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Canada's acquisition and rollout of vaccines far behind most industrialized nations
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Canada has fallen dangerously short in its vaccine response in relation to other countries both in regard to acquisition and rollout. Israel leads the world, yet a Canadian Press report published recently demonstrated that,”...Canada has given at least one shot to more than 193,000 people, or 0.52% of the population as of Jan. 6, despite starting a week earlier than Israel...” which has vaccinated some 17.5%.

As of Jan. 8, Quebec had vaccinated 0.73 percent of its population.

An Our World in Data chart, as of Jan. 5, demonstrates that Israel (population nine million) had administered 17.14 COVID-19 vaccination doses per 100 people. The United States, which has 328.9 million people compared to Canada’s 37 million, and has states where we have provinces, is fourth at 1.6 per 100.

Canada is in 10th place at 0.43 per 100, behind Germany (83 million) at 0.44, Italy (60 million) at 0.51, Russia (144.5 million), which has a larger land mass than Canada, at 0.55; Denmark (5.8 million) at 1.09, the United Kingdom (66.6 million) at 1.39, Bahrain (1.5 million) is at 4.02 and the United Arab Emirates (9.6 million) at 8.35.

Vivian Bercovici, the former Canadian Ambassador to Israel, referred to the rollout in Canada as “chaos. It seems that the federal government has failed utterly in its single responsibility — to secure an adequate vaccine supply for the population,” she wrote. “Had they done so they’d be screaming from the rooftops, incessantly. They are not. But they are busy pointing fingers at their provincial counterparts (well, everyone but Quebec) to malign their incompetence with the rollout.”

Her comments highlight another problem aside from the rollout and that is the lack of vaccine doses in Canada. While Israel has received some 8,000,000 doses, Canada has acquired only some 400,000. Other industrialized nations have also received millions. Another danger is that the Trudeau government has not ordered any of the antibody treatments approved by America’s FDA in November such as Eli Lilly’s Bamlanivimab that have proven very effective. Canada has no antibody stock.

Bercovici also noted that, “Israel digitalized fully all health records and systems more than 20 years ago. This institutional preparedness facilitates a successful national vaccine drive. No faxes. No speed dialing the doctor for half a day to get an appointment. No paper.”

The Quebec government has criticized the federal government as well. In his Jan. 6 press conference, Premier François Legault said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has “no lessons to give the provinces,” regarding vaccines, he said. “In the week we receive them, we give them. We don’t have enough doses.” The Trudeau government has centralized all purchases of vaccines and therapeutics but leaves distribution to the provinces. Last spring provinces were allowed to acquire equipment, ventilators and PPEs themselves in addition to the Federal government. The Premier added that Quebec is capable of administering 250,000 doses a week if it had access to that amount.

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather confirmed that the federal government, “...took responsibility for purchasing the vaccine and all associated equipment needed to store and administer the vaccine. Other than vaccine doses themselves, all associated equipment has been purchased and ready to go.We originally had not expected to receive any vaccine doses in December but by the end of the month had received more than 420,000 doses.” But there has been no explanation from Ottawa why many western nations have received millions of does while Canada is so low.

Quebec's curfew rules now in effect

The 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Jan. 9-Feb. 8 curfew rules that came into effect in Quebec Saturday to stop the spread of COVID-19 were finalized that day.

“This won’t change much in the lives of those following the rules,” Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said Thursday. “But for the minority who violate the rules by going to gatherings, this will be a more difficult ballgame. Police officers are used to using their judgment, and will do so with new powers.” The fines are between $1,000 and $6,000.

The Minister said police will use common sense and there are exceptions.

“A good reason will be necessary to be out,” she said, adding that a curfew “must not stop women from leaving unhealthy (abusive) environments.”

Guibeault recommended that workers who are out have proof of legitimacy, such as a document from an employer.

“If you visit a pharmacy, keep your receipt,” she added.

The curfew exceptions include:

• Walking a dog within a one-kilometre radius of one’s home.

• People who must be on the job.

• People who have to buy necessary medication after seeing a doctor.

• Those going to and coming from a hospital, clinic or a dentist.

• Visiting a sick or injured parent.

• Students who have to attend in-person classes.

• People returning at night from a work-related flight.

• A parent bringing a sick child to hospital or teenager to essential work.

Legault announces 'shock therapy' COVID measures until Feb. 8

Quebec is in a near-lockdown from Saturday Jan.9 until Feb. 8, with curfews established from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and during these four weeks only essential businesses are allowed to be open, Premier François Legault announced Wednesday afternoon. The fines for violating the curfew will be between $1,000 and $6,000.

Legault said the situation has worsened in recent days. “There have been more hospitalizations, more deaths,” he said. “We must ensure the safety of citizens and make difficult decisions to protect the more vulnerable and the health care network. There are no perfect solutions and there are disadvantages with mental health, and we have try to find a balance.” Legault said that cases went up even as businesses were closed in recent weeks. “The answer is [the spread] happened in people’s homes, and people ended up in the hospital.”

The Premier said that, as a result, “shock therapy” is necessary. The measures include:

• Beginning Jan. 9 until Feb. 8, an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, apart from those working those hours, will be in effect. Otherwise, nobody can be outside their homes during that period. Those outside will have to give a valid reason to police, such as media covering stories. Dogs can be walked within a 1 km radius of homes.

• Offices will be closed, and working from home is mandatory unless it is necessary to be onsite, such as manufacturing essential items and construction. Non-essential businesses remain closed, but curbside service will be available for items such as clothing.

• Grocery stores and depanneurs have to close at 7:30 p.m. to give people time to get home by 8 p.m. The exceptions are pharmacies and depanneurs at gas stations as well as gas stations themselves.Restaurant deliveries can continue after curfew.

• The filming of movies and TV shows can continue.

• Places of worship must now close. Funerals have a limit of 10 people.

• Primary schools will still open Jan. 11, but children will have to wear masks in hallways and those in the 5th and 6th grades will have to wear masks in the classroom. Daycares are still open.

• High schools will open Jan. 18 and two masks will be provided each day to teachers and students.

• Children will be able to study in municipal libraries while respecting distancing rules, needed for those with insufficiently fast wi-fi at home.

• Individual outdoor activities are allowed, but no ski lessons or organized sport team activity. People must remain within their household bubble.

• People living alone may make and receive social visits but only with other people living alone. And you can walk your dog after curfew within 1 km of your residence.

Legault pointed out that 80 percent of those hospitalized are 65 and older. “If we wish to reduce hospitalizations and the death toll, we have to protect them much better,” he added. In a message them, he said, “remain at home and don’t take chances. We have to make a special effort for those 65 and older.”

Legault also called upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provide more vaccination doses, saying Quebec can administer 250,000 doses a week.

“Instead of telling provinces what to do, he could supply vaccines more quickly.”

Legault, along with Health Minister Christian Dubé and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda, told reporters that:

• Quebec wants to avoid a situation in which hospitals will have to prioritize who to treat.

• People can still have one visitor, as long as they wear a mask and are two metres apart.

• There is no specific science that calls for a curfew, but it will reduce the probability of contacts.

• The homeless must be indoors — there is enough room for them.

• Two caregivers can have access to a person in a CHSLD, one at a time each 24 hours.