- Provinces try to increase COVID-19 testing as lineups grow in some jurisdictions.
- Canadian support for keeping the border closed to Americans remains strong.
- Hospitalizations steady despite rising COVID-19 cases. But this could change quickly, experts say.
- Portugal adopting new nationwide restrictions to contain rising number of infections.
- Australia’s virus hot spot to relax pandemic restrictions from Wednesday night.
Some provinces are scrambling to increase testing capacity as coronavirus infections spike across Canada and lineups at COVID-19 testing sites see a significant influx of people.
In order to accommodate demand, opening hours at two Ottawa assessment centres will be extended in the coming days, Ottawa Public Health, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Ottawa Hospital said in a joint statement Monday afternoon.
The statement said the health authorities are hiring more staff and training them so that the Brewer assessment centre can accept patients for 12 hours per day, seven days a week — four more hours per day than it is normally open.
“We knew that with the kids returning to school we would see these volumes. To prepare, we have tripled staffing in the last month for testing children and youth at the [Brewer Arena assessment centre]. More are being trained and still more are being hired,” the statement said.
A sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in Ontario is the latest in a national trend of rising infections and the fear is that the rise in cases mean more hospitalizations and even deaths in the weeks to come.
As of 3:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 138,572 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 121,555 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,226.
At a news conference Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the coronavirus is continuing to spread.
The province announced 251 new cases Tuesday, with the majority of those cases found in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel region with 73, 51 and 42 cases, respectively.
“As we see around the world, countries are getting hammered by COVID-19,” said Ford.
He also said he believes a second wave of the virus is “coming” to the province and said officials are cautioning that the “second wave could be more complicated than the first one.”
Saying a second wave of COVID-19 may be even more complicated than the first one, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government has been working around the clock to prepare for it.
Ford said Ontario is now expanding testing and building up a supply of personal protective equipment in anticipation of a continued spike in cases.
At an Ottawa council meeting last Wednesday, elected officials from across the city called for an expansion of its testing system to better meet demand.
“Part of our future success will depend on our ability to test, to test rapidly and to remove barriers to access to testing,” said Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury in an interview with CBC.
In London, Ont., a long line of cars was seen waiting outside the city’s only open assessment centre — the Carling Heights Optimist Centre — on Sunday.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the lengthy wait was partly due to a staffing shortage at that location.
Many of the cars in line at the Carling Heights Optimist Centre were filled with young people looking to get tested.
This might be one of the longest lineups at the Carling COVID-19 assessment centre we’ve ever seen. <a href=”https://twitter.com/MLHealthUnit?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@MLHealthUnit</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/Healthmac?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Healthmac</a> what’s going on today? <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ldnont?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ldnont</a> <a href=”https://t.co/cp8EBaJxzg”>pic.twitter.com/cp8EBaJxzg</a>
Some were families getting checked because they wanted to ensure they were beginning the school year free of COVID-19, especially as their social bubbles were about to expand with the addition of their kids’ classmates. Others said they were getting tested as a precaution as the university school year gets underway.
Spike ‘worrisome’: Quebec premier
Quebec recorded 291 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, which is the sixth day in a row the province has reported more than 200 cases.
In response to the rising number of infections, Quebec Premier François Legault warned the public that social gatherings must be limited immediately in order to avoid closing schools and businesses.
“The situation is critical. It’s worrisome, and we must act now,” he said at a news conference Tuesday. Legault also said Quebec faces a “real risk of a second wave.”
Quebec City and the Lower Saint-Lawrence regions are being closely monitored and may be moved to the orange alert level, up from yellow, indicating an increased risk of COVID-19 to the public, sources told Radio-Canada.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said at the same news conference that an orange classification would mean the closure of bars and reducing the number of people allowed in private gatherings from 10 to six.
Quebec Premier François Legault expressed fear over the jump in coronavirus cases and called on residents to limit gatherings to curb the virus’s spread.
Painfully slow process
At the federal level, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday that the government is currently working closely with provincial microbiology labs to enhance test processing capacity.
Tam told reporters that the current national capacity is “beyond 60,000 [tests per day]” at the national level.
She said Canada needs to “augment the portfolio of testing capabilities in Canada” to include new technology like rapid saliva tests.
Testing issues have also been reported in St. John’s, with local mother Flora Salvo saying she spent four days on the phone trying to book a COVID-19 test and that the reservation system needs to be revamped.
She said the painfully slow process of getting tested — from her first call to when she received a negative result last Saturday — stretched over a full week.
Eastern Health CEO David Diamond was not available for an interview. But outside the House of Assembly on Monday, Health Minister John Haggie said officials with the health authority were meeting with his department to discuss adding capacity to the booking system.
In British Columbia, the province is already expanding its COVID-19 testing capacity from 8,000 to 20,000 people a day.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said in August that the increase should help B.C. meet increased demand for testing as the province heads into the cold and flu season. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus often presents similar symptoms to these wintertime ailments.
Separately, the uptick in COVID-19 cases across the country in the last 10 days has prompted many public health officials to remind Canadians to be on high alert and follow set guidelines to limit the spread.
But the relatively stable hospitalization data should not provide too much comfort, as ICU units may begin to fill if cases continue to increase, infectious diseases experts told CBC News.
As well, blame placed on younger people, who are apparently driving new infections, may be misplaced as some may be exposed to infections due to factors such as a precarious work environment, rather than being irresponsible, they said.
Infectious disease specialists answer questions about a second wave of COVID-19 including when it might hit and if increases need to be handled differently than the first wave.
What’s happening around the rest of Canada
Canadian support for keeping the border closed to Americans remains strong, despite a decline in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and a decimated tourism industry.
A new poll by pollster Research Co. found that out of 1,000 Canadians surveyed online at the end of August, a whopping 90 per cent agreed with the current Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic.
The show of support comes at a time when several Canadian border cities are licking their wounds over a loss of U.S. tourism. Nevertheless, they’re maintaining their support for the border closure, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 from the country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths.
“As much as this hurts — and it hurts — it’s all about short-term pain for long-term gain,” said Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont.
The City of Windsor will support an Isolation and Recovery Centre in the city for agri-farm workers during the pandemic, but only if the province or federal government agrees, in writing, to fully fund the operation — a decision made during Monday’s council meeting.
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Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said nearly half of COVID-19 cases in the area have been agri-farm workers, calling the isolation centre “critical” locally.
According to the city council report, eight hotels and motels in Windsor-Essex were used to house isolated workers at one point, and was later reduced to two sites.
Meanwhile, a Toronto hospital employee said she feels the sacrifices she and her colleagues have made during the pandemic aren’t being valued after learning some of them have to give back the pandemic pay they were issued.
The University Health Network (UHN) said about 200 physician secretaries and administrative assistants were “inadvertently” given pandemic pay, ranging from $100 to $1,500 and averaging $700. The network has asked all affected employees to pay back the money.
“It makes you feel that coming in [to the hospital] and putting everyone at risk close to you, hoping you don’t get it, it makes you feel worthless,” said the employee, who CBC Toronto agreed not to identify.
Ontario’s Western University has reported at least eight cases of COVID-19 among students as concerns grow around the virus’s spread among post-secondary students. Meanwhile, a student was expelled In Nova Scotia for breaking the quarantine rule.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 29.3 million. More than 929,000 people have died, while 19.8 million have recovered.
The group that represents hospitals in England said a shortage of COVID-19 testing is jeopardizing efforts to restore medical services and prepare for a potential surge in coronavirus cases this winter.
NHS Providers said Tuesday that inadequate testing is leading to increased absences in the National Health Service as staff members are forced to self-isolate while they and their family members wait for test results after possible exposure to the virus.
Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC it was “unacceptable” that some people were struggling to get tests, and “much more work needs to be undertaken with Public Health England.”
Portugal is adopting new nationwide restrictions to contain a rising number of COVID-19 infections.
From Tuesday, social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people. Drinking alcohol in the street — which young people have done in groups because bars are closed — is banned.
Health authorities said Monday that 51 per cent of the 613 new infections over the previous 24 hours were in people between 20 and 49 years old, with just 10 per cent among people over 70.
Australia’s virus hot spot, Victoria state, said it will relax pandemic restrictions in most areas from Wednesday night.
Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that people who live outside the state capital, Melbourne, would have no restrictions on leaving their homes and all shops will be able to reopen.
China has reported eight new coronavirus cases after going a month without reporting any new domestic infections of people displaying symptoms of the illness.
As of Tuesday, there were just 142 people in treatment for COVID-19, while another 363 people were under observation in isolation for being suspected cases or for testing positive for the virus without displaying any symptoms.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says Ontario needs more precise data to help curb a worrying surge in the coronavirus.
Millions of schoolchildren in Pakistan have returned to their classrooms as education institutions reopen after a closure of about six months to fight COVID-19.
Students wearing masks were seen entering school buildings Tuesday, greeting each other from a reasonable distance instead of shaking hands or hugging.
The government has asked teachers, school staff and students to wear masks and regularly use sanitizers.
India confirmed more than 83,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing its total caseload to nearly five million.
The Health Ministry also reported 1,054 new deaths, driving total fatalities up to 80,776.
With 4.93 million confirmed cases, India has the second-highest total in the world after the U.S. Infections have maintained an upward surge amid an ease in coronavirus restrictions nationwide. More than 600,000 new cases have been confirmed in the last week alone.
Authorities in southern Germany said Tuesday they have recorded three more cases of COVID-19 in people who frequented bars visited by a 26-year-old American woman suspected of flouting quarantine rules in the alpine resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The latest cases take the total number of recent infections there to 59, including 25 staff at a hotel resort that caters to U.S. military personnel and at which the woman worked.
Anton Speer, who heads the county administration, told reporters that authorities are still waiting for the results of about 300 tests conducted on Monday and that it was too soon to give the “all-clear.”
Britain’s health minister says a surge in the number of people seeking COVID-19 tests has put additional pressure on laboratories, but says the issues are being addressed.
In South Korea, some restaurants in Seoul are using robots to serve patrons in an effort to reduce face-to-face interaction after coronavirus cases began increasing in mid-August.
Since a peak of 441 cases was reported on Aug. 26, daily infection numbers have declined but the country is still reporting at least 100 new cases a day.
Up until Monday this week, restrictions imposed by South Korea over the last few weeks only allowed restaurants to provide delivery and take-out meals after 9 p.m.
A restaurant in South Korea has found a new way to safely serve customers in the COVID-19 era. ‘Aglio Kim’ is an AI robot capable of delivering food to up to four tables at once while communicating in both Korean and English.
With files from The Associated Press
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