Canada’s health minister has ordered an independent review of the intelligence network that informs Canada’s response to disease outbreaks, CTV News has confirmed.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the Global Public Health Network (GPHIN) has played an integral part in helping to guide decision-making of top public health officials during the pandemic, but was “concerned” to learn of reports that employees felt constrained in their work.
“We were concerned to learn of reports that GPHIN analysts felt that they were not able to proceed with their important work, and that some scientists didn’t feel fully empowered. That’s why we have ordered a full and expeditious independent review of GPHIN, led by professionals and experts from outside of the Public Health Agency of Canada,” the statement to CTVNews.ca read.
The GPHIN was formed in the late 1990s in collaboration with the World Health Organization to “rapidly detect, identify, assess, prevent and mitigate threats to human health.” It’s made up of international researchers and analysts and managed by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response.
It consists of two main components: data processing and risk assessment. The former involves a tool that scans and captures about 7,000 articles in nine languages every day. The latter involves a team of professionals that process and assess the data for a daily “Situational Awareness” report released each morning to members, including senior management at PHAC and government departments.
Real-time alerts are also issued, but in the fall of 2018, jurisdiction over the alerts approval process was transferred from GPHIN analysts to senior management, according to a spokesperson within the ministry. After this organizational change, the number of alerts decreased and then eventually stopped.
“This independent review is an important step in restoring GPHIN and ensuring that it can continue its valuable contributions to public health in Canada and around the world,” said Hajdu.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam responded to news of the independent review during a press conference on Monday in Ottawa, stating that she welcomes any changes that would enhance efficiency within the network.
“From my perspective it’s very important to have as minimal of a delay and minimal layers of bureaucracy in the system, which is meant to provide early alerting,” she said, adding that staff complaints will be taken seriously.
“Staff should feel that they are able to articulate any concerns and difficulties as they should in any organization. They haven’t specifically talked to me about it but I play a very different role to some of the managers in the agency but I know that they would want to be able to hear any concerns as soon as possible.”
Tam confirmed that she was informed about the cluster of cases of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan by the GPHIN in late December.
Canada adds more than 800 new coronavirus cases, 6 deaths – Global News
The number of Canadians who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus grew by 865 on Saturday, while the national death toll rose by six.
There have been 142,654 cases since COVID-19 was first diagnosed in Canada in late January and 9,211 deaths overall.
Across the country more than 7.7 million tests have been conducted throughout the pandemic, and 87 per cent of all cases are resolved.
The number of new cases being reported daily has increased by more than 60 per cent in the last two weeks, and demand for testing has increased sharply as well.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said on average about 849 cases were reported per day in the last week.
“I urge all Canadians to take action now to slow the spread of the virus. In addition to strict adherence with personal protective measures (e.g. physical distancing, handwashing and wearing non-medical masks where appropriate), we must all reduce our number of contacts to a minimum,” she said in a statement.
“Most importantly, stay home and isolate yourself from others if you are experiencing any symptoms, even if mild.”
The vast majority of the new cases occurred in Ontario and Quebec, though Saturday’s numbers are incomplete because the territories, Alberta, B.C. and P.E.I. do not release daily statistics on the weekend.
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Quebec announced 427 new infections, bringing its total to 67,080. Five deaths were recorded, three of which occurred earlier this month, officials said.
Premier François Legault said Saturday he has tested negative for COVID-19 but would remain in isolation until Sept. 28.
Legault and his wife were tested after meeting with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole — who has since tested positive.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be extending restrictions on private events to all areas of the province.
Earlier in the week, new limits on the number of people allowed to gather were announced for virus hotspots such as Toronto and Ottawa.
“Over the past several days, we have seen alarming growth in the number of COVID cases in Ontario,” Ford said.
“The alarm bells are ringing. And too much of it has been tied to people who aren’t following the rules. People who think it’s OK to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.”
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Ontario added 407 new cases on Saturday and one new death was announced. The province has seen a cumulative total of 46,848 infections.
Officials in Saskatchewan said they hit a record high in testing on Friday, with 2,873 samples taken. There were 11 cases discovered. Overall, the province has seen 1,787 cases and 24 fatalities.
In Manitoba, 18 new cases were reported Saturday. The province has the lowest cumulative case total in Western Canada at 1,558, including some cases considered presumptive.
Nunavut reported its first two confirmed cases Saturday. The two people diagnosed are workers at the Hope Bay Mine, located southwest of Cambridge Bay, officials said. They are believed to have been exposed to the virus in their home province.
“Hope Bay Mine is an isolated location, and no Nunavut residents currently work there. The risk of COVID-19 spreading in our communities because of these cases remains very low,” Health Minister George Hickes said in a statement.
There are currently no other active cases in Canada’s North. The infections previously announced in Yukon and Northwest Territories — 20 in total — have long been resolved.
Three out of four provinces in Atlantic Canada provided updates on the pandemic Saturday but no new cases were announced. There are only a handful of active cases remaining in the region.
On Friday, British Columbia added 179 new cases, though 40 of them dated back to early August, and Alberta reported 107 new positive tests.
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On Saturday, the U.S. coronavirus death toll was poised to reach 200,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Around the world, more than 30 million people have been diagnosed with the illness, and nearly 954,000 people have lost their lives.
—With files from The Canadian Press, Mickey Djuric, Ryan Rocca and David Lao, Global News
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada's green agenda not hijacked by COVID-19: environment minister – CTV News
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the pandemic hasn’t hijacked the government’s “big green agenda,” and warned that if left unaddressed climate change will have more of an impact on Canadians than COVID-19.
Wilkinson admitted that the government’s priority is dealing with the pandemic, but said they will be thinking about the investments they must make “in the context of the looming crisis that is climate change.”
“At the end of the day, if we do not address the climate issue, the impacts that we will feel from that will be significantly greater than what we’re feeling from COVID-19,” Wilkinson told Evan Solomon during an online exclusive interview with CTV Question Period.
Speaking to reporters as he announced his intention to prorogue parliament in August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the throne speech will give the government an opportunity to build a recovery plan that allows Canada to “build back better.”
“This is our chance to build a more resilient Canada, a Canada that is healthier and safer, greener and more competitive, a Canada that is more welcoming and more fair. This is our moment to change the future for the better,” Trudeau said at the time.
However, insiders have told The Canadian Press that the throne speech will have three main priorities: measures to protect Canadians’ health and to prevent another lockdown; economic supports through the pandemic; and eventual rebuilding measures.
With the focus on the pandemic apparent, questions are circulating about the level of green investment that will actually be borne out of the looming throne speech. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is among these skeptical onlookers.
Speaking to Solomon on Wednesday during an episode of CTV Power Play, May said she’s made it clear to the prime minister that if he plans to leave real climate action out of the throne speech, he won’t be getting her party’s support.
“I made it very clear to the prime minister: without a commitment that we live up to the requirements of the Paris Agreement…we can’t vote confidence,” May said.
“When Joe Biden calls Donald Trump a climate arsonist, I don’t want to be calling Justin Trudeau a climate arsonist. He’s got a little bit of time left.”
Further raising the concern that the pandemic might be putting green initiatives on the back burner, the Liberals have also failed to plant a single one of the two billion trees they pledged to get in the ground over the next 10 years.
When pressed on the delay, Wilkinson admitted the pandemic has been a factor in slowing the tree planting efforts.
“The two billion trees commitment remains, it will be something that we will be looking at doing going forward. As you well know, we didn’t have a budget this year because of the pandemic and we’ve been living with this pandemic for six months,” said Wilkinson.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News’ Rachel Aiello
Why is there a shortage of canned soda pop in Canada? – Global News
You may have been to a grocery store and searched for a 12-pack of your favourite soda pop, only to come up empty-handed.
Like other dilemmas faced by Canadians since mid-March, the coronavirus pandemic is to blame, according to beverage peddlers.
“The beverage industry, like the entire consumer product sector, has been impacted by many new pressures due to COVID-19,” said Jeff Rutledge, a spokesperson for the Canadian Beverage Association.
When the pandemic first began in March, many people switched from purchasing bottles of pop at the store or drinking fountain pop at restaurants to taking home 12-packs to drink with lunch or dinner.
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As the shutdown happened with pretty remarkable speed, it left no time for pop manufacturers to prepare for the sudden shift in consumer demand.
“All aluminum cans are in tight supply due to heavy demand for multi-pack products consumed at home,” said Kristen Jimenez, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola.
Her company has been forced to prioritize which brands it uses due to the limited number of cans.
“We have had to shift our resources toward producing more products with the highest demand,” Jimenez said. “Here in Canada, those brands include Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Nestea and AHA.“
There may have already been a stockpile in place of certain other brands pre-pandemic so this leaves consumers of products like Diet Canada Dry hunting for their beverage of choice.
Coke is not alone in having to make these choices, though, according to Rutledge, whose organization also includes Pepsi and A&W, among dozens of others.
“While our members are implementing contingency plans to mitigate these challenges, including aluminum can supply, some products will be temporarily unavailable in some places,” he explained.
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Rutledge said members he has spoken to have ramped up production in a bid to get more product on the shelves and erase the backlog.
“Our members are working hard to get the products people want on store shelves as soon as the circumstances allow.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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