Military to help manage COVID-19 outbreak at First Nation in northern Ontario

The latest:

The Canadian military will be sent to Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario to help the isolated community manage a COVID-19 outbreak, Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said Friday night.

Attawapiskat First Nation said earlier in the week that it had requested help from the Canadian Rangers and other agencies.

Blair said on Twitter that a request for federal assistance from the Ontario government was approved on Friday and Rangers are being deployed.

The remote James Bay community has reported dozens of new cases this week and has about 40 active cases. The 1,600 residents have been asked to stay in their homes as health officials try to contain the outbreak.

WATCH | Intense surge in hospitalizations coming soon, federal modelling predicts

Intense surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations coming soon, modelling predicts

13 hours ago

Duration 1:57

Canada’s public health agency is predicting an intense increase in hospitalizations caused by COVID-19 in the coming weeks. 1:57

In Canada’s North, Yukon is implementing new public health measures next week due to a surge in COVID-19 cases fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Starting Tuesday, all private and public gatherings will be limited to 10 people or two households, including team sports, recreation and leisure activities.

The territory says this also includes bars and restaurants, which will remain limited to six people per table but must close no later than 10 p.m.

It says it is postponing all indoor organized events, including funerals and weddings, and will require casinos to stay closed.

The Health Ministry says the new restrictions are necessary due to “unprecedented” case numbers.

Yukon reported 67 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday for a total of 459 cases in the territory.

Meanwhile, a vaccine mandate for all truckers entering Canada went into effect on Saturday.

WATCH | Cross-border truckers must be vaccinated, Ottawa says

Cross-border truckers must be vaccinated, Ottawa says

2 days ago

Duration 2:00

The federal government says all truck drivers crossing into Canada must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, regardless of nationality, effective Saturday. Trucking associations on both sides of the border say that policy could hurt already strained supply chains, by taking even more drivers out of circulation. 2:00

Those crossing the border from the United States will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face PCR testing and quarantine requirements.

The U.S. has said that foreign truck drivers will have to show proof of inoculation to enter the country starting Jan. 22.

What’s happening across Canada

With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, 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 will 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 outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.

You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.

Prince Edward Island has announced its first fatalities related to COVID-19. Two people, one between the ages of 60 and 79 and the other over 79, have died on the island, P.E.I.’s Chief Public Health Office said on Friday. Eight people were being treated for COVID-19 in P.E.I. hospitals on Friday, with one in intensive care. The figures were the same as the day before.

Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador plan to have students back in classrooms as of Jan. 24 after beginning the new year with remote education. The province reported one COVID-19-related death on Friday and said eight people were in hospital with the virus. Three were in ICUs.

Students in Nova Scotia will be back in classrooms as of Monday. Education Minister Becky Druhan said the province has a plan in place to deal with potential staffing shortages, including calling in administrators and educators who aren’t in classrooms. In Nova Scotia, 57 people were in hospital with the virus on Friday, down by two from the day before, and 10 people were in ICUs, an increase of three from Thursday.

Meanwhile, in New Brunswick, the premier announced a return to strict COVID-19 restrictions as the province struggles with severe strain on hospital systems. The province said on Friday there were 103 people with COVID-19 in hospitals, one fewer than the day before, and 11 people in ICUs, up by two from the previous day.

WATCH | Ontario long-term care beleaguered by outbreaks, mass staff shortages: 

Ontario long-term care beleaguered by COVID-19 outbreaks, mass staff shortages

13 hours ago

Duration 2:04

COVID-19 outbreaks in more than half of all Ontario long-term care homes have forced residents back into isolation while almost 4,000 care staff are off sick. 2:04

In Central Canada, Ontario on Saturday reported a total of 3,957 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 143 from a day earlier. The number of people in ICUs stood at 558, up by 31 from Friday.

The province’s dashboard also showed 43 new deaths, which included one from a “data clean-up,” and 10,732 additional lab-confirmed cases.

In Quebec on Friday, health officials said COVID-19 hospitalizations had increased by 91 to 3,085 — with 275 people in intensive care units across the province.

The province’s Health Ministry also reported 68 additional deaths and 7,382 additional lab-confirmed cases.

The updates come after Premier François Legault announced that students will return to class on Monday. Legault also announced that the province’s 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be lifted as of Monday, saying experts have reported that cases have peaked and the “wave of hospitalizations is expected to peak in the coming days.”

In the Prairie provinces, health officials in Manitoba said there were 18 more people in hospitals with COVID-19 on Friday, for a total of 517. Forty-five of those patients were in ICUs. The province also reported five deaths and more than 1,200 new cases on Friday.

The update comes as the province said Manitoba schools will no longer notify close contacts of people with COVID-19 infections when students return to class next week.

In Saskatchewan, health officials on Friday reported 131 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, an increase of eight since Thursday, with eight of those patients in ICUs.

Alberta on Friday had 822 patients in hospitals with COVID-19, an increase of 36 over the previous day, with 82 of those in ICUs. The province also reported five deaths and 6,163 cases.

In British Columbia, 646 people were in hospitals with COVID-19 Friday, an increase of 112 since Thursday. Ninety-five of those patients were in ICUs. B.C. also reported six deaths and 2,275 new cases on Friday. The province also said that transmission of Omicron is on the decline, but hospitalizations haven’t yet peaked.

In the North, leaders in Nunavut said Thursday that the tight restrictions put in place before the holidays have been so effective that the government can cancel travel restrictions as of Monday. The territory will also allow businesses to reopen, and schools will resume in-person learning on Jan. 24. Seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the territory on Friday.

There were 154 new cases recorded in the Northwest Territories.

What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday morning, roughly 323.89 million cases had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.5 million.

In the Americas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday revised its guidance for Americans on wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, recommending donning “the most protective mask you can” while stopping short of advocating nationwide usage of N95 respirators.

The CDC, an agency critics have accused of offering shifting and confusing guidance during the pandemic, clarified on its website that “people can choose respirators such as N95s and KN95s,” adding that they “can provide a higher level of protection than a cloth or procedural mask,” if they are worn properly and not taken off frequently.

N95 respirators filter at least 95 per cent of airborne particles, both large and small. A surgical mask, by comparison, is designed to protect others against virus particles that are breathed out. There is growing concern that cloth masks do not provide sufficient protection against the Omicron variant.

COVID-19 infections in United States are at their peak, with a daily average of 779,587 new infections reported each day.

In Asia, several Indian cities, including the capital New Delhi, observed a weekend curfew on Saturday to curb the alarming spread of COVID-19 in the country.

A sanitation worker walks along an alley with closed shops on either side in New Delhi on Saturday. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images)

Markets were mostly deserted and shops shut in New Delhi, except essential services. The northern Jammu and Kashmir territory also declared a weekend curfew.

India reported 268,833 new cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking its total tally to 36.84 million, the federal Health Ministry said on Saturday. Deaths from COVID-19 rose by 402 to 485,752, the ministry said.

China further tightened its anti-pandemic measures in Beijing and across the country on Friday as scattered outbreaks continued ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics in a little over two weeks.

WATCH | Team Canada athletes say staying COVID-free is paramount ahead of Beijing Winter Olympics: 

Team Canada athletes say staying COVID-free is paramount ahead of Beijing Winter Olympics

13 hours ago

Duration 8:01

With the 2022 Winter Olympics just weeks away, Team Canada athletes say that avoiding COVID-19 is among their primary concerns. 8:01

Beijing has ordered children at international schools to be tested starting next week and is barring air passengers who transited via a third point. Citizens are being told only to travel if absolutely necessary, with no guarantee they will be permitted to return if found to have visited a city or region where there is an outbreak.

Tianjin, with 14 million residents, is one of a half dozen cities where the government is imposing lockdowns.

In Europe, stores in Amsterdam and across the Netherlands cautiously reopened on Friday after weeks of being under a coronavirus lockdown.

People wait on bridges for a free bouquet of tulips in Amsterdam on Saturday. Stores across the Netherlands have reopened after weeks of a COVID-19-related lockdown. (Peter Dejong/The Associated Press)

The Dutch capital’s mood was lightened further Saturday by dashes of colour from thousands of free bunches of tulips being handed out to mark National Tulip Day.

Non-essential stores, hairdressers, beauty salons and other service providers will be allowed to reopen under strict conditions until 5 p.m. local time for the first time since mid-December.

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