A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

Governments are looking at new limits for travel both into and within Canada, as the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to set heartbreaking records.

On a positive note, Canada hit a new milestone for vaccinations, with 25 per cent of the population vaccinated with at least one dose, as the number of people climbed over 9.5 million Tuesday afternoon.

Generation-X Canadians flocked to make appointments for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as several provinces lowered the eligible age, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

But even as vaccinations were flowing, Ontario’s scientific advisers warned the province’s hospitals are “buckling” as hospitalizations and critical care loads continued to grow.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, reported record numbers of active cases, hospitalizations and patients in critical care across the country.

An average of almost 1,200 people are now in intensive care daily with COVID-19, about half of them on ventilators. On April 12, the most recent single-day statistics available, there was a one-day record of 599 people on ventilators due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 deaths also grew in the last week, to an average of 44 deaths per day, after sitting close to 30 people a day over the last two months.

Much of it is being driven by new variants, with more than 66,000 confirmed variant cases in Canada now, 96 per cent of them B.1.1.7. That is twice the number of confirmed variant cases just one week ago.

In a bid to keep even more variants from entering Canada, Trudeau said Tuesday the use of quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21, as will testing requirements for air and land-border arrivals.

He defended the government against criticism it didn’t move fast enough to enforce quarantines for travellers, but said they are considering additional measures.

“We are continuing to look at more and I have asked our officials to look carefully at, for example, what the U.K. has done very recently on suspending flights from India,” he said.

Although Canada’s borders are officially closed, thousands of people, mostly Canadians, still cross into the country every week. Health Canada says about one per cent of international air travellers are testing positive for COVID-19 during their three-day quarantine, but can’t yet provide data for how many tested positive after 10 days.

India has reported more than 250,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily this week and doctors are investigating whether another new variant, known as B.1.617, may be part of the reason.

Last December, Canada suspended flights from the U.K. for just over two weeks due to concerns about the COVID-19 variant that first emerged there.

In the last two weeks, 117 international flights arrived with at least one passenger who later tested positive for COVID-19, including 29 flights from Delhi, 20 from the United States and 24 from Europe.

Provincial governments are also moving to restrict travel within Canada. Ontario and Nova Scotia are barring entry to non-essential travellers who aren’t residents, while British Columbia is looking at doing periodic police roadblocks at ferry terminals and Vancouver-area highways to discourage recreational travel even within the province.

Ontario reported almost 3,500 new cases Tuesday, the first time since April 12 the number was below 4,000. But hospitalizations, critical care admissions and patients on a ventilator all rose overnight, prompting new warnings from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table that hospitals are on the brink. The advisers said essential workers needed to be vaccinated faster and offered sick leave.

Public health chiefs in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region moved on their own to order any workplace closed that has had five or more positive cases in the last two weeks.

Late Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office said he was isolating in Toronto after a member of his staff who was in close contact with him tested positive for COVID-19.

The statement said the premier has tested negative and will follow all public health advice for close contacts.

It said Ford will continue leading his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic while in isolation, including briefings with officials and communicating with the public.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is examining what it can do to handle “gaps” in federal sick pay.

Elliott received her vaccine from AstraZeneca weeks ago, and now that Ontario is among the provinces that lowered the eligible age to 40, Trudeau and other federal leaders can now follow suit.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization cancelled a planned briefing to update its guidance on what age groups should get the AstraZeneca doses, as more information on the risk of very rare blood clots has now emerged. NACI is still deliberating on what advice to provide.

READ MORE: ‘Can’t afford to lose another summer’: B.C. tourism group supports COVID travel rules

Three Canadians, including one newly reported in New Brunswick Tuesday, have now had the blood clots, out of more than 700,000 doses given. All three — a woman over 55 in Quebec, a man in his 60s in Alberta and a woman in her 30s in New Brunswick — are recovering at home.

Several provinces didn’t wait for NACI. Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. all cut the age from 55 to 40, although Saskatchewan said it has already used up much of the AstraZeneca supply it has received. Quebec is cutting it to 45 on Wednesday.

Albertans under 55 lined up at mass vaccination clinics in both Calgary and Edmonton.

“It’s about time,” said Jody Dewaal, 52, who was lined up at Expo Centre in Edmonton. “We’ve been waiting. I have senior parents and I have a child who has asthma, so we just like to have some kind of protection.”

Trudeau, 49, told pharmacists during a virtual meeting Tuesday morning that he intends to be vaccinated at a pharmacy, publicly, as soon as his office can work out the details.

While Freeland was busy becoming the first female finance minister to table a budget in the House of Commons this week, she dispatched her kids to go online and find her an appointment.

“My daughter said we’re on a wait-list, so I have to check on that after this,” she said. “But as soon as I can, I’ll get mine too and I hope at a local pharmacy.”

O’Toole said he was booked for Saturday, while Singh is being vaccinated Wednesday.

Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna appeared to be fastest on the booking button, posting photos on social media Tuesday of herself getting the AstraZeneca shot in Ottawa.

— With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Adrienne Rogers (LPN) and Tracy McConnell (RN) on the Victoria Hospice Unit. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Hospice)
Victoria Hospice bereavement counsellors dealing with a tsunami of grief

Last year, Victoria Hospice provided end-of-life care to more than 1,000 people

Paddles sit stacked and ready at a rowing regatta on Elk Lake in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria junior girls rowing team nabs first in national Row to Tokyo challenge

Young Victoria City Rowing Club members row more than 2,250 km

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Funding boosts restoration efforts for Vancouver Island’s Garry oak ecosystems

Habitat Acquisition Trust will take on several Garry oak ecosystem restoration projects

A Nexii roof panel is lifted during construction of a Starbucks in Abbotsford. Alexzi Building Solutions will be building a manufacturing plant in Langford or North Cowichan to produce the sustainable construction panels. (Photo courtesy of Alexzi Building Solutions)
Langford eyed for facility to make green building alternative to concrete

Langford, North Cowichan possible sites for plant to create sustainable construction panels

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Island Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at Ecole des Deux Mondes in Campbell River on May 4 and 5, and at Mill Bay Nature School in Mill Bay on April 28, 29, 30 and May 3. (Metro Creative photo)
Two new COVID-19 school exposures confirmed by Island Health

Health authority contacting anyone exposed at Ecole des Deux Mondes, Mill Bay Nature School

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Most Read