The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for June 3

  • Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • Most Manitoba schools won’t return to in-person learning this academic year.
  • Long-term care visiting restrictions further eased in Ontario.
  • U.S. focuses on Africa, Asia and Latin America in 1st step of plan to share vaccine doses.

Read more: Bonuses for executives at Air Canada, which received pandemic aid, have not gone down well with federal government; hospitalizations in B.C. due to COVID-19 are down nearly 20 per cent from last week and at their lowest level since March 1.

Masked customers shop inside the three-storey Harry Potter store as it opened to the public on Thursday in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

Ottawa ups fine to $5,000 for travellers who refuse to quarantine in a hotel

The federal government has announced that, starting Friday, international air passengers who decline to take their required COVID-19 tests or who refuse to check into a quarantine hotel could be hit with a $5,000 fine.

That’s an increase of $2,000 from the initial payout set in February when the government said air passengers entering Canada must take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine at a government-approved hotel to wait for their test results. Travellers must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada.

The fine increase follows a government advisory panel report issued last week that said Ottawa should scrap the hotel quarantine requirement and instead let people arrange their own quarantine.

The panel said the hotel quarantine is flawed for a number of reasons, including that some travellers are choosing to bypass the rules and pay the current fine of up to $3,000 and that those crossing at land border points of entry are not subject to the same requirements as those by air

The Conservative Party reacted coolly to the increased fine.

“Instead of increasing the fine for Canadians refusing to take part in their unsafe hotel quarantine, the Trudeau Liberals must listen to the science and immediately scrap their disastrous program,” Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservatives’ health critic, said in a statement.

Between April 14 and May 24, more than 1,000 travellers were fined for refusing to go to a quarantine hotel and more than 400 were fined for not taking their pre-boarding COVID-19 test or the one required upon arrival at the airport, according to government figures.

The current hotel quarantine restrictions are slated to expire on June 21, but the government has yet to reveal its plans going forward.

From The National

CBC News has learned that some Ontario long-term care homes still aren’t facing serious consequences even though they’ve been cited repeatedly by provincial inspectors for violations of infection control rules and staff abuse of residents. 2:13


Manitoba reports another out-of-province COVID-19 death, provincial schools to stick to remote plan

Schools in Winnipeg and Brandon, as well as in the Garden Valley and Red River Valley school divisions, will stick with remote learning for the remainder of the school year, Manitoba officials announced on Thursday as the province continues to deal with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Most provincial schools were moved to remote learning on May 12, although some rural schools remain open to in-person learning.

Manitoba reported 360 new cases and five deaths due to COVID-19 on Thursday. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is up slightly on Thursday to 297, with 68 of those patients being treated in Manitoba intensive care units.

It was announced for the second consecutive day that a patient who was transferred out of Manitoba to alleviate the caseload on the provincial hospital system has died.

The intensive care patient, a woman in her 50s, had been transported to receive care in Ontario on May 23.

A total of 39 patients are currently receiving care out of province in order to free up space in overcrowded intensive care units, including 37 in Ontario and two in Saskatchewan.

Read more pandemic coverage from Manitoba

Long-term care visiting restrictions further eased in Ontario 

Ontario reported another 870 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as the province eased restrictions on long-term care residents and updated its second-dose guidance for those who received a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Thursday’s total saw the seven-day average of daily cases slip to 940, its lowest point since since Nov. 2, 2020, and below the level seen between the second and third waves in Ontario.

As of Wednesday, there were 729 people with COVID-related illnesses in hospitals, 546 of whom were being treated in intensive care units, the fewest in eight weeks. Of those, 370 needed a ventilator to breathe.

The Ministry of Health recorded the deaths of 10 more people with the illness, pushing the pandemic-long official toll to 8,801.

While cases and hospitalization numbers are significantly less than the third wave peak, analysis from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table shows that the COVID-19 variant first identified in India, which the World Health Organization has labelled the “delta” variant, is spreading in the province.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, the local medical officer of health in Peel Region, said in an interview with CBC Radio on Thursday that he is concerned about the variant spreading before large numbers of Ontarians are fully vaccinated.

As of June 9, meanwhile, residents of long-term care who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can leave their homes for day and overnight trips.

As well, “brief hugs can now take place” regardless of the vaccination status of residents and visitors, the province said in a news release.

“Where both the resident and visitors are fully immunized, close physical contact, including hand-holding, can now take place safely,” it added.

For residents who have mobility or health issues, they are now allowed to have one visitor inside their facility, in addition to an essential caregiver.

Read more about the situation in Ontario

U.S. names several global destinations for first batch of vaccine doses it will share 

The White House on Thursday unveiled the allocation for the first 25 million of 80 million doses it plans to share with the world, which the global vaccine alliance COVAX hopes will boost an inoculation effort that has seen developed countries account for the lion’s share of doses administered so far.

Through COVAX, approximately six million doses will head to South and Central America, seven million to Asia and five million to Africa.

“As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement. “And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.”

The remaining six million will be directed by the White House to U.S. allies and partners, including Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Korea, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Yemen, as well as United Nations front-line workers.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week promised the U.S. would work in conjunction with COVAX and “distribute vaccines without political requirements of those receiving them.”

It’s not clear if Canada will accept those doses given a current period of relatively stable supply and the greater needs of other countries. The U.S. loaned Canada 1.5 million AstraZeneca-Oxford doses earlier this spring.

The U.S. has been trying to whip up vaccination progress domestically in June through a series of initiatives as demand has tailed off. Centers for Disease Control statistics indicate that slightly more than 50 per cent of the eligible population has been vaccinated with one dose — lower than Canada’s current rate despite some supply instability north of the border. However, there have been slightly more than 41 per cent fully vaccinated in the U.S., compared to a rate of just six per cent in Canada. (See chart below for state, territory and province vaccination breakdown).

Read more about the plan

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

With reports of a labour shortage, can the pandemic recovery help raise wages?

After last month’s sharp decline in jobs in Canada — a loss of more that 200,000 in April that reversed a recovering trend — economists are predicting a better result when Friday’s jobs report is released.

According to a consensus of economists assembled by the financial news service Bloomberg, Canadian employment is seen to have shrunk again in May, but only by about 20,000 jobs.

The predictions for Canadian job creation are all over the map, making forecasts unclear, but most suggest the U.S. is leading the way to rising wages for the working class due to job supply outstripping demand right now. Widely cited is a move by McDonald’s to raise wages at company-owned restaurants from $11 to $17 an hour.

Jim Stanford, director of the Centre for Future Work in Vancouver and a longtime labour union economist, believes a strong Canadian economy requires that all workers earn something in excess of $20 an hour to allow for a decent standard of living.

But University of Waterloo economist Mikal Skuterud is skeptical about some of the more optimistic outlooks for wage growth.

As the Bank of Canada and others have pointed out, low-wage earners suffered the most as the pandemic took hold, losing their jobs while better-paid workers continued to work from home.

“It’s not too hard to see what’s happening,” he said. “It isn’t that individual workers’ wages are going up, it’s that the composition of the group of people we are averaging over has completely changed.”

While businesses complain about a shortage of employees in certain sectors and wage levels, analysis from Skuterud implies that the return of lower-paid workers in sectors such as retail and hospitality will bring average wages down again.


LPGA tour stop the latest international sporting event hosted in Canada to be scrapped 

Canadian golf star Brooke Henderson of Smith’s Falls, Ont., is shown at the 2019 CP Women’s Open in Aurora, Ont. Henderson won the tournament the previous year. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The LPGA Tour’s lone Canadian stop will not take place for the second year in a row because of border restrictions and logistical challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Golf Canada announced Wednesday the CP Women’s Open, scheduled for Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club from Aug. 23 to Aug. 29, has been cancelled. The club will host the 2023 event, after the previously announced 2022 tournament at Ottawa’s Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.

The CP Women’s Open joins the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open, Formula One’s Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and the Honda Indy Toronto as major annual Canadian summer sports events to be cancelled two years in a row. The National Bank Open tennis tournaments in Toronto and Montreal in August have not been cancelled, but organizers say they are looking at American venues to host the events if they can’t be held in Canada.

The federal government is poised to approve a travel exemption for the Stanley Cup playoffs that would allow U.S. teams to enter Canada if they adhere to a strict regimen of daily COVID-19 testing and remain in a bubble that includes team hotels and the arena.

Federal sources told CBC News earlier this week that the two provinces with Canadian teams still competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs have signed off on a plan that would allow U.S. teams to bypass the typical quarantine rules for a strict regimen of daily COVID-19 testing and a bubble between their accommodations and the Canadian arenas.

With Montreal and Winnipeg contesting the North Division leg of the playoffs, it is guaranteed there will be at least one Canadian-American battle further on in the postseason, and possibly two if the Jets or Canadiens advance to the Stanley Cup final.

The plan still needs the green light from federal health officials before it lands on the desk of federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino for final approval. CBC News is not naming the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

If approved, this would mark the first time regular cross-border travel occurs in the NHL amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last summer, the NHL concluded its season with hubs in Toronto and Edmonton, with all U.S. teams crossing the border just once before departing.

Canadian teams that play in North America’s top baseball, basketball and soccer leagues have been forced to play home games at various American venues because of the insurmountable obstacles involved in setting a league schedule with 14-day quarantine periods.

Read more coverage about the pandemic and the world of sport

Find out more about COVID-19

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