Trudeau Defends Canada’s Journey Restrictions As Efficient, However Open To Extra – Victoria Information
Governments are considering new travel restrictions both to and within Canada as the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to break heartbreaking records.
On the positive side, Canada has hit a new vaccination milestone with 25 percent of the population having been vaccinated with at least one dose as the number rose to over 9.5 million on Tuesday afternoon.
Generation X Canadians flocked to schedule appointments for the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine as several provinces lowered the eligible age, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and the NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
But even as the vaccinations flowed, Ontario scientific advisors warned that the provincial hospitals were “buckling” as hospital admissions and intensive care stress continued to increase.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, reported record numbers of active cases, hospitalizations and ICU patients across the country.
An average of just under 1,200 people with COVID-19 are now in intensive care units every day, around half of them on ventilators. On April 12, the latest single daily statistics available, there was a daily record of 599 people on ventilators due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 deaths also rose to an average of 44 deaths per day in the past week, after sitting close to 30 people a day for the past two months.
Much of this is driven by new variants, with more than 66,000 confirmed variant cases in Canada, 96 percent of them B.1.1.7. That is twice as many confirmed variant cases a week ago.
To prevent even more variants from entering Canada, Trudeau said Tuesday that quarantine hotels would be restricted to international air travelers until at least 21.
He defended the government against criticism for not moving quickly enough to enforce quarantines for travelers, but said they are considering additional measures.
“We continue to do more scrutiny and I have asked our officials to look closely at what the UK has been doing recently to suspend flights from India,” he said.
Although Canada’s borders are officially closed, thousands of people, mostly Canadians, enter the country every week. Health Canada says about one percent of international air travelers test positive for COVID-19 during their three-day quarantine, but cannot yet provide data on how many tested positive after 10 days.
India reported more than 250,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day this week, and doctors are investigating whether another new variant known as B.1.617 could be a cause.
Last December, Canada suspended flights from the UK for just over two weeks due to concerns about the first-time COVID-19 variant.
In the past two weeks, 117 international flights arrived with at least one passenger who later tested positive for COVID-19, including 29 flights from Delhi, 20 from the US and 24 from Europe.
The provincial governments also want to restrict travel within Canada. Ontario and Nova Scotia prohibit non-resident non-essential travelers, while British Columbia is considering regular police roadblocks at ferry terminals and highways in the Vancouver area to prevent recreational travel within the province.
Ontario reported nearly 3,500 new cases on Tuesday, falling below 4,000 for the first time since April 12. But hospital stays, ICU admissions and patients on a ventilator rose overnight, leading to new warnings from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table that hospitals are on the brink. The counselors said key workers needed to be vaccinated faster and offered sick leave.
Public health chiefs in Toronto and the neighboring Peel region ordered the closure of any workplace that had five or more positive cases in the past two weeks.
Late Tuesday, the Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford’s office said he was isolating himself in Toronto after an employee who was in close contact with him tested positive for COVID-19.
The statement said the prime minister had tested negative and will heed any public health advice for close liaison.
Ford will continue its government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in isolation, including briefings with officials and communication with the public.
Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the province is looking at what it can do to address “gaps” in federal sick pay.
Elliott received her vaccine from AstraZeneca weeks ago, and now that Ontario is one of the provinces that lowered the eligible age to 40, Trudeau and other federal leaders can follow suit.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has canceled a scheduled meeting to update its guidelines on the age groups to receive AstraZeneca doses, as more information has emerged on the risk of very rare blood clots. The NACI is still considering what advice to give.
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Three Canadians, including one newly reported Tuesday in New Brunswick, have now had blood clots from more than 700,000 administered doses. All three – a woman over 55 in Quebec, a man over 60 in Alberta, and a woman over 30 in New Brunswick – are recovering at home.
Several provinces did not wait for NACI. Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC all lowered the age from 55 to 40, though Saskatchewan said it has already used up much of the AstraZeneca supply it received. Quebec cuts it to 45 on Wednesday.
Albertans under 55 enrolled in mass vaccination clinics in both Calgary and Edmonton.
“It’s about time,” said Jody Dewaal, 52, who was lined up in the Edmonton Expo Center. “We have waited. I have older parents and a child who has asthma, so we just want some protection. “
Trudeau, 49, told pharmacists during a virtual meeting Tuesday morning that he intends to get vaccinated publicly at a pharmacy once his office can work out the details.
While Freeland was busy becoming the first female Treasury Secretary to put up a budget in the House of Commons this week, she sent her kids out to go online and find an appointment for them.
“My daughter said we were on a waiting list so I’ll have to check it out afterwards,” she said. “But as soon as I can, I’ll get mine too and hope to get to a local pharmacy.”
O’Toole said he was booked for Saturday while Singh would be vaccinated on Wednesday.
Infrastructure Secretary Catherine McKenna appeared to be the quickest on the booking button, posting photos on social media Tuesday showing her AstraZeneca photo in Ottawa.
– With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton.
Mia Rabson, the Canadian press
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