Spike in coronavirus infections reveals frayed Canadian response


Members of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service wear personal protective equipment as they leave the Maples Personal Care Home in Winnipeg amid a COVID-19 outbreak on November 2, 2020.


The number of COVID-19 infections in Canada is reaching record highs, prompting governments in parts of the country affected by coronaviruses to impose further restrictions, while others cling to the reopening of plans that ‘they hope to save their savings.

British Columbia passed two weeks of sweeping restrictions in the Lower Mainland, including a ban on gatherings of households of any size, while Manitoba expanded its “red zone” restrictions and the region of Peel, to the west of Toronto, has implemented anti-COVID-19 rules in Ontario.

Peel’s medical officer of health announced the changes, which include closing banquet halls and banning wedding receptions until next year, the same day Premier Doug Ford’s government eased restrictions in regions that meet virus control goals that some infectious physicians and epidemiologists have warned are too lax.

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The fall resurgence of the pandemic has exposed a wedge between politicians keen to order partial business closures and those, like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who have instead called on citizens to control the virus with a good voluntary behavior.

But neither approach has resulted in a sustained drop in new cases. Every province, from Quebec to British Columbia, has reported a record or near record number of cases in a single day over the weekend. At the same time, doctors in hot spots say the rising tide of COVID-19 infections is straining hospitals and leading to more outbreaks in nursing homes.

The Manitoba government has promised an independent investigation into two private long-term care homes in Winnipeg that have witnessed COVID-19 outbreaks, one of which has had to call paramedics to help sick and dying residents.

“We are in a world of suffering,” Anand Kumar, Winnipeg’s intensive care and infectious disease physician, said Sunday after Manitoba announced 441 new cases, its second highest number in a day. “We’re being pushed pretty hard now. If we see 450 on average [daily cases] for a week or two, we’re going to be overloaded. They will cry out for help.

Canada currently records an average of 44 COVID-19 deaths per day – the highest number since the start of the second wave, but significantly fewer than the peak in spring.

In Quebec, where indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and theaters have been closed in some areas since the end of September, a record 1,397 new cases were reported on Sunday, the fifth consecutive day of totals exceeding 1,000.

Ontario also reported its highest number of cases on Sunday, with 1,328 new cases, the vast majority in the Greater Toronto Area. Canada’s most populous province has now recorded an average of 1,064 cases per day over the past week, more than double the average at the peak of the first wave, when testing was limited.

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“We’ve all looked at this with trepidation,” said Sumon Chakrabarti, infectious disease physician at Trillium Health Partners, a Mississauga hospital network.

Dr Chakrabarti said his greatest concern is that the number of new COVID-19 infections, hospital admissions and deaths in the GTA increased slightly through October and early November, despite the province closed restaurants, gyms and most indoor sports in Ottawa, Peel and Toronto on October 9 and a week later in York Region.

Rather than expanding the series of restrictions known as “Modified Stage 2,” the Ontario government unveiled a new color-coded framework last week that allowed limited amounts of food, drink and drink. exercise indoors on Saturday in Ottawa and York Region.

The province allowed Toronto’s request to stay in amended Stage 2 for another week.

The provincial government rejected a similar request from Peel’s medical officer of health Lawrence Loh, who responded by issuing his own directives. “The reality is that COVID-19 is quickly getting out of hand in Peel Region,” Dr. Loh said in an interview on Sunday. “Regardless of what is open or closed there, everyone should limit their close contact to their immediate household and their essential supports.

The worst situation in Peel is the city of Brampton, where the rate of positive tests is now 11 percent, and its weekly rate of new cases is 170 per 100,000. Two local hospitals, run by William Osler Health System, were treating Sunday 54 confirmed patients and 37 suspects of COVID-19. Hospitals had to transfer more than 20 patients to other hospitals in the GTA to make room.

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“The fact that we have appealed for help for our entire region, that hardly ever happens,” said Naveed Mohammad, President and CEO of William Osler.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said the biggest source of outbreaks in his city was industrial settings such as food processing plants, warehouses and manufacturing plants. Workers often bring the virus home in large multigenerational homes, he added.

“The support and resources we need are still not being provided to us,” he said. “We have had a request pending for over a month now for an isolation center and we don’t have it.”

Thierry Bélair, spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, said the minister’s office was working with public health officials in Peel and “can confirm that the federal government will fund the opening of a site. self-isolation with $ 6.5 million ”.

In British Columbia, where the COVID-19 positivity rate has reached 4.9%, provincial health worker Bonnie Henry held a rare press conference over the weekend to discuss the “dangerously high increase and rapid COVID-19 cases ”and announce a host of new, limited-time orders targeting the Lower Mainland.

Effective immediately, residents of the worst affected health regions on the Vancouver and Fraser Coast are not to hold social gatherings with anyone outside of their immediate homes, inside or outside their home. outdoors, although people who live alone can still maintain one or two close contacts. Funeral and wedding receptions, group physical activities such as spin classes, yoga, and indoor sports where physical distance cannot be maintained, and party buses and limousines are all suspended.

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Bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open as long as they “religiously” adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions, Dr Henry said, but the ban on social gatherings applies to those establishments.

Dr. Henry also strongly recommends, but does not order, only essential trips to or from the two health regions.

Alberta, which recorded a record 919 new cases on Saturday and 727 on Sunday and which has among the highest rates of new infections, active cases and hospitalizations in the country, has refused to implement similar restrictions.

The 15-person limit for gatherings in place in Calgary and Edmonton was extended last week to other communities with high infection rates, but the province continues to rely on voluntary measures. This includes Mr. Kenney asking residents of Calgary and Edmonton to stop holding social gatherings at home.

“We have seen other jurisdictions indiscriminately violate people’s rights and destroy their livelihoods,” Kenney said Friday. “Nobody wants this to happen here in Alberta.”

With reports from The Canadian Press

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