Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Jan. 6

The Omicron variant is fuelling high levels of illness, resulting in staff shortages in health care, long-term care and other essential services in parts of Canada.

At least 20,000 health care workers have been infected or exposed to the virus in Quebec alone

A person is taken into a hospital by a paramedic in Montreal on Dec. 29, 2021. At least 20,000 health-care workers have been infected or exposed to the Omicron variant. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

Canada's most populous provinces are facing staff shortages in health care and long-term care as Canada continues to face record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations related to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé says the health-care system is missing about 20,000 workers who have been infected with or exposed to the virus and said the government is working with unions to find more staff to care for about 2,500 COVID-19 patients.

Health officials in the province are reporting another 1,953 COVID-19 hospitalizations, a rise of almost 12 per cent compared with a day earlier.

In Ontario, outbreaks are hitting long-term care homes and leading to staff absences of between 20 and 30 per cent in some areas.

Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips says there are outbreaks at 186 homes in 30 of Ontario's 34 public health units.

WATCH | Quebec ICUs stretched thin: 

ICU doctor warns of supply, demand mismatch

2 years ago
Duration 6:37
Quebec intensive care physician Joseph Dahine says hospitals - and ICUs, in particular - in his province are stretched and health care workers exhausted as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise. 'There is a supply and demand mismatch,' he said.

He says staffing is a concern but long-term care is affected differently than hospitals, which are still accepting new admissions despite being short-staffed.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CNFU) is calling on provincial governments to do more to ensure frontline health workers have the proper protection. 

"The very people on the frontlines of this pandemic are still facing barriers to obtaining proper PPE, getting booster shots and being guaranteed sick leave when they test positive," the union said in a statement.

And the CNFU president condemned the move by some provinces to allow COVID-infected health-care workers to continue working, saying it will put their colleagues, vulnerable patients and the health-care system at risk.

"We must stop normalizing needlessly putting health-care workers at risk," said Linda Silas. "Nurses don't come to work to be martyrs; they come to work to care for patients. Governments can and must provide them with the tools and equipment they need to care for patients while also caring for themselves."

Surging cases of the Omicron variant are also putting pressure on some police and transit services across the country.

With 170 personnel booked off on leave related to COVID-19, the Winnipeg Police Service declared an internal state of emergency Wednesday. The Edmonton and Calgary police services warned of staffing challenges after a growing number of staff tested positive or were in isolation.

Ontario's GO Transit said a temporary reduction in train and bus service in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton regions is set to begin within days due to staff shortages caused by COVID-19.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced Wednesday that Ottawa would distribute 140 million rapid tests across the country this month, four times the number delivered in December.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said restrictions on the availability of molecular lab tests mean officials aren't sure how many COVID-19 cases there truly are in Canada.

The latest figures from Health Canada indicate the Omicron variant has fuelled about 344,140 active cases across the country.

WATCH | Are schools driving transmission in children? 

COVID-19: Are schools driving transmission in children?

2 years ago
Duration 5:59
Infectious diseases specialists Dr. Jacqueline Wong and Dr. Fatima Kakkar answers questions about COVID-19, including whether in-person classes are driving transmission in children.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 2 p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

WATCH | Tracking COVID-19 through wastewater: 

Tracking COVID-19 through wastewater as clinical testing systems overwhelmed

2 years ago
Duration 2:04
As testing systems become maxed out across the country, some experts are turning to wastewater testing as a way to determine how much COVID-19 is really in our communities.

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 information 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.

In Quebec on Thursday, health officials reported 1,953 hospitalizations and 26 additional deaths. The province also recorded 15,874 cases, with a positivity rate of 31.2 per cent. The update came as Health Minister Christian Dubé  announced that the province's vaccine passport system will eventually require three doses, although he did not provide a timeline for when that would happen.

WATCH | Will tougher measures help?

Quebec announces new COVID-19 measures aimed at the unvaccinated

2 years ago
Duration 6:12
Dr. Jesse Papenburg, pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at the Montreal Children's Hospital, joins Power & Politics to discuss Quebec's new measures as the province braces for more than 3,000 COVID-19 related hospitalizations over the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, health officials in Ontario on Thursday reported 20 additional deaths and said 2,279 people were hospitalized. Provincial reports showed 13,339 new recorded cases, with a test positivity rate of 29.2 per cent.

Across the North, Nunavut is changing how it handles testing for COVID-19, with lab-based PCR tests being done only to "confirm COVID-19 is present in new communities, in high-risk settings such as Elders' homes and other congregated facilities, and for those in critical service areas."

"These changes will mean that official COVID-19 case counts in the territory will no longer reflect the total number of infections in our communities," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said in a statement outlining the plan.

The Yukon has two patients in hospital, with 74 new cases reported Thursday, while health officials had not yet reported numbers for Thursday. 

There is no one is hospital with the virus in the Northwest Territories, but officials reported 157 new cases, a new daily high. 

    In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced changes to isolation rules on Thursday, as the the number of people in hospital being treated for COVID-19 ticked up to four. Morrison said there were three other people in hospital being treated primarily for other illnesses who had tested positive for COVID-19. The live briefing, which focused largely on isolation and testing, came as the province reported 204 additional cases.

    In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials on Thursday said the number of hospitalizations stood at four. The province also reported 503 additional cases. The update came as officials announced remote learning would continue for another week.

    New Brunswick is currently treating 63 patients in hospital with COVID-19, with 19 in the ICU. The province has a seven-day positivity rate of 28.9 per cent as of Thursday, and 672 new cases. 

    Health officials in Nova Scotia reported 48 patients in hospital, with one in ICU. There are 745 new cases. 

    WATCH| Premier says N.S. needs help: 

    Nova Scotia requesting assistance from Ottawa to help with booster vaccination efforts

    2 years ago
    Duration 10:22
    Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston joins Power & Politics to discuss the latest on COVID-19 in his province.

    In the Prairie provinces, the government in Manitoba is changing its COVID-19 testing process amid rising case numbers and a backlog of tests. Health officials say most people going to provincial testing sites will now be given rapid antigen tests to take home instead of a lab test on-site. The province on Thursday reported 263 hospitalizations, with 33 in the ICU. The province reported 2,548 additional cases and six new deaths. 

    Saskatchewan health officials on Thursday reported 100 hospitalizations, with one new death. There were 913 additional cases.

    In Alberta, the province hit a new milestone with one million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered. But it came as hospitalizations, fuelled by Omicron, were up. The test positivity rate in Alberta is now at 39 per cent, and the province has 498 people in hospital with COVID-19 Thursday, and 64 in the ICU. There were three additional deaths and 4,869 additional cases with a test positivity rate of 39 per cent.

    In British Columbia, health officials are dealing with a seven-day 23.2 per cent test positivity rate, with 324 people in hospital and 90 in ICU. There were 3,223 new cases reported Thursday along with three additional deaths. 

    -From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

    What's happening around the world

    WATCH | COVID-19: What are the new symptoms? 

    COVID-19: What are the new symptoms?

    2 years ago
    Duration 5:42
    Infectious diseases specialists Dr. Danielle Martin and Dr. Zain Chagla answer questions about COVID-19, including how to recognize and respond to new and evolving symptoms.

    As of early Thursday evening, more than 299.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.4 million.

    Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned on Wednesday against complacency about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, saying the sheer number of cases could strain hospitals despite signs of lower severity.

    The staggering pace of Omicron's spread has snarled life across the country, upending the restart of school after the holiday break, halting air travel, shuttering entertainment venues and throwing a wrench into back-to-office plans.

    The rolling seven-day average number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has been hitting new highs in recent days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and hospitalizations have risen sharply — though hospital numbers remain below the January 2021 highs.

    "[Omicron] could still stress our hospital system because a certain proportion of a large volume of cases, no matter what, are going to be severe," Fauci told reporters at a White House briefing.

    Members of the Ohio National Guard put on personal protective gear as they prepare to administer COVID-19 tests at a drive-thru testing site on Wednesday in Akron, Ohio. (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

    Elsewhere in the Americas, Brazil's Health Ministry said it will go ahead with the voluntary vaccination of children aged five to 11 against COVID-19 and dropped plans to require a doctor's prescription.

    The head of the Centers for Disease Control in Africa said on Thursday that he was encouraged by the way that South Africa had handled its latest COVID-19 infection wave, adding that severe lockdowns were no longer a tool to contain the coronavirus.

    "We are very encouraged with what we saw in South Africa in this period," John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a news conference.

    "The period where we are using severe lockdowns as a tool is over. We should actually be looking at how we use public health and social measures more carefully, and in a balanced way, as the vaccination increases."

    In the Asia-Pacific region, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday people who have not taken COVID-19 shots will be arrested if they disobeyed stay-at-home orders as infections hit a three-month high.

    Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has asked that the U.S. military in Japan stay inside its bases to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Japan's prime minister said he backs Hayashi's request and has decided to tighten anti-virus measures in Okinawa and Yamaguchi, where U.S. bases are located.

    Indian megacities Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, although without a corresponding rise in hospitalizations. Fears are growing about a spread to rural areas in coming days.

    In the Middle East, Israel changed its quarantine and testing policy in an effort to ensure continued protection for vulnerable populations from a surge in infections.

    A woman receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 in Italy on Wednesday. (Guglielmo Mangiapana/Reuters)

    In Europe, France reported 261,481 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, less than the record of more than 332,000 set on Wednesday, but the seven-day moving average of new cases rose above 200,000 for the first time since the start of the health crisis.

    Italy made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people from the age of 50.

    Orthodox Christians in Russia, Serbia and other countries began Christmas observances Thursday amid restrictions aimed at dampening the spread of the coronavirus, but few worshipers appeared concerned as they streamed into churches.

    Orthodox believers attend Mass amid an outbreak fueled by the Omicron variant in Moscow, on Monday. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)

    -From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 7:30 p.m. ET


    • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Newfoundland and Labrador reported 503 additional deaths Thursday. The line should have read that Newfoundland and Labrador reported 503 additional COVID-19 cases.
      Jan 06, 2022 1:54 PM ET

    With files from CBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters

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