COVID-19 in Canada: Test results for land border crossings, CERB clawback update, and more

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      Here are updates about COVID-19 in Canada, including issues about CERB, land border crossings, and the Pfizer vaccine.

      Some people won’t have to repay CERB after all: Trudeau

      People who applied for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) based on gross income rather than net income will not have to return the money as long as they meet the other criteria for the benefit, Justin Trudeau said today (February 9).

      Ottawa faced criticism last fall after more than 400,000 people received letters from the Canada Revenue Agency that said they would have to pay back their CERB payments because they applied for the assistance using their gross income. Many of those who received the letter are self-employed.

      Last year, more than eight million people applied for the CERB after the economy shut down during the first wave of the pandemic.

      Trudeau also said Ottawa is waiving interest on 2020 tax debt so long as people made up to $75,000 in taxable income last year and received a pandemic benefit or employment insurance.

      The prime minister said Canadians who qualify for the relief would have to pay the interest in 2022.

      Ottawa to require negative COVID test at land border

      Starting next week, anyone arriving in Canada via a land border crossing with the United States will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test.

      Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the new rule will take effect on February 15. Travellers must have received the negative result within 72 hours.

      Canada began requiring all air travellers to show proof that they tested negative via PCR-based test within 72 hours of their flight.

      Health Canada approves extracting a sixth dose from Pfizer vaccine

      Health Canada has approved changing the labels of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from five doses per vial to six.

      When federal regulators approved the vaccine in December, it authorized health-care professionals to extract five shots from each vial based on data and proposed labelling submitted by the company.

      Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Senior Medical Advisor to the Deputy Minister and Senior Medical Advisor Supriya Sharma said that Health Canada conducted a scientific review, and determined a specialized syringe should be used to extract the sixth dose.

      The U.S. and European Union have also implemented similar changes to allow for the extraction of six doses per vial.

      Health Canada has also updated the information “very rare severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis have been reported during mass vaccination outside clinic trials”.

      Sharma said the reaction usually occurs within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose.

      “This new information does not change the benefit-risk profile of the product,” she said.

      Health Canada recommends anyone who is allergic to ingredients in the vaccine or who experience an allergic reaction to COVID vaccines not get the vaccine.