OTTAWA—The federal government will fund provinces efforts to test people for COVID-19, track the contacts of those who test positive, and help different jurisdictions share data, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.
The measures are essential because COVID-19 remains a serious health threat and the economy cant fully recover until Canadians are confident that the novel coronavirus will be contained anywhere new it breaks out, he said.
Federal contact-tracers are helping public health authorities in Ontario and Trudeau said theyre ready to make thousands more calls a day when any province asks.
Statistics Canada has also provided 1,700 interviewers who can make 20,000 calls per day to help with contact-tracing efforts, Trudeau said.
“We need to get in touch with everyone who may have been exposed to the virus to make sure they quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms or get tested,” Trudeau said in his daily briefing Friday.
“These federal resources are available to assist provinces and territories with any surges, or backlogs or challenges they have in contact-tracing.”
But to do that, Canada needs to step up its testing for the virus, he said. Canada nominally has the capacity to test 60,000 people per day for COVID-19, but has been averaging only about 28,000.
The prime minister said the government is still working to find out exactly what help the provinces need most.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday her ministry has been working with provinces to make sure they have the materials needed to meet their testing goals, including swabs, reagents, and people to do the work.
“We see ourselves as building capacity for all the provinces and territories to test to their fullest need,” she told the House of Commons committee on government operations.
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Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh receive Covid-19 vaccine
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh have received their Covid-19 vaccinations, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Saturday.
Dozens killed in suspected jihadist attack in Niger
Dozens of people were killed in an attack in Niger on Saturday, in a suspected jihadist attack.
The attack took place around 12:00 CET in the Tchomo-Bangou village in Tillabéri, a western region bordering Mali.
“The assailants surrounded the village and killed up to 50 people,” a local radio journalist said anonymously. “The wounded have been evacuated to the hospital in Ouallam.”
It came on the day provisional results for the first round of the presidential election, held on December 27, were released.
Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and a former interior minister, is in the lead with 39.3 per cent of the votes. Bazoum has vowed to strengthen the country’s fight against Islamist groups.
The second round of the election is to be held on February 21.
Niger has been a target for jihadist attacks for years, particularly in the western and southeastern parts of the country.
On December 21, six days before the presidential poll, seven soldiers were killed in Tillabéri. In May 2020, twenty people, including children, were also killed in two of the region’s villages.
Niger votes in presidential and legislative elections
People in Niger began voting in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Mohamed Bazoum, the right-hand man of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is the favourite to win.
The sixty-year-old former interior minister is aiming for outright victory in the first round — something that no candidate has done before.
He’s focussing on security and education.
Over 7 million people are eligible to vote. But some voters, like Gambina Moumouni, simply want a president they can trust.
“We pray to Allah to choose us the president who has the most mercy for the people, a president who will not betray the country and who will not betray the trust of the people, that is our wish. It is also our wish that Allah may help to make the poor, the peasants, the (cattle) breeders happy.
Thirty candidates are standing including two former presidents and two former prime ministers, but according to seasoned observers in the region, the poll is arousing little enthusiasm among the population.
Niger is the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index and also one of those hardest hit by climate change.
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