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Trudeau says pandemic 'sucks' as COVID-19 compliance slips and cases spike – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he understands that Canadians are increasingly frustrated by “annoying” measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, but he’s urging people to stay the course as cases continue to climb in some parts of the country.

Canada is in the grips of a second pandemic wave. Some provinces — notably Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec — are now seeing case counts larger than those reported in the spring, at the onset of the pandemic.

“This sucks, it really, really does,” Trudeau told a COVID-19 press briefing this morning. “It’s going to be a tough winter. It’s easy for us to want to throw up our hands … it’s frustrating to have to go through this situation.

“Nobody wanted 2020 to be this way, but we do get to control how bad it gets by all of us doing our part.”

Trudeau said Canadians must get this latest pandemic wave under control or risk putting their Christmas festivities in jeopardy.

“Unless we’re really, really careful, there may not be the kinds of family gatherings we want to have at Christmas,” he said.

After a summer lull, the death count in Canada has also started to climb. Hospitalizations and the number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) remain at manageable levels in most regions, despite the cresting caseload.

Some Toronto-area hospitals are nearing 100 per cent capacity as they grapple with both COVID-19 cases and other patients.

Data indicates that younger, healthier people — who are more likely to recover without medical intervention — are driving the COVID-19 spike during this round of the pandemic.

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said there’s no doubt that Canadians are tired of the restrictions that have upended their social and economic lives for the better part of eight months.

“What we’re seeing around the world is people are suffering from COVID fatigue,” Njoo said.

Another full lockdown is not necessary at this point, he said.

“We want to get back to as normal as possible, the functioning of society,” he said, adding Canada needs to find the “sweet spot” where new cases of COVID-19 don’t threaten to overwhelm the health care system.

Asked if governments bear any responsibility for conflicting messages from federal and provincial leaders and local public health officials about how Canadians should go about their daily lives during the pandemic, Trudeau said the situation on the ground in the provinces and territories varies greatly and does not demand national uniformity.

WATCH: Trudeau questioned about public confusion over pandemic messaging

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the bi-weekly pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday. 2:34

Trudeau said Ottawa is not intent on plunging the country into another shutdown — and the country is better equipped to handle this wave than it was in March and April.

“We have a better understanding of COVID-19. We have better tools to deal with COVID-19 and we can be a little more targeted but, yeah, that means a little more complication in our messages,” Trudeau said.

“It’s frustrating to see friends at the other end of the country doing things you’d love to be able to do but you can’t.”

Trudeau said that when his six-year-old son Hadrien recently asked him if COVID-19 would with us “forever,” he assured him the pandemic  would end — but its impact will depend on Canadians doing their part in the short term by wearing masks wherever possible, keeping a two-metre distance from others and avoiding large social gatherings altogether.

“We need to do the right thing, we need to lean on each other, we need to use all the tools that we can,” he said.

Trudeau sounded a positive note today, too, saying that Canada has placed orders for tens of millions of possible vaccine candidates. He said pharmaceutical companies are developing promising treatments.

“Vaccines are on the horizon. Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter,” he said.

All told, the federal government has secured 358 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — an insurance policy if some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials.

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Richmond News

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

2:43 p.m.

Saskatchewan is reporting 283 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death.

Health officials say the person who died was in their 80s and the province’s death toll from the pandemic sits at 55.

There are more than 4,000 active cases of the virus in the province, many of the infections concentrated in and around Regina and Saskatoon.

Hospitals are treating 126 COVID-19 patients, with 25 of them in intensive care.

The province’s seven-day average of daily cases is 262.

Premier Scott Moe hopes to see a dip in transmission of the virus so more visitation can be allowed in long-term care homes over the holidays.

1:40 p.m.

Manitoba is announcing nine more deaths from COVID-19 and 320 new infections Friday as health officials released new modelling showing the impact of the pandemic on the province.

It shows that three people end up in hospital and one person dies for every 48 cases of COVID-19.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, says if no public health measures had been put in place, there would have been up to 1,055 new infections a day by this Sunday.

Daily cases have been tracking between 300 and 500 recently.

1:29 p.m.

Nunavut will look to get the Moderna vaccine once it is available in Canada.

Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says Moderna is preferred because the cold storage and shipping of the Pfizer vaccine is too difficult in Nunavut. 

Patterson also announced today fewer than five Nunavut residents with COVID-19 were flown to a Winnipeg hospital this week and are in stable condition.

Patterson would not comment on exactly how many people were in hospital or what communities they come from.

1:22 p.m.

Ottawa is increasing its order of prospective COVID-19 vaccines.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada is exercising its option to obtain another 20 million doses of Moderna’s two-dose candidate, bringing its total order to 40 million in 2021.

That’s expected to be enough to vaccinate almost 20 million people.

Moderna is one of several manufacturers Ottawa has struck deals with for prospective COVID-19 vaccines, which will be delivered in batches.

In early 2021, Canada expects a combined total of six million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, if authorized for distribution.

1:07 p.m.

The group instructing provinces and territories about who should be first in line for COVID-19 vaccines has updated its advice.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says the first doses of authorized vaccines should go to residents and staff of congregate living settings for seniors.

They should also go to older adults starting with people aged 80 and older, then decreasing the age limit to 70 as supply becomes available.

Health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences are also on the list.

12:45

Public Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting three new cases of COVID-19. 

There are now 27 active cases in the province, for a total of 343 cases since the pandemic began. 

Premier Andrew Fury says he will announce the province’s position on the Atlantic travel bubble Monday.

Newfoundland and Labrador withdrew from the arrangement on looser travel restrictions within the region last month.

12:30 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19.

Health officials say 11 cases are in the Halifax area, including a case at Citadel High School in Halifax reported late Thursday.

Three cases in the northern health zone are close contacts of other cases, and one case in the western zone is related to travel. 

A case has also been identified at Park West School, a primary to Grade 9 school in the health zone that includes Halifax.

11:38 a.m.

Nunavut is reporting eight new cases of COVID-19.

The territory says all the new infections are in Arviat.

The community on the western edge of Hudson Bay now has 44 active cases.

Nunavut mostly lifted a two-week lockdown earlier this week but restrictions remain in Arviat where numbers are highest.

11:18 a.m.

Public Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting eight new cases of COVID-19.

There is one new case in the Moncton region, two in the Saint John region, one in the Fredericton area and four in the Edmunston region.

All the individuals are self-isolating and their cases are under investigation.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick is 528 with 111 currently active. 

11:10 a.m.

There are 1,780 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario today and 25 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 633 new cases in Toronto, 433 in Peel and 152 in York Region. 

She says that the spread of COVID-19 has “hit a critical point.”

The minister is asking Ontarians to wear masks and remain physically distant from each other.

11:08 a.m.

The Quebec government is reporting 1,345 new COVID-19 cases and 28 additional deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

The Health Department says of the five of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours.

The number of hospitalizations has increased by 24 for a total of 761 with 97 people in intensive care.

The province has reported a total of 147,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,183 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • First COVID-19 vaccine doses expected to be given in January, federal officials say.
  • Alberta announces record high number of daily cases and positive-test rate.
  • Quebec cancels plans to allow holiday gatherings.
  • U.S. sets single-day records for new infections, deaths; new stay-at-home orders coming to California.
  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca

As Canada approaches 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, federal officials are making preparations for the first vaccine doses to be administered in January.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq who is leading vaccination logistics at a new national operations centre in the Public Health Agency of Canada, laid out the rollout plan at a press conference Thursday.

The initial supply of the doses will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get shots in the first three months of 2021. Millions more doses are expected to arrive as the supply chain stabilizes.

WATCH | How Canada is preparing for vaccine distribution:

Federal officials provided a clearer picture of how the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed across Canada, saying the first doses are expected to be administered In January. 2:12

One of the principal challenges facing the immunization effort is the distribution of vaccines that must be kept at very low temperatures. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which are expected to be the first approved for use in the country, need to be kept at approximately -80 C and -20 C, respectively, to remain stable.

Eventually, there will be 205 “points of issue” locations across the country where health-care professionals can administer the vaccine, Fortin said. It will be up to the provinces and territories to specify where and when individual Canadians will be inoculated.

In British Columbia, the province’s top doctor said the first shots should be available in B.C. early in the new year, with the first priority likely being to immunize the most vulnerable populations, including residents of long-term care homes, as well as health-care workers.

“We’re going to make sure we are absolutely ready by then,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “We are planning to be able to put vaccine into arms in the first week of January.”

If everything goes according to plan, everyone in the province who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will be immunized by next September, Henry said. She said a more detailed plan for vaccine rollout will be available early next week.

WATCH | An inside look at the scramble to mass-produce a COVID-19 vaccine:

A major vaccine manufacturer in India scrambling to mass produce the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine so it can get into the arms of billions opened its doors to CBC News. 3:01

Ontario Premier Doug Ford echoed Henry’s assertion that the province will be ready when the first supply of vaccines is approved and available in early 2021, but said he still has many questions — specifically which vaccines will be coming to Ontario, how many, and when they will land.

Provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams was also asked Thursday if the province would make vaccination mandatory.

“We can’t force someone to take a vaccine. That’s clear,” Williams said. But what the province can do, he noted, is make proof of a vaccine mandatory to access certain settings, such as long-term care facilities.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Andrew Furey told reporters he had spoken with federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc about distribution.

Furey said N.L.’s challenges differ from those seen in other jurisdictions, and the province has accepted military advice and expertise on distribution.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 9 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 396,271, with 69,246 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,407.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick officials expressed hope that the Moncton and Frederiction regions could soon return to the yellow phase of recovery from the more restrictive orange phase, as the province reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

“We are seeing some progress, people are following public health advice and measures,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health. However, the Saint John region, which is currently also in the orange phase, is a bit further behind, Russell said.

WATCH | N.B. officials on how residents can have a yellow Christmas:

Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell explain what New Brunswickers can do to get a yellow Christmas. 3:30

Nova Scotia reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. Two of the cases had been confirmed in Sipekne’katik First Nation the previous evening by Chief Mike Sack and marked the first time the virus has been detected on a First Nation in Atlantic Canada.

Prince Edward Island announced one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday, as Premier Dennis King said P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on Thursday. It was the first day the province had gone without a new case in more than two weeks.

In Quebec, starting Friday, inspectors and police will be more visible in malls and shops to make sure businesses are complying with public health measures including a maximum capacity of customers and signs about distancing rules.

The province has cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the December holidays in light of a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

WATCH | Quebec premier says no gatherings allowed over holiday season:

Saying there is not enough time before Christmas to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec, Premier François Legault backtracked on a previous commitment. He now says gatherings in the province’s red zones will not be allowed over the holiday season. 2:10

Premier François Legault made the announcement Thursday as the province reported 1,470 new cases of COVID-19 and 30 more deaths. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have climbed above 700.

“When we look at the situation, we are forced to realize that it is not realistic to think that we are going to succeed in reducing the progression of the virus in a satisfactory way by Christmas,” Legault said.

Ontario has reached a key threshold when it comes to the number of patients in intensive care earlier than modelling had predicted. As of Thursday, 203 patients with the illness were being treated in intensive care, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario.

“It is concerning that we are ahead of schedule,” said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto.

The province reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths on Thursday. However, the number of new cases was slightly inflated due to a processing error, the provincial health ministry said.

In Manitoba, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 climbed to a record 357, with 52 of those people in intensive care, matching a previous single-day record for patients in critical care.

“We know that [this] is putting too much strain on our capacity in the health-care system. The numbers are too high,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer.

The province also reported 368 new COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths on Thursday.

In Saskatchewan, an updated surge plan projected as many as 560 new cases of COVID-19 a day in the province — a doubling of current levels — by Dec. 15.

The province reported 259 new cases and one additional death on Thursday.

Alberta again broke records on Thursday with 1,854 new cases and a positive-test rate of 9.5 per cent. The province also reported 14 new deaths.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said she is particularly concerned about the spread of COVID-19 into rural areas. Among the 15 geographic areas with the highest active case rates in the province, one-third of them are outside Calgary and Edmonton.

British Columbia reported 694 new COVID-19 cases and 12 new deaths on Thursday.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said adult sports and fitness activities have become a major source of infection in recent weeks, accounting for something between 10 and 15 per cent of new cases.

All indoor and outdoor adult team sports are now prohibited in the province, and children’s programs have returned to earlier, more restrictive guidelines.

People wear protective face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at a hair salon in Vancouver on Thursday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

In the North, Nunavut has seen its total number of active cases go down over the past week, leading up to the lifting of a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday. 

On Thursday, it reported five new COVID-19 cases, all in Arviat, which remains under restrictions. The community now has 68 of the territory’s 75 active cases.

Yukon confirmed one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday, while the Northwest Territories did not report any new cases.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET

As of early Friday morning, there were more than 65.2 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 41.9 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.

In the Americas, U.S. president-elect Joe Biden said on Thursday he would publicly take a vaccine to demonstrate its safety to the public and pledged to retain the nation’s top adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, when he takes office next month.

“People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work,” Biden told CNN in an interview that aired on Thursday.

Three former presidents — Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — have also indicated they’d publicly take a coronavirus vaccine, once one becomes available, to encourage all Americans to get inoculated.

A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past a sign advising that COVID-19 vaccines are not available yet at a Walgreen’s pharmacy store in San Francisco on Wednesday. (Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press)

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, met with Biden’s advisers on the pandemic earlier in the day.

The United States set single-day records for new infections and deaths on Thursday as California’s governor said he would impose some of the nation’s strictest stay-at-home orders in the coming days, when intensive care units are expected to reach capacity.

In Europe, Norway’s Health Minister Bent Hoeie said some 1.2 million people, chiefly those in high-risk groups and health workers, will get the vaccine when it becomes available. The remainder of Norway’s population of 5.4 million are expected to get the vaccine in the spring.

In Spain, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government hopes to vaccinate between 15 and 20 million people by next May or June, with more to follow. It hopes to begin vaccinating next month and receive more than 140 million vaccine doses in all.

Croatia has ordered 5.6 million dozes of coronavirus vaccines and will start giving shots to people as soon as the vaccines are authorized for use in the European Union, health officials said.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic has launched a coronavirus testing program for the country’s teachers as students gradually return to school. The program that started Friday and continues to Dec. 18 is designed to test up to 170,000 teachers. The free program is voluntary and uses rapid antigen tests.

The Czech government also plans to make COVID-19 tests available to all citizens, possibly starting Dec 18. In November, the country started testing residents of all nursing and retirement homes.

A woman chooses a Christmas gift in a shop in Prague on Thursday. Shops, restaurants, museums and galleries across the country were allowed to reopen again following several weeks of decreasing new COVID-19 daily cases. (Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has recorded 629 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily tally in about nine months.

After successfully suppressing two previous outbreaks this year, South Korea has been grappling with a fresh spike in infections since it relaxed stringent physical distancing rules in October. Last week, it toughened distancing restrictions in the greater Seoul area and other places.

In Africa, South Africa on Thursday tightened some COVID-19 rules in the Eastern Cape province where infections are rising the most, curbing movement and gatherings, but decided against reinstating a nationwide lockdown.

Volunteer Thabisle Khlatshwayo receives her second shot at a COVID-19 vaccine trial facility at Soweto’s Chris Sani Baragwanath Hospital outside Johannesburg on Monday. Over 2,000 South African volunteers are part of AstraZeneca’s experimental coronavirus vaccine trial. (Jerome Delay/The Associated Press)

South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections on the African continent, with more than 760,000 confirmed cases and more than 20,000 deaths.

In the Middle East, a partial lockdown will begin this weekend in the Gaza Strip after infections spiked in the densely populated territory.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would get vaccinated against the coronavirus to set an example for his country’s citizens and that the government plans to buy multiple vaccines.

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 3 – CBC.ca

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The all-important College Scholastic Ability Test took place Thursday across South Korea, including in this Seoul classroom. More than 426,000 students were taking the one-day exam, including, in isolation, 41 who have tested positive for the coronavirus and hundreds of others in self-quarantine. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

National vaccine deployment plan calls for up to 205 vaccine distribution locations across Canada

Canadians heard extensively for the first time on Thursday from Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who has been tasked by the federal government with leading vaccination logistics and operations. While the country is facing unprecedented “logistical complexities,” the military and its partners will be ready to deploy COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are approved in Canada, Fortin said.

The former NATO commander, along with the other public health officials who spoke at Thursday’s news conference, tried to provide assurances for the many questions still swirling in the air, including the cold storage capacities for feeding the supply chain given the temperature requirements of some of the vaccines.

Eventually, there will be 205 “points of issue” locations across the country where health-care professionals can administer the vaccine, Fortin said. It will be up to the provinces and territories to specify where and when individual Canadians will be inoculated.

The national operations centre has conducted one dry run scenario, with others planned. Fortin said exercises and planning have contemplated a number of possible complications, including treacherous winter delivery conditions, fires at distribution hubs and cyberattacks.

With respect to Pfizer’s vaccine, which needs to be kept at approximately -80 C to remain stable, Fortin said his team is in daily contact with the company and there have been no hiccups with Canada’s plans. The Pfizer product will be delivered by that company directly to provincial and territorial distribution points as early as the end of the month, he said, and the federal government has secured the cold storage required for this vaccine. In addition, the provinces have indicated where the Pfizer-specific fridges should be placed, according to Fortin.

The total supply of doses and prioritization of vaccine recipients will be key, ongoing questions. Government officials have previously said they hoped some three million people could get vaccinated through the first quarter of 2021, but Canada is not manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines and will rely on importing them through deals it’s struck with the pharmaceutical companies.

Health Canada has said its approval of at least one vaccine could come within the next two weeks, not long after U.S. regulators meet.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said the federal government is now refining who is best suited to first get a dose of a vaccine. Early guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) suggests seniors in long-term care homes and front-line health-care workers will be among the first to get a shot.

Click below to watch more from The National

IN BRIEF

Alberta planning for COVID-19 field hospitals, according to internal document

An Alberta Health Services document obtained by CBC News shows the province has been planning for more than a week to set up indoor field hospitals that could treat up to 750 COVID-19 patients.

The document dated Nov. 28 outlines plans for 375 beds each in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms. Patients requiring intensive care would remain in city hospitals.

The field hospitals draft plan underscores the severity of the public-health crisis Alberta faces — and provides a sobering sign of where officials believe the trajectory of virus infections could be headed. There were 504 people in hospitals and 97 in ICUs in Alberta on Wednesday. A total of 561 people in the province have died from the disease since the start of the pandemic.

The greatest challenge to making the hospitals operational by December or January would be staffing, and the document references potentially calling in the military to assist. Other logistical challenges would be building adequate toilet, shower and handwashing facilities at the proposed sites as well as determining whether an oxygen supply infrastructure could be established.

Dr. Noel Gibney, a veteran Edmonton critical-care doctor who has publicly criticized the government’s pandemic response, says the field hospital planning is sensible due diligence planning, but he said the government has clearly not told the public the degree of risk they are now facing while continuing with policies that downplay the risk.

“On one hand, we are having provincial planning at a disaster level or for an upcoming disaster,” he said. “And on the other hand, we are being told everything is fine.”

In addition, CBC News has learned through a source close to the federal government that Alberta has inquired with the Trudeau government and the Red Cross about supplying field hospitals to help offset the strain COVID-19 is having on the province’s health-care system.

Read more about what’s happening in Alberta 

Quebec cancels plans to allow Christmas gatherings as COVID-19 cases surge

Quebec Premier François Legault on Thursday backtracked on his plan to allow gatherings over the Christmas holiday period after a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths that caused doctors at some hospitals to voice their concerns.

Legault said that gatherings in the province’s hard-hit “red zones,” which encompass most of the province, will be prohibited over the holidays.

“When we look at the situation, we are forced to realize that it is not realistic to think that we are going to succeed in reducing the progression of the virus in a satisfactory way by Christmas,” he said.

Legault announced last month that people would be allowed to gather in groups of 10 over a four-day period, from Dec. 24 through Dec. 27, if they isolated for a week before and after. He later said people should only gather twice during that period.

The province reported more than 1,500 daily cases for the first time ever on Wednesday, and more than 1,400 again Thursday.

“If we continue in this direction, hospitals will start to overflow. We have a limited number of nurses, and our nurses are very tired,” the premier said.

Legault did allow that Quebecers could individually visit a person living alone, particularly the elderly, over the holidays. But he stressed visitors in such circumstances need to be wearing masks, maintaining a two-metre distance and not staying very long. Visits to the province’s long-term care homes and seniors’ residences, however, will be prohibited — with the exception of caregivers.

Read more about the situation in Quebec

Dozens of internationally educated nurses are on the sidelines in Manitoba

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said recently a special designation will be granted to 39 internationally educated nurses waiting on English tests so they can practise in Manitoba and have the language requirement temporarily waived, but it’s not clear when that will happen.

Bhupinder Grewal, originally from India, is among the internationally educated nurses who’ve struggled and been inconvenienced by a recurring two-year English language test that is required for licensing. Both of the English tests that would be suitable to take are not being administered this year because of the pandemic.

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said it’s a shame the internationally educated nurses are unable to work because of a language test when they have otherwise shown the necessary skills through bridging tests to meet Canadian standards. The union says the nursing vacancy rate in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health combined is around 16 per cent.

“We are in a nursing shortage. We’re at a critical nursing shortage in many areas. We are desperate to have every possible nurse that can work in the system,” she said.

The Touchstone Institute, responsible for administering the Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses, says the two-year expiry date on the language requirement, is “based on the assumption that the measure of examinees’ capabilities at a given point in time may become less trustworthy indicators of those capabilities as time passes.”

When contacted by CBC for this story, Friesen’s office declined to comment, but said it will provide an update on the special designation soon.

Read more about the situation

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

Why children in Canada won’t immediately receive a COVID-19 vaccine

There is currently no human pediatric data for vaccine candidates to protect against COVID-19, although that could change in 2021.

Federal statistics show that at 8.1 million Canadians, children and teens make up one-fifth of the population. But younger immune systems are more active than those of adults, and children often show stronger immune reactions to vaccines in terms of side-effects.

“Children often will need either a slightly different formulation or a smaller dose of a vaccine, so it’s appropriate to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective in adults and then move on to that testing,” said Shannon MacDonald, an assistant professor in the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta who conducts public health research, including on vaccines.

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that it could take months before those younger than 18 in the U.S. general public could get a coronavirus vaccine, if approved by regulators.

Pfizer announced in October it was expanding vaccine testing to those 12 and older, while Moderna said this week it expects to test the vaccine on children between the ages of 12 and 17 in the coming weeks and on younger children in 2021. The developments are likely welcomed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which wrote an open letter to U.S. federal health officials to ensure children are not left out of vaccine efforts.

Although it’s far from guaranteed, it is possible adults will gain enough immunity from vaccinations that widespread vaccinations of children will not be necessary.

“Some vaccines contribute to herd immunity because the person who gets the vaccine doesn’t spread any infection,” says Dr. Joanne Langley of Dalhousie University, who is the co-leader of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine task force. “We don’t know for sure yet whether that occurs with the COVID vaccines and how effective it is.”

AND FINALLY…

From a tiny outport to a Vietnamese city, how one Newfoundlander is enduring the pandemic

Sabrina Pinksen, an artist, has been painting and drawing portraits for the last five years. She is shown with a Vietnamese security guard. (Submitted by Sabrina Pinksen)

Many Canadians who live abroad won’t be coming home for the holidays for safety reasons or because of the complications involved with travel quarantines, but Newfoundland and Labrador native Sabrina Pinksen is in one of the safest spots in the world, statistically speaking, with respect to the coronavirus.

Pinksen, who is originally from tiny Wild Cove, near the Baie Verte Peninsula, has been living in Hanoi since 2017. It’s a city nearly twice as populous as Canada’s biggest, but with one-third of the physical space.

But as of Wednesday, Vietnam has recorded 1,351 cases and 35 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the World Health Organization. Even if there was a moderate amount of underreporting, it would be a status that ranks favourably with any country in the world.

“I don’t even think about COVID, going out into my daily life,” Pinksen said. “It’s almost like it wasn’t real.”

Pinksen, who’s passionate about her art but earns her income teaching English through a school, said the disruptions that have occurred with daily life have actually led to more of a demand for her services, as some Vietnamese have more free time.

Unlike in North America, there is no cultural resistance to the most publicly visible mitigation measure. Pinksen said: “This is a mask-wearing country anyway. So even before COVID, a lot of people would wear masks.”

Pinksen is not able to travel to Canada for the holidays and admits to being homesick — it’s been 15 months since she’s been home and her father has a serious health issue.

But, she said, “I’m very grateful that everything in Newfoundland is OK right now.”

Read more about life in Vietnam during the pandemic 

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If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

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