Canadian health officials to provide update on COVID-19 pandemic

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WATCH LIVE: Health officials provide the latest COVID-19 update

Canada’s public health agency will hold an update on the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday morning. will be live streaming the federal update at 11:30 a.m. ET.

The update comes as Ontario announced a day earlier that its restrictions would be eased by the end of January, including allowing restaurants to reopen with 50 per cent capacity.

Premier Doug Ford said the worst of the fifth wave had passed in the province, but warned that it wasn’t “out of the woods yet.”

“The coming weeks will continue to pose real challenges, especially to our hospitals,” he said.

Read more: 67% of Canadians believe fully-vaccinated population still won’t stop Omicron’s spread: Ipsos poll

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While Ontario is planning to ease restrictions, some provinces are not there yet as the Omicron wave is playing out differently across the country.

In Saskatchewan, rising hospital admissions and staff shortages due to COVID-19 are a growing concern. Health officials are looking at redeploying staff from other government departments to bolster the health-care system.

In neighbouring Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney said there are signs the province has “reached and surpassed” peak COVID-19 infections in the fifth wave. However, he is still warning that hospitalizations – currently at record levels – will continue rising and put more pressure on an already overwhelmed health system.

In an effort to cope with that scenario, Alberta will create new pandemic response units in Edmonton and Calgary.

In British Columbia Thursday, more than 2,100 new COVID cases were reported as the province announced that 200,000 COVID-19 test kits will be distributed among elementary and high schools to try to keep them open.

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On the east coast, Quebec reported a slight dip in hospitalizations on Thursday. But unlike Ontario, Premier Francois Legault said hospitals remains too fragile to start loosening restrictions that have kept gyms, bars and entertainment venues closed since December.

But in Atlantic Canada there is optimism, with Newfoundland and Labrador announcing that students in kindergarten to Grade 12 will head back to in-class learning on Tuesday, and Prince Edward Island reporting COVID-19 recoveries are currently outpacing new cases.

When it comes to tackling COVID-19, the federal government approved the country’s first at-home oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment this week.

Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral drug, has been found to reduce risk of hospitalization and death by 89 per cent in clinical trial data submitted to Health Canada.

The pills could play “an important role” in the pandemic, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.

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“It will … potentially blunt the severity of the illness, which is the key goal.”

Canada received its first shipment of Paxlovid on Monday, which included over 30,000 treatment courses.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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