Trudeau says new travel restrictions will be introduced soon
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that new pandemic restrictions for travel are coming and that Canadians should cancel any travel plans.
Trudeau said that even though existing travel control measures have been effective in keeping the number of infections low, more effort will be needed going forward.
“Obviously, extremely low is still not zero and one case is too many if we’re importing [the coronavirus], particularly considering the variants out there,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister said the line between essential and non-essential flights isn’t always so clear cut, pointing out that essential cargo and supplies are often transported in the holds of passenger aircraft.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland hinted Monday that the federal government was considering further limits on international travel into Canada to prevent the introduction of new COVID-19 cases.
“I very much understand and I’m very sympathetic to the view that, with the virus raging around the world, we need to be sure our borders are really, really secure,” Freeland said in an interview on CBC’s Power and Politics.
Canada has had a ban on non-essential travel into the country by anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident since March, but it can’t as easily bar the flow of Canadians in and out of the country. Those who return from abroad are asked to quarantine for two weeks and they face financial penalties or jail time if they do not.
Since Jan. 7, most are also now required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in Canada, a move with considerable impact, as tens of thousands of flight reservations https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/travel-cancellations-preflight-testing-1.5882560 were cancelled.
Recent testing initiatives at two of Canada’s international terminals found that 1.15 to 2 per cent of travellers were infected with the virus.
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Ontario’s Ford heads to Canada’s busiest airport to make the case for more stringent measures
If Ontario Premier Doug Ford had his druthers, Prime Minister Trudeau would put a halt to all non-essential travel by foreigners into Canada in the wake of new coronavirus variants found in at least three countries.
At minimum, Ford has said he would like mandatory testing at Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ont., where he was visiting Tuesday.
“We have to test every person that comes into Pearson and any other crossing. It’s absolutely critical,” he told reporters on Monday. “We need to put barriers up every which way we can.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that the province is testing samples to look for three new variants — separate strains that first emerged in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil — to determine where they are and how they spread.
So far, only the variant first detected in the U.K. has been found in Ontario. The new variant is deemed to have been present at a deadly outbreak at Roberta Place Long Term Care Home in Barrie, Ont.
Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician with Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said while there are concerns about the variants, he is not convinced of the need to ban travel.
“Our existing public health protocols, such as physical distancing, wearing masks, ventilation, all these types of things, still work to prevent the variant from infecting you,” Chakrabarti said.
McGill students earn a temporary residence ban for breaking COVID-19 rules
McGill University has forced at least 15 students to leave their dorms for a week after a COVID-19 outbreak was traced back to close-contact gatherings that violated public health restrictions.
The recent cases have been linked back to sustained close contact between students that occurred at — or following — gatherings held in contravention of COVID-19 and residence regulations, according to the letter sent to students at the Montreal university and obtained by CBC News.
Fabrice Labeau, deputy provost, student life and learning, said in the email that 44 students tested positive overall as a result of the outbreak.
Students who were forced out of New Residence Hall were advised to pack up for Monday, and not return until Feb. 1, a temporary ban that includes not being able to access campus dining facilities.
Elisha Mayer, a first-year McGill student active in student politics who was not suspended, called the disciplinary measures extreme. Students were given less than 24 hours notice of the ban, she claimed.
“This comes without a warning for them, without a disciplinary meeting or without any other information,” said Mayer.
The email advises the student that the school has affiliations with local hotels should the student need a place to stay. But Mayer pointed out that some of the students who were kicked out are minors, which makes it harder for them to rent a temporary room.
McGill’s Labeau said in the email that as soon as the residence cases became apparent, the school began tracing contacts and, in accordance with public health restrictions, ensuring those at medium to high risk were self-isolating.
Inside Canada’s largest COVID-19 outbreak in a federal prison
At its worst point, nearly half of the 744 inmates at Stony Mountain Institute in Manitoba had COVID-19, making it the largest outbreak at any federally run correctional facility in Canada. In December, an inmate there died of COVID-19 complications, one of four deaths so far in prisons across the country.
CBC News has spoken with eight inmates over the past several weeks who said they believe the outbreak may have been caused by Stony Mountain relaxing the 14-day quarantine rules for new inmates, as well as not testing frequently enough.
“I feel like they failed miserably. Our range was green, which means no COVID, and they moved a COVID-positive inmate to our range,” said inmate Grayson Wesley.
Wesley, 30, said he was infected at the end of November and sent to hospital because he couldn’t breathe. He still has trouble with his memory and worries about getting sick again, he said.
“There’s a new COVID variant out there. If that comes into the jail, it’s going to spread like wildfire,” he said.
No officials at Stony Mountain were available for an interview, but a spokesperson for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) said inmates and staff are tested regularly, even those who are asymptomatic.
Inmates at federal institutions including Stony Mountain and SaskPen are now preparing written statements for a class-action lawsuit against the CSC launched initially on behalf of an inmate at Mission Institution in British Columbia.
That lawsuit has since been expanded to include facilities across the country save for Quebec, which operates under a different civil law system. A certification hearing is scheduled in Vancouver for January 2022.
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Made-in-Canada coronavirus vaccine begins human clinical trials
A made-in-Canada vaccine to protect against COVID-19 began human clinical trials Tuesday in Toronto, with an aim to be ready for the global market by January 2022 pending safe and effective clinical trials and Health Canada approval.
Toronto-based Providence Therapeutics said three shots will be given to 60 adult volunteers at a clinical trial site in Toronto in the first phase of the trial on Tuesday. Fifteen of those volunteers will receive a placebo and 45 will get the vaccine, called PTX-COVID19-B.
Currently, Canada lacks the capacity to manufacture the millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines needed to immunize people outside of a clinical trial setting. It’s why the federal government struck deals with several foreign pharmaceuticals, with vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna now approved.
Providence’s product is an mRNA vaccine and is similar to the Moderna coronavirus shot being given to people across Canada. The company formed in 2013 to focus on cancer vaccines.
“We reached out to the Canadian government in April and said, ‘Hey, you’ve heard of Moderna. We’re doing the exact same thing,'” Providence CEO Brad Sorenson said in an interview. “We went from concept into the clinic in under a year without the same level of support as our peers had.”
Medicago in Quebec, currently conducting Phase 3 clinical trials, plans to mass-produce its COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina if it gains regulatory approval.
But Providence has purchased a 20,000-square-foot facility in Calgary that includes 12,000 square feet of lab space to mass-produce the vaccine. The facility should be up and running in two months, Sorensen said.
As Super Bowl draws near, Duvernay-Tardif has no regrets about joining COVID-19 front lines
A few dozen of his buddies on the Kansas City Chiefs are preparing for a bid to repeat as Super Bowl champions when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Feb. 7 in the NFL’s championship.
But after basking in last year’s win alongside them, offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will have to be content to watch this time around, admitting to CBC’s The Current in a new interview that he definitely misses football.
Duvernay-Tardif made waves last year when he decided to work during the off-season as an orderly at a long-term care facility in Montreal, not far from his hometown of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que.
Duvernay-Tardif said the long-term care experience will “leave a mark” on him.
“What I realized after spending time with the nurses, the [orderlies] down there, [is] that what matters is comfort, it’s dignity and really the difference between treating and caring for a patient,” he said.
The offensive guard — who holds a medical degree from McGill University and is working to become a doctor — skipped the 2020 season and took classes in the fall at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Five years from now, I’m going to be able to look at 2020 and be like, ‘Alright, I followed my conviction and I made a move that I’m going to be proud of.'”
As much as he’s honoured by the awards and recognition, such as being named co-winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy, handed out to Canada’s top athlete, he said others in health care are more worthy of accolades, pointing to nurses who have been working irregular hours and pulling overtime during the pandemic.
“They’re doing it because they really care,” said Duvernay-Tardif, who has hinted at playing football again next season. “And so I feel like being humble — or at least trying to — is really the least I can do when I see all those people working like that.”
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