Canada·Coronavirus Brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for April 22

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for April 22.
  • Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • Vaccine eligibility coming at an opportune time for stressed Canada Border Services Agency employees in Windsor, Ont.
  • 'Peace of mind' may also be coming for many Manitoban front-line workers.
  • Opposition parties tee off on federal government's pandemic response in emergency debate.

Read more: Halifax enters lockdown as Nova Scotia cases spike; Don Pittis explains why the central bank thinks there's "brighter days ahead" compared to a similar point after the 2008 recession.

Cambodians wait in line before being vaccinated against COVID-19 Thursday in Phnom Penh. According to tracking from the Johns Hopkins Resource Center, three per cent of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated, in a country that has seen just 54 official deaths attributed to the virus. (Cindy Liu/Reuters)

Doug Ford apologizes for pandemic missteps that led to rare 'political disobedience'

Ontario Premier Doug Ford apologized to Ontarians Thursday, days after his government faced intense backlash for introducing a number of additional COVID-19 restrictions recently that were not recommended by health experts and then subsequently walked back.

Ford, who is in isolation after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, said at a news conference he wanted to "address the events of this past week" after his government put in new measures in response to "extremely troubling modelling."

"Simply put, we got it wrong," said Ford, indicating the government hashed out the measures too quickly, which sources had appeared to confirm to CBC News. "We made a mistake.… For that I am sorry, and I sincerely apologize."

It was also the third consecutive day Ford or a member of his party hinted that a paid sick leave measure for unprotected workers would be coming soon, but with specifics not offered.

The premier and some of his top cabinet ministers have been under fire after announcing last Friday that the province would close playgrounds and hand police arbitrary powers, among other additional measures, in a bid to curb the third wave of the pandemic. Within hours, some municipal leaders and police officials pushed back at the edicts.

One municipal law expert told CBC News it was a very rare example of "political disobedience" in Canada.

"This type of disagreement usually happens behind closed doors before measures are announced," said Stéphane Émard-Chabot, University of Ottawa law professor and one-time Ottawa city councillor. "Typically governments will bend in private before it becomes policy. This [provincial] policy was decided very quickly, decided not in conformity with the advice of the scientific table. And on the ground, the reaction was swift."

The apology comes as recent polling suggests Ford's approval rating is taking a beating over the pandemic file, and to Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, Thursday's comments from the premier suggested a man who is "spiralling."

"But 'sorry, folks' won't cut it," said Del Duca.

While Ontario on Thursday reported a daily case number on the lower end, relatively speaking, of what's been seen in the past two weeks, there were more foreboding indicators.

Rising death tolls have lagged cases by several days or even weeks throughout the pandemic in many jurisdictions, and that could be happening again in Ontario. There were 40 new deaths announced, the most since Feb. 19.

From The National

B.C. health-care workers share heartache as hospitalizations increase

The National

15 days ago
COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions are increasing in B.C. as health care workers warn of burnout and tell of their heartache over the deaths of patients. 1:58


Border officers in Ontario report seeing more hostility from travellers

The union head representing border service officers in Windsor, Ont., tells CBC News they have seen a "disturbing" rise in aggression from travellers.

Ken Turner, president of Customs and Immigration Union Local 18, told Windsor Morning on Thursday that while a certain level of conflict comes with the territory of being a Canada Border Services Agency officer, there are factors recently "making the job much harder during an already stressful situation."

The union represents 540 staff in Windsor, 300 on the front lines. They have been doing their jobs without vaccinations, although a process is being ironed out to make that happen after the group became eligible for shots as of Wednesday.

Turner said there have been some COVID-19 cases in the employee pool over the course of the pandemic, but the situation could have been much more concerning.

"If we had a massive outbreak, it would have had serious repercussions for the local economy [and] supply chain."

Ottawa has implemented COVID-19 testing for incoming travellers, and is requiring them to present a recent negative test, as well as a plan for how they will complete a 14-day quarantine. Those who don't take a test or have a suitable plan may be directed to a quarantine facility, which is rankling those crossing at Windsor and at Niagara border entry points, according to anecdotal reports.

One officer in Niagara told CBC Toronto that they're seeing more and more people who are upset, refusing to quarantine and take COVID-19 tests.

"We're taking a lot of abuse at the border right now," said the officer, whom CBC News agreed not to identify.

Listen to the interview from CBC Windsor

Manitoba's front-line workers encouraged by latest step in vaccination effort  

Manitoba officials released new details for expanding vaccination eligibility to adults living in certain geographic areas with high rates of COVID-19 spread or more severe outcomes.

Looking at the spread of the virus so far in this wave, the provincial task force has deemed that that front-line workers in hotspot communities at schools, food processing facilities and restaurants, grocery and convenience stores will be prioritized. Vaccinating people who work as child-care or daycare providers, food or public health inspectors or workplace safety and health officers is also being emphasized.

The upcoming changes to vaccine eligibility will be a huge boost for morale and bring "peace of mind" for school staff, said Chris Goring, principal of Isaac Brock School, a nursery to Grade 9 school in Winnipeg's West End.

"It's going to validate the hard work that staff have been doing in the school, not just teachers — educational assistants, custodians, administrators, clerical staff," said Goring.

The United Food and Commercial Workers shops in Manitoba have been clamouring for such a shift for grocery store employees.

"It makes me safer. My employees and everybody in general around this area," said Jackie Sandul, who is a cashier, supervisor and stockperson at the Foodfare on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg.

In order to prevent line jumping from those not in the industry, people may be asked for proof of employment in the form of a current workplace ID or letter from their employer when they're booking an appointment or at vaccine site as well.

The changes come with Manitoba reporting on Thursday the highest jump in COVID-19 cases since January.

Read more about the situation

Greens, NDP say some provinces are flailing and need a stronger response from Ottawa

In case you missed it, an emergency House of Commons debate in Ottawa was held on Wednesday night.

While the Conservatives have been the most ardent critics of the Liberal government — Erin O'Toole pledges to hold a public inquiry into the pandemic response if elected — this was an all-party pile-on that resulted after Green Party MP Elizabeth May requested the debate.

The rapid spread of more contagious and potentially more deadly coronavirus variants across Canada is driving a resurgence of hospitalizations in the provinces west of Atlantic Canada, and as May sees it, the pandemic response has been plagued by a lack of co-ordination between federal and provincial governments.

May and some colleagues are proposing an inter-provincial task force that would make collective decisions on the pandemic response because "what we're doing now isn't working."

NDP MP Don Davies pointed to Ontario's struggles as an example of how the federal government has left too much decision-making to the provinces.

"It is refusing to use tools it has and is content to watch as provinces struggle instead of jumping in with supplementary resources," said Davies.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government has adapted its response as science evolved and pointed to the recent momentum of the national inoculation campaign as reason for optimism.

While the government's critics have pointed to the relative success of Australia and New Zealand in fighting the pandemic, Hajdu said Canada's experience is more the rule among developed countries than the exception.

"Like many countries around the world, we have struggled to maintain public health measures in place due to concerning economic and social harms," she said.

Read more about the debate

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

India besieged by coronavirus, with Canadian officials weighing travel restrictions

India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday, pushing its official pandemic-long total toward nearly 16 million cases.

Fatalities rose by 2,104 in the past 24 hours, raising India's overall death toll to 184,657, the Health Ministry said.

A large number of hospitals are reporting acute shortages of beds and medicine and are running on dangerously low levels of oxygen.

In scenes familiar across the country, ambulances are seen rushing from one hospital to another, trying to find an empty bed. Grieving relatives are lining up outside crematoriums where the arrival of dead bodies has jumped several times.

"I try to find beds for patients every day, and it's been incredibly frustrating to not be able to help them. In the last week, three patients of mine have died at home because they were unable to get beds. As a doctor, it's an awful feeling,"said Dr. Sanjay Gururaj, a doctor at Bengaluru-based Shanti Hospital and Research Center.

The New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals to save people's lives.

"You can't have people die because there is no oxygen. Beg, borrow or steal, it is a national emergency," the judges said, responding to a petition by a New Delhi hospital seeking its intervention.

India's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted Thursday that to address the exponential spike in demand, the government has increased the quota of oxygen for the seven worst-hit states.

The repercussions are global. The United Kingdom, New Zealand and Hong Kong are among those who've restricted travel from India in response.

Federal opposition leaders and premiers are pressing the Liberal government to suspend flights because of the massive surge, and Canadian public health officials said Thursday discussions on further actions are actively taking place.


Sports officials, festival organizers making critical decisions on events, seasons

The pandemic has wreaked havoc with mass gatherings and spectator events. Here are some of the latest developments from the world of sports and entertainment:

For the first time since 1919, the Grey Cup was not awarded after the league cancelled the 2020 season, but the Canadian Football League's commissioner promised this week a 2021 campaign will take place in some form.

Randy Ambrosie did announce the league is planning an August start, several weeks later than in pre-pandemic times, with a targeted Dec. 12 Grey Cup date.

There are two big "ifs," Ambrosie said.

"One, the approval of public health officials across the country of our plans for protecting the health of our players, coaches, and ultimately our fans, so a 2021 season is safe," he said. "Two, permission from governments to host a significant number of fans in the stands, in a significant number of venues at the start of the season, and in the rest of our venues soon after that, so a 2021 season is financially tenable for our clubs."

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and Hockey Canada announced Wednesday that they received confirmation from the provincial government of Nova Scotia that the women's world hockey championships in Halifax and Truro would be cancelled for a second straight year because of COVID-19 concerns. The tournament was planned for May.

In the entertainment realm, the Montreal International Jazz Festival and les Francos de Montréal said Wednesday the hope is to be able to hold some outdoor events in September.

"We will follow the evolution of the health situation closely and the presentation of our two festivals will be done in compliance with the instructions and recommendations issued by Public Health," organizers said in a statement.

However, organizers of the Osheaga music festival, along with the Île Soniq festival and the inaugural edition of Lasso Montreal said on Thursday those events will be postponed until the summer of 2022. All passes purchased for the scrapped 2020 and 2021 editions of the three festivals will be honoured in 2022, they said.

Earliest this month, it was announced that the Ottawa Bluesfest would not take place in 2021, with a similar postponement to 2022 for the Winnipeg Folk Festival confirmed late last month.

Read more about the CFL plans

Find out more about COVID-19

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With files from The Associated Press