Canada-U.S. Border Closure Extended to January 21st

The Canada-U. S. border will remain closed until Jan. 21 of 2021 in an effort to curb rising cases of the novel coronavirus, the Canada Border Services Agency reiterated on December 11.

“The #CBSA would like to remind travellers that discretionary (non-essential) travel restrictions between [the U.S.] and [Canada] have been extended to January 21, 2021,” they said in a tweet. On their website, the CBSA says this includes travel for vacations, day trips and other “entertainment” purposes. The restrictions have been in place since March and were mutually agreed upon by both countries. They have been extended monthly since they were imposed.

The news comes days after Health Canada approved Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine, the first batch of which is expected to be doled out during the week of December 14. On December 9, the government health agency said that the availability of the vaccine would “reduce the spread and severity of COVID-19 disease and reduce its social and economic consequences,” adding that the vaccine is roughly 95% effective and showed no serious safety concerns.

Source: Global News

After Christmas, Quebec Will Shut Down Non-Essential Businesses for 2 Weeks 

Faced with a rising number of hospitalizations and daily cases, the Quebec government has announced a series of measure it hopes will slow the virus’s spread over the holiday period, including closing schools and offices. Most retailers will be shut down between Dec. 25 and Jan. 11, doing away with in-person Boxing Day shopping. The rest of the restrictions are also expected to be lifted Jan. 11. 

Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, hardware stores and pet stores will be allowed to remain open. Big box stores will be allowed to open but will be restricted to selling essential goods, such as groceries and pharmacy products. Provincially run liquor stores and cannabis stores will also remain open.

Dentists, optometrists and other health services will be allowed to stay open, but hair salons, spas and manicurists will have to close starting Dec. 25. 

Some changes go into effect earlier.

For the period of time between Dec. 17 and Jan. 11, the province’s yellow zones will be upgraded to orange and orange zones to red — the highest alert level — with restaurant dining rooms, gyms, museums and theatres shutting down as a result.

Quebecers working in offices will have to work from home as of December 17 unless their presence is absolutely necessary at their workplace.

Some new activities permitted

In announcing the new measures, Quebec Premier François Legault said the province is also offering a compromise for people living in red zones: up to eight people will be allowed to gather in outdoor public spaces for physical activities. Outdoor gatherings on private property will remain banned.

The premier encouraged people to take part in outdoor sports, saying the province will allow outdoor hockey games, with a maximum of eight players and one coach, and ski classes, again with a maximum of eight students and one instructor.

In another change, people living alone in red zones will be allowed to join one family’s bubble. Currently, they are only allowed to receive a single visitor.

“We want to give ourselves all the chances of breaking this second wave and to start 2021 without hospitals overflowing,” Legault said. “We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but it will be a few months before a majority of Quebecers will be vaccinated, but the number of new cases remains high and some hospitals are at their limit,” the premier added. 

Elementary schools will not reopen, as originally planned, on Jan. 4, but Legault said schools would supply students with homework and some distance learning. All students, from elementary and high schools, should be back in class Jan. 11.

Daycares will remain open, but Legault urged all parents who can keep their children home to do so. School daycares will be open only for children of essential workers.

As of December 16, the province has reported single-day case totals surpassing 1,600 in each of the previous six days, with more than 950 people in hospital due to the virus, pushing the health-care system’s capacity to its limit in several regions. 

Health Minister Christian Dubé said Quebec has vaccinated 1200 people in two days.

Source: CBC
Source: CBC
Source: CBC

Saskatchewan Restricting Most Private Gatherings to Household Members Only Starting Thursday, December 17

Most Saskatchewan residents will only be allowed to mingle indoors with people they live with starting Thursday December 17, the province announced via a news release. “We know that much of the community transmission continues to occur in our household settings. As a result, this needs to be a different kind of Christmas,” Premier Scott Moe said during a news conference on December 14.

Starting 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17, private indoor gatherings will be limited to household members only. There are a few exceptions. People living alone can meet with one household that has less than five people living in it. Co-parenting arrangements are allowed to continue. Caregivers and support services workers are still allowed in a home as well.

Outdoor gatherings will be capped at 10 people, assuming that physical distancing between people from different homes can be maintained.

“We have to reimagine the holidays, just like we did over Easter,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer. “We need to stick to our household for the most part, but stay connected through other means.”

More rules coming Dec. 19, Dec. 25

  • As of Dec. 19 casinos and bingo halls will be closed
  • Personal services such as hair salons, massage therapy and tattoo parlours will only be allowed to operate at half capacity and staff are included in that capacity
  • Event venues, such as conference halls, arenas, museums and movie theatres, can still host events with up to 30 people. During the events, all guests must be seated. Food and drink are not permitted “unless explicitly stated in the order”
  • Starting December 25, retail services will be reduced to half capacity and large retail locations — retailers with an area larger than 20,000 square feet — will be reduced to 25% capacity

These public health orders will be reviewed by Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, four weeks after they’re implemented.

Small- to medium-sized businesses impacted by the public health order can apply for the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment (SSBEP), assuming they’re eligible. The SSBEP is for small businesses in Saskatchewan that have been ordered to close temporarily or “substantially curtail operations” during December 2020 because of a public health order. Financial assistance is based on 15% of a business’ monthly sales revenue, but eligible businesses can receive up to $5,000 and put that money toward anything.

Most cases still linked to private gatherings

The announcement of new public health rules came shortly after public health officials announced two more COVID-related deaths in Saskatchewan. There have now been 91 COVID-19 deaths in Saskatchewan since the pandemic hit the province last March. Thirty-one of those deaths have come within the last week. Public health officials also announced 269 new COVID-19 cases on December 14, pushing the total of known active cases to 4,380.

“Even though we are not seeing the outbreaks that were happening in October and early November, we are still seeing significant transmission in the household settings, and in the in-between places,” said Shahab, adding that some cases are linked to people not physical distancing during a meal, for example. 

According to the data Shahab presented on December 14, 94 COVID-19 cases from the previous week were linked to household exposure. There are 63 active COVID-19 outbreaks linked to workplaces, and four active outbreaks linked to house gatherings as of Dec. 13, the data says. Shahab pointed to COVID-19 spread at Saskatchewan care homes as another significant factor in case numbers remaining high, and increasing COVID-19 deaths.

Source: CBC

New COVID-19 Restrictions Affect in Alberta

The latest round of public health restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta are further impacting the way people can grieve loved ones who have passed away. “It’s been extremely tough for the families that we have served,” said Mike Fricker, branch manager at Eden Brook Funeral Home and Cemetery. Fricker said the new rules mean only 10 people are allowed at a funeral, which hasn’t changed, but the time to mourn at the graveside is now limited.

“Even when they go out to the graveside at the cemetery, it’s still 10 people. Unfortunately once the clergy or officiant leaves the service, it becomes a social gathering so people have to disperse at that point because social gatherings aren’t allowed.”

On top of that, even through faith services are limited to 15% of fire code occupancy, funerals — regardless of where they are held — are now capped at 10 people. According the the Alberta government website, wedding ceremonies and funeral services will be limited to a maximum of 10 people and must be held in a public place. This applies to any facility, including places of worship and funeral homes.

Eden Brook Funeral Home and Cemetery normally holds a December candlelight service that draws hundreds of people to remember loved ones who have passed away. Fricker said it will be held virtually this year.

“The death of a loved one is extremely difficult, even more so during a pandemic. Our goal is to provide care, compassion and support for those families, knowing the restrictions that are in place and to create a service to honour their loved one in a meaningful way.”

Source: Global News

York Region to Enter Lockdown Zone in Ontario’s COVID-19 Pandemic Plan

York Region has been placed into lockdown under Ontario’s COVID-19 colour-coded system, moving from the red zone into the grey zone.

The Ontario government announced that starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14, York Region would enter lockdown amid rising coronavirus cases. Windsor-Essex also moved to the lockdown zone on December 14 as well, the government said.

York Region and Windsor-Essex join Toronto and Peel Region, which both entered lockdown on Nov. 23. The lockdown runs for a minimum of 28 days. The government will then reassess if a region should move.

“Moving a region into Grey-Lockdown is not an easy decision, but it is one we needed to make in order to help stop the spread of the virus and safeguard the key services we rely on,” said Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “As we enter the holiday season and as the province prepares to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, it remains crucial for all Ontarians to continue adhering to public health advice and workplace safety measures to reduce the spread of the virus and keep each other safe,” Elliott said.

Over the last couple of weeks, daily case counts in York Region have hovered between about 150 and 250 and have shown an overall upward trend, according to the local public health unit. York Region’s incidence rate has also been well above the “red level” threshold of more than 40 cases per 100,000 people. Hospitals across York Region have warned that their facilities have reached a “tipping point” due to a significant increase in COVID-19 admissions in recent weeks.

The Ontario government also announced more regions that will move to stricter levels of control as of December 14:

  • Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will move into the red-control level 
  • Eastern Ontario will move into the orange-restrict level
  • Leeds, Greenville and Lanark will move into the yellow-protect level 

Source: Global News