Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, arrives to take part in a press conference on Parliament Hill during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

New COVID-19 variants not in Canada: Tam; Queen focuses on hope in Christmas speech

In her annual Christmas message, the Queen spoke about hope and kindness, praising nurses, front-line service workers and Good Samaritans.

Yet, not once in the message that referenced social distancing and the “challenges of the year” did the Queen use the words “COVID-19,” “coronavirus” or “pandemic.”

“Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer,” she said. “We continue to be inspired by the kindness of strangers and draw comfort that, even on the darkest nights, there is hope in the new dawn.”

The Queen said her Christian faith has been a source of hope for her — calling the teachings of Christ her “inner light.” She also spoke about the impact of pandemic on people of other faiths and of drawing hope from their traditions.

“Last month, fireworks lit up the sky around Windsor, as Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, providing joyous moments of hope and unity, despite social distancing,” she said.

But amid the message of hope, there was an acknowledgement of the difficult times many find themselves in this year.

“Of course, for many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness: some mourning the loss of those dear to them and others missing friends and family members distanced for safety, when all they’d really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand,” the Queen said. “If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”

Meanwhile, a COVID-19 outbreak has been declared in respiratory unit at Vancouver General Hospital.

The Vancouver Coastal Health authority says no new admissions and transfers will be allowed at this time.

In Windsor, Ont. a hospital is taking the lead on managing a long-term care home weathering a deadly COVID-19 outbreak that has sickened more than 150 people.

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare said in a statement Thursday that it is taking responsibility for communications, infection prevention and control, relations with residents and families, physician oversight and leadership at the Village at St. Clair.

According to provincial data as of Dec. 23, 12 residents at the Village at St. Clair have died from COVID-19. Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says 97 residents and 67 staff members at the home have tested positive for the virus.

The day before, the North York General Hospital in Toronto said it’s been asked to take control of the Tendercare Living Centre in Scarborough, Ont., where nearly half of all residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 20 people have died.

At the national level, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Thursday that there is still no evidence that new variants of COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa are in Canada.

However, Dr. Theresa Tam said in the statement released Thursday afternoon that the government continues to analyze genomic databases and is “actively monitoring” the new variants.

“We continue to advise against non-essential travel to other countries and are advising extra caution if you must travel to the United Kingdom or South Africa,” Tam said.

While Tam said she was hopeful, with the approval of a second COVID-19 vaccine for use in Canada, she called on Canadians to continue following public health recommendations.

“It is important to remember, however, that initial vaccine supplies will remain limited as vaccine rollout continues in Canada and we must not forget that infection rates remain very high in many parts of the country,” Tam said.

In Quebec, a province-wide lockdown went into effect Friday, with businesses deemed non-essential ordered to remain closed until at least Jan. 11. Similar restrictions come into effect in Ontario on Saturday.

While some provinces, including Quebec and Ontario, have said they don’t plan to release new data on the spread of COVID-19 on Christmas, New Brunswick reported a single new infection Friday.

As of yesterday afternoon, federal public heath authorities said there were more than 75,000 active cases of COVID-19 across Canada and that an average of 3,392 people with COVID-19 were in hospitals across the country during the seven-day period ending Dec. 23. An average of 114 deaths associated with the virus were reported each day during that same period.

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