After a week of record-high case counts in several provinces and a series of regionally-specific adjustments to public health restrictions, CTV Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy thinks the time has come for a national uniformed approach to get the second wave of COVID-19 under control.
“We’re in a pretty dire situation right now, I think it’s becoming abundantly clear: this is a nationwide crisis,” he said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.
“We need the hammer, and that hammer needs to be applied with conviction. It needs to be applied with some assertiveness, and we need to apply the support that’s necessary from an economic point of view to the people that would suffer if that hammer is laid down,” he said.
Speaking from a Toronto hospital, Sharkawy gave the example of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s week of moving the goalposts around the colour-coded zoning system the province has been moved under, as an example of the “dissonance” being shown as of late between politicians and health experts in terms of what measures are needed to respond to a surging second wave of the pandemic.
“The principles of containment need to be uniformly applied across Canada. I think the error that we’ve made is going through this piecemeal approach of wait and see, going through a nuanced dance if you will, of COVID-19,” Sharkawy said. “The dance isn’t working anymore; we’re breaking each other’s legs. We’re doing it economically, we’re doing it in terms of lives that are lost,” he continued.
Trudeau said Friday that Canada has to reverse its accelerating growth trends now, or the federal government and the country could be facing a series of hard choices about where to deploy resources to respond to an overwhelmed healthcare system and hurting economy.
“We’re seeing a really troubling surge across the country, the fact that Dr. Tam is highlighting that modelling predicts 10,000 cases a day across the country by early December if we do not bend the curve should be a wake-up call for everyone,” he said.
“The federal government will always be there to help, but… our resources are not infinite.”
As has been his position during the peak of the first wave, despite there now being far more new daily cases in Canada, Trudeau remains resistant to invoke what many have seen as ‘the hammer’: The Emergencies Act.
The federal law would supersede provincial jurisdiction to grant “extraordinary powers” to Ottawa to enact certain nationwide security measures.
Trudeau has said that because the severity of the pandemic is not being felt equally across the country, locking down the territories and Atlantic Canada with the deployment of this act wouldn’t be proportional to the situation on the ground in that region.
While he has asked broadly for provinces to “do the right thing,” he hasn’t outright called out one premier or another for not doing enough to contain the virus’s spread.
However, in an interview on this Sunday’s episode, cabinet minister and Ontario MP Marco Mendicino said he’s heard from his constituents that Ontario has not gone far enough.
“They’d like to see Ontario move more quickly when it comes to fighting COVID-19,” he said.
“At the same time, you have seen a very healthy degree of collaboration between the federal government and all of our provincial and territorial partners… but there is definitely a moment right now that we are experiencing. We’re in the midst of a second wave, and we do need to act decisively,” said Mendicino.
‘CIRCUIT BREAKER’ INEVITABLE?
Though, as Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi noted in a separate segment, he’s not sure the provinces’ messages are being heard, and said he was troubled by the narrative that it’s a choice between public health and the economy.
“Here’s a crash course in Canadian federalism: Your powers and authorities vary by province,” he said, calling it “particularly frustrating,” for him as he’d have gone further this week than Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s government has.
He said that while it’s not yet inevitable that some form of “circuit breaker” will need to be flipped, it’s looking “extremely likely.”
“Government policy really matters, but what really, really matters is individual action. Don’t wait for the government to tell you what to do,” he added. “Don’t wait for government to act, especially not here in Alberta. Make those decisions yourself today and we still have the ability to flatten that curve. It’s not a huge chance and it’s a very limited window, but we’ve got to do it.”
HOW WOULD EMERGENCIES ACT WORK?
Formerly known as the War Measures Act, the current iteration passed in 1988 and has never been used. It allows for actions to combat urgent and critical but temporary situations that seriously threaten some aspect of Canadians’ lives, and that cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.
There are four types of emergencies listed under the Act: a public welfare emergency; a public order emergency; an international emergency; and a war emergency.
It’s likely that the COVID-19 pandemic would be deemed a “public welfare emergency” as it fits the bill of an emergency caused by “disease in human beings,” which is listed in this category alongside natural disasters and pollution.
And, as it may result in “a danger to life or property, social disruption or a breakdown in the flow of essential goods, services or resources.”
The Act explicitly states the requirement for parliamentary oversight on an emergency declaration. In addition to consulting premiers, an explanation of the reasoning for declaring an emergency would have to be presented within seven days to both the House and Senate.
Operating on the expectation that the government’s interpretation of the Act would be to view the novel coronavirus pandemic as a “public welfare emergency,” here’s some of what the government could do:
- Regulating or prohibiting travel within any area within the country;
- Evacuating people and removing or requisitioning personal property;
- Directing any person to render essential services they are qualified to provide;
- Regulating the distribution of essential goods and resources;
- Making emergency payments and compensating those who experience loss as a result of actions taken under the Act; and
- Imposing fines between $500 and $5,000 or jail time between six months and five years, for contravening any order or rule set under the Act.
Putting the country under these kind of restrictions is something that would likely be met with resistance. Premiers have advocated that they are able to decide what degree of public health measures are appropriate for their regions based on the COVID-19 situation on the ground, and small business advocates have cautioned that more closures could be “fatal.”
Why the federal government lets Canadians travel abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic – CBC.ca
News reports that many snowbirds are heading south this winter — despite the COVID-19 pandemic — have angered some fellow Canadians who feel they shouldn’t be allowed to go.
“I think this should be absolutely, 100 per cent stopped,” said Barry Tate of Sidney, B.C. “This is a pandemic. This is life and death.”
Tate and his wife, Patti Locke-Lewkowich, usually travel to Mexico for two months each winter. But this year they’re staying home, due to fears of falling ill with COVID-19 while abroad.
“We feel safer at home in the confines of our little home here,” said Locke-Lewkowich.
However, some snowbirds argue they’ll be just as safe down south, because they plan to take all necessary COVID-19-related precautions.
The federal government sides with Locke-Lewkowich, advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel abroad during the pandemic.
But it’s only an advisory, which means Canadians can still freely leave and return to Canada — a decision that’s rooted in Canadians’ constitutional rights.
“It’s always a balance between allowing people to kind of live their lives, and the government attempting to keep health crises under control,” said Kerri Froc, a constitutional law expert.
Please don’t go
In March, the federal government issued its advisory not to travel abroad, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
After the cold weather hit in the fall and some snowbirds started packing their bags, the government doubled down on its messaging.
Last month, it posted an alert on its website, warning seniors to stay home, because their age makes them more vulnerable to falling seriously ill with COVID-19.
This month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland each made a public plea.
“This is not the time for non-essential travel. It’s not a good idea,” said Freeland in French at a news conference on Monday.
Watch: Canada’s chief public officer talks about COVID-19’s future
However, Freeland added that the government won’t bar people from leaving. “We will not stop them,” she said in French.
As a result, Canadians are free to travel to countries that have open borders, including the United States which — despite a closed land border — still allows Canadians to fly to the country.
Meanwhile, some other western nations — such as Australia, France and England — prevent their citizens from travelling abroad for non-essential travel, as part of current lockdown measures to help curb infection rates.
Scotland also bans citizens who live in designated COVID-19 hotspots from travelling outside the country.
“Going on holiday, including abroad, is not a reasonable excuse to leave,” the Scottish government states on its website.
Why doesn’t Canada have a travel ban?
During a government committee meeting on Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said that the government doesn’t have the authority to prevent Canadians from travelling abroad. “And they have, under the Constitution, a right of return,” he added.
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that Canadians have the right to enter and leave the country.
Froc, an associate law professor at the University of New Brunswick, said the government could only limit that right for justifiable reasons, and that justifying a travel ban would likely be an uphill battle.
“The court takes a really dim view of absolute bans,” she said. “I’m totally in favour of government taking the COVID crisis seriously, making policy to restrict travel, but they have to do so in a way that pays sufficient respect to people’s constitutional rights.”
What are the risks?
Locke-Lewkowich, who’s staying home this winter, said she accepts that Canadians have the right to travel abroad, but hopes those who do so won’t get government aid if they run into trouble.
“Is Canada going to bail them out with our money?” she said.
When COVID-19 began its global spread in the spring and many flights were cancelled, Global Affairs Canada worked with airlines to fly stranded Canadians home.
But now the government department warns it may not assist Canadian travellers a second time round.
“The Government of Canada is not planning any further facilitated flights to repatriate Canadians and may have limited capacity to offer consular services,” said Global Affairs spokesperson, Christelle Chartrand in an email.
Chartrand advised that, before leaving the country, Canadians verify if their medical insurance covers COVID-19-related illnesses and a possible extended stay abroad.
Travel insurance broker, Martin Firestone, said if travellers fail to purchase adequate insurance and fall ill, they will be on the hook for the bill — and that includes any medevac charges.
“You aren’t getting medevaced home unless you give them a credit card first and they put it through and then it reads approved,” said Firestone with Travel Secure in Toronto. “To the best of my knowledge, I don’t see it falling back on the taxpayer.”
Despite the risks, many snowbirds still plan on heading south; Firestone said that around 40 per cent of his 1,000 snowbird clients have already booked their trips.
“That’s with me telling them not to go,” said Firestone who advises his clients not to travel during the pandemic.
“Even as good as you protect yourself, you still can’t protect yourself against [the] total unknown.”
Canadian travellers returning home must quarantine for 14 days. Freeland said that the rule will continue to be “very strictly enforced.”
Canada adds over 5,000 new coronavirus infections as global cases top 60 million – Global News
Health authorities across the country also said 92 more people have died after testing positive for COVID-19.
The virus has now been linked to 11,710 deaths in Canada.
A total of 2,243 people are in hospital after contracting the respiratory illness, while 277,232 have recovered.
In a statement Wednesday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said “more and larger” COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in long-term care homes, congregate living settings and hospitals and in Indigenous communities and remote areas.
“These developments are deeply concerning as they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies,” she said.
Tam also said the number of Canadians across the country experiencing “severe illness continues to increase.”
“This situation is putting pressure on local health-care resources and forcing hospitals to make the difficult decision to cancel elective surgeries and procedures in several areas of the country,” she said.
Tam said “collective effort” from individuals and public health officials is needed “to support and sustain the response through to the end of the pandemic, while balancing the health, social and economic consequences.”
Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canada working to ensure equitable access to vaccines
Between Ontario and Quebec 2,473 new cases of the virus were reported.
Ontario saw 1,373 new infections, while health officials in Quebec said 1,100 new cases had been identified. The provinces also reported 35 and 28 additional fatalities respectively.
In Saskatchewan, 164 new cases of COVID-19 were detected, but health authorities said no new deaths associated with the virus were reported.
Meanwhile, Manitoba saw 349 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday and eight new fatalities, pushing the provincial death toll to 256.
In Atlantic Canada, 21 new novel coronavirus infections were detected.
New Brunswick saw three new cases, while Nova Scotia added 16 new cases. Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador each saw one new case, bringing the provincial totals to 70 and 324 respectively.
None of the maritime provinces saw any new deaths associated with the respiratory illness on Wednesday.
In Alberta, 1,265 new cases were reported, and health officials said eight more people had died.
The province has now seen 50,801 infections and 500 fatalities related to COVID-19.
British Columbia saw 734 new cases and 13 new deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 infections to 28,770 and the death toll to 371.
Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canada working on vaccine distribution, ‘premature’ to give date
Nunavut added 11 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, pushing the territory’s total case load to 155. The territory has not yet seen a fatality related to COVID-19. So far two people have recovered after falling ill.
Meanwhile the Yukon reported one new case of COVID-19, but no new deaths.
The Northwest Territories has not reported any new cases of the virus since Nov. 13, and health officials say all 15 confirmed cases are considered to be recovered.
Global cases top 60 million
The number of cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide topped 60 million on Wednesday.
By 6:30 p.m. ET, there were a total of 60,207,001 cases globally, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
Since the virus was first detected, it has claimed 1,417,906 lives around the world.
The United States remained the epicentre of the virus with more than 12.7 million cases and 261,874 fatalities to date.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada still on track for January 2021 vaccine rollout, despite domestic dose disadvantage: Feds – CTV News
The federal government is still eyeing January 2021 as the start date for when people in Canada will begin to receive COVID-19 vaccines, despite frustration and concerns levelled at the Liberals by the opposition on Wednesday about Canada’s position in the queue to receive doses.
“At the beginning of next year, in January of 2021, assuming those approvals are given… Canadians will be able to start being vaccinated,” Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc said in an interview on CTV’s Power Play.
The approvals he is referencing are Health Canada approvals, which will be required before vaccine doses are doled out.
LeBlanc wouldn’t say what specifically the contracts say in terms of licensing and schedules for delivery, but disputed that Canada is at the back of the line and said that the number of doses coming to Canada will increase over time.
“We will start to receive the first millions of doses early part of 2021… those contracts are in place and that distribution will be made very effectively with provinces and territories,” he said.
In a separate segment on CTV’s Power Play, Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner cast doubt on the timeline, saying there is no publicly available evidence to substantiate the government’s January 2021 target will be attainable.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to temper Canadians’ expectations around the timing and rollout of an eventual vaccine or vaccines to immunize against the novel coronavirus, acknowledging that Canada is at a “disadvantage” because Canada “no longer has any domestic production capability” to make our own and is relying on other nations.
While there has been promising news about some vaccine candidates that Canada will receive millions of doses early next year— to be distributed on a priority basis—several other nations are making plans to begin administering vaccines next month.
Among the promising candidates so far are Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, all of which Canada has begun the domestic approval process for. However, Trudeau said that the countries where these pharmaceutical companies are based, including the United States, will “obviously” prioritize vaccinating their citizens before shipping doses internationally.
This caused a flurry of questions levelled at Trudeau during question period on Wednesday, with the opposition slamming the government’s handling of vaccine procurement.
“Why did this prime minister sign deals that placed Canadians months behind Americans for getting a COVID-19 vaccine?” asked Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.
“The announcement of vaccines gave people hope, but when the prime minister said we’re not able to produce it in Canada people were afraid… They need to know that there’s a clear plan with dates,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh during question period.
In a press conference, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said it was “unacceptable” that vaccines could still be months away from arriving in Canada, saying the federal government should have moved sooner to secure manufacturing rights and to ramp up production capacity at home.
Trudeau sought to defend his government’s handling, noting that it was under the previous Conservative administrations that Canada’s domestic capacity dwindled away.
Canada has begun funding domestic vaccine production capacity but Trudeau has said it will take “years” to get in place and likely won’t help Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine situation, but will be in place should there be future pandemics.
On Wednesday, LeBlanc suggested that should there be a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine required, or subsequent booster shots in years to come, the domestic ability to produce the vaccines could be ready.
Canada does produce some vaccines, but not the kind so far looking promising for COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline make protein-based vaccines, but the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, for example, are mRNA vaccines, which use messenger ribonucleic acid to produce an immune response.
“One is like making wine, one’s like making Coke,” Andrew Casey, the CEO of BioteCanada, told The Canadian Press Wednesday. “Yes, they both grow in bottles. Yes, you can drink both out of a glass. But the manufacturing processes used for the two is so completely different. You can’t just say well, we’ll shut down the protein one, and we’ll switch over to the mRNA.”
On Friday the Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed to MPs that the country is on track to receive an initial six million doses by March, four million from Pfizer and two million from Moderna.
In total, Canada has signed deals with seven vaccine manufactures, securing more vaccines per capita than other countries. The deals include an agreement with Canadian-based Medicago, whose vaccine candidate remains the farthest away from approval of those Canada has contracts with.
With files from The Canadian Press
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