COVID-19 in Canada: Alberta threatens rule-breakers with $100,000 fines, Canada 'well prepared’ for large-scale vaccine distribution

·8 min read
COVID-19 in Canada: Alberta threatens rule-breakers with $100,000 fines, Canada 'well prepared’ for large-scale vaccine distribution
COVID-19 in Canada
COVID-19 in Canada

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Albertans could face $100,000 fines for not following COVID-19 rules

The Alberta government announced Friday that anyone who violates the COVID-19 rules in place could see fines as low at $1,000 per ticketed offence or as high as $100,000 through the court system.

“People need to be responsible for their own actions by treating the pandemic as serious, and so too will be the consequences for not following the rules,” Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu said at a press conference on Friday.

Madu highlighted that an estimated 40 per cent of traceable COVID-19 cases in Alberta are linked to private social gatherings.

“It’s clear that if we want to slow the spread of this virus to protect vulnerable populations and our healthcare systems, private social gatherings are the obvious place to start,” he said. “The potential health consequences of doing otherwise are simply too serious for us to ignore.”

Alberta is also temporarily adding 700 more peace officers who can enforce public health rules in the province.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said she is has heard some “disappointing” reports of Alberta Health Services (AHS) public health inspectors being “criticized” or “verbally abused” while doing their jobs.

“Nobody deserves that, least of all the people who are working to keep all of us safe,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The criticism and verbal abuse that they are currently facing does not reflect who we are.”

“I know that the restrictions currently place on all of us are difficult but they are not the fault of law enforcement or inspectors who are simply trying to enforce what is in place and to help stop the spread.”

This comes as the province reported 1,227 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with more than 16,200 testes completed in the past day. The test positivity rate in Alberta us at 7.6 per cent. There are 405 people with COVID-19 in Alberta, including 86 in ICUs. The province confirmed nine more COVID-19 deaths.

Dr. Hinshaw also commented on doctors in Edmonton forming their own Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee to advise the public on the COVID-19 situation in the province and comment on provincial government actions to combat the virus.

“I am always grateful for colleagues who are working hard to make sure the public has accurate information,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “It is my understanding from speaking with colleagues that some of the concerns this group wants to address [are] concerns about fellow physicians who have made inaccurate or misleading statements in the public.”

B.C.’s top doctor ‘confident’ about Canada’s vaccine procurement

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, said she is “confident” about Canada’s ability to secure COVID-19 vaccine.

“We know that in vaccine production there are many things that can happen but we are in the top of the list of countries around the world to receive vaccine,” Dr. Henry said. “As long as vaccine is produced in the way that we expect it to be.”

She stressed that the safety of a vaccine is of “paramount” importance and Canada has a “robust” system to ensure safety standards are met.

Dr. Henry did identify that there is always the potential that restrictions in other countries could impact the delivery of vaccine to Canada.

“We also, of course, have to be aware that some countries may put in restrictions on product leaving the country,” she said. “We’re hopeful that’s not going to happen and the manufacturers are hopeful as well, so I believe we will see vaccine early in 2021 as predicted, as soon as all the safety criteria are met.”

B.C. reported 911 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. There are currently 301 people in B.C. hospitals with the virus, including 69 in ICUs. The province also confirmed 11 more COVID-19 deaths.

“We are in a pandemic storm, our COVID storm and now we are facing a storm surge, and that is something that we are facing globally,” Dr. Henry said. “While we might have been safe to be close to the water, close to that edge, our safe zone has moved back, that sand bar where we can act safely has become smaller.”

“That is why we put in these restrictions now on these social gatherings, on those places, those events that were safe even a few weeks ago.”

Dr. Henry also spoke about people in B.C. being stigmatized during the pandemic, something she indicated is happening particularly in schools, workplaces and some communities where people are being open about the fact that there have been infected.

“We have to realize now, more than ever, that this virus is spread very rapidly in communities around our province, around our country, and the word,” she said. “It does not recognize any race or any colour or any sex, or any of the issues that we see when we look at people.”

“This virus doesn’t discriminate but systems do and we do. We have to take a step back and recognize that we have to protect ourselves and keep each other safe by accepting that people are going to be infected, and supporting them.”

Ontario calls on the federal government to reveal plans for vaccine allocations

The Ontario government is calling on the federal government to reveal its plan for the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines across the country. The province says this is an important component to help prepare for distribution and administration of vaccines.

“With other jurisdictions ready to roll out vaccines as early as next month, Ontario and Canada should not be last in line to receive this vaccine,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “I'm calling on the Prime Minister today to provide certainty that the contracts we've signed are rock solid and that Ottawa will provide detailed information to support provincial planning, including when, how much, and what type of each vaccine we're getting.”

“The sooner we get a vaccine, the sooner we can offer that added protection for our frontline staff and most vulnerable, take pressure off of our hospitals, and begin to return life back to normal.”

Head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, (Ret) Gen. Rick Hillier, said by Dec. 31 the province will be ready to begin receiving vaccines.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said at a press conference on Friday that “by the end of next year,” officials hope to offer vaccines to the majority of Canadians, possibly starting with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“It’s a bit of a moving target,” Dr. Njoo said. “We have two vaccines which are very promising but they’re still...going though the regulatory process.”

“If all goes well and they are approved, then they’re the first two out of the pipeline.”

Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand revealed that the possibility of domestic manufacturing was “explored” with “a number of vaccine developers” but it was determined that, “the quickest path to supplying vaccines to Canada would be from their international supply chains.”

Trudeau says Canada is ‘well prepared’ for COVID-19 immunizations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Major-General Dany Fortin will be the head of vaccine logistics and operations of the National Operations Centre, through the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“Canada is well prepared for large-scale rollouts of vaccines but this will be the biggest immunization in the history of the country,” Trudeau said. “We must reach everyone who wants a vaccine, no matter where they live.”

“Right now, we’re working closely with provinces and territories as well as Indigenous communities to ensure readiness to receive and distribute these vaccines.”

Trudeau did not provide any details around when the first COVID-19 vaccine could be approved and will begin distribution, but noted that most Canadians could be vaccinated by September.

“We are working extremely hard on approving vaccines,” the prime minister said. “We are hopeful that things are going to happen quickly but at the same time...we need to be able to say confidently that these vaccine are safe, which is why we’re very interested in what people around the world are doing, but Canadian experts and Canadian scientists will be driving the safety of Canadians every step of the way.”

“What really matters is when we get to cross the finish line and the fact that the doctors highlighted that if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September puts us in very good stead.”

Ontario cases jump above 1,800

Ontario reported another single-day record of 1,855 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 517 cases in Peel, 494 in Toronto, 189 in York Region and 130 in Halton.

The province confirmed 20 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 3,595.

There are currently 541 people in Ontario hospitals with the coronavirus, including 151 people in ICUs.

The province completed 58,037 tests in the previous day, with a further 54,241 tests currently under investigation.

There are 106 long-term care homes with reported outbreaks, including 516 active resident cases and 422 staff cases.

Ontario reported 122 new school-related COVID-19 cases, 99 student cases and 23 staff cases.

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