Trudeau touts stimulus, but ‘long winter’ looms
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that supports for individual Canadians and businesses will continue to flow into 2021 as things gradually return to normal in the second year of the pandemic, but told CBC’s The Current that there are tough times immediately ahead.
“Even as vaccines begin to arrive, we know that we have to reach a significant percentage of the population before we can start releasing and reducing measures across the country, so it’s going to be a long winter,” he told The Current host Matt Galloway. “We’re going to have to continue to do the things that will keep us safe, but that’s why the economic anxiety that people are feeling is something that we’re there to counter.”
During a news conference outside his residence at Rideau Cottage later in the day, Trudeau called the Liberal government’s recently announced $100 billion stimulus, which represents three to four per cent of GDP, “historic and appropriate.”
“This will be a significant investment to get our economy back on track. And it’s an investment that will make sure no one gets left behind,” he said.
Trudeau touted supports such as rent and wage subsidies, which will continue to “make it a little bit easier.”
Difficult conversations are likely to come next week as Trudeau is set to meet with premiers to discuss health-care transfers and the vaccine rollout. Premiers have been calling for a $28-billion top-up to federal health transfers, but Trudeau was noncommittal on Tuesday as to any specific increases.
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Manitoba sees its highest single-day death toll
Manitoba released its latest COVID-19 figures on Tuesday, which included 16 new deaths due to the coronavirus, the single-highest total in a daily report during the pandemic.
November was by far the worst month of the pandemic so far in Manitoba, with record numbers of deaths, hospitalizations and new cases. However, the province saw fewer than 300 new cases in a single day for the first time since Nov. 22, at 283.
The death toll announced Tuesday, which brings the total in the province to 328 in total, included casualties from at least six long-term care facilities, with three residents from one care home in Winnipeg.
An earlier outbreak at a Winnipeg facility that claimed the lives of eight people in under 48 hours will not result in a criminal inquiry, police said on Tuesday.
Winnipeg police officers in personal protective suits were seen entering the Maples Long Term Care Home run by Revera on Nov. 7, the day after multiple paramedics were called to the home to assess a dozen patients in a single night.
Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen had previously called an independent investigation into Maples Long Term Care Home and Parkview Place, another Winnipeg care home run by Revera, a for-profit company.
Ontario school program seeking out asymptomatic cases using PCR tests
Testing of asymptomatic students and staff is occurring at designated schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions and Ottawa — four Ontario regions with a high number of active COVID-19 cases.
The goal of the pilot project is to improve tracking of the coronavirus and prevent transmission within schools, as well as to inform future public health decisions, writes CBC’s Jessica Wong.
A testing blitz in recent days at one Toronto District School Board (TDSB) location in the eastern part of the city saw 14 classes sent home for two weeks. However, the rest of the school will remain open, according to direction from Toronto Public Health.
“What can we do? This is going on everywhere in the world,” said Yaser Nadaf, whose children attend the school. “They try their best, but at the same time they cannot prevent it completely.”
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said the results weren’t a shock.
“While this information is concerning, it really is the information that our public health officials need to know, because it gives them a better snapshot of how many of those asymptomatic people are positive cases of COVID,” said Bird.
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, said a targeted program is a useful tool in the fight against the virus, but added that it’s possible there will be more heightened concern for families and schools.
That’s because Ontario is using PCR testing for the program, which detects the genetic material of a virus. Although considered the gold standard in terms of accuracy, the PCR tests are also so sensitive it would “pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago,” Chagla says.
Alberta government tweet reveals that COVID-19 ethnicity data is being collected, though not disseminated
A tweet from Premier Jason Kenney’s issues manager appears to have to put Alberta Health on the defensive over the collection of COVID-19 data based on racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Human rights advocates, anti-racism groups, researchers and social agencies have called for such data to be collected and shared publicly during the pandemic in a number of provinces, including Alberta. But the Opposition took Matt Wolf to task for releasing a snippet of such data in service of what appeared to be a partisan point.
Wolf, Kenney’s aide, tweeted: “Albertans of South & East Asian descent account for just under 20 per cent of COVID-19 cases, but represent only 11 per cent of the population.” Wolf was responding to comments Kenney took some criticism for regarding high caseloads in northeast Calgary, where many immigrants live.
CBC News asked the province last week for specific data after Kenney said on Red FM radio that “we are seeing a very high level of spread in the South Asian community.” Alberta Health provided a written statement saying the information is being collected but is not yet being published, but that the agency “may revisit this in the future when it’s feasible.”
Asked Monday about Wolf’s tweet, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the numbers he cited were “preliminary.”
While Wolf allowed in the same tweet that many factors were likely at play for the high case rates, including type of employment or living in a multigenerational household, Dr. Hakique Virani, a clinical associate professor of public health with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta, said he believes that kind of data should be shared with the public in its entirety.
“We need less confusion and more transparency. And this doesn’t serve either of those purposes,” said Virani.
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.
Janssen seeks Health Canada approval for its COVID-19 vaccine
Janssen Inc., a pharmaceutical subsidiary of U.S.-based multinational Johnson & Johnson, has put forward its vaccine for approval in what Health Minister Patty Hajdu called “a promising development for Canadians.”
It means Health Canada will now have four vaccine candidates overall to evaluate as part of a “rolling review process” that allows companies to submit data from clinical trials even as those trials are still underway. The regulator must approve a vaccine as safe and effective before it can be administered to Canadians.
At a technical briefing with reporters last week, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser said approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine in Canada could come within weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and The European Medicines Agency have scheduled meetings this month that could lead to authorization, and Canadian officials have promised that decisions on approval won’t lag greatly compared to other Western nations.
Ottawa announced a deal with Janssen on Aug. 31 to secure up to 38 million doses of the vaccine — which requires only one dose to provide immunity instead of the two that would be necessary for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League postpones games until 2021
The only one of the three Canadian major junior leagues to open play so far in the 2020-21 campaign is shutting down, at least for a few weeks. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League says it will not hold any games until Jan. 3 because of COVID-19 issues.
The 18-team league has been forced to postpone games regularly in Quebec and the Maritimes since starting the season in early October because of COVID-19 restrictions in the four provinces where it operates.
“The current situation with the pandemic in the regions in which we operate makes it extremely difficult to play games,” QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau said in a statement on Monday. “With the holidays just around the corner, the provinces in the Maritimes have restricted access and travel, while red zone restrictions in Quebec do not permit us to play.”
Several teams in Quebec relocated to Quebec City for multiple games because of restrictions earlier in November, while the temporary disruption to the Atlantic Canada travel bubble announced last week also prevented games from being played in the six-team Maritimes Division. In addition, teams from Sherbrooke and Blainville-Boisbriand dealt with virus outbreaks internally.
Elsewhere in Canada, the Western Hockey League has said it plans to start the season in January, while the Ontario Hockey League has targeted a February opener.
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