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Feds say COVID-19 border controls are sufficient despite complaints from Ontario – CTV News

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MONTREAL —
The federal government defended its approach to securing Canada’s border against COVID-19 on Tuesday as Ontario Premier Doug Ford once again called for more testing at points of entry.

Canada’s border controls — and the 14-day quarantine requirement for returning travellers — are among the strictest in the world, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told reporters.

“Over the past few days, we’ve heard a number of comments which, frankly, are an unfortunate misrepresentation of what is actually happening at our borders,” Blair said.

“COVID-19 cases related to international travel currently account for only 1.8 per cent of all cases. That means 98.2 per cent of COVID transmissions are a result of community transmissions, not international travel.”

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said that while Ottawa is always evaluating its approach at the border, its main concern is transmission within Canada. “What we’re seeing now is that the biggest problem in Canada is community transmission inside Canada, it’s not really the importation of cases,” Njoo told reporters.

Blair and Njoo’s comments followed criticism from Ford, who said Monday that Ottawa needs to do more to prevent travellers from bringing the novel coronavirus into the country.

Ford hit the federal government again on the issue Tuesday, telling reporters that Canada must require travellers obtain a negative COVID-19 test before they arrive on Canadian soil — “something that countless other countries have required for months.”

“We’re letting tens of thousands of people into our country every week without the basic screening requirements,” Ford said, adding that screening on arrival is “the bare minimum.”

“Despite our repeated calls, we hear every week about dozens of flights coming in, unchecked, and bringing in COVID with them.”

Ford said that if the federal government doesn’t begin testing travellers on arrival, Ontario will — though he wouldn’t say when he planned to start. “I’ve directed our officials to begin preparing infrastructure necessary for testing at our airports and I hope we won’t have to go it alone, but we’re prepared to do that if we must.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party sent an email to supporters asking them to sign an online petition calling on Ottawa to take stronger action at the border.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that even if everyone was tested at the border, some cases could still get through.

“If you don’t test people at the right time in their illness, in fact, the test can be negative,” she said. “That’s why we’ve maintained the 14-day quarantine with such a degree of rigour.”

However, 81 per cent of the 6.5 million travellers who arrived in Canada between March 31 and Nov. 12 were exempt from quarantine, said the Canada Border Services Agency.

“The Canadian border remains closed to discretionary or optional travel, therefore the majority of individuals who have crossed the border are exempt travellers,” spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy said in an email.

The majority of those exempt travellers were truckers, Blair added.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters he wants more information from the federal government about how it plans to enforce 14-day isolation rules for Canadians who return from holiday vacations outside the country.

Legault said he too hasn’t ruled out the possibility of deploying provincial authorities to test travellers on arrival.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Ottawa should expand a pilot project currently at Calgary’s airport and a United States border crossing in the province.

Canadians can get on-site COVID-19 tests when they arrive. They must then self-isolate for 24 to 48 hours while they wait for results. If they test negative, they can leave quarantine but must monitor for symptoms and get a second swab within six to seven days of their arrival date.

Kenney said it’s a voluntary program. He doesn’t agree with the mandatory testing of travellers.

“Just like we don’t have mandatory vaccines in Canada, we’re not going to have mandatory testing. We’re not going to sort of grab people on the way off the airplane and stick a swab down their nose,” he said.

Ford said he’s worried in part because of a new variant of COVID-19 discovered in the U.K. Canada suspended flights from that country for 72 hours at midnight on Dec. 21.

Canada is currently reviewing additional measures, Blair said, adding that “enhanced screening has been put in place at all Canadian airports and at all points of entry” to identify travellers who may be arriving from the U.K. indirectly.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the new variant has not yet been detected in Canada. She said, however, “Canada remains on a trajectory for an even stronger resurgence (of COVID-19) over the next two months and this is a perilous time.”

Hajdu said that a second COVID-19 vaccine, from U.S. biotech firm Moderna, could be coming soon to Canada, if it is approved by federal regulators.

“Health Canada now has all the data required to make a decision; my understanding is that decision will be very soon,” Hajdu said. “I can’t speak for the regulators because obviously they are independent but they will have information for Canadians in the very near future.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2020.

——

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada's first case – CTV News

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MONTREAL —
On January 25th, 2020, Canadians were still living their lives like they always had: commuting to the office, visiting friends, dining out, hugging loved ones, vacationing. But the announcement that day of Canada’s first COVID-19 case set in motion a chain of events that would soon change everything.

By March, with cases climbing, health officials began implementing a series of measures that would fundamentally alter how many Canadians live. Lockdowns and calls for physical distancing led to companies shifting to work from home, travel restrictions, mask-wearing rules, cancellation of major events, and video meetings replacing in-person interactions as people were asked to avoid seeing anyone, even loved ones.

Jack Jedwab, the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says the biggest change to Canadians’ daily lives has been the isolation from friends, family and co-workers.

“I think at the root of a lot of that change is these limits on our mobility, which take different forms, whether it’s interacting with family and friends, or seeing people that we’re accustomed to seeing in our daily lives in person as opposed to on screens,” he said.

An online survey conducted for Jedwab’s group in September found that over 90 per cent of the 1,500 people polled said COVID-19 had changed their lives, with most citing the inability to see family and friends as the biggest factors.

While few Canadians have been untouched by the pandemic, Jedwab says women, newcomers to Canada and people who were already economically and socially vulnerable appear to have been among the most deeply affected, particularly by job losses.

Here’s a look at how COVID-19 has changed daily life for some Canadians of different groups:

 

SENIORS

For Bill VanGorder, a retired 78-year-old from Halifax, the pandemic put a temporary halt on his active social life and his favourite pastimes of volunteering in the local theatre and music scenes.

“Theatre people, as you may know, are people who love to hug, and not being able to hug in these times probably has been one of the most difficult things,” he said in a phone interview.

He considers himself lucky, because at least he and his wife Esther have each other, unlike many of his single friends who are completely isolated. Many older people, who are more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, are struggling to stay connected with family or finding people to help them with household tasks.

VanGorder, who works with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, also believes unclear government messaging, particularly on when older adults will get access to the vaccine, is “creating huge anxiety and mistrust in the system,” among already-nervous seniors.

But while the pandemic has been hard, he says there have also been silver linings. He and many of his friends have been learning to use platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime, which help seniors stay in touch with relatives and connect with their communities.

“We think the positive thing is that, of course, this knowledge will continue after COVID and will be a real step forward, so that older adults can feel more involved in everything that’s going on around them,” he said.

The first thing he’ll do when things get back to normal is to hug his grandchildren and theatre friends, he said.

 

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

As classes have moved online, many students have had to adapt to living and studying in small spaces and being isolated from friends and campus life at a stage when forging lifelong friendships and social networks can be crucial.

Small living quarters, the inability to travel home, financial fears and uncertainties about the job market have contributed to a “greater sense of isolation” for many students, according to Bryn de Chastelain, an Ontario resident studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

While he believes schools have done their best to support students, de Chastelain says many students have seen their mental health suffer.

“A number of students are really struggling with having to learn from home and learn online, and I think that a number of strategies that students are used to taking up are very difficult to replicate in the online environment,” he said.

 

PARENTS

Schools across the country were shut down for several months in the spring, ushering in a challenging time for parents who were suddenly forced to juggle full-time child care, work and keeping their families safe.

The reopening of schools in the fall brought different challenges depending on each province’s COVID-19 situation and approach. In Ontario, some parents opted for full-time online learning, while others were forced into it when Premier Doug Ford chose to extend the winter break. In Quebec, which doesn’t allow a remote option for most students, some reluctant parents had no choice but to send their children back to class.

“I think uncertainty, not only for kids but for everything — work, life relationships and everything — that has certainly been the theme of COVID,” said Doug Liberman, a Montreal-area father of two.

Liberman said the biggest challenge has been trying to balance the health and safety of his family with keeping his food manufacturing business going and maintaining a sense of normalcy for his two girls, ages 10 and 12.

For his family, that has meant trying to spend time outside but also accepting more screen time, and ultimately, taking things day-by-day.

“I certainly think that we certainly don’t have the answer, and I think we’ve done as best as we could, like everybody else has,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.

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Filipina nanny asks to stay in Canada after kidney diagnosis – CBC.ca

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Most young mothers don’t have to make a choice between hugging their children and accessing the medical treatment that keeps them alive, but that’s the situation Kherin Dimalanta says she faces here in Ottawa. 

Dimalanta, 33, is a Filipina nanny working for a family of two doctors, one of whom has become the face of the fight against COVID-19 in this city. 

While Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, a regular contributor to CBC, goes to work in the ICU and his wife Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng sees patients at her private psychology practice, Dimalanta is at home caring for their three young boys. 

“We would not have been able to do what we did through the pandemic, to continue our work, if we did not have help at home,” said Cathy Kyeremanteng. 

Dimalanta, left, with Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng, third from right, and Dr. Kwadwo Keremanteng, second from right, after the birth of their third child. (Submitted by Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng)

Dimalanta arrived three and a half years ago under a live-in caregiver visa. After a few years of working in Ottawa, she had hoped to apply for permanent residency and bring her own two children to live with her in Canada. 

But six months after she arrived, Dimalanta went for a routine blood test as part of an insurance application and discovered she had chronic kidney disease. 

The diagnosis meant she was no longer medically admissible to Canada, even though she had already worked and paid taxes in Canada for months before she fell ill.  

“It just turned my life upside down,” Dimalanta said. “I feel like I don’t have the right to dream anymore.”

WATCH | Dimalanta’s difficult choice:

Kherin Dimalanta arrived in Canada from the Philippines three years ago, hoping to one day apply for permanent residency. But a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease means she’s no longer medically admissible to Canada, leaving her facing an impossible choice. 1:26

Immigration system ‘doesn’t feel Canadian’ 

Dimalanta’s nightly dialysis costs around $40,000 a year. That’s almost twice the annual health-care cost threshold set by the Liberal government in 2018. Prospective immigrants who would cost the health-care system more than $21,204 a year are ineligible for permanent residency because they’re deemed an excessive burden. 

But Cathy Kyeremanteng believes that rule shouldn’t apply to people who were already working legally and paying taxes in Canada.

How could Canada send somebody home to die in front of their children, just because we have to pay for the medical treatment?– Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng

“She fell sick while she was here, by no fault of her own,” Kyeremanteng said.

“How could Canada send somebody home to die in front of their children, just because we have to pay for the medical treatment?… It doesn’t feel Canadian to me.”

WATCH | Frustration over the government’s decision:

Dr. Cathy Kyeremanteng, whose family employs Kherin Dimalanta, says she’s frustrated and disappointed in Canada’s immigration system after waiting several years for a response to Dimalanta’s permit application. 1:23

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada was unable to provide a comment by deadline on the situation facing people who, like Dimalanta, are already living and working in Canada, but are not medically admissible. 

“It illustrates the structural problem in our immigration system,” said Jamie Liew, an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa. 

Liew says that while highly skilled immigrants often come to Canada with their permanent resident status pre-approved — which means they’re not at risk of being sent home if they get sick — low-skilled migrant workers can only apply for permanent residency after a few years. 

“We, for whatever reason, don’t value [them] the same way … despite the fact that a lot of skilled migrant workers provide essential services, as we’ve seen through the pandemic,” Liew said. 

Dimalanta with the three Kyeremanteng boys she’s cared for since 2017. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Nanny’s difficult choice

Dimalanta has applied for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds because she cannot afford dialysis treatment in the Philippines. Without it, her doctors have told her she will die. 

While she waits for the humanitarian appeal, a process that often takes years, she has applied for both a temporary resident permit and an open work permit so that she’s eligible for OHIP and has the freedom to return to the Philippines to see her children. 

Almost two years later, no decision has been made on Dimalanta’s application. 

She has “implied status,” so she’s allowed to continue to work and pay taxes, but every few months she must appeal to the OHIP review committee for continuing coverage. She can’t risk leaving the country in case she’s not allowed back in. 

It’s now been almost four years since she last saw her children. 

The last time Dimalanta saw her children Jeremy, left, and Jillian, right, was in April 2017, before she came to Canada to work as a live-in caregiver. (Submitted by Kherin Dimalanta)

“My kids will always say, ‘Don’t worry, Mama. Just stay there and get well.’ Even if I ask, you know, what gift do you want for Christmas? It’s, ‘Don’t think about us, just get well,'” Dimalanta said. 

Without a reprieve, she has a stark choice: stay in Ottawa and access life-saving treatment, or go home to her children and watch her condition worsen. 

“Is it better for me to stay here and get the medication and work still? Or is it better for me to go home, see them, hug them?” she asked. “What would you choose?”

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Health Canada recalls 'Anti-Microbe' hand sanitizer that was distributed to schools – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Health Canada has announced a recall for a number of “Anti-Microbe” hand sanitizer products, some of which were distributed to schools in Quebec for children to use.

In an advisory posted Friday, the agency said the company Atoms F.D. Inc was recalling several hand sanitizers that had 0.3 per cent benzalkonium chloride in them. All of the hand sanitizers recalled either had “Anti-Microbe” in their name or had the Drug Identification Number (DIN) of 02248351.

The products are being recalled because the level of benzalkonium chloride in them is twice the amount allowed for personal or domestic use.

Health Canada warns that this higher concentration of benzalkonium chloride could cause itchy or dry skin in individuals who use it daily.

“In some cases, peeling, swelling or blistering can occur,” the agency wrote.

Those who are particularly susceptible to having negative reactions due to daily use of these products include young children, adolescents and people with skin conditions such as eczema.

“Health Canada is aware that some products were distributed to various schools in Quebec, for use by children,” the recall stated. “The products were also sold online and in stores to the general public, mainly in Ontario and Quebec.”

Atoms F.D. Inc has been directed to recall the affected products from the market and correct the labelling to make it clear that they are to be used for industrial purposes.

The company also had sold the product to other distributors and private labels. These are the products currently known to be affected by the recall, but Health Canada notes that there could be others.

  • Anti-Microbe, sold by Atoms F.D. Inc
  • 32 Anti-Microbe, sold by Groups BOD
  • Essence 360 Anti-Microbe, sold by Essence360 International
  • Nutra One Anti-Microbe, sold by Nutra One Inc.
  • Paoch Anti-Microbe, sold by Entreprise Paoch Inc.
  • Produits Bio-Expert Anti-Microbe, sold by Produits Bio-experts Inc.
  • Trilux Anti-Microbe, sold by Trilux
  • Yunisan Handzo, sold by Arclay Natural Technologies Inc.

If you are in possession of any of these hand sanitizers or others with the DIN 02248351, Health Canada is asking that you cease using them at once and either follow your regional guidelines on disposing of chemicals, or return the product to your local pharmacy to be disposed of.

If you have concerns about your health after using these products, contact your health care provider.

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