Canada·Coronavirus Brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for April 12

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for April 12.
  • Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • Montreal mayor, business owners frustrated after anti-curfew riot damage.
  • All adult residents living and working in Whistler, B.C., now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Canada's COVID-19 case rate now tops U.S. rate. Here's what the experts say.
  • Read more: How to breathe better and why it matters, especially in a pandemic; Ontario man believed to be 1st Canadian with COVID-destroyed lungs to get double transplant.
Women take a selfie with their drinks on Monday at The Fox on the Hill pub after its reopening as coronavirus restrictions ease in London, England. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Ontario shuts down in-person classes again amid surge in new COVID-19 cases

Ontario is once again shutting down in-person instruction in schools as the province deals with a third wave of COVID-19 cases, Premier Doug Ford announced at a news conference Monday.

"I can't stress this enough. We're at a critical point right now," Ford said. "The situation is changing quickly, and we need to respond. Right now, I'm extremely concerned about the new variants."

Spring break began Monday after the province postponed it in March to discourage travel during the pandemic. The provincial government had previously maintained that schools would reopen next week, but unions had called for schools to close in the absence of stronger safety measures.

Last week, the medical officers of health in regions including Peel, Toronto and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph decided to close schools in their respective public health units.

Ford did not provide a timeline for when kids would head back to class, saying instead that officials will keep a constant eye on data and trends to determine when children can return to school.

Provincial Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said a "prolonged" school closure is "prudent."

Ford also said that despite the closures, child care for non-school age children will remain open. Before-school and after-school programs, however, will be closed. Free emergency child care for school-aged children of eligible health-care and front-line workers is also being provided, the province said.

Earlier, health officials in the province reported 4,401 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths.

The province also reported another 217 school-related cases of COVID-19. About 27 per cent of Ontario's 4,828 publicly funded schools currently have at least one confirmed case of the illness.

Hospitals across much of Ontario have been ordered to ramp down elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures to ensure they have the capacity to treat more COVID-19 patients. The province on Monday reported having 1,646 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 619 patients in intensive care units.

From The National

COVID-19 ‘trying to bring Ontario hospitals to their knees,’ hospital representative says

The National

1 month ago
3:54
With more ICU patients than at any previous point of the COVID-19 pandemic, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association said the virus is ‘trying to bring Ontario hospitals to their knees.’ 3:54

IN BRIEF

Montreal mayor, business owners frustrated after anti-curfew riot damage

Business owners in Old Montreal are surveying the damage after protesters wrecked storefronts during a Sunday night anti-curfew protest that turned into a riot.

The gathering of hundreds of protesters in Jacques-Cartier Square started calmly, but police moved in after some participants set a garbage fire. Montreal police say so far, seven arrests have been made and 108 tickets have been handed out.

Helena Loureiro, who is the chef and co-owner at Helena restaurant on Notre-Dame Street West, says she was alerted to what was going on by people who live in the area, and arrived at the restaurant around 9 p.m. to find that the front window was broken, though nothing had been stolen.

Loureiro says she has nothing against protesting, as long as people are respectful and follow the rules.

"It's not us who make the laws," she told Radio-Canada. "We are frustrated too. We are frustrated that we can't open our restaurants."

Lior Simon, manager of NRJ Jeans on Notre-Dame, says he was dismayed by the acts of vandalism.

"Yes, we are all tired, we want freedom, we want to enjoy it. It is true that staying at home at 8 p.m. is difficult," he said, adding that it is not by targeting people's businesses that the demonstrators will get what they want.

In a tweet, Mayor Valérie Plante called what happened "absolutely unacceptable."

Later, during a news conference, the mayor said it was "ridiculous" and "stupid" that people attacked business owners who are already suffering.

Read more on the situation in Montreal

All adult residents living and working in Whistler, B.C., now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

All adults who live and work in Whistler, B.C., are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vancouver Coastal Health said it's launching the two-week vaccination program on Monday because of increasing transmission of the virus in the ski resort community. It said there were 1,505 confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Whistler between Jan. 1 and April 5.

"Currently, Howe Sound has the highest rate of COVID-19 of any local health area in the province," Vancouver Coastal Health said in a written statement. "The majority of these cases reside in the Whistler community."

Many of the cases in the Howe Sound local health region, which includes Whistler, were determined to be the P1 strain of the virus originally found in Brazil, which is three times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain and more virulent among young people.

Penny Ballem, who is leading B.C.'s immunization program, says Whistler has been the epicentre of three surges of the virus since January.

Part of the problem in Whistler is the number of young staff members who live in close quarters because of a housing crisis in the area.

Ballem said there's been strong uptake of the vaccine in the Howe Sound region so far, and health officials expect that to continue as eligibility expands.

Read more on the situation in Whistler

Canada's COVID-19 case rate now tops U.S. rate. Here's what the experts say

Friday, April 9 marked the first day since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 that Canada averaged more confirmed cases per million people than the U.S.

The running graphic from Our World in Data — which uses statistics from Johns Hopkins University to juxtapose the seven-day average number of cases in both countries — showed that trend continuing on Saturday and Sunday.

Experts say differences in the countries' vaccine rollouts and the presence of more transmissible variants in Canada contributed to this situation, but context is critical when comparing what's happening in both countries.

"Things are bad in Canada, I agree, but I think there's a little bit of caveat to say, 'We're worse than the United States right now,' without incorporating those pieces as part of the argument," said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.

Chagla said that factors like testing behaviours in the U.S. and a higher rate of COVID-19 deaths per million in the U.S. are important to consider when assessing the situation. On April 9, when Canada recorded more cases per million, a graphic from Our World in Data showed the U.S. had 2.97 deaths per million compared to 0.85 in Canada.

Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr says the data lines up with the Public Health Agency of Canada's warning on Feb. 19, when the agency presented modelling that suggested variants would lead to a surge in coronavirus cases across the country without stricter health measures.

Canada reported 3,091 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Feb. 19 — while on April 9, the country recorded 9,243 cases, according to a CBC News tally.

"We didn't react and we didn't have the opportunity to roll out the vaccine program fast enough due to supply chain challenges," said Carr, who founded EPI Research in Winnipeg.

Read more on how the countries compare, including in herd immunity

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

Top official admits China's COVID-19 vaccines have low efficacy

In a rare admission of the weakness of coronavirus vaccines developed in China, the country's top disease control official says their effectiveness is low and the government is considering mixing them to get a boost.

China's vaccines "don't have very high protection rates," Gao Fu, the director of China's Centers for Disease Control, said at a conference Saturday in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

Beijing has distributed hundreds of millions of doses abroad while trying to promote doubt about the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine made using the previously experimental messenger RNA, or mRNA, process.

"It's now under formal consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process," Gao said.

Officials at a news conference Sunday didn't respond directly to questions about Gao's comment or possible changes in official plans. But another CDC official, Wang Huaqing, said developers are working on mRNA-based vaccines.

"The mRNA vaccines developed in our country have also entered the clinical trial stage," Wang said. He gave no timeline for possible use.

Experts say mixing vaccines, or sequential immunization, might boost effectiveness. Researchers in the U.K. are studying a possible combination of Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

Vaccines developed by Sinovac, a private company, and Sinopharm, a state-owned firm, have made up the majority of Chinese vaccines distributed to several dozen countries including Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, Hungary and Brazil.

The effectiveness of a Sinovac vaccine at preventing symptomatic infections was found to be as low as 50.4 per cent by researchers in Brazil, near the 50 per cent threshold at which health experts say a vaccine is useful. By comparison, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been found to be 97 per cent effective.

Beijing has yet to approve any foreign vaccines for use in China.

AND FINALLY...

You can now apply to isolate on a trip in Yukon's wilderness

People can carry out their 14-day isolation period in Yukon's wilderness under a new kind of alternative isolation plan approved by health officials in the territory. (Liny Lamberink/CBC)

Instead of isolating in a hotel room, Canadian visitors to Yukon can now apply to isolate on a trip in the backcountry.

The Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon (WTAY) came up with the idea after seeing the government approve alternative self-isolation plans for the mining industry and for outdoor outfitters last year.

It was approved by Yukon health officials last month.

"For the operators that choose to conduct business this summer, this is the way forward," Kalin Pallett, WTAY's president, told CBC's Elyn Jones on Yukon Morning. "There's no community contact at all, unless the trip is more than 14 days."

According to the Yukon government's website, outdoor tourism operators and Canadian clients can make alternative self-isolation plans. Companies have to apply for an exemption by completing an operation plan and submitting it for approval.

"Canadian guests are intercepted at the airport by the operator and taken out to the backcountry, as expeditiously as possible," explained Pallett. If the trip is more than 14 days long, they're able to interact with the general public afterward.

"If it's less than 14 days, then they need to exit the Yukon as expeditiously as they arrived," he said.

The association came up with a set of management practices for wilderness tourism operators amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pallett said they include a step-by-step guide on how to greet guests and how to get them to the backcountry along an approved travel corridor, and what to do if a guide or client develops COVID-19 symptoms while on the trip.

"We are Yukoners, we live here, we raise families here, keeping you safe is paramount. These guidelines do that," he said.

Read more on the alternative isolation plan in Yukon

Find out more about COVID-19

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With files from The Associated Press

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