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Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

TORONTO — As COVID-19 restrictions ease and restaurants start to welcome customers back, one thing Canadians may soon have to get used to is providing their personal information before they grab a bite. 

Guidelines for restaurants vary in each province. But some jurisdictions are requiring a customer’s name and phone number or email address, along with their table number, to help with contract tracing in the event of an outbreak.

Ontario announced Friday that it will require bars and restaurants to keep client logs for 30 days. These will have to be disclosed to the medical officer of health or an inspector if tracing is needed.

In Toronto, collecting the info can be done at the time of reservations or through another system, said Toronto Public Health spokesperson Vinita Dubey.

Dubey said indoor bars and restaurants present a higher level of risk for COVID-19 transmission because they involve crowds, close contact and closed spaces.

“As soon as (Toronto Public Health) becomes aware of a COVID-19 case, we act on the information to follow up immediately,” Dubey said in an email.

Similar guidelines apply to restaurants and bars in British Columbia.

That province’s public health officials have started requiring restaurants to collect personal information from customers when they make reservations or at the time of seating. The details also have to be kept for a month.

Since reopening, Acorn Restaurant in Vancouver has only been taking reservations, which makes it easier to collect customer information.

“Thankfully our guests have been pretty understanding,” said founder Shira Blustein. “Some guests have been equally anxious to be out so they’re appreciative of our plan.”

Gerald Evans, chair of the infectious diseases division at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said contact tracing was done at restaurants even before COVID-19.

Public health officials have used reservation lists to contact diners in the event of a food-borne outbreak, he said.

“It’s not unprecedented in the restaurant industry that public health would reach out to them and get that kind of information.”

Evans said one drawback is that there is no way to verify the information a customer is giving is correct.

“Now, 99 per cent of the public is going to be truthful, but what do you do with the one per cent?” he asked.

If people giving false information becomes a problem, governments could potentially step in to make sure that people have to show an ID card to verify their identity, Evans suggested.

He said collecting customer information is much more effective than “passive tracing,” in which public health does a broad announcement about a case at a specific restaurant on a certain day. That practice has been criticized by some restaurant owners.

Restaurants Canada vice-president David Lefebvre said there are costs associated with collecting personal details. And it can be time-consuming for places that provide quick service to a lot of customers.

“Our position as an association on this is: let’s make sure everybody, as a recommendation, respect the public health requirements,” he said.

“But at the same time, let’s make sure that it’s not something that becomes too onerous and costs too much.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2020

Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press

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Atlantic Canadians against lifting travel restrictions next month, survey finds

A new survey indicates Atlantic Canadians are largely opposed to lifting quarantine requirements for Canadians who live outside the region.

More than 3,300 Atlantic Canadians participated in the Halifax-based Narrative Research survey that asked questions about existing travel restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

More than three-quarters of respondents were opposed to lifting 14-day quarantine requirements for visitors from the rest of Canada within the next month.

Seventy-nine per cent of respondents said they had not left their home provinces since Atlantic Canada created the so-called travel “bubble” in July, which waived the 14-day self-isolation rules for residents of the region who cross provincial borders.

Prince Edward Islanders were most likely to have travelled within the Atlantic region, at 38 per cent, while Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were the least likely, at seven per cent.

People who had travelled within the Atlantic bubble were more likely under the age of 55 and higher income earners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

 

The Canadian Press

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Asylum seekers on front lines of COVID-19 to have chance at permanent residency

OTTAWA — Asylum seekers working on the front-lines of the COVID-19 crisis are getting an early chance at permanent residency in Canada.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced the program today in response to public demand that the so-called “Guardian Angels” — many in Quebec — be recognized for their work in the health-care sector during the pandemic.

Ordinarily, asylum seekers must wait for their claims to be accepted before they can become permanent residents, but the new program waives that requirement.

To apply for residency now, they must have claimed asylum in Canada prior to March 13 and have spent no less than 120 hours working as a orderly, nurse or other designated occupations between the date of their claim and today.

They must also demonstrate they have six months of experience in the profession before they can receive permanent residency and have until the end of this month to meet that requirement.

The approach recognizes the extraordinary contribution of asylum claimants, particularly in long-term care centres, Mendicino said in a statement.

“As these individuals face an uncertain future in Canada, the current circumstances merit exceptional measures in recognition of their service during the pandemic,” he said.

The new program was the result of negotiations between the federal government and Quebec.

That province has housed many of the nearly 60,000 people who have requested asylum in Canada after crossing on foot into the country from the U.S., the majority using an entry point in Quebec called Roxham Road.

About half the claims have already been heard, and the rest are still working their way through the system.

The irregular border crossers, as they are known, did so to get around a loophole in an agreement between Canada and the U.S. that forbids most people from entering the country by land and asking for safe haven.

The Safe Third Country Agreement, however, was struck down by the Federal Court in July, when a judge ruled elements of it violate constitutional rights.

The judgment was suspended for six months to give the government time to find a solution.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Vigils to take place tonight for Alberta doctor killed in walk-in clinic

RED DEER, Alta. — Two vigils are planned tonight for a family doctor who was killed at a walk-in clinic in central Alberta earlier this week.

Dr. Walter Reynolds, a 45-year-old father of two girls, died in hospital after he was attacked Monday morning at the Village Mall clinic in Red Deer, Alta.

Deng Mabiour, who is 54, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Reynolds, as well as assault with a weapon and assaulting a police officer.

Police have said Mabiour and Reynolds knew each other through the clinic, but did not say whether Mabiour was a patient.

One witness told media that she heard cries for help and a man in the clinic had a hammer and a machete.

The Alberta Medical Association, which is organizing the vigils in Red Deer and Edmonton, is asking doctors who attend to wear white lab coats or white clothing to honour Reynolds.

The clinic where Reynolds worked has described him as a devoted husband, father and doctor who came to Canada from South Africa in 2003.

It says Reynolds and his wife, Anelia, first lived in Manitoba then moved to Red Deer in 2006.

“From the delivery room to the hospice, he dedicated himself 100 per cent,” the Village Mall clinic said in a statement earlier this week.

“If there was a task at work that needed to be done, he would step up to the plate. If a patient needed help, he walked the extra mile … and then some.”

Reynolds and his wife were often seen jogging around the neighbourhood. He was an avid runner, often participating in marathons and mud races, the clinic said.

“If there was a campsite to explore, then they were there. Always exploring, always an adventure, always on the move … so full of life.”

A GoFundMe page was set up to raise funds for the education of Reynolds’ children. It reached more than $230,000 by Thursday afternoon. 

Dr. Edward Ohanjanians said in an interview that Reynolds was “the best colleague I ever had.”

Reynolds founded the Village Mall clinic and took care of all of its shopping and scheduling, he said.

Ohanjanians was there when Reynolds was attacked. He said he was unable to talk about what happened.

“I witnessed the tragic death of my colleague and friend,” he said. “It’s a difficult time.”

The vigils, both scheduled for 7 p.m., are to take place outside Red Deer City Hall and Edmonton City Hall.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 14, 2020

The Canadian Press


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