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Delta variant in Canada: Where did it go? – CTV News

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Not only is Omicron the predominant COVID-19 variant circulating in Canada, but it also continues to dominate much of the conversation currently surrounding the pandemic. The latest update to draw attention involves the emergence of a new Omicron subvariant in Canada, with more than 100 cases already confirmed.

But with so much of the focus on Omicron, many may be left wondering whether other variants such as Delta continue to circulate in Canada at all.

The latest data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) shows that while the Omicron variant now accounts for the majority of positive COVID-19 samples collected by the agency, a small percentage of Delta cases continue to be detected. During the week of Jan. 9, the most recent data on display, 92 per cent of 404 samples collected in Canada tested positive for Omicron. Meanwhile, 7.9 per cent of the samples tested positive for the Delta variant.

“It’s really being replaced by Omicron…but Delta is still out there,” Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of Queen’s University’s infectious diseases division in Kingston, Ont., told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Wednesday.

With Omicron proving to be highly transmissible and quick to replicate, it essentially superseded the variant that dominated before it, Evans said. Delta had done the same to Alpha when it first emerged as well, he said.

“Delta is such a robust variant that it outcompeted Alpha, so we don’t really see Alpha at all anymore,” he said. “It may just be that we need a little more time to see Omicron push Delta out.”

Similar to what’s being observed on a national scale, Omicron makes up the vast majority of samples processed through whole genome sequencing in Ontario. The province’s latest surveillance report on whole genome sequencing shows that during the week of Jan. 2, 97.8 per cent of cases sequenced were Omicron, while 2.2 per cent were Delta.

“It looks like [Delta] is still holding on in a small percentage of people,” Dr. Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at the Toronto-based University Health Network, said on Thursday in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca. “It hasn’t been completely displaced.”

This trend of Delta remaining in circulation is true across most of the country as well, she said, not just in Ontario. In British Columbia, for the week of Jan. 9 to Jan. 15, 97 per cent of positive specimens sequenced by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control were Omicron, while three per cent were Delta. The most recent data logged by the province of Quebec on Jan. 8 shows that 94.6 per cent of screened COVID-19 cases were presumptive Omicron, while 5.4 per cent were presumptive Delta.

An important factor to consider in the reduced number of Delta cases being reported by provinces is the emergence of vaccines, said Hota. Two doses of COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be highly effective against the Delta variant, said Hota. But when it comes to Omicron, while several studies indicate that current vaccines are still effective, they point to the need for a third dose for optimal protection.

“The opportunity still remains for the Omicron BA.1 variant to be transmitted amongst people, whereas Delta is losing that opportunity because vaccines are more effective at preventing infections,” said Hota.

Both Evans and Hota said that the Delta variant is likely circulating in greater numbers among those who are unvaccinated, along with other vulnerable populations including those who are immunocompromised or older in age.

Despite the lower number of Delta cases being reported today compared to months ago, both Hota and Evans said it’s tough to tell whether the variant will disappear for good in the near future.

“With the continued low-level circulation of Delta in the community, Omicron may not be able to completely wipe Delta if it’s got lots of people it can still infect,” said Evans.

Hota said she anticipates the Delta variant may linger in small amounts across Canada for quite some time.

“It all really depends on what happens with future variants coming along, what their characteristics are like and whether they end up displacing [existing variants],” she said.

NEW SUBVARIANT DETECTED IN CANADA

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam announced that more than 100 cases of the new Omicron subvariant, BA.2, have been discovered in Canada as of Friday. This is double the amount of infections from the subvariant that was reported earlier last week.

“We’re one of the first countries to actually pick up on this variant, and we have at least over 100 identifications,” said Tam during Friday’s federal COVID-19 update.

Dr. Jeff Wrana is a senior investigator at Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute based in Toronto. He was involved in creating the platform to sequence and monitor all variants of concern that come through the joint microbiology lab between the University Health Network and Sinai Health Systems. Several BA.2 subvariant cases were first identified by the lab back in December through whole genome sequencing, he said.

“We detected the first BA.2 [cases] before New Years and since then, there’s been kind of sporadic cases,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Thursday. “But in the last couple of weeks, it’s clearly expanding.”

According to PHAC, the BA.2 subvariant was first detected in Canada in November. Looking at the subvariant’s spread across the country so far, Wrana noted that the pace at which BA.2 cases are increasing is different than what was noted with the original version of Omicron in early December. 

“Omicron was basically like an explosion went off – it was just everywhere almost instantaneously,” he said. “This [subvariant] is kind of showing a little bit more of a leisurely expansion.

“But we’re just starting to see the expansion now, so we don’t really know what the shape of that curve is going to look like.”

BA.2 is a descendant of the Omicron variant and has already been detected in nearly 50 countries worldwide, according to global coronavirus data sharing platform GISAID. The United Kingdom recently designated it a “variant under investigation,” noting it could have an increased growth rate compared to the original Omicron lineage, BA.1. The Omicron variant has four sub-lineages: BA.1, BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3.

The BA.2 subvariant is considered “stealthier” than the original version of Omicron because some of its genetic traits make it harder to detect. According to the World Health Organization, the BA.2 subvariant differs from BA.1 in some of its mutations, including in the spike protein. Still, Evans said there isn’t a significant difference in the genomic structure of the BA.2 subvariant compared to that of BA.1.

“This is not a jump from Alpha to Delta, or Delta to Omicron,” said Evans. “It’s basically Omicron with a few small changes in its genetic structure, nothing that would make it have to have a whole new Greek letter.”

As viruses become endemic, they tend to exhibit this kind of behaviour, said Evans, referring to the small degree of mutational differences that are often adopted by viruses over time. While BA.1 is the most common subvariant of Omicron currently circulating around the world, Evans pointed to several countries that are seeing much more rapid growth of BA.2 compared to BA.1 such as India, Denmark, the U.K. and Germany.

According to Wrana, however, it is still too early to tell whether Canadians are likely to see another surge in infections as a result of the BA. 2 subvariant.

“We don’t know yet if it’s really going to be explosive or peter out,” he said. “There are other variants that came and went that we all got worried about, but they didn’t really do anything.”

Evans said that very limited data suggests that the efficacy of current vaccines is similar to what it would be against BA.1. Additionally, based on reports so far, the new subvariant does not appear to be more severe than the original version of Omicron, said Hota, pointing to early data from Denmark.

“We do know that hospitalizations and deaths are lag indicators – they do happen later, so when you have a new change in variant, it can be a couple of weeks before you start to see that catch up,” she said. “But right now, there’s no signal to suggest that it’s resulting in a huge surge in hospitalizations or deaths.”

While Evans said the new subvariant should not be cause for concern at the moment, all experts said that more research is necessary to understand the true scope of BA.2.

“You shouldn’t be worried at the moment about this BA.2, as opposed to the original Omicron BA.1,” said Evans. “People shouldn’t be concerned about genetic changes unless those genetic changes actually mean something fundamentally different.”

“You basically can’t predict how these variants will behave within the population,” said Wrana. “You can do lab-based experiments that show this, that or the other, but translating that into how the variant behaves in the population is not that easy.”

With files from Brooklyn Neustaeter and The Associated Press

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Sports leaders top list of new Order of Canada appointees – CBC News

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Canadian sports icons including Stacey Allaster, Donovan Bailey and Angela James are among the 85 new appointees to the Order of Canada this year.

This year’s list of appointees also includes Canada’s first Indigenous female MP, the first MP for Nunavut, and a number of contributors to the arts, including Emmy nominated actress Sandra Oh.

Considered one of Canada’s highest civilian honours, the Order of Canada is meant to recognize people who make “extraordinary contributions to the nation,” according to the Governor General of Canada website.

Stacey Allaster was named the first female tournament director in U.S. Open history in 2020. (Michael Noble Jr./The Associated Press)

Allaster was named as a companion, the highest of the honour’s three levels, which also include the level of officer and member. There can be no more than 165 living companions at any time.

Born in Windsor, Ont., and raised in Welland, Ont., Allaster was an executive with the Women’s Tennis Association from 2006 to 2015, first serving as president before being promoted to chair and CEO in 2009.

During her tenure, she was instrumental in securing equal prize money for women at six WTA tournaments and all four Grand Slams. She also played a key role in streamlining the WTA calendar and securing a landmark international media agreement. In 2020, she was named as the first female tournament director of the U.S. open.

Allaster said she’s grateful for her time playing tennis in Canada and getting her first opportunity to work in the sport with Tennis Canada. “It’s very difficult to put into words how fortunate I am and now to be recognized by my country for everything that it’s giving to me is very humbling,” she said.

Allaster also said “it’s a dream come true” to see Canada develop some top tennis talent in the world throughout her career, including Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Fernandez.

Donovan Bailey won two gold medals and broke a world record at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. (Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images/File)

Former Olympic and world champion sprinter Donovan Bailey will be invested as an officer of the order. The former world record holder won Olympic gold in 1996 in the men’s 100-metre race and in the men’s 4×100-metre relay.

“It’s incredible,” Bailey said of the appointment to the order. “I’m very blessed, I’m extremely humbled to have shared incredible moments with Canadians.”

Bailey said being invested with the Order of Canada is an official recognition of what he has been hearing from fans for the past few decades.

“Getting the officer of the Order of Canada is a tremendous honour, but I’m telling you that I’ve been validated for 27 years; I’ve been validated every single day by the incredible fans,” he said.

Angela James won four world championships and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. (CBC)

Angela James is a pioneer in women’s hockey, first as a player and now as the general manager and part-owner of the Toronto Six women’s pro hockey team.

The winner of four world championships, including the first in 1990 where she scored 11 goals in five games and was a tournament all-star, she said being invested in the order encapsulates all her achievements on and off the ice.

“I think it encompasses everything that I’ve pretty much done in my life, and to think that my life matters to Canadians is pretty special,” she said.

A star on the Canadian team before women’s hockey became an Olympic sport, James was one of the first two women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010 and said she hopes to continue to see women’s hockey grow.

“As long as we get together and work together as one then I think there is no stopping the women’s game,” she said.

Indigenous leaders

Among the appointees to the order are a number of Indigenous leaders, including Canada’s first Indigenous woman elected as a member of Parliament.

Ethel Blondin-Andrew was first elected as the MP for the Northwest Territories in 1988, and would go on to become the minister of state for northern development in the cabinet of past prime minister Paul Martin.

She has continued to be an advocate for Indigenous women in politics, and recently took part in a United Nations panel in Geneva to discuss that topic.

Ethel Blondin-Andrew was first elected as the MP for the Northwest Territories in 1988. (CBC)

Joining Blondin-Andrew in the order is former Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell.

Karetak-Lindell was first elected as the MP for Nunavut in 1997, and became the territory’s first MP after it was recognized 1999.

“I’ve tried very hard to be the voice for people who might not have had a chance,” Karetak-Lindell said.

Nancy Uqquujuq Karetak-Lindell, former Member of Parliament for Nunavut, is seen wearing a traditional beaded tuilik made by her mother, Rhoda Karetak. (HO-Hinaani Design/The Canadian Press)

After stepping away from federal politics in 2008, she would later become the president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council in 2016, serving for a two-year term.

Although she said she feels honoured to receive the Order of Canada, she said “the biggest reward will always be in that maybe I made someone look to the future with more hope.”

Blondin-Andrew will be invested as an officer of the order, while Karetak-Lindell is being invested as a member.

Other Indigenous leaders among the appointees include Elders David and Imelda Perley of New Brunswick for contributions to education around Wabanaki culture.

Elders Reg and Rosemary Crowshoe of Alberta are similarly being recognized for their preservation of Blackfoot culture.

Contributors to the arts

A number of Canada’s top contributors to the arts have also been appointed to the order, including actress Sandra Oh, who will be invested as an officer.

The Emmy Award nominated actress is best known for the hit TV series including Killing Eve and Grey’s Anatomy. She has also lent her talents to the big screen in movies such as Turning Red and Under the Tuscan Sun.

Sandra Oh arrives at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/The Associated Press)

Donald Mowat is also being recognized for his contributions to the big screen, having been the head of makeup and design on such films as The Fighter, 8 Mile, Sicario, Nightcrawler, Prisoners, Nocturnal Animals, Stronger, Blade Runner 2049.

Mowat was recently nominated for the Oscar for best makeup and hairstyle for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.

On the music front, founder of the independent record label Attic Records Alexander Mair is being appointed as a member of the order.

Attic represented a number of Canadian artists and groups including Anvil, Irish Rovers, Triumph and Teenage Head.

The Order of Canada

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon has appointed the following people, who were recommended for appointment by the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada:

Companions of the Order of Canada

  • Stacey Allaster.
  • Frank Hayden (This is a promotion within the order).
  • Peter Russell (This is a promotion within the order).
  • Donald Savoie (This is a promotion within the order).

Officers of the Order of Canada

  • Naomi Azrieli.
  • Donovan Bailey.
  • The Honourable Ethel Blondin-Andrew.
  • Robert Davidson (This is a promotion within the order).
  • Paul Dubord.
  • Donald Enarson (deceased).
  • François Girard.
  • Ian Hodkinson.
  • Angela James.
  • David Lynch.
  • Sandra Oh.
  • Alberto Pérez-Gómez.
  • David Waltner-Toews.

Members of the Order of Canada

  • Frances Abele.
  • Ajay Agrawal.
  • Louis-Philippe Albert.
  • R. Jamie Anderson.
  • Suzanne Aubry.
  • Hereditary Chief Stephen Augustine.
  • Granger Avery.
  • Michel Beaulac.
  • André Blanchet.
  • Marilyn Bodogh.
  • Jacques Bourgault.
  • Bernard Brault.
  • Marilyn Brooks.
  • Marion Buller.
  • James Byrnes.
  • Geneviève Cadieux.
  • James Cassels.
  • Euclide Chiasson.
  • William Clark.
  • Zane Cohen.
  • Ethel Côté.
  • Elder Reg Crowshoe.
  • Elder Rosemary Crowshoe.
  • Sheldon Currie.
  • Reginald Davidson.
  • Dorothy Dobbie.
  • Eliahu Fathi.
  • Madeleine Féquière.
  • Staff Sgt. Gary Goulet, (Retired).
  • Michael Harris.
  • Paul Heinbecker.
  • Deborra Hope.
  • Sister Margaret Hughes.
  • Moira Hutchinson.
  • Gérard Jean.
  • Adam Kahane.
  • Nancy Karetak-Lindell.
  • Eva-Marie Kröller.
  • Gary Levy.
  • Alexander Mair.
  • Guy Matte.
  • Milton McClaren.
  • Roderick McKay.
  • Ben Mink.
  • Donald Mowat.
  • Robert Munro.
  • Sister Bernadette Mary O’Reilly.
  • Donna Ouchterlony.
  • Fred Pellerin.
  • Elder David Perley.
  • Elder Imelda Perley.
  • G. Ross Peters.
  • Sandra Pitblado.
  • Guy Pratte.
  • Parminder Raina.
  • Joel Reitman.
  • David Rush.
  • The Honourable Anne Russell.
  • Suzanne Sauvage.
  • Martin Schechter.
  • Jacques Shore.
  • Ronald Tremblay.
  • Guylaine Tremblay.
  • Michelle Valberg.
  • Germaine Warkentin.
  • James West.
  • Michael West.
  • Margie Wolfe.
  • Lorraine M. Wright.
  • Robert Wyatt.
  • Jan Zwicky.

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Canada travel restrictions: Entry rules to remain until at least Sept. 30 – CTV News

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The federal government announced Wednesday all existing border restrictions to enter Canada will remain in place until at least Sept. 30.

That means foreign travellers will still need to provide proof of being fully vaccinated to enter the country and unvaccinated Canadians or permanent residents will need to provide a molecular COVID-19 test taken prior to entering and quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

The government is also still requiring all travellers, regardless of citizenship, to upload their vaccine information and travel documents to the ArriveCan app.

The restrictions were last extended on May 31.

The announcement by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) indicates a prolonged pause of random testing at all airports until mid-July for the fully vaccinated.

That pause was implemented on June 11 as Ottawa’s attempt to mitigate congestion and delays at airports caused by heightened travel demand and staffing shortages.

Their stated intention is to move COVID-19 testing for air travellers outside of airports to “select test provider stores” such as pharmacies or by virtual appointment.

“Moving testing outside of airports will allow Canada to adjust to increased traveller volumes while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation,” the PHAC statement reads.

On June 11, the government also announced it was dropping the vaccine mandate for domestic and outbound international travellers effective June 20.

Many industry organizations and opposition MPs have long called on the government to drop various border measures, namely duplicative processes that slow down travel, arguing they have the potential to stifle Canada’s already depleted tourism sector.

In response, Canada’s ministers of health and tourism continue to reinforce that while the epidemiological situation in Canada has improved, the pandemic still exists.

“As we move into the next phase of our COVID-19 response, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over. We must continue to do all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe from the virus,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in the Wednesday statement.

He added that Canada’s border measures remain “flexible” and “guided by science and prudence.”

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Air Canada to make 'meaningful reductions' to summer flight schedule – CBC News

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Air Canada will cut dozens of daily flights this summer as the airline grapples with a series of challenges amid soaring demand for travel.

“Regrettably, things are not business as usual in our industry globally, and this is affecting our operations and our ability to serve you with our normal standards of care,” Michael Rousseau, the airline’s president and CEO, said in a statement released Wednesday.

“The COVID‑19 pandemic brought the world air transport system to a halt in early 2020. Now, after more than two years, global travel is resurgent, and people are returning to flying at a rate never seen in our industry.”

Rousseau said those factors are causing “unprecedented and unforeseen strains on all aspects of the global aviation system,” leading to flight delays and crowded airport spaces.

And it’s also spurring the airline to make “meaningful reductions” to its summer schedule “in order to reduce passenger volumes and flows to a level we believe the air transport system can accommodate,” he said.

Dozens of fewer round trips each day

Peter Fitzpatrick, an airline spokesperson, told CBC News that the changes would see Air Canada reduce its schedule by 77 round trips — or 154 flights — on average, each day during the months of July and August.

A lineup at the Pearson airport customer service desk after many cancellations.
A photo taken Sunday at the customer service desk at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport gives a glimpse of some of the long lineups air travellers have been facing lately. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Prior to these reductions, the airline was operating about 1,000 flights per day.

“Three routes will be temporarily suspended between Montreal and Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Kelowna and one from Toronto to Fort McMurray,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said “most” flights affected by the changes are out of its Toronto and Montreal hubs.

“These will be mostly frequency reductions, affecting primarily evening and late-night flights by smaller aircraft, on transborder and domestic routes,” he said.

But he said “international flights are unaffected, with a few timing changes to reduce flying at peak times and even out the customer flow.”

‘Not an easy decision’

Rousseau, the airline president, said Air Canada did what it could to prepare for these challenges, but it has to adjust its operations to the current circumstances.

“This was not an easy decision, as it will result in additional flight cancellations that will have a negative impact on some customers,” Rousseau said.

“But doing this in advance allows affected customers to take time to make other arrangements in an orderly manner, rather than have their travel disrupted shortly before or during their journey, with few alternatives available.”

Rousseau offered his “sincere apologies” to customers for any delays they have faced or will face.

“I also assure you that we very clearly see the challenges at hand, that we are taking action, and that we are confident we have the strategy to address them,” he said. “This is our company’s chief focus at every level.” 

A majority of domestic flights have been delayed at some of the country’s busiest airports in recent days, according to the analytics firm Data Wazo.

Data Wazo says 54 per cent of flights to six large airports — Montreal, Calgary, Toronto’s Pearson and Billy Bishop airports, Ottawa and Halifax — were bumped off schedule in the seven days between June 22 and 28.

Some 38 per cent of the flights were delayed while 16 per cent were scrapped altogether.

Airlines and the federal government have been scrambling to respond to scenes of endless lines, flight disruptions and daily turmoil at airports — particularly at Pearson — a problem the aviation industry has blamed on a shortage of federal security and customs officers.

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