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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Vernon B.C. Winter Games 2022 committee has released its branding for the event which will run Feb. 24-27. (Photo submitted)
Vernon BC Games committee releases branding

Branding, logo released; director of marketing named

Comedian Tim Nutt will put on a pair of outdoor drive-in-style comedy shows at Lake Country’s Swalwell Park on Saturday, March 27. (file photo)
Lake Country hosting first-ever outdoor comedy drive-in

Comedian Tim Nutt to perform two shows at Swalwell Park in a drive-in-style feature March 27

An ermine, or weasel, popped up to say hi in Vernon recently. (Carmen Tamas)
Weasels keep Vernon mouse population under control

‘Cute’ little carnivores can be a problem if you have chickens, but great for rodent management

Veteran Vernon broadcaster Betty Selin has accepted an invitation from the Vernon Community Radio Society to be its honourary fundraising campaign chairperson. (Photo submitted)
Veteran Vernon broadcaster named honourary fundraising chair

Betty Selin accepts invitation from Vernon Community Radio Society as campaign is set to start

The Village of Lumby is implementing a new residential waste collection program that will include curbside organic collection later in 2021. (File photo)
Curbside compost among coming changes to Lumby waste collection

A new waste collection program aims to reduce the amount of waste in regional landfills

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of dead B.C. Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife, secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Riverside Centre includes a theatre hosting local plays, visiting musicians and dance troupes. It is also used for community events such as public meetings and fundraisers. Photo Town of Princeton
Penticton Fire Department pulled a kayaker from Okanagan Lake on Wednesday after he had fallen out of his boat and called 911. The man was taken to the hospital for treatment. (Western News - File)
Kayaker rescued from Okanagan Lake after falling in and calling 911

The Penticton Fire Department’s Marine Rescue pulled him out suffering from severe cold

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Thomas Kruger-Allen is expected to be sentenced Friday, March 5, 2021.
Sentencing expected Friday for 2019 Penticton beach attack

Defense wants 12 to 18 months for beach assaults that left one of his victims with brain injury

Most Read