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Freeland hints at potential hotel quarantines for returning travellers – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the federal government is “looking seriously” at tougher travel measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including mandatory hotel quarantines for air travellers returning from non-essential trips abroad.

Freeland’s remarks build on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leaving the door open earlier this month to tighter restrictions, sparking questions about how a stricter isolation regime would roll out relative to other countries.

Successful pandemic repellers from South Korea to Australia and New Zealand require 14-day hotel quarantines for passengers arriving from abroad.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s hospital in Hamilton, says the move would deter leisure travel, and could include scheduled testing that allows guests who come up negative to go home earlier.

Federal data suggests only a small fraction of COVID-19 cases are linked to travel, but there is still virtually no testing at the border and many recent cases do not have an identified source.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the government should consider mandatory hotel quarantines as well as outright bans on non-essential international travel, which Quebec Premier Francois Legault has also called for.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021.

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Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine becomes 4th to receive Health Canada approval – CBC.ca

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Health Canada has approved the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in Canada.

Health officials announced the approval at a media briefing today this morning in Ottawa.

The U.S. health-care giant’s vaccine is the fourth to be approved in Canada.

The approval is expected to provide a significant boost to Canada’s vaccine rollout. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is widely seen as one of the easiest to administer because it requires only one dose and can be stored for long periods of time at regular refrigerator temperatures.

Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.

Regulatory approval in this country follows similar approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday. 

The FDA said Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine offers strong protection against serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose proved to be 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness in a global clinical trial spanning three continents.

More to come.

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Why Canadians should elect their Governor General – CBC.ca

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This column is an opinion by Charlotte Dalwood, a juris doctor student at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Law. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

A scandal involving workplace harassment and verbal abuse at Rideau Hall triggered former Governor General Julie Payette’s resignation in January. But the bigger scandal is that governors general are unaccountable to the Canadian people, and this one will not go away when Payette’s successor is sworn in – or until the position is reformed to make it an elected office.

It is essential there be such public accountability, because the Governor General wields substantial power, both at home and abroad.

Right now, oversight of Canada’s de facto head of state comes largely from the prime minister.

This starts with the selection of someone to fill the role. While the Queen approves her viceregal, she does so on the prime minister’s advice.

And the prime minister is under no obligation to consult the Canadian public before offering it. In Payette’s case, this allowed Justin Trudeau to choose a candidate whose history of mistreating staff his office had failed to identify.

Once the decision is made and a new governor general installed, it also falls on the prime minister to hold this figure accountable for their day-to-day activities. Canadians have few ways of providing this oversight themselves, since access to information laws do not apply to the Governor General’s office. This means the goings-on at Rideau Hall are largely hidden from the public.

Canadians must therefore take it on trust that the prime minister will not only monitor the Governor General to learn of any abuses of their powers as they occur, but also intervene to stop them.

WATCH | Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns after scathing workplace review:

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigned on Thursday after a scathing review about a toxic workplace at Rideau Hall. The review followed CBC reporting into allegations of workplace harassment and bullying in the Governor General’s office. 2:50

Giving Canadians a direct say in who occupies the country’s highest government position, along with the ability to monitor their conduct, won’t rule out the possibility of future scandals occurring. But it would bring heightened accountability to the Governor General’s office, and strengthen the demands on the person holding it to perform their role in a way that promotes the public’s interests.

This is necessary in a democratic nation, considering the Governor General’s powers and responsibilities.

Domestically, this figure summons and dissolves Parliament, grants Royal Assent to federal legislation, and ensures Canada is never without a prime minister able to command the House of Commons’ support.

They hold reserve powers, such as the ability to unilaterally dismiss a government and veto proposed laws, that allow the Governor General to safeguard democratic norms.

The Governor General is also one of Canada’s key diplomatic representatives on the international stage. Via state visits to other countries, events at home to welcome visiting dignitaries, and other official means, the viceregal supports and advances Canada’s foreign policy objectives.

The office is thus far from a merely ceremonial one. Indeed, an incompetent or ineffective governor general could do real damage to Canada’s constitutional order and global stature.

Which is why the whole country has a stake in who carries out the duties of governor general, as well as in how that person does so.

WATCH | Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says vetting process for Julie Payette’s replacement will be more robust:

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says the Privy Council Office plans to advise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the coming week on replacing the governor general. 7:04

Transitioning to an elected governor general would afford the electorate an opportunity to weigh in on both counts via regular votes. In order to secure re-election, governors general would need to ensure they are exercising their powers to Canadians’ satisfaction.

Occupying an elected post would also empower an incumbent governor general to act as a much-needed counterbalance to the prime minister’s power.

As an appointee under the current system, Canada’s unelected representative head of state cannot override the recommendations of its democratically elected head of government, except in the most unusual of situations, without contradicting Canadian democratic values. Constitutional convention therefore dictates that the Governor General will almost always defer to the prime minister’s advice.

A skilled prime minister can take advantage of this fact to manipulate the Governor General’s powers to advance their own agenda and undermine parliamentary opposition. In 2002, for example, then-prime minister Jean Chrétien asked the Governor General to prorogue parliament, avoiding the tabling of a report into the sponsorship scandal. In 2008 and again in 2009, then-prime minister Stephen Harper used the Governor General’s authority to prorogue Parliament and keep his minority government in power. Most recently, Prime Minister Trudeau requested Parliament be prorogued in August 2020 during the WE Charity controversy.

An elected viceregal, by contrast, would have an independent mandate from the Canadian people. This mandate would provide the Queen’s representative with a democratic basis for rejecting prime ministerial advice that does not reflect popular sentiment, advice that is particularly likely during periods of minority rule in the House of Commons.

In other words, by exercising greater oversight over their de facto head of state, Canadians would also be exercising greater oversight over their head of government.

And they would be doing it at the ballot box, which in a democratic society is where all of Canada’s leaders — including the Governor General — should be held to account.


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Ontario expecting shorter timeline for COVID-19 vaccine rollout after good news on dosing and AstraZeneca – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Health Minister Christine Elliott says that with the approval of a new COVID-19 vaccine in Canada and new guidelines for administering second doses, Ontario is “recalibrating” its timeline for rolling out vaccines and may be able to get more people their first dose sooner than initially thought.

“We were looking at the end of the summer, probably into perhaps September,” Elliott told reporters Thursday. “I think it’s fair to say that we will be able to shorten that timeline, given the new volumes of vaccines coming in with AstraZeneca, and the extension of the first and second doses for both Pfizer and Moderna, meaning we can get more first dose into more arms faster.”

Last week, Health Canada rubber-stamped the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third COVID-19 vaccine that has now been approved for use in the country. On Wednesday, a national panel of vaccine experts also recommended extending the interval between first and second vaccine doses to four months, based on data showing good protection after just a single dose.  

While it looks like the province’s vaccination program may proceed more quickly than first thought because of the two developments, Elliott said it is too soon to set a new target date.

“We expect that our timelines will be reduced overall, but I can’t give you a specific date right now,” she said.

The provincial government is expected to announce the next steps of its vaccination plan on Friday, CTV News has learned.

Speaking to CP24 on Thursday morning, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who is also a member of the province’s 10-person vaccine distribution task force, said recent developments indicate that Canada will be able to significantly speed up its timeline for vaccinating members of the general population.

“I think it is very, very, very likely that most Canadians will be able to have a vaccine by, just guessing here, but could be the early part of the summer,” he said Thursday.

The federal government previously said that all Canadians who want a vaccine should be able to receive one by late September.

Bogoch noted that after a sluggish start to vaccine shipments, more doses are finally starting to arrive in Canada.

“The real inflection point is as March turns into April. You are going to start to see the mass vaccine clinics expand, and then of course the massive expansion of the vaccines going into pharmacies,” he said.

“That giant shift really is at the tail end of March.”

To date, Ontario has administered 784,828 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and about 268,118 of the province’s 14 million residents have received two doses for full immunization.

Ontario is expecting to receive approximately 700,000 more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next four weeks. While provincial allocations for the Moderna vaccine have not been updated on the federal government’s website, the company previously promised to deliver 1.3 million doses to Canada in the month of March.

At least 113,000 AstraZeneca doses manufactured in India are destined for Ontario after arriving in Canada this week.

Johnson and Johnson decision expected within a week

“We are actually starting to see a significant number of vaccines coming to the country, especially with AstraZeneca coming in. We are getting half a million doses now and much more of that in the coming weeks,” Bogoch said.

“If you look in the crystal ball, it is likely that we’ll have (the) Johnson & Johnson (COVID-19 vaccine) and even with some of the delays that Johnson & Johnson is having in manufacturing, we are seeing other indications that they will be able to ramp up manufacturing… At the end of the day, it just points to much shorter timelines for Canadians.”

Health Canada’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said Thursday that a decision on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely be made within the next week.

“The review of the Johnson & Johnson submission is going very well. It is progressing and we are expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days. I would say within the next seven days or so,” she told reporters.

If approved, Canada is expecting to receive a million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of September, however the delivery schedule is still unclear. On Thursday, federal officials said shipments could begin sometime in the second quarter of the year.

More encouraging news came earlier this when the panel of experts who provide advice to Ottawa on vaccinations said second doses of COVID-19 vaccines can now be administered up to four months after the first dose is given, allowing vaccines to flow to more members of the population sooner.

The panel cited emerging clinical evidence from the U.S., Israel and the UK that indicated the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines provides 90 per cent or better protection from coronavirus infection for much longer than initially thought.

The Ford government has signalled that it plans to accept that recommendation and delay second doses beyond the current 28-day timeframe.

“Most places in Canada will likely be spacing out the doses between dose one and dose two by anywhere from three to four months,” Bogoch said. “You can just vaccinate way more people in a shorter period of time.”

AstraZeneca to be used in pharmacy pilot starting next week

While some Ontario municipalities have begun to vaccinate people over the age of 80 who are living in the community, the province’s largest city has not yet been able to begin vaccinating members of the general population.

Toronto’s mayor has said that the city is still focused on trying to vaccinate other priority populations, including frontline health-care workers.

In the meantime, Elliott confirmed Thursday that the AstraZeneca vaccine will be used in a pilot project starting next week that will see vaccines distributed through pharmacies in three health units, including Toronto.

The storage requirements for the vaccine are simpler, making it easier to distribute through remote locations such as pharmacies.

“It can be moved more easily. It doesn’t have the same kind of temperature requirements that the Pfizer vaccine has and to a lesser extent Moderna,” Elliott told reporters. “I would say that in addition to pharmacies, you may also see it in primary care centres, and perhaps even in larger vaccination clinics.”

Ontario has said that keeping in line with advice from the  National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), it will only distribute the Astra Zeneca vaccine to those under 65 years of age.

Infection-prevention measures still important in the meantime

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams called the possible shortening of the vaccination timeline “good news” Thursday.

“This means we can accelerate faster, and we have some advise on timelines that we might be able to move up on the previous predictions of early fall to complete, we may have it even sooner than we had anticipated, and this is good news for all,” he said.

However he cautioned that people still need to stick to public health advice while the vaccine rollout is underway, especially with the more contagious variants of the virus on the loose in the province.

“We still have to hold the other ones down while we undertake this task,” he said. “So our task of  maintaining our distancing, masking, staying home when sick, getting tests when we need to get tested, keep to your household, stay home if you do not need to (go out), limit your activities, even if you are in a zone within the framework that allows you to access those activities.”

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