- Provinces try to increase COVID-19 testing as lineups grow in some jurisdictions.
- Canadian support for keeping the border closed to Americans remains strong.
- Hospitalizations steady despite rising COVID-19 cases. But this could change quickly, experts say.
- Portugal adopting new nationwide restrictions to contain rising number of infections.
- Australia’s virus hot spot to relax pandemic restrictions from Wednesday night.
Some provinces are scrambling to increase testing capacity as coronavius infections spike across Canada and lineups at COVID-19 testing sites see a significant influx of people.
In order to accommodate demand, opening hours at two Ottawa assessment centres will be extended in the coming days, Ottawa Public Health, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Ottawa Hospital said in a joint statement Monday afternoon.
The statement said the health authorities are hiring more staff and training them so that the Brewer assessment centre can accept patients for 12 hours per day, seven days a week — four more hours per day than it is normally open.
“We knew that with the kids returning to school we would see these volumes. To prepare, we have tripled staffing in the last month for testing children and youth at the [Brewer Arena assessment centre]. More are being trained and still more are being hired,” the statement said.
WATCH | Canada’s spike in COVID-19 cases makes hospitals nervous:
As of 5 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had 138,010 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 121,224 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,221.
At an Ottawa council meeting last Wednesday, elected officials from across the city called for an expansion of its testing system to better meet demand.
“Part of our future success will depend on our ability to test, to test rapidly and to remove barriers to access to testing,” said Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury in an interview with CBC.
In London, Ont., a long line of cars was seen waiting outside the city’s only open assessment centre — the Carling Heights Optimist Centre — on Sunday.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit said the lengthy wait was partly due to a staffing shortage at that location.
This might be one of the longest lineups at the Carling COVID-19 assessment centre we’ve ever seen. <a href=”https://twitter.com/MLHealthUnit?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@MLHealthUnit</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/Healthmac?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Healthmac</a> what’s going on today? <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ldnont?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ldnont</a> <a href=”https://t.co/cp8EBaJxzg”>pic.twitter.com/cp8EBaJxzg</a>
Many of the cars in line at the Carling Heights Optimist Centre were filled with young people looking to get tested.
Some were families getting checked because they wanted to ensure they were beginning the school year free of COVID-19, especially as their social bubbles were about to expand with the addition of their kids’ classmates. Others said they were getting tested as a precaution as the university school year gets underway.
Testing issues have also been reported in St. John, with local mother Flora Salvo saying she spent four days on the phone trying to book a COVID-19 test and that the reservation system needs to be revamped.
She said the painfully slow process of getting tested — from her first call to when she received a negative result last Saturday — stretched over a full week.
“I called 79 times [in one day]. I counted on my phone. My friend, she called 37 times. I was calling every five minutes,” Salvo said. “Each time, the volume of calls was too many.”
Eastern Health CEO David Diamond was not available for an interview. But outside the House of Assembly on Monday, Health Minister John Haggie said officials with the health authority were meeting with his department to discuss adding capacity to the booking system.
In British Columbia, the province is already expanding its COVID-19 testing capacity from 8,000 to 20,000 people a day.
Adrian Dix said in August that the increase should help B.C. meet increased demand for testing as the province heads into the cold and flu season. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus often presents similar symptoms to these wintertime ailments.
WATCH | COVID-19: When will the second wave hit?
Separately, the uptick in COVID-19 cases across the country in the last 10 days has prompted many public health officials to remind Canadians to be on high alert and follow set guidelines to limit the spread.
But the relatively stable hospitalization data should not provide too much comfort, as ICU units may begin to fill if cases continue to increase, infectious diseases experts told CBC News.
As well, blame placed on younger people, who are apparently driving new infections, may be misplaced as some may be exposed to infections due to factors such as a precarious work environment, rather than being irresponsible, they said.
What’s happening around the rest of Canada
Canadian support for keeping the border closed to Americans remains strong, despite a decline in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and a decimated tourism industry.
A new poll by pollster Research Co. found that out of 1,000 Canadians surveyed online at the end of August, a whopping 90 per cent agreed with the current Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic.
The show of support comes at a time when several Canadian border cities are licking their wounds over a loss of U.S. tourism. Nevertheless, they’re maintaining their support for the border closure, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 from the country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths.
“As much as this hurts — and it hurts — it’s all about short-term pain for long-term gain,” said Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont.
The City of Windsor will support an Isolation and Recovery Centre in the city for agri-farm workers during the pandemic, but only if the province or federal government agrees, in writing, to fully fund the operation — a decision made during Monday’s council meeting.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said nearly half of COVID-19 cases in the area have been agri-farm workers, calling the isolation centre “critical” locally.
WATCH | Growing concern about COVID-19’s spread among post-secondary students:
According to the city council report, eight hotels and motels in Windsor-Essex were used to house isolated workers at one point, and was later reduced to two sites.
Meanwhile, a Toronto hospital employee said she feels the sacrifices she and her colleagues have made during the pandemic aren’t being valued after learning some of them have to give back the pandemic pay they were issued.
The University Health Network (UHN) said about 200 physician secretaries and administrative assistants were “inadvertently” given pandemic pay, ranging from $100 to $1,500 and averaging $700. The network has asked all affected employees to pay back the money.
“It makes you feel that coming in [to the hospital] and putting everyone at risk close to you, hoping you don’t get it, it makes you feel worthless,” said the employee, who CBC Toronto agreed not to identify.
What’s happening around the world
The group that represents hospitals in England said a shortage of COVID-19 testing is jeopardizing efforts to restore medical services and prepare for a potential surge in coronavirus cases this winter.
NHS Providers said Tuesday that inadequate testing is leading to increased absences in the National Health Service as staff members are forced to self-isolate while they and their family members wait for test results after possible exposure to the virus.
Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC it was “unacceptable” that some people were struggling to get tests, and “much more work needs to be undertaken with Public Health England.”
Portugal is adopting new nationwide restrictions to contain a rising number of COVID-19 infections.
From Tuesday, social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people. Drinking alcohol in the street — which young people have done in groups because bars are closed — is banned.
Health authorities said Monday that 51 per cent of the 613 new infections over the previous 24 hours were in people between 20 and 49 years old, with just 10 per cent among people over 70.
WATCH | Who is getting COVID-19 in Ontario and where are they getting it from?:
Australia’s virus hot spot, Victoria state, said it will relax pandemic restrictions in most areas from Wednesday night.
Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that people who live outside the state capital, Melbourne, would have no restrictions on leaving their homes and all shops will be able to reopen.
China has reported eight new coronavirus cases after going a month without reporting any new domestic infections of people displaying symptoms of the illness.
As of Tuesday, there were just 142 people in treatment for COVID-19, while another 363 people were under observation in isolation for being suspected cases or for testing positive for the virus without displaying any symptoms.
Millions of schoolchildren in Pakistan have returned to their classrooms as education institutions reopen after a closure of about six months to fight COVID-19.
Students wearing masks were seen entering school buildings Tuesday, greeting each other from a reasonable distance instead of shaking hands or hugging.
The government has asked teachers, school staff and students to wear masks and regularly use sanitizers.