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New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh is seen during an election campaign stop in Ottawa, Sunday, September 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardJONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

An NDP government would immediately tackle the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with a billion-dollar plan to increase vaccination rates, the party’s leader said Sunday.

Jagmeet Singh told a press conference in Ottawa that the New Democrats would target remote parts of Canada and vaccine-hesitant groups.

“We know that there are people that want to get vaccinated and they just need a little bit more information,” he said. “We need to make sure that we are reaching out to them.”

The plan would also secure paid time off for workers to get vaccinated, he said.

Singh also pledged to protect the country’s health-care workers, calling for changes to the Criminal Code that would make it an aggravating offence to impede or assault a health-care worker in the course of their duties.

“No health-care worker should be met with any type of violence or intimidation,” Singh said. “There is no way that a health-care worker should have to deal with any threats or intimidation on top of the already difficult situation they’re dealing with.”

Singh’s remarks came after several protests against proof-of-vaccination measures were held outside hospitals across Canada over the past week. The demonstrations, which were particularly prevalent in Ontario after Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be adopting a vaccine certificate system later this month, drew condemnations from several health-care advocacy groups including the Canadian Medical Association.

Singh also repeated his call for a national document for Canadians to confirm their vaccination status for both domestic and international travel.

The latest numbers, aggregated from provincial sources by the COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker website, show roughly 84.6 per cent of Canadians 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

They show 77.4 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Public health officials have said those numbers need to climb to more than 80 per cent to keep the more infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 from overwhelming the health-care system.

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