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Quebec's COVID-19 curfew officially takes effect –



Smartphones across Quebec buzzed today with an emergency alert like no other: Be inside by 8 p.m., or face a fine.

In an open letter posted to Facebook on Saturday morning, the province’s premier said imposing an overnight curfew was a difficult, but necessary decision in order to limit the chances of Quebecers gathering illegally.

“The main reason for the curfew is to prevent gatherings, even the smallest ones,” wrote François Legault. “It’s the addition of all the small breaches of the rules that feeds the virus.”

With this new rule in place, police have the power to stop and question anybody outdoors between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“The police will also be very visible this weekend,” the province’s Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said in a tweet Friday. “Let’s stay at home, save lives.”

Those without a valid reason to be out between those hours could face fines of between $1,000 to $6,000.

On Saturday night, a handful of tickets were given out to small groups of a dozen or so anti-curfew protesters in Sherbrooke and Quebec City.

A similar demonstration garnered about 50 people in Montreal. According to Radio-Canada, Montreal police ticketed 17 people for violating the curfew.

After 8 p.m. on Saturday night, there were hardly any cars on the road. 0:43

“There will be about 100 extra police officers circulating in the city, to patrol, to be in the streets, to show that they are present, so people understand how important this is,” Mayor Valérie Plante told CBC’s Debra Arbec on Friday.

If people are out, Plante said, they will have to show proof to police that they have the right to be.

In Quebec City, several facilities, including outdoor skating rinks, will close at 7:30 p.m. to allow residents to rush home before the 8 p.m. deadline.

Extra security guards will be brought in to ensure people don’t skate too late at the popular rinks, and staff will be doubled in areas where extra surveillance may be needed to ensure everybody is staying safe while enjoying the few activities still allowed in the province,

Curfew is justifiable, civil rights lawyer says

While it’s inevitable that police will hand out fines, civil rights lawyer Julius Grey hopes most people will do exactly what they are asked — stay home so as to limit the spread of the virus as the province’s health-care network strains against the rising caseload.

Montreal, known for its vibrant, colourful nightlife, will be off limits to those hoping to take a late-night stroll for the next 4 weeks. Unless, of course, they have a dog with them. (Daniel Thomas/Radio-Canada)

If people don’t respect the curfew it’s justifiable in the current context to hand out reasonable fines, he said.

However, he would like to see police start by warning people to go home rather than immediately resorting to tickets. As long as there are necessary exemptions, the province has every right to impose exceptional measures in the interest of public security, Grey said.

“$6,000 is rather high, but I also think that it is not high enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

With fees, the minimum fine hovers around $1,500. Grey expects it will be those who commit multiple offences or are obstinate who will receive higher fines.

Montreal police asked to consider individual situations

It is important that police do not resort to profiling or targeting certain groups, Grey said, and it is best that citizens co-operate with law enforcement if stopped, as everybody should be doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Plante said her administration has been discussing with the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal not just about the importance of enforcing the curfew, but also about listening to every person and their situation.

While many homeless in Montreal prefer to stay out of shelters due to strict rules and risk of catching COVID-19, Quebec’s premier says they must go inside while the curfew is in place. ‘There are places set up for them,’ he said. (Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada)

“Especially around vulnerable people,” she said.

“I am thinking about people in a situation of homelessness. We don’t want to give them fines they cannot pay. We need to bring them to different resources that exist.”

However, Premier François Legault made it clear on Wednesday that not having a home is not an exception to the rule.  He said there is enough space in shelters.

“What we would like is for the homeless to also go indoors,” he said. “There are places set up for them.”

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'Good to go': Canadian pharmacies ready for next phase of vaccine rollout – CTV News



Canada’s pharmacies say they’re primed and ready to start administering COVID-19 vaccines at their facilities across the country, as government officials prepare for the next phase of vaccine rollout.

Shoppers Drug Mart President Jeff Leger says he’s informed all levels of government that once given the green light, the company’s more than 1,300 locations and an additional 500 Loblaw pharmacies, would need just 48 to 72 hours to get their sites prepped for mass inoculations.

“Our stores have already been thinking about it, we’ve got the processes in place. We can move very quickly and we can move large volumes of people through our network,” Leger said in a phone interview with on Tuesday.

He said a smooth rollout is contingent on provinces using a framework similar to that used during flu season.

“As long as we’re adhering to the same principles that we’ve done for flu vaccination…we’re good to go,” said Leger. “At the height of flu season we did as many as half a million in one week, we think we could do much more than that – really the constraint was supply.”

He added that this network of pharmacies can manage the finicky ultra-cold storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine. Leger says he’s also confident the company’s large roster of pharmacists will be able to draw the now-approved sixth dose from vaccine vials using low dead space syringes – though he said they’re still waiting on the shipments of those syringes from provincial governments.

“The supply of those syringes, our understanding [is that] they’ll be coming from the federal supplies and provincial supplies so as long as the supply of those low dead space syringes hold up then there shouldn’t be a problem for that,” he said.

This comes as Health Canada announced its highly-anticipated approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate on Friday, now the third vaccine given a formal stamp of approval in Canada. The federal government has secured 20 million doses of this vaccine, set to arrive between April and September, plus an additional 1.9 million doses before the end of June from the global vaccine sharing network COVAX.

The federal government also maintains the country is still on track to meet is six million dose target of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

While the details of how and when pharmacies will be incorporated into vaccine rollout plans differ by province, Joelle Walker, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, said all have signaled use of the facilities at some point to reach the broader public.

“Pharmacies are very conveniently located. Most Canadians live within five kilometres of a pharmacy which makes them very accessible to people who can’t travel to major centres to get vaccinated,” she said during a phone interview with on Friday. “Most Canadians see their pharmacists more than any other provider and so it just makes them an obvious choice.”

Some provinces, including Alberta, have already laid out plans detailing how pharmacies will assist in administering vaccines. Forty-one Shoppers Drug Mart stores and Real Canadian Superstore locations in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer will be offering in-store shots to Albertans 75 and older as early as next week.

“This is a step that just makes sense. As anyone who has gotten a flu shot knows, pharmacists have a lot of experience in delivering vaccines. They have played an important role in our seasonal flu program for many, many years and they have the skills, they have the experience and they have the infrastructure in place to be an important part of our immunization program,” said Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday.

Many other provinces list pharmacies as designated vaccination sites in phase two, which for most is expected to begin in April.

Walker said she’s encouraged the federal government to work more closely with provinces to establish some level of national consistency on pharmacy involvement.

“It [would] make it easier for pharmacists to communicate that information to patients. Many people are saying ‘oh you know, in Alberta it’s over 75’ and not necessarily knowing that will be different in other provinces,” said Walker.

“That kind of consistency of information would really help bring that confidence to Canadians that there’s a process in place.”

As for tracking the second dose of any of the three approved vaccines, Walker said pharmacies are particularly well-equipped with this function as they remind Canadians daily to refill their prescriptions.

“The refill system in pharmacies is designed to do exactly that, to make sure their patients come back when they’re supposed to to pick up their refills.”

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Canadian firm develops biodegradable mask that's ready for production – CTV News



A private non-profit Canadian organization and its partners have created an eco-friendly biodegradable mask that is ready for manufacturing and public use, an innovation it says is the first of its kind in the world.

FPInnovations, a research and development centre that supports the Canadian forestry sector, said in a press release on Friday that the masks, which took only a few months to develop from research to market, are fully biodegradable, from the mask filtering materials, to the elastic ear loops and nose pieces.

“The development of a biodegradable mask clearly shows that stimulating the bioeconomy can contribute to a cleaner environment in Canada,” Stephane Renou, president and chief executive of FPInnovations said in a statement.

The project was highlighted by both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan.

“We need to keep wearing our masks to keep each other safe. And now you can wear one without worrying about damaging the environment … This is Team Canada at its best,” O’Regan said in a video posted on Twitter.

A key element that makes this mask appealing is that its components can be easily assembled and produced on existing commercial mask-converting machines, the group behind the $3.3 million project said.

Third party labs have assessed the masks, it added, saying it “would set the standard” for non-medical grade masks for its filtration capabilities, breathability and biodegradability.

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Canada more than doubles COVID-19 vaccine distribution this week – CTV News



Canada is seeing an upsurge in vaccines distributed across the country, with numbers making up more than double of what was allocated in the last two weeks.

As of Feb. 21, Canada has made a total of 1,850,000 doses available nation-wide. This is approximately 400,000 more doses than what was distributed to provinces and territories the week of Feb. 14 and doubling what has been distributed in the first two weeks of February. 

In the past five days, Canada received even more shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a Friday briefing that Canada has now received a total of 643,000 doses, making it the largest week of shipments to date. 

Feb. 18 saw the highest ramp-up in vaccine distribution, having more than 305,000 doses delivered in a single day. Canada had just a little over 91,000 doses distributed the day before.

“We’ve been on hold for so long. We’re coming off hold now, and we really have to put our money where our mouth is. We have to do this right, we have to do this ethically, and we have to do this fast,” said Kerry Bowman, bioethics and global health professor at the University of Toronto, in an interview with “It’s almost March and we still have not vaccinated senior citizens living in the community, so we really need to target [them].”

To date, over two million doses have been distributed across Canada, with a majority of doses being the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. All provinces have been receiving shipments of both the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines, whereas territories only receive the Moderna vaccine. As of Feb. 26, 84 per cent of doses received by the two pharmaceutical companies have been administered to the Canadian population.

Canada is expecting to receive approximately 444,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine each week in March, which will follow the pharmaceutical company’s commitment of providing four million doses by the end of the first quarter.

“We’ve really got a huge responsibility right now to use these vaccines as efficiently and as ethically as we possibly can,” said Bowman. “The death rate will start to come down as we protect more and more vulnerable people like the older Canadians, the people with medical vulnerabilities and social vulnerabilities. We need to get them protected.”

With the rise of vaccine shipments and Health Canada approving the AstraZeneca vaccine Friday, Trudeau says that Canada is on track to receiving a total of 6.5 million doses by the end of March, and that vaccines will continue to arrive faster heading into the spring.

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