Ontario reported 3,009 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 3,089 cases on Friday, marking the two highest single-day case counts since Jan. 17.
Saturday’s new cases include 954 in Toronto, 434 in Peel Region, 348 in York Region, 205 in Ottawa and 146 in Hamilton.
On Jan. 17, the province had reported 3,422 cases, marking the last time the daily case count topped 3,000.
Since Friday, the province’s network of labs completed more than 59,100 tests, bringing the test positivity rate to 5 per cent. Friday’s case count comes after more than 62,300 tests were completed.
The seven-day rolling average now stands at 2,552 daily cases, an increase from 1,944 the same time last week.
Ontario’s health ministry did not update the daily case count on Friday because Good Friday is a statutory holiday.
At 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, the province entered a month-long “emergency brake” shutdown, which means personal care services, gyms and indoor dining must shut down, but schools and most retailers can stay open with specific capacity limits in place.
In-person shopping: 50% capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food & pharmacies, and 25% for all other retail incl big box stores, along with other <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PublicHealth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PublicHealth</a> & workplace safety measures. <a href=”https://t.co/VJnj6wra1G”>pic.twitter.com/VJnj6wra1G</a>
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the shutdown on Thursday, saying it was necessary due to surging numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the province.
The shutdown means tighter restrictions on gatherings and restaurants and it comes after the province allowed outdoor restaurant patios to reopen just two weeks ago.
As well, owners of personal care services had been told they would be allowed to reopen on April 12, but that start date has been delayed because new restrictions will be in place for at least 28 days.
“We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern,” Ford said in a statement on Thursday.
Shutdown restrictions include:
- No indoor organized public events and social gatherings allowed, and a limit on the capacity for outdoor gatherings to a five-person maximum — except for gatherings with members of the same household, or gatherings of members of one household and one other person who lives alone.
- Limits on in-person shopping: a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies; and a 25 per cent limit for all other retail outlets, including big box stores.
- No personal care services.
- No indoor and outdoor dining. Take out, delivery and drive-thru options are allowed.
- No use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness, with very limited exceptions.
- Closure of day camps.
- Limited capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of people who can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. The limit does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.
‘The emergency brake will not work,’ ICU doctor says
On Saturday, Ontario’s health ministry reported 796 patients in hospital with COVID-19, with 451 of those people in intensive care units and 261 on ventilators.
Currently, the number of ICU patients is more than at the worst point of the pandemic’s second wave in mid-January, when a total of 420 people were in the ICU.
WATCH | Dr. Michael Warner of Michael Garron Hospital speaks to CBC News Network about Ontario’s latest plan to tackle the pandemic:
Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, says the current restrictions are not enough to protect people who are getting sick in the third wave of the pandemic. He said the stay-at-home order, imposed in January, was the only thing that worked during the second wave.
“The emergency brake will not work,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network on Saturday.
“The patients I have in my ICU right now, many of them are younger than me, and unless we take much more drastic action to cut this off, it’s just going to get worse and worse.”
On Thursday, provincial modelling showed that a stay-at-home order could significantly curb the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. However, even with a four-week stay-at-home order, admissions to intensive care will likely top 800 this month, experts said.
This number would be nearly double the number seen during the second wave of the pandemic. According to Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, it is a “definite possibility” that physicians would need to begin implementing a triage protocol if admissions reached this level.
Before Ford’s announcement on Thursday, 153 ICU physicians wrote an open letter to the province, arguing that the current framework will not be enough to curb rising number of cases, given the variants of concern. They urged the province to implement stricter public health measures.
The letter warned that doctors are seeing younger patients, including parents of school-aged children, and entire families infected by the more transmissible variants of concern.
According to Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO), a government agency that puts together daily internal reports for hospitals and health organizations, the number of patients in ICU with COVID-19-related critical illnesses stands at 447.
Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, says 25 per cent of all open ICU beds in Ontario are now occupied by COVID-19 patients.
April 3 – 447 patients now in ICUs with COVID related critical illness on a total census of 1,782. 43 new admissions yesterday. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/onhealth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#onhealth</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#onpoli</a> <a href=”https://t.co/nbtegGIQFZ”>pic.twitter.com/nbtegGIQFZ</a>
For his part, Warner called the term “emergency brake” meaningless because it simply means shifting the whole province into the grey-lockdown zone of the province’s colour-coded framework. Toronto and Peel Region, the areas that have continuously seen the highest number of infections throughout the pandemic, have been under this zone since March 8.
“I haven’t heard the premier say anything about the people who are actually getting infected. My patients. What is he going to do for my patients who are still going to factories without adequate protection, who are not vaccinated, who do not have paid sick leave and they continue to die?” Warner said.
‘Take the vaccine to the workplaces’ Unifor president says
Unifor National President Jerry Dias says essential workers are still having to decide between going to work feeling sick or staying at home and receiving no money. He said lack of access to vaccines as well as no paid leave are major contributors to their plight.
“We’re frustrated,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network. “If you’re going to send people to work, then you better make sure they can go to work safely.”
Dias said he represents 55,000 essential workers in Ontario, most of whom are minimum wage workers and can’t afford to take off work if they’re sick.
“People have gone to work that have tested positive for COVID. Why? Because they have financial responsibilities at home. They cannot afford not to have a roof over their children’s head.”
He said everybody understands this except for the government, who in 2019 amended the Employment Standards Act and repealed two paid personal emergency leave days and replaced them with three unpaid days for personal illness.
“When workers are sick, tell them to stay at home, but make sure they’re paid. It’s the only way that they’re going to stay at home,” Dias said.
As of Saturday, Ontario’s health ministry says more than 2.4 million vaccine doses have been administered in the province, adding that over 80 per cent of individuals aged 80 years and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The two-day accumulation of new deaths pushed the total number of COVID-19-related deaths to 7,428.
What the rise of the PPC says about Canada in 2021 – CTV News
While the People’s Party of Canada did not manage to gain any seats this federal election, its accruing of the popular vote has experts saying the rise of the far-right populist party cannot be ignored.
Maxime Bernier, who failed to win his own riding of Beauce, Que., said Monday that he will remain as party leader despite the defeat, telling CTV News’ Genevieve Beauchemin at his Saskatoon rally that he views the election outcome as “a huge victory.”
The PPC won over 820,000 votes and more than five per cent of the popular vote this time around, a marked increase from the 1.6 per cent of the vote it got in 2019.
POPULISM FINDS A HOME
The party that ran on an anti-immigration, anti-lockdown platform that has been endorsed by white nationalists, Neo-Nazis and other far-right groups has become a home for anti-vaxxers, anti-government protesters and gun rights activists, showing that populism on the left or right may be more about a movement than a traditional political party, said University of Guelph professor of political science Tamara Small.
“I think the only leader who is ecstatic about last night’s results is Bernier,” said Small in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca after the election. “I don’t think they’re going anywhere… it seems that he’s taken that populism and attached it to far-right politics.”
The idea of Canadian exceptionalism from far-right and populist movements needs to be dispelled, Small said.
“The idea used to be that Canada was immune to sort of far-right populism…this idea that Canadians were sort of going to be free from the populism that we saw in Europe, like Nigel Farage is to the U.K.,” Small said. “But I think lots of people are wondering, if he’s [Bernier] just going to say ‘I’m not here to form government…I’m more here to challenge the system’” as a way of gaining support.
Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, said it makes sense to call the PPC a populist party, and that the party takes “an extremist position on things like immigration and diversity.”
“They’re extreme in terms of their anti-Trudeau or anti-state positioning. They’re extreme in terms of their anti-lockdown and anti-tax standpoints as well. So, yeah, I think they absolutely might be considered extremists,” Perry said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca.
“As is calling them a populist group or populist party, because that’s really what he’s done so effectively is absorbed some of those broad concerns around COVID-19 and freedom and even the more mainstream concerns about economic anxieties, loss of jobs, loss of businesses… and managed to roll them all up.”
Some who support the PPC bristle at the implication that the party is a hotbed of far-right rhetoric or white nationalist supporters, with many online saying they simply support a party that is dedicated to their freedoms.
In an email to CTVNews.ca, PPC candidate for the riding Parkdale-High Park Ont., Wilfried Danzinger, denied that the party is aligned with extremist values, writing that “love was the guiding principle of his campaign,” and that his supporters come from all “different sexual preferences, all ages and religions.”
When CTVNews.ca emailed the PPC for comment on this story, party spokesperson Martin Masse sent back a one-line response: “I don’t respond to requests from leftist activists masquerading as journalists. Get lost.”
COVID-19 WAS A ‘GIFT’ TO THE PPC
The rise of the PPC in the polls can be attributed partially to the “gift” of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
Balgord said that “the COVID-19 pandemic was a gift to the far-right” in general as it allowed them to infiltrate conspiracy theory spaces and begin attracting new followers.
“The rise of the party kind of fit into this because these people didn’t really have a political party. If they voted for any party, they would vote Conservative,” he said. “But they weren’t particularly happy about voting Conservative either because they’re the most fringe. So when the PCC started as a party in 2019, Bernier, right from day one was using their language, their talking points, and the words of the far-right in several spaces. We saw them actually say ‘Bernier is dog whistling to us.’”
But Small questioned whether the end of the COVID-19 pandemic would stop the drip of followers to the PPC and spell a marked decline in the party.
“My sense is that a lot of this anger and concern is tied up in a particular type of anger about lockdowns and vaccine mandates and overreach of the state,” Small said. “I’m not too sure whether or not once the pandemic is done, to what extent the party still exists.”
It is a sentiment echoed by extremism researcher and assistant professor at Queen’s University, Amarnath Amarasingam.
“In early 2020, with COVID-19, the kind of conspiratorial thinking and angst around the pandemic went through the roof, and a lot of these movements coalesced around similar ideas,” Amarasingam said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca, noting that traditionally conspiracy movements generally operate separately from each other.
Amarasingam said the COVID-19 pandemic “gave them all a common cause and they all were playing in the same playground.”
Amarasingam said the question now surrounding the PPC is whether its rise is solely due to the “catch-all” the party provided surrounding anger around lockdowns, quarantine and the pandemic, “or whether it’s a sign of something bubbling beneath the surface that a lot of everyday Canadians actually held secretly anti-immigrant views, anti-refugee groups, all the things that are part of the PPC platform.”
“If that’s the case, I mean, it’s going to be a longer concern of ours,” he continued. “So that’s kind of the big question is whether this is just a blip because of the pandemic or whether it kind of speaks to something else going on that we should be concerned about.”
HATE WAS ON THE BALLOT
Bernier has always denied ties or affiliations to any of the far-right, white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rhetoric he is accused of platforming with his stance on things like reduced immigration and scrapping the Multiculturalism Act.
However, Balgord said known Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups endorse the party, and that the party is populated with a litany of candidates, insiders and supporters who have been documented by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as members of far-right groups.
“There’s so many examples,” he said. “This isn’t a few isolated incidents, this is a pattern. This is what the PPC is.”
Balgord referenced more than 10 incidents of PPC candidates or people associated with the party who have engaged in far-right rhetoric or have been exposed by work done by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as being part of white nationalist groups.
Balgord noted that the man charged with throwing gravel at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while he was campaigning as the Liberal leader was a riding director for the PPC, and that his organization had previously exposed him for “posting white power music on social media accounts with lyrics about killing immigrants.”
Another example listed by Balgord was the PPC candidate for the Ontario riding of Vaughn-Woodbridge who was exposed by Press Progress this month for allegedly having touted and created a video game where users can re-enact the 1999 Columbine shooting massacre and partake in their own shooting of caricatures of minorities and LGBTQ2S+ people.
Bernier himself has been featured on what Balgord describes as an “anti-Semitic blog collective,” which endorses a book full of terrorist Nazi ideologies.
The PPC platform itself is also chock-full of “dog whistles” to the far-right, Balgord, Amarasingam and Perry said, referencing the sections on refugees, immigration and “Canadian identity.”
“I think the Canadian identity is tied to the anti-immigration, anti-refugee stuff,” Amarasingam said. “But I know when someone says Canadian identity, especially with all the other things that are at play in the platform, what that likely means for the PPC, is basically kind of ‘The Great Replacement,’ but around Canadian values.”
The Great Replacement theory is a conspiracy prevalent in white nationalist and far-right groups that posits that a shadowy cabal is behind demographic changes in a country or area, and that “white identity” or “Western values” are in decline because of it.
Balgord said it is known to have spurred terrorist attacks like the Christchurch mosque shooting of 2019.
“When we talk about the PPC, it’s necessary to talk about their ties to white supremacy and white nationalism and how dangerous the thing is, they’re not just another political party, right?” Balgord said. “They’re the white nationalist and the hate movement in Canada. It’s their way of trying to get a foothold into mainstream Canadian politics.”
Perry noted the language Bernier has used in his campaigns, in tweets and even in his speech on election night, in particular his word choices of “government overreach, tyrannies and authoritarian government.”
“Look at some of the language. It’s drawn from groups like three percenters…in particular in the militia movement,” Perry said. “So, yeah, there’s a very direct line. It’s not a dotted line. It’s a direct line.”
But when asked about the PPC and Bernier’s denial of allegations of extremist views, Balgord was unimpressed.
“The PPC is the party of plausible deniability,” he said. “But when you really scratch the surface, you find that it’s a party for white nationalists.”
WHERE DOES CANADA GO FROM HERE?
For the single-issue voters who chose to vote for Bernier’s party because of their views on lockdowns or COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the end of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions may tempt them away from the party, but Amarasingam says they cannot deny that their vote is still an endorsement of what the PPC represents.
“I think if you’re a single-issue voter on the vaccine, and you can find common cause with the PPC that doesn’t necessarily make you far-right, that just means that you’re unfortunately willing to sell a whole host of Canadian communities down the river to hold up this one value,” he said.
Amarasingam said that education on extremism may be what people need to make informed choices moving forward.
“I think everyone basically has to become an extremism watcher now that it’s no longer just some of us who live in these bizarre online communities paying attention to things, because as things become mainstream, people need to understand extremism and how these dynamics work and how these movements work,” he said.
As for the PPC’s presence in mainstream politics, Perry and Small said it’s a fine line to walk between exposing and identifying extremist views and providing too much of a platform for them to gain more followers.
“I think people feel very differently. I think there’s a lot of people who would say you should just ignore these people and never give them any platform,” Small said. “But I’m of the belief that not being aware in some ways is like throwing a match into a forest and then just not worrying about it.”
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca
Alaska, which led most U.S. states in coronavirus vaccinations months ago, took the drastic step on Wednesday of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system, declaring that a crushing surge in COVID-19 patients has forced rationing of strained medical resources.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy and health officials announced the move as the tally of newly confirmed cases statewide reached another single-day record of 1,224 patients amid a wave of infections driven by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant among the unvaccinated.
The delta variant is “crippling our health-care system. It’s impacting everything from heart attacks to strokes to our children if they get in a bike accident,” Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference with Dunleavy.
Alaska’s health and social services commissioner, Adam Crum, announced that he signed an emergency addendum extending to the whole state standards of crisis care announced last week at the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The new document limits liability faced by providers for crisis-level medical care in all Alaska hospitals.
Moreover, it acknowledges the realities of rationed care statewide, with scarce medical supplies and staff prioritized in a way that denies normal levels of care to some patients for the sake of others, depending on how sick they are and their chances for recovery.
To cope with the COVID-19 influx, Alaska has signed an $87 million US contract to enlist hundreds of health-care workers from out of state, officials said.
About one-fifth of Alaska hospital patients are infected with COVID-19, according to state data. But that figure understates the burden placed on the system as a whole as it “squeezes out” capacity to treat victims of car accidents, strokes, heart attacks and other ailments, Dunleavy said.
Paradoxically, back in April, Alaska had ranked among the top states getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of residents, helped in large part by efforts of the state’s pandemic-conscious Indigenous population.
Alaska has since slipped below the national average, with just 58 per cent of residents aged 12 and older fully vaccinated, according to the state database. The vaccination slump coincided with significant political resistance to public health requirements.
-From Reuters, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
Saskatchewan’s only children’s hospital is opening its pediatric intensive care unit to younger adults with COVID-19.
Those under the age of 40 are getting admitted to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Wednesday that so far two adults are in the pediatrics ICU, and space is being made for more.
Dr. Susan Shaw, the health authority’s chief medical officer, said critical care capacity is under strain.
The province has recently been reporting record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations — mostly unvaccinated patients.
-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:40 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 230.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization has warned that countries in the region could continue to face localized COVID-19 outbreaks well into 2022, even while deaths have fallen from their peak in January.
In the Middle East, Syria is facing a new surge in infections in both government-held areas and territory outside state control that could overwhelm the war-ravaged country’s fragile health system.
In Africa, Uganda’s president has eased restrictions, allowing the resumption of education for universities and other post-secondary institutions, citing a decline in infections.
In the Asia-Pacific region, police in the Australian city of Melbourne prepared for a fourth day of anti-lockdown protests on Thursday while a vaccination hub closed after protesters abused staff, the operator said, while COVID-19 cases across the state of Victoria hit a daily record. Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in the city of five million since officials this week ordered a two-week closure of building sites and made vaccines mandatory for construction workers to limit the spread of the virus.
Japan plans to give other countries 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, doubling the target from the previous pledge of 30 million doses.
Thailand pushed back plans to reopen Bangkok and some other major cities to foreign arrivals until November.
In Europe, Italy plans to give other countries 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year, three times its original pledge, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 6:35 a.m. ET
Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.
New Zealand’s Ardern says lockdowns can end with high vaccine uptake
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday the country should aim for a 90%-plus rate of inoculation, and could drop strict coronavirus lockdown measures once enough people were vaccinated.
New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 last year and remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in August led to a nationwide lockdown.
With its biggest city Auckland still in lockdown and new cases being reported every day, Ardern said vaccinations will replace lockdowns as the main tool against the virus, allowing authorities to isolate only those who are infected.
“If that rate (of vaccinations) is high enough then we will be able to move away from lockdowns as a tool,” she said.
The highest possible vaccine rates will give the most freedoms, Ardern said, adding that the country should be aiming for a 90% plus rate of vaccination.
After a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, some 40% of adult New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and about 75% have had at least one dose.
Authorities reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 1,123.
The Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield warned earlier this week that New Zealand may not get to zero COVID cases again.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)
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