OTTAWA (Reuters) -Ontario will introduce three paid sick days for all workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced on Wednesday, as hospitals struggle through a third wave of infections largely driven by coronavirus variants passed through workplaces.
The Conservative government of Canada's most populous province has faced public backlash in recent weeks for bringing in new restrictions not endorsed by its public health advisers, without implementing any form of paid sick leave.
Monte McNaughton, the province's labour minister, called the move "a gamechanger" and said it "will save lives."
Under the new legislation, employers must offer three days of leave with up to C$200 ($162) per day in pay, for which they will be reimbursed by the provincial government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday it was more efficient to provide leave through the employers, which the federal government could not do.
On Wednesday, Trudeau reassured Canadians that AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is safe and Canadians should have confidence in it, reacting to news that a woman had died of a rare blood clot condition after receiving the shot.
Francine Boyer, 54, became the first Canadian fatality linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Trudeau, who got his first AstraZeneca shot last Friday, told a Halifax radio station that he has tremendous confidence in all vaccines, including AstraZeneca's.
Faced with a rampant third wave of the virus, several Canadian provinces recently began offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 40 and over.
Ontario, which has emerged as a hotspot, reported 3,480 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and 24 deaths.
($1 = 1.2318 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Bill Berkrot)