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Ontario considers new COVID-19 restrictions, including extended school break – The Globe and Mail

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Patients lay on stretchers in the hallway of the emergency department as the unit was at maximum capacity at the Humber River Hospital in Toronto, on Dec. 9, 2020.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The Ontario government is considering new restrictions, including an extended school holiday break, as the province’s hospitals issued an urgent call for further lockdowns to address rapidly rising COVID-19 case totals.

Citing an “extremely serious” situation that risks overwhelming the health care system, the Ontario Hospital Association on Thursday called for more regions to be locked down and for even stricter restrictions to be considered. The province on Thursday reported a record 2,432 new COVID-19 cases, with 919 people currently in hospital – down slightly from the day before – and 263 in intensive care units.

Premier Doug Ford called the situation in hospitals a concern and told reporters that “every option is on the table,” but he said there are many factors to weigh in a lockdown, including the availability of childcare, isolation facilities for those who test positive and help for struggling small businesses.

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“The worst thing we could do is rush out there and make a snap decision in a heartbeat,” Mr. Ford said. “We have to make sure if we do make this decision, is it going to be two weeks, is it going to be three weeks, is it going to be 28 days?

“I will not hesitate to do whatever it takes to slow down this trend that we see and get it back well within the numbers that we can control in our hospitals.”

Earlier on Thursday, when asked about extending school breaks, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is looking at all options. However the government has repeatedly said its priority is keeping schools open.

Mr. Ford’s cabinet is set to meet Friday to discuss new restrictions, including whether more regions should be moved into lockdown zones, although the government is not expected to announce if it is imposing any widespread restrictions until next week.

Currently, four regions of the province are in lockdown, including Toronto and Peel Region, whose 28-day lockdowns expire on Monday at 12:01 a.m. York Region and Windsor-Essex were also moved into lockdown last week, which means all non-essential businesses and personal care services are closed, although big-box stores can remain open.

Mr. Ford on Thursday said he is particularly concerned with the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton, but not the west Toronto suburb of Halton.

The board of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), which includes 18 current and former hospital leaders, on Thursday called for a four-week lockdown in every public-health unit with an infection rate of 40 per 100,000 population or higher. That would mean about 15 of the province’s 34 public-health units, including the entire Greater Toronto Area, would be closed to all but essential businesses over the holidays.

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The OHA also recommended that the grey lockdown zones of the province’s framework – the zones with maximum restrictions – be “rapidly re-evaluated” by independent public-health and epidemiologists to determine if additional, stricter measures are necessary.

Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the OHA, said there is growing concern in the health care community about the impact of the holiday season on hospitals.

“If we see widespread decisions to ignore public-health advice, we’re in for a moment of historic difficulty in Ontario’s hospitals,” he said. Mr. Dale said the OHA is not making specific recommendations around what stricter measures might entail, but he said they could perhaps include implementing curfews or enforcing limits on private gatherings. Mr. Ford said Ontario was not considering a curfew at this time.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, David Williams, said he and provincial health experts had made recommendations to the government but would not say on Thursday what they were. He said he’s spoken to the medical officers in Toronto and Peel, which includes Brampton and Mississauga, to see if the lockdown zones need to be a “darker shade of grey,” meaning more restrictions.

Still, Dr. Williams said the province is doing everything possible to keep schools open, which he said has been quite successful. However, he said elementary schools are different from secondary schools, with transmission higher among older students in the community.

Meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory on Thursday said talks between local and provincial officials on what to do next were continuing, and he believed a regional approach across the Greater Toronto Area was needed to keep people from crossing municipal boundaries to shop.

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He said lengthening the winter school break into January was an option, as was a stronger recommendation for office workers to stay home.

While Mr. Tory said non-essential retailers should still be allowed to offer curbside pickup and delivery, he argued that any new rules should also address the “inconsistency” of allowing big-box retailers such as Walmart to stay open while selling a range of goods because they also offer groceries.

“We need to provide fewer places for people to go, recognizing they have some real necessities,” Mr. Tory said.

The initial COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada and around the world raise questions about how people react to the shot, how pregnant women should approach it and how far away herd immunity may be. Globe health reporter Kelly Grant and science reporter Ivan Semeniuk discuss the answers. The Globe and Mail

With a report from Jeff Gray in Toronto

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

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Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine – WellandTribune.ca

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WHITEHORSE – A cabinet minister says a couple from outside Yukon travelled to a remote community in the territory this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Community Services Minister John Streiker says he’s outraged the man and woman allegedly chartered a flight to Beaver Creek, the most westerly community in Canada near the border with Alaska, to get the shots.

Streiker says he heard Thursday night that the Canadian couple arrived in Yukon on Tuesdayand declared they would follow the territory’s mandatory two-week self-isolation protocol, but instead travelled to Beaver Creek.

He says the two people have been charged under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for failure to self-isolate and failure to behave in a manner consistent with their declaration upon arrival.

Streiker says the couple allegedly presented themselves as visiting workers, misleading staff at the mobile vaccination clinic in Beaver Creek.

He says territorial enforcement officers received a call about the couple, who were later intercepted at the Whitehorse airport trying to leave Yukon.

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail.

The RCMP have been notified, he said in an interview on Friday.

Streiker hadn’t confirmed where the couple are from, but he said they didn’t show Yukon health cards at the vaccination clinic.

Yukon has two vaccination teams that are visiting communities throughout the territory with priority going to residents and staff of group-living settings, health-care workers, people over 80 who aren’t living in long-term care, and Yukoners living in rural, remote and First Nation communities.

Beaver Creek was chosen as a priority community to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine because it’s a remote border community, he said.

Yukon’s chief medical officer of health has indicated he believes the risk to the community as a result of the couple’s visit is low, Streiker added.

Streiker said there may be more scrutiny at vaccine clinics when people show up from outside Yukon, but officials are still working through options to prevent such a situation from happening again.

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“I find it frustrating because what that does is it makes more barriers,” he said. “We’ve been trying to remove all barriers to get the vaccine for our citizens and so if there’s another sort of layer of check, I just don’t want it to make it harder for Yukoners to get their vaccines.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.

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Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine – Canada News – Castanet.net

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A cabinet minister says a couple from outside Yukon travelled to a remote community in the territory this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Community Services Minister John Streiker says he’s outraged the man and woman allegedly chartered a flight to Beaver Creek, the most westerly community in Canada near the border with Alaska, to get the shots.

Streiker says he heard Thursday night that the Canadian couple arrived in Yukon on Tuesdayand declared they would follow the territory’s mandatory two-week self-isolation protocol, but instead travelled to Beaver Creek.

He says the two people have been charged under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for failure to self-isolate and failure to behave in a manner consistent with their declaration upon arrival.

Streiker says the couple allegedly presented themselves as visiting workers, misleading staff at the mobile vaccination clinic in Beaver Creek.

He says territorial enforcement officers received a call about the couple, who were later intercepted at the Whitehorse airport trying to leave Yukon.

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail.

The RCMP have been notified, he said in an interview on Friday.

Streiker hadn’t confirmed where the couple are from, but he said they didn’t show Yukon health cards at the vaccination clinic.

Yukon has two vaccination teams that are visiting communities throughout the territory with priority going to residents and staff of group-living settings, health-care workers, people over 80 who aren’t living in long-term care, and Yukoners living in rural, remote and First Nation communities.

Beaver Creek was chosen as a priority community to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine because it’s a remote border community, he said.

Yukon’s chief medical officer of health has indicated he believes the risk to the community as a result of the couple’s visit is low, Streiker added.

Streiker said there may be more scrutiny at vaccine clinics when people show up from outside Yukon, but officials are still working through options to prevent such a situation from happening again.

“I find it frustrating because what that does is it makes more barriers,” he said. “We’ve been trying to remove all barriers to get the vaccine for our citizens and so if there’s another sort of layer of check, I just don’t want it to make it harder for Yukoners to get their vaccines.”

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Alberta records its youngest COVID-19 death to date, online searches for vaccines spike – Edmonton Journal

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The Alberta government has said the vaccination timeline for seniors 75 years or older not living in long-term care as well as those 65 and older living in First Nation communities is subject to change depending on vaccine supply. Those vaccinations were originally scheduled for February.

Elsewhere in Canada there are signs people may be starting to take matters into their own hands. The CBC reported that a Vancouver pair has been charged after allegedly flying to the Yukon, not following the isolation requirements, and travelling to a community 450 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse in a chartered plane where they managed to get themselves vaccinated at a mobile clinic.

Searches by Canadians looking online for COVID-19 vaccines have nearly tripled in popularity in January compared to the month before, according to one cybersecurity company, suggesting some Canadians could be vulnerable to COVID-related scams.

NordVPN used search volumes reported by Google from Oct. 1 to Jan.15 for the term “Covid vaccines online” and found that the popularity of the search jumped 264 per cent in January compared to December.

“Wherever there is demand, fraudsters’ reaction is swift. Sadly, those who will try to get the COVID-19 vaccine under the counter will fall victim to a scam,” Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN said in a statement.

For the first half of January, most searches for “covid vaccine online” were coming from Alberta and Saskatchewan, said spokesperson Vita Zaliauskiene. When data up to last Thursday was included, Alberta dropped to fourth, she said.

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