Passengers from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi wait for their transportation to quarantine after arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Passengers from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi wait for their transportation to quarantine after arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Leaders urge Ottawa to beef up restrictions for travellers to Canada as COVID variants surge

The B.1.617 variant that appears to be wreaking havoc in India has been detected in provinces

Ontario’s premier got emotional Thursday as he apologized for a mistake in the province’s COVID-19 fight, while other provincial leaders made tough decisions to tackle surging variant cases and pushed for federal travel restrictions.

“I’m sorry and I sincerely apologize,” Doug Ford said from his home where he is isolating after being exposed to COVID-19.

“Because as premier, as I said right from the beginning, the buck stops with me.”

Ford choked up talking about how people were angry after his government increased police enforcement powers and closed playgrounds last Friday, decisions which have since been reversed.

Ford also promised a paid sick-leave program.

The premier said there are no easy choices left as a devastating third wave of the pandemic washes over Ontario. There were 3,682 new cases reported Thursday and 40 more deaths. Hospitalizations and intensive care have reached the highest levels in the province since beginning of pandemic.

Quebec reported 1,248 new cases and seven more deaths but, weeks after implementing tighter restrictions in cities that became hot spots for fast-spreading variants, noted a slight drop in hospitalizations.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault joined a number of other premiers, including Ford, in calling for tougher quarantine rules for passengers on international flights and for people driving into Canada.

The B.1.617 variant that appears to be wreaking havoc in India was detected in Quebec earlier this week.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole took the call a step further. He said the federal government must temporarily suspend flights from hot-spot countries immediately.

A few hours later, the House of Commons adopted a motion calling for flights carrying non-essential travellers from certain countries, such as India and Brazil, to be barred. The federal government was expected to announce new restrictions later Thursday.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said no matter the restrictions in place, “now is not the time to be traveling abroad.”

Health Canada said about one per cent of arriving passengers are testing positive, but did not say how many have tested positive after 10 days.

Elsewhere, Nova Scotia closed its provincial boundary to non-essential travel from all parts of Canada — except Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador — as it deals with a spike in cases.

The province also reinstated “circuit breaker” restrictions for the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister rejected calls from Winnipeg’s mayor to tighten provincial restrictions to stop a steady climb of new infections in recent days. There were 258 new daily cases reported in the province, the highest number there since January.

Many politicians and health officials also voiced concerns about continued travel within Canada.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, said the province’s incoming restrictions banning all non-essential travel outside health regions will slow down spread in COVID-19 hot spots.

There were 1,006 new cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths in B.C., as well as a record-high of 502 people in hospital.

Njoo said he felt discouraged by people making the choice to cross provincial boundaries for things like ski trips or holidays. He said too many health-care systems are overwhelmed and more people still need to get vaccinations.

“This is not the time for that,” he said. “There’s a crisis going on.”

Canada passed a vaccination milestone Thursday morning with more than 10 million people — about 30 per cent of the adult population — receiving at least one dose of vaccine.

Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country’s distribution effort, said he remains optimistic the number of vaccines coming into the country will continue to increase despite Moderna struggling with production and no further shipments of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine confirmed.

The first delivery of 300,000 Johnson & Johnson doses are to arrive in Canada next week and be distributed to the provinces the first week of May.

“Overall, the quantities of vaccines we can expect from manufacturers continue to grow so that more and more Canadians can continue to be vaccinated.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: Cameras on school buses a good idea

“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars”

Trying out a corn variety called “Midnight Snack, grown near Cache Creek, as well as my saved Bantam/Sunnyvee Cross (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Early sowing gets a jump on corn season

‘I’m planting three batches of corn, two weeks apart for a steady supply’

North Cowichan considers extending tax payment deadline by two months. (File photo)
North Cowichan considers extending deadline for property tax payments

A two-month deadline extension to Sept. 1 gets three readings

John Horn is leaving his position as executive director of the Cowichan Housing Association. (File photo)
John Horn leaving Cowichan Housing Association

Will take on role as executive director of John Howard Society in Nanaimo

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Island Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at Ecole des Deux Mondes in Campbell River on May 4 and 5, and at Mill Bay Nature School in Mill Bay on April 28, 29, 30 and May 3. (Metro Creative photo)
Two new COVID-19 school exposures confirmed by Island Health

Health authority contacting anyone exposed at Ecole des Deux Mondes, Mill Bay Nature School

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Most Read