It was just after midnight on April 17 when Jeff Geauvreau landed at Pearson International Airport in Toronto after a long journey from Peru, a country hit hard by COVID-19.
He told border officials at the airport that he was returning to Canada after nearly 10 years abroad and had no safe place to complete the mandatory two-week quarantine. He had planned to stay with his elderly father, who would have been at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.
After a brief interview with public health officials, he was told to board a shuttle bus and was driven to a federal quarantine facility about 10 minutes away.
Geauvreau is one of more than 3,000 returning travellers who have spent the two-week quarantine period at a hotel paid for by the federal government, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
“Hopefully, it wasn’t going to be, you know, barracks,” Geauvreau recalled thinking at the time. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
The quarantine facility turned out to be a “very nice” hotel, he said.
Geauvreau said he was examined by nurses and then accompanied to his room, which was a suite complete with bedroom, living room, bathroom and two televisions. It’s not clear if his room was typical of the kind of accommodation provided to returning travellers.
“It was plush … nice, big, bed,” he recalled. “It was a lot more than I expected. I mean, you expect the worst, and you hope for the best. And, you know, it was very nice.”
11 federal sites across Canada
As of Aug. 16, 3,222 people had been put up at hotels paid for by the government. By the end of July, the cost of providing the quarantine sites had exceeded $37 million, the PHAC said.
“Quarantine facilities are used to lodge persons entering Canada who are unable to isolate or quarantine because they are unable to meet the conditions of the mandatory isolation order (e.g., live with a vulnerable person, do not have private transportation if they are symptomatic),” Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge said in a statement.
The agency did not give a detailed breakdown of the costs but said they include accommodation, meals, transport, health checks and security. Some quarantine sites have a nurse practitioner on site 24/7.
There are 11 federal quarantine sites across the country and another two run jointly by federal and provincial governments. The 11 federal sites can house a total of 1,500 people, Legault-Thivierge said.
The rooms are available only as a last resort, PHAC spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said in a statement.
“We expect that most travellers will quarantine in their own home or in the same place they are visiting in Canada,” she said.
“If this is not possible, travellers are responsible for making alternative arrangements for quarantine accommodations that are within their own financial means.”
Before admitting anyone into a quarantine facility, government representatives work with them to ensure “all other options … within their own means have been exhausted,” Jarbeau said.
Rooms reserved in March
The federal government reserved the hotel rooms soon after issuing a public health order on March 25 requiring a 14-day quarantine period for travellers returning to Canada.
Travellers interviewed by CBC News who stayed in the hotels said they were typically mid-range hotels located near airports.
Hotel Association of Canada president and CEO Susie Grynol said the group worked with Ottawa to secure a small number of hotels close to international airports to allow people to quarantine.
“We were proud to support public health in their efforts to flatten the curve, but it was not a profit-generating exercise,” she said in an emailed statement to CBC News. “At that point, most hotels were virtually closed down.”
The government will not reveal which hotels are being used as quarantine facilities to protect the privacy and security of those staying there, the PHAC said in a statement.
Food, essentials brought to the door
Vijayendra Yalavarthi, who arrived in Toronto from India in June under the federal skilled worker program, said he was taken to the hotel in an ambulance after telling border officials that his Airbnb rental had fallen through.
Both he and Geauvreau said they stayed in suites.
Food was left outside the room three times a day.
“The dinner portion is really good,” Yalavarthi said. “They used to experiment a lot. They give you … like, rice with Indian recipes like paneer or curry. They … try it, and it’s really good, actually.”
Family and friends were not allowed to visit the hotel, but the Canadian Red Cross would call once a day, Geauvreau said.
“They’d see if you needed anything…. [My] USB cables were broken, so I got some USB cables,” he said. “I think I got some powdered drink mix, and [they] dropped me off a book…. If you needed emergency socks or underwear or a shirt or something, they would get it for you.”
There were health checks twice a day, during which nurses would stand outside the room, take his temperature and ask a series of questions, Geauvreau said. If anyone showed symptoms during one of these checks, they were moved to a lower floor of the hotel.
Cleaners in HAZMAT suits would wipe down surfaces in the room once a day, he said.
‘You’re not leaving that room’
Initially, Geauvreau said, it was nice to have a quiet room where he could rest and recover from the long journey.
But after a few days, the suite started to feel small and confined. And he couldn’t leave because he didn’t have a key card.
“You’re not leaving that room. And once you enter the facility, when you sign [in] downstairs, you have no rights to leave, under no circumstances,” he said. “They can arrest anybody that tries to leave.”
One man “was kind of going stir crazy” and had to be subdued by security guards when he became loud and aggressive in a hotel corridor, Geauvreau said.
Yalavarthi, who arrived as a permanent resident from India, stayed at the same hotel two months later.
“The first few days, I felt like I was being jailed,” he said.
The IT professional said he was allowed to go outside to a designated walking area in a parking lot, but only while accompanied by security.
Hotel option not publicized
Both Geauvreau and Yalavarthi said they learned about the federal quarantine sites through online networks of people coming to Canada from abroad.
There is no official government website that includes details, so Yalavarthi kept it as a backup option, only opting to use the option when his Airbnb reservations fell through.
CBC News interviewed several other travellers who expressed frustration that there were no details about the hotels available online.
Yalavarthi made a YouTube video documenting his experience to let others know about the option.
Overall, he said he is grateful for the experience and the measures the Canadian government is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I would really thank them,” he said.
Yalavarthi said when a family member in India got COVID-19, he did not feel well supported by the Indian government. “But here in Canada, even [if] I don’t have COVID symptoms, they’re ready to help me.”
As a recently arrived immigrant, Yalavarthi said the experience made him feel welcome in Canada and well taken care of. The experience has motivated him to give back, he said, and happy to pay his taxes to the government to help cover the costs.
“If you welcome someone, they will try to help you in future. That’s what I believe.”
Source: – CBC.ca
COVID-19 in Canada: What a second shutdown might look like – CTV News
This article was featured in the Nightly Briefing, CTV News’ evening reading recommendation. You can sign up here to receive it each weekday night.
As countries around the world start re-imposing coronavirus restrictions amid spikes in new cases, Canadian politicians and health officials are warning that parts of the country may soon enter a second shutdown.
However, infectious disease physician Dr. Zain Chagla says the second lockdown will not look like the first.
“We’re very different than we were in March, we had no clue how deep this was going to spread into our communities, there was hospital issues in terms of health care utilization, and we really had limited testing and didn’t really understand where this disease was transmitted within our community,” Chagla explained in an interview with CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.
“So we had to really do something very global to get things to work.”
Now, Chagla said provincial health authorities have a better grasp on what measures work in mitigating the risk of COVID-19.
While Canada’s case numbers are rising, Chagla said the country has access to reasonable testing, healthcare systems aren’t currently overloaded and both the public and officials understand that private, indoor gatherings are largely contributing to the spread of the virus.
He added that having these factors under control gives Canada the opportunity to thoughtfully prepare for a second wave and another possible shutdown.
“We have the luxury of sitting here and actually making some very precise changes to see if we can keep transmission down afterwards, rather than putting everyone through what we did in March and April,” Chagla said.
To avoid a repeat scenario, he explained that policymakers need to keep COVID-19 messaging positive and consistent, plan creative long-term solutions for outdoor facilities, and closely monitor allowable gathering sizes.
“We’re going to have ebbs and flows but these sorts of solutions, what we’re going to be doing for the months and going into the winter and even further than that, are going to have to be sustainable and so that’s where the positive messaging comes from,” Chagla said.
Chagla added that there is a misconception about who is transmitting the virus. He says “there’s a big thought” that recent spikes are all young people that are partying together but in reality, “it’s still families that are having get-togethers” such as weddings and other celebrations where the virus is spreading.
“All of us kind of need to be messaged positively to say ‘OK, [COVID-19] is still here. We can protect our communities. We can do things safely’,” he said.
To help with this, Chagla said outdoor facilities and restaurants need to be better equipped to allow Canadians to safely socialize especially as the country heads into the winter months.
“Making more outdoor facilities gives us the recognition that we need to socialize. We need to actually be around people and there is a way to do it safely with a few more layers, but sparing what’s going to happen to the medical system,” Chagla said.
Additionally, Chagla said policymakers should not impede Canadians’ ability to get tested, but also not encourage over-testing.
As long lines are being reported at COVID-19 testing centres across the country, the federal government has pledged billions in funding to address the issue and improve other pandemic measures.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTV News Channel that the testing wait times stem from a combination of factors, including limited testing capacity and an increased desire from the population to receive a test.
Bogoch said in an interview on Thursday that these factors need to be addressed amid the current rise in cases.
“The capacity currently is significantly better than what it was in for example March or April of this year, but clearly it’s not where it needs to be,” he said.
New testing centres have recently opened in Edmonton and Laval, Que. while another is slated to open soon in Brampton, Ont. However, Bogoch said this still might not be enough.
To address the capacity issue, Bogoch said provinces may have to change their messaging around testing.
“Given the snapshot that we’re in right now, maybe it’s best for messaging to focus on people to get tested if they’re either at risk for getting this infection, if they have any signs or symptoms of infection regardless of how mild, or if they’ve had any possible exposures to this infection,” Bogoch explained.
“Certainly those individuals should be prioritized, but in the same breath of course, you shouldn’t be turned away from a testing centre,” he added.
Amid the testing issues, Chagla says monitoring gathering sizes remains key in managing Canada’s recent COVID-19 spikes.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce that the province will lower limits on social gatherings in its hotspots to stem recent increases in COVID-19 cases. Ford said that the “highest fines in the country” will be put in place to stop people from breaking the regulations but Chagla says the move does not go far enough.
“I think that’s a good symbolic gesture, but there does need to be some enforcement unfortunately for some of these people that take things out of control and lead to a significant public health event,” Chagla said.
Bogoch told CTV News Channel that rolling back gathering limits in Ontario’s hotspots is the “right move.”
“We clearly can’t continue on at the status quo, and there clearly needs to be measures to limit transmission, especially in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa. That’s a smart move,” Bogoch said in an interview on Thursday.
He added that the province will see some benefit from the rollback, if the implementation of the new gathering limits are clearly communicated and enforced.
While Ontario rolls back its gathering limit, Bogoch said other provinces experiencing outbreaks should follow suit.
“We’re seeing widespread community transmission in four provinces. Clearly, we need to clamp back down to get this virus under control,” he said.
“What does clamp down mean? It’s not entirely clear. Different provinces are taking different steps, but it’s obvious that we need to take action now to prevent these cases from rising.”
Last week in Quebec, the government said police can hand out tickets, ranging between $400 and $6,000, to those who don’t have a face covering in indoor public spaces or on public transit.
The province also announced several measures in addition to the fines, including the banning of karaoke and obliging bars to keep registers of clients as infection numbers rise.
In response to its increase in cases, B.C. ordered the immediate closure of nightclubs and banquet halls and reduced restaurant hours last week after daily COVID-19 case numbers were consistently above 100.
“I think we need to all start rethinking about what we need to do to get us through the next few months as a community together, and these are some of the things that we’ll need to put aside for now,” B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained at a news conference.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam reminded Canadians at a press conference on Tuesday to take precautionary measures if they must socialize, including having hand sanitizer readily available, wearing masks or other face coverings, and cleaning common areas before and after the event.
“The key message is that the time to act is now across the board in terms of reducing some of the contacts you’ve had over the summer months,” Tam said.
Trump says Canada wants to reopen the border. But do we, really? – CBC.ca
U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments on Friday suggesting Canada is keen to reopen the border with his country stand in direct contrast to statements made by Canadian officials supporting the continued border restrictions.
“We’re looking at the border with Canada. Canada would like it open, and, you know, we want to get back to normal business,” Trump said at the White House, adding that “we’re going to be opening the borders pretty soon” to take advantage of the renegotiated NAFTA.
“We’re working with Canada. We want to pick a good date, having to do with the pandemic. And I happen to think we’re rounding the turn,” Trump said.
Asked by CBC News to respond, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office pointed to a tweet from Public Safety Minister Bill Blair earlier in the day, saying the border will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least Oct. 21.
“We will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Blair wrote.
WATCH | Trump suggests U.S-Canada border could reopen soon:
When CBC first reported on the extension of restrictions into October — they were due to expire this week — one source said Canadians should prepare for them to last even longer.
The official stopped short, however, of saying they would remain until Christmas, but that the policy was open to tweaks.
Three senior sources with direct knowledge of the situation, speaking to CBC News on condition they not be named, have repeatedly expressed — over recent months and again on Friday — how pleased they are with the current restrictions.
One source said both Canada and the U.S. see them as effective and as strong, co-operative measures necessary to respond to the pandemic.
Keeping Canadians safe
Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said last week that she speaks with U.S officials about the border restrictions on a weekly basis and there is a general agreement the current situation is working well.
“The measures are doing what they were designed to do … to allow the flow of commercial goods and essential services while controlling the spread of the virus and reduce the risk to our citizens on both sides,” Hillman said.
“When push comes to shove, our No. 1 goal is going to be to keep Canadians safe.”
Blair told reporters Wednesday that he’s looking to make adjustments to allow more travel on humanitarian grounds, but that any changes will be limited and that, broadly, he wants to keep the restrictions.
With COVID-19 caseloads still high in many U.S. states, public opinion surveys have also suggested there’s little appetite in Canada for change.
A new poll by Research Co. found earlier this month that out of 1,000 Canadians surveyed online at the end of August, 90 per cent agreed with the current restrictions.
The world’s longest international border has been closed to non-essential travel for months though essential workers — such as truck drivers and health-care professionals — are still able to cross by land. Canadians are also still able to fly to U.S. destinations.
Ottawa has also moved to curb the movement of Americans through Canada on their way to Alaska. U.S. travellers destined for the northern state have been limited to five crossings in Western Canada and they must commit to taking a direct route.
In June, a man travelling from Alaska to the continental United States was charged with violating Canada’s Quarantine Act. He was accused of twice failing to follow COVID-19 public safety rules while in Banff, Alta.
If he’s found to have violated a quarantine order, he could be fined up to $750,000 or sentenced to six months in jail.
75% of Canadians approve of another coronavirus shutdown if second wave hits: Ipsos – Global News
Canadians would largely be supportive of another widespread shutdown if a second wave of the coronavirus occurred, new polling from Ipsos suggests.
In a survey conducted on behalf of Global News, Ipsos found that 75 per cent of respondents would approve of quickly shutting down non-essential businesses in that scenario, with 37 per cent strongly supporting the idea.
About three quarters said they anticipated a second wave to hit their communities this fall.
The polling comes as Canada sees a dramatic resurgence in the virus, along with long lines for testing in some cities. In the last two weeks, the number of cases being reported across the country each day has risen by nearly 50 per cent.
Coronavirus: Patty Hajdu says she won’t rule out another economic shutdown if COVID-19 cases continue to rise
In her most recent update, Canada’s chief public health officer said the uptick was cause for concern.
“With continued circulation of the virus, the situation could change quickly and we could lose the ability to keep COVID-19 cases at manageable levels,” Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement.
Ipsos Public Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker said as case counts rise, support for lockdown measures similar to what we saw when the pandemic broke out in the spring will likely increase.
“People are really watching on a daily basis … (the) number of case counts going up, and they’re really worried,” he said.
The support shown for shutdown measures in Canada is in line with an international trend, Bricker said. Ipsos polling shows people in many countries are generally on board with the unprecedented measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19, though Canadians tend to show stronger approval.
“There is, generally speaking, a fairly consistent view that we need to be careful, that this is a real problem, that they believe that shutdowns and controls are a way of dealing with it,” he said.
There were, however, some differences across the country when it comes to how well Canadians think their governments are prepared for a potential second wave.
Nationally, 71 per cent said they’re confident their province is ready, with 29 per cent disagreeing. But the proportion of those critical of their province’s ability to handle another wave of the virus was highest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, at 42 per cent.
Just under two thirds of Canadians are concerned about contracting the virus themselves. Even though those who are older are most at risk, the bigger difference was between genders, the polling revealed. Seventy-two per cent of women said they were concerned versus 55 per cent of men.
Bricker said that result is part of a larger pattern shown in health polling data more generally.
“They tend to pay less attention to their health,” he said of men. “They tend to be less concerned about things that are risky.”
The poll also looked at the issue of mandatory vaccination in the event a vaccine is developed and approved. Almost two thirds, or 63 per cent of those asked, said they thought the vaccine should be mandatory, a figure that is down nine points since July.
The survey was conducted between Sept. 11 and 14 — after the start of the school year for most Canadian families. There have already been outbreaks reported at schools in a few provinces.
Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said they felt schools were opening up too quickly, while about half — 53 per cent — said the speed of reopening has been just right.
This Ipsos poll was conducted between Sept. 11 and 14, 2020, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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