Canada-U.S. border restrictions extended another month to June 21

CTV News has learned that the Canada-U.S. border will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least another month, just days before the current agreement was set to expire. Non-essential travel restrictions have been in place between the two countries since March 21, 2020. The provision exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated on May 18 that lifting social restrictions more generally will be dependent on vaccination rates and consistently low community transmission of the COVID-19 virus. “We’re all eager to get back to normal, but we know that before we get back to normal cases need to be under control and over 75% of people need to be vaccinated for us to start loosening things in Canada,” he said.

According to CTV News’ Vaccine Tracker, Canada has vaccinated 46.05% of its population with a first dose and just 3.77% have received two doses. Meanwhile, the U.S. has vaccinated 47.19% of its population with a first dose, and 37.03% have received both shots.

James Cudmore, director of communications for the minister of public safety, did not confirm the extension to but said that talks are ongoing with their American counterparts on issues relating to the shared border, but tempered expectations about the timing of an official reopening. “Minister Blair is in regular contact with his American counterparts about issues relating to our shared border. Until the conditions on both sides of the border change very substantively, the measures at our borders will remain intact,” he said in an email on May 17.

The Ontario government has been vocal in their desire for the federal government to tighten restrictions at the Canada, U.S. land border, citing increased COVID-19 variant spread. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc has maintained that Ottawa is keen to support the provinces with their individual public health needs.

“We always welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can work together. We have provided Ontario with extra polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing capabilities through the Safe Restart Agreement. Ontario is also within their jurisdiction to institute domestic travel quarantine. As we have seen in other jurisdictions, it is an effective public health measure. We continue to stand ready to support the Government of Ontario should they introduce additional measures within their jurisdiction,” said LeBlanc in statement released on May 18.

Source: CTV

Quebec Takes 1st Step Toward Normality by Lifting Curfew and Opening Outdoor Dining on May 28

Quebec’s premier, François Legault, says life will start returning to normal gradually, with the curfew lifting across the province on May 28 and masks no longer mandatory in most situations by the end of August. Also allowed as of May 28:

  • Eating on patios and decks outside of restaurants
  • Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people on private property
  • Travel between regions of Quebec
  • Up to 2,500 people in a large theatre or arena

Just a few days later, on May 31, the vast majority of the province will be an “orange zone,” which means indoor dining at restaurants will be allowed and gyms can reopen.

All kids will be sent back to school full time as well. As it stands in Quebec, third-year high school students and above have been alternating between days online learning and in-person classes. 

On June 11, bars will be able to open terraces for outdoor drinking. Outdoor sports and recreation activities will also be allowed, with a cap of 25 people. By June 14, Legault said most regions will be at the yellow level, which means people from two different households can gather indoors and bars can reopen. On June 25, fully vaccinated people will be able to assemble indoors without masks or social distancing. Outdoor festivals will also be allowed and summer camps can open. On June 28, most regions will switch to green zones. Indoor gatherings will be permitted up to a maximum of 10 people from three residences, and all indoor team sports will be permitted.

By the end of August, most mask requirements will be lifted, except for perhaps public transit and a few other exceptions. However, the lifting of mask restrictions still hinges on vaccination rates, Legault said. He wants 75% of people 12 and up to have a second dose before the masks come off indoors.

Reopening depends on vaccination rates

Legault stressed that this success relies on everybody doing their part by getting vaccinated. He said the plan is to gradually scale back measures every two weeks, but health officials will be keeping a close eye on the situation. Any sudden uptick in cases could delay the process. Quebec set a goal of administering the first vaccine dose to 75% of adults by June 24, but now officials expect to reach that goal by June 15, Legault said. 

Health Minister Christian Dubé said it may be possible to speed up the rate of delivering the second dose, ensuring people can gather indoors without masks even sooner. “Please get vaccinated. Because after that, you are allowed to get your second dose,” he said. 

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s public health director, said only about five to 10 per cent of the population is refusing to get vaccinated. Then there are those who are waiting to get a dose, hesitating because the virus and vaccine are both new, he said. “I think we are going to have good coverage,” said Arruda. He expects youth in particular to do their part because, he said, they understand that getting vaccinated is the fastest way to return to normal life.

Source: CBC
Source: CBC

Manitoba Expands Business Grant Program Amid Latest Covid-19 Closures

Manitoba is expanding a business grant program meant to support businesses amid the province’s latest round of COVID-19 public health orders. As of May 9, Manitoba has capped outdoor gatherings at five people, limited restaurants, bars and patios to takeout and delivery and closed some businesses. 

Premier Brian Pallister announced that the government will be making grants up to $5,000 available to affected businesses and organizations through the Manitoba Bridge Grant program. “We recognize this quick closure for many businesses will have a significant impact on their operations,” Pallister said.

The round of funding is the fourth announced through the program and the province says it will provide up to $71 million in immediate financial support to eligible small and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profits, and charities impacted by the latest round of restrictions. With the latest funding, the Manitoba Bridge Grant program will now have doled out $268 million since it launched in November, Pallister said. He said eligible businesses that received prior grants will automatically receive a fourth payment of up to $5,000.

The province also announced a $2,000 top-up for restaurants on top of the $5,000 to cover things like food waste, employee wages, maintenance or insurance. Some 1,800 restaurants are expected to qualify, to the tune of $3.6 million, according to the province. Another $2 million is also being given to the Dine-In Restaurant Relief program to help restaurants shift towards a delivery model, the province said in a release.

Pallister made the announcement at a press conference on May 10, his first appearance in front of Manitobans since his government enacted tighter COVID-19 restrictions and announced schools in both Winnipeg and Brandon will be moving to remote learning. The new restrictions, which also include the closure of gyms, museums, art galleries and libraries, will last until May 30.

Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin was joined by Education Minister Cliff Cullen on May 9, to announce all schools from ages kindergarten to Grade 12 in Winnipeg and Brandon will move to remote learning. Many, including health-care workers, have been calling on the Pallister government for weeks to enact stiffer restrictions over concerns the province’s hospitals and intensive care units would be overwhelmed by climbing case counts.

Source: Global News

Ontario to Keep Stay-at-Home Order Until ‘At Least’ June 2

Ontario’s stay-at-home will remain in place until “at least” June 2, Premier Doug Ford announced on May 13. Ford said the province should be able to lift restrictions on outdoor recreation by that date, with more details on reopening plans to follow in the days and weeks after that.

Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said that the province’s numbers are now about where they were at the peak of the second wave. “They’ve come down, but we have a ways to go yet,” he said.

Provincial officials were asked what specific metrics they want to see by June 2 to begin easing public health measures. Neither Ford, Williams, or Health Minister Christine Elliott directly answered the question. Williams would only say the province needs to be “well under” 1,000 cases per day for a “number of days.” Officials also did not answer when asked if the province would return to its previous colour-coded framework.

In a statement, Ontario Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rocco Rossi said the chamber wants to see “evidence-based metrics for reopening,” with thresholds for case counts, health-care system capacity, and evidence of virus spread. “We fully appreciate the need to be nimble and agile in responding to a crisis that is evolving rapidly; however, this flexibility should not preclude the government from providing Ontarians with a clear understanding about the key metrics and thresholds for a measured, safe, and carefully calibrated reopening plan,” Rossi said in a news release.

Source: CBC