PM announces sun destination travel shutdown as of Sunday; mandatory testing, 3-day hotel quarantine for all overseas travellers



a man standing in front of a building: File: A passenger is covered head to toe at the international arrivals area at Pearson International Airport on January 26, 2021.


© Provided by Ottawa Citizen
File: A passenger is covered head to toe at the international arrivals area at Pearson International Airport on January 26, 2021.

What you need to know, at a glance

  • Air Canada, Sunwing, Air Transit and Westjet have agreed to cancel flights to sun destinations
  • The measures, affecting the Caribbean and Mexico, begin Sunday and last until the end of April.
  • Travellers already in those destinations are being contacted to arrange a return to Canada.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced travellers returning from overseas will have to take a COVID-19 PCR test at the airport
  • Travellers will then quarantine in a designated hotel for three days at their own expense to await results.
  • Those with negative results can then isolate at home, but those testing positive will quarantine at designated government facilities.
  • Starting next week, international flights will only arrive at Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.
  • Canada’s vaccination campaign suffers new hitch as Moderna announces delivery delays
  • Moderna is now expected to ship between 20-25 per cent less product to Canada in February, about 180,000 with next week
  • Trudeau said that Canada still expects to receive two million doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of March
  • U.S. pharma giant Johnson & Johnson says phase 3 trials indicate its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is slightly less effective than approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna
  • But the company says the vaccine’s effectiveness rises to 100 per cent 49 days after the vaccine is administered
  • The federal government has pre-purchased 10 million doses of the J&J vaccine, but it is still being reviewed by Health Canada.
  • Ontario will make all international travellers take a COVID-19 test on arrival starting Monday.
  • The province is moving forward with the traveller testing despite the similar federal program because the federal program will take time to ramp up
  • Ontario reports 1,837 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, seven-day average slides to 2,011 cases.
  • Hot spots continue to be Toronto (595 cases), Peel (295) York (170)
  • 58 COVID-19 deaths were added to pandemic death toll in the province, which now sits at 6,072.
  • 1,291 people are hospitalized (down from 1,338 Thursday), with 360 in ICU
  • There have been 51 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Ontario so far
  • Ontario’s big-box inspection blitz returns to Toronto and Hamilton this weekend
  • Ottawa Public Health reported 63 new cases and two more deaths as of Thursday afternoon.
  • The agency said there are 685 active cases. There are 34 patients in hospital, five of them in ICU.
  • There have been 13,216 confirmed cases and 422 deaths since the pandemic was declared.
  • There have been 12,109 resolved cases.
  • Quebec reported 1,295 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday
  • 50 more COVID-19 deaths were reported, with nine occurring in the previous 24 hours.
  • The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped by 47, to a total of 1,217, the lowest level in four weeks.
  • On Thursday, 3,071 vaccine doses were administered in Quebec, for a pandemic total of 236,057.
  • There were 17 new cases reported in the Outaouais Friday. The death toll remains 152

The federal government announced additional new travel measures on Friday in an effort to keep new variants of COVID-19 out of the country.

As of Sunday, all flights to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico through Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat will be suspended.

The restriction, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, will continue until the end of April.

“We appreciate the work the Canadian airlines and the frontline workers have done to make airline travel safer, and to bring Canadians home when this pandemic struck last spring,” Trudeau noted.

“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying. By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time when we can all plan those vacations.”

The carriers, Trudeau added, will arrange with travellers in those countries to return to Canada.

Additionally, the government announced that beginning next week, all international flights coming into the country must land in one of four cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

Mandatory airport PCR testing for COVID-19 will also come into effect soon for all air passengers landing in Canada.

Travellers will then have to wait for up to three days at a government-approved hotel, at their own expense which is estimated to be about $2,000, while awaiting results. Those who test negative will be able to quarantine at home for 14 days under increased surveillance. Those who test positive will be required to quarantine in designated facilities.

Meanwhile, non-essential travellers will, in the coming weeks, be required to test negative before entering Canada via U.S. land borders.

Trudeau conceded that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases that have resulted from air travel has so far been low – about two per cent – but that the uncertainty surrounding recent variants has made the new measures necessary.

Canada’s vaccination campaign suffered a new hitch Friday with the announcement that Moderna will delay some shipments of its products next month.

The U.S.-based company was scheduled to ship some 230,400 shots to Canada next week, with 249,600 shots to follow three weeks later.

Instead, Moderna is now expected to ship between 20-25 per cent less product to Canada in February, with next week’s shipment revised down to 180,000 doses.

The prime minister noted at his news conference that the shipment of Moderna vaccines next week will amount to about 180,000 doses.

“As global production continues to pick up, there will be more stability in the system, and, most importantly, this temporary delay doesn’t change the fact that we will still receive two million doses of the Moderna vaccine, as planned, before the end of March.”

An additional four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Trudeau said, will also arrive by the end of March.

“Production lines around the globe are adapting to high demand from every country. We are focused day in and day out on getting the vaccine to every Canadian who wants one by the end of September, and we are very much on track to do just that.”

Health Canada said on Friday that it expects to make a decision in the coming days on whether it will approve a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

The European Medicines Agency on Friday recommended granting a conditional marketing authorization for the vaccine, noting that it was safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 in adults 18 and over.

The EMA cautioned, however, that further testing needed to be done on people 55 and older.

Health Canada has been reviewing the vaccine since Oct. 1 as part of the EMA’s OPEN process, allowing regulatory agencies outside the European Union to collaborate and share information.

Trudeau also announced the second instalment of the Safe Return to Class Fund – up to $1 billion – for provinces and territories to help ensure students, school teachers and staff have supports to get through the school year.

The fund, first announced last August, will go towards adapting learning spaces, improving air ventilation, and providing personal protective equipment, hand sanitation and cleaning supplies.

U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson says phase 3 trials indicate its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is slightly less effective than approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, but says the J&J vaccine’s effectiveness rises to 100 per cent 49 days after the vaccine is administered.

The company says trials have shown the vaccine to be 85 per cent effective against severe illness a month after the injection is given, and 66 per cent effective against both moderate and severe illness.

But the effectiveness increases to 100 per cent.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna say their two-shot vaccines, now in use in Canada, show 95 per cent efficacy against severe illness.

The J&J vaccine also doesn’t need special storage procedures: the product can be stored in a regular refrigerator for up to three months.

The federal government has pre-purchased 10 million doses of the J&J vaccine, but it is still being reviewed by Health Canada.

There is no timeline yet for when approval might come or when those doses would be delivered for use in Canada.

Provincial

The Ontario government will introduce mandating on-arrival testing for international travellers at Toronto Pearson International Airport starting Monday at noon.

The measure is a “stopgap” before federal measures kick in, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Friday. Testing will be mandated in the Sec. 22 order under Sect. 77.1 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Travellers who refuse will be issued a $750 ticket.

Speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon, Ford said the measures are being introduced because the U.K. variant of COVID-19 is already in Ontario and other variants may also enter the province.

“We can’t take anything for granted now when new, highly contagious strains of the virus have entered our county. If these strains take hold, the consequences will be dire,” said the premier.

“The time to take action is now.”

Reports have suggested the U.K. variant spreads faster and may be more deadly, and recent modelling released by the province on Thursday has suggested that variant could become the dominant strain of the virus in Ontario by March.

Two other variants have also been identified in the world — one in South Africa was detected at the end of December and another was detected in travellers from Brazil who arrived in Japan earlier this month.

The first case of the U.K. variant in Ontario was confirmed on Dec. 26, and 51 more cases have been identified in the province, said Ford.

Voluntary airport testing has already identified five cases of the variant, he said. “These are five cases that could have gone unnoticed. Five cases that could have affected others.”

The airport, he said, is “one hole we can plug to the best of our ability.”

The province is also exploring additional testing at land border crossings in the coming weeks.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said that includes those who are entering Ontario from Quebec, including essential workers. The province has the necessary tests, and results are available within a day, she said.

Enhanced screening is also part of the plan.

The provincial diagnostic lab network is aiming to screen all positive COVID-19 tests within two to three days of initial processing by next week to determine whether they are positive for one of the known variants.

Genomic sequencing can also identify variants that are currently unknown. The province will centrally coordinate sequencing for at least 10 per cent of all positive samples to quickly identify and manage emerging variants by mid-February.

Meanwhile, public health and workplace safety measures, as wellas the stay-at-home order, will remain in place until more information on the variant spread is known.

Ford said rapid testing will be key to reopening schools in regions where there are currently no face-to-face classes. The plan is to have testing available in various formats, including lower nasal swabs.

The province will be supporting public health units to ensure they can reach out to and monitor cases and contacts as quickly as possible. Asymptomatic contacts will be asked to repeat testing on or after Day 10 of their quarantine, and the household of all contacts and symptomatic individuals will be asked to stay home and quarantine until the contact has a negative test.

Meanwhile, the vaccination rollout is being accelerated for long-term care, high-risk retirement, and First Nations elder care home residents, with plans to reach all homes provincewide by Feb. 5 — as long as vaccine is available.

Ford expressed concern about news that doses of the Moderna vaccine have been delayed.

Moderna was scheduled to ship some 230,400 doses to Canada next week, with 249,600 shots to follow three weeks later. That has been revised to between 20 to 25 per cent fewer doses coming to Canada in February, with next week’s shipment revised down to 180,000 doses.

“We have a massive pharma industry in Ontario. We have to make sure it never happens again,” he said.

Ontario reported 1,837 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the seven-day average down to 2,011 cases.

The figure was 2,703 one week ago, and has been declining daily since Jan. 11.

Friday’s new case total includes 595 in Toronto, 295 in Peel, 170 in York Region, and 53 in Ottawa.

Fifty-eight COVID-19 deaths were added to pandemic death toll in the province, which now sits at 6,072.

There are 1,291 people hospitalized with COVID-19 (down from 1,338 Thursday, and 1,512 a week ago), with 360 in ICU (up two in the last day, down from 383 a week ago).

There have been 51 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Ontario so far, according to Public Health Ontario data — but screening for the more contagious variant has been limited.

In health unit regions surrounding Ottawa, the total confirmed case count rose by eight in Eastern Ontario, four in Leeds, Grenville & Lanark, three in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington, and two in Renfrew County and District.

The Ontario government is taking its big-box blitz back to Toronto and Hamilton this weekend, and will also be deploying provincial offences officers to stores in Kitchener-Waterloo to check for compliance with the pandemic public health expectations.

According to a provincial press release, officers have visited 1,147 big-box stores and other retail businesses in January, and will be checking on hundreds more this weekend.

“The inspections are designed to ensure businesses are following the public health guidelines and properly protecting workers and customers from COVID-19,” according to the province.

Over three inspection campaigns so far this year – Ottawa was in one last weekend, and the GTHA the weekend before that – 112 tickets have been issued to businesses and individuals so far this year.

According to the province, failure to properly screen staff and customers, insufficient social distancing, and workplaces not having adequate COVID-19 workplace safety plans were the most common reasons cited for non-compliance.

Inspectors will move on to Halton and Huron Perth next week. In addition to big-box and retail stores, the province says inspections are also happening at other workplaces, such as gas stations and restaurants offering takeout.

Local

Ottawa Public Health reported 63 new cases and two more deaths as of Thursday afternoon.

The agency said there are 685 active cases. There are 34 patients in hospital, five of them in ICU.

There have been 13,216 confirmed cases and 422 deaths since the pandemic was declared.

There have been 12,109 resolved cases.

OPH also reported two new outbreaks in healthcare facilities and two in childcare centres.

Heritage Retirement residence on Wilson Street, near St. Laurent Boulevard and Montreal Road, reported one staff infection, while “Shelter 29770” reported eight cases among residents.

Greely Elementary School, meanwhile, reported a staff case, while Global Child Care Services reported one staff and two student cases at one of its sites.

Quebec

Quebec reported 1,295 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while hospitalizations declined to their lowest level in four weeks.

Fifty more COVID-19 deaths were reported, with nine occurring in the previous 24 hours.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped by 47, to a total of 1,217. There are 209 patients in ICU.

On Thursday, 3,071 vaccine doses were administered in Quebec, for a pandemic total of 236,057.

In the Outaouais, 17 new cases were reported Friday. There have been 152 COVID-19 deaths in the region.

Related

-With files from The Canadian Press

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