Tag Archives: Start

Ontario records 1,699 new COVID-19 cases as vaccine bookings start for those 75 and older

Ontario reported 1,699 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, as the province’s vaccination rollout expands.

Health Minster Christine Elliott said there were 500 new cases found in Toronto, as well as 318 in Peel, 155 in York Region and 114 in Hamilton. The seven-day average, which smooths out peaks and valleys in the data, now stands at 1,600.

Those cases come with around 31,100 tests completed, which is well below the province’s capacity. Testing numbers usually dip over the weekend, before rising later in the week.

The province is reporting three new deaths of people with COVID-19, as well as 1,175 cases that have been marked as resolved. The death toll for the pandemic now stands at 7,244.

There are 813 people in hospital, up from 765 the day before — and that’s with the caveat of that figure being typically underreported on weekends.

There are also 298 people in intensive care, and 186 of those are on a ventilator, the province says. That’s down slightly from 302 and 189 the day before, respectively.

As of 8 p.m. Sunday, the province had administered just over 1.5 million vaccine doses, Elliott said. There were 31,335 vaccines administered Sunday, with 299,297 now fully vaccinated.

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said the province is making “tremendous progress” on its vaccine plans, and lauded the work of front-line health-care workers.

“We’re so grateful to them for the vital role they’ve been playing in the fight against this virus,” he said. 

The premier once again pushed the federal government to provide more vaccine doses, saying Ontario needs a steadier supply.

“We’re at a fraction of our capacity. We need more vaccines,” he said.

Ontario’s test positivity rate now 5.4%, top doctors say

Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said on Monday that the number of new cases daily, the test positivity rate and the percentage of new cases that are variants of concern are all on the increase in Ontario.

“We’re in the third wave. The numbers are slowly going up. They’re not going as fast as predicted by the modellers, and that’s to your credit. But … it’s still going up,” Williams told reporters at a provincial update.

“We’re not doubling, but we’re going up continually with our variants of concern and we’re now starting to see impacts on our hospital rates. That dip down to where we had hoped to get to, we didn’t get to, and now it’s picking back up again.”

Since its last update on Thursday, Ontario is reporting 7,064 more cases of COVID-19, according to Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate medical officer of health. 

Ontario’s seven-day average for daily cases, which now stands at 1,600, is an increase from 1,350 last week and 1,155 two weeks ago, Yaffe said. The province is also reporting an additional 42 deaths since Thursday. 

A total of 31,089 tests have been completed as of Monday and the test positivity rate is 5.4 per cent, marking the first time since Feb. 1 that the test positivity rate is above five per cent, she said.

The average test positivity rate over the last seven days is 3.9 per cent, an increase from three per cent from the same time period last week.


Dr. Barbara Yaffe and Dr. David Williams speak during a provincial update. ‘We’re in the third wave. The numbers are slowly going up,’ Williams said on Monday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reporting 1,424 cases of variants of concern

Ontario is reporting a total of 1,424 confirmed cases of variants of concern on Monday.

Of this number, 1,340 are of the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, 48 are of the B1351 variant, first identified in South Africa, and 36 of the P1 variant, first identified in Brazil.

A mutation has been detected in a total of 13,226 samples, but the lineage has not yet been determined, Yaffe said. 

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for variants of concern is 46.4 per cent, an increase from 37.9 per cent a week ago, she added.

Other public health units that saw double-digit case increases of COVID-19 were:

  • Ottawa: 85
  • Durham: 79
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 64
  • Halton: 57
  • Lambton: 42
  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit: 39
  • Sudbury: 34
  • Waterloo: 31
  • Niagara: 24
  • Thunder Bay: 16
  • Windsor-Essex: 16
  • Brant County: 15
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 14
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health: 13
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit: 12
  • Southwestern Public Health: 11
  • Middlesex-London: 11
  • Chatham-Kent: 10

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.)

Meanwhile, Ontario residents who are 75 or older can start booking their COVID-19 vaccines through the government’s online system starting today.

People in that age group were initially set to become eligible by the first week of April, but the province announced last week it was moving up the date, saying vaccinations are ahead of schedule.

Similarly, York Region has announced that it is now offering vaccine appointments for residents 70 and over, who were born in 1951 and earlier, effective March 23.

Also starting today, certain pharmacies and family physicians in some regions will be allowed to administer the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot to anyone 60 or older.

Ford said Monday that the province plans to expand that pilot project, with a focus on Peel Region and Toronto.

“We’re going to double the amount of pharmacies up to 750,” Ford said.

A number of regions are also moving to different restriction levels in the province’s colour-coded pandemic framework Monday.

The Brant, Chatham-Kent and Leeds, Grenville and Lanark regions are now in the red zone — the second-most restrictive.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph is now in orange, and four others — Timiskaming, Porcupine, North Bay Parry Sound and Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington — are in yellow.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

After a slow start, Canada’s vaccine rollout is now a race against time

Last week, before the crack of dawn, 466,800 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine landed at Toronto Pearson Airport in the belly of a FedEx plane after a journey of 8,500 kilometres, from Madrid via Paris and Indianapolis.

If cargo could fly first class, this cargo would qualify.

The vaccine doses, housed in metallic cargo containers, were unloaded before any of the other cargo. As they were carefully lowered off the hydraulic lift and onto a cargo trailer, temperature sensors showed the doses had arrived at their ideal temperature of -20ºC. Ground staff whisked the pallets off the tarmac for customs inspection so that they could be redistributed to the provinces and, eventually, injected into the arms of Canadians.

Minister for Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand was on the runway that morning to oversee the delivery — the latest in a series of deliveries that have been growing in size and frequency in recent days.

“All day long, I’m spending my time trying to move doses from [the third quarter] or from the fall to the spring … and working with suppliers to try to accelerate doses,” said Anand.

“But being here, and seeing the doses come off of the plane, means it is going to happen. Doses are going into arms in the very near term, and that is so meaningful and so important for Canadians.”

Under pressure

Canada’s vaccine rollout got off to a sluggish start. As countries like Israel and the United Kingdom started mass campaigns early in 2021, Canada saw its per capita vaccination rates plunge in international rankings.

Critics at both the federal and provincial levels have blamed the slow pace on Ottawa’s procurement process. Some have pointed to a lack of domestic vaccine manufacturing facilities, or the fact that provinces aren’t able to sign their own contracts with vaccine producers.

Anand knows she’s under enormous pressure to deliver.

“We did come through a rough period in February, and that’s because global supply chains, as a general matter, are just ramping up,” Anand said, referring to manufacturing delays at both Pfizer and Moderna that resulted in smaller-than-anticipated shipments to several countries, including Canada.

“This is the largest vaccination campaign in global history, as well as Canadian history. Having said that, we are ramping up.”


Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand (left) and Major General Dany Fortin look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Canada is expecting 8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of March. Deliveries are set to ramp up sharply after that, fuelled by weekly Pfizer deliveries of at least a million doses. More than 7 million doses are expected to land in April alone.

Anand said she expects 36.5 million doses by the end of June — enough for every person in Canada to receive a single dose.

“The ramp-up is going to be very steep. But again, we’ve got to watch supply chains. This is very early days in this race of making sure that we have everyone inoculated,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to stick to a September deadline for getting every eligible and willing Canadian vaccinated. Because of the increasing supply — and updated guidelines that allow public health officials to wait up to four months before delivering a second dose — provinces are now looking to complete their first round of vaccinations before summer.

The ‘big lift’

The appearance of more contagious COVID-19 variants that might cause more severe illness has put increased pressure on governments to vaccinate quickly.

“The provinces and territories are telling us that they are ready, they want more vaccine. And that’s exactly what we as a federal government are aiming to do,” Anand said.

Trudeau has called Canada’s vaccine supply ramp-up “the big lift.” The prime minister told a virtual roundtable of health care workers in February that the country would be going from a trickle of deliveries in the early months of the year to “receiving millions upon millions, even tens of millions of vaccines into the spring. And we’re going to have to make sure we’re getting them out to everyone.”

The challenge is a daunting one. Taking into account the 8 million doses delivered to Canada before the end of March, about 23 million more Canadians are eligible for vaccination this spring.

To deliver first doses to that entire population between April 1 and July 1, health care workers will have to vaccinate an average of 255,000 people per day, seven days a week.

Watch: Ontario launches online booking system as fears of a third wave grow

Ontario’s provincial COVID-19 vaccine booking system launched to mixed reviews, with many saying they got an error message or waited in jammed phone queues. Meanwhile, doctors in the province raised concerns of a third wave of COVID-19 infections. 1:49

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his province has the capacity to administer 150,000 vaccines a day. “We’re making steady progress,” Ford told reporters during an update on the province’s rollout on Sunday. “We just need more vaccines.”

That’s a message the federal government is hearing a lot lately from municipalities. Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency operations for the City of Ottawa, said the city has seven clinic-based immunization sites — including re-purposed hockey arenas and community centres — plus two hospital sites and a mobile unit ready to inoculate the city’s population of one million.

He said that once he gets the doses he needs, he’ll be ready to launch on 72 hours’ notice Ottawa’s complete mass vaccination program — which is set to deliver, for a start, 11,000 shots a day through all ten sites.


Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency operations for the City of Ottawa, speaks to the CBC’s David Cochrane. (Sarah Sears/CBC News)

“Our objective for all seven of our (clinic-based) sites is to do in the neighborhood of 1,200 to 1,400 vaccinations a day, per site,” said Di Monte. 

“We’ve got some confidence that we could probably crank that up a little bit and get closer to the 2,000 mark per site once we get rolling and we have enough staff.”

With enough doses and enough people, Di Monte said, Ottawa can keep its clinics open around the clock. The city has plans for a drive-through vaccination site in the sprawling parking lot outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators; it’s also looking at using two convention centres.

‘We ramp up and we never go back’

What Di Monte fears is a disruption in supply that would force him to close a vaccination site.

“You want the machine to start going and flowing and a regular flow,” he said. “I would prefer to see that we ramp up and we never go back. We just keep going and I’ll turn the switch up as much as we have capacity.”

Anand said her department is keeping a close watch on those supply lines.

“We are seeing vaccine nationalism take hold in certain areas of the world, including in Europe and, to an extent, the United States,” she said. “And we’ve got to make sure that Canada’s supply chain is protected.”

The cargo flight Anand met at the airport last week crossed European and American borders, offering a clear example of how “vaccine nationalism” — countries limiting exports to concentrate on vaccinating their citizens first — could tie Canada’s supply lines in knots.

Anand said Canada’s diverse vaccine portfolio — four vaccines from five different suppliers — serves as a hedge against that threat.

“We have to make sure that we’re on top of this file and the delivery schedules,” she said.

“I’m thinking of all the elderly people in Canada who need vaccine, want a vaccine, and Canadians at large. This is what makes this work so important, and this is why we have to see this right through to the end so every single Canadian will have access to a vaccine before the end of summer, if not before.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

Wilfried Nancy named head coach of CF Montreal, team to start season in Florida

After overhauling their name and look, CF Montreal have announced their latest adjustments — a new coach and a new temporary home.

The club announced Monday that former assistant coach Wilfried Nancy has been promoted to the top job. He takes over from Thierry Henry, who resigned last month citing family reasons.

“I’m not going to lie — soccer, football, it is my passion,” Nancy told reporters Monday. “For me, this is a good step.”

Montreal also announced it will open the season playing home games in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., because of border restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nancy, a 43-year-old Frenchman, has been an assistant coach with the first team since 2016, and said he wants to build on what the group accomplished last season.

Montreal finished the regular season with a 8-13-2, good for ninth spot in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. The club — known as the Montreal Impact before a rebrand in January — made the playoffs for the first time since 2016, but was eliminated by the New England Revolution in the play-in round.

‘We’re going to be a good team’

The team established a style of play last year, Nancy said.

“We will continue that style of play,” he said. “We’re going to be a good team, proactive, dynamic and we will be able also to put produce on the opposition.”

Working under Henry — formerly a marquee striker with Arsenal in the English Premier League — was an illuminating experience, Nancy said.

“I worked with a champion,” he said. “Thierry was a star as a player and I understood why he was a star,.”

Henry was a demanding coach who found it hard to accept that players would make mistakes, but he also set a strong example for the team, Nancy said.

“For me, it was good to learn from Thierry about the desire to win and the desire to succeed,” he said. “This is the first time that I can see that close to me.”

CF Montreal announced on Feb. 25 that Henry was stepping down after a single season as the club’s head coach.

There was a lot of interest in the job from people across Europe and North America, sporting director Olivier Renard said. While he declined to say who else was considered, Renard added that the pandemic wasn’t an obstacle in the hiring process.

What set Nancy apart from other applicants was his determination and his familiarity with the club, Renard said.

“I know his philosophy, I know what he wants to do for the club. And the club knows also what he makes the last 10 years of the club,” he said.

“It’s not only we gave him the chance, he deserved the chance also.”

While’s Nancy’s contract is for one year, Renard said in French that the new coach doesn’t have a sword hanging over his head.

Nancy said he understands the situation and is OK with it.

“I have to do my job now as a coach to go forward,” he said.

Experience developing young talent

Before joining the first team as an assistant coach, Nancy worked as a coach in the club’s academy system.

His experience developing young talent is part of what makes Nancy a good fit for the head coach role, Renard said.

“One of the best qualities of Wil is his communication with young guys,” he said. “We need that.”

Assistant coaches Kwame Ampadu and Laurent Ciman, goalkeeper coach Remy Vercoutre and fitness coach Jules Gueguen will complete Nancy’s staff.

The newly minted coach and his team opened training camp in Montreal last week, but will soon make the move to a warmer locale.

Club to play in Fort Lauderdale

The club announced Monday that it will begin its season in Florida, playing at Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale and using Inter Miami CF’s facilities for daily training.

CF Montreal is set to move south on April 6 and plans to play two pre-season games in Florida before the MLS season begins on April 17.

The club will have ample Canadian company in the Sunshine State. The Raptors, Blue Jays and Toronto FC are all playing in Florida due to border restrictions and the Canadian national men’s soccer team also will play a home World Cup qualifying game in the state.

The restrictions forced all three Canadian MLS teams to move south last season. Montreal finished out the year in Harrison, N.J., sharing a stadium with the New York Red Bulls.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Soccer News

Oilers’ 3rd-period comeback makes up for sleepy start in win over Canucks

Dominik Kahun scored twice Tuesday as the Edmonton Oilers clawed out a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Vancouver Canucks.

Vancouver (8-13-2) had a 3-0 lead late in the first period, thanks to goals from Bo Horvat, Tyler Myers and Elias Pettersson.

Kahun sparked the comeback for Edmonton (13-8-0) with goals late in the first and early in the third. Connor McDavid buried a power-play tally to tie the game, and Tyler Ennis scored to seal the win. Leon Draisaitl registered three assists.

Edmonton’s Mike Smith had 30 saves, while Thatcher Demko stopped 25-of-29 shots for Vancouver (8-13-2).

The victory extends Edmonton’s win streak to four games. It was another disappointing result for the Canucks, who have just two wins in their last 12 games.

Ennis broke a 3-3 deadlock 13:25 into the third period. Stationed at the side of the net, he took a puck that had bounced off his shin and tipped it in behind Demko.

WATCH | Ennis nets winner for Oilers:

Tyler Ennis completes the comeback in Edmonton’s 4-3 victory over Vancouver. 0:54

McDavid knotted the score with a power-play tally 4:23 into the third.

Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler had been sent to the box for tripping just nine seconds earlier. When Demko dove to make a stop, McDavid was quick to capitalize, popping a shot in over the sprawled-out netminder from the side of the net.

Edmonton had already cut Vancouver’s lead to a single goal less than a minute into the third when Kahun’s shot from the face-off dot sailed in over Demko’s glove.

It was the Czech forward’s second goal of the night and fourth of the season.

After a slow start to the game, the Oilers came close to whittling away the Canucks lead in the second frame.

Draisaitl unleashed a blast that tested Demko mightily four minutes in. The goalie hugged his post tightly to ensure an errant puck didn’t sneak through, not letting up until the whistle sounded.

Near the end of the frame, McDavid fired a shot off the cross bar. Play continued for a few moments before officials decided to check the play to see whether the puck had, in fact, gone into the Vancouver net before bouncing back out. A video review confirmed there was no goal.

Quick start for Canucks

Vancouver started the scoring race just 1:06 into Tuesday’s game.

Horvat sprinted down the boards and fired a sharp-angle shot from near the goal line. The puck slid under Smith’s pads and into the net to the goaltender’s apparent disbelief.

Myers extended Vancouver’s lead seven minutes later with a blast from the top of the face-off circle. His shot ticked off the stick of Edmonton’s Tyler Ennis and sailed in over Smith’s shoulder to put the Canucks up 2-0.

A scramble in front of the Oilers net ended with another Vancouver goal midway through the first.

Canucks defenceman Jordie Benn sent the puck to the front of the net and, through a crowd of sticks, Miller was able to deflect it back to Pettersson at the top of the crease. Falling to the ice, the Swedish centre batted a backhanded shot past Smith.

It was Vancouver’s third goal, coming on its ninth shot of the night.

Edmonton responded just before the first intermission.

Kahun got a shot off from low in the face-off circle and Demko appeared to make the stop. But the Canucks netminder couldn’t hold on to the puck, which dribbled out from under his arm and into the net.

The Oilers and Canucks will face each other again in Vancouver on Thursday.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Sports News

Why you might want to start wearing better masks — even outdoors

The spread of more contagious coronavirus variants in Canada amid already high levels of COVID-19 makes it a critical time to think about the masks we wear. 

Whether that means finding better quality masks, doubling up on masks, or wearing them in settings we wouldn’t normally think to, experts say it’s time we step up our game.

The variants first identified in South Africa and the U.K are spreading in Canada, in some cases with no known link to travel, and have already led to devastating outbreaks in long-term care homes. 

The variant discovered in the U.K., known as B117, is estimated to be at least 56 per cent more transmissible and potentially more deadly than the original coronavirus strain.

But even as COVID-19 case numbers show early signs of slowing down in Canada, experts say it’s becoming more important than ever to lower our risk of exposure as much as possible to prevent variants from taking hold here. 

“The floodwaters are receding right now, but it’s still very, very dangerous,” said Erin Bromage, a biology professor and immunologist at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth who studies infectious diseases.

“If [B117] does pop up as the dominant variant here, we are going to need to really up our game in regards to masks, in regards to … how many contacts we have in a day, because it definitely appears to have an upper hand.” 

‘Time to step it up’ with masks

Canada currently recommends the use of three-layer non-medical masks with a filter layer to prevent the spread of the virus, but has not updated its recommendations since November, before the emergence of new variants. 

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said that while three-layer non-medical masks are a good “minimum standard,” Canadians should opt for masks that offer better protection whenever possible.

Those include N95KN95KF94 of surgical masks masks, which come in three different filtration levels determined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

WATCH: How does a three-layer mask protect you from COVID-19?

Doctors answer viewer questions about COVID-19 including why three-layer masks are now being recommended to protect against the virus. 5:22

“When I go to the grocery store now, I wear my very best mask,” said Linsey Marr, one of the top aerosol scientists in the world and an expert on the airborne transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech. “Before I was wearing an OK mask that was comfortable and easy.”

She said a cloth mask can “easily filter out half of particles, maybe more, but we’re at the point where we need better performance.” 

Bromage said he changed his approach to masks several months ago when COVID-19 cases started to spike in many parts of North America. That’s when he ditched common cloth masks for surgical masks, he said.

Bromage said Level 3 ASTM surgical masks, those that are used at dental clinics, for example, offer both a better level of protection and a better quality fit.

“The most important part is you’ve got to make sure your breath actually goes through the material,” he said.

“You really should see the mask expand and then collapse and expand and collapse with each breath that you take. That’s a good indication that what you’re breathing is actually going through the material.” 

Double-masking and other tips

Bromage said a tight-fitting mask is more important than ever due to the emergence of variants, which is why it’s becoming more common to see people wearing two masks at the same time.

“It’s not that double-masking provides extra protection if the mask was fitting well,” he said. “Double-masking helps the mask that is closest to your skin fit more snugly, meaning more air goes through that mask.”

If you’re already wearing a high-quality mask that fits well, with air going through the material rather than out the sides, Bromage said there’s really no extra benefit in throwing an extra mask on top.  


U.S. President Joe Biden seen wearing two masks in this file photo as he arrives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 13, 2020. Immunologist Erin Bromage says a tight-fitting mask is more important than ever due to the emergence of variants, which is why it’s becoming more common to see people ‘double-masking.’ (AFP via Getty Images)

He recommends looking at yourself in the mirror before you go out to make sure your mask isn’t too loose fitting, which could put you at heightened risk of exposure in situations such as in-store shopping. 

“I really want people to look at them and think, is all the air going through the material? And if it’s not, work out a way to do that,” he said. “And that may be putting a second mask on or finding a different mask that fits their face.” 

Outdoors not without risk

Coronavirus variants can also change the level of risk we face in situations that are typically more safe, such as being outdoors. 

Places such as San Francisco and New Brunswick have mandated outdoor mask use, and Toronto recently announced it now require face masks for outdoor activities such as skating.

“The risk is much lower outdoors than indoors, but with the new variants, we should be more careful outdoors as well as indoors,” said Marr.

“The times we need to be paying attention to it is if there are a lot of people around at a sporting event, or in a crowded park, or if you’re out walking or running and you’re passing by several people per minute, because all those little exposures can add up over time.”


Coronavirus variants can also change the level of risk we face in situations that are typically more safe, such as being outdoors. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Bromage said he gets concerned when he sees a group of people huddling together outdoors without moving around.

“The closer you are outdoors, the much more risky it is,” he said. 

While not common, there have been cases of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 in Canada.  

An outdoor 40-person barbecue at a park in Ottawa last summer led to 105 people being exposed and two testing positive, while a “heated conversation” in B.C. caused an infection. 

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told CBC News there have been several outdoor transmission events between spectators “clustering and talking with each other” during soccer games, and during wedding receptions where groups of people crowded together under tents.

“Again it comes down to being in close contact, without a mask, talking loudly or sharing food and drinks that makes it risky even outside,” Henry said.  

She said B.C. has not seen transmission from brief outdoor encounters, waiting in line outside or at outdoor picnics where people maintain a reasonable distance and wear masks when close for short periods of time.

Chagla said standing six-feet apart while wearing masks is a responsible way to interact with others outdoors.

“There are ways to do things outdoors safely, even in the context of the variant,” said Chagla. “You don’t want outside to be a free pass, but you also want to use it for what it is, to let people see each other and have contact with humanity, too.” 


Places such as San Francisco and New Brunswick have mandated outdoor mask use and Toronto and Ottawa recently announced they require face masks for outdoor activities such as skating. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Bromage said that while the risk of exposure outdoors is less than indoors, the risk of both is higher due to the emergence of coronavirus variants.

“It’s really time that people think about upping their game just in general,” he said.

“Because if we are going to get a new wave from this variant, and it’s already going to build off a very high level of infection that we already have, we need to do better to keep it out of our lives.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

NWSL to hold Challenge Cup in April, start season in May

The National Women’s Soccer League will hold the preseason Challenge Cup tournament in local markets starting April 9.

The 10-team league, with Racing Louisville joining this season, is set to open its ninth season May 15.

Each team will play 24 games, with six reaching the playoffs. The regular season will end Oct. 30. The schedule for the Challenge Cup and the regular season will be released at a later date but there will be no break for the Olympics.

All teams must adhere to a rigorous pandemic protocols. Players must quarantine for seven days prior to competition and will be tested twice a week. Players or staff with confirmed COVID-19 cases must isolate for a minimum of 10 days.

Players who have medical permission by a team physician to opt out of the season will receive full pay and benefits.

Teams can open training camps next Monday.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Soccer News

New COVID-19 testing rules for air travellers will start Jan. 7

New rules requiring air travellers to test negative for COVID-19 before entering Canada will kick in on Jan. 7, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said today.

The new requirement, announced Wednesday, covers all air passengers five years of age or older.

Under the new rule, travellers must receive a negative result on a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — the standard nose swab test for detecting active COVID-19 infections — within 72 hours of boarding a flight to Canada.

There are two possible outcomes for passengers who fail to obtain PCR tests prior to departure, Garneau said.

“One is, if they haven’t got the test result and there are clinics available, they will have to reschedule their departure because they won’t be allowed on board,” he said. “If, on the other hand, they can demonstrate … that there was no facility, then they can be admitted onboard.”

Travellers who can prove that they were unable to get a test abroad will have to quarantine at a federally-approved facility upon their return for 14 days.

Documentation of a negative test result must be presented to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada, Garneau said in a media statement.

The minister said the timing of the new policy will give foreign and domestic airlines “adequate” time to comply with the new requirements.

Mike McNaney is president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest carriers. He said a week isn’t enough time.

“Our primary concerns are the timeframe, the extremely tight timeframe, and the lack of information and guidance as to what we are going to be obligated to do,” he told CBC News.

“Implementation of a broad policy like this is a very complex activity. You obviously have to have communication to your own front line employees around the world. You have to work with regulators and other jurisdictions.

“We do not know what will be deemed to be properly certified testing labs to provide results. We do not know the acceptable format for passengers to provide the information and be in compliance with the government policy. We do not have regulation and we do not have guidance material at all.”

It’s frustrating, said McNaney, because the airline industry has been pushing for more testing. 

“There’s a great level of frustration within the industry in terms of how we are now proceeding in this very rushed fashion,” he said. 

John Gradek, a former Air Canada executive and lecturer at McGill University’s global aviation leadership program, said the swift introduction of a new testing policy is likely adding pressure to an already strained relationship between the federal government and the airline industry — which has been pleading for a pandemic bailout.

“While [the government hasn’t] said it’s forbidden by law, they strongly recommend people not travel. And industry is basically saying, come on down, the flights are open, weather’s nice, it’s nice and warm in the sunny Caribbean,” he said.

“Christmas is a very, very important time of year for carriers to be able to fill their airplanes and make some money and that’s what they’re doing.”


Minister of Transport Marc Garneau is expected to reveal more details about the testing changes today. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Gradek said more communication with the airlines could have helped to smooth things over.

“You’re seeing a lot of angst and … a lot of potential distrust between the carriers and Transport Canada and that’s got to stop,” he said.

“We’ve got to really make sure that we’re looking at doing this thing as an industry, as a regulator, and making sure we’re both looking at the same issue and talking on the same sides of our mouth when we talk about policy. We can’t keep going with this … tussle going on between Transport Canada and the aviation industry.”

Bloc pushes for more tests

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Wednesday that it will be up to travellers to arrange for PCR tests themselves, given that those embarking on non-essential trips overseas have chosen already to flout public health guidelines.

“The government of Canada obviously is not in a position to set up in hotels or all-inclusive resorts or Canadian consulates,” he told CBC News.

The new rule does not replace Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period for international travellers, which remains in force.

Garneau also said Thursday the government will be boosting its surveillance efforts to make sure travellers are following the rules. The penalties for breaking the Quarantine Act can include six months in prison or $ 750,000 in fines.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said Thursday that the testing requirement should apply to all travellers, not just those arriving by air.

In a media statement, he also said the government should reimburse those who have had to cancel vacations due to the pandemic. 

The federal change came a day before Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips resigned after returning from a controversial Caribbean vacation while the province is under strict lockdown measures that discourage non-essential travel.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

EU’s massive COVID-19 vaccination campaign off to uneven start

The EU campaign to vaccinate Europeans against COVID-19 is off to an uneven start in what will be a marathon effort to administer shots to enough of the bloc’s 450 million people to defeat the viral pandemic.

The vaccination drive kicked off over the weekend, with health workers and residents of care homes across the bloc among the first to get the Pfizer-BioNTech shots, which must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures.

The vaccination drive kicked off over the weekend, with health workers and residents of care homes across the bloc among the first to get shots of the EU’s first 12.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures and requires two doses. The rest of the EU’s first doses are slated to arrive by New Year’s Day. 

There were initial hiccups: Officials in southern Germany said on Monday they would dump around 1,000 doses after finding they may not have been properly chilled. Temperature controls also caused a delivery delay in Spain.

In Italy, meanwhile, some politicians complained that Germany — the EU’s largest member state and home to BioNTech — may be getting more than its fair share of shots.

The teething troubles are an early test of the EU’s decision to procure vaccines jointly, which has left the bloc lagging behind the United States, Canada, Britain, Israel and Switzerland in approving and administering the first vaccines.

The EU expects distribution of 200 million doses across its 27 member countries to be completed by next September.

Talks are underway to agree on the delivery of an optional further 100 million doses under the contract sealed with the two companies, EU officials said.

The EU has signed agreements with other drugmakers besides Pfizer, including Moderna and AstraZeneca, for more than two billion doses in total. It wants to inoculate all adults by the end of next year.


A woman waits to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a nursing home in Burgbernheim, Germany, on Monday. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

Temperature control issues

As well as being the first COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered across the EU, the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is also particularly tricky to handle. For long-term storage it needs to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures of around -70 Celsius. It can be defrosted for a few days before being used, but even then must be kept chilled.

In southern Germany, officials said they would not use some shots after temperature trackers showed they may not have been kept cold enough.

“There were doubts as to whether the cold chain was maintained at all times,” said Christian Meissner, district administrator in the Bavarian town of Lichtenfels.

“BioNTech said that the vaccine was probably OK, but ‘probably OK’ is not enough,” he told Reuters TV. 

Germany’s vaccination campaign was also overshadowed by a mishap in the north where eight workers in an elderly care home received an overdose.

Vorpommern-Ruegen district authorities said the workers in Stralsund city received five times the recommended dose of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine on Sunday. Four went to hospital for observation after developing flu-like symptoms.

“I deeply regret the incident. This individual case is due to individual errors. I hope that all those affected do not experience any serious side-effects,” district chief Stefan Kerth said in a statement.


Health workers arrive to the Balafia nursing home with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Lleida, Spain, on Sunday. (Albert Gea/Reuters)

In Spain, the delivery of a new batch from Pfizer was held up by a day to Tuesday due to an issue with temperature controls that has now been resolved, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

Maria Asuncion Ojeda, a resident at Madrid’s Ballesol Parque Almansa nursing home, was still delighted to be an early recipient of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“I wanted to do it because it’s the only way we can solve this problem,” the 87-year-old said on Monday, a day after Spain began vaccinating care-home residents and their staff.

Complaints over amounts

The EU is distributing the jointly procured vaccines to the 27 member states based on their populations, while European countries have also made their own deals to buy extra doses separately.

In Italy, some politicians said Germany appeared to be getting more than its fair share, at least during the highly symbolic initial rollout.

“The accounts don’t add up,” Italian virologist Roberto Burioni said on Twitter, pointing to reports in Germany that first-day deliveries had totalled 150,000 doses while other EU countries got just 10,000.

An official familiar with vaccine distribution in Germany said that each of the 16 German federal states had received 10,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine ahead of the weekend start of the inoculation drive.

An Italian journalist asked about the supplies at a German government news conference. An official from the German health ministry replied that Berlin had signed a separate deal for 30 million extra doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

EU nations start assessing post-Brexit trade deal with U.K.

European Union ambassadors were convening on Christmas Day to start assessing the massive free trade deal the bloc struck with Britain that should kick off next next week when the acrimonious Brexit divorce process finally comes to an end.

After the deal was announced on Thursday, EU nations already showed support for the outcome, and it was expected that they would unanimously back the agreement — a prerequisite for its legal approval.

Speedily approving the deal is essential, since a transition period during which Britain continued to trade by EU rules despite its Jan. 31 departure from the bloc runs out on New Year’s Day. Without a trade deal, it would have acerbated chaos at the border where checks on goods will have to be increased since Britain is fully out of the 27-nation bloc.

The United Kingdom Parliament is expected to approve the deal in the coming days, but the agreement will have to be applied provisionally since the EU’s legislature can only give its consent next month at the earliest. There, too, approval is expected.


EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier leaves the EU Commission for a meeting of the permanent representatives committee in Brussels on Friday. (Johanna Geron/Reuters)

The strong show of unity is testament to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who has worked relentlessly to keep all EU nations and the groups within the EU Parliament in the loop of developments throughout the torturous negotiations.

WATCH | U.K. and EU reach post-Brexit trade deal:

More than four years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, a conditional trade agreement has been reached between the two sides. 3:01

It took more than three years of wrangling before Britain left the bloc’s political structures last January. Disentangling the two sides’ economies and reconciling Britain’s desire for independence with the EU’s aim of preserving its unity took months longer.

Both sides now claim the 2,000-page agreement protects their cherished goals. Britain said it gives the U.K. control over its money, borders, laws and fishing grounds. The EU said it protects the EU’s single market and contains safeguards to ensure that Britain does not unfairly undercut the bloc’s standards.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

‘We have some ground to cover’: Plagued by uncertainty, NHL’s Jan. 1 start date in peril

A far cry from the standings at Thanksgiving serving as a barometer of which teams are most likely to make the playoffs, the NHL heads into the U.S. holiday without a firm plan announced for next season.

The league and players are running out of time to start the season Jan. 1 as previously planned, with various pandemic-related problems standing in the way. There is uncertainty on many fronts.

“The landscape is — there’s a lot of unknowns associated with where we’re going in the immediate future,” Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Monday. “Hopefully things, with all the positive news associated with vaccines and a hopeful climate that could potentially exist that we get back on track. But we have some ground to cover.”

Some of the groundwork is already in place. Realignment featuring an all-Canadian division and regional play in the U.S. appears likely and should push the thorny issue of cross-border travel back to the playoffs. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association also agreed to a long-term extension of the collective bargaining agreement last summer to get hockey through the pandemic.

WATCH | NHL analyst Dave Poulin discusses NHL’s next steps:

The NHL had zero cases in the bubble during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but what’s next for the league? Andi Petrillo speaks with NHL analyst Dave Poulin. 6:03

But with virus cases surging across North America and the prospect of an even bigger revenue shortfall than owners originally feared, questions have arisen about amending that agreement, which has put the start of the season in peril.

Player salaries

Much like Major League Baseball’s struggle to start the 2020 season, it’s all about the money. The CBA — which now runs through 2026 — ensures a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue; includes players deferring 10 per cent of their salary for the upcoming season; and puts a cap on how much money will be kept in escrow over the length of the deal.

Less than five months since the CBA agreement, the league has asked players to increase salary deferrals to 20 per cent or 26 per cent and increasing the escrow caps, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is publicly announcing details of negotiations.

Assuming the season is shorter than a full 82 games, players could balk at taking pro-rated salaries while escrow amounts are increased.

Start date

The two sides have targeted Jan. 1 to start the season. Some steps need to be taken soon for that to happen.

A training camp of roughly two weeks would need to precede opening night. The later the season starts, the fewer games there might be. There could be as few as 50 or as many as 70-plus games for each team, with the stipulation that the Stanley Cup should probably be awarded before the Summer Olympics open in Tokyo on July 23.

“What starts with me is: Let’s get the season started,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “I’m up for however it looks. Whatever the league and the PA think is the best way to get us back playing, whether it’s with fans, some fans, no fans, TV being [more] relevant, if you will. Whatever it takes to get this season going and get it in place.”

Realignment

A division made up of the seven teams based in Canada — Montreal,, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver — makes the most sense given the border with the U.S. is closed to nonessential travel through Dec. 21 and possibly beyond. Bettman said earlier this month the NHL isn’t moving those seven teams south of the border “so we have to look at alternative ways to play.”

If there was one Canadian division, three U.S. divisions to cut down on long-distance travel might look like this, though discussions are ongoing and nothing has been finalized:

  •  A division with Arizona, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Vegas, Colorado, Dallas and either Minnesota or St. Louis.
  •  A division with St. Louis or Minnesota, Chicago, Nashville, Detroit, Columbus, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.
  •  A division with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, New Jersey, Boston and all three New York teams.

Playoffs in the same divisions would determine the final four playing for the Stanley Cup.

“Whatever it looks like, to me, I know it’ll be well thought out,” Poile said. “I just don’t know what it’s going to look like right now.”

Virus concerns

Multiple Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Team facilities are open for voluntary workouts with protocols in place, though those teams had to close off-ice areas.

After the NHL constructed tight bubbles for the post-season amid the summer surge, players testing positive — and how to deal with that like other leagues have — might be a factor early in 2021.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Sports News