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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, on April 23, 2021.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is in talks with Ontario as the province looks to provide paid sick days to workers, but stressed that such leave should be delivered directly through employers.

The prime minister says Ontario should work through provincially regulated businesses to implement a sick-leave program, as his government did with federally regulated workplaces.

His comments echo a statement by a spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said earlier today that Ottawa will help when Ontario is ready to mandate a sick-leave program for provincially regulated businesses.

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Ontario is offering to double a federal sick-leave benefit if Ottawa can administer the topped-up payment to workers in the province.

The provincial finance minister proposed the change in a letter to the federal government, saying the move would give $1,000 a week to eligible workers.

Peter Bethlenfalvy says it would be the fastest way to enhance sick leave for Ontario workers.

The Ontario government has been heavily criticized for failing to bring a provincial sick-leave program during the pandemic, with experts saying it would help prevent workplace outbreaks of COVID-19.

The recent COVID-19 death of a 13-year-old Brampton, Ont., girl whose father is an essential worker has renewed calls for an Ontario sick-leave program.

Ontario expands vaccine eligibility in more than 100 high-risk neighbourhoods

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, in Toronto, on Jan. 7, 2021.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontarians 45 and older living in more than 100 neighbourhoods deemed at high risk for COVID-19 can book vaccines at mass immunization clinics starting today.

The Ontario government says child-care workers employed in a licensed child-care setting will be able to book on Thursday, and those in unlicensed settings can set up appointments in the coming weeks.

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The province says it is expanding vaccine eligibility despite delays and uncertainty surrounding the arrival of more doses.

Ontario is expecting nearly 4,100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot next month but is waiting for confirmation of shipments for the Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Nova Scotia declares provincewide shutdown; Canadian Armed Forces sending personnel to help at COVID-19 testing centres

Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin has announced a provincewide shutdown to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases.

As of Wednesday at 8 a.m., all schools and non-essential indoor services will be closed in the province for the next two weeks.

Rankin says the closures affect malls, gyms, stores, bars and restaurants, but curbside pickup and takeout will be allowed.

The announcement comes as the province’s COVID-19 daily case count jumped to a record 96 cases on Tuesday, 90 of which were in the Halifax area..

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier in the day the military will deploy 60 service members to assist at COVID-19 testing centres in Nova Scotia.

The military says personnel from Royal Canadian Navy ships and Canadian Army units based in Nova Scotia have been assigned to this task.

This comes the day after the federal government confirmed it would be deploying military medical personnel to help Ontario’s beleaguered health-care system.

Trudeau says the Forces carried out its assessment of what Ontario needs on the ground Monday and that military personnel will be mobilized over the next days.

He says sending “women and men in uniform to help in Ontario is a serious step” and that Ottawa made this choice “because the situation requires it.”

Trudeau says the federal government has also reached out to Alberta on what support the province might need.

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Ontario reports 3,265 new COVID-19 cases and 29 additional deaths

A nurse stands outside a COVID-19 testing centre at Women’s College Hospital, in Toronto, on April 9, 2021.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Ontario is reporting 3,265 new cases of COVID-19 today and 29 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 1,044 new cases in Toronto, 673 in Peel Region, and 452 in York Region.

She also says there are 171 new cases in Durham Region and 150 in Ottawa.

The Ministry of Health says 2,336 people are currently hospitalized, 875 patients are in intensive care, and 589 are on a ventilator.

Meanwhile, Quebec is reporting 899 new cases and 14 additional deaths, including three in the last 24 hours.

Health officials say hospitalizations rose by three, to 667, and 170 people were in intensive care, a rise of three.

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The regions with the most new cases were Montreal with 195 and the Quebec City region with 111.

The province administered 45,757 doses of vaccine since the last update, for a total of 2,916,897.

Quebec woman dies from blood clot after receiving Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

The Quebec government has announced that a woman in her 50s has died of a blood clot that occurred after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda told a news conference Tuesday that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks, and the province always knew that rare complications were possible.

Health Minister Christian Dube said the province is currently investigating four cases of serious complications out of some 400,000 people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Currently the province is offering the vaccine to Quebeckers between the ages of 45 and 79, and Arruda said there are no plans to change that strategy.

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Premier Francois Legault said the situation has improved enough to allow primary schools to reopen next week in Quebec City and the Chaudiere-Appalaches region, with some exceptions in harder-hit zones. The province is also pushing back the curfew in Montreal and its northern suburb of Laval to 9:30 p.m. from 8 p.m. as of Monday.

Legault said further easing of restrictions will be done gradually to avoid a resurgence in cases.

Also on Tuesday, Quebeckers with physical or intellectual disabilities or autism were able to start booking vaccine appointments.

Toronto announces first workplace closures due to outbreaks of five or more

A fast-food restaurant, a car dealership and a makeup manufacturer are among the first Toronto workplaces ordered to close or partially shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Mayor John Tory says the diverse types of workplaces experiencing outbreaks show that it’s difficult to legislate what is considered an essential business.

The city ordered the full closure of four businesses and the partial closure of seven others under new rules that came into effect on Friday.

Those rules allow the city to shutter businesses with outbreaks of five or more people.

Toronto’s chief medical officer of health says that new closures will be announced every Thursday afternoon until the order is lifted.

Neighbouring Peel Region also brought in an order allowing it to close workplaces with outbreaks and partially closed two Amazon fulfilment centres over the weekend.

New Brunswick ends lockdown in northwest; reports 36th COVID-19-related death

New Brunswick is reporting its 36th death attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says the person in their 20s in the Moncton region is the youngest patient in the province to die of COVID-19.

Health officials are also reporting 24 new COVID-19 infections today.

Officials say 21 new cases are in the Edmundston, N.B., region and involve close contacts of previously reported infections tied to an outbreak at special care home Pavillon Beau-Lieu in Grand Falls, N.B.

They say there are two new cases in the Moncton area and one in the Fredericton region.

Officials say the lockdown that has been in place in Edmundston and the Upper Madawaska area since April 11 will end at midnight tonight.

New Brunswick has 137 active reported cases and six patients in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care.

Ontario appeals to federal government to test travellers on incoming domestic flights

An Ontario Provincial Police officer directs travellers entering the province from Quebec on April 19, 2021, in Hawkesbury, Ont.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Ontario is asking Ottawa for enhanced measures for interprovincial travellers as it grapples with skyrocketing hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19 variants.

In a letter Monday to the federal ministers of health and public safety, Ontario says it has already closed its Quebec and Manitoba boundaries to non-essential travel, but there are no measures in place to protect provinces from the spread of COVID-19 variants through interprovincial air travel, an area of federal responsibility.

The province is asking for mandatory pre-departure PCR testing for all domestic air travellers entering Ontario, an extension to current rules for international passengers seeking entry into Canada.

The letter, which was shared with The Canadian Press, says there have been 17 domestic flights in the past two weeks to Toronto’s Person International Airport with possible COVID-19 exposures.

It adds there have also been potential exposures on flights landing at other Ontario airports, including Ottawa and Hamilton.

The letter comes as health-care workers from Newfoundland and Labrador are set to arrive in Ontario today, as well as three teams of nurses and medical technicians from the Canadian Armed Forces.

It says limiting mobility is a key factor to reducing the risk of further spread of COVID-19 variants.

“Over 70 per cent of daily cases in Ontario have been confirmed as variants of concern,” says the letter signed by Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

“These variants entered through our borders, both international and domestic, and it is critical that every effort is made to keep them out.”

The letter says it is crucial that the transport of essential goods is not hindered by border measures, but “it is likewise crucial that all non-essential travel be curtailed.”

“The introduction of stricter pre-departure testing measures, in addition to providing an extra layer of protection for interprovincial travellers, is a significant step to achieve that goal and ensure that collectively we are doing all we can to protect our citizens,” the letter reads.

“These new measures should be in place for as long as necessary, or until the risks of new variants in Canada have been effectively minimized.”

Nunavut reports eight new COVID-19 cases and six recoveries

Nunavut is reporting eight new cases of COVID-19 and six recoveries today.

There are now 49 active cases in the territory, 45 of them in Iqaluit.

There are also two active cases in Kinngait and two in Rankin Inlet.

Premier Joe Savikataaq says all the infected individuals are in isolation and doing well.

Manitoba government says fines coming after large rally against COVID-19 restrictions

Fines are being issued following a large outdoor rally against COVID-19 restrictions in Winnipeg, Manitoba’s justice minister said Tuesday.

Several hundred people – much more than the 10-person maximum for outdoor gatherings – gathered Sunday to listen to speakers who denounced public-health orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

Enforcement officers did not stop the event but were collecting video footage and other evidence while keeping a low profile, said Cameron Friesen.

“It was the determination of those individuals who were acting for the province at the time that they would do so without attracting attention to themselves,” he said.

“It’s up to the officers who are at those events to decide how to proceed in a manner that keeps everyone safe.”

Enforcement officers issued two fines on site, said Friesen. One fine was for violating mandatory self-isolation orders when arriving from other provinces and the other was for attending a larger-than-permitted gathering.

More fines are anticipated as the investigation continues and the video footage is reviewed, he said.

The rally occurred one day before the Progressive Conservative government announced tightened public-health orders in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

The limit on public outdoor gatherings remains at 10, but most social visits inside homes are being banned for the next four weeks. There are also reduced capacity limits in stores, places of worship and dance classes.

Provincial health officials announced 218 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths. One earlier case was removed due to data correction for a net increase of 217.

The Opposition New Democrats said enforcement must be stepped up to reduce the spread of infection and to show people the importance of following the rules.

“You can’t ask Manitobans to go into another lockdown ... and leave folks out who are breaking those public-health orders and [have] no consequences for these individuals,” NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine said.

Scofflaws who break the rules on public gatherings – indoors or out – can face fines of $1,296. Weekly statistics from the government show 33 such tickets were written in the seven-day period that ended Sunday.

Premier Scott Moe speaks at the Legislative Building in Regina on April 6, 2021.

Michael Bell /The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan truckers will get vaccines in North Dakota in cross-border deal

Saskatchewan truck drivers will now be able to get vaccinated in the United States as the province partners with North Dakota to get out more doses to essential workers regularly crossing the border.

As many as 2,000 people will be able to be immunized.

“This extraordinary level of co-operation helps protect more Canadians at a time when vaccine availability in America exceeds that of Canada,” Premier Scott Moe said in a news release Tuesday.

Moe said trade with the U.S. is essential for the economy.

“Protecting the health and safety of essential workers crossing our shared border with Saskatchewan, including truck drivers and energy workers, is vitally important for public health, our economy and the eventual safe reopening of the border,” added North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

The shots provided by the U.S. federal government will be free.

North Dakota is already vaccinating drivers at the Manitoba border. A site near Saskatchewan’s border crossing is to be established soon.

The world’s longest undefended border was first shut down on March 21, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic tightened its grip. It was the first such closure since Confederation in 1867.

As of Monday, more than 50 per cent of North Dakota adults had received at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 and more than 40 per cent were fully vaccinated, said the Centers for Disease Control.

Saskatchewan said that as of Tuesday, 39 per cent of people over the age of 18 had received their first dose.

The province announced last week that it would continue to drop the age at which residents can get a vaccination. On Wednesday, people 42 and older across the province and 30 years and older in the northern health region will be eligible. The age will lower further to 40 and older on Friday.

Moe made a plea to younger people in the province to remain vigilant until they are able to get vaccinated.

“To everyone in this province who would be under the age of 40: We are going to get you a vaccine as soon as you are able, but in the meantime I would ask you to be careful.”

The third wave of the pandemic has put significant pressure on the province’s health-care system with more younger people ending up in the hospital and intensive-care units.

The premier, however, said there are no current plants to tighten restrictions further.

Health officials reported 224 new COVID-19 infections and six additional deaths Tuesday. There are 186 people in hospital, 42 are in intensive care.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said he is hopeful immunizations will continue to expand as vaccine capacity grows in coming weeks.

“We are limited by our vaccine supply, but as larger volumes of vaccine arrive, we are taking an aggressive approach to getting shots in the arms of as many residents as possible as quickly as possible.”

Alberta to cut surgeries up to 30 per cent in Edmonton, Calgary, North zones

Alberta Health Services says it will reduce scheduled surgical activity up to 30 per cent in the Edmonton, Calgary and North zones due to rising COVID-19 case numbers.

The province says it will also reduce some non-urgent procedures and ambulatory appointments.

It said in a series of posts on Twitter Tuesday night that these services will be reduced over the next two weeks and they will be rebooked as soon as possible.

Alberta Health Services said the changes will allow hospitals to expand in-patient beds if necessary and create more capacity for COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization.

It said it currently has adequate capacity for both hospitalized and intensive care unit patients but can ramp up the number of ICU spaces if demand increases.

“AHS is concerned with the increasing number of cases both in the community and in our health-care facilities,” said AHS, Alberta’s single health authority.

“We strongly urge Albertans to follow the public health restrictions, and in turn help us ensure the health-care system is there when they need it.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said there are 20,721 active cases of COVID-19 in the province – the second-highest total since the pandemic began.

“Our numbers are still very high and it’s important to underline that cases are still growing,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday while acknowledging the rate of growth is slowing.

“Simply put, we’re still heading in the wrong direction.”

The province has had more than 1,000 new cases every day for weeks and hospitalization rates are approaching what they were during the peak of the second wave of the pandemic in December.

The highest recorded active case count was 21,649 on Dec. 15.

It was during that time that Premier Jason Kenney’s government invoked a renewed round of restrictions on business and public gatherings to keep the caseload from swamping the health system.

In early January, hospitalizations peaked at more than 900, then dropped to around 250 in late February before starting to climb again.

On Tuesday, Hinshaw announced 1,539 new cases, with 635 people in hospital, including 143 in intensive care.

The positivity rate remained high at 11.4 per cent.

The more contagious variant strains of COVID-19 made up about two-thirds of active cases.

There were seven more deaths, bringing that total in Alberta to 2,081. However, Hinshaw announced that 14 of the cases, after a review, did not have COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death, reducing the total to 2,067.

The government has not brought in new restrictions since April 6.

Hinshaw declined to answer questions on whether stricter health measures are needed or whether she has recommended such measures be taken.

She said elected officials make those decisions and whatever she recommends to Kenney’s COVID-19 cabinet committee is confidential.

On Monday, the premier said the situation is concerning but has been alleviated somewhat by more than 1.4 million Albertans getting at least one vaccination.

Kenney dismissed calls for new measures, questioning whether they would even be followed. He said the existing ones would suffice if more people would follow them.

Alberta does not allow indoor social gatherings. Outdoor gatherings are capped at 10. There are sharp restrictions on businesses and many entertainment and recreation venues remain closed.

Action is now being taken at some regional levels, including Banff in the south and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in the north.

Wood Buffalo, which includes the city of Fort McMurray, has invoked a state of local emergency to deal with case counts above 1,100 and its hospital having to expand its capacity of intensive care beds.

All kindergarten to Grade 12 students there have been moved to at-home learning.

Hinshaw said she and Health Minister Tyler Shandro discussed the issue with Mayor Don Scott and will be extending gathering limits and restrictions on youth group sports and arts performances.

Kenney has said the vaccination rates are lower in the Wood Buffalo area compared with the rest of Alberta, saying they need to help people there find time to get inoculations and in some cases overcome vaccine hesitancy.

The 11 Indigenous communities in the region, in a public letter, urged Kenney to focus more on restrictions, including stay-at-home orders and a community-wide curfew.

“These are all actions that have been implemented in jurisdictions that have fared better than we have, and they are proven effective,” wrote Chief Allan Adam, president of the Athabasca Tribal Council.

“Maybe Kenney could try some of these out for a change. Literally anything would be better than what he has been doing.”

Banff and Lake Louise are dealing with 158 active cases.

Miranda Rosin, the United Conservative legislature member for the area, said a new vaccine clinic has opened in Banff.

“We gave that centre 240 does of vaccine all of which booked up in about an hour,” said Rosin.

“I absolutely understand the need for continued vaccination in the townsite and in the national park of Banff.”

B.C. offers Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to people age 30 and up

People age 30 and older may now receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in British Columbia, starting with hot spots for transmission.

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry say in a statement on Tuesday the vaccine will be made available across the province as B.C. receives enough doses to add more pharmacy appointments.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended last week that the vaccine may be offered to people 30 and up who don’t want to wait for an approved mRNA vaccine, and if certain other conditions are met.

Those conditions include a benefit-risk analysis, informed consent, and that there would be a substantial delay to receive an mRNA vaccine.

B.C. confirmed 799 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths on Tuesday.

There are now 8,089 active infections in the province and hospitalizations have ticked up to 500, including 164 people in intensive care.

The province’s age-based immunization program is now open to people age 59 and up, while a concurrent program aimed at workers is under way.

B.C. has administered more than 1.6 million doses of three approved COVID-19 vaccines, of which 89,457 are second doses.

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