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

Creston Town Hall. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Ellen Tzakis resigns from Creston Town Council

Council is preparing to hold a by-election later this year

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

School District 8 employees Shannon Tetz, Cheryl Rendek, and Janet Wall officially began their retirement with a COVID-friendly send-off outside of Prince Charles Secondary School. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
School District 8 employees Shannon Tetz, Cheryl Rendek, and Janet Wall officially began their retirement with a COVID-friendly send-off outside of Prince Charles Secondary School. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Three women retire from School District 8 with COVID-friendly celebration

Shannon Tetz, Cheryl Rendek, and Janet Wall shared 87 years of service collectively

The Salmo Public Library’s director Taylor Caron with her award. Photo: Submitted
Salmo Public Library director wins provincial award

Taylor Caron has been recognized by her peers for innovation and advocacy

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. Indigenous leaders are calling for an investigation into the conduct of Mounties on Vancouver Island after two police shootings of members of a small First Nations community in three months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Indigenous leaders call for clarity, investigation into RCMP after B.C. shooting

The RCMP declined to comment on the requests by Indigenous leaders

Colleen Price, Vancouver Island University’s bachelor of science in nursing program chairperson, says she is impressed with how students have persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Next generation of B.C. nurses already showing resilience

University program head says learning had to be adjusted amidst pandemic

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old B.C. bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

Most Read