Thousands of Indian farmers blocked a massive expressway on the edges of New Delhi on Saturday to mark the 100th day of protests against agricultural laws they say will devastate their income.
Farmers stood on tractors and waved colourful flags while their leaders chanted slogans via a loudspeaker atop a makeshift stage.
Thousands of them have hunkered down outside New Delhi’s borders since late November to voice their anger against three laws passed by India’s Parliament last year.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the laws are necessary to modernize agriculture, but farmers say they will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big corporations.
What’s happening now?
Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or Joint Farmers’ Front, said the blockade would last five hours.
“It is not our hobby to block roads, but the government is not listening to us. What can we do?” said Satnam Singh, a member of the group.
The farmers have remained undeterred even after violence erupted on Jan. 26 during clashes with police that left one protester dead and hundreds injured. But they could soon run into problems.
WATCH | Tensions in January
For 100 days, Karnal Singh has lived inside the back of a trailer along a vast stretch of arterial highway that connects India’s north with New Delhi. He camped outside the capital when it was under the grip of winter and smog. Now, the city is bracing for scorching summer temperatures that can hit 45 C.
But Singh, like many other farmers, is unfazed and plans to stay until the laws are completely withdrawn.
“We are not going anywhere and will fight till the end,” Singh, 60, said on Friday, as he sat cross-legged inside a makeshift shelter in the back of his truck.
The mood at the Singhu border, one of the protest sites, was boisterous on Friday, with many farmers settling into their surroundings for the long haul.
Huge soup kitchens that feed thousands daily were still running. Farmers thronged both sides of the highway, and hundreds of trucks have been turned into rooms, fitted with water coolers in preparation for the summer. Electric fans and air conditioners are also being installed in some trailers.
Protests expected to continue during harvest season
Farmers say the protests will spread across the country soon. The government, however, is hoping many of them will return home once India’s major harvesting season begins at the end of the month.
Karanbir Singh dismissed such concerns. He said their community, including friends and neighbours back in the villages, would tend to farms while he and others carried on with the protests.
“We’ll help each other to make sure no farm goes unharvested,” Singh said.
But not all farmers are against the laws. Pawan Kumar, a fruit and vegetable grower and ardent Modi supporter, said he was ready to give them a chance.
“If they [the laws] turn out to not benefit us, then we will protest again,” he said. “We will jam roads and make that protest even bigger. Then more common people, even workers, will join. But if they turn out to be beneficial for us, we will keep them.”
Support in Canada for farmers
The farmers have drawn support for their cause from far outside of India’s borders, including in Canada.
Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmers have failed to end the stalemate. The farmers have rejected an offer from the government to put the laws on hold for 18 months, saying they want a complete repeal.
The legislation is not clear on whether the government will continue to guarantee prices for certain essential crops — a system that was introduced in the 1960s to help India shore up its food reserves and prevent shortages.
Farmers also fear that the legislation signals the government is moving away from a system in which an overwhelming majority of farmers sell only to government-sanctioned marketplaces.
They worry this will leave them at the mercy of corporations that will have no legal obligation to pay them the guaranteed price anymore.
Utility crews raced Wednesday to restore power to nearly 3.4 million customers around the U.S. who were still without electricity or heat in the aftermath of a deadly winter storm, and another blast of ice and snow threatened to sow more chaos.
The latest storm front was expected to bring more hardship, especially to states that are unaccustomed to such frigid weather — parts of Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley.
“There’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling across that area,” said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the U.S. National Weather Service, referring to Texas.
The system was forecast to move into the Northeast on Thursday. More than 100 million people live in areas covered by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory, the weather service said.
At least 30 people have died in the extreme weather this week, some while struggling to find warmth inside their homes. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from car exhaust in their garage. Another perished as they used a fireplace to keep warm.
Record low temperatures were reported in city after city. Scientists say the polar vortex, a weather pattern that usually keeps to the Arctic, is increasingly spilling into lower latitudes and staying there longer, and global warming is partly responsible.
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity. In Mexico, rolling blackouts Tuesday covered more than one-third of the country after the storms in Texas cut the supply of imported natural gas.
WATCH | Millions without power as much of U.S. recovers from major winter storm:
There is a scramble in Texas to stay warm and restore power to millions after a major winter storm hit. Several other states are also cleaning up after flooding and a tornado. 1:59
The worst U.S. power outages by far have been in Texas, where three million homes and businesses remained without power as of midday Wednesday. The state’s power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said electricity had been restored to 600,000 homes and businesses by Tuesday night. Officials did not know when power would be restored, but council president Bill Magness said he hoped many customers would see at least partial service restored by later Wednesday or Thursday.
Magness also defended the decision to force outages “to prevent an event that would have been even more catastrophic than the terrible events we’ve seen this week.”
Dashawn Walker, 33, was thrilled to find the power back on in his Dallas apartment Wednesday. He stayed at a suburban hotel Tuesday night after being without power since Sunday but said he was charged $ 474 US for one night.
“It’s crazy,” Walker said. “I mean why would y’all go up on the hotels in the middle of a crisis?”
Widespread power loss
More than 200,000 additional customers were in the dark in four Appalachian states, and nearly that many in the Pacific Northwest, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports.
Oklahoma’s largest electric utility reported no outages Wednesday, a day after rolling blackouts in and around Oklahoma City stopped electric-powered space heaters, furnaces and lights in –8 C weather. But Oklahoma Gas & Electric warned customers of the potential for more short-term service interruptions due to the extreme cold and high demand for natural gas.
Nebraska also avoided another round of rolling power outages as subzero temperatures started to ease.
Entergy imposed rolling blackouts Tuesday night in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Southeast Texas at the direction of its grid manager, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, according to a statement from the New Orleans-based utility.
The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states, said the blackouts were “a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.”
The weather also caused major disruptions to water systems in several southern U.S. cities, including in Shreveport, Louisiana, where city fire trucks delivered water to several hospitals, and bottled water was being brought in for patients and staff, Shreveport television station KSLA reported.
Carbon monoxide poisoning incidents
In Austin, Houston and other cities, residents were asked to stop letting water drip from pipes, a practice to prevent freezing, because of a major drop in water pressure. Houston residents also were told to boil their water — if they had power — because the pressure drop was allowing bacteria to seep into the pipes.
In the southwest Louisiana city of Lake Charles, Mayor Nic Hunter said Wednesday that water reserves remained low even after power was restored, and that local hospitals were faced with the possibility they might have to transfer patients to other areas because of low water pressure.
Travel remains ill-advised in much of the United States, with roadways treacherous and thousands of flights cancelled. Many school systems delayed or cancelled face-to-face classes.
But even staying home can be hazardous in places without power.
Authorities said a fire that killed three young children and their grandmother in the Houston area likely was caused by the fireplace they were using to keep warm. In Oregon, authorities confirmed Tuesday that four people died in the Portland area of carbon monoxide poisoning.
At least 13 children were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth and one parent died of the toxic fumes, hospital officials said.
Fears of more snow
Stories of kindness emerged from the crisis.
In Clinton, Mississippi, Army veteran Evelyn Fletcher has been cooking and delivering meals to sidelined truck drivers, travelers and people staying at hotels after losing power at home.
“They’re stranded, they’re isolated — people are in need of support right now,” Fletcher said.
On Monday, Fletcher made 85 meals. On Tuesday, she made 30 plates, while a local restaurant, T’Beaux’s Crawfish and Catering, cooked 75 plates of shrimp and gumbo that she and other volunteers delivered. And on Wednesday, Fletcher was cooking a pot of turkey noodle soup, hoping to deliver another 70 meals.
“People are worried about more snow,” she said. “We are going to keep people fed and keep them feeling hopeful.”
Alberta has changed self-isolation rules for those infected with variants of COVID-19, and in some cases people may end up in quarantine for up to 24 days, says the province’s top public health doctor.
The province has now found 50 cases of the virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and seven of the variant first identified in South Africa, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday at a news conference.
“With 57 cases of variants detected, I know that some may be wondering why we have detected so many,” Hinshaw said. “This is thanks to both the excellent work of our lab to expand variant testing quickly, and to the border pilot program, which has detected 28 of our variant cases.”
Because it can be difficult for people with variants to remain effectively isolated from other household members, health officials are ensuring all new variant cases, and people linked to those cases, are aware of Alberta’s hotel isolation and quarantine options, Hinshaw said.
“If cases choose to stay home during their isolation period, their household contacts will now need to stay at home as well in quarantine, until 14 days have passed from the end of the case’s isolation period, for a total of 24 days,” she said.
“Given how easily this variant is spreading in homes, this enhancement is necessary to prevent spread in the community.”
All seven cases with the variant first identified in South Africa, and 36 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., were found in returning travellers, Hinshaw said. Another six cases have been detected in the travellers’ close contacts.
But eight of the 57 cases, found in five different households, have no links to travel yet identified, Hinshaw said.
Investigations are underway to determine the source of those cases, Hinshaw said, though four of them have been linked to an outbreak at a daycare.
Hinshaw wouldn’t say where the daycare is because public health officials are still doing notifications. Not all of the four daycare cases have been tested, so it’s not known how many are linked to variants
“This link was just identified today, and work is underway to notify parents and staff of this facility that the outbreak at this location may be at least partially caused by a variant strain. This is concerning but it does mean that we have a better chance of controlling spread when we understand the linkages between cases.”
Meanwhile, public health investigations in the cases of returning travellers identified some spread of the virus within those households, Hinshaw said.
In two schools in the Calgary zone, that household spread led to the children of returning travellers attending school while they were infectious. Three classes from those two schools are now self-isolating as a result, she said.
The variants are concerning because of the ease of transmission. Hinshaw has said Alberta health officials are working to track the origin of each case.
The government has announced that some public health restrictions affecting restaurants and gyms are planned to be lifted on Monday.
Alberta reported 268 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 13 more deaths.
The last time new cases were that low was in mid-October.
The regional breakdown of active cases on Tuesday was:
It’s a goal so lofty and steep two-time Canadian Olympian Vincent De Haître isn’t quite sure he’ll be able to get to the top.
But he’s going to put his body through “hell” trying to do it.
De Haître is a dual-sport athlete, a cyclist and speed skater nicknamed “Quadzilla” because of the size of his quadriceps and whose favourite saying is “uphill is the quickest way to the top.”
Within the next 12 months, he hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in July with Canada’s cycling team and then six months later, in February 2022, on completely different equipment, line up in the Beijing Olympics as a member of Canada’s long track speed skating team.
For the 26-year-old from Ottawa, it’s too tantalizing not to try. De Haître is just wired differently. In the same way that 12 other Canadian Olympians were — the select few high performers who have successfully competed in both Summer and Winter Olympics for Canada over all the years.
It was already going to be difficult enough for De Haître trying to get to Tokyo after having competed at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang. A couple of years isn’t a lot of time to prepare in the best of circumstances. He could have never predicted a pandemic was going throw everything into disarray for himself and thousands of other Olympians worldwide.
It’s forced him into training another year on the bike, with skating interspersed in between. It’s also trimmed the already slim window in between Games by a year, making the switch from bike to skates in Beijing seemingly impossible. But he’s willing to try.
Quick turnaround between Games
There are 180 days between the closing ceremony in Tokyo and the opening ceremony in Beijing. The thought of that quick turnaround sends De Haître into a bit of a panic.
“People have done it. But trying to do it at the same time in the midst of a pandemic is just about the hardest way you can do it,” he told CBC Sports. “If you know a pandemic is coming, don’t try to do two sports at different Olympics.”
His love for both sports goes back to when he was 10 years old, when he was skating and BMX’ing around Ottawa. Does he have a favourite?
He laughs, almost anticipating the question, and responds the same way he has his entire life.
Whichever sport I’m doing at that time is my favourite. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I love cycling and skating and going fast.– Vincent De Haître
“Whichever sport I’m doing at that time is my favourite,” De Haître said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I love cycling and skating and going fast.”
Now he’s attempting to turn his two loves into history, competing in the Summer and Winter Olympics in two different sports in one of the shortest amounts of time between the two an athlete has ever attempted.
Trying to wrap his head around all of the training programs, nutritional plans, physiotherapy sessions is nothing short of mind-numbing. So he’s trying to keep it simple.
De Haître who normally resides in Calgary, is living in a rented accommodation in Red Deer, Alta. his parents are helping pay for — it’s the only place he’s able to speed skate right now.
He did have the choice of traveling from Calgary to the outdoor oval in Red Deer and then back most days, but that would have meant about three hours in a car. For someone who has been battling back injuries for years, that was never going to be an option.
So, like so many of us in this pandemic, he’s cooped up alone. His only outlet is going to the track to skate — alone — throughout the week. He says it’s a small price for trying to achieve his goal..
“There are pros and cons to everything. I don’t have a coach around. But I don’t have to drive a lot,” De Haître said.
These are some of the most crucial days in a seemingly never-ending journey for De Haître as he’s now decided to make some technical changes to his skating. He’s never had downtime like this before to work on the little things.
“I feel pretty [lousy.] But that’s what happens when you’re trying to make a change,” he said. “My brain says that’s not how we’re supposed to be doing this. And then it all supposedly clicks.”
That word — supposedly — is used a lot when De Haître talks about the plan he and a small village of people have come up with to get him to both Olympics.
He does have somewhat of a blueprint to work from; De Haître has competed in two Games as a speed skater already — Sochi in 2014 and then four years later in PyeongChang. He switched to cycling during some of those off-seasons.
In Sochi, he posted a top-20 finish in the 1,000 metres and was named Speed Skating Canada’s long track rising star of the year. Then that summer he competed at his first major international event in track cycling — the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow — where he finished fourth in the team sprint and seventh in the 1 km time trial.
But the Commonwealth Games aren’t the Olympics. And there wasn’t a pandemic.
Cycling told me they needed me to attend all training camps. It was pretty much the same for skating. I had to be committed to both.– Vincent De Haître
At the 2018 Olympics, De Haître was suffering from a severe heel injury that held him back and left him wondering what might have been. So in a lot of ways, De Haître had to make the best sales pitch of his life to two sets of national teams that he could be an asset to the cycling and speed skating teams while in Tokyo and Beijing.
He did most of that negotiation on a 14-hour road trip from Victoria to Calgary last March, just a week before the Olympics were postponed. He was coming home from a cycling training camp that had just been cancelled in the early days of the pandemic. That’s when he started calling his coaches, high-performance committees and all other support staff to start mapping out what it would take to get to Tokyo and Beijing and if it was even possible.
Wear and tear on body
“By May there was some clarity,” he said. “Cycling told me they needed me to attend all training camps. It was pretty much the same for skating. I had to be committed to both.”
De Haître committed at that moment. Since the summer he’s been splitting his time between training outdoors or indoors on a stationary bike and also training for skating, in less than ideal conditions with restrictions changing almost daily.
Now, in what would be considered the cycling off-season, he’s fully devoted to the ice until at least March. All the wear and tear and different use of muscles is taking its toll on De Haître.
“Your body adapts and develops tissue. That goes away when you’re not using it. And then when you go back to that, you’re not as strong,” he said. “My legs are strong from cycling but I didn’t have the body to handle it. If you take a Honda Civic and put a V-8 [engine] in it, there are other things you need to do to that car to make it work.”
Keeping his body together is a monumental task that his physiotherapists are not taking lightly. De Haître couldn’t be more grateful for it. He estimates that a normal turnaround time for what he’s putting his body through would take months. His physiotherapists have trimmed it down to a few weeks.
I’m motivated by how many people are surrounding me. It reinforces they have belief in me that I can do this.– Vincent De Haître
“It’s really intricate. It’s easy to get lost in all the details. But in the simplest form, there are a lot of people helping me make this happen,” he said.
“It’s really motivating. There’s pressure. I feel pressure. But I’m motivated by how many people are surrounding me. It reinforces they have belief in me that I can do this.”
De Haître has already been named to Canada’s cycling team, which provides him some relief in a time when it’s hard to get any concrete answers on anything. But he’s far from being in the clear.
Perhaps what’s most incredible about this double Olympic-sized task is that by the time he competes in Tokyo, it will have been more than a year and a half since his last competitive cycling race.
As soon as he’s done competing in Japan, he’ll have four months to prepare for Canada’s Olympic speed skating trials to try to make it onto the team for Beijing. And to make it even more remarkable, when he finally gets back to skating, he will not have competed in a competition since the 2018 Olympics.
The margin of error is immeasurable. Any setbacks or injuries now could derail the entire thing — and he’s already had a career littered with injury and setbacks. There can’t be many missteps along the way now and De Haître knows it.
“I have to make it work to my advantage. That’s how athletes need to work in their heads so they can believe in themselves. You have to find a way to make this an advantage,” he said.
“I believe the work [with] we’ve done, I can make this work.”
The father of a London, Ont., teen who died Thursday after being diagnosed with COVID-19 says his son died at home after being treated as a day patient in hospital earlier this month.
Ahmad Dabeh said his 19-year-old son Yassin was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the second week of January. He said Yassin went to a London emergency room complaining of chest pains and difficulty breathing on more than one occasion, but was never admitted to hospital.
During these visits, his son was treated with oxygen and released after a few hours, he said.
Dabeh was speaking at a news conference he held Tuesday via online video, in part to address rumours circulating online that his son’s death was caused by something other than COVID-19.
“These are rumours and they are hurtful to our family and to Yassin,” he said, at the news conference, speaking Arabic and answering reporters’ questions through a translator.
He said his family is grieving the loss of a “very loving and compassionate” young man.
Yassin worked as a cleaner at Middlesex Terrace, a long-term care home just outside of London in Delaware, Ont., that has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
Dabeh did not say what days his son went to hospital, but that Yassin was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the second week of January.
On Thursday, Yassin complained of difficulty breathing and chest pain, Dabeh said. That evening, the family was unable to wake him up after he fell asleep, he said.
Dabeh said the family called 911 on the night his son died. Paramedics tried to revive Yassin but the teen was pronounced dead that evening, he said.
Dabeh said he believes medical staff gave their son the best treatment they could.
“At the end of the day, it’s God who decides,” he said.
Yassin was buried the day after his death. Dabeh and other family members were not able to attend the burial because they are now positive for COVID-19.
On Monday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit said there would be no further investigation into Yassin’s death.
Yassin’s death made national news because of the more than 19,000 Canadians who’ve died of COVID-19, he is one of only three people younger than 19.
He was a Syrian refugee who moved to Canada with his family in 2016.
Dabeh said he wanted “the best future” for himself and his eight children and said he’s “very grateful” to the people of Canada for helping his family have a better life here.
Kyle Alexander spent 97 days in the NBA bubble — and didn’t see a single meaningful minute of game action.
A rookie on the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, Alexander arrived in Disney on July 7, three weeks before the regular season resumed. He left on Oct. 12, one day after the Los Angeles Lakers won the championship.
“It definitely had its moments, but it was awesome,” Alexander said, “to be in that kind of environment with one of the hardest working teams in the league with one of the best cultures, and then go to the Finals, get to experience what it takes to win at that level.”
The NBA’s March shutdown came at an unfortunate time for Alexander. The 24-year-old Canadian suffered a knee injury in January while playing for Miami’s G League team, but was verging on a return when Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.
Alexander finally made his NBA debut in the bubble, playing garbage time in a pair of Heat blowout losses in August.
“I wasn’t in the best state to compete for [playing time]. That part sucked. But as far as jump starting back into my activities and getting healthy and shaking the rust off and getting my touch back on my jump shot, it was the best place to be,” the Milton, Ont., native said.
Now, Alexander starts for Fuenlabrada of Spain’s top league. After the NBA playoffs, he took a month off before moving to Phoenix to ramp up off-season training, under the assumption the NBA might not return until March.
The season began Dec. 22, news of which left Alexander scrambling. He went to a Toronto Raptors minicamp in Los Angeles, but could not secure a deal with his hometown team.
“To have that jersey on my chest and to be representing them, I went in there really motivated. And like I said, I was proud of how I did, but it just didn’t end up working out or making sense at the moment,” Alexander said.
(After waiving Alex Len last week, the Raptors have an open roster spot and a need for a big man. Adding Alexander, a defensively responsible centre with some outside touch, could make some sense.)
When Alexander left Raptors camp without a deal, his agent suggested he look to Europe for an opportunity to get immediate playing time and regain some rhythm. An injury on Fuenlabrada presented such a chance.
Through seven games with the team, he is averaging 7.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in just under 20 minutes per game.
Late start to basketball career
Overseas basketball is something in which Alexander’s sister Kayla has plenty of experience. The eight-year WNBA veteran has also played in Australia, France, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Belgium, where she’s currently stationed.
Kayla, 30, missed Kyle throughout their childhood as they passed through high school and college at different times. With both now in Europe, this is the closest their basketball careers have come to overlapping.
“I would hear about my pops telling me that he was playing now or seeing this [coach] and he’s getting better. He grew, but I wasn’t there to witness much of the growth, to be honest, which kind of sucks,” Kayla said.
Kyle didn’t begin playing basketball until 16, despite both parents and older sister spending lots of time with the game.
Before then, his father, Joseph, would drive him and Kayla to school early because Kayla needed to get shots up and there was no point in making two trips back and forth. Kyle would rebound for Kayla and a friend, with some occasional defence.
One time, Kayla, who had a penchant for flaring her elbows, sent Kyle to class with a bloody nose and lip. One-on-one between the siblings was never particularly close.
“She used to kill me. She really used to kill me. Like, it was bad,” Kyle recalled.
Video games were Kyle’s preference until his father finally brought him to a training camp.
“I went there first day smoking layups off the wrong foot against 12-year-old kids and they’re more skilled than me, it’s embarrassing,” Kyle said.
“So I went home that day, set my sister’s net up and just started going at it. And the next day I went in there, I was able to do different things. And that kind of just showed me that I had a work ethic and that I had a drive to want to get better.”
Now, Kayla says the tables have turned.
“Because back then, I was swatting his shots and now he’s swatting mine.”
‘Take care of yourself’
Kayla’s overseas experience has aided Kyle in his transition from the NBA to Europe. She says the advice she had for her brother wasn’t so different from what she tells her teammates on the Canadian national team.
“Have fun, it’s a privilege we get to play and get paid for it, that’s what we love to do. So that’s first and foremost, having fun with it. Advocate for yourself, speak up. If you don’t like something or if you notice anything, it’s good to be vocal. Take care of yourself. Take care of your body as well.”
A self-proclaimed “picky eater,” Kyle says he’s even started to cook — something which Kayla experienced firsthand.
“I didn’t know he was like ‘Chef Kyle.’ That’s amazing,” she said, before adding that he’d made one meal for her — jerk chicken over the summer — which was good, if too spicy.
Kyle’s first couple weeks in Spain even came with a reminder of home, when the country experienced its first snowfall in nearly 50 years.
Still, the goal remains to get back to the NBA. He was recently contacted by Canada Basketball, for whom he’d be able to contribute at the FIBA AmeriCup qualifier — which contains 2024 Olympic ramifications — in Puerto Rico at the end of February.
“It’s a good opportunity to come out here, find yourself play and make money playing the game you love. And then you keep working on it while you’re out here, kind of isolated from your friends and family, you use that as motivation to get better and try and fight your way back,” he said.
New modelling released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests the number of daily COVID-19 cases could more than triple to 30,000 if people increase their contacts during a time of widespread community transmission.
The report also projects that if Canadians simply maintain their current levels of contact with people outside their households, case counts will still rise to roughly 13,000 a day from 7,900 now.
The modellers said that, based on current case counts, Canada “remains on a rapid growth trajectory,” with roughly 2,000 more people expected to die over the next 10 days as the country approaches a death toll of 20,000. As many as 100,000 more people could contract the virus over the next week and a half, PHAC said.
“Quick, strong and sustained measures are needed to interrupt rapid growth and maintain COVID-19 control,” PHAC said in its report. “Reducing COVID-19 activity is urgently needed as rollout of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines begins.”
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told a news conference that the vaccine rollout, which is now protecting priority groups of high-risk Canadians, will not have a big impact on the numbers in the short term.
WATCH / Dr. Theresa Tam on the impact of vaccine on COVID-19 transmission:
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said vaccines alone won’t stop the spread of COVID-19 if a community’s transmission rate is high. 0:43
“In terms of the national projections and the transmission in communities, you’re not going to see that in the initial months, which is why I think our message … is [to] absolutely get on with the public health measures,” she said.
“Do all of those things, don’t do non-essential travel. All that really counts. It works. And when you can suppress that projection, the vaccines have a longer runway.”
Data to determine impact of vaccine rollout
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said government and external experts are working to determine the impact of vaccine rollouts on the numbers mid- and long-term.
“But at the present time, it’s really difficult to say. There are so many factors involved. Even today, we’re seeing issues in terms of vaccine supply, how vaccines are being rolled out across the country,” he said.
“There’s other factors in terms of the increasing rates of infection in various parts of the country. So there are many different factors in play.”
Right now, Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec are the provinces reporting the highest infection rates per 100,000 people.
Rise in cases post-holidays
Tam said many provinces, including some that had been on a downward trajectory, saw a sharp rise in daily case numbers after the holidays. That’s likely due to people having more contacts over the holidays and reduced testing during those weeks, she said.
Since the holidays, stronger community level public health measures have been adopted across Canada and some areas are showing that public health measures are working to slow growth.
“However, we have yet to see the widespread and sustained declines in daily case counts that would indicate we are bringing the pandemic under control nationally,” she said.
Some 10 months into this pandemic, long-term care homes continue to report hundreds of daily cases.
There are now more than 400 outbreaks nationwide — a situation which is expected to push hospitalization rates higher still. Alberta and Manitoba are reporting the highest rates of hospitalization per 100,000 people.
PM calls LTC deaths ‘tragic’
During a news conference outside his residence at Rideau Cottage today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the outbreaks now occurring in long-term care homes in Ontario and across the country are “tragic.”
“Our parents and grandparents built this country. They raised us. And they deserve so much better,” he said.
“It is vital that we continue to get vaccines to vulnerable people as quickly as we can. And that’s exactly what we’re focused on. But remember – no one is invincible. Even if you’re young and healthy, this virus can be very dangerous. And that’s why we all have to keep doing our part.”
Trudeau said that while vaccines are rolling out across the country, Canadians must reduce their in-person contacts.
“For the moment, that’s the only way to get these numbers down,” he said. “Since yesterday, Ontario is now under a stay-at-home order. This is the kind of tough but necessary decision that provincial governments are having to make.”
PHAC said COVID-19-related deaths are steadily rising and may soon exceed levels seen during the first peak.
Calling the new modelling “alarming,” NDP health critic Don Davies called for stronger federal measures to reduce the spread of the virus.
“The numbers released today paint a very sobering picture,” he said. “COVID-19 is claiming the lives of 145 Canadians every single day and the situation is getting worse. Clearly, what we’ve been doing isn’t working. PHAC’s forecast shows that a stronger response is necessary to slow the alarming spread of COVID-19.”
Redeploying the Canadian Armed Forces to the hard-hit facilities is not the Ontario Health Coalition’s first choice, the group’s executive director said, but short-term options are scarce.
“The issue is that we’re in such an emergency,” Natalie Mehra said. “There are so many homes with outbreaks that are growing extremely quickly, the death counts are mounting, and the hospitals are overstretched now.”
Mehra said hospitals are treating a worrying number of patients, and some are experiencing outbreaks of their own.
Britain is preparing to become the first country to roll out the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week, initially making the shot available at hospitals before distributing stocks to doctors’ clinics, the government said on Sunday.
The first doses are set to be administered on Tuesday, with the National Health Service (NHS) giving top priority to vaccinating the over-80s, frontline health-care workers and care home staff and residents.
Britain gave emergency use approval for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech last week — jumping ahead in the global race to begin the most crucial mass inoculation program in history.
In total, Britain has ordered 40 million doses. As each person requires two doses, that is enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the country of 67 million.
About 800,000 doses are expected to be available within the first week.
WATCH | Britain approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use:
The U.K. is the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine. The government insists it hasn’t cut corners with Pfizer’s vaccine. But being first comes with its own challenges. 2:00
Initial doses that have arrived from Belgium are being stored in secure locations across the country, where they will be quality checked, the health ministry said.
The rollout coincides with a crucial and perilous moment in negotiations between Britain and the European Union on a post-Brexit trade agreement.
A status quo transition period will end on Dec. 31 and a no-deal scenario would lead to major disruptions in the movement of goods between Britain and EU countries such as Belgium.
The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that, under U.K. government contingency plans, tens of millions of vaccine doses could be flown to Britain by military aircraft to avoid delays at ports caused by Brexit.
The head of the medicines regulatory agency that approved the vaccine, June Raine, was asked whether she was concerned that a no-deal risked disrupting the rollout.
“We’ve practised, we are ready, we are fully prepared for any possible outcome,” Raine said in an interview on BBC television.
Administered in 50 hospitals
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has onerous storage requirements. It needs to be kept at -70 C and only lasts five days in a regular fridge.
For that reason, the health ministry said the vaccine would first be administered in 50 hospitals. It said it would take a few hours to defrost each vaccine and prepare it for use.
NHS England has written to general practitioners, telling them to get ready to start giving vaccinations through local doctors’ services from Dec. 14.
Rather than run clinics in individual surgeries, groups of local doctors will operate more than 1,000 vaccination centres across the country, the government said.
Boxes of the vaccine contain five packs of 975 doses, but special regulatory approval is needed to split them up. A senior medical official has said that while he was hopeful it would be possible to split the packs and deliver straight to care homes, it was not guaranteed.
Queen to get vaccine
Britain is among the first nations to roll out vaccinations outside the context of a clinic trial, raising hopes that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally and hammered the world economy.
With high levels of vaccine skepticism worrying public health experts, the Times and Mail on Sunday newspapers reported that Queen Elizabeth, 94, and her husband Prince Philip, 99, would “let it be known” when they had received the jab.
The Queen is highly admired in British society, and her public backing for the vaccine would be a powerful message to counter anti-vaccination misinformation circulating online.
Diego Maradona was released from a Buenos Aires hospital on Wednesday, just over a week after undergoing brain surgery, and will continue his recovery in a private home.
Footage broadcast by local TV stations showed the former World Cup winner leaving the Olivos clinic in an ambulance. Maradona’s doctor, Leopoldo Luque, told journalists that he had authorized the release.
His lawyer, Matias Morla, said the 60-year-old Argentine will continue to receive treatment for alcohol dependency. He is expected to stay in a house near his older daughters.
The 1986 World Cup champion last week had an emergency operation for a subdural hematoma, which us an accumulation of blood between a membrane and his brain.
Maradona’s personal doctor, neurologist Leopoldo Luque, said Tuesday that even small amounts of alcohol consumption could have negative effects in combination with the medication Maradona needs for his recovery.
The former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli star has had addiction problems in the past.
Maradona was initially admitted to another clinic in La Plata with signs of depression, anemia and dehydration, before being moved to Olivos when the subdural hematoma was discovered.
Dr. Luque said an accident likely caused the subdural hematoma but that Maradona did not recall any falls or mishaps.
Maradona felt ill Oct. 30 while coaching first-division team Gimnasia y Esgrima. He had left before the end of the first half, raising questions about his health.