The COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc across the country on Sunday, causing the first deaths in Nunavut and, according to media reports, pushing Ontario towards a provincewide lockdown.
Citing sources briefed on the provincial plan, two media outlets, Global News and 680 News, said the Ontario government is poised to announce a sweeping shutdown of non-essential services on Monday.
The duration of the lockdown will vary in length depending on the region, the outlets said in reports released Sunday afternoon.
A spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The province has been holding emergency talks over the weekend to discuss additional pandemic measures in the wake of several consecutive days with case counts exceeding 2,000. The new restrictions are expected to be announced Monday.
Meanwhile, Nunavut reported its first two deaths related to the novel coronavirus on Sunday as case counts remained high in several provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, which account for the bulk of the country’s infections.
A joint statement issued by Nunavut’s premier, health minister and chief public health officer said a resident of Arviat and one from Rankin Inlet died Saturday.
The territory had no cases of COVID-19 until November, and has since recorded 259.
The news comes a day after Canada surpassed 500,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The latest 100,000 cases were recorded across the country over just 15 days — the shortest growth period since the pandemic was declared in March.
It took six months for Canada to register its first 100,000 cases of the virus, another four to reach 200,000, less than a month to hit 300,000 and 18 days to hit 400,000.
The two provinces hardest hit by the pandemic, Ontario and Quebec, each reported more than 2,000 new infections Sunday, with Ontario’s tally at 2,316 and Quebec’s at 2,146. The provinces also recorded 25 and 21 new deaths, respectively.
Out east, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador each reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.
The new infections came as Ottawa opted to ban travel from the U.K. for 72 hours, effective first thing Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the measure is necessary to protect Canadians from a new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 that is quickly spreading through the U.K.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said that while early data suggests the new strain is more transmissible than other variants of the novel coronavirus, there’s nothing to suggest that it has any impact on symptom severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
The agency said the variant has yet to be found in Canada.
At the same time, a new online survey shows the majority of Canadians report feeling optimistic about the new year in light of the COVID-19 vaccines.
A report commissioned by the Association for Canadian Studies and conducted by Leger said 70 per cent of those polled said they were somewhat optimistic about 2021, while 15 per cent reported feeling very optimistic.
Another 10 per cent said news of the vaccines left them feeling somewhat pessimistic about the new year, and five per cent said they felt very pessimistic.
Quebecers were slightly more positive overall, with 87 per cent reporting some level of optimism, compared with 84 per cent in the rest of Canada.
Those who described themselves as very optimistic were the most likely to say they will get immunized once a shot is publicly available.
More than 88 per cent of them said they would get the vaccine, compared with roughly 72 per cent of the somewhat optimistic respondents, 25 per cent of the somewhat pessimistic and just over six per cent of the very pessimistic.
The survey polled 1,528 Canadian adults between Dec. 11 and 13. According to the polling industry’s generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2020.
As vaccinations ramp up, when will B.C. ease restrictions? Health officials weigh in – CTV News Vancouver
Big parties and international travel will likely remain unsafe for British Columbians this summer, despite the province’s plans to administer millions of COVID-19 doses over the coming months.
That’s the latest forecast from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who was asked Friday when B.C.’s dramatically ramped up immunization program might pave the way for residents to remove their masks and begin gathering again.
The short answer is that it’s still too soon to say, though Henry did offer a few predictions for the year ahead.
She suggested this summer will probably look like last year, at least when it comes to vacations and big gatherings.
“I absolutely think there’s opportunities for us to travel within B.C. this summer,” Henry said. “It’s not realistic to think there’s going to be a lot of safe international travel by this summer, just because of the situation around the world.”
Henry also expects the kinds of “big parties” that led to widespread COVID-19 transmission last July and August will remain off-limits. But much of the province’s most at-risk populations should be vaccinated by then, if everything goes according to plan, and Henry noted the virus doesn’t appear to spread as easily in the warmer months as it does in fall and winter.
With that in mind, she expects “increased social interactions” will be allowed this summer.
“I do believe we’ll be able to get together in smaller groups, responsibly,” Henry said.
It’s unclear whether that means bigger social bubbles in 2021 than 2020. The provincial health officer noted there are “a whole lot of unknowns” in the province’s calculations, and that the government’s plans are prone to change as necessary.
As for the current restrictions that have been in place since early November, Henry said lifting those will depend on the public’s ability to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s too early in the immunization program to expect the vaccine to do the heavy lifting there.
“We need to really focus on reducing the transmission risk in our community as low as possible, because that’s what drives outbreaks in long-term care, that’s what drives exposure events in schools, and that’s what drives the risk in our social gatherings,” Henry said.
“If we can do that, we can start having increased … social connection again.”
She also suggested the faster-spreading COVID-19 variants that have arrived in B.C. could impact the timeline if they lead to another rapid surge in cases.
The current restrictions, which generally do not allow for in-person socializing between different households, are scheduled to remain in place until at least Feb. 5. While Henry said health officials will be looking at potentially revising the public health orders at that time, she strongly discouraged British Columbians from making travel plans over the Family Day long weekend.
“Stay local,” she said. “We won’t be at a place where we can travel.”
And getting life back to normal, at least in terms of social interactions and gatherings, isn’t likely until the fall, according to Henry.
Province rolls out plan to vaccinate 4.3M people against COVID-19 before October – Times Colonist
The province has unveiled its plan to vaccinate 4.3 million people against COVID-19 between April and the end of September.
Herd immunity to COVID-19 can be reached if the majority of people in B.C. choose to be vaccinated, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Until then, restrictions on gathering will remain in place, and the need to maintain a physical distance from one another, wear masks in public places and practise infection-prevention remains critical.
“We have a plan,” Henry said. “We know it’s going to take a few months but we have an end in sight and now is our time to stay committed to doing what we need to do to stop the transmission of COVID-19 here in British Columbia.”
The mass vaccination program, the largest in the province’s history, will be rolled out based on age in four phases, starting with those age 80 and older living in the community and ending with young adults. There are no approved COVID-19 vaccines for minors with the exception of some older teens with high-risk conditions.
“Age is the most important risk factor for hospitalization and mortality — that is the underlying driving factor,” Henry said.
Seniors 80 years of age and older and Indigenous seniors 65 and older can expect more information — via advertisements, public health notifications and media reports — in mid to late February about online and phone registration and vaccination clinics starting in March.
The province expects it will likely start vaccinating the 75-79 age group in the second half of March.
“Everyone in British Columbia has been affected by the pandemic,” said Premier John Horgan. “We are not equally vulnerable to the virus, and the science is very clear, the single biggest factor of death of severe illness is age — someone over the age of 60 is five times more likely to be seriously ill or die than someone under 45.”
The vaccines require two doses and the province plans to give residents the same product for both doses unless Health Canada advises otherwise.
After receiving their first dose, people will received a physical card as well as automated reminder of the date and place for their second vaccine. Once completed, they will receive a digital proof of immunization that can be viewed or printed.
The vaccine passport is for a person’s own health record, Henry said: “People will not be denied services based on vaccination status in B.C.”
To see as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, later phases will include mass immunization clinics in local arenas, convention and community halls and school gymnasiums, mobile clinics, and residential visits for the housebound. Non-profit groups and the private sector will also offer vaccinations.
The province is on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise on behalf of the Canadian government that every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 can be by the end of September 2021.
Canada has secured six million doses of vaccine for the first quarter of the year and expects to receive a further 20 million doses in the second quarter and 45 million in the third quarter.
Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are approved for use in Canada. It is expected that the AstraZeneca vaccine will likely be approved in coming months, and there are also other vaccines not as far along in the approval process.
B.C.’s plan, however, is based on only approved vaccines. If more are approved, it will allow for flexibility to target other populations, the government said.
Provincial health officials say they will adjust the plan if there are disruptions to the expected supply and delivery. Dr. Penny Ballem, chair of Vancouver Coastal Health and a former deputy health minister, is leading the province’s COVID-19 immunization plan and says the province is ready to adjust depending on the flow of vaccine.
Vaccinations for high-priority populations such as residents of long-term care homes began in December. All residents and staff in care homes throughout the province should have received a first dose in the “next few days,” Henry said.
All eligible British Columbians who want the COVID-19 vaccine to be immunized by September, say health officials – CHEK
Anyone in B.C. who wants the COVID-19 vaccine and is eligible for it can expect to get the shot by the end of September at the latest, according to the largest immunization plan in the province’s history.
On Friday, Premier John Horgan, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem – who is in charge of B.C.’s vaccine rollout plan – provided a detailed timeline of when and how the vaccine will be distributed.
Dr. Henry says there are approximately 5.3 million British Columbians, 900,000 of whom are children, making them ineligible for the vaccine.
She says the remaining 4.3 million B.C. residents can all be vaccinated by September of this year.
There are four phases of the rollout plan. Phases 1 and 2 include the most vulnerable populations, with 3 and 4 including the broad public.
“The single biggest factor for death or severe illness is age,” said Horgan. “Someone over the age of 60 is five times more likely to become seriously ill or die than someone younger than 45.”
This is why the Province says the order of who will get the COVID-19 is dependant upon age, starting with the most elderly, all the way down to young adults.
In March, vaccine clinics will pop up in 172 communities around B.C., but for those more rural areas, mobile vaccine units will be deployed.
When those clinics are set up, Dr. Henry says anyone can pre-register and sign up for appointments based on age either online or over the phone.
“This is going to be and needs to be, an all of B.C. effort to make sure we can protect those most vulnerable, and everyone else,” said Dr. Henry.
From January to February, B.C. is expecting to receive a total of 800,000 doses. From April to June, 2.6 million doses are expected to land in the province and from June to September, an additional 6 million doses.
The current rollout plan is based on having the two approved vaccines in Canada, from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. B.C.’s top doctor says if another brand is approved, the rollout plan could move even faster.
Both of these vaccines require two doses per person, meaning 8.6 million injections are needed.
B.C. received early access to the vaccine in December and those doses are counted in phase 1.
By March, the province expects to have vaccinated 600,000 people, leaving approximately 4 million still needing to be immunized.
Between April and September, Dr. Henry expects 7.4 million doses to be administered.
She says there are nearly 250,000 people in B.C. who are over the age of 80 — these residents will be given the first priority.
A delay in the production of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has meant a delay in shots here in B.C. and the PHO says she hopes to start the immunization of all seniors by the end of February, despite wishing they could start earlier.
As of Friday, January 22, more than 100,000 British Columbians have been given the COVID-19 vaccine, with thousands already receiving their second dose.
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