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A look at the latest COVID-19 developments in Canada

A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada: — Quebec has launched an online portal to track COVID-19 rapid test results, even as experts and government officials admit there are limits to the accuracy of the data it provides.

A look at the latest COVID-19 news in Canada:

— Quebec has launched an online portal to track COVID-19 rapid test results, even as experts and government officials admit there are limits to the accuracy of the data it provides. Health Minister Christian Dubé says the government-run platform will help the province better track COVID-19 transmission in the community, given that publicly run PCR testing is reserved for people in high-risk groups. Quebecers are asked to enter their names, dates of birth and medicare numbers on the platform, as well as the dates the tests were taken, whether they had symptoms and whether the results were positive or negative.

— A new survey suggests a widening gap between the pandemic views of people who have opted to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster and those who are holding steady with only two shots. A web panel survey carried out by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies shows 67 per cent of people with a booster dose who responded are afraid of contracting COVID-19, compared to just 52 per cent of those with two doses. "We're seeing what I call a 'booster hesitancy,' as opposed to a vaccine hesitancy, and it's shaping some of their attitudes. Their level of concern about COVID is a bit different from the boosted. The degree to which they're concerned about the vaccination is a bit different," says Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies. For instance, 82 per cent of boosted respondents said they supported vaccine mandates at shopping malls and retail outlets, compared to only 57.8 per cent of people with two doses.

— Ontario is reporting 608 people in intensive care with COVID-19 and 4,016 people hospitalized with the virus. The intensive care figures are down slightly from the 626 people in ICU reported Tuesday, while hospitalizations rose slightly from 4,008. There were 89 more virus-related deaths reported, which the province says occurred over the past three weeks, and another three deaths recorded that happened more than a month ago.

— Alberta Health says it has detected three cases of the BA.2 variant and reported its second-highest rate of hospitalizations due to COVID-19. The province says there were 1,418 hospitalizations, a day after it broke its record with 1,443. There were 1,309 people with the disease in non-intensive care and 109 patients in ICUs across the province. The province also recorded 22 additional deaths, bringing the total to 3,505 since the pandemic began.

— Staff in government-funded child-care centres in B.C. are soon expected to have access to rapid antigen tests provided by the province. The Children's Ministry says up to 250,000 tests will be sent to government-funded child-care facilities throughout the province for use by employees with symptoms of COVID-19. It says the Health Ministry and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry are directing how rapid antigen tests are best used as part of the province's pandemic response. 

— Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says the province is considering whether to lift some COVID-19 measures but emphasized that booster shots will remain critical in reducing serious illness and preserving the health-care system. Dr. Saqib Shahab said conversations are ongoing with the Saskatchewan Party government about which public health orders will be needed as society learns to live with the virus. He said there needs to be a long-term plan as the pandemic will soon enter its third year in Canada. 

— Manitoba's chief public health officer says the province may be close to the peak of the current COVID-19 wave. Dr. Brent Roussin says it's too early to be definitive, but indicators point to a possible peak in the next week or so. The number of people in Manitoba hospitals with the virus has dropped slightly and the number of patients in intensive care has stabilized. Roussin says wastewater samples collected in Winnipeg are down from a high in early January, but the drop has not been big and the numbers continue to fluctuate.

— Residents of Prince Edward Island will see public health measures begin to ease next week, including a return to in-class learning for the province's students, officials announced. This comes amid signs that the largest wave of the disease to hit the province since the pandemic began is beginning to subside. "We’ve been able to avoid a lot of the dire effects and impacts of COVID, but this last five-week wave has hit us especially hard," Premier Dennis King told a news conference. "The road we have to travel won’t be easy, but we have to begin to make it," he added. Officials said all kindergarten to Grade 12 schools will reopen Monday with enhanced health measures. 

— Despite signs the latest COVID-19 wave in Nova Scotia has peaked, restrictions to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus will remain until at least the middle of next month, officials said. Health orders such as gathering limits and reduced capacities for bars and restaurants are needed because the province continues to report high numbers of COVID-19-related hospitalizations, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang told reporters. "Both hospitals and long-term care facilities are under extreme stress and pressure," Strang said. "They need more time before we can safely lift restrictions."

— Three more people in Newfoundland and Labrador have died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of fatalities from the disease in the province to 34. Fifteen of the province's 34 COVID-19-related deaths have occurred in the past three and a half weeks. Health Minister John Haggie says the latest modelling indicates about 60 per cent of deaths assumed to be linked to the Omicron variant involved people who had received at least one dose of vaccine.

— New Brunswick health officials are reporting six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Five of the deaths involved people 80 years old and above while one person in their 40s died in the Miramichi, N.B., region. New Brunswick has reported a total of 221 COVID-19 deaths. Health officials say there are 137 people hospitalized with COVID-19 — a drop of one since Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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