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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for Tuesday, April 6, 2021 – halifaxtoday.ca

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OTTAWA — The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):

3:40 p.m.

Saskatchewan is reporting 217 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths.

The province says nearly half of the new infections are in the Regina zone.

There are 202 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 44 of them are in intensive care.

1:50 p.m.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government will be implementing further public health restrictions as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Ford says the situation with variants of concern of the virus is changing day to day and people are not following a request to stay at home.

He did not provide any specific details about the additional measures or when they might be imposed.

His comments come a day after top doctors of three COVID-19 hot spots in Ontario urged the province to impose tougher restrictions, including a stay-at-home order.

1:40 p.m.

Manitoba health officials are announcing 62 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths from the virus. 

Screening has also found five additional cases that are variants of concern. 

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, says people need to avoid non-essential travel as the number of variants has significantly risen in neighbouring provinces. 

Public health orders require anyone returning to the province to isolate for two weeks. 

The age eligibility for vaccines remains at 64 and older and 44 and older for First Nations people.

1:25 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say the Saint John, Fredericton and Edmundston regions each have one case. 

Officials are also confirming that the seven cases reported Monday in the Moncton region are connected and are travel-related.

The Vitalite Health Network says the intensive care unit at the Edmundston Regional Hospital is at capacity and new patients will be diverted to other hospitals.

There are 162 active reported cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick and 18 patients are hospitalized with the disease, including 12 in intensive care.

12:45 p.m.

Canada’s chief public health officer is advising Canadians to avoid interprovincial travel amid concerns COVID-19 vaccines might not be fully effective against new variants of the disease.

Dr. Theresa Tam says she is concerned about people travelling as tourists and gathering for leisure activities.

With new variants of concern now being identified in provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta, there is concern Canadians could further spread these strains of the virus across the country.

Tam says some laboratory tests show the P1 variant, in particular, might elude a person’s immunity response.

This means people who have been vaccinated or who have contracted COVID-19 could still get sick or reinfected by the virus.

12:15 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says most provinces have made it clear they don’t need Ottawa’s help when it comes to getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of Canadians, but he adds the federal government will be there if needed.

He says political leaders are just as exhausted as Canadian families, business owners and frontline workers, which he believes is why some premiers, including Ontario’s Doug Ford, have been critical of the vaccine rollout in Canada.

Trudeau says that when he speaks with Ford later today, he hopes to determine how the federal government can assist Ontario with the third wave of COVID-19 now sweeping the province.

11:45 a.m. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is delivering the final instalment from billions of dollars announced last summer to help provinces and territories through the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says the federal funding has been used to bolster the capacity of Canada’s health-care systems, secure personal protective equipment for essential workers and protect the most vulnerable.

It has also helped support child-care needs during the pandemic and keep municipalities and public transit operating.

Trudeau now says $700 million, the final instalment from the Safe Restart Agreement, will help provinces and territories with efforts including testing and contact tracing.

11:40 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will speak today with Ontario Premier Doug Ford about the COVID-19 situation in Ontario.

He says he expects to discuss what the spike in cases in Ontario means for hospitals and the importance of vaccinating as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

Trudeau says he will also speaks to all provincial and territorial premiers Wednesday about their efforts to protect and support Canadians from the new variants and rising cases in areas across the country.

11:30 a.m.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on the federal government to do more to help provinces get vaccinations into the arms of essential workers.

Singh says a priority should be workers who cannot stay home and toil in industries where the virus is known to be spreading.

He says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can help by offering assistance from the military and pushing for paid sick leave.

Singh says he won’t accept the excuse that administering vaccinations is a provincial responsibility.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is pressing the government to ask the auditor general to appoint a “special monitor” to track the federal pandemic response as it happens to glean lessons promptly.

O’Toole also says a Conservative government would call a public inquiry to study the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says the federal Liberals “dropped the ball” on vaccines and Canadians need to know what worked and what didn’t.

—11:15 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 1,168 new cases of COVID-19 today and four additional deaths, including one within the previous 24 hours.

The provincial Health Department says hospitalizations rose by 11 to reach 514, with 121 patients in intensive care, a drop of two.

Public health authorities say 39,816 doses of vaccine were administered in the province yesterday, bringing the total to 1,592,197.

Quebec has reported 318,532 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10,701 deaths since the pandemic began.

11:05 a.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting six new cases of COVID-19 today and a total of 36 active cases.

Five cases have been identified in the Halifax area with one related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada, three close contacts of a previously reported case, and one case under investigation.

There is also one case in the province’s eastern health zone identified as a close contact of a previously reported case.

Health officials say that unrelated to the new cases are four new cases of the variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom that have been identified in the Halifax area and have since been resolved.

11 a.m.

Prince Edward Island is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 today.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says there are eight active reported cases on the Island.

Morrison says two cases reported on March 26 have been confirmed as the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

She says both variant cases are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

10:30 a.m.

Ontario reports 3,065 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says that 955 of those new cases are in Toronto, 561 are in Peel Region, and 320 are in York Region.

She also says there are 165 new cases in Ottawa and 132 in Niagara Region.

More than 76,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered in Ontario since Monday’s report.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs

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By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

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In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.

Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.

Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”

Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.

Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.

“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”

Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.

‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.

Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.

“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.

Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.

Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.

The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.

Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.

“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

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Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.

“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.

The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.

Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.

Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”

Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.

($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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