Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday
Ottawa offering to send Red Cross into COVID-19 hot spots; new restrictions take effect in Quebec
- Ontario provides temporary raise for personal support workers.
- Federal government offering Red Cross support to COVID-19 hot spots, sources say.
- New COVID-19 restrictions come into effect in Quebec's red zones.
- Average daily cases trend down in B.C.
- Air Canada orders first batch of 25,000 rapid COVID-19 testing kits.
- Halloween can be safer than other holidays, says Alberta's top doctor.
- France considering putting Paris on maximum alert.
- Restaurants in New York City reopen for limited indoor dining.
- Amazon reports COVID-19 data for first time since pandemic.
- India reports 86,821 new cases, projected to become pandemic's worst-hit country within weeks.
As COVID-19 continues to rise in parts of Canada, front-line workers have consistently been overstretched to help fight its spread.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced a temporary pay raise for personal support workers, with a $3/hr more for 50,000 PSW's in long term care settings, 38,000 in home care and 34,000 in children's service. PSWs working in hospitals will receive a $2/hr raise.
The raise goes into effect Oct. 1 and will last until March 2021, Ford said, adding that longer-term support could be on the way.
"Yesterday's modelling data was a wake-up call," Ford said at a news conference on Thursday. "Please don't let your guard down."
Ontario reported another 538 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as the province's backlog of tests waiting to be completed grew to a record high of more than 82,000. Health authorities have said they are expecting new daily cases of COVID-19 to reach 1,000 in the first half of October.
WATCH | Ontario announces new temporary raise for personal support workers:
As parts of Canada grapple with the onset of a second wave of COVID-19, sources say the federal government is offering to send the Canadian Red Cross into hot spots, while Quebec is giving police new legal tools to help enforce stricter public health measures taking effect in the province's designated red zones.
Ottawa has been reaching out to hard-hit regions recently experiencing outbreaks and surges, said a senior government official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The official said so far the government has made contact with British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, and with Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor-Essex and Peel Region in Ontario, with plans to talk to Winnipeg on Thursday.
Depending on an individual region's needs, the Red Cross could provide logistical support for testing centres and long-term care homes, help in isolating infected individuals, assist with feeding and caring for the sick and offer psychological aid, said the official.
The work would be covered by the $100 million in new funding the federal government gave the Red Cross back in May.
WATCH | Quebec steps up enforcement for new COVID-19 restrictions:
Over the summer, Health Canada worked with the Red Cross — a charity that receives funding from the Canadian government and has a long history of responding to disasters — to build up a civilian workforce to deploy during regional outbreaks in the event of a second wave of infections in the fall.
The organization has already helped deliver food to temporary foreign workers isolating in southwestern Ontario and deployed to Quebec long-term care homes.
Meanwhile, three Quebec regions — Greater Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches — are now under stricter COVID-19 measures, as the provincial government attempts to slow the surge of new coronavirus cases.
The new restrictions, announced earlier this week, took effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday and are set to last until Oct. 28 in those regions, which have been designated as red zones under the province's COVID-19 alert system.
The restrictions include: a ban on home gatherings (with some exceptions, such as a single caregiver allowed per visit); the closure of all bars, casinos and restaurants, except for takeout; the closure of libraries, museums, cinemas and theatres; and mandatory masks during demonstrations.
A hastily called media conference was held in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday with health minister John Haggie answering several questions regarding a health-care worker who tested positive for the virus.
The woman, who is between the ages 20 and 39, travelled to the province from Saskatchewan after receiving a travel exemption. However, Haggie said they are not sure if she self-isolated during her off-work hours.
Because of that, the province is asking anyone who visited Terrington Co-op in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Sept. 22 between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. and the Bargain Shop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Sept. 23 between 3:30 and 4 p.m. to call 811 to arrange a COVID-19 test.
Anyone who travelled on Air Canada flights 7950 and 7484 departing Regina and Toronto for Deer Lake on Sept. 21, anyone who travelled on PAL flight 901 on Sept. 22, and anyone who stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Deer Lake on Sept. 21 should also arrange for a COVID-19 test.
What's happening in the rest of Canada
As of 7:44 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 160,535 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 136,350 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 9,356.
With Halloween coming up in a few weeks, Alberta's top doctor says the province will not be cancelling the beloved holiday over COVID fears.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that because trick-or-treating takes place outside, Halloween can actually be safer than other holidays.
"I have no plans to suggest that Alberta cancel Halloween this year," she said. "My own children would never forgive me."
If the weather permits, Hinshaw recommended people may want to hand out candy outside rather than at their front door. She also suggested parents find costumes that allow kids to wear masks.
In British Columbia, the average daily cases have been gently trending downwards while daily tests have increased — a positive sign after the province saw a surge in cases during the summer.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said Thursday the province has not seen any COVID-19 outbreaks in schools since students returned in September.
"We do know our system is working because we are finding cases, we are finding smaller transmission events," Henry said at her daily update, where she announced 82 new COVID-19 cases and one death Thursday.
Henry also acknowledged that the province has stumbled at times when communicating COVD-19 exposures in schools, as not all regional health authorities were reporting school exposures online in the first weeks of class.
"We're working through those kinks and continue to refine our approach. I'm confident now that our communication approach is aligned in all health authorities across the province."
The province conducted a record 10,899 tests Tuesday, leading to a positivity rate of less than one per cent for the first time since July 29.
With the country bracing for spikes in cases, Air Canada has ordered 25,000 testing kits that can detect COVID-19 in a subject in as little as five minutes, a key hurdle for an industry that's desperately trying to make it safe and possible for travellers to fly again.
The first batch of tests will be for employee volunteers, now that the devices by Abbott Laboratories have been approved for use in Canada by federal health and safety authorities, the airline said Thursday.
WATCH | Dr. Zain Chagla on the newly approved rapid COVID-19 test:
Current tests have to be administered at testing centres, which have been plagued by long lines, and results can take days.
The new test is faster and requires a nasal or throat specimen to be collected from a patient on a swab and inserted into an analyzer to detect the presence of the virus. Positive results come back in as little as five minutes. Negative results can take about 13 minutes to verify.
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In Ontario, children with symptoms such as a runny nose, headache, sore throat, fatigue or diarrhea will no longer be removed from school, child care or be advised to go for testing. Children displaying any one of those symptoms will now be asked to go home for 24 hours and return only "when they feel well enough to do so."
However, if a child has two or more of those symptoms,they will be asked to isolate and contact a health-care provider for futher advice.
"This will ensure that our children are able to attend school or child care as much as possible while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission," said Ontario's Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe.
The new regulations feature a shorter list of symptoms that would require a child to be tested for COVID-19. The province said the new rules reflect the latest evidence and were made in consultation with pediatric infectious disease experts.
In addition, vaccines normally offered in school to Grade 7 students will instead be delivered at community clinics and doctors' offices in parts of the province, meaning parents will have to make arrangements to ensure their children are immunized.
The Ministry of Health says local public health units, which are responsible for immunization programs including those in schools, are working to let residents know where they can access the vaccines.
Students in Grade 7 are typically given vaccines for Hepatitis B, Human Papilloma Virus and Meningococcal disease in school. Those programs have been disrupted due to COVID-19, which has seen thousands of students choose virtual lessons over in-person classes.
Manitoba has become the fifth province to activate the COVID Alert app that notifies users if they've been in contact with another user who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The app officially launched in Ontario in July. Since then, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have also signed on.
The free, voluntary app works by exchanging random codes between smartphones via Bluetooth every five minutes.
The technology estimates how close users are based on the strength of the signals it receives. If a pair of users are assessed to be closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes, the app records it as an exposure, the federal government's website says.
A user who tests positive can enter a one-time key from their health authority, which instructs the app to notify other users who were exposed to that person.
What's happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 34 million. More than one million people have died, while over 23.6 million have recovered.
As a way to prevent further spread of the virus, France is considering putting Paris on maximum COVID-19 alert by as soon as Monday.
"It is getting worse faster in Paris and its surrounds," Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday.
He said the wider Paris region had now passed all three of the government's criteria for being put on the highest level of alert, which means further restrictions on public life, while restaurants and bars will be asked to close their doors once again.
On Thursday, authorities reported a daily rise in new COVID-19 cases exceeding 13,000 again in France. So far, the virus has killed more than 32,000 people and infected over half a million residents.
Veran said the government and Paris City Hall will make another assessment on Sunday and act if there is no improvement.
Last month, bars, restaurants, gyms and sports halls were all shut down, while private celebrations such as weddings and parties were limited to 30 people if held in a public space.
Meanwhile in New York, restaurant owners are reopening their doors at 25 per cent capacity with other COVID-19 protocols in place.
Gianfranco Sorrentino, the owner of Italian restaurant Il Gattopardo said he was happy to see patrons dining inside again and was confident the restaurant would make it through the pandemic. "We are here to last. It's going to take longer, it's going to be painful, but we're gonna make it."
WATCH | New Yorkers dish on the return of indoor dining:
Some patrons, like diner Reid Rosen, were ecstatic with the move. "It's fantastic to be with people for once to actually have an enjoyable meal with friends and family and acquaintances and fellow workers."
Other New Yorkers like Cristin Bolsinger, who has school-age children, were conflicted. "For me, having kids in school is more important than eating a meal inside."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also encouraged residents to download a new voluntary contract tracing app on Thursday. COVID Alert uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they have recently been near someone who later tested positive for the virus.
For the first time since the pandemic, Amazon released a data on Thursday that shows how many of its employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The company said nearly 20,000 Amazon workers have tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19, adding that the infection rate was well below that seen in the general U.S. population.
In a corporate blog post, the online retail company stated that it examined data from March 1 to Sept. 19 on 1.37 million workers at both Amazon and its subsidiary Whole Foods Market across the U.S. Based on the analysis, the company said that if the rate among their employees were the same as that for the general population, it estimated it would have seen more than 33,000 cases.
The Seattle-based company also said it is conducting thousands of tests a day and will expand testing to 50,000 more a day across 650 sites by November.
Greek police used tear gas Thursday to disperse protesting high school students who have organized scores of school strikes in response to classroom overcrowding during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brief clashes broke out near the parliament in central Athens after students threw several gasoline bombs at police. No arrests or injuries were reported.
School protest groups say classroom seating limits are frequently not observed at many state-run schools.
WATCH | Greek students clash with police at protest demanding better COVID-19 measures:
Greece's largest teaching union endorsed the rally and pressed the government to hire more teachers to reduce classroom numbers during the pandemic.
Coronavirus cases have risen steadily in the country in the last few months, particularly in the capital of Athens, prompting authorities to impose further restrictions such as the mandatory wearing of masks in all public indoor spaces. The 354 new coronavirus cases reported Wednesday brings the total since the first case in February to 18,475.
In Spain, Madrid will carry out a national order restricting mobility in large Spanish cities with rapid virus spread, but its regional president announced Thursday she will fight the Spanish government's resolution in the courts because she deems it arbitrary.
Spain's official gazette on Thursday published the Health Ministry order that gives the country's 19 regions two days to implement limits on social gatherings and shops' opening hours, and restrict trips in and out of any large cities that have recorded a two-week infection rate of 500 cases per 100,000 residents.
Countrywide, only Madrid and nine of its suburban towns met the criteria as of Thursday.
Spain's central government and regional officials in Madrid have been at odds for weeks over how to respond to the pandemic while the spread of the virus in the Spanish capital surged to the highest level in Europe's second wave of infections.
The centre-right Madrid government has resisted the stricter measures in the city of 3.3 million and its suburbs for fears of damaging the economy. Regional chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso also claims that Spain's national left-wing coalition is targeting Madrid for political reasons and disregarding her efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
India has reported 86,821 new coronaviruses cases and another 1,181 fatalities, making September its worst month of the pandemic.
The Health Ministry's update raises India's total caseload to more than 6.3 million and 98,678 dead. India added 41 per cent of its confirmed cases and 34 per cent of fatalities in September alone.
India is expected to become the pandemic's worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States, where more than 7.2 million people have been infected.
The government announced the further easing of restrictions beginning Oct. 15. Cinemas, theatres and multiplexes can open at half capacity, and swimming pools can also be used by athletes in training.
The government also said India's 28 states can decide on the reopening of schools and coaching institutions gradually after Oct. 15. However, students will have the option of attending online classes.
With files from The Associated Press and Reuters