Canadian aviation workers continue to urgently press the federal government for a plan to rescue the industry as the spread of the coronavirus shows no sign of slowing in parts of the country.
On a day that Ontario and Alberta both reported all-time highs in active COVID-19 cases, more than 200 grounded pilots, flight attendants, airport staff and other aviation workers took to Parliament Hill on Tuesday to call on Ottawa for a plan to safely restart the industry that has been crushed by travel restrictions amid the pandemic.
The workers are seeking financial help for the airline sector, including low-cost, long-term loans for their airlines. They also want rapid testing at airports in order to ease travel restrictions and an end to the 14-day quarantine period when entering the country.
This week, Air Transat became the latest airline to announce a major scaling-back of operations when it announced it is temporary laying off half of its remaining flight attendants and closing its Vancouver base.
That came just a week after WestJet announced it is shutting down most of its operations in Atlantic Canada, with all flights in and out of Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City halted.
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Air Canada, the country’s largest airline, announced in May that it would lay off about 20,000 workers, or more than half of its staff, as part of its plan to cut costs. In June, it indefinitely suspended 30 domestic regional routes and closed eight stations at regional airports across Canada.
Earlier this month, the airline said it had ordered 25,000 rapid testing kits that can detect COVID-19 in someone in as little as five minutes, with the hope that the testing kits will help convince Transport Canada to relax current rules that stipulate all international travellers must self-isolate for 14 days upon landing.
The aviation industry’s urgent call for help comes as COVID-19 cases surge in hot spots across the country, with multiple provinces reporting record-breaking numbers in recent days.
Ontario saw an all-time high in active cases on Tuesday, 6,237, after reporting 821 new cases of COVID-19, which itself was the second-most on a single day since the virus began a resurgence in the province in mid-August.
Alberta also hit a record high in active cases on Tuesday with 3,203, breaking a record set just the day before, as it reported 323 new cases and one more death. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province is entering a “danger zone.”
Meanwhile, Manitoba reported a record number of hospitalizations on Tuesday, with 32 people in hospitals being treated for COVID-19, including six in intensive care. The province also reported 110 new cases and declared outbreaks at a high school and at three personal care homes in Winnipeg.
The numbers come as several Winnipeggers who have tested positive for COVID-19 told CBC News they have experienced days-long lags in contact tracing.
Manitoba Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin told reporters on Monday that the rising COVID-19 numbers in Winnipeg have put a strain on the contact tracing system.
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What’s happening elsewhere in Canada
As of 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 203,689 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 171,743 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,794.
Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, keeping the number of active cases in the province at five.
Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday reported no new COVID-19 cases for the fourth consecutive day. The province continues to have 11 active cases.
Prince Edward Island on Tuesday reported one new case of COVID-19, a female rotational worker in her 20s who travelled outside the Atlantic bubble for work purposes.
New Brunswick recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with eight additional recoveries.
Quebec reported 877 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths on Tuesday, as well as seven deaths that occurred at an earlier date. There are 565 people in hospital, including 100 in intensive care.
Saskatchewan reported 44 new cases on Tuesday, a day after seeing its highest single-day increase of 66. The province says there are now 18 people in hospital due to the virus, the second most since the beginning of the pandemic.
British Columbia health officials announced 167 new cases and one more death on Tuesday.
Northwest Territories health officials on Tuesday confirmed an additional case, an Inuvik resident who received a presumptive positive test last week. The test results are still pending for two other N.W.T. residents, both in Yellowknife, who received presumptive positive tests last week.
What’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 40.8 million. More than 1.1 million people have died, while more than 27.9 million have recovered.
Europe again reported a new high in the weekly number of coronavirus cases during the pandemic last week, recording more than 927,000, according to the World Health Organization.
The UN health agency said in its latest global report on the coronavirus that the continent saw a 25 per cent spike in confirmed cases last week and was responsible for 38 per cent of all new cases reported worldwide. Russia, the Czech Republic and Italy accounted for more than half of new COVID-19 cases in Europe.
In the U.K., South Yorkshire in northern England will move into the very high lockdown tier on Saturday to tackle rising levels of COVID-19 infections after local authorities struck a deal with the British government on financial support for the area to accompany the measures, Sheffield Mayor Dan Jarvis said on Wednesday.
South Yorkshire will join Liverpool and Lancashire in the highest tier. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he would impose the same measures in Manchester after failing to agree on a support package with local leaders.
In the Americas, negotiations over a hefty new U.S. coronavirus aid bill were set to continue on Wednesday as the White House and Democrats try to strike a deal before the Nov. 3 presidential and congressional elections, now with the encouragement of President Donald Trump.
Plenty of hurdles remained, however, not the least of which was the overall price tag of a bill that could be in the range of $2.2 trillion US, the number Democrats had been pushing for months.
In Asia-Pacific, Australian authorities said they’re treating a COVID-19 case in the city of Melbourne as a rare reinfection. The only coronavirus case reported in the former hot spot of Victoria state on Tuesday had also tested positive for COVID-19 in July.
Melbourne has been in lockdown since early July, but restrictions in Australia’s second-largest city are easing this week as daily infection tallies remain low.
India on Wednesday reported 54,044 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, taking the overall tally past 7.6 million, and 717 additional deaths for a total of 115,914.
Deaths and new cases per day have been declining in India since last month, but health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the ongoing religious festival season, which includes huge gatherings in temples and shopping districts.
In Africa, South Africa is investigating 10.5 billion rand ($839 million Cdn) of the government’s coronavirus spending for corruption, more than double the amount it was investigating two months ago.
The country has seen the highest number of infections on the continent, with more than 706,000 confirmed cases and 18,600 deaths.
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