Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Jan. 5
Officials in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, P.E.I. push back return to in-class learning
- Ontario tells hospitals to stop non-urgent surgeries, procedures to preserve critical-care capacity.
- Trudeau says Canadians are 'angry' and 'frustrated' with the unvaccinated.
- Ottawa says 140 million more rapid tests heading to the provinces, territories this month.
- From airlines and restaurants to slaughterhouses, Canada's worker shortage is spreading rapidly.
- Calls grow for inmate releases as caseloads climb in jails and prisons.
- COVID-19 testing capacity is overwhelmed. Here's how Canadians can still measure risk.
- Calls grow for HEPA air filters in Canadian classrooms
- Bearskin Lake First Nation besieged by COVID-19 'overwhelmed' by donations, supplies from area communities.
- Track how many people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine across Canada.
Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island joined the list of provinces pushing back the return to in-class learning on Tuesday, with officials in the three provinces saying students will learn at home until at least Jan. 17.
When students do return to island classrooms, there will be masking requirements and additional testing, officials said.
"This was a challenging decision that was based on balancing safety and the overall health and well-being of children," Dr. Heather Morrison, Prince Edward Island's chief public health officer, said in a statement.
The island, which has a high vaccination rate and no COVID-19 deaths to date, is seeing rising case numbers, with 222 new cases on Wednesday. Three people were in hospital being treated for COVID-19, with one person in the ICU.
"It's not our intention to stay in this restriction situation for any longer than we need to," Premier Dennis King said Tuesday, as the province was extending a slew of restrictions. "The 'when' will be determined by the science, the 'how' — that is what we're working on."
In Nova Scotia, the premier said it was a difficult decision to delay reopening to Jan. 17, but promised that staff and students will be safe when they go back to in-class learning.
Tim Houston said ventilation systems will be improved and that his hope is that every student will have access to a 3-ply mask, "possibly even sitting on their desks waiting for them."
"There will be COVID in schools," he said during a briefing. "Everyone should take precautions knowing there is lots of COVID around the province."
There are currently 45 people being treated in Nova Scotia hospitals with COVID-19. Houston said none of them are children.
Students in Manitoba will also begin the new year with online education. The province had previously announced it would delay the return to school until Jan. 10. But on Tuesday, officials announced students would do one week of remote learning as well.
Some children will be able to learn in person, officials said, including students with special needs and children of some essential workers.
"We know that our youth learn best in a classroom setting. It is our goal to ensure they can return to the classroom as quickly as possible," Premier Heather Stefanson said.
Alberta's education minister confirmed Wednesday that kids in that province in kindergarten through Grade 12 will return to school, as planned, on Jan. 10. Adriana LaGrange said during a briefing that the situation today is very different from at other points during the pandemic, given the addition of vaccines.
"Approximately 85 per cent of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 have received at least one vaccine dose and around 80 per cent have received two," she said. LaGrange said while kids aged five to 11 have only been eligible for the shot since late November, 37 per cent already have at least one dose.
In Ontario, meanwhile, many students returned to remote school on Wednesday, as school boards across the province launched online learning.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 3 p.m. ET
What's happening across Canada
With testing capacity strained, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they plan to report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more detail on what is happening in your community — including details on health systems, test positivity rates and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
Across the North, COVID-19 is now present in half of Nunavut's communities, the territory's top doctor said Wednesday, as officials reported 231 active cases.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer in the Northwest Territories, said on Tuesday that Omicron is now the dominant variant in the territory.
"COVID-19 infections are now in multiple communities and for the first time, there are COVID-19 infections in every region of the territory," she said, noting that the number of active cases in the territory has doubled since New Year's Eve.
Officials in Yukon reported two patients in hospital and 66 new cases. The territory announced it is reducing the isolation period for the virus to seven days, providing certain conditions are met.
- Nunavut woman makes own COVID-19 diagnosis public to help protect others
- Yukon announces COVID-19 isolation period to reduce to 7 days, with conditions
In Central Canada, Quebec on Wednesday reported 39 additional deaths and 1,750 hospitalizations. Officials also reported 14,486 new COVID-19 cases today and say about 28 per cent of tests came back positive — the same test-positivity rate as the prior day.
The update comes a day after Quebec officials announced a plan to restrict access to PCR tests for COVID-19 as the province faces increasing strain on the health system. People who are considered "high risk" — including people in hospital, long-term care, shelter systems, correctional facilities and remote communities — will still be able to access the lab-based tests, officials said.
Ontario health officials on Wednesday reported 14 additional deaths and 2,081 hospitalizations. The province also reported 11,582 additional cases, with a test positivity rate of 28.1 per cent.
Meanwhile, the health system in the province is preparing for widespread measures, including patient and staff transfers, to deal with a growing wave of COVID-19 that's infecting people at an unprecedented rate. The Ontario government announced a series of measures Monday including business and school closures to beat back the Omicron variant spread that's expected to infect more people.
- Quebec stops PCR tests for general public as Omicron overwhelms system
- More than 2,000 Ontarians with COVID-19 now in hospital, ICU admissions also up
- Fed up parents call for boycott of online classes as Ontario shifts to virtual learning to fight COVID-19
- Ontario tenants, housing advocates demand support for renters amid latest COVID-19 restrictions
In Atlantic Canada, COVID-19 caseloads continue to pile up in Newfoundland and Labrador with 479 new cases Wednesday, with three people in hospital, two more than yesterday.
Prince Edward Island currently has three people in hospital with COVID-19, with one patient in the ICU. The province reported 222 new cases Wednesday.
New Brunswick health officials on Wednesday reported 56 people in hospital with COVID-19, no change from Tuesday. There are 16 people in the ICU. A total of 779 new cases were reported, along with three additional deaths.
The provincial education ministry confirmed that some kids with special needs will be able to return to in-class schooling next week.
Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, health officials reported that there are currently 45 people being treated in hospital with COVID-19, with eight in the ICU. There were 842 new cases reported.
- Nova Scotia daycares remain open, but grapple with staffing challenges
- New data shows Omicron was in Nova Scotia wastewater in November
- Remote Labrador community facing major shortage of health workers as staff isolate, community member says
- Some N.B. students might attend school in-person next week
In the Prairie provinces, a spokesperson for Saskatchewan's Ministry of Education says more than 1.4 million rapid COVID-19 tests have been distributed through elementary schools, and an additional 250,000 tests were recently sent to schools. The province is encouraging students and staff to take rapid tests before attending class.
Saskatchewan, the only province in Canada not to extend the holiday break for students in the face of surging COVID-19 cases (along with the territory of Yukon), reported 105 COVID-19 patients in hospital on Wednesday, with 13 in the ICU. There were 537 new cases.
Alberta, which has a daily positivity rate of 36.9 per cent, currently has 470 patients in hospital with COVID-19 and 72 in the ICU. There were 4,752 new cases reported Wednesday and 11 additional deaths.
- 'Significant' teacher shortage brewing in Saskatchewan as Omicron surges, teachers' union says
- Omicron worries spur some Alberta parents to book early 2nd doses for their kids
In Manitoba, 252 are currently being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 30 in the ICU. There were 1,790 new cases reported Wednesday, with a daily positivity rate of 40.3 per cent.
The province has changed its PCR testing eligibility. People who have symptoms will only get a PCR test if they fall into a certain high-risk category, which includes being in hospital, having a compromised immune system, or being a health care worker.
- Most Manitobans will no longer be able to receive PCR tests to confirm COVID-19 rapid test results
- Winnipeg police chief declares state of emergency due to COVID-19 staff shortage
In British Columbia, officials reported no new deaths Wednesday. There are 317 people being treated in hospital for the virus, with 83 in ICU. The province reported 3,798 new cases.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6 p.m. ET
What's happening around the world
As of Wednesday evening, roughly 297.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's tracking system. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.4 million.
In the Americas, U.S. health officials said Wednesday they are not changing the qualifications for being "fully vaccinated" against COVID-19, but they are urging Americans to stay "up to date" on their protection against the virus by getting booster shots when eligible.
The move to keep the existing definition of fully vaccinated — either two doses of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — comes as health officials warned of waning protections from the initial doses. They are encouraging Americans to get additional doses to stave off serious illness and death from the Delta and Omicron variants.
- Track COVID-19 cases in Canada and around the world
- Sundance Film Festival moves online amid pandemic
- 2022 Grammy Awards postponed due to COVID-19
Walmart will now provide up to one week of paid time-off if a worker contracts COVID-19, instead of its earlier policy for up to two weeks, according to a memo seen by Reuters.
Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States with 1.6 million workers, is among the first major retailers to reduce paid leave for COVID-19, and could serve as a bellwether for other major employers.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong authorities announced a two-week ban on flights from the United States and seven other countries and held 2,500 passengers on a cruise ship for coronavirus testing Wednesday as the city attempted to stem an emerging Omicron outbreak. The two-week ban on passenger flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States will take effect Sunday and continue until Jan. 21.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam also announced that restaurant dining will be forbidden after 6 p.m. for two weeks starting Friday. Game arcades, bars and beauty salons must also close during that period.
"We have to contain the pandemic to ensure that there will not be a major outbreak in the community again," Lam said at a news conference, adding that the city is "on the verge" of another surge.
- International Olympic Committee assures teams Beijing Games will proceed as planned
- Novak Djokovic denied entry to Australia due to visa issue connected to vaccination status
In the Middle East, coronavirus infections are surging across several Gulf Arab states, with the daily number of cases more than doubling in Saudi Arabia over two days to more than 2,500 and crossing the 1,000-level in Qatar and Kuwait.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Tuesday reported 8,078 new cases of COVID-19 and 139 additional deaths.
As of today the cumulative number of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a> cases identified in SA is 3 483 590 with 8 078 new cases reported. Today 139 deaths have been reported bringing the total to 91 451 deaths. The cumulative number of recoveries now stand at 3 328 246 with a recovery rate of 93% <a href="https://t.co/YqoasjOrvi">pic.twitter.com/YqoasjOrvi</a>—@HealthZA
In Europe, Italy on Wednesday made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people over the age of 50, one of very few European countries to take such a step, in an attempt to ease pressure on its health service and reduce fatalities.
Italy has registered more than 138,000 coronavirus deaths since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain.
People who test positive for COVID-19 on rapid lateral flow tests will not need to confirm their results with a follow-up PCR test if they are not showing symptoms, the U.K. Health Security Agency said on Wednesday.
Britain is reporting record daily case numbers, and the UKHSA said that the high prevalence meant the chance of a false positive from a lateral flow device (LFD) was low. Lateral flow tests are rapid tests that can be done at home, without the help of medical professionals.
- French parliament suspends COVID-19 debate after Macron says he wants to 'piss off' the unvaccinated.
The move could also reduce the burden on the testing system, and reduce confusion if the test results contradict each other. At current levels of prevalence, officials say a positive LFD result is likely to be accurate, even if a follow-up PCR were negative.
"While cases of COVID continue to rise, this tried-and-tested approach means that LFDs can be used confidently to indicate COVID-19 infection without the need for PCR confirmation," said UKHSA chief executive Dr. Jenny Harries.
While the move comes into place on Jan. 11 in England, people who develop COVID-19 symptoms should continue to take a PCR test, UKHSA said.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 6 p.m. ET
With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters