A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

Governments are looking at new limits for travel both into and within Canada, as the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to set heartbreaking records.

On a positive note, Canada hit a new milestone for vaccinations, with 25 per cent of the population vaccinated with at least one dose, as the number of people climbed over 9.5 million Tuesday afternoon.

Generation-X Canadians flocked to make appointments for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as several provinces lowered the eligible age, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

But even as vaccinations were flowing, Ontario’s scientific advisers warned the province’s hospitals are “buckling” as hospitalizations and critical care loads continued to grow.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, reported record numbers of active cases, hospitalizations and patients in critical care across the country.

An average of almost 1,200 people are now in intensive care daily with COVID-19, about half of them on ventilators. On April 12, the most recent single-day statistics available, there was a one-day record of 599 people on ventilators due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 deaths also grew in the last week, to an average of 44 deaths per day, after sitting close to 30 people a day over the last two months.

Much of it is being driven by new variants, with more than 66,000 confirmed variant cases in Canada now, 96 per cent of them B.1.1.7. That is twice the number of confirmed variant cases just one week ago.

In a bid to keep even more variants from entering Canada, Trudeau said Tuesday the use of quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21, as will testing requirements for air and land-border arrivals.

He defended the government against criticism it didn’t move fast enough to enforce quarantines for travellers, but said they are considering additional measures.

“We are continuing to look at more and I have asked our officials to look carefully at, for example, what the U.K. has done very recently on suspending flights from India,” he said.

Although Canada’s borders are officially closed, thousands of people, mostly Canadians, still cross into the country every week. Health Canada says about one per cent of international air travellers are testing positive for COVID-19 during their three-day quarantine, but can’t yet provide data for how many tested positive after 10 days.

India has reported more than 250,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily this week and doctors are investigating whether another new variant, known as B.1.617, may be part of the reason.

Last December, Canada suspended flights from the U.K. for just over two weeks due to concerns about the COVID-19 variant that first emerged there.

In the last two weeks, 117 international flights arrived with at least one passenger who later tested positive for COVID-19, including 29 flights from Delhi, 20 from the United States and 24 from Europe.

Provincial governments are also moving to restrict travel within Canada. Ontario and Nova Scotia are barring entry to non-essential travellers who aren’t residents, while British Columbia is looking at doing periodic police roadblocks at ferry terminals and Vancouver-area highways to discourage recreational travel even within the province.

Ontario reported almost 3,500 new cases Tuesday, the first time since April 12 the number was below 4,000. But hospitalizations, critical care admissions and patients on a ventilator all rose overnight, prompting new warnings from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table that hospitals are on the brink. The advisers said essential workers needed to be vaccinated faster and offered sick leave.

Public health chiefs in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region moved on their own to order any workplace closed that has had five or more positive cases in the last two weeks.

Late Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office said he was isolating in Toronto after a member of his staff who was in close contact with him tested positive for COVID-19.

The statement said the premier has tested negative and will follow all public health advice for close contacts.

It said Ford will continue leading his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic while in isolation, including briefings with officials and communicating with the public.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is examining what it can do to handle “gaps” in federal sick pay.

Elliott received her vaccine from AstraZeneca weeks ago, and now that Ontario is among the provinces that lowered the eligible age to 40, Trudeau and other federal leaders can now follow suit.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization cancelled a planned briefing to update its guidance on what age groups should get the AstraZeneca doses, as more information on the risk of very rare blood clots has now emerged. NACI is still deliberating on what advice to provide.

READ MORE: ‘Can’t afford to lose another summer’: B.C. tourism group supports COVID travel rules

Three Canadians, including one newly reported in New Brunswick Tuesday, have now had the blood clots, out of more than 700,000 doses given. All three — a woman over 55 in Quebec, a man in his 60s in Alberta and a woman in her 30s in New Brunswick — are recovering at home.

Several provinces didn’t wait for NACI. Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. all cut the age from 55 to 40, although Saskatchewan said it has already used up much of the AstraZeneca supply it has received. Quebec is cutting it to 45 on Wednesday.

Albertans under 55 lined up at mass vaccination clinics in both Calgary and Edmonton.

“It’s about time,” said Jody Dewaal, 52, who was lined up at Expo Centre in Edmonton. “We’ve been waiting. I have senior parents and I have a child who has asthma, so we just like to have some kind of protection.”

Trudeau, 49, told pharmacists during a virtual meeting Tuesday morning that he intends to be vaccinated at a pharmacy, publicly, as soon as his office can work out the details.

While Freeland was busy becoming the first female finance minister to table a budget in the House of Commons this week, she dispatched her kids to go online and find her an appointment.

“My daughter said we’re on a wait-list, so I have to check on that after this,” she said. “But as soon as I can, I’ll get mine too and I hope at a local pharmacy.”

O’Toole said he was booked for Saturday, while Singh is being vaccinated Wednesday.

Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna appeared to be fastest on the booking button, posting photos on social media Tuesday of herself getting the AstraZeneca shot in Ottawa.

— With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Northern Health launches virtual primary care clinic

Northerners without a family physician or nurse practitioner will now have access to primary care

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Tinder, an online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. man granted paternity test to see if Tinder match-up led to a ‘beautiful baby’

The plaintiff is seeking contact with the married woman’s infant who he believes is his child

Most Read