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Canadian PM voices frustration with slow pace of COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-01-06 09:33
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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Jan 5, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

OTTAWA - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that he is worried about the slow pace of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country.

Canada has received more than 424,050 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but only 35 percent of those doses have been administered by the provinces, with roughly 148,000 Canadians having received a shot so far.

"I think Canadians, including me, are frustrated to see vaccines in freezers and not in people's arms. That's why we're going to continue working closely with the provinces both to deliver vaccines to the provinces and to support them as they need it in terms of getting more vaccines out to vulnerable populations and frontline workers as quickly as possible," Trudeau said at a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday.

"Now is the time, with the new year upon us, to really accelerate and that's certainly what I'll be talking with the premiers about on Thursday - how the federal government can support and help with getting vaccines even more quickly out to Canadians," he said.

Canada is expected to have about one million doses of the vaccine on hand by the end of January.

Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said Canada will receive 208,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine each week for the next three weeks, while 171,000 Moderna shots are expected to arrive on Jan 11.

Despite pleas from government health officials to limit their socializing over the winter holidays as part of the battle against COVID-19, 48 percent of Canadians visited with people outside their home, according to a survey by the Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies on Tuesday.

The online survey conducted from Dec 30 to Jan 3 also found that overall satisfaction with the Trudeau government measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen to its lowest point of 62 percent since last March.

Meanwhile, 87 percent said they would support a total ban on international travel until there are several consecutive days of reduced numbers of COVID-19 cases.

At the press conference, Trudeau voiced his frustrations about those who have chosen to travel abroad over the holiday season, saying changes are coming to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CSRB) which was intended to provide paid sick leave to those forced into quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure.

However, the benefit of up to 1,000 Canadian dollars (about 789 US dollars) is being claimed by people who are quarantining because they travelled outside the country.

Trudeau said his government never imagined or intended the benefit to be used for that purpose and stressed that nobody ought to be traveling for non-essential reasons.

Trudeau's press conference comes as the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating after passing 600,000 cases over the weekend.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a total of 617,245 COVID-19 cases and 16,074 deaths have been confirmed in Canada since the first case was reported in the country last January.

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