Queen Elizabeth’s annual Christmas message looks back on a year in which the coronavirus pandemic cast a pall over the world but brought out the “indomitable” spirit of those who rose to the challenges.
In her address broadcast Friday, the 94-year-old monarch acknowledged the “difficult and unpredictable times.”
“For many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness — some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family members, distanced for safety, when all they really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand,” she said.
“If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”
With infection rates soaring in recent weeks and many hospitals nearing their capacities, the British government on Dec. 19 cancelled Christmas gatherings and festive shopping for millions in a bid to control the spread of the virus. The United Kingdom has reported well over two million cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began and topped 70,000 deaths on Friday for the second-highest death toll in Europe behind Italy.
Worldwide, the number of reported cases was nearing 80 million, with more than 1.7 million deaths.
Praise for front-line workers
While acknowledging the hardship experienced by many, the Queen devoted much of her address to celebrating the actions of those who have stepped up to provide help.
“Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has in many ways brought us closer. Across the Commonwealth, my family and I have been inspired by stories of people volunteering in their communities helping those in need,” she said.
“In the United Kingdom and around the world, people have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year, and I’m so proud and moved by this quiet, indomitable spirit.”
WATCH | Queen’s Christmas message one of hope, gratitude:
The Queen’s annual Christmas message was one of hope for a world torn apart by the pandemic, but also of gratitude for the sacrifices so many have made. 1:59
The Queen in particular highlighted the contributions of front-line workers and young people, evoking the parable of the Good Samaritan, as well as the Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British soldier from the First World War whose tomb is at London’s Westminster Abbey.
The monarch ended her message on a note of hope.
“The Bible tells how a star appeared in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus’s birth. Let the light of Christmas, the spirit of selflessness, love and, above all, hope guide us in the times ahead,” she said.
Like many others, the Royal Family has had to adapt to the realities of the pandemic this holiday season. The Queen recorded her Christmas address at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, where she has been living in near isolation with Prince Philip for much of the pandemic.
Buckingham Palace has said that the couple is spending Christmas “quietly” at Windsor this year, instead of hosting their traditional large family gathering at Sandringham House in Norfolk.
At 7 a.m. Christmas morning, Dr. Lisa Richardson will start her day helping COVID-19 patients at Toronto General Hospital in what could become a 12-hour shift.
“I was actually thinking … OK, I need to find one of those ugly Christmas sweaters or holiday sweaters … so that I can try and add some cheer in some way,” said Richardson, a general internal medicine specialist at the downtown Toronto hospital.
She and her team will be looking after 25 in-patients all day, until the next shift arrives at 5 p.m. But if a patient isn’t doing well, Richardson said she’ll often stay later, which might mean that she won’t make it home in time to eat with her family on Friday.
“None of us like to leave one of our patients if they’re unwell and clinically deteriorating,” she told The Current.
“You don’t want to sort of say, ‘Sorry, I’ve got to go for my Christmas dinner.’ So it’s just unpredictable in that way.”
With COVID-19 visitor restrictions in place, Richardson is worried about hospital patients who won’t get to see their families at all.
Being a witness to that loneliness has been one of the hardest parts of the pandemic.
“When you’re hospitalized, you’re acutely unwell, and to be alone is very, very hard,” she said.
The CBC’s Coronavirus Tracker has recorded 189,667 new confirmed cases in the past month (from Nov. 23 to Dec. 22), accounting for 36 per cent of the 521,509 known cases in Canada throughout the pandemic.
While several provinces have introduced new lockdown measures to try to bring the numbers down, tallies of new daily cases continue to overtake previous records.
WATCH | Second COVID-19 wave hitting some of Canada’s most vulnerable:
Canada’s second COVID-19 wave is taking a toll on some of the country’s most vulnerable. 4:06
The spike in cases has taken its toll on front-line health-care workers. Richardson said it’s exhausting “that this has been going on for so long, and that we’re continuing to see the numbers rise.”
“We don’t have that energy that we had initially,” she said.
Mounting stress fuels staff shortages: paramedic
The holiday period is one of the busiest times for health-care workers in “a normal year,” said Vancouver paramedic David Leary. Now, that pressure has been exacerbated by the pandemic and is fuelling other issues, including the opioid crisis.
“The strain and stress, it’s compounding the mental health issues with our paramedics and dispatchers — at levels we’ve never seen before,” said Leary, a spokesperson for the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (APBC).
He said the stress is leading to a staffing crisis, as APBC members “have to take time off work to recover and recuperate.”
Leary said he worked through half his vacation earlier this year to help cover that staffing crisis. He’ll take Christmas Day off but otherwise will be working through most of the holidays this year.
“Time off is important, but I feel it is important that we do step up,” he said. “And most of my co-workers feel the same way.”
Richardson agreed that it’s been very difficult to get time away. On a recent free weekend, she received a page telling her a patient’s condition had worsened and went back to the hospital to help.
“There are so many crises all the time, so for those of us who are on the front line and also have leadership roles, you cannot disconnect,” she said.
An ongoing study at the University of Alberta in Edmonton is assessing the toll of the pandemic on 5,000 health-care workers in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Initial data suggests high levels of anxiety among the workers, with the highest numbers among physicians.
Amid the stress, Richardson said the pandemic has “also taught us a lot around our resilience, around how we can support one another.”
Just had a moment that made my heart melt when I asked one of my admitted patients who is quite frail and has numerous things going on how they are feeling and they respond with: “I’m ok. How are you doing, doctor?”
Recently, she was moved when a patient took the time to ask her how she was doing.
“I literally almost cried,” she said.
“The idea that our patients are thinking about the toll that this is taking on us as well was really moving for me.”
She now has some time off booked over New Year’s and hopes to see extended family via video call.
Missing family at Christmas
Like Richardson and many Canadians, Leary will be having a smaller Christmas this year, forgoing time with grandparents and extended family.
“We’ll just be keeping within our bubble, and we feel it’s important to protect ourselves — but not only ourselves, the rest of the public,” he said.
Even so, he is worried about the stress of isolation at “a time of year where it can already be lonely for people.”
As a nurse working in COVID-19 units, Naveed Hussain has chosen to limit interactions with his family not just during the holiday season but since the pandemic began.
“My father’s over 70; my mother is over 60. My father does have medical ailments and I prioritize their health,” said Hussain, a registered nurse at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal.
Hussain will also work through the holidays and hasn’t “had time off in a long time.”
“It’s been tough emotionally and mentally, you know, being away from family and friends,” he said.
“But it’s also a sacrifice we chose to take, right? It’s just like a firefighter running into a fire in a building.”
Risk of catching virus
Hussain contracted COVID-19 at work in April, suffering the common symptoms of malaise, body aches and fever, as well as difficulties with his liver. He also inadvertently passed the illness on to his girlfriend.
Despite lingering symptoms that took six months to shake, he said it’s given him “the ability to care more closely.”
“You understand symptoms and how to manage those symptoms better,” he said.
“It gives you a different perspective on how to care for patients and how to have empathy for those who are affected.”
The University of Alberta study is also looking at how many front-line health workers have contracted COVID-19, with a view to improving safety measures.
“If a health-care worker is sick and not able to go to work … that’s going to very much affect all of us in the community,” Cherry, an occupational epidemiologist at the university, told CBC News.
WATCH | Approval of vaccines will be life-changing for many vulnerable Canadians:
The approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be life-changing for many vulnerable Canadians who have been anxiously awaiting the rollout. 2:02
Light at the end of the tunnel
As case numbers have climbed over the fall, Hussain said he struggles when he sees misinformation about the vaccines or people who refuse to wear masks to help limit the spread of the virus.
“It’s discouraging because we end up seeing more and more patients coming in, and then we hear the rhetoric coming from the other side,” he said.
Dr. Alexander Wong, an infectious diseases physician at Regina General Hospital, said he’s seeing the virus affect the most vulnerable more and more in the second wave.
They include “those in long-term care settings, as well as our inner-city vulnerable populations as well, so it’s been exhausting, it’s been tiring,” he said.
Wong said he hasn’t taken “any meaningful stretch of vacation basically since the beginning of March.”
When his daughter was born in August, he took a few days off but then resumed work while technically on leave. He expects to take half of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, and then “be back to my usual sort of craziness.”
Armed with ration packs, personal protective equipment and tents, members of the Canadian Armed Forces are preparing to spend Christmas deployed in isolated and remote northern communities.
“If you’d asked me a couple years ago, I would not have in my wildest dreams imagined that this was the situation we’d find ourselves in,” Brig.-Gen. William Fletcher said in an interview from Edmonton.
Brig.-Gen. Fletcher, who is in charge of all army troops from Thunder Bay to Vancouver Island and domestic operations on the Prairies, said military pandemic response plans made prior to the arrival of COVID-19 in Canada have put the Armed Forces in good shape.
“We’ve got a saying in the military that a plan never survives contact with the enemy, but it’s a good baseline” to start from, he says.
The military is currently deployed in at least six remote Indigenous communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Brig.-Gen. Fletcher said the military is working with provinces to figure out where troops might be needed next, but couldn’t say how many more communities are expected to receive support on the ground.
“If nothing else, we will be very busy monitoring the situation.”
He said troops have been given different tiers of pandemic training depending on their duties.
Indigenous awareness training is also provided and tailored to cultural realities, but not every solider will necessarily have that before going to a First Nation.
Indigenous soldiers have been instrumental in preparing their colleagues to go to reserves, he added.
“They are tremendous even for informally being able to provide some realities to folks who’ve not experienced interactions with a First Nations community.”
‘Big step forward’ for reconciliation: chief
In recent days, 55 Armed Forces members on the Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba have built a temporary wall in the community’s school to separate COVID-positive patients by gender.
They’ve also gone door to door in the community, which has seen a severe COVID-19 outbreak, to test residents for the coronavirus that causes the illness and do wellness checks.
“I’ve never seen military up close, so [it’s] exciting at the same time,” said Rusty Redhead, a Shamattawa resident who got tested for COVID-19 in recent days by a military medic, accompanied by soldiers.
Redhead is still waiting for the result of his test.
“I’m just, like, shaking,” he said. “I’m just worried now.”
Military personnel are expected to be in the fly-in community, located 745 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, until the situation stabilizes.
In Shamattawa, they’re staying in classrooms in the community’s school, but Brig.-Gen. Fletcher said digs may not be so comfy for personnel in other communities.
WATCH | Troops prepare to spend Christmas deployed in remote Canada:
Military troops are preparing to spend Christmas away from their families, helping remote communities fight COVID-19. The CBC’s Austin Grabish has this inside look at the Canadian mission. 2:11
“We are absolutely prepared to go and live in tents, be completely austere, because what we don’t want to do is become a burden on the local economy or local infrastructure.”
While the soldiers are prepared to live in tents if needed, Brig.-Gen. Fletcher said he doesn’t expect the military to set up field hospitals in isolated communities this winter.
“I think if we did it would be very much an extremely dire situation, where we exhausted all other resources at the federal and provincial levels,” he said.
“Never say never, I guess, but I don’t think it’s likely.”
Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead, who first asked for military support at the end of November, said the help from the Armed Forces is about more than handling the rapid spread of COVID-19.
“In the past, the military was used against First Nations people. And right now, today, they’re used to help First Nations people,” he said.
“I think it’s a big step forward in terms of reconciliation between Canada and the First Nations people, so I’m really, really proud of that.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce sweeping new public health measures later today as the province tries to curb a climbing number of COVID-19 cases and increasing strain on hospitals.
Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park. The premier’s office says he will be joined by the ministers of health and education, as well as the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams.
You’ll be able to watch the news conference live in this story.
Sources told CBC News on Sunday that new measures will include a 28-day lockdown for all parts of the province south of Sudbury.
The restrictions in these areas will look much as they did during Ontario’s initial shutdown in the spring, with only essential businesses remaining open. The specific list of closures and guidelines was still being fine-tuned over the weekend, the sources said.
Areas north of Sudbury, however, will move into a two-week lockdown, the sources said, and winter break for elementary students across Ontario could be extended by up to two weeks.
The measures come against a backdrop of modelling that forecasts, under any scenario, Ontario could see up to 300 patients with cases of COVID-19 in intensive care units by the end of December.
In a worst-case scenario, that number could balloon to more than 1,500 by mid-January, said public health officials at a morning briefing.
You can see the full government modelling at the bottom of this story
During the height of the first wave of the illness in Ontario, some 264 patients required intensive care. As of this morning, there were 265 people with COVID-19 in Ontario ICUs.
Over the past four weeks, officials said, there have been a 69.3 per cent increase in overall hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 and an 83.1 per cent jump in the number of patients requiring intensive care.
Experiences in other jurisdictions, such as in Victoria, Australia and France, four to six-week “hard lockdowns” have resulted in “dramatic reductions” in case numbers, officials said.
The forecasts come as hospitals in some of Ontario’s hardest-hit regions are warning of unsustainable pressures on front-line staff and rippling effects throughout the health-care system. Last week, CBC Toronto reported nearly half of all ICU beds at one Scarborough hospital were taken up by COVID-19 patients.
In a joint statement over the weekend, hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area, along with the Ontario Hospital Association, said that health-care workers are “stressed and overstretched.”
Rising admissions of patients with COVID-19 mean that some hospitals have already been forced to postpone or cancel unrelated procedures, many of which were already put off in the spring.
“This level of strain is simply not sustainable for much longer,” the statement said, adding that a potential surge following the holiday season will only make things worse.
2,123 more cases of COVID-19
Meanwhile, Ontario reported another 2,123 cases of COVID-19 this morning as admissions to intensive care topped those seen during the first wave of the pandemic.
It is the seventh straight day of more than 2,000 further cases in the province.
The new cases include 611 in Toronto, 480 in Peel Region, 192 in York Region and 138 Windsor-Essex. All four public health units, along with Hamilton, are currently in the grey lockdown tier of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.
In lockdown zones, restaurants can offer only takeout and delivery service, and only retailers that have been deemed essential can stay open.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in today’s report were:
Waterloo Region: 94
Halton Region: 92
Durham Region: 91
Niagara Region: 68
Simcoe Muskoka: 61
Brant County: 16
Eastern Ontario: 11
(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)
Combined, the additional infections push the seven-day average to 2,276, the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic.
The Ministry of Education also reported 154 new cases that are school-related: 119 students and 35 staff members. Around 976 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 20.2 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19.
There are currently 19,019 confirmed, active cases of the illness in Ontario, also a new record high.
The province’s network of labs processed 54,505 test samples and reported a test positivity rate of 4.7 per cent.
Public health officials also reported 17 more deaths of people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 4,167.
Here’s the latest modelling on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario:
The Ontario government is poised to impose a provincewide lockdown starting Christmas Eve, sources confirmed Sunday, as the province logs more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the sixth consecutive day.
A 28-day lockdown for the southern portions of the province, south of Sudbury, Ont., will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, sources confirmed.
Meanwhile, the northern parts of Ontario will be under a 14-day lockdown, sources said.
The restrictions will look similar to the shutdown in March, with only essential businesses remaining open.
On Sunday, the province recorded 2,316 new cases of the virus.
Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce more public health rules on Monday, following a weekend of emergency talks.
Lockdown orders in Toronto and Peel Region that were set to expire this week are being extended, Ford said in an announcement on Friday.
Sources said the government is still “fine-tuning” the list to provide maximum clarity and noted that the decisions made were based on modelling data.
Under any scenario, Ontario would see 300 people in ICU by the end of the month, sources said. At the current rate of transmission, that would mean upwards of 700 people in the ICU by the end of January, and the number of new cases would grow to 10,000 per day.
Winter break would be extended for elementary students for a period of one to two weeks, sources told CBC News.
GTA Hospitals calling for ‘stronger’ restrictions
Hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area are also calling on the Ontario government for “stronger” lockdown measures amid the surge of COVID-19 cases.
Hospitals across the GTA say they are fearful if restrictions aren’t tightened, a surge in cases will follow.
The joint statement was released on Sunday by hospitals in Toronto and neighbouring regions of Durham, Halton, Peel and York.
The letter, in collaboration with the Ontario Hospital Association, is urging the Ford government to implement tightened restrictions during the holidays, as hospitals deal with growing numbers.
‘Level of strain simply not sustainable for much longer’
Staff are grappling with increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals while also assisting in other settings such as long-term care homes, the statement said.
“These trends show no sign of slowing — in fact, a surge in cases following the holiday season is expected to make the situation even worse,” it reads.
“We recognize that lockdown measures are challenging for many members of our communities, but we cannot afford to put patients and health-care workers at further risk.”
The statement said hospitals are seeing increasing numbers of staff falling ill and becoming unable to work both with COVID-19 and other illnesses.
“For many months now, these front-line health-care workers have been devoting enormous energy and skill to caring for their patients, at the very epicenter of the pandemic,” it noted. “They are stressed and overstretched. This level of strain is simply not sustainable for much longer.”
An urgent joint statement in support of further <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> lockdown measures from hospitals in the City of Toronto and Regions of Durham, Halton, Peel and York, supporting stricter public health measures. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#onpoli</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/onhealth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#onhealth</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopTheSpread?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#StopTheSpread</a> <a href=”https://t.co/29r8knRaMm”>https://t.co/29r8knRaMm</a> <a href=”https://t.co/a1WIAvmuEj”>pic.twitter.com/a1WIAvmuEj</a>
Locally, there are 486 new cases in Toronto, 468 in Peel, 326 in York Region, 151 in Windsor-Essex County and 128 in Niagara.
All of those regions are currently under lockdown due to rising case counts, except for Niagara, which is moving to the red alert level of the province’s pandemic plan on Monday.
Elliott said more than 69,400 tests completed over the last 24 hours, a record for the province. The previous record of 68,246 tests were completed on Friday.
There are currently 54,546 tests under investigation in the province.
There were 2,275 new cases on Tuesday, 2,139 on Wednesday, 2,432 on Thursday, 2,290 on Friday, and 2,357 on Saturday.
There are currently 18,567 active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario.
More than 50 new cases of the virus were recorded in the following areas:
Halton Region: 97.
Waterloo Region: 91.
Durham Region: 82.
Simcoe Muskoka: 62.
There are currently 875 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of this number, 261 are in intensive care units across the province, and 156 are breathing with the help of a ventilator.
Elliott said the safest way to celebrate this holiday season is at home with the people you live with.
“Connect virtually to keep in touch with extended family and friends,” the health minister said in a tweet.
“If you live alone, consider exclusively celebrating with one additional household.”
This <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/holiday?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#holiday</a> season, the safest way to celebrate is at home with the people you live with. Connect virtually to keep in touch with extended family and friends. If you live alone, consider exclusively celebrating with one additional household. Learn more: <a href=”https://t.co/ZRCURjRGfW”>https://t.co/ZRCURjRGfW</a>. <a href=”https://t.co/QuC8AVyeIF”>pic.twitter.com/QuC8AVyeIF</a>
Twenty-five additional deaths have been linked to the virus, bringing the province’s death toll to 4,150. Of the deaths confirmed on Sunday, 18 were residents of long-term care homes.
There are 162 active outbreaks at long-term care homes in the province.
Sunday’s case count brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario to 155,930, including deaths and recoveries.
Hamilton enters grey lockdown phase Monday
Today is the last day before Hamilton enters the grey “lockdown” phase of the province’s pandemic response plan.
Hamilton is joining Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex in lockdown mode.
The stricter public health protocols — which restrict restaurants to offering takeout and delivery only, and close non-essential stores — kick in at 12:01 a.m. on Monday.
Meanwhile, Ontario is providing details on 17 hospitals that will be distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks to health-care workers. The facilities include hospitals from Windsor to Thunder Bay.
The hospitals will join the University Health Network in Toronto and the Ottawa Hospital in giving the vaccine to workers. The province expects to receive an additional 90,000 doses.
Amid rumours of rifts involving Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, public appearances at Christmas became an opportunity to try to suss out the true nature of royal relationships. Maybe a sideways glance during a walk to church would indicate who was getting along — or not — with whom?
Such glimpses might not come anywhere close to revealing much of anything, but the interest was there.
It is still there, even in this year turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, complete with the recommended abandonment of large family get-togethers — royal or otherwise — over the holidays.
Queen Elizabeth has decided she and Prince Philip will mark Christmas quietly at Windsor Castle — where they have been living in virtual isolation for most of the pandemic — rather than with the large family gathering that has taken place over Christmas at her Sandringham estate northeast of London for more than three decades.
New, stricter pandemic restrictions announced Saturday that cover the area around Windsor could mean further changes to any plans some members of the Royal Family may have had for Christmas Day.
“Under these restrictions, individuals may meet with one person from another household outdoors, and there will be interest in whether one of the Queen’s children or grandchildren meets with her outside Windsor Castle at Christmas in accordance with these requirements,” said Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal historian and author.
Already there has been notable interest in another outdoor — and physically distanced — pre-Christmas meeting of some senior members of the family at Windsor Castle.
The Queen stood outside, well apart from William and Kate, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as they thanked volunteers and workers from local charitable organizations.
It’s hardly the first time the Royal Family has altered its actions to accommodate the world around them.
“During times of crisis, the Royal Family adjusts their own routines to reflect the conditions experienced by the wider public,” said Harris.
In the Second World War, food was rationed at Buckingham Palace, even on formal occasions, when more modest meals were served to visitors — albeit still on the fancy china.
The announcement earlier this month of the Queen’s decision to mark Christmas quietly at Windsor Castle “just shows how … clear the palace [is] about understanding the nation, or particularly the Queen is, in her 95th year,” said British public relations expert Mark Borkowski, adding that the announcement was a further reflection of her ability to do “the right thing at the right time in the right way.”
Harris said public interest in royal Christmas celebrations mirrors the interest in royal weddings and births — they’re milestones that average people also experience and ones that could provide “a glimpse of more personal moments.”
That was seen this year, she said, when William and Kate took their children to see a Christmas pantomime, and there was public curiosity about how Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis responded to the performance, and how their parents explained the jokes to them.
Watching how the royals celebrate Christmas goes back several generations.
Some of the traditions they followed then found favour with the wider public, especially during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria, when her husband, Prince Albert, brought his own traditions from Germany, particularly the Christmas tree.
Christmas trees had been in use during previous royal Christmases, but the unprecedented expansion of that era’s mass media helped to spread the word about what the royals were doing in the festive season.
“An image in the London Illustrated News of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, their children and Queen Victoria’s mother gathered around the Christmas tree provided a famous image of the royal Christmas, which was widely admired and emulated,” said Harris.
In that instance, there was also some royal image management going on in an attempt to counter public perception of the monarchy at the time.
“After the scandalous reigns of Queen Victoria’s uncles, George IV and William IV, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were determined to demonstrate that the monarchy was once again respectable and mirrored the prevailing middle-class views of the importance of domesticity and the home as a refuge from the concerns of the wider world,” said Harris.
Ready for his shot
Prince Charles, who had COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic, says he will get a vaccination against the coronavirus.
But he’s not expecting his shot will come any time soon.
His comments came Thursday as he and Camilla toured a vaccination centre in western England and met front-line health-care workers administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“I think I’ll have to wait for the AstraZeneca one before it gets to my turn. I’m some way down the list,” Charles said, according to a report from ITV.
Speculation has swirled about whether or when his mother, the Queen, might also receive a coronavirus vaccine, with palace comments widely reported that she might let it be known once she and Prince Philip had received the shot.
Flash back more than six decades, to a time when the British government wanted members of the public to take another vaccine, and Elizabeth let it be known that Charles and his sister Anne had received shots to protect them against polio.
“As a result, public mood over the vaccine thawed and millions of others went on to take the drug, which the National Health Service said helped cases ‘fall dramatically,'” the Daily Express reported recently.
No formality here
When it comes time to declare another royal baby is on the way, the general modus operandi is a formal announcement from Buckingham Palace.
So it caught people’s attention and spawned headlines the other day when Mike Tindall, husband of the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall, shared news via his sports podcast that they are expecting another child.
“Had a little scan last week, third Tindall on its way,” the former rugby player told the 150,000 weekly listeners of The Good, the Bad & the Rugby podcast.
“Z is very good … obviously always careful because of things that have happened in the past. But so far, so good. Fingers crossed. I’d like a boy this time. I’ve got two girls, I would like a boy. I will love it whether it’s a boy or a girl, but please be a boy,” he said, holding up those crossed fingers and waving in the podcast video.
“Things that have happened in the past” refers to two miscarriages Zara had between the birth of their elder daughter Mia, 6, and younger daughter, Lena, 2.
According to The Telegraph, the announcement was very much in keeping with the couple’s casual, down-to-earth manner, and their “reputation as the Royal Family’s most relatable couple.”
The baby will be the Queen’s 10th great-grandchild, and is the second royal birth expected in 2021. Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, are also expecting a child in the new year.
“You just disappeared, all of you.”
— Queen Elizabeth takes a technical glitch in stride during a virtual meeting with staff at the accounting giant KPMG, as it marked its 150th anniversary. The pandemic has led to numerous online firsts for the Queen, as she carries out duties remotely. Last week, she conducted her first diplomatic audience via a video call.
A three-day rail tour through the U.K. by William and Kate to meet and thank front-line pandemic workers ran into a lukewarm welcome in Scotland and Wales. [The Guardian]
Harry and Meghan will host and produce podcasts as part of a deal the couple, now living in California, have made with the streaming service Spotify. [BBC]
Netflix says it has “no plans” to include a disclaimer with The Crown to make it clear that the award-winning drama about Queen Elizabeth’s reign is a work of fiction. [Los Angeles Times]
Christmas means Christmas cards, often including a happy family photo from the past year. For their 2020 festive mailing, Charles and Camilla are relaxing in their garden at their home in Scotland, while William and Kate are all smiles with their kids at their country home northeast of London. [BBC]
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While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged today that Christmas won’t be the same this year, with wide swaths of the country under COVID-related lockdowns, he said there’s reason for optimism in 2021 now that hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses are expected to arrive early in the new year.
Speaking to reporters outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Trudeau said the government got word today that Pfizer will be shipping 125,000 vaccine doses per week in January 2021 for a total of 500,000 shots — primarily destined for the arms of front line health care workers and long-term care home residents. Pfizer has committed already to delivering 249,000 doses to Canada in December.
All told, roughly 375,000 Canadians are expected to be vaccinated with the two-dose Pfizer shot by the end of January.
Canada is also anticipating the delivery this month of 168,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, enough for about 84,000 people. The Moderna product is still waiting on Health Canada’s regulatory approval.
“This is the largest immunization campaign our country has ever seen, and I know we have the right plan and the expertise we need,” Trudeau said. “But remember, a vaccine in a week or in a month won’t help you if you get COVID-19 today.”
WATCH: Prime Minister Trudeau offers update on vaccine delivery
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters outside Rideau Cottage on Friday. 1:57
Trudeau urged Canadians to continue to follow public health guidelines over the holidays. While the vaccine news is promising, he said, Canadians should resist complacency.
“Our fight against this virus is not over, even as we’re preparing to say goodbye — and good riddance — to 2020. It may be the holiday season, but we have to be more careful than ever,” Trudeau said.
Asked about the prospect of getting even more Pfizer doses, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said today she’s in constant communication with the company to discuss the possibility of “accelerated timelines” and to “ensure Canada has the earliest possible access to Pfizer doses.”
Canada is still on track to take delivery of 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first three months of 2021, she said.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a current Pfizer board member, said this week that because the U.S. passed on ordering 100 million more doses of the vaccine, the company’s Kalamazoo, Mich., plant could send that product to other countries in the second quarter of 2021.
Watch: Trudeau questioned about vaccine deliveries, impact on Christmas.:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with the CBC’s Tom Parry on Friday. 2:19
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said today’s announcement that Canada will receive a specific number of Pfizer doses in January may give the provinces leeway to accelerate their vaccination campaigns.
While all provinces have started delivering shots, most have stockpiled the second dose of the two-dose regime to ensure they have enough supply on hand.
If a steady supply of vaccines is expected, Tam said, some provinces may opt to just vaccinate as many people as possible without keeping a reserve.
“It’s great to hear this schedule,” Tam said. “If you know there’s 125,000 coming per week in January, that makes planning for that second dose much easier in terms of not necessarily having to hold back the initial ones … so I think those details are to be worked out on the ground.”
Pfizer has stipulated that the second shot should be administered 21 days after the first to ensure the 94 per cent effectiveness rate documented in the clinical trials
U.S. vaccination campaign pulling ahead of Canada
The U.S. is expected to vaccinate many more people than Canada in the coming weeks.
Gen. Gustave Perna is the military general leading Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. mission to develop and distribute a vaccine. He said Pfizer already has shipped 2.9 million doses to the United States, with millions more to follow by month’s end.
Some U.S. governors, however, are reporting that their allocations of the vaccine are less than what they expected.
The U.S. also has secured 100 million doses of the promising Moderna product for the first three months of 2021 alone. Canada expects to receive about 2 million Moderna doses between January and March.
Operation Warp Speed largely bankrolled the vaccine’s development, the clinical trial process and the large-scale manufacturing operations, spending $ 4.1 billion so far to support Moderna.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser to the U.S. vaccine operation, has said every American who wants a vaccine will get one by June.
The Public Health Agency of Canada told CBC News Tuesday that it expects to have enough vaccine doses on hand to vaccinate every Canadian by the end of September, 2021.
Asked what he would do to close the Canada-U.S. vaccine gap, Trudeau said the federal government has secured one of the broadest portfolios of promising vaccine candidates in the world.
“The Americans have a health care system that will have challenges and will have successes. We have our own process. We’re focused on our own process to make sure that as many Canadians as possible get vaccinated, as quickly as possible, with vaccines that are safe and effective and approved by Health Canada,” he said.
Watch: Trudeau is asked why many Canadians aren’t listening to pandemic messaging.:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters at Rideau Cottage on Friday. 1:58
We’re answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca, and we’ll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. So far, we’ve received more than 57,000 emails from all corners of the country.
In light of recent COVID-19 spikes throughout Canada, the trickiest part of the holidays might just be the planning. Reconciling your COVID-19 risk comfort level with your families could prove difficult.
We’ve been hearing from Canadians who are concerned about what the holidays might look like, so we asked experts how best to negotiate gatherings this season.
Should we be cancelling our Christmas plans?
Kirsten Z. asked if she should cancel her holiday plans altogether.
First, it’s important to remember that officials and medical experts have been emphasizing that the large, extended family gatherings with family members from all over are not a good idea right now.
“Obviously the holidays will be different this year,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a news conference earlier this week. How different, he said, depends on where you live.
“Maybe the Atlantic bubble can be spared, depending on how well they’re able to maintain things and what their policy is,” said Dr. Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at University Health Network in Toronto.
Get-togethers are being discouraged in most places across the country. In Manitoba and some regions of Ontario, they’re not allowed at all.
WATCH | How to navigate the holiday season as the pandemic continues:
An infectious disease expert and epidemiologist answer questions about navigating the holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic, including what lessons may have been learned from Thanksgiving. 5:51
“This won’t be a popular answer, but sadly I don’t think [family gatherings] will be a safe thing for us to do in most areas of Canada,” Hota said.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla agreed.
“It’s not looking hopeful that traditional things like Christmas dinner is happening,” said Chagla, who is an associate professor at McMaster University and consultant physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ont.
“We’ve seen outbreaks associated with family dinners and sleepovers, and it’s just too much of a risk to the community to have another amplifying event.”
What if we isolate ourselves beforehand?
Quebecers have been offered the option to quarantine themselves for a week before and a week after Christmas in exchange for the lifting of a ban on gatherings.
A number of you have written in asking if isolating before the holidays would make it OK to get together.
“I think it’s a pragmatic approach, informed in part by Canada’s experience over Thanksgiving.” said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an attending physician in the infectious diseases division at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, referring to Canadians who gathered despite warnings from public health officials.
But he worries that due to the incubation period of COVID-19, which is sometimes longer than the seven days Quebec is advising, some may develop symptoms even after the second week of isolation and then spread the virus further.
WATCH | Quebec’s holiday gathering rules
For four days, the rules that have kept Quebecers apart for months will be eased. But it’s not without risk. 4:39
Other experts worry that the idea is good in theory, but see flaws in its practicality.
“I think there are too many holes in that strategy,” said Chagla. He pointed out there are just too many possibilities for someone to slip up and expose everyone to risk because isolation would require:
Adults working from home.
Keeping kids home from school.
Not going out in public at all, not even for groceries.
The notion also raises equity issues, noted Chagla, as many families simply don’t have the ability to isolate for 14 days due to work or other factors.
Hota agreed and said isolation would be unrealistic for most people.
“The problem is it’s very difficult to exclude contact from all people,” she said.
You’d also have to trust that everyone was being diligent.
“People start making their own judgments and decisions saying, ‘I got 11 out of 14 days and that’s good enough,'” said Hota. “That worries me about that strategy.”
But if we get negative test results, we’ll be okay, right?
Hota warned that a negative test could give you a false sense of security.
Testing isn’t always accurate, and whether results are accurate depend heavily on the timing.
“Testing really just tells you what your status is at the time you got tested,” Hota said. “It doesn’t tell you if you’re going to be developing the infections a couple of days from then, when you actually show up at your parents’ house.”
Is it safe to give and receive presents, cards or cookies?
Both Chagla and Hota agreed that gift giving and dropping off baked goods is safe, provided that you take the necessary precautions like distancing and hand hygiene.
“Once you wrap and give or receive your gift, just make sure to wash your hands,” said Hota.
If it’s a washable item, such as clothes, Hota suggested you launder them, which you should be doing with new clothing anyway.
However, she said it’s not necessary to wipe everything down with disinfectants the way we were early in the pandemic.
“We’re learning, over time, that the virus doesn’t really last on surfaces for that long, particularly on clothing,” she said in an earlier article.
As for the exchange itself, Chagla said doing it while physically distanced, with masks and outdoors would be “a great option” if your local public health agency allows it. But in Toronto, for example, even outdoor socializing is being discouraged.
And if you wanted to take an extra precaution, Chagla suggested leaving the presents under the tree overnight before opening them together the next morning — virtually.
How do I tell Mom we’re not coming for Christmas?
We’ve heard from Canadians who have made the decision to stay home, but still want to know: What’s the best way to tell their family that they’re not coming over?
“Frame your message in terms of family-related considerations,” said Igor Grossmann, associate professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo.
He suggests telling your loved ones that you aren’t coming “not because you are trying to be selfish, but in fact, because you care about them and you care about your elderly parents.”
But what if they get mad or think you are overreacting?
One thing that’s important to keep in mind is you need to be compassionate and remain calm, according to Grossmann.
“Don’t make any accusations, and don’t make them feel bad,” he said.
People can be quick to assume others are just being selfish and that’s the reason they are not following the rules and recommendations from public health officials, Grossman added.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. It may be the case for some people, but often it’s a lack of proper information.”
WATCH | Why a January COVID-19 could be particularly problematic:
There is a lot going on in Quebec hospitals in January – more injuries, respiratory illnesses and cardiac episodes. And as infectious disease specialist Dr. Cécile Tremblay explains, that is also when COVID cases from Christmas will start to pop up, another source of stress on the health-care system. 0:53
Instead, Grossmann suggests asking them where they are getting their information and asking them to offer their perspective. Then explain to them why you think the way you think and where your sources come from.
“The best strategy is to engage in a dialogue where you don’t discount their opinion but instead elaborate on their sources,” he said. “This type of dialogue may often help people realize that their beliefs are based on misinformed opinions.”
How do I talk to family/friends that don’t take the pandemic seriously or think it’s just the flu?
“The worst thing that you can do in this type of situation is tell them that they are stupid and they are wrong, because as research has shown, that will right away lead to them shutting off and not listening,” said Grossmann.
Even if you may not have much common ground to stand on, it’s still important to open up the dialogue and have a conversation, rather than an argument.
What happens if we go and they’re not taking precautions?
So you’ve talked about it and decided to visit with a small family bubble, but you get to Grandma’s house and nobody is following the rules you laid out. What next?
Don’t panic or overreact to anything, Grossmann said. You can still control things like wearing a mask and the amount of distance you put between yourself and others.
“You can always take a step back,” he said. “If someone gets too close to you, you can communicate to them: ‘Is it okay if I take a step back?'”
Above all else, Grossmann underscored the idea that if you don’t feel comfortable or if it goes against common sense you probably shouldn’t do it.
Ontario’s top doctor is hopeful that the entire province could be in the least-restrictive green zone by Christmas — even when the holidays are just over five weeks away and coronavirus cases are surging.
But medical experts say there’s zero chance of that happening and are once more questioning the thought process of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, who is directly informing Premier Doug Ford’s public health decisions.
Ontario has routinely been topping records for new daily coronavirus cases in the past week or so.
“How is it possible that we could come close to approaching the green zone by the end of December, which coincides with the time that [the province’s] modelling shows we could be at 6,500 cases per day with over 400 patients in the ICU?” said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, in a video he posted on Twitter. “So this begs the question, why is there such a disconnect between what Dr. Williams says and what I view from my perspective at the bedside?
“That’s a question that I don’t have the answer for — but it’s a question that we should all be asking, because Dr. Williams is the person who advises the premier, and the premier is the person who makes decisions.”
Dr. Williams is hoping all of Ontario will be in the Green/Prevent level of restrictions by Christmas. <a href=”https://twitter.com/ONgov?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ONgov</a> own data show this is impossible. <a href=”https://t.co/SO9bg6eSRu”>pic.twitter.com/SO9bg6eSRu</a>
Williams made his Christmas statement during Monday afternoon’s provincial news conference.
“If we all do what we’re supposed to do and do it well and consistently and keep at that, we can get these numbers down as we did before, and bring them down to levels so you bring them from the red, to the orange, to the yellow, and I would like to think everybody would be in green, especially before the time of Christmas,” Williams said.
WATCH | Dr. David Williams says Ontario could be in the green zone by Christmas, if people follow public health guidance:
Ontario’s medical officer of health says he is hopeful that the entire province could be in the green zone by Christmas. 0:28
Warner isn’t the sole voice out there saying there is absolutely no way that can happen.
Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said the math just doesn’t add up. Ontario would need to see declining growth in cases in many health units for that to be a possibility, she said, and that isn’t happening.
“Absent a massive shift in how we manage the pandemic in the province, we won’t all be in green by Christmas,” she said.
Biostatistician Ryan Imgrund, who is currently working with hospitals and public health units including Ottawa and Peel, told CBC News that it’s “statistically impossible” for Ontario to get every region into the least-restrictive green zone by Christmas.
“Dr. Williams’s statement shows he doesn’t understand the statistics, or he doesn’t have access to basic measures like the effective reproductive value [or Rt],” Imgrund said, referring to how many people on average would be infected by one person with the coronavirus.
⭐️⭐️ BREAKING NEWS ⭐️⭐️ For every region to be in the green by Christmas like Dr. Williams says is possible, we would need an Rt value of 0.74 or less for EACH of the next 40 days. In the last 296 days, we have NEVER been under 0.76. Not even for one day. EVER. <a href=”https://t.co/8VC40vHA3Y”>https://t.co/8VC40vHA3Y</a> <a href=”https://t.co/vLIEZpBZ34″>pic.twitter.com/vLIEZpBZ34</a>
At the province’s daily news conference on Tuesday, both Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott said Williams was looking at the situation optimistically.
“I don’t think it’s something we can count on at this point,” Elliott said. “I think he is being very optimistic, that is of his nature.”
Ford said he’s hopeful that things will improve in the coming weeks but also said, “I’d be very cautious at Christmas.”
To be in the the province’s green zone, a region would need a weekly incidence rate of below 10 new weekly cases per 100,000 people, with per cent positivity below 0.5 per cent and Rt values below one. The province’s own documents say that in the green zone, hospital and ICU capacity is adequate, and contact tracing is taking place — something Toronto had to largely abandon, thanks to surging case counts. Parts of the province that are currently in the green zone include Thunder Bay, Peterborough and Algoma health units.
By contrast, many of Ontario’s most populous regions are currently in the red zone, which includes a weekly incidence rate of more than 40 per 100,000, a test positivity rate of greater than 2.5 per cent and an Rt of greater than 1.2.
In other words, the gulf between red zones and green zones is wide, and to this point, isn’t closing.
See the province’s latest thresholds for yourself in the following PDF. If you can’t see the document, follow this link.
“When I look at the province’s own data … really without exception, we are so far away from being in the green zone — particularly in the red zones,” Warner said, noting that ICU admissions, hospitalizations and deaths are all increasing.
“That is impossible for the entire province to be in the green zone.”