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Trudeau offers provinces help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Last Updated Apr 6, 2021 at 10:28 am PDT

File: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime minister plans to meet with premiers on Wednesday to discuss COVID-19 response, including rising cases, vaccines

Variants remain a major concern across Canada, which is struggling to contain the third wave

Vaccine delivery pace under question, with latest figures showing millions of doses delivered but not administered

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – As COVID-19 case numbers surge across the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is offering to help provinces address the rise in hospitalizations and the distribution of vaccines.

Canada is delivering more than a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines a week to provinces and territories, Trudeau explains. He says the federal government is ready to provide support in whatever capacity provinces and territories may need.

“The federal government has paid for the vaccines and we’re happy to continue to help with more resources as needed,” he said. “This is the time to do everything we can, together, to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible.”

He began on Tuesday by expressing concern about where Canada is headed in this new wave, calling it “disturbing.”

“Around the world, countries are facing a very serious third wave of this pandemic. And right now, so is Canada,” the prime minister said. “This isn’t the news any of us wanted, but hospitalizations are surging, ICU beds are filling up, variants are spreading, and even people who had convinced themselves they didn’t need to be concerned are getting sick.”

He’s expected to speak with Ontario Premier Doug Ford about that province’s current situation on Tuesday, and says he will address the other premiers on a call Wednesday.

Canada marked a grim milestone earlier this month, soaring past its one millionth diagnosis of COVID-19.

“This is a stark reminder of how much we’ve been through,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. “With more contagious variants driving epidemic growth in many areas of Canada, we know this virus is not going out with a whimper.”

She says over the past week, there have been on average almost 6,100 new cases and 31 deaths each day.

The increase in cases across the country have put a strain on health care resources. Many frontline workers have been sounding the alarm in recent weeks, drawing attention to busy hospitals and staffing that’s been stretched thin caring for those who’ve contracted the coronavirus.

“It is clear that community-based restrictions will be needed a while longer,” Tam said, noting an average of close to 2,400 people were being treated for COVID-19 in Canada’s hospitals each day last week.

“Representing a four per cent increase over the previous week,” she explained. “This includes over 780 people in Intensive Care Units, which is a weekly increase of 18 per cent.”

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As people continue to get sick, both Trudeau and Tam are reminding everyone they need to do their part to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Trudeau announced Canada’s Recovery Sickness Benefit remains an option for people who need to take time off because of illness, adding it’s been extended by two weeks.

“No one should be going to work sick right now,” he said.

Canadians who are eligible for the benefit can receive $450 for a one-week period. People can apply up to a total of four weeks.

The federal government is also vowing to help get more PPE to those on the frontlines.

Vaccine delivery continues

Despite millions of doses being delivered to Canada in the coming weeks, the country’s vaccine rollout continues to be scrutinized.

While Canada has delivered 10 million doses to the provinces so far, new numbers from Health Minister Patty Hajdu have highlighting gaps between how many doses have been received versus how many have actually been administered.

Hajdu says with millions of doses arriving in the coming weeks, the government will continue to be transparent with how many are received and given.

However, she would not say directly if there were concerns with the speed by which doses were being administered.

“I think that it’s hard for me to give you a general answer because of course provinces and territories have very different strategies across the country,” she said Tuesday when asked about the pace of distribution. “What I can tell you is we’re watching closely and we stand ready to assist any province or territory who’s having a challenge in rolling out vaccination.”

Tam says Canada’s vaccine response “is getting stronger every day.”

The B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., continues to account for over 90 per cent of the more than 15,000 variant cases reported to date across the country, Tam says.

She says this variant has likely replaced the original virus in some areas.