Federal contact tracing app is ‘not the answer,’ B.C. health officer Bonnie Henry says

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As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread around the world, Canadians seem to be increasingly concerned about their health and safety

Currently, there are more than 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada and more than 8,200 deaths.

Check back for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Canada.

For a full archive of the first month of the pandemic, please check our archive of events.

June 18

6:30 p.m: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:45 p.m.: ‘It’s not something that actually helps us a whole lot with contact tracing’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, commented on the federal government’s announcement about a national contact tracing app, which she said is not “an answer” for this type of work.

“It is a notification app, it’s not something that actually helps us a whole lot with contact tracing,” Dr. Henry said. “We know that the important part of contract tracing is having that conversation with a public health person who knows the right questions to ask and can tell you what you need to know.”

“Where it can facilitate…is if people are in environments like crowds when people have that app on their phone too.”

New cases create a “challenging” situation for health officials

Dr. Henry also addressed one recent COVID-19 case in an adult who worked at an independent school. This individuals was involved in “several different roles,” including teaching. 

She confirmed no children have been involved but the school has stopped in-class learning for the remainder of the school year. The “small number of close contacts” to this individual are now in isolation.

“This is not a surprise,” Dr. Henry said. “It is something we were preparing for.”

She also spoke about a recent cases at the Mission Memorial Hospital and a related one at the Tabor long-term care home in Abbotsford. Those two facilities, in addition to cases in the Maple Hill long-term care facility, are all linked.

Public health teams are at all three sites and an investigation has begun.

“As these new healthcare outbreaks demonstrate this virus can quickly spread, and often undetected, and that is the challenge that we face,” Dr. Henry said. “We can have very mild illness, or early on in the illness, or just before symptoms start, people may not know that they are infectious to others.”

“We have no yet, nor is it likely that we will be able to eliminate the virus completely from our communities in the near term.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer said the new COVID-19 events of the past days have been “challenging” and she is “cautiously optimistic” about continuing to loosen some of the remaining restrictions.

5:30 p.m.: More definitive answers on immunity needed

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province is working with the federal government to establish serology testing, in order to better understand immunity to the virus.

He said the current test detects RNA fragments of the virus in the nasal passage, but doesn’t provide information on immunity.

“Some people get these so-called second cases, you’re following a test that doesn’t tell you if you’ve got a full blood infection,” Dr. Williams said. “That’s why serology is being looked into, to see evidence of a legitimate infection in the past and has immunity.”

He said there is “a good chance” someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 does have immunity but an effective serology test would be able to provide more clarity.

Dr. Williams also said it would like to see the health system less reliant on faxes. Currently, lab tests in some areas are scanned and faxed but if the system could be digitally linked into the public health system it would be more efficient.

“I think their time has played out and we need to move on to other technology,” he said.

New gathering limits in Nova Scotia

Gathering limits in Nova Scotia have changed, now allowing groups of up to 10 people to gather without physical distancing.

Additionally, people in each group do not need to be exclusive to each other, although it is “strongly encouraged” by provincial health officials.

These new guidelines replace the family “bubbles” concept.

Gatherings of up to 50 are allowed but people must maintain a two metre physical distance. This rules applies to social events, faith gatherings, sports and physical activity, weddings and funerals, and arts and culture events like theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals and concerts.

1:45 p.m.: ‘If we trace, we can track it’

Ontario has provided additional details on the contact tracing COVID Alert app. The province states the goal of this new technology is to:

  • Connect with cases, and with all individuals who have had close contact with a positive case, within 24 hours of being identified

  • Direct all close contacts to self-isolate for up to 14 days

  • Follow up with close contacts every day for the duration of their self-isolation

  • Advise testing of all appropriate close contacts.

“If we test, we can find it. If we trace, we can track it. If we have those two things we can contain it,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, stressed this is an “adjunct” measure for contact management, which will be particularly helpful to assist people with recalling where they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

“If you had something that prompted you, you would make a mental note of that,” Dr. Williams said. “We want people to remember…seven, eight, nine days, ago now that you have symptoms.”

The chief medical officer of health also indicated the province continues to work with modellers to provide some guidance on the possible future of the virus in Ontario, including how to face a second wave.

“I still think it’s possible that by working hard on this in the summer and we do all the right things in the right way, we could start working at flattening a second wave,” Dr. Williams said. “I don’t know if we can eliminate it, that would be idealistic, but I think we could do that.”

1:00 p.m.: Each province can choose to be part of the national contact tracing app

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland provided additional clarification on the contract tracing app, initially being piloted in Ontario. She said although it will begin in one province, the goal is that all parts of Canada will implement this national app

“It’s going to be up to each province and the local public health authorities as to whether or not they want to be part of this and provinces, many of them, have been doing terrific work on their own apps and technology platforms,” Freeland said.

“Having said that, I think we all appreciate that having a national app in a country where Canadians do travel could be really, really helpful.”

She reiterated the prime minister’s statement the privacy has been involved in the process, stressing the plan is for this to be an anonymous contact tracing strategy.

“There will be no geotagging and no data collection,” Freeland said. “We believe it is important to work hard to protect people’s privacy and we believe that this app does that.”

12:00 p.m.: Canada to roll out contact tracing app

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government is working with Shopify, Blackberry, Government of Ontario and the Canadian Digital Service on a national contact tracing mobile application.

Testing of the app will begin in Ontario and will be available across the country in early July.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 can have their status uploaded to the network through an anonymous randomized code, associate with their phone.

When someone has been in proximity with a positive case, they will be alerted and can then call public health for next steps.

Trudeau said there are three different sections of this plan:

  • There is the national app that can be used even if someone travels to another part of Canada.

  • The second part is the national database of randomized codes

  • The third part are the local health services, which will ensure anyone who could have been exposed to COVID-19 can get guidance on how to keep themselves, and others, safe.

“It’s an extra tool that helps people move forward with confidence that we’re going to be able to track and trace more of the exposure or the potential sharing of the COVID-19 virus around the country,” Trudeau said. 

The prime minister recognized that uptake of a contact tracing app has impacted effectiveness in other countries. He said some of the challenges of other versions include the need for the app to stay open on someone’s phone, but updates on Google and Apple’s operational systems allows these apps to work in the background.

“Any amount of people that download it will be useful for that person and for our society,” Trudeau said. “It’s certain that if we can talk about a 50 per cent uptake, for example, or more, then it becomes extraordinarily useful.”

“It’ll actually allow us to have a better sense of when there are spikes or resurgences of the virus in a particular area or not, because more people will be getting that notification and contacting their local public health authorities.”

The prime minister said the privacy commissioner has been consulted for this app, which is why it functions “entirely on an anonymized basis,” not storing any phone numbers and location data.

“It’s super simple, it’s super secure,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the federal government is working on integration into the local public health services and “a number of provinces” have moved forward on that.

June 17

7:00 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:45 p.m.: Alberta recalls COVID-19 test tubes after leaking

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, responded to reports that there were COVID-19 tests that were leaking and spoiled.

Dr. Hinshaw said she learned about this earlier in the week and as she understands, some of the test tubes that had been used in sample collection showed up at the lab with some leakage. 

“There are always a very small number of…samples that may need to be redone for various reasons,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The lab looked at the particular type of test tube that was being used…and there were four different types that would cause more leaks than they typically would see so they did recall those.”

She said anyone who had a COVID-19 test involving that leaking was contact and offered the chance to have another test done.

“No people were put at risk from the perspective of the leaking, the problem has been solved by recalling those test tubes that seem to have a high proportion of leaks,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health also spoke about the anxiety and fear that many people may be facing during this the COVID-19 crisis.

“Anxiety and fear can be triggered by change and uncertainty, and we have had a great deal of both in the last few months,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Learning to live with uncertainty is one of the hardest things that any of us can do.”

She referenced findings released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health indicate COVID-19 has significantly impacted the mental health of Canadians, with 1 in 5 saying they have experienced moderate to severe anxiety in the past weeks.

“If you are feeling this way, you are definitely not alone,” Dr. Hinshaw said, stressing people should sleep well, connect safely with loved ones and meditate to help combat this anxiety. 

For anyone interested in travelling outside of Alberta, but within Canada this summer, Dr. Hinshaw stressed health officials continue to recommend that travel plans stay within the province, for the time being.

“It would be important for Albertans to look at the province, if they are considering going somewhere for an essential trip,” she said. “There are some provinces that do require 14 day quarantine…and there are also provinces that are not allowing non-residents to enter.” 

“I’m not currently making any distinction between travelling by air plane or by car.”

B.C. government wants public feedback on economic recovery plans

B.C. Premier John Horgan wants people in the province to share their feedback to assist with future economic recovery plans.

“How do British Columbians participate in that recovery, where do they see themselves fitting in and more importantly, how can their family participate in a more meaningful way,” Horgan said.

The provincial government is asking people in B.C. to go online to answer an online survey and provide their feedback. Virtual town halls will also be organized to help gather this information from the public.

“Everyone says, how can I help, and I want to take advantage of that,” Horgan said. “I think our success has been a result of people coming together, recognizing that regardless of where we live, regardless of our economic status, people had to take COVID-19 on together.”

When asked when the public can expect to learn about what the government has decided on economic recovery, Horgan stated it is important to note this is not a “six-week holding period.”

“We’re working with the federal government to address the extraordinary challenges of unemployment during this time,” the B.C. premier said. “It’s an invitation to regular people to be part of the solution and I think that’s appropriate.”

Anger at outsiders

Horgan also responded to reports of British Columbians “lashing out” at people in the province who have license plates from outside the province, specifically one incident which involved a Black man.

“British Columbia is not the place where racism should find foothold,” Horgan said. “I’m committed to making sure that anti-racism programs are put in place.”

“The story about an individual, on Vancouver Island of all places, to be ridiculed because of the colour of his skin and the license plate on the car he drives is unacceptable to me, and I’m absolutely confident the overwhelming majority of British Columbians feel exactly the same way.”

Outside of this particular circumstance, Horgan said British Columbians need to be “kind,” “calm” and “safe,” and should not judge or discriminate against anyone in the province.

4:00 p.m.: Manitoba finalizes its Phase Three reopening plan

Manitoba has announced its plan for Phase Three of its reopening plan, which will come into effect on June 21.

This comes after the province asked Manitobans to provide their advice on the proposed measures that will be loosened and still in place during this phase.

Key changes made following public feedback include:

  • Removing the maximum capacity of 300 people at any site provided the gathering can be physically divided into sub-groups of 50 or fewer indoors or 100 or fewer outdoors, to a maximum 30 per cent of usual capacity

  • Allowing people from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and people living in the area of the northwestern Ontario (west of Terrace Bay) to visit Manitoba without having to self-isolate for 14 days

  • Ensuring those travelling to northern Manitoba must continue to respect any restrictions that have been put in place by local communities and First Nations

  • Lifting self-isolation requirements on a case-by-case basis where sectors propose and provide satisfactory plans to address public health requirements for necessary travel

  • Lifting capacity limits for restaurants, bars, beverage rooms, brew pubs, microbreweries and distilleries, as long as tables and seating are arranged so there is a temporary or physical barrier, or two metres of separation between people sitting at different tables

“While we can take pride in the progress we have made, we must remain vigilant,” Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said. “We’ll continue to review the data and rely on the advice from healthcare experts”

2:30 p.m.: ‘We need to work together’

Three months after Ontario initially declared a state of emergency, Premier Doug Ford spoke about what he has learned since the pandemic began and how the province has responded, stressing the importance of all officials working collaboratively.

“We just came together as a team,” Ford said. “Doesn’t matter what political stripe…we need to work together.”

“I just ask other people from other parties…work with us, it’s easy to sit back and fire shots but it’s not worth it.”  

Ford also spoke about plans for students in Ontario to return to in-class schooling in September, following The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto releasing a report outlining the importance of schools reopening.

“We have to accept that COVID-19 will stay with us for a long time. We must move on with certain activities in our lives, such as schooling, while keeping in mind that there are a lot of ways to mitigate risk,” Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of SickKids said in a statement. “Not opening schools in September would continue to have a negative impact on the mental, behavioural and developmental health of children.”

The premier said the province will continue to consult with teachers and unions on the future plans for schools, while Minister of Education Stephen Lecce works on rolling out a plan.

“I’m not going to risk anything that puts our kids in jeopardy,” Ford said.

He added teachers who are older or immunocompromised, and may not feel entirely comfortable returning to the classroom, will have their jobs “protected.” 

Questions about promised pandemic pay

There have also been reports of hundreds of thousands of Ontario frontline workers still waiting for pandemic pay promised months ago, while some hospital workers don’t even qualify for the $4 hourly raise.

“It’s a slap in the face to all of those folks who are working day in and day out to make sure that we have what we need,” Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.

Ford maintained that 375,000 will receive this pandemic pay and he wishes he could provide these funds to more frontline workers.

“As far as I’m concerned, everyone deserves it,” the Ontario premier said. “We’ve spent every penny that the feds have given us. I wish I could pay everyone, I really do.”

‘We want the borders closed’

Ford also commented on the possibility of reopening the Canada-U.S. border after the latest 30 day extension. He said he is particularly concerned about neighbouring states still seeing a large amount of COVID-19 spread.

“We want the borders closed,” the premier said. “Let’s see where we’re at when it comes to that point.”

With regards to hosting an NHL “hub city,” Ford indicated it is the federal government’s choice if exceptions will be made for players but the league has “gone above and beyond” what they need to do, including plans to test players everyday.

“Personally, I would like to see the NHL but I’m not making that call,” Ford said.

1:15 p.m.: Comparing COVID-19 in Canada and the U.S.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, commented on regions in Canada reopening while other countries, particularly the U.S., continue to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We do see all of these kind of trends as a warning signal for us really,” Dr. Tam said. “Reminding Canadians that the virus is still around, very much around.”

She stressed all provinces and territories are reopening with the core principles to approach this slowly and cautiously. Dr. Tam indicated public health teams across have been able to rapidly investigate any new cases.

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, said it is particular difficult to compare national responses to COVID-19 around the world.

“It’s very different to compare country by country situations because systems are different,” Hajdu said. “For example, in Canada we have a public healthcare system, which means that people can get access to healthcare free of charge and they have supports, such as the newly extended CERB, to be able to take time off if they’re ill and isolate properly.”

Should Canadians leave the country?

For Canadians thinking about going to another country, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canadians are not “forbidden” from the leaving the country and all Canadians can return home, but public health guidelines should be followed to protect each individual, their families and neighbours.

“We’ll evaluate things on an ongoing basis,” Dr. Tam said. “We do know that as other countries are opening up there’s every possibility that Canadians will travel more but of course if they do that they need to be fully cognizant of what is risk is.”

She also stressed the 14-day mandatory isolation when coming to Canada is important to follow.

‘Important for Canada and it’s important for the world’

Freeland also spoke about why Canada should get a seat on the UN Security Council, saying it is “important for Canada and it’s important for the world,” particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The world is at a real hinge moment, a time when Canada and all countries in the world are facing some profound and unprecedented challenges,” Freeland said. “Even as we are facing these profound, truly global challenges, we are also living though a time when the rules-based international order that was founded after the Second World War is under a great deal of stress.”

“It is so important…for Canada to play a role in supporting that rules based international order, in supporting multilateralism and in making it fit for purpose for the 21st century.”

12:00 p.m.: Federal economic snapshot to come on July 8

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will provide an “economic and fiscal snapshot” on July 8.

The prime minister said this will be a look at where the Canada’s economy is right now, how Canada’s response compares to other countries and what can be expected in the coming months.

Trudeau said a full economic and fiscal update would be “unrealistic” at the moment because it would require looking too far into the future.

UN Security Council vote to come

The prime minister also spoke about the UN Security Council vote occurring on Wednesday, reiterating that this is a “unique opportunity” for Canada to get a seat to better engage with international partners.

He added that whatever the result is, Canada will continue to engage and provide assistance on the world stage but is “optimistic” about the situation.

“It is a time for medium-sized countries who can have a big voice to step up,” Trudeau said. “I know that Canada has a particular ability so convene voices from around the world.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Bloc-Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet commented on Parliament putting “special rules” in place to modify Parliament sittings, which he said the Liberals are trying to make last as long as possible.

“The lockdown is being somewhat released on a daily basis…so those rules are not needed anymore,” Blanchet said. “We see that the Liberals are attempting to make the special rules last as long as they can in order to handle issues like if they were something between a majority government and the rule of a king.”

The prime minister was asked to respond to these statements, stressing that there is a minority Parliament and decisions are made on a consensus basis.

“Three different parties came together to make a determination of what Parliament would do, that’s how Parliament functions,” Trudeau said. “If every time something doesn’t go their way an opposition party cries, oh no it’s a dictatorship all of a sudden, it’s sort of irresponsible and it undermines, I think, the strength of our democracy.”

$500 million for research, AI

The federal government will also provide $500 million through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s grants program for research of viruses, developing AI and chemical engineering discoveries.

The Canadian Fish and Seafood Opportunities Fund is also being reopened to help producers access new markets and reach new consumers. On Monday, the Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund opens to support the acquisition of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keeping producers safe and increase storage capacity.

June 16

6:50 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:45 p.m.: ‘Once this virus is anywhere, it’s a risk everywhere’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, commented on the recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Beijing, connected to a wholesale food market, and New Zealand, linked to people who travelled from the U.K.

“Once this virus is anywhere, it’s a risk everywhere,” Dr. Henry said. “We all need to continue to be aware that this is going to be in our communities for some time.”

Related to Beijing in particular, Dr. Henry said she is watching the situation “very carefully” and although transmission has not been linked to a food product directly, it has been linked to the people who are around food products, and these cases need to be discovered quickly.

“We cannot get rid of this virus when we still have people who are moving back and forth, and bringing the risk that they have with them,” she said.

Dr. Henry also indicated the province is working on guidelines for singing and speaking loudly in gatherings.

“It only takes one person in a crowded setting to spread it to others,” she said, explaining that these actions have been linked to a number of outbreaks around the world, including choirs and night clubs.

“It is a cautionary tale,” Dr. Henry said “This is not the time to be having your choir practice.”

Quebec confirms all schools will resume in-class learning in the fall

Quebec’s Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge announced students across the province will return to in-class learning in the fall.

Classes will resume to their pre-COVID-19 sizes but students up to Grade 9 will be split up into subgroups to maintain physical distancing rules. 

Students in the higher grades will have two options, they can follow the rules for the lower grades or go to school with a hybrid in-person and at home system. A combined in-class and virtual learning plan will be in place for CEGEP and university students and will have to stay 1.5 metres away from other students.

On Tuesday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault commented on the federal government extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

He said he has spoken to mayors in the province who have expressed concerns about “convincing” people to go back to work if they can continue to receive $2,000 a month through the CERB.

“Is there a way to negotiate something with the federal government to make sure that there’s an incentive for those people to go back to work?” Legault said.

4:30 p.m.: Saskatchewan to begin Phase 4 on Monday

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced the province will move into the first part of Phase 4 of its reopening plan on Monday, June 22.

This phase of the plan include the reopening of the following businesses and services:

  • Child and youth day camps

  • Outdoor pools and spray parks

  • Seasonal/recreational outdoor sports and activities, both individual and team sports sports (ex. soccer, softball, flag football)

Tournaments and interprovincial travel for sports teams will still be restricted, there also can’t be any handshakes or high-fives during games. Physical distancing must still be maintained, as much as possible.

The limit on indoor gathering will also increase to 30 people, the same as the current outdoor gatherings in Saskatchewan.

“We are working very hard to get everything reopened as quickly as possible, also ensuring that it is reopened as safely as possible,” Moe said.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said small and infrequent gathers are better than large, frequent gatherings. He also advised that outdoor gatherings, with physical distancing, over the summer are preferred.

“Reopening of phases, if done properly, does not generally cause transmission to restart but gatherings in familiar surroundings…where we let our guard down, that’s where transmission continues to happen,” Dr. Shahab said. 

He said maintaining a two-metre physical distance will be important to prevent any “super spreader” events from gatherings.

P.E.I. will allow some family members to travel to the province

Dr. Heather Morrison, Prince Edward Island’s chief public health officer, said the province will allow families who provide support to someone in P.E.I. to travel to the province, as part of the compassionate grounds travel exemption.

This applies to family members who are in other parts of Canada who provide emotional and psychological support, personal care, respite, home support and child care.

“Family support is a new category within the compassionate grounds exemption and I’m happy that Islanders in need can now have that help and support,” Dr. Morrison said. “Family is defined as relatives living in Canada, parent, child, sibling, grandchild or grandparent.”

These individuals must still self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive in P.E.I. and adhere to the public health measures in place in the province.

In order to be approved, applications must demonstrate that the visit “will provide needed and welcome support for Islanders.”

“It is not a means for families to come to P.E.I. for solely social or recreational purposes, or to have a typical vacation,” Dr. Morrison said.

2:00 p.m.: ‘We can’t force anyone to get a test’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke about the recent COVID-19 outbreaks among temporary foreign workers in the province, after Mexico has stopped sending these workers to Canada.

Two workers have died in the province and 300 Mexicans in Canada are believed to be infected with the virus.

Ford said 724 works have been tested in Windsor-Essex but stressed the province can’t force anyone to get tested.

“We can’t force anyone to get a test, we’re encouraging them to get a test,” Ford said. “I want the cooperation of farmers and the workers.”

Should wearing masks be mandatory?

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, said the provincial government maintains that physical distancing is the most important rules to follow, with no plans to make mask wearing mandatory.

“Physical distancing is still the most important rule to follow, for the foreseeable future,” Elliott said. “Masks should work in situation where that’s not going to be possible.”

Premier Ford said he approves of stores implementing their own policy to mandate that customers wear a facial covering. This comes after 14 new cases of COVID-19 connected to a Home Depot store in Richmond Hill were discovered.

“I highly, highly recommend, when you go out, wear a face mask,” Ford said.

The premier also indicated the Ontario government would “consider” an order to provide immunity from civil prosecution to essential workers and essential work places from being sued for spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the province announced a new toolkit for businesses in the province to create a safer workplace.

Some of the recommendations for businesses opening up include installing plexiglass barriers to separate workers from customers, removing unnecessary doors that many people would have to touch, limiting the number of people in a space at one time, staggering work shifts and breaks and establishing screening policies.

What Canada is doing to stop the ‘Alaska’ loophole

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke about Canada and the U.S. extending border restrictions between the two countries for another 30 days, saying it was a “collaborative” decision and the measures will stay exactly the same.

When asked about Americans using the “Alaska loophole” to vacation in Canada, Freeland said the federal government is clear that any travel into Canada should be for essential purposes but the federal government also understands there are people in particular regions of both countries who do need to cross the border to get to other areas of their own country.

“We are very clear that Canada’s rules are you can enter for essential reasons but not for non-essential ones,” Freeland said. “Having said that, the RCMP in Banff is following up on this particular report and is encouraging Canadians to let them know if they see other people who seem to fall into this category.”

She said Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety, has instructed the CBSA to take further care to ensure people are “truly” coming to Canada for essential reasons.

The Deputy Prime Minister also spoke about temporary foreign workers contracting COVID-19 in Canada. She said the federal government is “working closely” with Ontario “to ensure that the conditions in which temporary foreign workers live are ones that don’t harm their health.”

“I think that all Canadians need to take that obligation very, very seriously and of course the employers need to take that obligation very, very seriously,” Freeland said.

11:25 a.m.: Extension to Canada-U.S. border restrictions and CERB

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada and the U.S. have agreed to extend border restriction by an additional 30 day, to July 21.

“This is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” Trudeau said.

CERB extended

The prime minister also announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended by eight weeks, originally expected to go ahead until July, with no changes to the $2,000 a month payment.

“Even as we start to reopen, a lot of people still need the support,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the federal government will look at “international best practices” and monitor the economy to determine if any changes need to be made to the financial aid program moving forward.

“Our goal here is to make sure that the CERB is working for you in the best way possible,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister also spoke about Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

“Getting a seat on the UN Security Council for Canada is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end,” Trudeau said.

He stressed the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified how interconnected and interdependent the world is and the goal is to provide more ways for Canada to be more engaged on the world stage.

“Right now, as we look at the kind of world’ were going to come out of…we need a country like Canada that is big enough to make a difference but small enough to know we can’t do it alone,” the prime minister said.

June 15

7:30 p.m.: COVID-19 questions of the day

7:15 p.m.: ‘Two metres is what we need to do’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, commented on recent reports that the two-metre physical distance could be reduced to one metre.

Dr. Henry indicated this is not a new discussion, but something that has been evaluated for many years. She said the general understand that droplets can spread from between one to two metres.

“Because we know that there are very few things we can do once somebody has been exposed, there’s no treatment, there’s no vaccine, we tend to be more on the cautious side,” Dr. Henry said.

“Technically, we say droplet spread is within a metre but we have, and I think the consensus with most of my colleagues around the world, for these types of setting is to say two metres is what we need to do.”

Dr. Henry said the province is looking at easing restrictions on travel within B.C. and providing guidance for safe travel this summer.

“We want people to…stay home, to travel within B.C., but to do it in a way that does not but undue burden on the place that you’re going,” she said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer also commented on people “cheating” the public health rules, telling border official they are going to Alaska but actually coming to vacation in Canada. Dr. Henry said these border issues that come with penalties but also indicated we may not know the “full story” of everyone’s particular situation.

“If people are misleading people at the border, then there can very well be consequences for that,” health minister Adrian Dix said. “I would advise anyone even contemplating such a thing to give their head a shake and not do it because it doesn’t make sense and they put at risk, in some respects, their ability to visit out country in the future.”

Alberta ends its state of emergency

The state of emergency declaration has officially lapsed in the province, health minister Tyler Shandro announced on Monday.

“It does not remove or impact the existing orders that Dr. Hinshaw has put in place,” Shandro said. “Nor does it impact her ability to issue additional orders, as they may be needed in the days ahead.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, commented on reports of people from the U.S. using the “loop hole” of telling border officials they are going to Alaska to cross the border.

Hinshaw said she has been in contact with the Canada Border Service Agency through the Public Health Agency of Canada, and has expressed concerns about “making sure that when people do cross on their way to Alaska that they’re very clear about the requirements.”

“I have see one media story about perhaps one particular group…who didn’t share accurate information,” she said. “I don’t have information to indicate this is a significant number of people crossing the border.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health maintained that everyone in the province needs to follow public health advice as COVID-19 “is going to be with us for many months to come.”

“I think it’s very likely that we will see some kind of a second wave,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “The timing and the peak of that wave are entirely dependent on us. This is in all of our hands.”

4:00 p.m.: Ontario looking to gather more data on COVID-19 cases

Ontario is planning to expand its data collection strategy and is proposing a regulatory change that would mandate the reporting of data on race, income, language and household size for individuals who have tested positive for the virus.

Individuals would be able to choose not to answer any or all of these questions.

“This will help us to get a more complete picture of the outbreak,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health said.

As more regions in Ontario continue to move into the next stage of reopening, Dr. Yaffe said many areas are successfully working to prevent future spread of the virus. Out of 34 health units, 28 reported five cases or fewer in Monday’s daily case count and 18 reported no new cases at all.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said people in the province still need ensure they are following the public health guidance, particularly as more businesses and services resume operations.

“We’re expanding but we have to be more careful,” Dr. Williams said.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said he would like to see daily case numbers below 100, with about 60 cases day, which was the case back in February.

1:30 p.m.: More Ontarians to enter Stage 2 of reopening

The Ontario government announced seven new regions will move into Stage 2 of reopening on Friday, June 19 at 12:01 a.m.

These regions include:

  • Durham Region Health Department

  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit

  • Halton Region Health Department

  • Hamilton Public Health Services

  • Lambton Health Unit

  • Niagara Region Public Health Department

  • York Region Public Health Services

“Thanks to the collective efforts of our frontline health care workers and the people in these regions to stop the spread of COVID-19, more businesses will be able to open their doors and thousands of people will be able to go back to work and put food on the table,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.

The second stage of reopening in Ontario includes, dine-in services at restaurants, personal services like hair salons and shopping malls can reopen.

People in Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex will remain in Stage 1 for the time being. Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the numbers of cases in these regions are higher than health officials would like, but they are “very close.”

Although some of these regions still in Stage 1 are quite close to other areas moving into Stage 2, the premier and health officials did not express particular concern about travel between these areas, saying the remaining regions should be moving into the next stage soon.

“Please be patient, we’re going to get there very, very soon,” Ford said.

With regards to the recent outbreaks among migrant workers in southern Ontario, Ford said it is “so important” to test anyone living out outbreak conditions. He explained the workers have to be willing to voluntarily be tested and the employers have to agree to the testing.

“Their concerns are if they test positive they’re going to lose all their workers, they’re going to lose all their crops but I think the chief medical officer, with his communications, has a solution for that,” Ford said. “If they test asymptomatic, they’ll still be able to work.”

“They came here, they self-isolated for two weeks and they’ve picked it up since they’ve been here. I don’t want any finger pointing at these hard-working migrant workers.”

12:55 p.m.: ‘We are not going back to before January 2020’

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, stressed the COVID-19 crisis is not over and people across the country must continue to follow public health rules.

“The cases are going down because of the public health measures,” Dr. Tam said, indicating it is not because the virus has become “less severe.”

She said people must maintain the two metre physical distance between others and wear a non-medial facial covering when that is not possible. Dr. Tam indicated health official are looking have sustainable measures that can continue to be in place in Canada, particularly as we head into the influenza season in the fall.

“We are not going back to before January 2020 and everyone, including young persons, must follow local public health advice,” Canada’s chief public health officer said.

Following an announcement from Quebec officials adjusting the safe physical distance rules for some groups, Dr. Tam explained “most” of the droplets from an individual can be avoided at a one metre distance, but the two metre distance is a more effective measure.

11:50 a.m.: Announcement on CERB to come later this week

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is working to extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), with a formal announcement promised for later this week.

Trudeau still urged employers to apply for the wage subsidy, if their business is able to resume operations.

“The CERB was designed to keep everyone at home and allow us to get through the initial phase of this pandemic,” the prime minister said. “We know there are many jobs that aren’t going to be coming back in the short term.”

“We will continue to be there for you and your family.”

Trudeau also spoke about the Canada-U.S. border, indicating both countries are content with the restrictions currently in place.

When asked about reports last week of “loop holes” allowing Americans to come to Canada, including crossing the border to get to Alaska, the prime minister said the federal government is looking at these circumstances to ensure the rules are applied “consistently” for all travellers.

Trudeau announced applications for the Surplus Food Rescue Program can now be submitted. This allows producers to provide food they cannot sell, like potatoes, poultry and seafood, to people in need across the country, including remote communities.

He added the federal government said Canada is responding to a UN request to provide airlift support for emergency and humanitarian supplies for some of the world’ most vulnerable populations.

Quebec changes safe physical distancing guidance

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, announced indoor gatherings can occur with a maximum of 50 people, with safe distancing rules being followed.

For children under the age of 16, a safe physical distance for them is now considered one metre in the province, opposed to the two metre distance. 

“The impact of the disease on kids is very low, we had schools with outbreaks but no big issues with the health of the kids,” Dr. Arruda said at a press conference on Monday.

There can also be small “bubbles” of groups of children in this age group at schools, with each bubble separated one metre apart, two metres away from teachers.

Dr. Arruda also said 1.5 metres is now considered a safe distance in between individuals or households at cinemas and theatres.

“If you stay there, you don’t sing, you don’t talk, you’re only listening to the movie…the risk is lower,” Quebec’s public health director said.

In all other circumstances, the two metre distance must be maintained.

June 12

6:15: COVID-19 questions of the day

6:00 p.m.: No new cases in Albert linked to protests, demonstrations

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, revealed about 60 per cent of active COVID-19 cases in the province are in people under the age of 40. Recently, there has been a particular increase in cases in individuals between the ages of 20 and 29.

“It is important for younger Albertans to remember that while you may not be at risk for severe outcomes of infection, your actions are critical to protecting those around you,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

There has also been a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in Edmonton, increasing from 58 to 149 in the last three weeks. Dr. Hinshaw said a single source or cause has not been identified. Approximately two-thirds of the cases are connected to known sources of infection.

Dr. Hinshaw was able to confirm none of these recent cases are linked to anti-racism protests and demonstrations in the province, but Alberta’s health team has developed a guidance document for organizers of these events. Recommendations include using virtual means, car rallies and demonstrating in groups of no more than 100 people, with distance between the groups.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health also commented on Friday’s announcement from the federal government mandating temperature checks at airports.

“We know that not everyone who has COVID-19 has a fever,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “If that was the only measure…that wouldn’t be sufficient.”

Dr. Hinshaw said it can be a useful tool as part of a multistep process but the province will be watching to see if this precaution can or should be moved into other settings, aside from travel.

1:45 p.m.: People in Ontario can create ‘social circles’ of up to 10 people

How to create a safe social circle
How to create a safe social circle

The Ontario government has announced people in the province can now create a “social circle” of up to 10 people, effective immediately. 

These are individuals that you will be able to come into close contact with, including hugs and sharing a meal at home or on an open restaurant patio.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, indicated there are five steps everyone needs to follow to establish a social circle. The steps are as follows:

  • Start with your current circle: the people you live with or who regularly come into your household

  • If your current circle is under 10 people, you can add members to your circle, including those from another household, family members or friends

  • Get agreement from everyone that they will join the circle

  • Keep your social circle safe. Maintain physical distancing with anyone outside of your circle

  • Be true to your circle, no one should be part of more than one circle.

“The social circle police aren’t going to be knocking on your door,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said. “We trust you’re going to be doing the right thing and just follow the protocols.”

Elliott stressed the social circle rules are different to the social gathering rules announced earlier this week. For social gatherings, physical distance of two metres must be maintained and participants do not need to be in your social circle.

“Up to now, Ontarians have done a great job of staying at home…wearing facial coverings in public settings,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said. “You want to trust the people in your group.”

Williams indicated that following the social circle protocol is also essential to help public health with contact tracing and contact management, should any additional COVID-19 cases or outbreaks appear.

1:00 p.m.: Travellers who have a fever will have to rebook flights in 14 days

Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, provided additional details on the temperature screenings at airports being mandated by the federal government.

The temperature checks will be executed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), beginning at the end of June for international passengers coming to Canada. By the end of July, these screenings will be implemented for flights from Canada in the four largest airports in Canada, followed by 11 more airports by the end of September.

Temperature checks for passengers will occur twice, 10 minutes apart. If someone are confirmed to have a fever, they must rebook their flight 14 days later. Garneau said the federal government is working with airlines so ensure the subsequent flight is not more expensive than their original booking.

The transport minister stressed this is in addition to the health screening questions and the wearing of face coverings.

“Is it perfect, no, but it is part of a layered approach we are taking,” Garneau said, adding if someone with COVID-19 does have a fever and presents at an airport, there is a “very high” probability that it will be detected.

Americans could be coming to Canada to go to Alaska

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland commented on reports that Americans have been able to come to Canada by indicating they are driving through the country to get to Alaska.

She said although border officials are doing a “great job” to determine if someone’s journey is essential, she reminded people on both side of the border that “restrictions are there for a reason.”

“They are there to keep us all safe,” Freeland said. “Do not come to Canada unless you are coming for an essential reason.

With regards to the future of the Canada-U.S. border restrictions, the deputy prime minister said the two countries continue to maintain a “collaborative approach” and conversations are ongoing.

“I think that it’s important for all of us to recognize that so far, our joint collaborative approach…has been a real success,” Freeland said. “All decisions about the Canadian border will be taken by Canadians, in the Canadian national interest.”

She also said although the reopening of Canada’s economy is exciting, the COVID-19 situation still remains serious.

11:55 a.m.: Canada mandates temperature checks for travellers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government is mandating temperature screenings at airport.

Trudeau said this will be a “phased approach,” first for travellers to Canada, then for travellers from Canada, followed by travellers within Canada.

The prime minister said a passenger who has a fever will not be permitted to board their flight and individuals who work at airports will also have temperature checks.

“It is an additional measure that can highlight symptoms of COVID-19,” Trudeau said. “It’s not a 100 per cent solution, it is an extra layer of safety…it also aligns with what many of our international partners are doing as well.”

Canadian Armed Forces to remain in long-term care homes until June 26

Trudeau also said the Canadian Armed Forces will remain at long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec until June 26.

“Their help is still needed,” the prime minister said.

He went on to say this is not a long-term solution and the goal is to replace the Canadian Armed Forces members in these settings with trained members from the Canadian Red Cross. Trudeau said member of the armed forces were there to “stabilize” the situation in these setting and have made a significant different to date.

For a full archive of the first month of the pandemic, please check our archive of events.

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