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A look at the latest COVID-19 developments in Canada

A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada: — Health Canada has approved Pfizer's antiviral treatment for COVID-19, which could help cut pressure on the health-care system by preventing high-risk patients from ending up in the hospital.
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A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada:

— Health Canada has approved Pfizer's antiviral treatment for COVID-19, which could help cut pressure on the health-care system by preventing high-risk patients from ending up in the hospital. But limited supplies of Paxlovid mean the Public Health Agency of Canada is asking provinces and territories to prioritize the treatment for people most at risk of serious illness, including severely immune-compromised patients and some unvaccinated people over the age of 60. Health Canada's authorization means Paxlovid can be prescribed for adults who test positive for COVID-19 on a molecular or a rapid test, who have mild or moderate symptoms and are at high risk of becoming severely ill.

— A winter storm delayed the return to in-person school across many Ontario school boards Monday, with some deciding to hold classes online in place of a snow day. The Toronto, York, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth and Ottawa-Carleton district school boards were among those that cancelled the planned return to in-school learning. Environment Canada warned 45 centimetres of snow could fall by Monday evening over the Ottawa area. The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area was expected to get between 40 and 60 centimetres.

— A Quebec City hospital has announced that a four-year old girl has died from causes linked to COVID-19. The CHU de Québec–Université Laval offered condolences to the family of the child but said it would not provide further details out of respect for the girl's family. Health Minister Christian Dubé also extended condolences on Twitter and called the girl's death "unspeakably sad."

— A major union representing public sector workers says it's open to temporarily transferring members to help out in the overburdened health system, but it says it wasn't given enough notice and is facing labour shortages of its own. The Quebec government is looking for public sector workers to temporarily fill more than 2,000 health-care service aide positions, the Health Department said Monday. But the government only made its request on Friday, said Christian Daigle, president of the Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec, adding that workers had until Monday evening to show interest.

— Alberta's health minister has tested positive for COVID-19 and provincial hospitalizations exceed 1,000 patients for the first time since September as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly. Minister Jason Copping says on social media that he tested positive on a rapid test after displaying mild symptoms last week and is isolating at home. Provincial figures show there are 94 patients receiving intensive care — a jump of 13 from before the weekend. The death toll rose by 23 people, including a child between five and nine years old — one of the youngest COVID-19 deaths on record in the province.

— Canada's largest airlines and its busiest airport are asking the federal government to drop its rule requiring vaccinated travellers to test on arrival for COVID-19. In a letter to Ottawa and the Ontario government, Air Canada, WestJet and Toronto's Pearson airport called for a shift of testing capacity from airports to the community. "As the government has ramped up testing at airports for international arrivals, we have seen front line workers struggle to get PCR tests and lab processing capacity decrease significantly," the letter says, citing schools, hospitals and long-term care homes as particular priorities. "There is a growing discrepancy between resources allocated to asymptomatic travellers and to those who need it most."

— Some Manitoba students walked out of classes Monday, the first day back after an extended holiday break, to protest what they said was an unsafe environment as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. "Many of them want to be in schools. They want to be in schools, but they want to feel safe,” Piper Lockhart, 16, said about her fellow students. "Teachers aren’t getting the proper resources to have safe classrooms." Lockhart was one of the organizers of the demonstration that was scheduled for dozens of schools across the province. She was one of half a dozen students who left College Louis Riel while most stayed in class.

— British Columbia's top doctor has extended a COVID-19 order that will keep gyms and fitness centres closed before providing more details tomorrow. That's when restrictions were set to expire, but Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week that they believed COVID-19 hospitalizations were expected to spike after cases within the community had peaked. Restrictions on gatherings and events will stay in place, and Henry has now also directed school boards to collect information on the vaccination status of their staff. The BC Teachers' Federation says on Twitter that it was not consulted or notified ahead of time about the order. 

— Nova Scotia has become the first province in Atlantic Canada to reopen its schools to in-person learning. Students in about 400 public schools across the province had been learning remotely since Jan. 10 because of the threat to public safety posed by the Omicron variant. Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Paul Wozney says the government hasn't done enough to ensure students and staff are protected from COVID-19, especially considering officials will not conduct contact tracing in schools.

— New Brunswick health officials say two more people have died from COVID-19. Officials say the latest deaths involve a person in their 80s in the Campbellton region and someone in their 90s in the Bathurst area. There have been 189 COVID-19-related deaths in New Brunswick since the onset of the pandemic.  

— Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting 231 new cases of COVID-19, including new infections at two long-term care facilities. Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says there has been an average of 215 new cases per day over the last week. There are 1,934 active reported cases on the Island.  

— Newfoundland and Labrador officials are waiting at least another week to relax public health restrictions following a surge in COVID-19 cases that began in late December. Health Minister John Haggie says the province will remain in Alert Level 4, which requires all households to limit their contacts to 10 people, among other rules. The province moved to Alert Level 4 on Jan. 4 and will stay there until at least Jan. 24, when officials will review the restrictions once again.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press