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Federal officials to deliver briefing on COVID-19 as case counts increase – Humboldt Journal

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OTTAWA — The federal government says it plans to require air travellers to test negative for COVID-19 before landing in Canada in response to concerns that people vacationing abroad could bring the novel coronavirus home with them.

Cabinet ministers met Wednesday morning following criticism from the premiers of Canada’s two largest provinces that federal efforts at the border were too loose.

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The new federal measure comes as Ontario’s finance minister finds himself in hot water over travelling out of the country despite Canadians being asked to avoid such trips.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said all passengers on flights entering Canada will soon be required to have a negative PCR test three days before their arrival.

PCR tests are designed to detect minute amounts of the virus that causes COVID-19, usually through a swab up the nose or in the mouth.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the new requirement will be put in place, with LeBlanc saying more information would follow in the coming days.

It does not appear to apply to anyone crossing by car into Canada through a border point with the United States.

“Right now, the greatest concern that we have heard among Canadians is the impact of international travel at our airports,” Blair said.

Several other countries, including the U.S., have implemented a negative test requirement for incoming passengers. The identification of new strains of COVID-19 in the U.K. and South Africa has only heightened concerns about cross-border spread of the virus.

The government had months to implement a similar system in Canada, but instead rolled out a haphazard announcement in response to headlines, said Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel.

“Our MP offices have already been receiving inquiries this morning from panicked travellers abroad on this new requirement,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

“Justin Trudeau has had months to get his act together on this front, and today’s detail-free announcement is irresponsible.”

Blair noted the government cannot prevent Canadians from coming home, but the law does require travellers to quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

Returning Canadians have a moral and legal obligation to quarantine to protect their families, friends and communities, Blair said, signalling that this applies even to politicians who have fled the snow for a sunny beach.

Ontario set a new daily record for cases Wednesday with 2,923. Just over one-third of these emerged in the country’s largest city of Toronto. Neighbouring Quebec reported 2,511 new cases of COVID-19 and 41 more deaths.

Earlier today, the U.K. became the first country to authorize use of the COVID-19 vaccine created by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Health Canada says it needs more information before it can make a decision on the vaccine. The agency says in a statement that it is working with international counterparts like those in the U.K. to share information on vaccines under review.

Health Canada says it cannot provide a definite timeline for completion of its review of the vaccine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 30, 2020.

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5 more deaths, 94 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Manitoba today – CBC.ca

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Five more deaths and 94 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Manitoba on Tuesday.

This is the first time the daily caseload has been below 100 since Jan. 12, when there were 92 new cases. Prior to that, the province last saw a sub-100 daily count in mid-October.

One of the province’s health regions — Interlake-Eastern — reported zero new cases.

The Winnipeg area has the most new cases of any single health region with 41. The northern region has 36 new cases, while the Prairie Mountain Health region has 15 and the Southern Health region has two.

The total number of deaths in Manitoba due to COVID-19 is now 809.

One of the five new deaths is a woman in her 90s from the Prairie Mountain Health region, who is linked to the outbreak at Fairview Personal Care Home.

The other four deaths are from the Winnipeg area — a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s, a woman in her 80s who is linked to the outbreak at Seven Oaks General Hospital 5U1-3, and a man in his 90s who is linked to the outbreak at Fred Douglas Lodge.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, said today’s low number of new cases — compared to the seven-day average of 170 — “is trending the right way, but we still have a number of people in hospital.”

There are currently 277 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 38 ICU patients.

That shows there “still is a burden on the acute care system,” Atwal said.

While the province is seeing benefits from its aggressive contact tracing, it is unrealistic to think the daily case totals will drop to zero any time soon, he said, but tipped his hat to the Interlake–Eastern region.

“This is a pandemic. This isn’t going away quick,” Atwal said. “We need to do what’s being asked of people to do by public health … to keep our case counts low.

“Every interaction we have has a risk of propagating an infection. The more interactions we have, with the more people, that risk has a multiple on it. That’s where you get that exponential growth.”

The vaccination program will eventually help reduce that exponential risk “but we are still early on, on that vaccine side,” he said.

The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 10.3 per cent provincially and 6.4 per cent in Winnipeg after 1,118 tests were completed on Monday.

The province on Tuesday declared outbreaks over at the Boyne Lodge Personal Care Home in Carman and Health Sciences Centre unit GA4 in Winnipeg.

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Doctors, researchers call for long-term care changes from Ontario government – The Record (New Westminster)

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TORONTO — A group of over 200 doctors, researchers, and advocates say Ontario must take urgent action to address the rising number of deaths due to COVID-19 in long-term care.

The group says in a letter released today that the situation constitutes a humanitarian crisis.

They say the province’s nursing homes are still seeing staffing shortages, poor infection control, and a delayed response to outbreaks.

The group is recommending the province bolster staffing immediately, legislate a minimum standard of daily care for residents, and provide unrestricted access to family caregivers with personal protective equipment. 

They also want the province to begin the process of removing for-profit long-term care providers from the sector.

The Long-Term Care Ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

The government says that as of today 3,462 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Ontario is reporting 1,740 new cases of COVID-19 today and 63 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are 677 new cases in Toronto, 320 in Peel Region, and 144 in York Region.  

More than 30,700 tests have been completed since Ontario’s last daily update.

Ontario is also reporting that 9,707 more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered since the last daily update.

A total of 295,817 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province so far.

The first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to arrive in one of 31 fly-in First Nations communities on Tuesday as part of Ontario’s Operation Remote Immunity.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said  that the ORNGE air ambulance service will be delivering and administering the Moderna vaccine to Weenusk First Nation.

Weenusk is a largely Cree community of approximately 500 people in the Hudson Bay region of northern Ontario.

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

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BC to stretch second doses of COVID vaccine to 42 days amid production delay – BC News – Castanet.net

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British Columbia is extending the interval between the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the province’s top doctor said Monday.

Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news briefing that further delays in the production and delivery of the vaccine over the next two weeks prompted health officials to extend the time period between the shots from 35 to 42 days.

“It’s about choosing in the short term to give more people protection from dose one instead of giving some people full protection and leaving others with none,” she said. “We will make up these doses and we will be providing the second dose of vaccine to everybody as soon as we possibly can.”

The province had assured residents last week that it remained committed to administering second doses on Day 35 and Henry said officials learned over the weekend B.C. would receive even fewer doses than expected.

“The amounts that we were expecting to receive in the first week of February have been dramatically reduced,” she said, adding B.C. officials do not yet know how many doses are set to arrive later next month.

The federal government is doing everything in its power to make sure vaccine supply gets back on track, Henry added.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said prolonging the wait to 42 days is acceptable in places where vaccine supply is limited and where transmission of the illness is high and health-care resources are strained. The World Health Organization has also suggested that waiting up to six weeks after the first dose is acceptable.

About 60 per cent of the more than 119,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in B.C. so far have been used to protect residents of assisted living and long-term care facilities, said Henry.

That total includes all of the facilities in the Island, Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions, she said, while vaccinations in long-term care in the Interior and Northern health authorities are set to wrap up this week.

B.C. recorded 26 more deaths linked to COVID-19 on Monday and 1,344 new cases diagnosed over the last three days.

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