A digital Intensive care unit room at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital in Vaughan, Ont., on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are down slightly in Ontario and Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

A digital Intensive care unit room at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital in Vaughan, Ont., on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are down slightly in Ontario and Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Justin Trudeau mulls mandatory hotel quarantine for returning travellers

153 flights have arrived from outside Canada over the last two weeks

The federal government is mulling a mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers as the country’s top doctor warns that easing COVID-19 restrictions too quickly could cause case numbers to shoot up again.

Monday will mark a year since the first recorded appearance of the novel coronavirus in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeausaid it is understandable that Canadians are tired and fed up, but they must remain cautious.

“We need to hang on and hold tight for the next few months,” he said Friday.

“We must get through to the spring and mass vaccinations in the best shape possible.”

The federal government is looking at options that would make it harder for people to return from foreign trips.

But Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the tools already in place must also be fully utilized. That includes more police enforcement of two-week quarantine rules for arriving travellers.

“Compliance with that order is critical for keeping Canadians safe,” he said.

ALSO READ: Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

Public Health Agency of Canada figures show 153 flights have arrived from outside Canada over the last two weeks on which at least one passenger later tested positive for COVID-19.

Transport Canada now requires people flying into the country present a negative test result conducted within 72 hours of boarding a plane. Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday 50,000 tickets for international travel have been cancelled since the new rule was announced on Dec. 31.

Trudeau said these requirements are starting to convince Canadians to stay put.

Union leaders and the National Airlines Council of Canada, the country’s largest airline industry association, have signed a letter urging Ottawa to collaborate with industry on any further changes to reduce travel.

The prime minister added that the next few weeks will be challenging for vaccine supply as Pfizer-BioNTech slows deliveries to Canada and other countries while the company retools its plant in Belgium. Trudeau said Pfizer-BioNTech has committed to ensuring Canada will receive four million vaccine doses by the end of March.

Provinces have reported a total of 738,864 vaccine doses used so far. That’s about 80 per cent of the available supply.

In British Columbia on Friday, plans were announced to allow the province’s oldest residents to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccinations starting in March after the most vulnerable groups have been immunized. The province’s mass immunization plan aims to administer vaccines to 4.3 million eligible residents by September.

COVID-19 cases began to spike across the country in December and January, which put a strain on hospitals. Quebec and Ontario were particularly hard hit and officials responded with restrictions.

Quebec instituted a curfew, while Ontario brought in an order for people to stay at home except for essential purposes such as work, food shopping or health care.

Daily case numbers have slightly decreased in Ontario in the last week. There were 2,662 new cases Friday and 87 more deaths.

The seven-day average of new daily cases was 2,703, down from a high of 3,555 on Jan. 11. There were 1,512 people in hospital on Friday, a decrease of 21 from the previous day.

COVID-19 continued to pressure some local hospitals, so Ottawa said it would send two federal mobile health units to the Greater Toronto Area, adding an additional 200 hospital beds.

Quebec has been under its provincewide curfew for nearly two weeks.

Health officials reported 1,631 new cases and 88 deaths Friday. Hospitalizations decreased by 27 people to 1,426.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said bringing down the second wave of COVID-19 has been a “trickier path” than the first wave last spring. Daily case counts are higher than they were then and have increased demandson the health-care system.

“If we ease up too soon or too quickly, resurgence will be swift,” she said.

She also expressed concern that 31 cases of the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant, and three of the South African variant have been found in Canada. It’s believed that both are more contagious.

The cases were identified through screening smaller batches of tests. Tam said more needs to be done to understand the level at which new variants are circulating in communities.

Nova Scotia reported four new COVID-19 infections on Friday, two of which were variant cases. Health officials said both cases were related to international travel.

The New Brunswick government announced a full lockdown in the Edmundston region beginning Saturday. The number of active cases in the northwestern area of the province ballooned from seven infections two weeks ago to 129 on Friday.

There were 731,450 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada and 18,622 deaths as of Thursday. Over the past seven days, there were a total of 42,555 new cases. The seven-day rolling average was 6,079.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Chemainus Secondary School 2020 graduate Wayne Allen with dad Glenn Allen and other family members at ceremonies last June. (Photo by Siobhan Anderson)
Brother charged with murder Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

Tyson Popove placed second in his category at the Mt. Washington Viewtour Virtual Slopestyle event. Photo by Shawn Corrigan
10-year-old soars high above Mount Washington, slopestyle

Campbell River skier Tyson Popove goes big in ski hill’s virtual competition

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: Island teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressures from outside and within

A beautiful sunny afternoon showcasing Mount Cain in all its glory. (Kimberley Kufaas Photography)
Mount Cain gets grant funding to construct new day lodge

The North Island ski hill has been awarded $874,000.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday morning due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry sailing cancelled due to high winds, sea state

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

An official investigation will be launched after VPD officers were recorded posing near a dead body at Third Beach on Wednesday morning, Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
VIDEO: Vancouver officers under review for allegedly laughing, taking pictures next to dead body

Two officers were caught on video by a local beachgoer Wednesday morning in Stanley Park

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
‘Stay local’: Dr. Henry shoots down spring break travel for British Columbians

B.C. is reportedly working with other provincial governments to determine March break policies

“Our biggest challenge has been the amount of vaccine,” said FNHA acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald. (First Nations Health Authority Facebook photo)
All First Nations on reserve to be vaccinated by end of March: First Nations Health Authority

Vaccinations continuing for B.C. First Nations amid shortages

Site C will go ahead, one year later and $5.3 billion more, the NDP announced Feb 26. (BC Hydro image)
B.C. NDP announces Site C will go ahead with new $16B budget

Reviews recommend more oversight, beefed up foundation stability work

Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Vancouver Island theatre can’t give you movies, but it can serve popcorn

Sidney’s Star Cinema using popcorn sales to prop up COVID-plagued bottom line

Most Read