https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2022/02/21/todays-coronavirus-news-covid-19-canada-world-updates-feb-21.html

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

1:28 p.m.: Jagmeet Singh said he’s always considered that the vote tonight would be a confidence vote, and said the party “as a team” will support the Emergencies Act, given the serious issues at stake. He said an election now would be “the worst thing” but the party’s decision is not based on avoiding an election. (The prime minister had earlier implied that it would be a confidence vote though he didn’t say that in so many words.)

1:16 p.m.: (Updated) Jagmeet Singh cited three factors — the security situation in and around Ottawa; the ability to dry up financing for groups behind illegal protests, including foreign funding;, and stopping continuing border blockades — in whether the party’s support for the Emergencies Act will continue in coming days, beyond the party’s support in tonight’s vote.

He also wants to make sure Canadians carrying out legitimate, legal protests are not targeted by the Act.

Singh said the Emergencies Act is very different and much more limited to its predecessor the War Measures Act, invoked during the FLQ crisis in Quebec to bring in the military in 1970.

1:08 p.m.: (updated) Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh confirmed Monday his party still supports the Emergencies Act, ensuring that a vote to confirm it will pass in the House on Monday night.

“We should have never gotten to this point, and it is a failure of leadership both federal, provincial and in fact municipal, to take this threat seriously,” Singh told reporters at a news conference not long after the prime minister spoke.

He said the NDP supports the act “reluctantly,” and ready to pull that support as soon as the party believes the act is no longer necessary.

12:07 p.m.: As MPs prepare to vote Monday evening on the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to say whether the vote will be a matter of confidence in his minority government.

The NDP has so far said it will support the motion confirming the use of the Emergencies Act, to be voted on at 8 p.m. Monday, though the party has also said it is watching events unfold in Ottawa and elsewhere and will pull its support if necessary. The Conservatives and Bloc Québécois oppose the motion, meaning Trudeau’s government needs the support of the NDP to guarantee the motion’s passage.

Trudeau was asked twice whether it would be considered a confidence vote.

“I can’t imagine anyone voting against this bill as expressing anything other than a deep mistrust in the government’s ability to keep Canadians safe in this extraordinarily important time,” Trudeau said. “I’m confident that this bill will pass.”

11:40 a.m.: Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said police have shared the names of leaders of the blockades and truckers with financial institutions, not of other people who may have donated to the convoy protesters.

If a person’s account was frozen because of a connection to the protests, they need to speak to police, who will communicate with financial institutions to unfreeze the accounts, she told a news conference.

She said this measure, under the Emergencies Act, was not a retroactive or permanent measure.

There have been reports of people making small donations and saying their accounts have been frozen.

11:36 a.m.: Trudeau cited specifically the power to control approaches to border crossings, and the power to compel tow trucks to tow vehicles when many are refusing, as two examples of why the Emergencies Act was and still is needed.

11:33 a.m.: Asked if tonight’s vote on the Emergencies Act will be considered a confidence vote (meaning the governmen could be defeated), with party discipline imposed, Trudeau said anyone who votes no is indicating they don’t trust the government, but he is confident a majority will vote in favour. Asked the question again he gave a very similarly worded answer.

11:10 a.m.: (updated): Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that invoking the federal Emergencies Act was necessary, and still is for now, as the “state of emergency is not over.” But it must be evaluated every day, he said.

Law enforcement agencies relied on it in Ottawa and at border crossings and it helped keep foreign money from funding illegal blockades, he said. He called it the “responsible thing to do.”

He mentioned extremism, a flood of disinformation, disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canada’s democracy as among the reasons the authorities needed more tools to keep people safe. Trudeau defended the right to protest but not to “hold a city hostage,” join illegal blockades or attack journalists. He said change happens at the ballot box.

The federal Emergencies Act was invoked a week ago as the Ottawa occupation dragged on, along with other border blockades, but needs to be passed by Parliament for its extraordinary powers to remain in place.

MPs will vote on the motion Monday at 8 p.m. EST, and it is expected to pass with the joint support of the Liberals and NDP. The Bloc and the Conservatives are against it.

If the motion fails, the act and all the extraordinary powers stemming from it will be torn up. If it passes they will remain in place until mid-March at the latest.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is holding a press conference this afternoon.

Trudeau also asked Canadians — vaccinated or not — to talk to each other and get out of our social media bubbles.

9:52 a.m.: Ottawa police say 100 checkpoints around the city and various road closures remain in the aftermath of the paralyzing convoy protests. Police will be asking people their reason for entering the restricted zone downtown.

8:10 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. today, according to the CBC. The prime minister will be joined by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Justice Minister David Lametti, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

More to come.

8 a.m.: Designating no go zones within Canada’s capital, ensuring tow trucks were available to remove vehicles from city streets and stopping the flow of money and goods keeping anti-government demonstrators fed and fuelled are all clear ways the Emergencies Act helped end the Ottawa blockades, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Sunday ahead of a House of Commons vote on the controversial measure.

Conservatives, however, are highly critical of the government move and some are pushing the Liberals to revoke the act now that blockades that effectively shut the city down for more than three weeks appear to be over.

There is one day left of debate on the government’s decision to invoke the act. MPs will vote on the motion Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

Want the Star’s take on tonight’s historic Emergency Act vote? Here’s the latest from Tonda MacCharles.

7:23 a.m.: Scientists warned the British government on Monday not to weaken the country’s ability to monitor and track the coronavirus after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ends the requirement for people in England to self-isolate if they contract COVID-19.

Johnson will announce details in Parliament on Monday of the government’s plan for “living with COVID” by treating it like other transmissible illnesses such as flu. The legal requirement to self-isolate for at least five days after a positive coronavirus test is expected to be replaced by guidance, and mass testing for the virus will be scaled back.

5 a.m.: The introduction of a proof-of-vaccination policy in Ontario last fall for entry into venues such as restaurants, bars and gyms was followed by a noticeable bump in second-dose COVID-19 vaccinations, particularly among younger age cohorts, a Star analysis has found.

Data from September to December 2021 shows vaccination rates for the 18-29 and 30-39 age groups had the steepest increases after the province implemented the vaccine passport program — a signal that suggests the policy may have nudged some people towards getting their second shot.

But whether people went out to get their second dose as a direct response to the policy is a complicated question, experts caution.

Vaccine passports have been a hot topic in recent days with several provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta announcing the end of proof-of-vaccination programs as public patience with restrictions wears thin and COVID hospitalizations trend downwards.

Full story from Kenyon Wallace and May Warren here: Do vaccine passports work? Ontario’s was followed by a bump in second doses

5 a.m.: If you’re one of millions of Canadians that worked remotely during the pandemic, you’re entitled to claim a deduction on your upcoming taxes.

Canada’s tax break for COVID-19 allows each remote worker to claim $2 for each day they worked from home in 2021 due to the pandemic. Using the Canadian Revenue Agency’s temporary flat rate method, the maximum you can claim is $500 — equivalent to 250 working days — per individual.

If you worked more than 250 days at home, you’re eligible for a greater deduction. But to prove it, you’ll need to go the long-form route.

Read more: How do I claim expenses on my taxes for working from home during the pandemic?

5 a.m.: Ontarians are reaching out for mental health help in record numbers, leaving community agencies stretched thin as they struggle with staff retention and ballooning wait lists.

Demand for services, from treatment to early psychosis intervention to housing supports, has nearly doubled from pre-pandemic levels in Toronto, while crisis calls for mental health and addiction supports in Peel region reached a record in January, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

While the sector struggles with a high turnover of staff, demand for mental health support in the province during COVID-19 has never been higher. A poll conducted in January by CMHA Ontario found one in four Ontarians have accessed mental health help — the most at any point during the pandemic — and 43 per cent said they’ve found it difficult to get the help they need.

Read the full story here from Nadine Yousif: Mental health services dealing with rising calls for help, as staff are leaving

4 a.m.: Ottawa police are reassuring businesses that closed their doors during the three week occupation of the downtown core that they should now feel safe to reopen.

They posted a tweet last night advising people that some streets in the Parliament Hill area that were closed because of the demonstration have since been reopened to both pedestrians and vehicles.

Police also thanked local businesses and residents for being patient as they worked to end the protest against COVID-19 public health measures and the federal government.

Most roadways that had been choked with trucks and protesters are now cleared, though some debris the demonstrators left behind still needs to be cleaned up.

4 a.m.: Quebec’s vaccine passport will no longer be required at places of worship and funerals as of today as the province continues to relax COVID-19 restrictions.

Among the other measures being lifted as part of Quebec’s phased reopening plan are capacity limits on retail stores and caps on the number of visitors at private seniors residences.

Conferences and other public events will be allowed to resume, while arcades, bowling alleys and other recreation centres are now allowed to reopen.

Quebec plans to relax restrictions further on Feb. 28 and again on March 14 when all capacity limits and vaccine passport requirements are set to end.

5 a.m.: Hong Kong is considering stricter social-distancing measures and preparing for a universal testing push to try to curtail an escalating virus outbreak that’s straining its health infrastructure.

The city reported 7,533 new cases on Monday, as well as 13 deaths that included an 11-month-old girl. Most of the baby’s immediate family tested positive with rapid antigen tests, and her death has been referred to the coroner.