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Curfews, crackdowns or more? What experts say Canada must do to get a handle on COVID-19 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
An upcoming nightly curfew in Quebec is hogging the headlines, but some public health experts say it’s another plank of Premier Francois Legault’s new plan that other provinces should pay the most attention to.

Legault announced Wednesday several new measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus in the province, where the COVID-19 curve has been rising sharply since late November.

The measures include a curfew that will affect the vast majority of Quebecers. As of Saturday, anyone caught outside their home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. for any reason other than work, walking a pet within one kilometre of their home or visiting a pharmacy will be subject to a fine of up to $6,000.

CTV News’ Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkway told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday that while the curfew may seem heavy-handed, it is necessary to find a way to reverse COVID-19’s upward trend in Quebec.

“If incentive to do the right thing isn’t working, at some point, when do you have to invoke disincentive to make sure that more people don’t die and that our health-care system doesn’t collapse?” he said.

“We’re really playing with fire at this point in time.”

Places of worship will also be closed around the clock in Quebec, except for funerals with up to 10 people in attendance. Legault additionally said that “non-essential” manufacturing operations will be halted, although discussions are still ongoing to determine what exactly that entails.

WORKPLACE WOES

Even that first hint of a willingness to close non-retail and non-service workplaces is a positive sign that may do more to slow the pandemic than the curfew, Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist affiliated with McMaster University in Hamilton, told CTVNews.ca.

“I think everyone is focusing on the curfew part. The one thing that I think may actually have a big potent effect … is the fact that they’re looking at really ramping down manufacturing,” he said Thursday via telephone.

“It’s showing up more and more that workplaces are becoming a major, major issue.”

As of Dec. 23, 2020 – the last report available – there were 699 active workplace outbreaks in Quebec. In total, they had been directly linked to 3,367 cases of COVID-19. Manufacturing facilities accounted for 27 per cent of those outbreaks and 40 per cent of those cases.

Data released this week by the City of Toronto shows that manufacturing facilities, construction sites, offices and warehouses account for more than 40 per cent of workplace outbreaks in Canada’s largest city during the pandemic – more than three times as many as bars and restaurants.

Despite that, lockdown-like measures to date have largely focused on bars, restaurants and other public-facing businesses, while requiring non-public-facing workplaces only to ensure mask-wearing and physical distancing.

“Many of our lockdowns really haven’t been able to [tackle workplace transmission],” Chagla said.

“If hospitals and long-term care facilities struggle to prevent transmission to their staff for COVID coming in, then a workplace is going to be even harder to try to prevent that type of transmission.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician affiliated with the University of Toronto, said Thursday that “upstream drivers” of COVID-19 cases, such as workplace transmission, need to be addressed by any new public health restrictions.

“Otherwise, this is a Band-Aid solution,” he told CTV News Channel.

As for the curfew, Chagla said he is “not 100 per cent certain” about its effectiveness.

Curfews have been used in Australia, France and other jurisdictions as part of successful efforts to flatten COVID-19 curves, but Chagla said there is little proof that the curfews themselves made as much of a difference as other measures introduced around the same time.

“There’s not great evidence to suggest it actually works, other than that when these things get rolled out, they get rolled out as a bundle – so when it works, you don’t know which part of the bundle was actually the component that worked,” he said.

THE ‘CANADIAN SHIELD’ APPROACH

Meanwhile, a group of 17 public health experts and business leaders is calling for other provinces to enact measures far stronger than Quebec’s.

They released a strategy last week that they call “the Canadian Shield,” arguing that Canada should be placed into a “short, sharp” and more severe lockdown until the national COVID-19 active case tally is approximately one-quarter its current size.

Once that has been achieved, they argue, the caseload will be low enough for the World Health Organization-endorsed strategy of testing, contact tracing and isolation to be effective. Restrictions could then start to be relaxed, as long as the number of active cases continues to fall by between 17 and 25 per cent per week.

While the restrictions are in place, the group argues, governments would need to do more than they have done thus far to support the people and businesses most affected by the lockdown.

One of the 17 people behind this strategy is André Beaulieu, the senior vice-president of corporate services for Bell Canada, which owns CTV News.

In a report released last week, the group argued that if their recommendations were followed immediately, the active case total in Canada could fall by 75 per cent by the end of January, the country could see fewer than 40 new cases a day by May 1, and 5,000 lives could be saved. Following the current path could lead to 9,000 new infections per day in the spring, even as vaccines are rolled out, they said.

“Building the Canadian Shield is a challenging strategy requiring quick, decisive actions by government and a whole of society engagement. However, it is achievable, and massively better than the status quo,” they wrote.

Asked for his opinion, Chagla said he can see the Canadian Shield strategy being realistic as far as reducing COVID-19 cases and deaths, but worries it does not account for “collateral damage” such as increases in depression, financial instability, household violence and worsened non-COVID-19 medical outcomes as a result of a more severe lockdown.

“More restrictive measures and that are needed. Supports for essential populations and essential staff are needed. Ramping down manufacturing as much as possible is needed. But to do this bundled approach, to significantly lock down as part of the approach … I have some hesitation saying that’s an ideal plan to roll out,” he said.

“People are so frustrated, so upset, they see a lot of inconsistencies with public health messaging – I’m able to do X but not Y – I don’t think, without huge militaristic support, you’re able to even invoke a plan like this.”

‘THIS SITUATION IS UNTENABLE’

There are also questions around how Quebec plans to enforce its curfew. Existing COVID-19 restrictions have been haphazardly enforced in many Canadian jurisdictions. More than 40,000 people entering or returning to Canada during have been contacted by police about concerns they are not following quarantine restrictions, but only 138 of those interactions had resulted in tickets or charges as of last week.

“A lot of questions arise in my mind around ‘How is this going to be enforced? How do you determine if somebody’s out for an essential reason or not?'” Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said Wednesday on CTV News Channel.

Whatever the strategy, the experts say it’s important that something be done to stop Canada’s ever-escalating COVID-19 case counts from continuing on their current path.

“This situation is untenable. We simply cannot accept the loss of life that is going on in much of Canada at this time,” Sharkaway said.

Bogoch cautioned that there was ample warning of the current COVID-19 spike “for probably over a month,” and that numbers will likely continue to increase in the near future.

“You’ve got your health-care system in many parts of the country stretched beyond capacity, you’ve got ICUs that are full, you’ve got rising case numbers, rising hospitalizations, rising deaths,” he said.

“This is clearly, clearly an emergency. It is not going to get better. It is probably going to get worse over the next couple of weeks.”

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Canada seeking reassurance as Europe mulls export controls on COVID-19 vaccines – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he remains confident in Canada’s vaccine supplies despite threats from Europe that it might impose export controls on vaccines produced on that continent.

Speaking to reporters outside his Ottawa residence Tuesday morning, Trudeau said the situation in Europe is worrisome but he is “very confident” Canada is going to get all the COVID-19 vaccine doses promised by the end of March. And despite the sharp decline in deliveries of a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech this month, he said Canada will still vaccinate all Canadians who want shots by the end of September.

“We will continue to work closely with Europe to ensure that we are sourcing, that we are receiving the vaccines that we have signed for, that we are due,” Trudeau said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video statement posted to Twitter Tuesday that Europe will set up a “vaccine export transparency mechanism” so Europe knows exactly how many doses are being produced in the world’s largest trading bloc and where they are being shipped.

“Europe invested billions to help develop the world`s first COVID-19 vaccines to create a truly global common good,” she said. “And now the companies must deliver.”

Europe is also getting smaller shipments from Pfizer than promised, because the company temporarily slowed production at its plant in Belgium so it can be expanded.

AstraZeneca has also warned Europe its first shipments of vaccine will be smaller than expected because of production problems.

But Europe, which invested more than C$4 billion in vaccine development, is demanding the companies fulfil their contracts on time.

“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business,” said von der Leyen.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng said she had spoken to her European counterpart, Valdis Dombrovskis, about the situation and will keep working with Europe to keep the supply chain open.

“There is not a restriction on the export of vaccines to Canada,” Ng said in question period.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner accused Ng of playing games with her response, noting the issue isn’t that there is an export ban now, but that Europe is threatening to impose one.

With all of Canada’s current vaccine doses coming from Europe, “that’s a concern,” Rempel Garner said.

“If the Europeans ban exports of vaccines, what’s Plan B for Canada?” she asked.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are making doses of their vaccine in the U.S. and in Europe, but all U.S.-made doses are currently only shipped within the U.S.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump invoked the Defence Production Act last year to prevent export of personal protection equipment. He then signed an executive order in December demanding U.S.-produced vaccines be prioritized for Americans only and threatened to use the act to halt vaccine exports as well.

President Joe Biden has already invoked the act to push for faster production of PPE and vaccines. Though he has not specifically mentioned exports, Biden has promised 100 million Americans will be vaccinated within his first 100 days of office, making the prospects the U.S. shares any of its vaccine supply unlikely.

Canada has contracts with five other vaccine makers, but only two are on the verge of approval here. AstraZeneca, which has guaranteed Canada 20 million doses, needs to finish a big U.S. trial before Health Canada decides whether to authorize it.

Johnson and Johnson is to report results from its Phase 3 trial next week, one of the final things needed before Health Canada can make a decision about it. Canada is to get 10 million doses from Johnson and Johnson, but it is the one vaccine that so far is administered as only a single dose.

Trudeau said AstraZeneca isn’t supplying Canada from its European production lines. A spokeswoman for Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada will not say where the other vaccines are coming from because of the concerns about security of supplies.

AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson have set up multiple production lines in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, India, Australia and Africa. Canada has no current ability to produce either those vaccines or the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It is entirely reliant on foreign production at the moment.

More than 113,000 people in Canada have received two full doses of either the Moderna or BioNTech vaccine. Another 752,000 have received a single dose.

But the reduction in Pfizer shipments to Canada forced most provinces to slow the pace of injections. Europe, Mexico, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia also have slowed their vaccination campaigns because of the supply limits.

Trudeau said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla assured him the full shipments will resume in mid-February, and that Canada will get its contracted four million doses by the end of March. He said he spoke to Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel Tuesday morning and was promised Moderna’s shipments of two million doses by March 31 are also on track.

MPs were scheduled to have an emergency debate on Canada’s vaccine program Tuesday night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021

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Canada's vaccine deliveries further threatened as Europe mulls export controls – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he remains confident in Canada’s vaccine supplies despite threats from Europe that it might impose export controls on vaccines produced on that continent.

Speaking to reporters outside his Ottawa residence Tuesday morning, Trudeau said the situation in Europe is worrisome but he is “very confident” Canada is going to get all the COVID-19 vaccine doses promised by the end of March. And despite the sharp decline in deliveries of a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech this month, he said Canada will still vaccinate all Canadians who want shots by the end of September.

“We will continue to work closely with Europe to ensure that we are sourcing, that we are receiving the vaccines that we have signed for, that we are due,” Trudeau said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video statement posted to Twitter Tuesday that Europe will set up a “vaccine export transparency mechanism” so Europe knows exactly how many doses are being produced in the world’s largest trading bloc and where they are being shipped.

“Europe invested billions to help develop the world`s first COVID-19 vaccines to create a truly global common good,” she said. “And now the companies must deliver.”

Europe is also getting smaller shipments from Pfizer than promised, because the company temporarily slowed production at its plant in Belgium so it can be expanded.

AstraZeneca has also warned Europe its first shipments of vaccine will be smaller than expected because of production problems.

But Europe, which invested more than C$4 billion in vaccine development, is demanding the companies fulfil their contracts on time.

“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business,” said von der Leyen.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng said she had spoken to her European counterpart, Valdis Dombrovskis, about the situation and will keep working with Europe to keep the supply chain open.

“There is not a restriction on the export of vaccines to Canada,” Ng said in question period.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner accused Ng of playing games with her response, noting the issue isn’t that there is an export ban now, but that Europe is threatening to impose one.

With all of Canada’s current vaccine doses coming from Europe, “that’s a concern,” Rempel Garner said.

“If the Europeans ban exports of vaccines, what’s Plan B for Canada?” she asked.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are making doses of their vaccine in the U.S. and in Europe, but all U.S.-made doses are currently only shipped within the U.S.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump invoked the Defence Production Act last year to prevent export of personal protection equipment. He then signed an executive order in December demanding U.S.-produced vaccines be prioritized for Americans only and threatened to use the act to halt vaccine exports as well.

President Joe Biden has already invoked the act to push for faster production of PPE and vaccines. Though he has not specifically mentioned exports, Biden has promised 100 million Americans will be vaccinated within his first 100 days of office, making the prospects the U.S. shares any of its vaccine supply unlikely.

Canada has contracts with five other vaccine makers, but only two are on the verge of approval here. AstraZeneca, which has guaranteed Canada 20 million doses, needs to finish a big U.S. trial before Health Canada decides whether to authorize it.

Johnson and Johnson is to report results from its Phase 3 trial next week, one of the final things needed before Health Canada can make a decision about it. Canada is to get 10 million doses from Johnson and Johnson, but it is the one vaccine that so far is administered as only a single dose.

Trudeau said AstraZeneca isn’t supplying Canada from its European production lines. A spokeswoman for Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada will not say where the other vaccines are coming from because of the concerns about security of supplies.

AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson have set up multiple production lines in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, India, Australia and Africa. Canada has no current ability to produce either those vaccines or the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It is entirely reliant on foreign production at the moment.

More than 113,000 people in Canada have received two full doses of either the Moderna or BioNTech vaccine. Another 752,000 have received a single dose.

But the reduction in Pfizer shipments to Canada forced most provinces to slow the pace of injections. Europe, Mexico, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia also have slowed their vaccination campaigns because of the supply limits.

Trudeau said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla assured him the full shipments will resume in mid-February, and that Canada will get its contracted four million doses by the end of March. He said he spoke to Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel Tuesday morning and was promised Moderna’s shipments of two million doses by March 31 are also on track.

MPs were scheduled to have an emergency debate on Canada’s vaccine program Tuesday night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021

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PM warns Canadians to expect more travel restrictions soon – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is warning Canadians to expect more travel restrictions in the near future.

At his briefing Tuesday, Trudeau reiterated federal public health guidance to avoid all non-essential travel, both abroad and in between provinces.

Trudeau said in French that the constantly evolving news of COVID-19 variants from other countries has spurred the government to look at improving the measures already implemented – and that an announcement would come very soon.

The prime minister also reiterated his previous statements on upcoming travel, telling Canadians to cancel any plans they may have booked, and that while the number of cases linked to traveling abroad are low, “one case is too many.”

Trudeau said the “bad choices of a few” should not be allowed to put others at risk.

Currently, the land border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed to travellers, while international travellers flying into the country must show a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before their departure flight. They then must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Violations of any of these measures can result in charges under the Quarantine Act, with a maximum sentence of six months in jail or fines up to $75,000.

Last week, Quebec Premier Francois Legault called for Ottawa to implement an outright ban on non-essential travel – and as Trudeau said at his Tuesday briefing, “all options are on the table if necessary.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported more than 200 flights, both international and domestic, that have confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as one VIA Rail train trip.

Overall, travel outside Canada has been deemed the primary cause of 1.4 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada since the start of the pandemic, with contact with a traveller accounting for another one per cent of infections.

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