At a press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland announced a series of new programs and COVID-19 benefits that will replace the current Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).
Freeland said the programs will include "more targeted measures" in contrast to what she called the "very broad-based support that was appropriate at the height of our lockdowns."
Among those new programs is the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, which will provide $300 a week to eligible workers who can't work because of a lockdown in their area between October 24, 2021, and May 7, 2022, according to a press release.
There are also rent and wage subsidy programs for the tourism and hospitality industry (up to 75%) and other "hard-hit" businesses (up to 50%) that "can show they have faced deep and enduring losses," Freeland said.
The CRB, which ends on October 23, provided income support for workers who were directly affected by COVID-19 and weren't eligible for standard employment insurance benefits.
For a period of 54 weeks, workers could "receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) or $600 ($540 after taxes withheld) for a 2 week period" if they qualified.
"Providing support to businesses and workers during lockdown allowed us all to do the right thing together and to save lives," the deputy prime minister said at the press conference.
On November 28, Ontario's Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore released a statement confirming that two cases of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been detected in Ottawa.
"Both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation," the release read.
The Omicron variant is classified as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO states that such variants may have increased transmissibility and/or disease severity, among other factors.
In a news release from November 26, the Government of Canada explained that "as a precautionary measure, until January 31, 2022, the Government of Canada is implementing enhanced border measures for all travellers who have been in the Southern Africa region — including South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia— within the last 14 days before arriving in Canada."
As for the two cases that have been detected in Ottawa, Ontario officials say that the province is ready to respond to the presence of this new variant. "Our hospital and intensive care capacity remain stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country."
At the time of writing this article, there were no reports of the Omicron variant having been detected in Quebec.
The WHO reminds individuals that reducing one's risk of getting COVID-19 is possible through measures "including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated."
After our worry about the Delta variant, a new variant strain of COVID-19 has been the subject of many conversations lately: the Omicron variant. On November 26, the Canadian government announced several restrictions for travellers from seven countries to limit the spread of the Omicron variant in Canada.
News about this new variant leaves us with several questions: Is it something to be concerned about? Are COVID-19 vaccines effective against it? How is it being controlled? We decided to answer some frequently asked questions to help keep the public informed.
The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution met today to review what is known about the #COVID19 variant B.1.1.529.\nThey advised WHO that it should be designated a Variant of Concern.\nWHO has named it Omicron, in line with naming protocols https://bit.ly/3r8YrEd\u00a0pic.twitter.com/Gev1zIt1Ek
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@World Health Organization (WHO))
Where was the variant first detected?
"Public health authorities in South Africa have confirmed that a new COVID-19 variant of concern (B.1.1.529) has been detected in that country. Over the past 24 hours, this variant – named Omicron by the World Health Organization — has also been detected in other countries," the Government of Canada wrote in a news release.
The first case was detected in a sample collected on November 9 and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24, according to the WHO.
Are there any cases of the Omicron variant in Quebec?
"At this time, the variant has not been detected in Canada," the federal government wrote on November 26.
Is the Omicron variant concerning?
The WHO website states, "This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa."
The Omicron variant is classified as a "variant of concern." The WHO explains that such variants may have increased transmissibility and/or disease severity, among other factors.
Do COVID-19 vaccines work against this variant?
The WHO stated that a variant of this sort can have a "decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics."
How is it being controlled?
Until January 31, 2022, foreign nationals who have visited South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho or Eswatini in the last 14 days are not allowed to enter the country, the federal government confirmed.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been in these countries within the last 14 days must present proof of a negative molecular test within the 72 hours prior to their arrival in Canada.
Once in Canada, these individuals must undergo another PCR test and be quarantined for 14 days. After that, they must be retested on the eighth day after their arrival in Canada. There are no exemptions, including for those who are fully vaccinated.
Non-Canadian travellers who have been to southern Africa — specifically, South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, or Namibia — in the last 14 days are no longer allowed to enter the country.
Nous prenons des mesures concr\u00e8tes concernant le nouveau variant en Afrique du Sud. 1/2
Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been to these countries in the past 14 days will "be subject to enhanced testing, screening, and quarantine measures."
Regardless of vaccination status, these individuals will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken in a third country within 72 hours of departure before they can continue their journey to Canada.
Upon arrival, these travellers will have to take another PCR test and quarantine for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status or test results. They will then be retested on their eighth day in Canada.
It should be noted that there are currently no more direct flights between Canada and southern African countries.
"Today's measures, including new requirements for third-country pre-departure testing for travellers coming to Canada from certain southern African countries, are being put in place to prevent new variants of the COVID-19 virus from being introduced and spread in Canada," said Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra in a statement.
The Government of Canada is asking Canadians to avoid travelling to southern Africa.
The European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom have imposed similar restrictions to limit the spread of the new variant, according to a Health Canada press release.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
At an early morning meeting between re-elected Mayor Valérie Plante and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Montreal City Hall on Friday, housing, public transit, the pandemic and most notably, public security in the city were the main topics of discussion.
Montreal's mayor once again implored the federal government to consider banning handguns across the country.
J\u2019ai eu une excellente rencontre avec @JustinTrudeau!\n\nNous partageons plusieurs priorit\u00e9s, dont la s\u00e9curit\u00e9 publique, l\u2019habitation, le transport collectif et le d\u00e9veloppement de l\u2019Est de Montr\u00e9al. Le gouv. canadien est un partenaire dans l\u2019essor de notre m\u00e9tropole. #polmtlpic.twitter.com/B825A1ugNK
"Canada needs to be a country that distinguishes itself from our neighbours to the south," Plante told journalists after her meeting with the prime minister. "Where gun trafficking and the normalization of guns is unacceptable."
In recent months, there have been several reports of firearm incidents, murders and other violent attacks. Most recently, on November 14, a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed near a Villeray high school. The SPVM said that it was the 31st homicide in the city this year.
Public safety and security were hot-button issues during the recent municipal election, as well, with all the candidates presenting plans to target gun violence in the city.
The mayor said Friday that "we should ban handguns and we should be even stronger on assault weapons."
Plante spoke of the need to support this position across Canada, even in places where sentiments about firearms might be different from Quebec's.
"I know that it's not popular everywhere, but here in Quebec, I think we have a consensus that it's the right thing to do," she said.
"Mr. Trudeau showed a lot of openness and he agreed that the federal [government] has to do more."