Nov. 8 Essential COVID-19 Updates for Manitoba Business Leaders

Here are today’s COVID-19 news updates:

U.S.-Canada land border opening: Today marks the opening of the US-Canada land border to non-essential/recreational vehicle traffic for the first time since March 2020. When the clock struck midnight on Monday, the border reopened to fully vaccinated Canadian travellers following a 19-month shutdown. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says its border crossings will be staffed at pre-pandemic levels starting on Monday, but it warns there could be longer-than-normal wait times. Travellers entering by land won’t have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, but they should be prepared to attest to their vaccination status and present their vaccination documentation upon request. For details, click here.

PCR test: Although many Canadians see the latest travel developments as positive steps, anyone entering or re-entering Canada must show proof of a negative PCR test, along with their vaccination cards. The test, also known as a molecular test, can cost anywhere from C$150 to $300 and must be taken within 72 hours of arriving at a northbound border crossing. The U.S. requires the same of air travellers, but allows them to submit the cheaper, rapid test widely available at drugstores. It waived the rule for people crossing by land. Canada’s requirement is now squarely in the sights of the business leaders, activists and U.S. lawmakers who have been calling for months for the borders to reopen, and stating that requiring a family of four to spend almost $1,000 for a “redundant” test is unnecessary. Read more…

COVID-19 Pill: As the drugmakers race for an antiviral, the U.K. government has already authorized the use of Merck’s drug molnupiravir, considered the first pill to successfully treat COVID-19. Health Canada says it’s still reviewing data on an antiviral COVID-19 drug, and continues to receive data “as new information becomes available”. It offered no timeline for completion of the review process, but says that Merck has been supplying data on a rolling basis since August, when the product was still undergoing clinical trials.

Vaccination update: Eight months after the vaccine was first authorized by Health Canada, usable doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine are set to arrive “imminently,” according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. The first shipment of more than 300,000 doses that landed was held and never distributed after Health Canada learned that a drug substance used in the vaccine was produced at the Emergent BioSolutions’ Baltimore, Md. Facility, where quality control issues had been raised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, resulting in millions of spoiled J&J doses.

Children & COVID-19: Canadians under the age of 12 now account for the highest number of new COVID-19 infections according to PHAC. Those under 12 currently represent over 20 per cent of daily cases, despite only representing 12 per cent of the country’s population. Tam said this overrepresentation is “not unexpected,” though, given the “high level of vaccination in other age groups.”

Remembrance Day ceremonies: According to Manitoba’s Public Health office, Remembrance Day ceremonies can proceed following the gathering limits outlined in public health order 2:

  • at ceremonies where proof of vaccination is not required, indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is lower, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 persons;
  • ceremonies in locations that are specifically addressed in the orders (e.g. licensed premises) must follow the orders specific to those locations; and
  • for ceremonies where proof of vaccination is required, there are no limits on gatherings.

Support for businesses – federal: The Government of Canada has proposed extended the Canada Recovery Hiring Program until May 7, 2022, for eligible employers with current revenue losses above 10% and to increase the subsidy rate to 50%. For details, click here.

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