There could be lineups at Canada’s 117 border crossings with the U.S. beginning on Monday, as non-essential travellers will have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the last 72 hours.
It’s the next phase of Ottawa’s new travel restrictions, coming into effect on February 15. Travellers by land will be required to show the results of their COVID-19 test. Negative tests need to have been taken within three days of the scheduled arrival at the border, but those permitted to enter the country can also present a positive COVID-19 test, as long as it was taken 14 to 90 days prior to arriving at the border.
All visitors or returning residents will still have to quarantine for 14 days after crossing into the country.
Although the need to present test results could slow down proceedings at the border, 93 per cent of drivers will be waved through, as essential workers such as truck drivers and medical staff are exempt from the new restrictions.
Some are saying these new restrictions don’t go far enough.
“Who is more of a threat? A trucker who travelled through 14 states, who slept in his truck, and eat[s] at truck stops, or just two people travelling in Canada?” said CTV News Public Safety Analyst Chris Lewis. “So that’s all very confusing to me.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists the new requirements will make a difference.
“These border measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants,” he said in Ottawa on Friday.
But health experts aren’t so sure, pointing to five different variants now circulating in the U.S.
“It’s not going to keep the virus out,” Kelley Lee, a professor at the Simon Fraser University, told CTV News. “We know that people often need to be tested multiple times before the virus is detected in their system. We know there are false negatives, we also know people can be exposed during those 72 hours.”
Those who do not provide a negative test or other accepted proof at the border face fines up to $3,000.
Starting on Feb. 22, non-essential travellers will also be required to take a COVID-19 test at the border as well as at the end of their 14-day quarantine.
The Canadian Armed Forces may assist with the testing sites at 16 border crossings, but there are few details.
“I don’t think [the] government has specifically said what their role will be, but the military have the ability from a logistical perspective to provide supplies, set up facilities,” Lewis said.
The pandemic has been hard on those who are separated from loved ones by the border.
Jennifer Bignell lives near Quebec City. She says the ongoing border closure has taken a toll on her family, as her partner is American and lives in the U.S. She hasn’t seen him or his children in Vermont in nearly a year.
“In my case, I just feel like the pandemic has just stolen the very little time we have together already and that’s time I can never get back,” Bignell told CTV News.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says some Canadians can apply for a special exception to the new rules and that border officials will assess each person on a case-by-case basis.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca
Quebec Premier François Legault is expected to announce updated COVID-19 restrictions later Wednesday that will apply after March 8.
Quebec reported the lowest daily number of new COVID-19 infections since September on Tuesday morning.
Health Minister Christian Dubé, however, told reporters on Tuesday that he is scared about the spread of new coronavirus variants, particularly in the Montreal area, and that it may be the calm before the storm.
Quebec allowed movie theatres, arenas and some indoor swimming pools to reopen last Friday, a move intended to offer activities for families during the province’s spring break week, which began Monday.
An 8 p.m. curfew and a ban on private gatherings remain in effect in southern Quebec — including in Montreal and Quebec City. A 9:30 p.m. curfew applies in the rest of the province, except the northern region of Nunavik.
-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:40 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
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As of 12:40 p.m. ET, Canada had reported 874,443 cases of COVID-19, with 30,060 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,081.
In Quebec, health officials reported 729 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 additional deaths on Wednesday. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 618, with 120 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, the province reported.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 958 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 17 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 668, with 274 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stood at nine, health officials said.
Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the chief public health officer said there was no evidence of widespread community transmission in the province.
BREAKING: <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PEI?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PEI</a> Premier Dennis King says province moving out of modified red alert, back to “circuit breaker” restrictions. That will stay in place until March 14. Schools will resume tomorrow, including Three Oaks in Summerside. <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCPEI?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CBCPEI</a>
Dr. Heather Morrison said the province is not yet out of the woods, warning that the province is still susceptible to the importation of COVID-19.
“Let us proceed cautiously, and let us continue to be patient and kind,” she said.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported five new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including one in a health-care worker. There were four new cases reported Tuesday in New Brunswick. Health officials in Nova Scotia, meanwhile, reported one new case.
Across the North, Nunavut had no new cases to report on Wednesday. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet reported updated figures for the day.
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In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 64 new cases and eight additional deaths. The Manitoba government is loosening some of its COVID-19 restrictions as its case numbers continue to drop. Starting Friday, people will be allowed to have another entire household visit in their home, and outdoor public gatherings can increase to 10 people from five.
In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 134 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths.
Alberta reported 257 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Tuesday. Hospitalizations stood at 261, with 54 people in intensive care units.
British Columbia, meanwhile, reported 438 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as well as two more deaths. The update came as the province’s top doctor said the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence as well as real-world data.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said the data shows protection from a single dose is upwards of 90 per cent and lasts for several months, and delaying second doses will maximize the benefit of vaccines for everyone while reducing mortality and severe illness for those most at risk.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 12:45 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 114.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 64.9 million cases considered recovered, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the first batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Taiwan.
Taiwan has signed contracts securing 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 4.76 million doses of vaccines through COVAX. Wednesday’s delivery had 117,000 doses, which was transported from the airport with a police escort.
Health-care workers, especially those who have direct contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, will be the first to get the shots, Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said at a news briefing. The island has yet to announce a mass vaccination campaign for the general public.
Indonesia has detected two cases of the more infectious COVID-19 variant first discovered in Britain, marking a potential new complication for the country.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he is considering extending an ongoing state of emergency for the Tokyo region for about two weeks, amid concerns that infections have not slowed enough and are continuing to strain health systems in the region.
Suga had declared a month-long state of emergency in Jan. 7 for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, then extended the measure through to March 7. The measure issued for up to 10 other urban prefectures later in January was lifted last week, underscoring the government’s eagerness to allow businesses to return to normal as soon as possible.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden is directing states to prioritize vaccinating all teachers during the month of March, and announced that the federal government will help in the effort through its partnership with retail pharmacies.
Biden said his goal is for every pre-kindergarten through 12th grade educator, school staff member and child-care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of March. To achieve this, Biden announced that qualifying individuals will be able to sign up this month to be vaccinated at a pharmacy near them.
Biden said that while schools are safe to reopen even before staff have been vaccinated, “time and again, we’ve heard from educators and parents that have anxieties about that,” so to “accelerate” the safe reopening teachers should be prioritized.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued the most sweeping rollback of restrictions of any U.S. state on Tuesday, lifting a mask mandate and saying most businesses may open at full capacity next week, while Michigan and Louisiana also announced a loosening of restrictions.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine had arrived in the South American country, along with protective material for medical personnel.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has ruled that only people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to attend the hajj this year, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported.
In Europe, Spain revised downward its tally of coronavirus cases on Tuesday after eliminating those registered twice in the region of Catalonia.
German leaders are looking for ways to ease the country out of a long-running coronavirus lockdown, which they are expected to extend on Wednesday while also opening the door to relaxing some restrictions.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors, who in highly decentralized Germany have the power to impose and lift restrictions, are expected to extend the shutdown in principle by three weeks until March 28. But they are looking for ways to balance concern over the impact of more contagious coronavirus variants with a growing clamour for a return to a more normal life.
The first measures already have been taken: many elementary students returned to school a week ago. And on Monday, hairdressers opened after a 2½-month break.
Some German states also allowed businesses such as florists and hardware stores to open on Monday. Most stores have been closed nationwide since Dec. 16. Restaurants, bars, and sports and leisure facilities have been closed since Nov. 2 and hotels are allowed only to accommodate business travellers.
When they last conferred on Feb. 10, Merkel and the governors set a target of 35 weekly new cases per 100,000 inhabitants before letting small stores, museums and other businesses reopen. The aim is to enable reliable contact tracing.
But reaching that target soon has appeared increasingly unrealistic as cases of the more contagious variant first detected in Britain increase, with overall infections creeping slightly higher. The cases-per-week number, which peaked at nearly 200 per 100,000 inhabitants just before Christmas, has been stalled above 60 in recent days.
Governors and others have called for Wednesday’s video conference to produce step-by-step opening plans that would allow some, albeit cautious, relaxation of restrictions on a regional basis well above the target of 35 — possibly with the help of rapid tests.
Germany has seen the number of deaths from COVID-19 and people in intensive care decline in recent weeks. But it has been struggling to ramp up its vaccination drive, which has drawn widespread criticism for being too slow, even as the supply of vaccines improves. German lawmakers have ditched plans for hefty fines for people who skip the vaccine queue.
Portugal had its fewest COVID-19 patients in hospital in four months on Tuesday, as its prime minister warned that enforcing lockdown curbs remained essential in a country that topped global death rates a month ago.
In Africa, more countries received the long-awaited first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, with Kenya and Rwanda benefiting from the global COVAX initiative that aims to ensure doses for the world’s low- and middle-income nations.
African and other health officials have been frustrated with the sight of a handful of rich countries rolling out vaccines after snapping up large amounts for themselves.
“We will be known as the continent of COVID,” if Africa doesn’t quickly reach its target of vaccinating 60 per cent of its population of 1.3 billion people, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said last week. The continent last month surpassed 100,000 confirmed deaths.
So far Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Angola and Congo also have received their first vaccine doses via COVAX, with several other countries including Mali, Senegal, Malawi and Uganda set to receive them this week.
Rwanda is becoming the first African nation to receive the Pfizer vaccine via COVAX. The vaccine needs storage at ultra-cold temperatures, making rollout complex in hot countries and rural areas, for example. COVAX has faced delays related to the severely limited global supply of vaccine doses as well as logistical issues.
And COVAX alone will not supply Africa’s 54 countries with the doses needed to reach the 60 per cent population coverage for achieving so-called herd immunity, when enough people are protected through infection or vaccination to make it difficult for a virus to continue to spread.
That’s why some countries such as South Africa, the hardest-hit African nation, are also pursuing COVID-19 vaccines via bilateral deals or via the African Union’s bulk-purchasing program.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Squamish Chief
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says three federal aid programs designed to blunt the fallout from COVID-19 are being extended.
Trudeau says the federal wage subsidy, rent support and lockdown programs will remain in place until June.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says all three programs will keep support at the current levels.
She says the trio of programs are being extended because the economy is still struggling even with encouraging signs of a recovery on the horizon.
Prince Edward Island will lift restrictions that closed schools and most businesses at midnight.
Premier Dennis King says results from 11,000 COVID-19 tests conducted since the weekend provide confidence that restrictions can be eased.
The health orders were imposed after COVID-19 case clusters emerged in Charlottetown and Summerside.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison is reporting one new COVID-19 case today; P.E.I. has 22 active reported infections.
Quebec is reporting 729 new cases of COVID-19 today and 19 more deaths from the virus, including two within the past 24 hours.
Health officials say hospitalizations dropped to 618 and the number of people in intensive care dropped to 120.
Ontario is reporting 958 new COVID-19 cases today.
The province says 17 more people have died from the virus.
More than 27,000 tests were completed to compile the data.
The province says 27,398 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered since the last daily update.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Canada's COVID-19 cases start to climb as variants spread, in step with dire forecasts – CTV News
Canada’s chief public health officer says new COVID-19 cases are starting to tick back up after a month-long decline, giving urgency to the question of who should receive doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive in Canada Wednesday.
The “moderate increase” at the national level noted by Dr. Theresa Tam is in keeping with models forecasting a spike in cases over the next two months unless stricter public health measures are imposed to combat more contagious strains of the virus.
“The concern is that we will soon see an impact on hospitalization, critical care and mortality trends,” Tam said Tuesday.
Canada saw 2,933 new cases on average over the past week, a figure similar to last Friday’s numbers that revealed week-over-week increases of between eight and 14 per cent in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
The uptick comes as provinces figure out how to allocate their various vaccines, especially as Canada receives 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. About 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also arriving this week, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Guidance on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has caused some confusion. Health Canada authorized its use last week for all adults but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends it not be administered to people 65 and over.
The advisory committee cites concern over limited data from clinical trials for older patients. Health Canada also acknowledges that issue. But the advisory panel, which recommends how vaccines should be used, says the limitation means seniors should take priority for the two greenlighted mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — where dearth of data is not an issue.
Alberta’s health minister said Monday the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine to anyone over 65. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Prince Edward Island are on similar courses, though details on who will get those jabs is not always clear.
“With clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under 65, we will need to adjust our plan to look at a parallel track for some of these more flexible vaccines in order to cast the widest net possible,” the B.C. health ministry said in an email.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. will use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to target younger people who have more social interactions and who would have to wait much longer for the other vaccines.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott characterized Oxford-AstraZeneca as “very versatile ” because it lacks the same cold-storage requirements as the two other vaccines in use in Canada. It won’t go to seniors, but she said shots might be administered in correctional facilities for that reason.
P.E.I. will target AstraZeneca at “healthy younger individuals who are working in certain front-line, essential services,” said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
Health officials in Quebec and New Brunswick say they await further advice from health authorities and are taking time to examine how to deploy the latest vaccine.
Nova Scotia’s chief medical health officer Dr. Robert Strang said the province has yet to give an answer to Ottawa “about whether we actually want to take the vaccine.” All provinces must provide a response by midday Thursday, he said.
Two experts say essential workers who are more likely to contract and transmit COVID-19 should be prioritized for immunization with the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses.
Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, also say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be better promoted by provincial health officials as a strong alternative to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
Oxford-AstraZeneca reported their vaccine is about 62 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 while Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna have said the efficacy of their vaccines is about 95 per cent.
But Colijn and Bach say the fact there have been no hospitalizations from severe illness and no deaths among those receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine needs to be underscored because people awaiting immunization seem to be fixated on the higher efficacy data for the first two vaccines approved in Canada.
“If the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent you from getting really sick that’s still a win for you,” Colijn said.
“I see this huge, huge benefit of vaccinating young people, particularly people with high contact, essential workers, sooner.”
No province has been spared from the increase in new variants circulating across the country, though several continue to ease anti-pandemic restrictions.
Modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada projected a steep surge in new cases starting late last month — and reaching 20,000 new cases a day before May — if public health measures weren’t tightened. Since that Feb. 19 forecast, restrictions in many regions have loosened as Canadians return to restaurants, cinemas and hair salons.
But Tam said Canada is gaining ground on “the vaccine-versus-variants leg of this marathon” every day.
“Canada is prepared, and Canada remains on track,” she said.
Provinces have now reported 1,257 cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, 99 cases of the B. 22.214.171.124 strain first identified in South Africa, and three of the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil.
There have been 870,033 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 22,017 deaths as of Monday night.
There were 30,430 active cases across Canada, with an average of 42 deaths reported daily over the past week.
Provinces are also figuring out whether to stick to the original injection schedules or extend the interval between doses beyond three or four weeks. The national advisory committee is expected to update its recommendations this week.
Ontario is waiting for that guidance, while B.C. is pushing ahead with its plan to prolong the interval to four months.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said Monday the decision was based on local and international evidence that shows the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines provides “miraculous” 90 per cent protection from the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.
— With files from Camille Bains, Kevin Bissett, Laura Dhillon Kane and Holly McKenzie-Sutter.
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