The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for January 25

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London on Tuesday. Johnson’s leadership influence is being closely followed over allegations that he and his office have held several parties and gatherings that may have violated existing COVID-19 restrictions. (Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

As the COVID-19 outbreak in Bearskin Lake shows, Canada needs to fix First Nations crisis response

When a major COVID-19 outbreak recently overwhelmed a small, remote First Nation in northern Ontario’s Bearskin Lake, some criticized the federal government’s response as slow and ineffective.

Following a public request from Bearskin Lake leadership, it took a full week for members of the Canadian Armed Forces to be deployed. That delay is a classic example of the “complex jurisprudence” that wraps emergency management in First Nations, said Stephanie Montesanti, a public health policy researcher and associate professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

A similar situation occurred last summer in nearby Ottawa’s Kashechewan First Nation, where Chief Leo Friday was struggling to get military aid because 15 percent of the 1,900 community members were infected with COVID-19. Eventually, a large contingent of nurses, Canadian rangers, and later other military personnel were deployed. But the response came so slowly that the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents seven remote First Nations on the James Bay coast, called for a public inquiry.

Resolving the issue for future crises requires a complex conversation that encompasses public safety, health and indigenous issues.

It is also complicated by jurisdictional disputes and unique realities in each of the more than 630 First Nations in Canada. The provinces and territories have responsibility for emergency management, Montesanti said, but Ottawa has direct responsibility for indigenous communities, particularly health and social care.

“Much of this complexity of jurisdiction contributes to the delays in government responses,” she said.

ONE 2018 Report of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs It has been clarified that Ottawa’s role in providing emergency care is to provide reimbursement and counseling where appropriate.

The Standing Committee report also found that there are “significant gaps in the approach to emergency management” and called the roles and responsibilities “poorly defined”. The report called for the creation of tripartite agreements among First Nations, provinces and territories and for the federal government to clearly outline those responsibilities and “promote equal partnerships.”

When external resources need to be deployed quickly, Josh Bowen and other military experts don’t think that should necessarily involve the Canadian Armed Forces.

“The military should be the force of last resort when all other options have been exhausted,” said Bowen, a faculty member in the disaster and emergency management program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Bowen also served 13 years in the Canadian military, including on several domestic disaster relief missions.

Instead, Canadian forces have become the only option, Bowen said, now deployed to domestic natural disasters more often than ever before. He suggests that Canada explore developing alternative options, whether that be centralizing other disaster response resources — like the Red Cross and Team Rubicon — or creating a trained civilian force that could be quickly deployed to disaster areas, much like what others have done countries have done.

Indigenous Services Canada said in a statement that it is spending nearly $259 million over five years, a commitment that began in 2019 to strengthen First Nations capacity to respond to emergencies. Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu said she has made it a priority to sign more agreements that ensure “full participation of indigenous people” in responding to unforeseen situations.

From CBC News

“No cause for widespread concern yet” about the subvariant of Omicron, says the epidemiologist

dr Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist at St Michael’s Hospital, speaks to Power & Politics about the new Omicron subvariant BA.2 currently under investigation by UK health authorities. 6:34

COVID-19 has helped Canada’s life expectancy fall the most since tracking began

According to a, there were 307,205 deaths in Canada in 2020, a 7.7 percent increase from 2019 preliminary report by Statistics Canada published Monday.

Of those, 16,151 deaths were attributed to COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic, accounting for 5.3 percent of the country’s total deaths in 2020.

That made COVID-19 the third leading cause of death behind cancer and heart disease in Canada in 2020, although Statistics Canada added that the pandemic may also have indirectly contributed to a number of other deaths across the country. These included an increase in alcohol-related deaths and deaths from drug overdose or drug toxicity from 2019.

Canadians under the age of 40 have been largely unaffected by the direct impact of the pandemic, according to Statistics Canada, with about 50 COVID-19 deaths in that age group in 2020. However, the agency added that an increase in deaths in younger age groups is attributed to others Causes, including substance-related harm, have been observed.

People age 65 and older accounted for 94.1 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada in 2020, with more than half — 54.6 percent — occurring in people over the age of 84.

Overall, according to Statistics Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an average seven-month decline in national life expectancy, the largest decline since 1921, when the vital statistics registration system was introduced. The average is now 81.7, up from 82.3 last year.

Although Canada’s life expectancy fell in 2020, it was still among the highest in the world that year, according to Statistics Canada. Some countries including Spain, Italy and the United States, saw a larger impact on life expectancy from the pandemic, with declines of up to 1.5 years. In others, including Norway, Denmark and Finland, life expectancy remained stable or even increased in 2020 despite the pandemic.

Life expectancy is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels as the impact of the health crisis wears off, Statistics Canada says.

According to CBC tracking, Canada ended 2021 with 30,319 deaths attributed to COVID-19. That means there have been about 14,200 such deaths over the past 12 months, down from 2020 levels, even if the serious Delta variant was circulating, as the majority of the country’s immunizations were done.

However, because the highly transmissible Omicron variant emerged without Delta fully dissipating, Canada has already recorded more than 2,455 COVID-19 deaths in 2022.

Read the full story

Omicron wave causing ruptures in Alberta hospital system, emergency response

For the first time in the pandemic, more than 1,300 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alberta.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 rose by 113 to 1,304 since Friday’s update, including 108 people in intensive care. There have now been 3,470 deaths since the pandemic began, up 41 from Friday’s update.

The rapidly increasing hospital numbers have prompted the province to announce that two pandemic response units will soon be opening, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary. They are intended for patients recovering from COVID-19 or those with less complex healthcare needs.

Orientation for staff and doctors at the Kaye Edmonton Clinic unit began Monday, and patients could be admitted as early as Thursday, an Alberta Health Services spokesman said in an email.

The Kaye unit will initially have 18 beds and will expand to an additional 18 as needed. In Calgary, the South Health Campus unit could be activated in the coming weeks but is not scheduled to open immediately.

The high incidence of Omicron cases combined with pressure on healthcare staff has resulted in overcrowded emergency rooms, long waits for paramedics to bring patients to emergency rooms, and multiple red alerts, meaning no ambulances are on standby. Last week a young boy was taken to hospital with a broken leg in a fire truck in Airdrie because a spate of 911 calls arrived around the same time.

Alberta Health Services chief paramedic Darren Sandbeck said a number of changes are being made to ease the strain on the system. These include routing more low-priority emergency calls to other relief organizations and moving non-emergency patients between facilities by means other than ambulances.

Calgary’s emergency system had intermittent red alerts for 116 days last year – meaning ambulances were unavailable. Ambulances will not automatically respond to all car accidents, only those with reported injuries. The emergency response rules are to be changed to ensure communities are not left without ambulance care.

Within the healthcare system, an average of 5,500 workers – about five percent of the total workforce – are on sick leave on any given day during this wave.

“There’s this moral hurt of knowing that because we’re so overwhelmed, we might not be able to provide the care like we used to, but that doesn’t suit us,” said Dr. Neeja Bakshi, a doctor specializing in internal medicine in Edmonton, told CBC News.

IMF lowers Canadian economic outlook for 2022

In a new report published on its website on Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund forecast Canada’s GDP growth of 4.1 percent over the next 12 months, up from 4.8 percent in its last report.

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