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Doug Ford calls on Health Canada to focus on reviewing rapid COVID-19 antigen tests – Global News



Ontario Premier Doug Ford has called on Health Canada to focus on reviewing rapid COVID-19 antigen tests in the hope that one will be approved and used to alleviate the surging testing demand in the province.

“That should be their number one priority,” Ford said.

“I know Health Canada is doing a great job. They’re extremely, extremely busy but this should be the number one priority.”

Ford made the remarks during a rare Saturday press conference in which he announced that new gathering restrictions would be expanded to the entire province amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

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Antigen tests aren’t as accurate as the tests currently used in Ontario, which require processing in a lab, but could deliver results in minutes.

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“Is it one hundred per cent? No, but it sure is a lot better than having hours of lineups outside the testing centres. It’s absolutely critical. Health Canada please focus on this,” Ford said.

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There have been hours-long waits at some of the province’s 148 assessment centres in recent days.

Ford has already said he will be releasing a plan to open up COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic individuals at pharmacies in a bid to help with the recent spike in demand.

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Health Minister Christine Elliott also said Saturday that eight assessment centres across Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa have increased capacity. Elliott said additionally, seven pop-up testing sites have launched in the regions and more are coming.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said she understands that Health Canada is currently reviewing six antigen tests and added that they’re “a lot easier” than the current testing kits but can be less accurate.

Meanwhile, NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh said in a statement Saturday that the “Ford government was not prepared for this spike in cases, and they should have been.”

Singh cited the long lineups at testing centres as an example.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Federal government pushes back at online 'internment camp' disinformation targeting Health Canada –



Canadians will not be forced into COVID-19 internment or containment camps, a spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday — taking aim at a disinformation campaign that has been circulating on social media for weeks.

The claim that the federal government is preparing to forcibly intern Canadians is patently false, the spokesperson said.

The federal government has announced funding for voluntary quarantine sites for some of the country’s homeless and has made plans to expand self-isolation capacity for returning international travellers without suitable places to go, but Canadians will not be compelled to leave their homes for so-called COVID “camps.”

“The answer is no, we’re not building containment or internment camps,” the spokesperson told CBC News.

“Disinformation like this is intended to deceive Canadians and cause fear and confusion. We encourage Canadians to double-check sources before sharing to avoid spreading disinformation.”

Independent Ontario MPP Randy Hillier, a vocal anti-masker who has likened the current pandemic to a bad flu season, has been warning his eastern Ontario constituents that the federal government is preparing to establish these “camps” for COVID patients.

In a recent exchange at Queen’s Park, Hillier pressed the provincial Progressive Conservative government to detail what it knows about Ottawa’s supposed plan to detain people.

“I ask this government if people should prepare for internment camps,” Hillier asked during question period on Oct. 7.

“Your government must be in negotiations and aware of these plans to potentially detain and isolate citizens and residents of our country and our province,” Hillier said in the provincial legislature on Oct. 9.

“Where will these camps be built, how many people will be detained, and for what reason, for what reasons can people be kept in these isolation camps?”

Randy Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, speaks to reporters from Queen’s Park. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

In a subsequent email to his online followers, Hillier said “the expansion of isolation/quarantine camps in Canada is something of concern.”

Clips from Hillier’s speech were circulated on websites like Brighteon, a source that has been banned from platforms like Facebook because it pushes conspiracy theories. A meme was created comparing theoretical quarantine sites to Nazi Germany’s concentration camps during the Second World War.

“Why are FEMA type camps going into every province in Canada,” one site administrator said in posting the video to Brighteon, citing a U.S. agency that responds to disasters. “When this was asked in Parliament recently, the whistleblower was cut off.”

Hillier’s comments about these sites were reported by outlets like Life Site News, an anti-abortion website run by the Campaign for Life coalition.

Kingston, Ont. public health officials have expressed concerns about Hillier’s past comments downplaying the threat of the virus. Hillier was suspended from the Ontario PC caucus in 2019 for allegedly mocking the parents of autistic children.

CBC News has received dozens of emails from people who fear that the federal government might soon force them into camps as COVID-19 continues to spread.

“I heard there were FEMA camps across the province,” one person wrote to CBC — again using the name of a U.S. federal department. “Did you order tear gas and guillotines?”

(The Department of National Defence is looking to buy tear gas for a Saskatchewan-based facility — exclusively for training purposes.)

“They brought up the internment camps in the Ontario legislature … for the first time in my life I am afraid of my government. Never in my wildest dreams would I think I would be asking this question in Canada,” another email said.

“Mr. Prime Minister are you preparing to put us in internment camps?” asked another. “Will these internment camps also be used to persecute & jail Christians and other undesirables?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he had to personally reassure a young woman during a recent virtual meeting that his government will not remove people from their homes to put them in containment facilities. He said he told her that she should turn to public health officials for accurate information on the pandemic.

“I had to explain that as we consume increasing amounts and various sources of information, online and around us, we need to continue to be attentive to source,” Trudeau said.

WATCH: Trudeau is asked about COVID-19 disinformation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urges Canadians to listen to experts as misinformation and disinformation continue to spread online. 2:26

Trudeau said nefarious foreign actors and Canadians with an “extremist agenda” are bent on “weakening people’s confidence in our institutions and our democracy” by pushing bogus theories online without evidence.

“There is a tremendous amount of noise and and harmful misinformation about on the internet … we need to hold together and resist people who would sow chaos within our communities and our democracy,” he said.

NDP MP Charlie Angus also has said he has been “inundated” by messages from people concerned about the possibility of being put in mandatory camps as hundreds of Canadians continue to contract the novel coronavirus.

“I want to say simply that there are no secretive internment camps being built,” Angus said in a letter to his constituents.

“Government is not preparing to take people away or to impose some dark vaccine agenda.”

The genesis of this disinformation campaign was Hajdu’s announcement in September that the federal government would offer funds to the city of Toronto to help it retrofit a facility to house homeless people infected with COVID-19.

The site also could be used by other vulnerable people who do not have ready access to a safe place to self-isolate while they convalesce.

“As we work together to keep COVID-19 under control, this new site will help those for whom it’s simply not possible to limit close contacts and self-isolate effectively at home,” Hajdu said at the announcement alongside John Tory, Toronto’s mayor.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced funding for Toronto to establish a quarantine site for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

No one will be required to go to such an isolation site, Health Canada confirmed Tuesday.

In addition to such voluntary sites for vulnerable people, the federal government has a mandatory quarantine policy in place for most returning international travellers.

Canadians must isolate for 14 days after returning from abroad in a place where they can be largely alone (the government says travellers should not quarantine in a “communal living setting,” in a household with large families or many people, or in a small, shared apartment.)

Like public health agencies in Australia and India, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has set up quarantine sites across the country to accommodate international travellers who don’t have access to safe places to quarantine.

There are now such facilities in nine Canadian cities — most them hotels — with the capacity to lodge up to 1,600 travellers.

“These designated quarantine sites were established to accommodate travellers who did not have suitable isolation/quarantine plans, as well as those being repatriated at the onset of the pandemic,” a Health Canada spokesperson said.

A recent Public Health Agency of Canada request for information (RFI) — indicating that the agency may soon launch a procurement drive to acquire more lodging to house Canadians who need to quarantine after travel — has further fuelled online speculation that Canadians will be required to leave their homes.

The Health Canada spokesperson said that by soliciting other potential providers of quarantine sites, the government is taking a “proactive” approach because there may be a greater need for quarantine space with the “eventual easing of travel restrictions and increases in traveller volumes.”

Rather than manage all possible future quarantine sites, the agency is seeking information from would-be third party bidders who could fulfil such a contract. Some of the possible new locations, such as Fort Erie, Ont. and Niagara, Ont., are near U.S. land border crossings.

“The government of Canada is currently managing federal quarantine sites and the associated service contracts. Alternative options are being explored to remain flexible in adjusting to quarantine needs going forward,” a spokesperson for Health Canada said.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said combating false information spread by some elected officials and bogus news sites has made the work of health officials even more difficult.

WATCH: Dr. Theresa Tam is asked about bogus COVID-19 claims

Dr. Theresa Tam answered questions today about the rise of fake news online during the pandemic. 3:12

“Information is spread faster than the virus itself,” she said. “So be media smart as well as science smart, if you like. Yes, everyone is an armchair epidemiologist and everyone should actually be media smart at this point in time.”

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Coronavirus: Food prices to rise across Canada as COVID-19 pandemic continues – Global News



We’re leaving the era of cheap food in Canada, according to a leading food distribution researcher also known as Canada’s Food Professor.

“That is what is happening now, COVID-19 is accelerating this pace,” said Sylvain Charlebois, who founded the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

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Charlebois said food discounting at grocery stores has virtually disappeared since the coronavirus pandemic began in March. He predicts a trend toward higher food prices will continue.

“We’ve been spoiled as consumers,” Charlebois said.

A year ago, Charlebois forecast a four per cent increase in food prices. He hinted that he will be forecasting at least that amount of food price inflation for 2021 when he releases his annual price report for next year in December.

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Charlebois predicted grocers will shutter between 300 to 400 stores in the next year while bolstering their online grocery store offerings.

“If you are a consumer you can expect to pay five-to-seven per cent more, compared to if you went to the store to pick your own food,” he said, explaining the industry is struggling to determine how best to permanently pass those costs on to shoppers.

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“We are hard-wired to chase bargains,” he said, pointing out the challenges for consumers who are left to decide how to buy their groceries during a pandemic.

“It’s harder to find deals,” Charlebois said.

At a time when many Canadians worry about the price and supply of food, Charlebois said there is a serious shortage of workers in food processing plants: 28,000 jobs need to be filled, roughly 12 per cent of the industry, he said.

“The food industry needs you,” he said, calling on unemployed, able-bodied persons to consider a job at a processing plant, which pays in the order of $24 an hour.

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Click to play video 'Fall food outlook: Expert shares which grocery staple is expected to drop in price this year'

Fall food outlook: Expert shares which grocery staple is expected to drop in price this year

Fall food outlook: Expert shares which grocery staple is expected to drop in price this year

Charlebois said that despite having fewer employees at various locations, there likely won’t be any significant product shortages this winter.

That includes last spring’s most sought-after commodity — toilet paper — which frequently ran out and was later sold only with limits of two in some stores.

Charlebois said he doesn’t believe there will be a run on toilet paper this winter.

“When it comes to toilet paper, we’re a sovereign country.”


© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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COMMENTARY: In one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, an ugly underside vexes politicians – Global News



Vancouver is one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, framed by breathtaking mountains and sparkling seas, and blessed with the country’s mildest climate as a bonus.

But there’s a dark side to the Pacific coast postcard: grinding poverty, growing homelessness and Canada’s worst drug-overdose epidemic, problems made progressively worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just last Friday night, paramedics were called out to an emergency at a suburban home.

When they arrived, they were met by a shocking scene. Five people were unconscious, supposedly from a natural gas leak.

But first responders quickly determined that no gas was leaking. The five victims had succumbed to an overdose of toxic drugs.

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Amazingly, police, paramedics and firefighters were able to revive all five by administering heavy doses of naloxone, an emergency drug used to counteract the effects of powerful opioids.

Hundreds of other Vancouver-area drug users have not been as fortunate. Nearly five people a day are dying from overdoses in the province.

What’s driving the carnage? Experts say the Canada-U.S. border lockdown has slowed the flow of narcotics. Dealers lace existing supplies with deadly fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that continues to circumvent border restrictions through the mail.

Drug users, meanwhile, are using alone more often as they cut down on social interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the supply of cash from provincial and federal relief programs has added to the demand for drugs, according to some street-level experts.

Drug overdoses are spiking across Canada during the pandemic, of course, but Vancouver’s O.D. rate is particularly alarming in the Downtown Eastside, the poorest neighbourhood in the country.

When the pandemic hit in the spring, there were terrible fears of COVID carnage in the densely-populated neighbourhood, where many poverty-stricken residents suffer from underlying health conditions.

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Though the COVID-19 death rate in the Downtown Eastside is not as bad as originally feared, new studies suggest the area has not been spared from the virus.

Bloodwork done at community pop-up clinics found high rates of coronavirus antibodies, indicating many residents may have been infected with COVID-19 and recovered.

“Many may not have known they were infected, or they attributed symptoms to something else,” Dr. Brian Conway, of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, told me.

It’s a troubling discovery, especially as homeless downtown residents fan out to other parts of Vancouver’s metropolitan area, where tent cities are growing.

In East Vancouver’s Strathcona Park, campers are living in an estimated 400 tents, making it the largest homeless encampment in Canada.

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The normally peaceful neighbourhood is pleading for help, as conditions worsen at the camp and violent incidents escalate.

Last week, a man was stabbed inside a tent at the park and was not discovered until eight hours later. Another man seriously injured in an assault was lying on the ground in the park for 12 hours before policed were called.

A loaded semi-automatic assault rifle was found in a rolled up tent bag about a block from the park.

On Saturday night, a neighbourhood activist who pleaded for help for the campers said she was attacked by an unknown assailant outside her home near the park, requiring stitches for a head injury.

All of these incidents — and many more — are under investigation by police.

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As the ranks of homeless swell, the overdose death rate rises and the number of COVID-19 cases climbs a second wave, B.C. politicians are making plenty of promises.

British Columbians head to the polls this Saturday in a snap election called last month by NDP Leader John Horgan.

All major parties have promised new investments, initiatives and programs to reduce poverty, increase housing and rescue neighborhoods.

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With election day looming, there’s hope the next government can make progress. But a pattern has been repeating itself in the city for months now: as one tent city shuts down, another one pops up.

In Canada’s most beautiful city, it will take bold initiatives to deal with an ugly underside.

Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews​.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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