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Why international travellers are allowed to connect to domestic flights without quarantine – CBC.ca

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Jacob Frey never thought international travellers would be on his WestJet flight from Calgary to Edmonton — until he spotted several passengers wearing sombreros in the waiting area. 

After boarding the Nov. 22 flight, Frey said he learned that the passenger seated next to him and three passengers in the row behind were returning from vacation resorts in Mexico. 

“I was shocked,” said Frey, a laid-off sewer construction worker from Saskatoon who was flying to Edmonton to scope out job prospects. 

Frey worried that sitting near passengers who had visited resorts in Mexico could increase his chances of being exposed to the virus. 

“People going to an all-inclusive resort during a pandemic, that’s inherently irresponsible,” he said. “So it’s obvious that health is not their primary concern.”

Jacob Frey of Saskatoon received notice that someone tested positive for COVID-19 on his WestJet flight from Calgary to Edmonton. (Submitted by Jacob Frey)

When Canadian passengers take domestic flights during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may be sharing the cabin with international travellers on a connecting flight who have yet to quarantine. 

Although many travellers entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days, they don’t have to start the process until reaching their final destination — as long as they have no COVID-19 symptoms. 

When asked about this policy, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told CBC News that the risk of COVID-19 transmission on a plane is relatively low compared to other enclosed settings.

Many travellers take connecting flights

Since Canada closed its borders to most non-essential travel in late March, more than 1.5 million Canadians and foreigners have entered the country by air.

Between March and September, an estimated 17 per cent of air passengers arriving in Canada took a connecting domestic flight, according to data compiled by Transport Canada.

Several countries, including Australia and New Zealand, require travellers to quarantine at their first point-of-entry before taking connecting flights. 

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist, says that’s an extreme approach to combating the virus’ spread that may not go over well with Canadian travellers. 

“I think in general, many people would not be accepting of having to stay in a quarantine hotel at that point of arrival.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s University Health Network says air travel does carry risks, but that the risks while actually flying appear to be low. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Dr. Bogoch, based at Toronto General Hospital, also said it’s unclear how beneficial a point-of-entry quarantine policy would be in Canada, considering the number of COVID-19 infections associated with international travel is small.

“It’s a drop in the bucket. So you have to ask yourself, would a policy like that significantly contribute to our pandemic response?” 

Over the past eight months, the percentage of COVID-19 cases linked to international travel has ranged from 0.4 per cent in May to 2.9 per cent in July, according to PHAC. Last month it was 0.6 per cent.

Passenger tests positive 

PHAC data also shows that, since March 25, more than 2,000 domestic and international flights in Canada have carried at least one passenger who, shortly afterwards, tested positive for COVID-19.

Frey learned five days after his WestJet flight that someone seated near him had tested positive.

He said he got tested and was negative, but Alberta Health Services still directed him to quarantine for 14 days. 

“Basically, I’m sidelined for two weeks,” said Frey who’s self-isolating at a friend’s place in Edmonton. “It’s frustrating.”

He doesn’t know if the COVID-19-positive passenger was returning from Mexico. Even so, Frey said if he had known that international travellers would be on his flight, he would have cancelled it — unless Westjet provided assurances they’d be seated in a separate section.

“They can be the first ones on the plane, last ones off and keep them separate from everyone else,” he said. 

WestJet told CBC News that it’s not necessary to separate international and domestic passengers on a plane, because the airline has implemented stringent health and hygiene policies, and Canadian health officials have found that the risk of transmission on an aircraft is low.

Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Teresa Tam said last month that protective measures such as mandatory mask policies, health screenings and effective ventilation systems have made planes a relatively safe place to be during the pandemic.

“The modern aircraft is actually really good in terms of air exchanges and the way airflow occurs in the cabin,” she said. “There have been very few reports — extremely rare reports, actually — of transmission aboard aircraft.”

WATCH | How airborne transmission increases the need for ventillation: 

As aerosol transmission of COVID-19 becomes more widely acknowledged, schools and businesses are looking for new ventilation solutions to guard against it. 8:00

Dr. Bogosh agrees that the actual plane ride is fairly safe, but said there are other aspects of air travel that pose a danger such as boarding and exiting the aircraft, and picking up checked luggage. 

“There is a risk because there’s more bottlenecks and people crowding together.”

He added that domestic passengers also pose a threat due to surging COVID-19 infections in Canada, so the best way to avoid exposure is not to travel.

“We should be staying as close to home as possible, avoiding non-essential trips.”

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Canadians leaving big cities at record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas. 

Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent. 

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city. 

“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.

Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties. 

This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical. 

“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.

Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.

And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions. 

Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.

“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue. 

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Canadians leaving big cities at record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas. 

Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent. 

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city. 

“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.

Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties. 

This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical. 

“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.

Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.

And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions. 

Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.

“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue. 

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Canada surpasses 700000 confirmed COVID-19 cases – CTV News

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Canada’s procurement minister urged drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to get the country’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule back on track as soon as possible as cases of the novel coronavirus surged past the 700,000 mark on Saturday.

The country hit the milestone less than two weeks after recording 600,000 cases of the virus on Jan. 3 — a feat that took months during the pandemic’s first wave.

Seven provinces recorded 6,479 cases on Saturday, pushing the national tally over 702,000.

Nationwide inoculation efforts had resulted in more than half a million residents receiving a vaccine dose as of Friday night, though the pace of immunizations is set to decrease as Pfizer-BioNTech upgrades its production facilities in Europe.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision to delay international vaccine shipments for four weeks during the upgrades.

“We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said on Twitter Saturday. “Pfizer assured us that it is deploying all efforts to do just that.”

She noted that shipments for the upcoming week will be largely unaffected, and said Ottawa will provide updates as they become available.

Ontario became the latest province to adjust its vaccination rollout plans in light of Pfizer’s announcement.

Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued a statement on Saturday saying officials do not yet know the full impact the delay will have on Ontario’s immunization strategy.

“We understand that this change in supply could see deliveries reduced by at least half for Canada in the coming weeks,” Williams said in a statement Saturday.

“We will assess and take appropriate action to ensure we can continue providing our most vulnerable with vaccines.”

In Ontario, long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine will get their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week beyond what was originally planned.

But that time frame will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday the reduced shipments mean that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the vaccine expected by Feb. 8 won’t be delivered on schedule.

Officials are establishing a new distribution plan, but the Quebec Health Department said it still intends to immunize as many people as possible within priority groups, with a delay of up to 90 days for the second dose.

Officials in Saskatchewan said COVID-19 vaccinations will continue as doses are received, with Premier Scott Moe telling reporters Friday that the province’s strategy for the two-dose regime depends on steady shipments.

Canada’s top doctor continued her push for strict adherance to public health guidelines as Saturday’s case count inched closer to levels forecasted in bleak federal projections released earlier in the week. Modeling released on Thursday indicated Canada could see 10,000 daily cases by the end of January if current infection rates continue.

“If we ease measures too soon, the epidemic will resurge even stronger,” Dr. Theresa Tam said in a tweet. “This is double-down time!!”

Tam said Hospitalizations and deaths across the country, which tend to lag one to several weeks behind a spike in cases, are still on the rise.

Canada averaged 4,705 hospitalizations across the country with 875 patients requiring intensive care treatment For the seven-day period ending Jan. 14.

During the same period, an average of 137 deaths were reported daily.

Ontario topped 3,000 cases in a 24-hour period once again on Saturday and added another 51 deaths linked to the virus.

In Quebec, 2,225 new infections were reported along with 67 deaths attributed to the virus, pushing the province over the 9,000 death mark since the beginning of the pandemic.

New Brunswick continued to report the highest daily COVID-19 case counts in Atlantic Canada, with 27 new diagnoses reported Saturday. Nova Scotia, by contrast, reported just four.

Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two further deaths on Saturday. Alberta logged 717 new infections, while Manitoba reported 180.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

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