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

Gabriola Island poet Naomi Beth Wakan’s latest book is ‘Wind on the Heath.’ (Photo courtesy Elias Wakan)
Former Nanaimo poet laureate revisits past poems in latest collection

Gabriola Island’s Naomi Beth Wakan presents career-spanning ‘Wind on the Heath’

Stock photo
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Let’s find a cure for potato pox

What happened to the clean-skinned potato of my youth, asks letter writer

An app available through the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s website can help students during COVID times. (Stock photo)
New library app can help families with online learning

Sample tests, virtual flashcards available through Vancouver Island Regional Library’s website

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale as owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

The current boat used by Rugged Coast Research Society for remote shoreline cleanup operations will be replaced by a landing craft that will allow society members to haul four times as much marine garbage per trip from Vancouver Island’s remote shorelines. (Agathe Bernard photo/Rugged Coast Research Society)
Nanaimo-based research group needs bigger boat for coastal cleanups

Rugged Coast Research Society raising cash for landing craft to pull trash from remote shorelines

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

Snuneymuxw artist Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is among the artists participating in the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Rain Shadow exhibit. His piece, ‘We Fell from the Sky/Together and Apart,’ depicts a Snuneymuxw creation story. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores the ways people think about place

‘Rain Shadow’ features work mostly by Vancouver Island and Gulf Island artists

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Most Read