“This is a new pandemic. We’re now fighting a new enemy,” said Ford, suggesting that this third wave is largely comprised of COVID-19 variants that are causing hospitalizations among younger age groups. “This is a  desperate race against an extremely aggressive and fast-moving virus,” he said. “The new variants are more serious and hit young people harder with hospitalizations and ICU admissions.”

The new lockdown measures will begin on Saturday and will force all restaurants across the province to close for indoor and outdoor dining, while gyms and personal care services are required to cease operations. Essential stores will remain open at 50 per cent capacity and non-essential retail can operate at 25 per cent capacity. Easter religious services will be capped at 15 per cent of regular indoor capacity. According Minister Stephen Lecce, schools will not be immediately affected by the shutdown. Families will not be able to get together over the Easter weekend, with outdoor gatherings limited to five people and a complete prohibition on indoor gatherings outside your household.

Health Minister Christine Elliot said the province’s response to the “drastic surge” in case numbers is “driven by COVID-19 variants.” She noted that the government’s measures will not include a “stay-at-home” order, explaining that the warm weather will inevitably draw people outdoors and the order will be virtually unenforceable.

The government’s move comes after intensive care admission in the province reached a new high this week, with at least 421 COVID-19 patients currently in the ICU. Ontario has now reported over 2,000 new cases for seven consecutive days, with the seven-day average of new cases hitting 2,316 on Wednesday.

The premier was facing increasing pressure after easing restrictions across Ontario this month while the more transmissible COVID-19 variants continue to drive case counts higher. Among those voicing their concern ahead of the announcement  was a group of doctors working in Ontario’s intensive care units, who warned the province about the consequences of not tightening measures in a statement Thursday morning. “These next few days and weeks matter. We do not have enough vaccines in arms to blunt the growth. We cannot allow this virus to run free in our population and hope that the expanded ICU capacity and field hospitals are enough,” the statement read.

The group also said they feared that there would not be enough staffed beds to keep up with ICU demand if the province continued on its current trajectory. “Once overwhelmed, we could be forced to triage the critically ill, deciding who gets ICU care and a chance to survive, and who receives palliative care and dies. Patients who we can save today will not have access to life-saving treatment under a triage scenario,” the statement went on to say.

Health Canada announced its approval for the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine Friday. It will technically mark the fifth vaccine that Canada has approved, with AstraZeneca doses from India’s Serum Institute authorized as the fourth. Developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Company, which is owned by J&J, the vaccine uses viral vector technology like the one from Oxford-AstraZeneca. But unlike the AZ shot, more older people were included in clinical trials. “Almost 20 per cent of the participants in the clinical trials were 65 years of age and older, and no differences in safety or efficacy were seen compared to the younger groups,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, at a press conference Friday morning.

Sharma also announced that Health Canada has authorized a clinical trial of the Janssen shot in children aged 12 to 17. “This will be important research to support vaccine availability for Canadians of all ages,” she said. There are currently no approved vaccines for people under the age of 16 in Canada. Asked if the J&J vaccine could be its first, Sharma said Pfizer and Moderna are farther along in studying their vaccines on younger people, but that it would likely be the end of the year, or longer before the agency approves a COVID-19 vaccine for use in children.

The Janssen vaccine, Canada’s first single-dose shot, requires “fewer resources to rollout,” Dr. Marc Berthiaume, Health Canada’s director of medical sciences, pointed out. It can be stored in a regular refrigerator for up to three months, which “has an advantage in simplifying logistics,” he said during the press conference.

The federal government has a deal to purchase 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson, with the option to order 28 million more, with first deliveries expected to arrive between April and June, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said at another press conference Friday. Health Canada officials also confirmed Friday that a vaccine candidate from Novavax is the only other under review by the agency but that approval may be weeks or months away.

Concerns are increasing over the spread of a coronavirus variant, first identified in the U.K., after it was reported Friday that early evidence points to it being more deadly as well as more contagious. The U.K.’s chief science adviser Patrick Vallance said that although the new mortality data is uncertain, he explained, “If you took … a man in their 60s, the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die with the virus. With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die.”

Meanwhile, with the U.K. variant already found in at least 22 states, on Sunday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the agency is scaling up study and surveillance to monitor “the impact of these variants on vaccines, as well as on our therapeutics,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who took over as CDC director the day U.S. President Joe Biden was sworn in, said in an interview with Fox News.

Newfoundland and Labrador has reported a total of 359 cases of COVID-19, 20 of which are currently considered active, and four deaths related to the illness — all were people over the age of 60. As of data from October this year, the province has the oldest population in Canada with a median age of 47.4.

Jumping the queue for a COVID-19 vaccine is the focus of a story today from the CBC. Both the National Hockey League and President Donald Trump are reported to have backtracked on plans to get it ahead of vulnerable or at-risk populations. As reported, top brass at Pfizer will also have to wait their turn. “None of the executives and board members will cut the line,’” said CEO Albert Bourla earlier this week. Pfizer has said there will be no private sales of its vaccine during the pandemic.

“Our COVID-19 vaccine contract is only with the federal government, and we’ll be providing doses according to the designated vaccination locations,” Christina Antoniou, a spokesperson for Pfizer Canada, said in an email to the CBC. “During the pandemic, [we] are committed to bringing this vaccine to help meet the global public health need and only plan to sell the vaccine to the Government of Canada.”

B.C. is expected to begin its first immunizations today. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be given in two locations — Vancouver and the Fraser Health region. It’s reported that health-care workers in long-term care homes and front-line workers will be prioritized. “This is huge,” said an emotional Henry at a press conference yesterday. But she urged residents to stay the course as the vaccine is rolled out. “We are going to be saving lives with every single dose that we give but it’s not enough yet to stop transmission in our community,. So we need to keep up and protect people,” she said. “My biggest fear right now is that we’re not going to do enough. We’re going to let off right now and people will unnecessarily be exposed.”

Front line health-care workers and residents in long-term care homes will be among the first to receive the two-dose vaccine in Alberta on Wednesday. Officials in that province have consistently confirmed that vaccination against COVID-19 will not be mandatory, although Premier Jason Kenney has said the government is recommending it. “We will encourage people to use it because the more people who use it, the better off we’re all going to be.”

Good News: Prince Edward Island and all three of Canada’s territories reported no new cases of COVID-19 Thursday — P.E.I. for the third straight day; Yukon for the second straight day; Nunavut for the first time in 22 days; and Thursday marked 27 days with no new cases reported by the Northwest Territories.

“But if we need to strengthen our advice, now that we have had this experience with the vulnerable populations, the groups who have been selected as a priority, we get that advice to the field immediately.”

“As you can imagine, the clinical trials are actually really quite big, as compared to other vaccine clinical trails, with 30,000 to 40,000 people in each during which we will see from the regulatory authorities what kind of side effects might be experienced. We haven’t heard of any serious see effects so far — which is great,” said Tam. “But when you actually begin to roll it out to millions of people, even rare side effects can be detected.”

The manner in which the vaccine must be stored is causing logistical headaches that may impede its distribution to long-term care residents, says retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who leads Ontario’s immunization task force. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored in freezers and kept at temperatures of -80 C and there is concern that it will deteriorate if it’s transported. As a result, “people will have to come to the vaccination site as opposed to taking the vaccine into those long-term care homes right away,” said Hillier. “As soon as we can move the vaccines, we want to be able to establish special vaccination sites and go into these long-term care homes and offer the residents the opportunity to have the vaccine,” he continued. “But we may not be able to do it right away.”

While the government of Alberta starts setting up vaccination sites in Calgary and Edmonton in anticipation of the imminent arrival of their share of the COVID-19 doses, it must first deal with an explosion of new cases, with over 1,700 new positive tests reported yesterday. “I will be blunt – we are not bending the curve back down,” warned chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “We are still witnessing very high transmission of the virus, which is putting enormous transmission on our hospitals, intensive care units and health-care workers. It is also putting enormous strain on our continuing care facilities and many other sectors.”

Canada could see doses of a vaccine from Pfizer within 24 hours of approval, an executive from development partner BioNTech confirmed Sunday. “Certainly from the discussions that we’ve had, Canada is in a good position to approve the vaccine shortly,” Sean Marett, chief business and chief commercial officer of the German drugmaker, told the CBC. “Upon approval, we then release the vaccine, and then it is shipped. We’ve already produced the vaccine and reserved doses for Canada.” The two-dose vaccine requires special handling, including continual storage at -70 C.

The news of moving closer to receiving and distributing a potential vaccine comes as Ontario reports the highest number of new cases today, with a record-breaking 1,925 additional cases of COVID-19 —  one more than yesterday and the third day in a row that the province broke a daily record of new infections reported. Hot spots, including Toronto and Peel Region, began a third week of lockdown Monday, while, starting at midnight, two more regions, Thunder Bay and Middlesex-London, adopt stricter public health measures, which include a maximum of 50 people in restaurants and bars and screening of all patrons entering stores.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, P.E.I. officials announced a two-week “circuit breaker” to limit the spread of a small but growing outbreak in that province — eight new cases were reported over the past five days. The restrictions go into effect today and include the banning of all in-restaurant dining as well as the closure of bingo halls and libraries. The island had seen a total of 80 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Sunday, 11 of which are active, and no deaths related to the illness.

Alberta also saw record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday, with 453 people in hospital, including 96 in ICU. The province also recorded another daily high, reporting 1,733 new cases yesterday, bringing its total active cases to 16,454 — the highest in the country.

Meanwhile, British Columbia reported 596 new cases Monday and 46 additional deaths from the virus — the highest over a three-day period. At a daily press conference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the loss. “These people have faces, have names, have stories. This tragedy is all of our tragedy,” she said. “If you are thinking it may be OK to bend the rules, please remember this virus takes lives.”

In Manitoba, 343 new cases were reported Monday as a province-wide lockdown remains in place to help curb rising spread of the virus. A remote community in the province’s northeast is asking for military support, after confirming 30 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday, brining the total of known cases to 60 in Shamattawa First Nation.

“Those first batches are going to be initially small and it’s going to take some time as we ramp up and accelerate our global manufacturing capacity. But we’re going to do our best to supply this vaccine that has such a high efficacy to as many people as we can. Canada’s in the front row.”

And Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam confirmed Sunday that an average 2,111 people with the respiratory illness were in hospital during the last 7 days, as compared to an average of about 600 back at the beginning of October. She encouraged Canadians to start talking to family and friends about the holidays. “I know these conversations and choices may be difficult, but let’s focus on the things we can do, including doing our utmost to protect our families, friends and communities,” said Tam in her Sunday statement.

Also Sunday, the federal government extended existing international travel restrictions, barring entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons till Jan.21. In the same statement, the government did, however, open the door  to an exception for applications from “high-performance amateur sport organizations seeking to hold International Single Sport Events.”

Quebec also recorded its highest single-day increase Thursday, with 1,464 new cases of COVID-19. The province saw a decrease on Friday, reporting 1,269 more people have tested positive for the illness in the past 24 hours — bringing the total number of positive cases to 138,163, nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s total.

Good news: After ten straight days, Nunavut reported no new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. The territory reported its first positive test for the coronavirus earlier this month, on Nov. 6, and has since recorded a total of 155 cases, five of which have recovered. There have been no deaths.

Nov. 25, 2020

Ontario reported an additional 1,373 cases of COVID-19 and 35 more deaths linked to the illness on Wednesday. A report by Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk claims that “delays and conflicts and confusion in decision-making,” in the province’s response to the pandemic led to a greater spread of the coronavirus. “Ontario’s response to COVID-19 in the winter and spring of 2020 was slower and more reactive relative to most other provinces and many other international jurisdictions,” Lysyk said in the 231-page report, tabled in legislature this morning.

In Alberta, new restrictions were announced Tuesday after the province reported 1,115 new cases and 16 additional deaths from the virus. Indoor private social gatherings are temporarily banned, while students in Grade 7 and above will all move to at-home learning. At a press conference Premier Jason Kenney said the measures are necessary “to protect Albertans from the health, social and economic damage that a crushing lockdown would inflict.” As of Tuesday evening, Alberta had 13,349 active cases of COVID-19 — the highest in the country behind Ontario.

British Columbia, meanwhile, recorded a daily high for the province, reporting 941 new cases on Tuesday. Hospitalizations also rose to a record 284. The province added venues that offer gymnastics, dance, martial arts, yoga, pilates, cheerleading, and strength and conditioning to a growing list of suspended activities yesterday. “We need to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our province and that needs to happen now,” read a statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix. “That is why we have paused all gatherings, events and indoor group fitness activities.”

Manitoba also marked a record-high increase Monday, reporting 540 new cases of the respiratory illness. This comes just over a week after the province went into a second lockdown, banning dine-in-eating at restaurants and ordering closed a range of non-essential businesses and places of worship. Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says that restrictions are working, pointing to the fact that the average number of contacts of people who test positive has decreased from seven to about two in the last week. “Certainly the trend is in the right direction,” he said in a press conference Monday.

In Alberta, a lockdown was urged for by 341 physicians Sunday in a letter addressed to Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Heath Dr. Deena Hinshaw. After reporting 1,549 new cases in her news conference Monday, Hinshaw likened COVID-19 case loads to “a snowball rolling down a hill growing bigger and faster” and confirmed that she was meeting with government officials later that day to discuss new measures to reduce the rising spread.

Alberta reported its highest daily case count of the pandemic on Thursday, with 1,105 new cases of COVID-19. That brought the number of active cases in the province to 10,382. There were also eight deaths reported yesterday including, for the second day in a row, a man in his 30s.

And active cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations reached new all-time highs in British Columbia on Thursday. The province reported 538 new cases and one death. There are currently 6,929 active cases of the virus in B.C, with 217 people in hospital. Of those, 59 are in intensive care. Restrictions that had been in effect in Vancouver Coast Health and Fraser Health regions are now mandated province-wide, including masks in shops, indoor public areas and elevators. Places of worship are closed for groups and all events and gatherings are banned. There are to be no spectators at any indoor sports game. Travel vacation rentals will not be allowed in Whistler and Tofino, and people are discouraged from travelling for recreational or social reasons.

The Canada-U.S land border will remain closed to non-essential and non-commercial travel for at least another month, until Dec. 21. The restrictions have been in place since March and were set to expire on Saturday. Postponements have occurred one month at a time. Meanwhile, Porter Airlines which has many flights to the U.S. and to Atlantic Canada, has announced it will not resume service until Feb. 11, 2021.

Nunavut began a two-week shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses on Wednesday. The territory reported 10 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, bringing its total from 60 to 70. Outdoor and indoor gatherings are limited to five people unless an individual family’s size is greater.

Good news: Ontario’s health minister on Wednesday suggested Canada could start receiving millions of doses of one or more COVID-19 vaccines as soon as January, including four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine between January and March, as well as two million doses of Moderna’s vaccine. Ontario will receive 1.6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 800,000 of the Moderna vaccine. Both require two shots and have shown to be 95 per cent effective.

“To everyone in Toronto, I want to warn you in the plainest possible terms that COVID-19 is out there at levels we have not seen before,” advised the city’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa on Tuesday. “You should assume it is everywhere and that without proper precautions and protections, you are at risk of infection.”

New restrictions were announced for the city, which recorded 384 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, and will take effect Saturday when, per provincial recommendations, Toronto was set to come out of a modified Stage 2. Instead, indoor dining will remain prohibited, meeting and event spaces will remain closed, along with casinos, and bingo halls. Gyms may reopen, but with no indoor group fitness and exercise classes. Religious services, weddings and funerals are limited to 30 per cent capacity with a maximum number of 50.

COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place for Quebec’s 12 red zones until at least Nov. 23, Premier Francois Legault announced Tuesday. Quebec health authorities reported 1,162 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the province since the start of the pandemic to 117,151. Of them, 10,937 are active. Quebec’s seven-day rolling average now stands at about 1,180 cases per day.

Plus, an experimental antibody treatment for COVID-19 approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday was developed by Eli Lilly in partnership with Vancouver biotech company AbCellera Biologics Inc. The COVID-19 drug was cleared by the FDA for people 12 and older with mild or moderate symptoms who do not require hospitalization. It’s a one-time treatment given through an IV. AbCellera Biologics and Eli Lilly have agreed to waive their royalties on the drug in low- and middle-income countries.

In Ontario, York Region joined Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region, moving back into a modified Stage 2 for 28 days. Gyms and movie theatres have been closed as part of the measures and, indoor dining is banned at restaurants and bars while public gatherings have been capped at 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Visits to long-term care homes are also now restricted to essential visitors, including caregivers, at facilities in the York Region to match measures already put in place for the province’s three other hot spots.

Ontario has also officially advised against traditional Halloween celebrations in the four areas now under tighter restrictions. In a statement released Monday, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said: “Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region, traditional door-to-door trick or treating is not recommended.” He suggested that, instead, people have a candy hunt with members in their own household, and went on to warn families to “not travel outside of their neighbourhood to celebrate Halloween.”

Meanwhile, in Winnipeg and surrounding areas, where the vast majority of Manitoba’s new cases are concentrated, gatherings have been lowered to a maximum of five people for two weeks starting today. Nightclubs, bars, casinos, bingo halls and live entertainment venues have also been closed. Restaurants, however, will stay open but are now limited to 50 per cent capacity and can only seat up to five people at a table.

In response to demand in Nova Scotia, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said: “We’re asking people to be patient.” He assured residents that anytime over the next eight weeks is a good time to get vaccinated, anticipating a rush that normally happens when the shots are first available.

Health Canada has approved two rapid tests from U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories. The first antigen test was given the green light on Oct. 6, it works by detecting the presence of viral proteins and has shown to be effective 93.3 per cent of the time. Although less effective than the PCR test currently in use across the country, it’s touted as easier to administer and less expensive. Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced at the same time that the federal government signed an agreement to buy more than 20.5 million of the tests and that they would be distributed to COVID-19 hot spots across the country

That news came a week after Health Canada approved the ID NOW rapid test on Sept. 29, also from Abbott, It can provide results from a nasal swab in as little as 13 minutes. Premier Doug Ford applauded the federal government for its plan to purchase 7.9 million of the tests, saying the move will be “a game changer.” As reported, Air Canada has also ordered 25,000 of the rapid test kits — in partnership with McMaster University, the airline has been testing them with passengers returning from abroad to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

In the Greater Toronto Area increased demand for testing has led to long lines and multi-day result delays. To increase capacity, testing was opened up to symptom-free residents at select Shoppers Drug Mart locations near the end of September. With the province working to clear a backlog, assessment of the pharmacy swabs is being outsourced to a lab in California, according to a report by the CBC.

On Oct. 10, Ontario put three of its hot spots — Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region — back into a modified Stage 2, for 28 days. The move followed Quebec’s lead with three jurisdictions — Greater Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches, where most of the province’s new COVID cases are concentrated — having entered a second lockdown on Oct. 1, also for 28 days.

It’s not just the provinces and economists who want to avoid another widespread shutdown through the second wave. “To prevent small clusters from becoming major outbreaks, communities may need to enact short-term closure orders,” the Liberal government said in its recent throne speech.

This content was originally published here.