Tag Archives: Government

Ford government hitting ’emergency brake’ to put all Ontario in lockdown: sources

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government will announce on Thursday that it’s putting the entire province under lockdown restrictions for 28 days, multiple sources tell CBC News.  

The move for all public health units will take effect on Saturday under what the government has called its “emergency brake” provisions. 

The restrictions would not be as tight as the provincewide lockdown that was imposed in December, according to the sources. 

Non-essential retail stores would be permitted to open but with occupancy capped at 25 per cent of maximum, while essential retail outlets such as grocery stores would be limited to 50 per cent occupancy, said one source. 

Indoor dining would be prohibited at restaurants, but the sources were unclear on whether patios would remain open as currently allowed in lockdown zones.  

The third wave of COVID-19 has grown steadily in Ontario since early March. The supply of vaccines hasn’t come quickly enough to rein in the spread of more contagious and deadlier variants of the virus among the general population. (Sam Nar/CBC)

Construction would remain open, as would religious services, although capacity limits will be in place, the sources said. 

Some outdoor activities such as golf would be permitted but indoor fitness facilities and personal care services such as hair salons would be closed.

Schools are to continue as normal next week, though the cabinet has not yet decided what will happen after spring break, which takes place the week of April 12, the sources said.  

The decision from Ford’s cabinet on Wednesday followed the news that Ontario’s hospitals have a record number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. 

Critical Care Services Ontario reported 421 patients with the virus in ICUs across the province. The previous peak of 420 came in mid-January, during the height of the second wave of the pandemic.

At a news conference Wednesday, Ford said he was “extremely concerned” about both rising ICU admissions and daily case counts.

Asked by a reporter about the possibility of any further restrictions coming into effect to help curb current trends, Ford said “stay tuned” and added that an announcement is coming Thursday. 

Among the province’s 34 public health units, 22 are currently under what the government calls lockdown (grey) or control (red) restrictions.

Ontario has reported an average of about 2,300 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the past week.

On Dec. 21, when Ford announced plans for a post-Christmas province-wide lockdown, the average number of new daily cases was 2,276. 

A key difference between the situation in December and current third wave is that those Ontarians most vulnerable to dying of COVID-19 — residents of long-term care — have largely been vaccinated against the disease.

The latest provincial figures show just 10 active cases among residents of long-term care. More than 15,000 residents were infected over the course of the pandemic, and more than 3,750 of them died. 

The count of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools for last week was the highest weekly total since the pandemic began. For the week of March 22, schools reported 1,222 cases among staff and students. The previous record was 999, during the final week of school before the Christmas holiday. 

Education unions in some of the worst-hit regions are calling for classes to move online-only immediately after this long weekend.

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CBC | Health News

Chinese government responsible for genocide in Xinjiang, says independent report

The Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang have violated every single act prohibited by the United Nations Genocide Convention — including one that forbids killing members of a group — says a new independent report drafted by dozens of experts in human rights, international law and genocide studies.

Released Tuesday by the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the report contains a legal analysis that concludes China “bears state responsibility for an ongoing genocide” against the Uighurs, an overwhelmingly Muslim minority group.

“China, as a state, is committing acts of genocide against the Uighurs with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the group as such, as exemplified by state-orchestrated mass internment, forced birth prevention and campaigns of eradication,” Yonah Diamond, legal counsel for the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and a principal author of the report, said in a press release.

That damning conclusion follows years of other reports from media, academic and UN experts that have accused China of imprisoning over a million Uighurs in concentration and “deradicalization” camps and targeting them for forced labour, sexual violence, population control methods and sweeping surveillance. 

The Chinese government has denied accusations of human rights abuses. The Chinese ambassador to Canada has accused his country’s critics of fabricating the “lie of the century.”

The report includes input from a number of Canadian human rights experts, including former cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy, Allan Rock and Irwin Cotler, as well as former ambassador to the UN Yves Fortier and University of Ottawa human rights professor John Packer.

WATCH | China accidentally releases report on forced relocation, retraining of Uighurs

A Chinese government report, unintentionally made public, outlines how Uighurs and other minorities were forcibly relocated and retrained for new jobs in what’s considered an attempt to dilute their culture and reduce populations. 2:00

1948 Genocide Convention

Article II of the UN Genocide Convention, adopted in 1948, defines genocide as acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

The convention includes a list of five acts that constitute genocide: killing members of a group; causing serious bodily or mental harm; creating conditions meant to force the physical destruction of the group; forcibly transferring children to another group; and imposing measures that prevent births.

The researchers say a review of public and leaked government communications, eyewitness testimony and open-source research methods offers evidence that Chinese state institutions have engaged in all five actions. China is a party to the convention, along with over 150 other countries.

According to the report, between one and two million people have been forcibly detained in over a thousand internment-style camps across Xinjiang since 2014. That’s when the Chinese government launched a campaign supposedly targeting terrorism in the region, but which critics have said was a cover for smothering Uighur dissent.

MPs passed a motion in the House of Commons two weeks ago that, in part, calls on the government to push for the relocation of the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via The Associated Press)

The report says many prominent Uighur leaders have been selectively sentenced to execution, while other elderly Uighurs have died during long stints in prison. Imprisoned Uighurs have faced torture, harsh interrogations and other cruel treatment.

Uighur women have been subjected to forced intrauterine device insertions and abortions and have been injected with medication that halts their menstrual cycles, the report says.

“China is a highly centralized state in full control of its territory and population, including [in Xinjiang],” the report reads. “The persons and entities perpetrating the above-indicated acts of genocide are all state agents or organs — acting under the effective control of the state — manifesting an intent to destroy the Uighurs as a group.”

Liberals reluctant to use genocide label

The release of the report comes two weeks after the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to declare China’s actions against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang a genocide. While backbench Liberal MPs joined their opposition colleagues in that vote, cabinet ministers abstained.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have been reluctant to use the word genocide, arguing that more evidence from independent investigations is needed. 

A House of Commons subcommittee said in an October report that China’s campaign against the Uighurs meets the definition of genocide after hearing testimony from several Uighur witnesses who gave first-hand accounts of atrocities.

The Trump administration accused China of committing genocide and other crimes against humanity in January, a position the Biden administration has maintained.

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau’s office told CBC News the department is aware of the report and will be reviewing it closely.

“We remain deeply disturbed by the troubling reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang. Canada takes allegations of genocide very seriously,” said Christelle Chartrand. 

“We will continue to work in close collaboration with our allies to push for these to be investigated through an international independent body and for impartial experts to access the region so that they can see the situation firsthand and report back.”

Earlier this year, the federal government announced a new regulation meant to ensure that Canadian companies are not complicit in human rights abuses or the use of forced labour in Xinjiang. But the measures stopped short of imposing “Magnitsky-style sanctions” on Chinese officials, something called for by the opposition Conservatives.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole today urged the Liberal government to join MPs in calling China’s actions genocidal. He renewed his call for sanctions and for the relocation of the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing.

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CBC | World News

Government agrees mentally ill should have access to assisted dying — in 2 years

The Trudeau government has agreed with the Senate that Canadians suffering solely from grievous and incurable mental illnesses should be entitled to medical assistance in dying — but not for another two years.

The two-year interlude is six months longer than what was proposed by senators.

The longer wait is one of a number of changes to Bill C-7 proposed by the government in response to amendments approved last week by the Senate.

The government has rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed people who fear being diagnosed with dementia or other competence-eroding conditions to make advance requests for an assisted death.

It has also rejected one other amendment and modified two others in a motion that is to be debated today in the House of Commons.

If the Commons approves the government’s response, the bill will go back to the Senate, where senators will have to decide whether to accept the verdict of the elected chamber or dig in their heels.

Government proposes expert review

Bill C-7 would expand access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the natural end of their lives, bringing the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.

As originally drafted, the bill would have imposed a blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

A strong majority of senators argued that the exclusion was unconstitutional. They said it violated the right to equal treatment under the law, regardless of physical or mental disability, as guaranteed in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They voted to impose an 18-month time limit on the mental illness exclusion, which the government now wants to extend to two years.

WATCH | Changes to medical assistance in dying bill for dementia, mental illness up for debate

Senate amendments to the medical assistance in dying bill would make it easier for Canadians with mental illness or the prospect of dementia to get help ending their lives. But as those changes are debated there are concerns a sensitive subject will become a political football. 2:19

During that interlude, the government is also proposing to have experts conduct an independent review of the issue and, within one year, recommend the “protocols, guidance and safeguards” that should apply to requests for assisted dying from people with a mental illness.

In the meantime, senators had wanted to clarify that the exclusion of mental illness does not apply to people with neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. However, the government has rejected that amendment.

In rejecting advance requests, the government motion argues that the Senate amendment on that issue “goes beyond the scope of the bill” and requires “significant consultation and study,” including a “careful examination of safeguards.”

It suggests that the issue should be examined during the legally required five-year parliamentary review of the assisted dying law, which was supposed to begin last June but has yet to materialize.

The government has agreed, however, to a modified version of a Senate amendment to finally get that review underway within 30 days of Bill C-7 receiving royal assent.

The government is proposing the creation of a joint Commons-Senate committee to review the assisted dying regime, including issues related to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities. The committee would be required to report back, with any recommended changes within one year.

Court-imposed deadline looms

The government has also agreed to a modified version of another Senate amendment to require the collection of race-based data on who is requesting and receiving medical assistance in dying.

It is proposing to expand that to include data on people with disabilities and to specify that the information be used to determine if there is “the presence of any inequality — including systemic inequality — or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics.”

That is in response to the strenuous opposition to Bill C-7 from disability rights advocates who maintain the bill sends the message that life with a disability is a fate worse than death. They’ve also argued that Black, racialized and Indigenous people with disabilities — already marginalized and facing systemic discrimination in the health system — could be induced to end their lives prematurely due to poverty and a lack of support services.

Some critics have also raised concerns about unequal access to assisted dying for marginalized people, rural Canadians and Indigenous people in remote communities.

Since the Liberals hold only a minority of seats in the Commons, the government will need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to pass its response to the Senate amendments.

The Conservatives, who largely opposed expanding access to assisted dying in the original bill, and New Democrats, who are reluctant to accept any changes proposed by unelected senators, have indicated they’re not likely to support the motion.

That leaves the Bloc Québécois as the government’s most likely dance partner. Despite his own contempt for the Senate, which he maintains has no legitimacy, Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet, has said senators’ amendments to C-7 are “not without interest and indeed deserve to be looked at.”

The government is hoping to have the bill passed by both parliamentary chambers by Friday to meet the thrice-extended court-imposed deadline for bringing the law into compliance with the 2019 ruling.

But with the Conservatives signalling that they may drag out debate on the Senate amendments, the government will ask the court on Thursday to give it one more month — until March 26.

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CBC | Health News

COC has spoken to federal government about COVID-19 shots for Canadian Olympians

The Canadian Olympic Committee has spoken to the federal government about having Team Canada vaccinated prior to going to the Tokyo Olympics. 

In an interview with Ian Hanomansing, host of The National, COC boss David Shoemaker said he’s told the government it is the International Olympic Committee’s “desire” to have the team vaccinated ahead of the Games, scheduled to begin on July 23.

“We’ve spoken to the government and relayed the IOC’s desire for us to have our team vaccinated prior to going to Tokyo. They’ve recognized that we’ve got a need,” Shoemaker said. 

“Certainly when athletes and all Canadians want to travel internationally under these circumstances, a vaccine would be preferable.”

The full interview can be seen Friday night on The National at 9 p.m. ET. 

Two days ago, Shoemaker took to Twitter regarding the vaccination issue, saying:

“As for vaccines, frontline workers and vulnerable individuals must continue to have prioritized access to Canada’s supply. We continue to plan on the assumption that vaccines may not be widely available to our athletes prior to the Games.” 

When asked by Hanomansing after his response about where Shoemaker felt Canadian athletes would fall in the vaccination queue, Shoemaker wouldn’t speculate.

“Those most vulnerable, the frontline workers, have to come first and then we’ll see. But it will depend on so much, including what’s available and how quickly the provinces have been able to vaccinate Canadians,” he said. 

WATCH | COC boss speaks to The National:

In an interview airing on Friday’s The National, Canadian Olympic Committee President David Shoemaker tells Ian Hanomansing they have discussed the International Olympic Committee’s desire to have athletes vaccinated for the Tokyo Olympics with the Federal government. 0:52

Pound suggests Olympians jump vaccine queue

Shoemaker’s comments come just weeks after longtime Canadian IOC member Dick Pound suggested athletes must be given priority access to the coronavirus vaccine. That suggestion did not sit well with a number of Canadian Olympic champions.

“I want to represent Canada in Tokyo. I want to continue to inspire the next generation of young boys and girls. But I need my community to be safe first and that means a measured, risk-based vaccination plan,” 2016 Olympic gold-medal wrestling champion Erica Wiebe tweeted earlier this month.

Speculating that there would be no public outcry if athletes jumped the queue, Pound argued that, “the most realistic way” of ensuring that the Tokyo Olympics could safely forge ahead was for athletes to be prioritized.

Wiebe wasn’t buying it. 

“I think the Olympic movement stands in its purity for a lot more than just putting athletes on stage to entertain the world,” she said. “The most important people that need to get the vaccine are front-line workers; those most at risk and people in long-term care homes — they are the ones that need to be prioritized.” 

Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics Kyle Shewfelt also scoffed on the suggestion athletes should get vaccines before others.

“They’re already healthy, they’re in an age bracket that hasn’t been shown to be super vulnerable to fatal outcomes from this disease,” said the Calgary native. 

“From a moral standpoint, it doesn’t sit right [with me].”

WATCH | Olympian DeBues-Stafford talks importance of vaccines:

Jacqueline Doorey speaks with Canadian middle distance runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine, how it can affect the Olympics, and whether athletes deserve to cut the line. 5:51

Israel, Denmark will vaccinate their athletes

Several countries, including Israel and Denmark, have already said they would vaccinate their athletes and staff against COVID-19 ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The Belgian Olympic Committee (BOIC) has asked its government for “400 to 500” vaccines for Olympic athletes and their entourage to travel to the Tokyo Games but insists it is not asking for preferential treatment.

The British Olympic Association, as well as the United States Olympic Committee, have made it quite clear athletes will not be jumping the queues to get vaccines and that the priority remains with the most vulnerable.

As for the IOC, President Thomas Bach has said that although participants will be encouraged to get vaccinated, it will not be mandatory.

“The health and safety of all participants is paramount. And we’ll be guided by the Chief Medical Officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee and public health officials here in Canada on how we make those determinations,” Shoemaker said.

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CBC | Sports News

Freeland says government considering more pandemic travel restrictions to secure border

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the federal government is considering further limits on international travel into Canada to prevent the introduction of new COVID-19 cases as calls from opposition leaders for additional pandemic measures grow louder.

“I very much understand and I’m very sympathetic to the view that, with the virus raging around the world, we need to be sure our borders are really, really secure,” Freeland said in an interview on CBC’s Power and Politics.

“And that’s something that we’re working on really urgently now.”

The comments come a day after Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said he wouldn’t rule out invoking the federal Emergencies Act to limit travel. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week he is open to tighter restrictions but suggested existing measures are still effective.

Freeland hinted during an earlier press conference that one of the options on the table is mandatory hotel quarantines for air travellers who return from non-essential trips abroad.

“We are considering the issue very, very seriously,” Freeland said in French in response to a question about a quarantine rule.

The federal government currently requires all incoming travellers aged five and over to present a negative COVID-19 test result from a test taken less than 72 hours before boarding.

They must also quarantine for 14 days upon arrival (unless they are exempt because they are an essential worker) but can do so at their own homes. The mandatory quarantine is enforced by public health officers, who make thousands of calls per day to verify compliance, the government said in a news release last month.

International travellers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents are currently banned from entering Canada, although there is a long list of exemptions that include essential workers, seasonal workers, caregivers and international students.

Federal figures suggest that between two and five per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada are linked to travel, but there is still virtually no testing at the border and many recent cases do not have an identified source.

Ford, Singh push for additional measures

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he is urging Trudeau to deny entry to Canada to anyone who is not a Canadian resident or citizen. 

“There’s no reason we need people coming in,” Ford told a press conference on Monday.

“Every time I look up at the sky I’m thinking, ‘How many cases are coming in?’ This has to stop.”

Ford also called for mandatory testing for all travellers arriving by land and air.

A total of 143 international flights and 63 domestic flights with confirmed COVID-19 cases have touched down in Canada in the past two weeks, according to figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

A CBC investigation published Jan. 16 found that Canadian air carriers operated more than 1,500 flights between Canada and 18 popular vacation destinations since Oct. 1, even as caseloads rose and the health crisis deepened. (CBC News)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the federal government should consider both mandatory hotel quarantines and a full-on ban of non-essential international travel.

“We’ve seen the use of quarantines — very firm and strict quarantines for travellers — work very effectively in other jurisdictions,” said Singh. “I’m open to similar measures, enforcing a strict quarantine of 14 days, making sure that it happens in a hotel or another facility similarly. But it’s firm and it’s required and it’s monitored.”

A number of countries that have been successful at minimizing community spread of COVID-19 — including South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand — have stricter quarantine regimes than Canada.

In New Zealand, which had just 64 active COVID-19 cases as of Monday, passengers head straight to a “managed isolation facility” — a hotel — if they have no symptoms, or to a “quarantine facility” if they do.

In South Korea, new arrivals must self-isolate for two weeks at a government-designated facility at their own expense. They can choose to quarantine at home but must download a tracking app to ensure compliance.

Mandatory quarantine can reduce leisure travel, expert says

Karen Grépin, associate professor at Hong Kong University’s school of public health, said in an interview on CBC’s News Network that two-week hotel-based quarantines can serve to reduce the amount of non-essential travel by providing a disincentive for people thinking about travelling for leisure.

“I like them because it means people can still come and go if you need to, ” said Grépin, who has studied travel restrictions around the world during the pandemic. “I like it because you don’t have to predict where the risk is coming from because it applies evenly to everyone.”

Grépin said it’s too late for Canada to prevent the introduction of new coronavirus variants — including one first identified in South Africa and another that emerged in the U.K. — but it could reduce the number of cases of those variants. 

WATCH | Hotel quarantine could help discourage non-essential travel, public health professor says

Prof. Karen Grépin says countries most successful in the fight against COVID-19 have adopted a two-week quarantine for all travellers. 4:09

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he wants the federal government to consult opposition parties before additional measures are brought in. He accused the Liberal government of being too slow to limit travel at the beginning of the pandemic.

The federal government has not consulted with the airline industry about more stringent measures, said Mike McNaney, head of the National Airlines Council of Canada.

“There’s been no reach-out,” added Air Transat spokesperson Christophe Hennebelle.

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CBC | Health News

60% of COVID-19 long-haulers say government is ‘absolutely ignoring them,’ Marketplace questionnaire finds

Susie Goulding said she feels like she’s living with a “broken brain.” 

Some days, she can’t remember her dog’s name. Other days, she can’t remember how to make a phone call from her car.

“It’s like a computer that’s processing,” said Goulding, who lives in Oakville, Ont. “It’s spinning and I’m just waiting for the information to come to my brain, but it doesn’t come.”

Goulding started experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 in March 2020. She was not tested during her initial illness because her symptoms didn’t match up with early testing criteria. She said her doctor has since made a working diagnosis of COVID-19 based on her ongoing symptoms. 

Today, she is just one of a growing number of Canadians who say they’re suffering from so-called long COVID, a condition where people who contract even a mild case of COVID-19 experience symptoms for weeks or months after their initial illness.

Recent research has found that one in three of those who contract COVID-19 can go on to develop persistent symptoms, with studies citing heart, lung and cognitive issues, as well as debilitating fatigue and pain. They’ve come to be known as COVID long-haulers, and based on these recent statistics, Canada could have more than 200,000 of them at this point in the pandemic.

WATCH | Woman with long COVID describes struggle accessing medical care:

Susie Goulding says she feels like she’s living with a ‘broken brain.’ She started experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 in March 2020 and has paid hundreds of dollars for private medical treatment because, she says, she hasn’t been able to access the care she needs in the public system. 1:00

It’s a growing population that Goulding said is struggling to access the medical care it needs to recover.   

“You’re not being protected by this umbrella of Canadian health care that we’re accustomed to,” said Goulding. “It just sort of proves the fact that they’re absolutely ignoring us.”

While extra health-care dollars have been invested in treating COVID-19 across Canada, experts say the country lags behind others when it comes to allocating resources for the treatment of those with long-COVID symptoms, specifically.

To investigate where gaps in health care for long-haulers may exist in Canada, CBC Marketplace launched a nationwide questionnaire designed in consultation with medical experts. 

Responses were gathered from over 1,000 Canadian long-haulers through an online questionnaire conducted by Marketplace from Dec. 9, 2020 to Jan. 6, 2021. It was circulated among members of the COVID Long-Haulers Support Group Canada Facebook group, among others. 

More than 60 per cent reported that they have not been able to access the care they believe they need to recover.

Symptoms experienced by respondents to our questionnaire include:

  • Cognitive issues, such as brain fog and memory loss. 

  • Lung issues, such as shortness of breath and chest pain. 

  • Pain, such as joint pain and body pain.

  • Fatigue.

Shortage of Canadian clinics treating long COVID

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is home to the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Clinic, aimed at providing specialized care and followup for people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and are now in recovery. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In the U.K., the National Health Service (NHS) England is spending at least 10 million pounds, or $ 17.3 million Cdn, to open 81 long COVID specialist clinics across the country. U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “they will bring together doctors, nurses, therapists and other NHS staff like physiotherapists.”

Meanwhile, Canada has six in-person post-COVID clinics that take on long-haulers: two in Ontario, three in the greater Vancouver area, and one in Sherbrooke, Que. These clinics are funded through hospital operating budgets, charitable donations and research dollars.

Because these clinics have limited capacity and often run as part of research studies, they only accept patients with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Many long-haulers say this has left them shut out. 

Tracey Thompson, a long-hauler who first presented with symptoms last May, also didn’t meet the provincial criteria for COVID-19 testing when she first got sick. “Because I hadn’t been out of the country. I wasn’t eligible for testing,” she said.

Since then she has spent a lot of time at home with her fingers crossed, hoping for what she calls the holy grail of treatment. 

“I wake up every day and I hope that there’s going to be some news about something like the [U.K.’s clinics] opening up in Canada,” said Thompson. “[Here], there’s no cohesive or sort of holistic care plan for people with long COVID.”

CBC Marketplace’s investigation revealed that more than 54 per cent of long-haulers who were not tested for COVID-19 with a PCR swab test said it was because testing was not available to them when they got sick. Another 34 per cent who weren’t tested said it was because they did not meet the provincial standards for testing at the time.

Back in April, assessment centre physicians told CBC News that they had been directed to use their testing capacity for priority groups like health-care workers and not members of the general public, even if they were symptomatic. 

At one point, centres were turning away between 25 and 30 per cent of people who showed up with a referral. Now, it’s too late for long-haulers who contracted COVID-19 early on in the pandemic to get tested. 

A lack of sufficient medical support to treat long COVID patients could become a problem, said Dr. Angela Cheung, Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and co-lead of the Canadian COVID-19 Prospective Cohort Study (CANCOV), which is evaluating early to one-year outcomes in patients with COVID-19.

“The hospitals are overwhelmed, and in some ways the [post-COVID] clinics are overwhelmed, too,” said Cheung. If Canada doesn’t properly look after long-haulers, “we would have a lot of people feeling not well [who] can’t go back to work.”

WATCH | Why Canada’s support for COVID-19 long-haulers is lagging: 

Canadians who experience symptoms of COVID-19 for weeks or months after first getting ill told CBC’s Marketplace and The National they are struggling to access the medical care they need. Countries such as the U.K., meanwhile, are funding specific health-care services for those known as long-haulers. 4:31

‘They don’t  believe you’ without a positive test

Over 50 per cent of long-haulers told Marketplace that one or more physicians did not believe them when they presented with symptoms, and nearly 40 per cent said their doctor told them they were suffering from anxiety or depression and not COVID-19. 

Abrar Faiyaz, a business student at Seneca College who began experiencing symptoms last March, was not tested for COVID-19 because of limited testing at the time reserved for people who had travelled out of the country. Some of his doctors have suspected he has post-viral syndrome, he said, and his symptoms are consistent with long COVID. However, he has still had to convince other doctors that he’s sick in order to get referred for medical testing despite suffering from brain fog and debilitating back pain since his initial sickness.

“I’m 22, had no prior illness, was extremely healthy and extremely fit,” said Faiyaz. “If people can’t see that you’re ill, they don’t believe you.” 

Abrar Faiyaz, photographed at left in March 2020 and pictured at right January 2021. Faiyaz said he doesn’t feel or look his age anymore. He said that, given the choice, he would rather have his legs broken five or six times than contract COVID. (Submitted by Abrar Faiyaz)

Other respondents said they had been brushed off and dismissed by their doctors, or were repeatedly denied antibody testing. One respondent told Marketplace the lack of care they’d received made them feel so helpless, they considered suicide.

To help inform physicians, the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recently published guidelines that advise doctors on diagnosing and treating patients with long COVID. The guidelines also discourage physicians from relying on a positive COVID-19 test for diagnosis or referral to specialists and long-COVID clinics. No such guidelines exist in Canada.

Dr. Jessi Dobyns, a family physician from Peterborough, Ont., believes more education and guidelines for doctors could help. 

She became sick with common symptoms of COVID-19 four days after seeing a patient who was later confirmed to have the virus. She said PPE was not in place for general practitioners at the time. She was tested twice after becoming symptomatic, but both times the test came back negative. The federal government’s online information portal about testing notes that a test’s accuracy “can vary” depending on when it was taken.

Dobyns has been experiencing symptoms of long COVID for ten months, and said she has not been able to get medical help from a post-COVID clinic.  

“If somebody had a typical COVID-like illness and they’ve developed persistent symptoms, [treat it] as COVID,” said Dobyns. “If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, that’s most likely what it is.”

Physicians and health-care providers need “clinical definitions” in order to effectively treat patients. 

“We need boxes that we can say, ‘oh, that sounds like this,'” said Dobyns. “And I don’t think we always do well … when we see something that just doesn’t make sense.” 

Paying for treatment out of pocket

For long-haulers who haven’t been accepted to a post-COVID clinic, the cost of paying for care themselves can be in the thousands of dollars. 

Dr. Mark Bayley, medical director of brain and spinal cord rehabilitation at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute of the University Health Network, provides rehabilitation such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy to post-COVID patients referred by Toronto’s University Health Network hospitals. Treatments there are covered by the province. 

Bayley said the same course of treatment privately could cost as much as $ 1,500. 

More than 45 per cent of questionnaire respondents told Marketplace they’ve spent their own money on treatment, with 31 per cent of those respondents spending over $ 1,000 on followup care not covered by private health insurance. Some spent $ 10,000 or more.

Private MRIs and CAT scans, naturopathy treatments, rehabilitation, occupational therapy and equipment for monitoring their own symptoms at home are some of the costs long-haulers told Marketplace they had incurred in an effort to treat themselves.  

WATCH | Full ‘Canada’s forgotten patients’ Marketplace episode:

Sick for months, and stuck paying thousands in medical bills. The truth about how Canada is failing Covid long-haulers. Plus, will getting rid of sulphites in wine get rid of your hangover? 22:31

Federal government isn’t tracking long COVID 

Health Canada told Marketplace that there is insufficient data on COVID long-haulers to determine how common these long-term effects are among Canadians, as well as the spectrum of complications.

As the majority of the questionnaire respondents reside in Ontario, Marketplace also contacted Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott to ask what the province is doing to support COVID long-haulers.  

In a written statement she said that Ontario is spending $ 2.5 billion more in the hospital sector during COVID, but did not address the issue of long-haulers specifically.

Cheung said she’d like to see multidisciplinary post-COVID clinics set up in all provinces and funding support to run these clinics, because Canada is “definitely lagging behind.”

For long-haulers like Dobyns, help can’t come fast enough.

“We need people who are thinking about health-care systems and policy and the economy to figure out, like, what are we going to do with this bill [and this] tsunami of disability that is coming.” 

Watch full episodes of Marketplace on CBC Gem.

At the time of publication, CBC counted six clinics that are treating long-haulers confirmed to have had COVID-19:

  • ONTARIO — The University Health Network Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital and the Urgent COVID-19 Care Clinic at the London Health Science.
  • BRITISH COLUMBIA — A collaborative network of three clinics including one at the Vancouver General Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver and the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey.
  • QUEBEC — La Clinique Ambulatoire Post-COVID du CIUSSS-CHUS.

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Government secures another 20M COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the federal government has reached an agreement to purchase another 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total number of vaccine doses scheduled to arrive this year to 80 million.

That’s enough to vaccinate the entire Canadian population with the two doses required for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the federal government has reached an agreement to purchase another 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total number of vaccine doses scheduled to arrive this year to 80 million.

That’s enough to vaccinate the entire Canadian population with the two doses required for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products.

“From our agreements with Pfizer and Moderna alone … we are on track to have every Canadian who wants a vaccine receive one by September,” Trudeau said at a press conference outside Rideau Cottage.

The news comes as Canada experiences a post-holiday surge in daily new cases, and as provinces warn that they are administering doses faster than they are being delivered.

The federal government published a delivery schedule this week that includes shipment dates and the number of doses expected to be delivered to the provinces over the next two months.

“This will make sure [the provinces and territories] have the vaccines and information they need to keep rolling out doses as quickly as possible,” Trudeau said. 

Trudeau’s announcement comes days after Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the federal government had chosen not to exercise its option to buy up to 16 million more doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, although those doses would not have arrived until the end of 2021.

Canada gave the green light to Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s messenger RNA vaccines last month. Independent regulators at Health Canada are still reviewing other vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca-Oxford and Janssen Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

As of Monday night, more than 377,560 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Canada, according to a third-party tally.

More to come

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CBC | Health News

Federal government moves to seal off Canadian companies from human rights violations in China

The federal government announced a suite of new regulations today meant to ensure that Canadian companies are not complicit in human rights abuses or the use of forced labour in China’s Xinjiang province.

The measures include new requirements for firms that do business in the region and a pledge to ban the export of products from Canada to China if there is a chance they could be used by Chinese authorities for surveillance, repression, arbitrary detention or forced labour.

“Canada is deeply concerned regarding the mass arbitrary detention and mistreatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities by Chinese authorities,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a news release shortly before leaving the department to become the new minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“Nobody should face mistreatment on the basis of their religion or ethnicity,” Champagne added.

Today’s actions represent the strongest measures yet taken by Canada in the face of growing international criticism of the Chinese government over its policies in Xinjiang — but they stop short of imposing “Magnitsky sanctions” on Chinese officials — something called for by a parliamentary committee that found China’s actions meet the definition of genocide.

Forced labour, arbitrary detention

UN experts and activists say more than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been arbitrarily held in prison-like centres for political indoctrination. China claims the centres are intended to combat extremism and teach job skills, but former residents and rights groups say they target Islam and minority languages and cultures.

A coalition of civil society organizations has also accused China of forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities to pick cotton by hand. The vast western province produces 85 per cent of China’s cotton and 20 per cent of the global supply, which is sold to fashion brands worldwide.

The Center for Global Policy, a Washington-based think tank, found in a December 2020 report it was very likely a major share of cotton from Xinjiang is “tainted with forced labour.”

Workers walk by the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Canada already bans the importation of goods produced through forced labour as part of its obligations under the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), Global Affairs Canada said in a news release.

The new regulations also require that Canadian companies in the Xinjiang market sign a declaration acknowledging that they are aware of the human rights situation in the province and pledging to conduct due diligence on Chinese suppliers to ensure they are not knowingly sourcing products or services from companies that use forced labour.

Global Affairs Canada also issued a business advisory warning Canadian businesses of the legal and reputational risks they face by maintaining supply chains associated with forced labour.

The new measures were announced in concert with similar actions taken by the U.K., although that government promised to impose financial penalties on companies that do not comply — something that doesn’t appear to be part of Canada’s approach.

Last fall, the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights released a report stating that China’s persecution of this Muslim minority is a clear violation of human rights and is meant to “eradicate Uighur culture and religion.” The Chinese foreign ministry lashed out in response, accusing the committee of spreading lies and disinformation.

Canada exported $ 23 billion worth of merchandise to China and imported $ 75 billion in 2019.

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Police secure U.S. Capitol after pro-Trump rioters cause bedlam at heart of government

The latest:

Heavily armed police have secured the U.S. Capitol nearly four hours after supporters of President Donald Trump pushed past barricades and forced themselves inside the complex on Wednesday, amid violent clashes that killed at least one person.

Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington to protest Congress’s formal approval of president-elect Joe Biden’s win in the general election, pushing unfounded claims that the election was stolen.

An announcement saying “the Capitol is secure” rang out Wednesday evening inside a secure location for officials of the House. Lawmakers applauded, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement the government intended to resume counting electoral votes later Wednesday.

Washington police said at least one woman was shot inside the Capitol and died later at an area hospital. It was not immediately clear how she was shot.

Members of the D.C. National Guard are deployed outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Protesters deployed “chemical irritants on police” to gain access to the complex, Chief Robert Contee said. Several police officers were injured.

At least five weapons have been recovered and at least 13 people have been arrested so far, Contee said.

An explosive device was found nearby, but law enforcement officials said Wednesday afternoon it was no longer a threat.

Outside, as darkness began to set in, law enforcement officials worked their way toward the protesters, using percussion grenades to try to clear the area around the Capitol. Big clouds of tear gas were visible.

Police in full riot gear moved down the west steps, clashing with demonstrators.

The Pentagon said about 1,100 D.C. National Guard members were being mobilized to help support law enforcement.

WATCH | Police push back U.S. Capitol protesters:

Thousands of people protested at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., crashing through barricades and climbing the steps as Congress voted to certify Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. 2:05

A spokesperson told The Associated Press that officers from the Federal Protective Service and U.S. Secret Service agents were being sent to the scene. He said they were requested to assist by U.S. Capitol Police.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier declared a 6 p.m. ET curfew, but early in the evening dozens of pro-Trump supporters remained on the streets of the nation’s capital.

Jaw-dropping images

Earlier Wednesday afternoon, chambers abruptly recessed as dozens of people breached security perimeters and lawmakers inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks as tear gas was fired in the rotunda.

A chaplain prayed as police guarded the doors to the chamber and lawmakers tried to gather information about what was happening.

Protesters made it inside the Senate chamber. One got up on the dais and yelled “Trump won that election.” Several dozen were roaming through the halls, yelling, “Where are they?” Some were also in the visitors’ galleries.

Pictures emerged of an armed standoff in the House as politicians cowered behind desks and people smashed the building’s windows and climbed in. Newsmax showed footage of police and rioters squaring off in the Capitol rotunda.

WATCH | Pro-Trump protesters storm barricades at U.S. Capitol:

Heavily armed police have secured the U.S. Capitol nearly four hours after supporters of President Donald Trump pushed past barricades and forced themselves inside the complex on Wednesday, amid violent clashes at the heart of the U.S. government. 1:06

The parade of jaw-dropping images continued: a man in a Make America Great Again hat, his feet up on Pelosi’s desk, another striding through the rotunda with a Confederate flag over his shoulder, the dais occupied by a man with a Trump flag as a cape.

Outside, as police sirens echoed and helicopters pulsed overhead, thousands upon thousands of others massed on the Capitol steps cheered and celebrated news of the breach, waving flags, firing flares and popping smoke grenades from atop the balcony.

The skirmishes outside occurred in the very spot where Biden will be inaugurated in just two weeks.

Protesters tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps and were met by officers in riot gear.

Some tried to push past the officers who held shields, and officers could be seen firing pepper spray into the crowd. Some in the crowd were shouting “traitors” as officers tried to keep them back.

The skirmishes came shortly after Trump addressed thousands of his supporters, riling up the crowd with his baseless claims of election fraud at a rally near the White House on Wednesday ahead of Congress’s vote.

“We will not let them silence your voices,” Trump told the protesters, who had lined up before sunrise to get a prime position to hear the president. 

After the Capitol was first breached, Trump encouraged supporters in a tweet to “remain peaceful,” but didn’t call for them to disperse.

‘Unprecedented assault’ 

Biden, who said U.S. democracy was under “unprecedented assault,” called on Trump to go on national television and demand an end to “this siege.”

Shortly afterward, Trump released a video on Twitter that repeated false statements about the election being stolen, but also told protesters to “go home now.”

WATCH | CBC reporter mobbed by angry Trump supporters in Washington:

Senior correspondent Katie Nicholson and her videographer were verbally accosted and jostled as the team reported from the streets of Washington. 0:45

Vice-President Mike Pence had earlier called on protesters to leave immediately.

In a tweet Pence said, “This attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern about the violent scenes.

“Obviously we’re concerned and we’re following the situation minute by minute,” Trudeau told the Vancouver radio station News 1130. “I think the American democratic institutions are strong, and hopefully everything will return to normal shortly.”

Elsewhere in the U.S., Trump supporters massed outside statehouses from Georgia to New Mexico, leading to some evacuations as cheers rang out in reaction to the news that pro-Trump demonstrators had stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Hundreds of people gathered in state capitals across the country, waving signs saying “Stop the Steal” and “Four more years,” most of them not wearing masks despite the coronavirus pandemic. A few carried long guns in places like Oklahoma and Georgia.

New Mexico state police evacuated staff from a Statehouse building that includes the governor’s office and the secretary of state’s office as a precaution shortly after hundreds of flag-waving supporters arrived in a vehicle caravan and on horseback.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol amid Wednesday’s violent protests in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

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Trump signs COVID-19 relief bill, averts U.S. government shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday signed into law a $ 2.3 trillion US COVID-19 aid and government-funding bill, restoring unemployment benefits to millions in the United States and averting a partial federal government shutdown.

Trump announced the signing in a statement Sunday night. Trump, who leaves office on Jan. 20 after losing November’s election to Democratic rival Joe Biden, backed down from his threat to block the bill, which was approved by Congress last week, after he came under intense pressure from lawmakers on both sides.

The massive bill includes $ 900 billion US in pandemic relief that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals. It also includes $ 1.4 trillion US to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as money for cash-starved transit systems and an increase in food stamp benefits.

The Republican president, who golfed on Sunday and remained out of public view even as the potential government shutdown loomed, had demanded that Congress change the bill to increase the size of stimulus checks for struggling people in the country to $ 2,000 US from $ 600 US.

It was not immediately clear why Trump changed his mind as his resistance to the massive legislative package promised a chaotic final stretch of his presidency.

White House officials have been tight-lipped about Trump’s thinking, but a source familiar with the situation told Reuters that some advisers had urged him to relent because they did not see the point of refusing.

Democrats are promising more aid to come once president-elect Biden takes office, but Republicans are signalling a wait-and-see approach.

Unemployment benefits being paid out to about 14 million people through pandemic programs lapsed on Saturday, but will be restarted now that Trump has signed the bill.

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