Thursday, 25 February, 2021

Toronto top doctor and Indigenous services minister alarmed by COVID variants

Canada's largest city Toronto wants lockdown extended Canada's largest city Toronto wants lockdown extended 17 Feb 2021- 23:50 FILE
Adrian Cunningham | 20 February, 2021, 08:10

Today, Mayor John Tory, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg announced the City is requesting that Toronto remain in the Shutdown Zone under the provincial Lockdown Regulation and subject to the Stay-at-Home Order until March 9 at the earliest in order to protect the healthcare system and save lives. Peel has also had variant strains in congregate settings and workplaces, and is now investigating transmission of the B.1.351 strain in a multi-unit dwelling.

Thankfully, Doug Ford has already suggested that the Ontario government is likely to grant Toronto's request to extend lockdown measures for at least two weeks. "Right now, the case count numbers don't look so bad". Additionally, there are over 200 more cases in Peel that have screened positive for a variant of concern as of Wednesday.

De Villa also warned during her briefing that she's never been as anxious about the future.

In Ottawa, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said he fears the prospect of variants taking hold in First Nation communities, where residents often live in overcrowded homes and have worse health outcomes due to several socio-economic factors.

"I don't think I can be any more concerned", Miller said.

"During this same period of time, North Bay Parry Sound District has also seen its case rate increase by 11.5 per cent to 14.6 cases per 100,000 people". Health officials say the number of hospitalizations dropped by 19, to 747, and 129 people were in intensive care, a drop of one.

He said the Prairie provinces, in particular, have had "really scary spikes".

The decision comes as new national COVID-19 modelling, released by federal health officials on Friday, predicted that with variants continuing to spread across Canada even the current level of public health measures will not be enough to prevent a resurgence of the virus nationwide.

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Miller said vaccines have been delivered to about a quarter of the adult population in First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities, a rate that is six times higher than that of the general population.

Heath Canada said provinces could expect to receive shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech product at least a day behind schedule, but all 400,000 doses should be in Canada by Friday.

In Quebec, 900 new cases were reported Thursday, with 10 more deaths linked to the virus.

This follows the confirmation of 44 new cases.

Saskatchewan reported 124 new infections and five additional deaths.

In B.C., there were 427 new cases and three more deaths. The extension of the regulation would allow public health officials to focus on the safe reopening of schools and monitoring the new variants in the city.

"I've never been as concerned about the threat of COVID-19 to your health as I am now, not at any other point in the pandemic", she told reporters when discussing the letter Wednesday.