A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada:
— The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending teenagers with underlying conditions or at high risk of COVID-19 exposure get a booster shot. The advice comes as more provincial health officers are transitioning to a position of learning to live with COVID-19 and loosening public health restrictions. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says children and adolescents are still at low risk of serious illness in general from COVID-19 but because of the high rate of infection due to Omicron more kids are being admitted to hospital.
— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's isolating because one of his children tested positive for COVID-19. In an interview with The Canadian Press, he says he feels fine and has no symptoms. He says he took another test Friday morning and it was negative, as was a previous rapid test. He's not saying which of his three children has tested positive or how they're doing. Trudeau revealed in a tweet Thursday that he was going into isolation for five days after finding out Wednesday evening he'd been in contact with someone, whom he didn't identify, who had tested positive.
— Ontario has reported the deaths of more than 1,000 people due to COVID-19 so far this month, a grim figure the province's top doctor largely attributes to the previous, more virulent strain of the virus, though he admits the data is murky. The province has logged persistently high numbers of fatalities each day this month, despite the dominant Omicron variant of the virus typically causing milder illness and all but replacing the more severe Delta variant almost six weeks ago, while circulating among a well-vaccinated population. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said officials are trying to ascertain what factors are causing so many Ontarians to die, including whether Delta or Omicron or a combination of the two is responsible, but whole genome sequencing to determine variant type takes weeks. Essentially 100 per cent of outbreaks in the community are Omicron right now, Moore said, but roughly 10 per cent of hospital admissions are still "relevant to Delta."
— Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province needs to "learn to live with" COVID-19. Ford made the comments in an interview that aired Friday on a local Peterborough, Ont., radio station, a day after the province's top doctor made similar remarks. Asked whether Ontario's reopening plan would work well, Ford said he's confident it will because virus test positivity has dropped since public health restrictions took effect earlier this month. Restrictions on businesses like restaurants, gyms and theatres will ease on Monday, allowing such venues to open with capacity limits.
— Samuel Gagnon says his seven-year-old daughter has told him her classroom is sometimes so cold, she wants to cry. Gagnon, who lives in Château-Richer, north of Quebec City, said his daughter's school has been leaving the windows open in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But after sending his daughter to school on a day where it was -40 C with the wind chill, he decided to act, calling his local member of the provincial legislature and posting a video on Facebook encouraging others to do the same. He thinks Quebec should install air exchangers in classrooms, something that's been done in other provinces. Heidi Yetman, the president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, a union that represents teachers at English-language schools in the province, said that while the Education Department has installed carbon dioxide detectors in around 50 per cent of classrooms, it hasn't acted to improve air quality.
— The Manitoba government is extending its COVID-19 public health orders for an additional week in order to let health officials gauge whether the worst of the current pandemic wave has passed. The rules, which include a cap on public gatherings and limits on guests in private homes, were due to expire next Tuesday, but will run until Feb. 8. "Based on several data points, it appears that (the) Omicron wave may have peaked or is in the process of peaking or plateauing in Manitoba," said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer. "Another week of data and review of our information is going to give us a bit more clarity."
— British Columbia's top doctor says some COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings are expected to be gradually lifted by Feb. 21. Dr. Bonnie Henry said that's possible in part because 90 per cent of residents aged 12 and over have received two doses of a vaccine, though more people need to get a booster shot for longer-lasting protection. The most recent public health orders related to gatherings at sports events and concerts, for example, were set to expire on Feb. 16, and Henry said she will announce any changes a day earlier.
— Inuit in Nunavut who get a COVID-19 vaccine could end up with a brand new ride. A new program means Inuit living in each of the territory's 25 communities have a chance to win a snowmobile for getting their shots. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the territory's land claim body, is holding draws across Nunavut for vaccinated Inuit residents to win one of 25 machines.
— For the second year in a row, passenger traffic at Halifax Stanfield International Airport in 2021 was down 75 per cent from pre-pandemic levels. As a result, Atlantic Canada's busiest airport continued to record significant financial losses, despite a spike in business last summer when COVID-19 infection rates dropped, vaccination rates rose and travel restrictions were temporarily lifted. More passengers were served during the month of August than January to July combined.
— Nova Scotia issued a directive aimed at prohibiting those protesting against COVID-19 measures from blocking the Trans-Canada Highway near the New Brunswick boundary. In a news release, the province said the directive under the Emergency Management Act would also apply to people who stop or gather alongside the highway, the provincial boundary or the Cobequid Pass toll area. It said the prohibition is aimed at those who have threatened to block the highway near the provincial boundary Saturday in support of a trucker protest set for Ottawa.
— Four more people have died as a result of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, increasing the toll to 228 since the start of the pandemic. The latest deaths involve a person in their 70s in the Moncton region, and three people in their 80s in each of the Saint John, Fredericton and Bathurst regions. There are currently 135 people hospitalized with COVID-19, down six from Thursday. Sixteen people are in intensive care and four people are on ventilators.
— Recoveries outpaced new cases of COVID-19 in Prince Edward Island by a margin of almost two to one. Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison reported 215 new cases of the virus and 417 new recoveries. There were 17 people in hospital with COVID-19 — unchanged from Thursday. Morrison said two people were in intensive care, and one other person was in hospital for another reason but has also tested positive for COVID-19.
— The number of Newfoundland and Labrador patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 has held steady at 20 since Tuesday, but ICU admissions have increased. Public health said in a release Friday there were eight COVID-19 patients in critical care, an increase from five on Tuesday. Officials reported 265 new confirmed cases since Thursday, though the figure does not include those who may have contracted the disease but do not qualify for a PCR test to confirm their infection.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said B.C. could lift restrictions on Feb. 21.