Shipment courier

Justin Trudeau says first shipment of COVID-19 antiviral pill is on its way across Canada

Canada bought one million courses of the COVID-19 pill Paxlovid for delivery this year and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the drug was being distributed across the country.HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the first shipment of an oral COVID-19 pill is making its way across Canada, but does not replace vaccination against the fast-spreading virus.

The entire region of northern Quebec, Nunavik, is on “red alert” with more than half of its 14 Inuit communities struggling with high viral transmission.

Other provinces and territories are preparing for a peak in the fifth wave of the pandemic, as hospitalizations begin to level off.

The antiviral drug Paxlovid is intended to protect against hospitalization and death. Canada has purchased one million courses to offer this year.

“It’s important to remember that this will be a powerful tool to continue to prevent people from getting extremely sick, but it needs to be used correctly,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

“It’s not a replacement for getting vaccinated, for wearing masks, for staying safe, for keeping your distance.”

The fifth wave powered by the Omicron variant appears to be peaking in some provinces, while others are warning that the worst is yet to come.

Quebec reported its lowest daily increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations with an increase of eight, bringing the total to 3,425 people hospitalized. It also saw a slight drop in the number of patients in intensive care.

In Nunavik, a curfew is in effect and all non-essential public places are closed and private gatherings indoors are prohibited.

Meanwhile, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said there are “glimmers of hope” that COVID-19 cases will peak this month with hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care to follow.

The province saw a slight drop in the number of people with COVID-19 hospitalized to 4,132 patients from 4,183, while intensive care patients increased by eight to 589. Fifty-nine new deaths were also reported.

Many types of Ontario businesses continue to be closed due to public health restrictions, but Premier Doug Ford said he expects a “positive” announcement on the measures later this week.

In British Columbia, some businesses are eligible for financial assistance from the province because they are forced to remain closed for at least an additional month to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Venues such as event venues, bars and nightclubs that do not serve meals can now apply for grants of up to $20,000. Businesses that have been able to reopen can claim up to half that amount.

Manitoba’s top doctor said Wednesday that the Omicron surge may soon peak as the province has seen an uptick in hospitalizations and critical care cases.

“Looking in other jurisdictions… it would be reasonable to expect this peak in the near future if we maintain the same trajectory,” said Dr Brent Roussin, adding “it’s a bit early to consider it” .

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan braces for a wave of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and absences among workers through mid-February, while more than 1,600 volunteers responded to a call from New Brunswick for pandemic relief.

A spate of hospitalizations and a shortage of health care workers has prompted the province to ask people to help with clinical or non-clinical work, such as administering vaccines.

Nearly 350 workers were in isolation on Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19. New Brunswick has a record 123 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Hospitalizations continue to climb in Saskatchewan, increasing 95% in the past month. The province’s top doctor said hospitalizations will continue to rise over the next six weeks before peaking.

Prince Edward Island this week announced new restrictions to protect its health care system. Nova Scotia, meanwhile, was the only Atlantic province to resume in-person learning in public schools this week.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said attendance has fallen about 8% from normal since schools reopened on Monday.

“There are about eight percent of families who have kept their children home for one reason or another,” Houston said. “The emotions of the situation are not lost on any of us, but I want to emphasize that our schools are safe.”

Alberta is seeing hospitalization rates rise to levels not seen since September. As case rates continue to rise, one of its largest school boards is asking the government to open vaccination clinics in schools.

Edmonton Public Schools said more than 5,000 of its students were absent Tuesday due to COVID-19, about 5% of its total student population.

Twenty-two more people are hospitalized with the virus, bringing Alberta’s total to more than 1,100. The number of intensive care patients rose by four.

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