First shipment of COVID-19 antiviral pill on its way across Canada: Trudeau


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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the first shipment of an oral COVID-19 pill is making its way across Canada but is no substitute for vaccination against the rapidly spreading virus.

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The entire northern Quebec region of Nunavik is on “red alert” with more than half of its 14 Inuit communities struggling with high viral transmission.

Other provinces and territories are bracing for a peak in the fifth wave with hospitalizations beginning to level out.

The antiviral drug Paxlovid is meant to protect against hospitalization and death. Canada has purchased one million courses for delivery this year.

“It’s important to remember that this will be a powerful tool to continue to keep people from people getting extremely sick but it needs to be used right,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

“It’s not a replacement for getting vaccinated, for wearing masks, for staying safe, for keeping your distance.”

The Omicron variant-fuelled fifth wave of the pandemic appears to be peaking in some provinces, while others warn the worst is yet to come.

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Quebec reported its lowest daily increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations with a rise of eight, bringing the total to 3,425 people in hospital. It also saw a slight decline in intensive care patients.

Meanwhile, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are “glimmers of hope” that COVID-19 cases will peak this month with hospitalization and intensive care admissions to follow.

The province recorded a small dip in the number of people with COVID-19 in hospital to 4,132 patients from 4,183, as intensive care patients rose by eight to 589. Fifty-nine new deaths were also reported.

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Many types of Ontario businesses continue to be closed under public health restrictions, but Premier Doug Ford said to expect a “positive” announcement on measures later this week.

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In British Columbia, some businesses are eligible for a financial boost from the province as they are forced to stay closed for at least another month to curb COVID-19 spread.

Places such as event venues, bars and nightclubs that don’t serve meals can now apply for grants of up to $20,000. Businesses that have been able to reopen can claim up to half that amount.

Manitoba’s top doctor said Wednesday the Omicron wave could peak soon as the province logged a slight increase in hospitalizations and intensive care cases.

“Looking at other jurisdictions… it would be reasonable to expect that peak in the near future if we maintain the same trajectory,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, who added “it’s a little early to consider.”

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Meanwhile, Saskatchewan is bracing for a tide ofCOVID-19 hospitalizations and absenteeism among workers until mid-February, while Alberta says hospitalization rates are rising to levels not seen since mid-October.

As case rates continue to climb in Alberta, one of its largest school boards is asking the government to open vaccine clinics in schools.

Edmonton Public Schools said more than 5,000 of its students were absent Tuesday due to COVID-19 — about five per cent of its total student population.

The growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Prince Edward Island has prompted the province to reduce gathering sizes and close gyms and restaurant dining rooms until at least the end of the month.

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