatchewan plans to scrap its vaccine passport policy on Monday and end nearly all public health orders, including indoor mask mandates, by the end of the month.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has said hospitals across the country remain heavily strained. “We’re not out of the woods,” Tam said on social media Tuesday.

Saskatchewan infectious diseases specialist Dr. Alexander Wong echoed that thought, saying it’s too soon to end proof-of-vaccination measures.

“A lot of these decision feel, at least to me and for many health-care workers in our province, like it’s just been a real rush.”

WATCH | Dr. Wong says vaccine mandates are the best way to boost immunization rates

Sask. doctor says lifting proof-of-vaccine measure too rushed

1 day ago

Duration 4:51

The decision to end proof-of-vaccination in Saskatchewan is coming too soon, says Dr. Alexander Wong, an infectious diseases specialist in Regina. He suggested it is more likely due to political pressure. 4:51

Health officials across the country, saying it’s time to learn to live with COVID-19, have been announcing gradual reopening strategies.

“You’re tired. We are too. Everyone is tired of COVID,” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said Wednesday. “But COVID has proven to be a formidable opponent.”

Houston announced some restrictions around gathering sizes, capacity limits and sports events are to be loosened next week. He said that’s possible because less than 10 per cent of eligible Nova Scotians are unvaccinated and the province is leading the country in booster shots.

He said the move isn’t because of protests in Ottawa and elsewhere against vaccine mandates and other public health orders.

Federal ministers again urged protesters to stop blocking roads and border crossings, and to cease incessant honking.

Trucks and people seen in downtown Ottawa during an ongoing protest against vaccine mandates on Feb. 4, 2022. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said every Canadian is frustrated that the pandemic has persisted and normal life is still not achievable. But, he said, health measures to keep people safe have always been informed by advice from public health experts.

“There is a point in the future, that day is coming, where we will be back to life as normal,” Mendicino said.

“In the meantime, we can all be exhausted about it. We can be fatigued about it, (but) that can never be a justification to somebody going beyond the boundaries of the law and creating an illegal blockade and hurting Canadians.”

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs pointed out that provincial and territorial governments are all following through on plans to lift COVID-19 measures, albeit some faster than others. Soon most areas of the country will have minimal restrictions, he said.

“You kind of wonder, ‘What is the point at this stage?” Higgs said about the protesters.

-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 5 p.m. ET. 

What’s happening across Canada

Omicron breakthrough infection could boost immunity

1 day ago

Duration 2:04

New research suggests that getting infected with the Omicron variant after being fully vaccinated could help boost immunity, but unvaccinated people don’t appear to get the same benefit. 2:04

In Central Canada, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced expanded access to free rapid tests. The province has 2,059 people in hospital with COVID-19 Wednesday, including 449 in the ICU. 

Quebec’s interim director of public health, Dr. Luc Boileau, said Wednesday that he estimates at least two million Quebecers have been infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic’s fifth wave in December, and in fact, it’s likely that nearly half of all Quebecers have been infected with some form of COVID-19 since the pandemic was first declared.

The province currently has 2,348 people in hospitals being treated for the virus, including 171 in intensive care. 

In Atlantic Canada, officials in Prince Edward Island put forward a plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions with a three-step process set to begin on Feb. 17. The second step on the Island is tentatively scheduled for mid-March, with the third step set for early April. The province currently has seven people in hospital with COVID-19, including one in the ICU. 

New Brunswick is also moving to loosen restrictions, beginning Feb. 18. Premier Blaine Higgs said Wednesday that the province will move to Level 1, which means social bubbles will increase to 20 from 10, while businesses — including retail, spas and salons, entertainment centres, gyms and restaurant dining rooms — can return to full capacity.

Proof of vaccination will still be required where it has been previously. Masks will remain mandatory in all indoor public places, as well as outdoor public places when physical distancing can’t be maintained.

There are 139 people in New Brunswick hospitals being treated for COVID-19, with 15 in the ICU. 

Newfoundland and Labrador officials announced some changes Tuesday, when health officials said restrictions on gatherings and sporting events were being eased. As of Wednesday, there were 20 people in hospital with COVID-19, with seven people in the ICU. 

Nova Scotia saw its hospitalization numbers remain unchanged Wednesday, with 91 people still in hospital. An additional two people are in intensive care, for a total of 16. Premier Tim Houston said the numbers support a move to fewer restrictions, beginning Feb. 14. 

This will include loosening restrictions on sports and arts and culture events and allowing retail stores to operate at full capacity. Gyms will be able to operate at 75 per cent capacity and cosmetologists will be able to resume all services.

In the Prairie provinces, Saskatchewan is lifting all of its pandemic public health orders in a phased approach that is to begin Monday with the removal of its COVID-19 vaccine passport policy. At the end of the month, it also plans to end its indoor mask mandate and the requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus.

“The benefits of this policy no longer outweigh the costs,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who added people should be able to choose whether to get vaccinated.

Alberta‘s shift is coming even faster. The province’s passport has ended, and most other big COVID-19 health rules will be lifted in about three weeks.

“Restrictions, mandates, and those kinds of interventions will not — and must not — become a permanent feature of our lives,” Premier Jason Kenney said at a briefing outlining the shift on Tuesday. 

The premier said COVID-19 vaccines “are doing what we always said they would do, to protect us from severe illness and outcomes.”

Alberta reported 1,615 people were in hospital Wednesday with the virus, including 135 patients in intensive care. 

Manitoba began to allow larger private gatherings and higher capacity in public spaces for people who are fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. The acting deputy chief public health officer said Wednesday that the new rules will be in place for at least two weeks and will be loosened further only if the numbers warrant. 

“We’re going to look at the situation. We’re going to look at our data. We’re not going to speculate on our orders; they were just changed yesterday,” Dr. Jazz Atwal said.

The province has 680 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 43 in the ICU. 

Across the North, a top official in Nunavut said Tuesday that more nurses would be coming to the territory to help with the COVID-19 response.

There are four people in hospital in Yukon with COVID-19. The other two territories did not have any patients being treated in the hospital as of Wednesday. 

In British Columbia, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday that as current restrictions expire next week, she will share the province’s plan to move forward.

“You will hear less about the pandemic as we get through this wave and more about how we continue to manage our personal risks as restrictions are adjusted in step with what we are seeing in terms of transmission and hospitalizations.”

She also announced an expansion to the province’s vaccine mandate for health-care workers, saying it will now include dentists, chiropractors and other health practitioners regulated by B.C.’s health-care colleges.

There are currently 893 people with COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals, including 143 in intensive care units. There have also been 18 additional deaths from the virus. 

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

As of late Wednesday afternoon, more than 402.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.7 million.

“Depending on where you live, it might feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is almost over, or it might feel like it is at its worst,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said at a briefing on Wednesday.
“But wherever you live, COVID isn’t finished with us,” Tedros said, adding that the virus will continue to evolve. But the world is not defenceless against COVID-19, he said, pointing to vaccines, tests and treatments.

The biggest barrier to ending the pandemic as a global health emergency is making sure people in all countries have access to those critical tools, he said, as he made a plea for billions in funding for the ACT-Accelerator.

The ACT-Accelerator is a global collaborative project meant to ensure people in low- and middle-income countries have access to essential tests, treatments, vaccines and personal protective equipment.

“We have a plan, we have the tools, we have hope,” he said. “Now we need the resources to execute the plan everywhere, make the tools available everywhere and make hope a reality everywhere.”

The last set of coronavirus disease PCR tests are collected at the testing site as Sweden changes its approach towards coronavirus testing, in Svagertorp, Malmoe, Sweden on Tuesday. (Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency/Reuters)

In Europe, Sweden has halted wide-scale testing for COVID-19 even among people showing symptoms of an infection, putting an end to the mobile city-square tent sites, drive-in swab centres and home-delivered tests that became ubiquitous during the pandemic and provided essential data for tracking the virus’s spread.

The move puts the Scandinavian nation at odds with most of Europe, but some experts say it could become the norm as costly testing yields fewer benefits with the easily transmissible but milder Omicron variant and as governments begin to consider treating COVID-19 like they do other endemic illnesses.

For most of the pandemic, Sweden stood out among European nations for its comparatively hands-off response. It never went into lockdown or closed businesses, largely relying instead on individual responsibility to control infections. While coronavirus deaths were high compared with other Nordic countries, they were lower than many other places in Europe that did implement lockdowns.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told a reporter at a WHO briefing on Wednesday that his country, along with Denmark and Sweden, have lifted many restrictions recently they enter a phase of the pandemic “where the cost of the restrictions really outweigh the burden on the health service.”

“Each country has to make its judgment on that national call,” he said. But the Norwegian leader said that shouldn’t lead to a situation in which people think the “pandemic is behind us” or that global solidarity in fighting the virus is not needed.

WATCH | Norway’s prime minister defends his move to end most restrictions while the pandemic continues:

‘Moral obligation’ to help other countries end COVID-19 pandemic: Norwegian PM

12 hours ago

Duration 3:11

Despite lifting COVID-19 restrictions, richer countries maintain a moral responsibility to help end the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, says Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. 3:11

In the Americas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stands by its mask-wearing guidance for public kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, with COVID-19 cases still high countrywide, even as some states plan to relax masking rules, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Reuters.

A child wearing a face mask arrives at school in New York City in early January. Some states are moving away from mask mandates for schools. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong’s daily COVID-19 infections nearly doubled to a record 1,161 cases on Wednesday, authorities said, as the global financial hub battles a rapid surge that is shaping up to be the biggest test yet of its “dynamic zero” policy.

Residents line up to get tested for the coronavirus at a temporary testing centre for COVID-19 in Hong Kong on Wednesday, where COVID-19 cases have been on the rise. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday that the government would extend COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo and 12 prefectures by three weeks as the Omicron variant continued to spread. Japan has been breaking daily records for coronavirus cases and deaths.

In the Middle East, health officials said on Wednesday that 116 people had died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. Health officials also reported an additional 39,085 additional cases of the novel coronavirus.

In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Tuesday reported 2,824 new cases of COVID-19 and 268 additional deaths. 

-From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 5:15 p.m. ET

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ERs in Canada overwhelmed, face closures – CTV News



Hospitals overwhelmed by the pandemic’s onslaught are still facing a number of challenges, causing unprecedented wait times in emergency rooms across the country.

Along with limited hospital beds and a backlog of surgeries, a primary cause for dysfunction has been a shortage of physicians and nurses.

Many of the problems facing hospitals are not new, but experts say that the pandemic has exacerbated the situation, leading to a crisis so dire that patients are now starting to see emergency department closures in hospitals near them.


On Saturday, Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital (PSFDH) announced a shutdown of its emergency department until Thursday, citing a COVID-19 outbreak. However, its doctors say the real reason is an ongoing staff shortage.

“Yeah, COVID caused the closure of the emergency department, but the reality of it is that we had no built-in resilience of our nursing staff,” Dr. Alan Drummond told CTV National News on Saturday.

Drummond said that PSFDH’s emergency room dropped from 50 nurses down to five, leaving the unit exceptionally thin.

“Somebody needs to be held accountable for the fact that we lost 50 per cent of our nursing staff within several months, which set us up, basically, to fail,” he said.

Drummond said the catchment area for the PSFDH is about 25,000 people in a large geographic area between Smiths Falls and Peterborough, meaning many patients travel long distances to get to the emergency department.

Patients needing urgent care will now have to drive 20 kilometres from Perth to Smiths Falls.

“I don’t think it’s fair for the people in this community,” local resident John Hastings told CTV News on Saturday.

The Town of Clinton in Ontario was without an emergency room for the entire Canada Day long weekend, as the Clinton Public Hospital’s emergency room announced a shutdown from July 1 to 5.

This marked the longest 24-hour closure of the Clinton Public Hospital’s emergency room.

Physician and nurse shortages are to blame, according to Deborah Wiseman, the chief nursing executive with the Huron-Perth Health Alliance, who anticipates more service disruptions this summer.

“Not just this weekend, but what you’ll see is more to come. I’m going to say for the next six months to several years, with our human health care shortages, both in the nursing and physician areas. We are really struggling to maintain services,” Wiseman told CTV National News.

Wiseman said they are investigating everything to try to resolve the health-care worker shortage and keep their emergency rooms open, including using paramedics in emergency rooms.

Other provinces are experiencing similar issues. Six emergency departments in Quebec will be partially shuttered this summer owing to a staffing shortfall, the provincial government announced on Thursday.

Nova Scotia Health says people should expect long wait times in all four health zones because of high demand during the long weekend.

“Unfortunately, we’re currently experiencing what we call ‘bed block,’ where we have a large number of admitted patients and nowhere to send them,” Dr. Margaret Fraser, a physician at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, N.S. told CTV National News on Saturday.

Bonnie Nunn, a resident from Trehern, Manitoba, told CTV National News on Saturday that her daughter recently needed emergency treatment and had to be taken to Portage la Prairie, about 45 minutes away, because the Trehern emergency department was closed due to a lack of staff.

“I’m really angry, angry at everything. I don’t think enough thought went into this,” she said.

“I’m not angry at nurses. They need time off too.”


Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told CTV News Atlantic in May that the rate of physician and nurse burnout is double what it was pre-pandemic.

“Our health-care system is at a level of crisis we’ve never really seen, and the health workers are in a state of crisis we’ve never seen,” said Smart.

A June survey released by Statistics Canada showed that 95 per cent of health workers feel that the pandemic has impacted their mental health and has added stress to their work-life balance.

During the pandemic, health workers have faced extended work hours, decreased vacation time, and changes in the method of delivering care.

In the fourth wave of the pandemic between September to November of 2021—the period in which the survey was conducted—many health workers were looking to leave or quit due to job stress or concerns around their mental health.

“How do we retain workers? Probably a raise,” Halifax-based ICU nurse, Elinor Kelly told CTV News Atlantic in May.

“Probably a decent one. I think that’s going to have to help. Especially for critical care nurses because critical care, we have a lot of people that we train and recruit, but after a year or so they can go work privately at triple the amount of money I’m making after 27 years.”

Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician and president of the Council of Physicians at Hôpital de Lachine in Montreal, said he wants the government to make substantial changes.

“The health-care system has to be improved. And it can’t just be a short-term electoral promise … for the next few years, but long-term,” he told CTV National News on Saturday.

With files from Deena Zaidi and CTV News Atlantic

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Missing 13-year-old Edmonton girl found alive in Oregon, 41-year-old man arrested



EDMONTON — Police say a 13-year-old Edmonton girl missing for more than a week has been found alive in the United States.

She was located following a week-long search that began when she was seen arriving at her junior high school but didn’t show up for class.

Edmonton Police Insp. Brent Dahlseide says the girl, who was reported missing June 24, is currently in an Oregon hospital for a precautionary examination after being found safe in the state early Saturday morning.

Dahlseide says a 41-year-old Oregon man will be charged with child luring and is expected to face additional charges in Canada and the U.S.

He says Edmonton police received assistance from other agencies in Canada, as well as from the FBI and other police services in the U.S.

Dahlseide says it’s believed the suspect came to Edmonton, but it’s not yet clear how he initially made contact with the girl or how she crossed the U.S. border.

“We would be speculating to say they crossed the border together, but I do know that they were located together, again, in the U.S. once they gained entry,” Dahlseide told reporters during an online news conference Saturday, noting he believed the two had been communicating online.

“I don’t know how long they may have been in contact with one another. I do know that the reason we’re going with a child-luring charge at this point is that it’s one we can support because of some of the online history.”

Photos of the girl have appeared on billboards and posters across Alberta this past week asking people to be on the lookout for her and contact police with tips.

Dahlseide said an Amber Alert was not issued because investigators lacked a description of a suspect or a suspect vehicle. He said police got that information on Friday and were drafting the alert that afternoon when they learned from Canada Border Services the suspect had crossed into the U.S.

At that point the suspect was no longer in Canadian jurisdiction, Dahlseide explained, which is another criteria for an Amber Alert. He said they made a deduction about where the suspect was going and alerted authorities on the U.S. side.

Dahlseide said he believed the arrest was made outside Gladstone, Oregon, just south of Portland, away from the suspect’s residence. He said the suspect’s name would not be released until charges are formally laid.

He said the girl’s family were informed early Saturday she’d been found safe and they are making arrangements to bring her home.

“I’m sure we likely woke them up, showing up at their door so early,” Dahlseide said.

Canadian investigators have not had a chance to speak with the girl or the suspect yet, Dahlseide said, and other questions remain.

He said investigators believe the suspect was in Mission, B.C. for three to four days, so they’ll be asking RCMP there to speak to people who may have seen him or the girl during that time. The FBI will also be able to help supply bank or credit card information to piece together the suspect’s movements, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022


Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

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People planning to attend AIDS conference in Montreal still struggling to get visas



MONTREAL — International AIDS organizations say people from Africa, South America and Asia who are planning to attend a major AIDS conference in Montreal are still struggling to get visas from the Canadian government.

The groups say a growing number of activists — including some who were scheduled to speak at the conference which begins at the end of the month — are having their visa applications denied, often on the grounds that the Canadian government doesn’t believe they’ll return home after the event.

Tinashe Rufurwadzo, the director of programs, management and governance at Y+ Global, an international organization of HIV+ youth, said the chair of his organization’s board and another of its employees, who are based in Malawi and Kenya, are among the young activists who have been denied visas to attend the conference.

He said both have travelled extensively to speak at AIDS-related events.

“Personally, I’m sick and tired of seeing young people from Africa mostly portrayed on PowerPoint slides as pictures, as photos on banners, as footnotes on case studies. Why can we not have them at conferences to share their lived experiences of what exactly is happening?” he said in an interview Friday.

Rufurwadzo said representatives of populations most at risk of HIV — such as people who inject drugs, transgender women, sex workers and gay men — need to be able to participate, as do adolescent girls, who are increasingly affected by HIV.

If people from the most affected countries aren’t able to attend, he said he doesn’t know how realistic the learning at the conference will be.

While those whose applications are denied will be able to attend the conference virtually, Rufurwadzo said that won’t allow the same level of participation. He also said young people, especially those from rural areas, may not have consistent access to the internet.

Last week, almost 250 organizations from around the world sent a joint letter to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser calling on him to take action to ensure participants can attend the International AIDS conference.

Aidan Strickland, a spokesman for Fraser, said in response to earlier questions from The Canadian Press that the department has been working closely with event organizers and that applications “have been assessed in a timely manner.”

“While we cannot comment on the admissibility of any particular individual, we can say that, in general, all visitors to Canada must meet the requirements for temporary residence in Canada, as set out in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” Strickland said in an email. “All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria.”

Javier Bellocq, an Argentine who runs a community journalism project called the Key Correspondent Team which focuses on people living with HIV and high-risk groups, said from the stories he’s heard, it seems like each Canadian consulate is applying different rules.

In some places, he said, applicants have been required to pay for medical examinations as part of the visa process.

“The conference, in theory, arranged with the Canadian government that there will not be medical examinations, but there are, there are many medical examinations.”

Of a group of 40 Argentines, including Bellocq, who are planning to participate in pre-conference activities, only two have received visas so far, he said.

Tumie Komanyane, who runs programs for international NGO Frontline AIDS in South Africa, said groups she works with were planning to help more than a dozen young people attend the conference, but decided not to even bother applying for 10 visas after the first four applications were rejected.

Komanyane said she’s aware of other young people from the region, including some who had scholarships to attend the conference funded by the Canadian government, who have had their visa applications denied.

“It’s incoherent,” she said in an interview Saturday. “With the strides that Africa is making in the HIV field, all the lessons and evidence that could be coming from the beneficiaries directly is going to be lost.”

While she works with young people, she said, she doesn’t want to speak for them.

“They have agency, they have voice, and they shouldn’t be represented by people like me. They should be able to go and share what this work means for them,” she said.

Bellocq said he’s not worried about himself, noting the Argentine passport is relatively powerful and he’s a professional who has been travelling internationally form more than 30 years. But he worries about people  from countries with less passport privilege and members of marginalized groups who are at high risk of HIV.

With pre-conference events starting in just over three weeks, he said, “time is not on our side.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.


Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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