What’s happening now
Shanghai lockdown deepens after new surge in asymptomatic cases
SHANGHAI — The major Chinese financial center of Shanghai extended restrictions on transportation on Tuesday after a day of intensive city-wide testing saw new cases surge to more than 13,000, with no end to the lockdown yet in sight.
After originally taking a more piecemeal approach aimed at minimizing economic disruptions, Shanghai imposed a two-stage lockdown last week as authorities struggled to contain what had become the city’s biggest ever COVID-19 outbreak.
The lockdown was originally set to end on Tuesday in the city’s western districts, but has now been extended until further notice.
Public health measures were unprecedented — but so was pandemic, Hinshaw tells hearing challenging her orders
The public health orders made to combat the pandemic were unprecedented, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw conceded Monday.
But so was the coronavirus that continues to impact the health of people worldwide, she told a hearing challenging the constitutionality of the Alberta government’s measures.
Under cross-examination by lawyer Leighton Grey on an affidavit Hinshaw has filed to justify the government actions, Hinshaw was quizzed on the variety of steps she ordered, from mask mandates to economic lockdowns.
Grey suggested Hinshaw was granted extraordinary powers by the province, but she said those have existed for decades under the Public Health Act.
“The events of the past few years are part of what the Public Health Act was written for and part of the planning to be prepared for a significant public health event,” Hinshaw said.
Dr. Verna Yiu out as head of Alberta Health Services
Dr. Verna Yiu has been removed as president and CEO of Alberta Health Services more than a year before her contract was set to expire.
Neither Alberta Health nor AHS would confirm to Postmedia whether Yiu was fired or resigned, but AHS did confirm Yiu will receive a severance payment of one year’s salary, more than $573,000, something guaranteed in her contract if she was fired “without just cause.”
Yiu’s contract was extended last June for another two years. In a Monday news release from AHS, Yiu thanked staff, physicians and volunteers and expressed pride in their work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I took on this role in 2016 because I saw an opportunity to further solidify culture, teamwork, and excellence within the organization. I believed that we could develop better relationships with our patients and families, and with Alberta communities,” Yiu wrote.
AHS said in its release a search committee was formed “several months ago” to begin looking for Yiu’s replacement, but did not offer a specific reason for Yiu’s departure.
Quebec recorded as many as 32,000 new daily COVID infections last week, study estimates
Quebec saw between 18,000 and 32,000 new COVID-19 infections per day last week, according to an estimate released Friday by a Montreal-based research centre.
The results of the study by CIRANO should make Quebecers take the sixth wave of the pandemic seriously, Roxane Borges Da Silva, a professor at Université de Montréal’s school of public health, who worked on the research, said in an interview.
The Quebec government, she added, should strengthen its messaging on COVID-19 and reconsider its plan to lift mask mandates in mid-April.
“It’s a very significant rise — non-negligible and worrisome — especially for those who are vulnerable to COVID and to health workers,” she said.
New COVID-19 vaccine policy for federal workers expected
The federal government is planning to update its policy on mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for its workers on Wednesday.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada has already filed a grievance against the existing policy, which requires all federal public service members to be fully vaccinated even if they work at home.
The government is obligated to review the policy after six months and that timeline runs out this week.
PSAC president Chris Aylward says the union has been consulted, but he does not know what to expect from the new policy.
B.C. Premier John Horgan tests positive for COVID-19
B.C. Premier John Horgan has contracted COVID-19.
“This morning I tested positive for COVID-19,” he said on Twitter Monday. “Fortunately, my symptoms are mild and that is thanks to being fully vaccinated.”
Horgan said he is following public health guidance by isolating and working from home until his symptoms are gone.
Canadians becoming more divided over COVID-19 and politics, survey suggests
A new survey suggests Canadians are becoming more divided, with some saying issues have led them to reduce contact with friends or family.
The national phone survey by the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research at the University of Saskatchewan was done between March 7 and March 24. It asked 1,011 people about the issues that divide them the most.
About three out of every four respondents said they believe society has become more polarized.
The majority said the COVID-19 pandemic (72 per cent) and the 2021 federal election (73 per cent) were the two most divisive issues over the past year.
About 40 per cent of those surveyed said they have reduced contact with friends or family over an argument about the pandemic or politics.
“There’s been so much amplified rhetoric in the last two years since the beginning of the pandemic, and a lot of the rhetoric has really served to divide folks — whether that division is actually real or it’s just perceived,” research director Jason Disano told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from Saskatoon.
China sends military, doctors to Shanghai to test 26 million residents for COVID
China has sent the military and thousands of health-care workers into Shanghai to help carry out COVID-19 tests for all of its 26 million residents as cases continued to rise on Monday, in one of the country’s biggest-ever public health responses.
Some residents woke up before dawn for white-suited health-care workers to swab their throats as part of nucleic acid testing at their housing compounds, many queuing up in their pajamas and standing the required two meters apart.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Sunday dispatched more than 2,000 medical personnel from across the army, navy and joint logistics support forces to Shanghai, an armed forces newspaper reported.
So far 38,000 health-care workers from provinces such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang and the capital Beijing have been dispatched to Shanghai, according to state media, which showed them arriving, suitcase-laden and masked up, by high-speed rail and aircraft.
It is China’s largest public health response since it tackled the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus was first discovered in late 2019. The State Council said the PLA dispatched more than 4,000 medical personnel to the province of Hubei, where Wuhan is, at that time.
U.S. poor died at much higher rate from COVID than rich: report
Americans living in poorer counties died during the pandemic at almost twice the rate of those in rich counties, a study released Monday by the Poor People’s Campaign showed.
The study, based on income and death data from over 3,200 U.S. counties, shows an even bigger gap during the Delta variant that made up the U.S.’s fourth coronavirus wave, when people living in the lowest income counties died at five times the rate of those in the highest income counties.
The 300 counties with the highest death rates have an average poverty rate of 45%, and household median incomes on average $23,000 lower than counties with lower rates. Many of the top twenty counties were sparsely populated areas in Georgia, Texas and Virginia, the report shows.
“The neglect of poor and low-wealth people in this country during a pandemic is immoral, shocking and unjust, especially in light of the trillions of dollars that profit-driven entities received,” said William Barber, director of the Poor People’s Campaign, an activist group that aims to correct the United States’ income inequality.
Surging COVID cases force easyJet to cancel UK flights over staff shortages
A renewed surge of COVID-19 in Britain has forced airlines including easyJet to cancel hundreds of flights in recent days as staff sickness levels soar.
England dropped all its coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, including a legal requirement to self-isolate when testing positive and the need to wear masks in public places.
Cases started to surge in Britain near the beginning of last month and by the end of the March 26 week, one in 13 people were believed to be positive with the virus, the highest figure since the pandemic began.
While hospitalization levels are well beålow previous peaks in 2020 and 2021, companies are reporting disruption to services, including at airports.
EasyJet canceled more than 200 flights at the weekend and said around 60 would be canceled on Monday. British Airways also made a small number of cancellations on Sunday and said the issue was affecting airlines and airports in general.