COVID-19 cases in Canada have started to increase and severity trends could also rise, Ottawa warned on Friday, saying the rapid spread of the Omicron variant abroad should be a “serious alarm bell” for those wanting to travel.
“As we head into the winter months with a strained health system in many areas … a high degree of caution is needed to minimize spread and impact, particularly during the upcoming holiday season,” said chief medical officer Theresa Tam.
Canada has so far recorded 87 COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, all of them asymptomatic or mild. Most of the initial cases detected were linked to recent international travelers or their close contacts.
Omicron has the potential to spread much faster than the highly transmissible Delta variant, which is responsible for most Canadian cases, Tam said.
“The trend in average daily case counts has shifted from decline to a gradual but steady increase,” she told a briefing. “With daily new cases increasing, there is concern that national severity trends could begin to rise again.”
As of Nov 27, 86.2% of Canadians above the age of 12 had been fully vaccinated.
The Omicron variant has been reported in 57 nations and the number of patients needing hospitalization is likely to rise as it spreads, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said this meant Canadians wishing to travel abroad had to be vigilant.
“Things are happening very quickly outside of Canada. So if you think of traveling, that should be a serious alarm bell,” he said, adding that Canadians returning home “should expect delays and hassles.”
Canada is blocking entry to people who have recently been in 10 southern African nations and is requiring everyone arriving by air to take a COVID-19 test. The measure does not apply to flights from the United States.
Ottawa has not yet formally advised Canadians to avoid foreign travel, Duclos said, adding “that could come.”
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Bill Berkrot)
Canada's inflation rate rises to new 30-year high of 4.8% – CBC News
The Consumer Price Index increased at an annual pace of 4.8 per cent in December, as sharply higher prices for food led to the cost of living going up at its fastest rate since 1991.
Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that grocery prices increased by 5.7 per cent, the biggest annual gain since 2011.
The price of fresh produce is being walloped by two things, the data agency said: “Unfavourable weather conditions in growing regions, as well as supply chain disruptions.”
The price of apples has increased by 6.7 per cent in the past year, and oranges by almost as much — 6.6 per cent.
The U.S. is the major supplier of oranges to Canada, and because of bad weather and a plant disease called citrus greening, the major growing region of Florida is on track to produce the smallest number of oranges since 1945.
That’s causing the price of frozen concentrated orange juice to skyrocket on commodities markets.
“If you’re an orange juice drinker, it means your prices are going to be going up at the store,” analyst Phil Flynn, with Chicago-based commodity trading firm Price Group, told CBC News. “The cost of orange juice has almost doubled here in the last few months, and that’s going to be passed down to the consumers.”
Other types of food are going up quickly, too. The price of frozen beef has gone up by almost 12 per cent in the past year, while ham and bacon are up by about 15 per cent.
Kendra Sozinho, a manager at the Fiesta Farms grocery store in Toronto, says costs from suppliers are going up faster than she’s ever seen “We’re seeing almost every single supplier increasing their pricing whech then increases our pricing,” she told CBC News in an interview. “I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve never seen a jump like this.”
WATCH | Grocery store manager explains why prices are going up:
Economist Tu Nguyen with consultancy RSM says food price increases could be set to get even worse in the coming weeks and months because of new rules forbidding unvaccinated truckers from entering the country.
“The current bout of inflation is driven by supply chain disruptions, pent-up demand and inflation expectations,” she said. “While pent-up demand is expected to ease as pandemic spending winds down, supply chain and inflation expectations remain paramount challenges.”
Expect a rate hike soon
Food is far from the only thing becoming more expensive.
Shelter costs have risen by 5.4 per cent in the past year, faster than the overall inflation rate. And unlike the global forces at play pushing up food prices, the factors driving up shelter costs are all Canadian-made, TD Bank economist James Marple said.
“The one exception to the global nature of the current inflationary environment, is housing inflation, which is both domestically driven and, outside of increased incidents of extreme weather driving up insurance prices, directly related to the Bank of Canada’s policy stance,” he said.
Politicians weigh in
Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre placed the blame for high inflation squarely at the foot of the federal government, noting that as a country with abundant energy and food resources, Canada should have a built-in advantage when it comes to keeping a lid on prices.
“The biggest increases for consumer products have been those that we source right here at home, not those that depend on foreign supply chains,” he told reporters in Ottawa.
“Home price inflation is a home-grown problem,” he went on, arguing that record government spending under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to blame for inflation. “The more he spends, the more things cost,” Poilievre said.
The Prime Minister, for his part, rejected that claim and said his government has a plan in place to face the inflationary challenges that many countries are facing.
WATCH | Trudeau talks about record high inflation:
Lending rates were slashed to record lows in the early days of the pandemic to stimulate the economy. But two years of rock bottom mortgage rates have proven to be jet fuel for Canada’s housing market, causing many policy makers to suggest the time has come for the Bank of Canada to hike its rate to cool things down.
After Wednesday’s inflation report, investors think there’s about a 75 per cent chance of a rate hike as soon as next week, when the bank is set to meet.
“Inflation is likely to come down over the next year, but getting it there will require tighter financial conditions and rate hikes by the Bank of Canada,” Marple said.
Semiconductor shortage persists
And an ongoing lack of semiconductor microchips continues to drive up the price of just about anything with a microchip in it.
That includes durable goods like washing machines and other household appliances, the price of which have gone up by 5.7 per cent in the past 12 months. New car prices are up by even more — 7.2 per cent.
If there was one area of relief for consumers, it was gas prices, where the price to fill up at the pump fell by 4.1 per cent during the month. That’s the biggest monthly drop since April 2020. But compared to a year ago, gas prices are still 33 per cent higher than they were in December 2020.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC News
New Brunswick’s health minister is asking the public for assistance as the province struggles with a growing wave of COVID-19 that has sparked concern over the strained health-care system.
“We need your help,” Dorothy Shephard, the province’s health minister, said in a statement. “Whether you are retired, non-practising or unlicensed — if you have experience that can help, please reach out to us.”
The health minister said the Omicron variant is causing both increased hospitalizations and staff absences, which is “putting pressure on all aspects of our health-care system.”
Health officials in New Brunswick on Tuesday said three more people who had COVID-19 had died, bringing the number of recorded deaths in the province to 192. The province also said a total of 113 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 15 in intensive care. The province, which is one of many jurisdictions in Canada that now restrict access to PCR testing, also reported an additional 330 lab-confirmed cases.
The province said it was looking for people to fill both paid and unpaid roles, noting in the statement that training and personal protective equipment would be provided.
New Brunswick’s call for help came as Prince Edward Island announced tight new restrictions — including closing gyms and restaurant dining rooms — and extended remote learning until the end of January as officials try to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As of Tuesday, the island had eight people in hospital being treated for COVID-19, including four in intensive care. The province also reported an additional 407 lab-confirmed cases.
New restrictions: <br>- personal gathering limited to a single household + 2 support ppl, those who live alone may join other household<br>- no organized gatherings<br>- funerals/weddings capped at 10 <br>- gyms, rec activities closed<br>- no dining in restaurants
Nova Scotia on Tuesday reported one additional COVID-19-related death. Health officials said in a statement there were 73 people in hospital “who were admitted due to COVID-19 and are receiving specialized care in a COVID-19 designated unit.” That figure includes 15 people being cared for in intensive care units, the province said.
The update came as the province reported an additional 415 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“Now is the time to buckle down,” Premier Tim Houston said in a statement. “I ask all Nova Scotians to do everything you can to keep COVID-19 out of our health-care system, long-term care facilities and our communities.”
In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials on Tuesday reported two additional deaths and said COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province stood at 14, with three people in critical care. The province also reported an additional 295 lab-confirmed cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
-From CBC News, last updated at 7:20 a.m. ET
What’s happening elsewhere in Canada
With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.
In Central Canada, Ontario health officials reported an additional 60 deaths on Wednesday, as the province’s health minister held a COVID-19 briefing alongside the province’s top doctor.
Health Minister Christine Elliott reported a total of 4,132 hospitalizations, with 589 in ICU. A total of 5,744 additional lab-confirmed cases were reported in Ontario on Wednesday, which was the first day back in classrooms for many students after a winter storm delayed the shift to in-person education.
82% of patients admitted to the ICU were admitted for <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> and 18% were admitted for other reasons but have tested positive for COVID-19.<br><br>Individuals who are fully vaccinated represent 78.5% of Ontario’s total population and account for 224 of Ontario’s 589 ICU admissions.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that for the first time in weeks, the number of people in the province’s hospitals and intensive care units is “increasing at a slower pace.”
Elliott said she sees a glimmer of hope, but cautioned that February will pose a challenge — especially for hospitals.
Quebec’s COVID-19 update on Wednesday showed 88 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 3,425, with 285 people in intensive care units. The province also reported an additional 6,123 lab-confirmed cases.
“In all likelihood, the number of cases has already peaked,” Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health director, told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re starting to see the rise in hospitalizations slowing down, which is a very good sign, even if the situation in hospitals remains very fragile.”
In the North, the chief public health officer in the Northwest Territories on Tuesday said restrictions on gatherings were being extended until the end of the month. A statement from Dr. Kami Kandola said additional recommendations are being made for Inuvik and Fort Smith, including a call for work-from-home where possible, because of community transmission.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba on Tuesday reported three additional deaths in its COVID-19 update. The total hospitalizations stood at 620, with 48 in intensive care. The province also reported an additional 847 lab-confirmed cases.
In Saskatchewan, there were no additional COVID-19-related deaths reported on Tuesday. According to the province, the total number of hospitalizations increased to 189, with 18 people in intensive care units. The province also reported an additional 1,089 lab-confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said COVID-19 hospitalization rates are rising to levels not seen in the province since mid-October when the health-care system was grappling with the fourth wave. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the surging number of cases driven by the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant are starting to be reflected in hospital admissions.
As of Tuesday, the province’s COVID-19 updates showed a total of 1,089 hospitalizations, with 104 people in intensive care units. The province also recorded nine additional deaths and 3,279 additional lab-confirmed cases.
“It is important to recognize that any COVID-positive admission has an impact on our acute-care capacity,” Hinshaw said, as she outlined changes to how the province will report data on COVID-19 patients. “The bottom line is that our acute-care system remains under serious pressure and COVID-19 continues to pose a risk of severe outcomes to many Albertans.”
Gyms and other exercise facilities are being allowed to gradually reopen in British Columbia, a move the province’s top doctor describes as a “cautious step” in lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Dr. Bonnie Henry said proof of vaccination will be required to use gyms, which will operate under capacity limits.
Henry said other restrictions that went into effect in December will remain in place because of the high rates of transmission and the number of people needing hospital care. Bars and nightclubs will stay closed and capacity limits for restaurants, theatres and stadiums will remain in place until Feb. 16.
The province on Tuesday reported a total of 854 COVID-19 hospitalizations, including 112 in intensive care. The province also reported nine additional deaths and 2,032 lab-confirmed cases.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday morning, roughly 334.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.5 million.
In Europe, France has registered 464,769 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, official data showed on Tuesday, the highest-ever recorded tally since the start of the pandemic.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the United Nations is preparing for distanced relief operations in Tonga to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak in the Pacific island nation that is reeling from the impact of a volcanic eruption and tsunami, an official said.
In Africa, Namibia’s pandemic-ravaged tourism sector launched a campaign to encourage its employees to get inoculated as vaccine hesitancy threatens to derail the sector’s revival.
Meanwhile, South Africa reported 3,658 additional cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 100 additional deaths, though officials noted 30 of the deaths occurred in the previous 24 to 48 hours.
Due to the ongoing audit exercise by the National Department of Health (NDoH), there may be a backlog of COVID-19 mortality cases reported. Today, the NDoH reports 100 deaths and of these, 30 occurred in the past 24 – 48 hours. This brings the total fatalities to 93 551 to date.
In the Americas, the U.S. government’s new COVIDTests.gov website, set up for American households to order four free COVID-19 tests amid the Omicron variant surge, is up and running ahead of its official launch on Wednesday, the White House said.
In the Middle East, Iran on Tuesday reported 19 additional deaths and 4,060 new cases of COVID-19.
-From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 7:25 a.m ET
Coronavirus: Omicron peaking in some provinces – CTV News
The Omicron-fuelled fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be peaking in some provinces, while others say the worst is likely still to come.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it is bracing for a tide of COVID-19 hospitalizations and absenteeism among workers until mid-February, while Alberta says hospitalization rates are rising to levels not seen since mid-October.
The growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Prince Edward Island has prompted the province to reduce gathering sizes and close gyms and restaurant dining rooms until at least the end of the month.
Even as they both set new records for hospitalizations, officials in Ontario and Quebec say the daily rate seems to be decreasing slightly, although they caution the health-care system remains under tremendous pressure.
There are 3,417 COVID patients in Quebec hospitals, while Ontario has 4,183, including 580 people in intensive care.
B.C. recorded 1,975 cases of COVID-19 with 854 people in hospital, as the province’s top doctor described her decision to allow the reopening of gyms and other fitness facilities Thursday as a “cautious step” in lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said a proof-of-vaccination card will still be required to use gyms, and the facilities will need to operate under capacity limits and provide seven metres square for every person who is exercising.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022.
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