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As passengers pushed for refunds, Air Canada got more than $400 million from wage subsidy – CBC.ca

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This story is part of The Big Spend, a CBC News investigation examining the unprecedented $240 billion the federal government handed out during the first eight months of the pandemic.

Air Canada has received the largest amount of government pandemic aid of all publicly traded companies in Canada that have disclosed their finances to shareholders to date, a CBC News investigation has found.

The country’s largest airline reported that it collected $492 million in public funds through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to pay its employees over a period ending Sept. 30, according to Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and TSX Venture Exchanges filings.

According to CBC’s findings from information posted to date, that’s roughly four times more than the second-highest sum paid to a publicly traded company through the wage subsidy, which went to Imperial Oil. The Calgary-based energy giant disclosed it received $120 million from CEWS. Linamar, a large automobile parts manufacturer, and Air Transat also received more than $100 million each to help cover salaries.

Air Canada said that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it employed about 40,000 people — making it one of the “larger private sector employers in Canada” in an industry hit “disproportionately hard” by the pandemic.

“Put simply, we are by far the biggest company in perhaps the worst industry,” Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick wrote in a statement issued to CBC News. 

Despite Air Canada receiving hundreds of millions of dollars to pay its workers, the air carrier is in the midst of private negotiations with the federal government on a possible industry-specific support package. Some experts argue the carrier is using travellers’ demands for refunds for cancelled flights as leverage to pressure the government during the negotiations.

John Gradek, a former Air Canada executive and lecturer at McGill University’s global aviation leadership program, claims the airline industry is “bullying” the government into bailing out the sector, arguing that other countries have already done so. He said Air Canada is playing a “shell game” of its own.

“I think it’s a little bit of gamesmanship that’s being played by Air Canada,” Gradek said. “They’re insisting that those refunds will only be processed if the Canadian government, through the Canadian taxpayer, is providing the funds for those refunds. Not a good thing.”

WATCH | John Gradek on Air Canada pandemic aid and fare refunds:

ohn Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University, says the airline industry is arguing it’s time for the government to bail out struggling airlines since other countries have done so. 0:23

400 private companies reviewed by CBC

CBC News analyzed data from more than 2,000 publicly traded companies listed on the TSX and TSX venture exchanges and identified 400 businesses that have already filed public disclosures indicating they received taxpayer support.

While the figures reviewed by CBC News indicate Air Canada has received the most taxpayer-funded pandemic support of any company to date, there could still be other companies that have received more and have not yet publicly disclosed the sums.

WestJet, Sunwing, Porter Airlines and Flair Airlines all received the wage subsidy to help cover their payrolls; none of them trade on the TSX and none of them have disclosed to CBC News the amount of money they received. Chorus Aviation, which owns regional airlines Jazz and Voyageur, received almost $97 million through the wage subsidy, according to TSX filings. 

In total, the federal government spent $1.4 billion helping Canadian airlines pay up to 75 per cent of employee wages during the pandemic, according to the federal government’s fall economic update, released last week.

‘The biggest company in perhaps the worst industry’

No one from Air Canada would sit for an interview with CBC News. In a media statement, the airline said it received a substantial amount for the wage subsidy because it employs so many people, and “as much as 95 per cent of our revenue disappearing virtually overnight, which is why the government is now looking at specific sectoral support for our industry, just as governments around the world have already done for their airlines.”

“Given this, it is only to be expected that we are a relatively large user of CEWS — our next biggest domestic competitor was less than one-third our size in terms of employees at the outset of COVID,” Fitzpatrick said.

As the pandemic crushes airline industry revenue, passengers — many of them struggling financially — have been angrily demanding that the federal government force airlines to refund them for cancelled flights.

More than 100,000 Canadians have joined petitions calling for government action on refunds, and several class-action lawsuits have been filed against airlines.

Air Canada holding $2.3B in revenue from ticket sales

Air Canada’s president and CEO, Calin Rovinescu, told Bloomberg News earlier this month that despite the financial hit, his airline has already paid back $1.2 billion in refundable airfares. 

Rovinescu told Bloomberg on Nov. 18 that he has “no quarrel” at all with refunding customers for non-refundable flights, “assuming that the terms of the support package are adequate and the terms are appropriate and reasonable.”

Air Canada has reported that, as of the end of September, it had $2.3 billion in revenue on hand from ticket sales — about 65 per cent of which came from non-refundable fares.

Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu told Bloomberg earlier this month it had one of the strongest balance sheets in the global airline industry heading into the pandemic. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Gradek argues that Air Canada has the money to pay the refunds but is using it as a bargaining chip in bailout negotiations with the federal government.

“Air Canada does have the cash,” he said, pointing to the airline’s $8 billion in unrestricted liquidity as of September. “Air Canada does not need government funding in order for it to process those refunds.”

No more sectoral support without refunds, says Garneau

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he has made it clear to airlines that they must pay out the refunds before they can get any more government aid.

“We said very clearly no — until they commit in writing to refund passengers, they will not get a cent from the Canadian government,” he said.

When asked by CBC News whether Ottawa would allow airlines to use taxpayer dollars to refund passengers, Garneau said he would not go into details since the negotiations with the airlines are confidential.

But he did suggest that if airlines meet the government’s requirements for financial support and commit in writing to refunding passengers, carriers could qualify for help. The government has imposed conditions on bailing out air carriers that require them to issue refunds, maintain air connections throughout Canada and honour any orders placed with Canadian aerospace companies.

“It takes a while to do that refunding because there are quite a few passengers, but once the refund agreement is signed — a very specific undertaking by both sides — then they’ll be in a position to receive our assistance as they begin the refunding process,” Garneau said.

WATCH | Transport Minister Marc Garneau on sectoral aid for airlines:

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the government is currently in confidential talks with major airlines about an industry-specific aid package contingent on a number of strict conditions. 0:32

‘I’m extremely upset about it’

Air Canada customer Calvin Hill said he feels like a “hostage.” 

He and his wife said they are out $4,000 for Air Canada flights they never took. They said they’re sleeping in their daughter’s basement in Medicine Hat, Alta., and are helping her out with her kids. The couple said the money could have covered roughly four months’ rent.

“I’m extremely upset about it,” Hill said. “Then to find out that the airlines want to turn around and have us Canadian taxpayers bail them out while they refuse to turn around and refund the monies back to us  — it’s very upsetting.”

Hill, who retired last year, planned to take the trip of a lifetime to Asia with his wife. Then the pandemic hit and the government told all Canadians to come home in March. 

Air Canada wouldn’t allow the couple to board their original flights out of Bangkok to get home due to travel restrictions on one of their layovers, Hill said. As a result, he and his wife had to pay for flights home with another carrier.

Hill claims an Air Canada agent promised to refund their tickets, but he’s still fighting for the money more than eight months later. He said he’s out roughly four months’ rent.

“They’re holding us as people with outstanding vouchers or refunds hostage unless we tell them, ‘Well, you give me a dollar in my left hand and I’ll give you a dollar back in my right hand to pay for it,'” he said. “Which I think is ridiculous.”

Calvin Hill and his wife Janice have been fighting for months for a refund for Air Canada flights they couldn’t board. (Submitted)

Major gap in Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations

Air Canada said it’s offering non-refundable ticket holders travel credits with no expiry date that can be transferred to others or to “convert their booking to Aeroplan points and with an additional 65 per cent bonus.”The airline said this option is in line with direction given by the Canadian Transportation Agency. 

Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, testified in front of MPs last week that there is a gap in Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations that no one saw coming. Canadian airlines are not obligated to refund passengers if cancellations are out of a carrier’s control, he said. 

“[The regulations] refund obligation applies exclusively to flight cancellations within airlines controls,” Streiner told the transport committee on Dec 1. “We now know the gap highlighted by the pandemic is significant.”

Streiner said if and when the CTA gets authority to fix that gap, “we’ll fix it.”

In contrast, Air Canada is offering customers who flew out of Europe a refund for non-refundable tickets after “extensive discussions” with European Union members. 

Air Canada in talks with government

Air Canada’s third-quarter results report to investors shows the dramatic impact the pandemic has had on the company. The airline says it saw an 88 per cent drop in passenger traffic due to the pandemic and travel restrictions.

The airline did earn $757 million in the third quarter, but that represented an 86 per cent drop of $4.7 billion from its earnings in the same time period in 2019. 

Bleeding cash, Air Canada took what it called “the painful step” of cutting half of its workforce in June — 20,000 jobs — and indefinitely suspended 30 domestic regional routes. The carrier also retired some planes early and postponed or cancelled the delivery of some new aircraft, according to the company’s financial records.

Wesley Lesosky is the president of the Air Canada component of CUPE, which represents 6,000 laid-off flight attendants. He said Air Canada should have kept those people employed through the wage subsidy program, as other airlines did. 

Lesosky is also the president of the union’s airline division, which represents 15,000 flight attendants at other airlines, including Air Transat, Sunwing and WestJet. 

“If the government’s going to give an employer that amount of assistance, which is quite high, it should have conditions tied to it where the workers are actually protected,” he said.

Air Canada, meanwhile, told CBC News that Canada is “somewhat of an outlier among developed nations in not having a targeted, sectoral support program for the aviation industry.”

The carrier points to the International Air Transport Association’s chief economist, who stated recently that more than $160 billion US in government aid has gone to airlines globally.

The U.S. and some European countries have given billions in financial aid to airlines. In some cases, there were strings attached to that aid, such as governments taking  equity stakes in the airlines and requiring them to issue refunds.

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More than 7 in 10 Canadians support barring unvaccinated people from businesses: Nanos survey – CTV News

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TORONTO —
More than seven in 10 Canadians support or somewhat support barring those who don’t have proof of vaccination from businesses where people are in close contact, according to a new Nanos survey.

The survey, conducted by Nanos Research in December 2020 and commissioned by CTV News, asked more than 1,000 Canadians 18 years of age and older if they would support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or oppose businesses (like airlines or movie theatres, where people are in close contact) having the right to bar a customer who does not have proof of vaccination.

In the results, 45 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they support the idea, 27 per cent said they somewhat support it, eight per cent said they somewhat oppose the idea, 16 per cent said they oppose it, and four per cent said they were unsure.

Support for the idea of barring individuals from businesses who don’t have proof of vaccination was most popular in Ontario, at 49 per cent and least popular in the Prairies, which had the highest percentage of those opposed to the idea at 21 per cent.

Canadians over the age of 55 were most likely to support the idea of barring people from businesses who don’t have proof of vaccination, with 57 per cent supportive, compared to those aged 18 to 34 who were 34 per cent supportive.

The survey also asked Canadians if they agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or disagree that with vaccines now being distributed in Canada, their lives will get back to normal by the end of 2021.

In the results, 22 per cent of Canadians survey agreed their lives would be back to normal by the end of 2021 due to the vaccines being distributed, 50 per cent somewhat agreed, 14 per cent somewhat disagreed, eight per cent disagreed and five per cent were unsure.

Quebec had the highest rate of people surveyed that agree, with 28 per cent, and the Prairies had the highest percentage of people who disagreed, at 11 per cent.

“Around 45 per cent of Canadians cite [the pandemic] as the top national issue of concern – unprompted,” Nik Nanos said on CTV News Channel Saturday, adding that sentiments can change on a dime as it’s “almost day-to-day, week-to-week” for provinces in the fight against the virus.

Aligning with those concerns, Nanos conducted another survey, commissioned by CTV News to assess whether or not Canadians supported the continued closure of the border between Canada and the United States.

The survey found more than nine in 10 Canadians support or somewhat support keeping the land border closed to non-essential travel until the number of cases in the U.S. significantly drops – even if that takes several months or longer.

In the breakdown of results, 80 per cent of Canadians surveyed supported the idea of keeping the Canada-U.S. border closed, 11 per cent somewhat support the idea, four per cent somewhat opposed it, four per cent opposed it and less than one per cent were unsure.

Support for keeping the Canada- U.S. border closed was highest in the Atlantic provinces, with 88 per cent in support of the idea – with the Prairies least in support of the idea with 71 per cent. The Prairies also had the largest percentage – seven per cent – of people who opposed the idea.

Canadians 55 plus represented the age group most supportive of keeping the border closed, with 85 per cent, compared to those 18 to 34 years of age with 74 per cent.

Currently, the Canada-U.S. land border closure has been extended to at least Feb. 21, 2021.

Methodology

For both surveys cited above, Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,048 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between December 27 and 30, 2020 as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land- and cell-lines across Canada. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada.

Individuals were randomly called using random digit dialling with a maximum of five call backs. The margin of error for this survey is ±3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

This study was commissioned by CTV News and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • India begins ambitious COVID-19 vaccination drive.
  • Trudeau says delayed Pfizer vaccine deliveries will ramp up again in February.
  • New modelling shows roughly 2,000 more Canadians could die from COVID-19 over next 10 days.
  • Alberta’s Phase 1 vaccination rollout slowed over Pfizer supply issues.
  • Why playing arena hockey can be risky during the pandemic.
  • Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.

India began its mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 on Saturday, with plans to inoculate about 300,000 people on the first day of the drive.

The first recipients are to include doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. They are to be followed by people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to the respiratory illness.

The first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital of New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the campaign with a nationally televised speech.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumours about the safety of the vaccines.”

People will not be able to choose between the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine and a government-backed vaccine developed by India’s Bharat Biotech whose efficacy is not entirely known because it’s still undergoing Phase 3 trials. Both vaccines are being produced locally.

Canada’s vaccine supply, meanwhile, has hit a stumbling block. Pfizer is upgrading and expanding its European production line, so its vaccine deliveries to Canada and other countries will be temporarily disrupted, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand said on Friday.

Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by half for four weeks, said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the development will not thwart plans to have enough vaccine doses by September for every Canadian who wants to be inoculated and that deliveries will ramp up again in February.

The news came as the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released federal projections that suggested the pandemic’s impact may soon exceed levels seen in the first wave, rising to 19,630 cumulative deaths and 10,000 daily infections over the next 10 days.

WATCH | Pfizer delays will slow vaccine program, says Ontario’s task force leader:

Retired general Rick Hillier says Pfizer’s shipment delay means there will be adjustments to the vaccine program in Ontario. 2:23

PHAC said the modelling data showed that roughly 2,000 more people are expected to die from COVID-19 by Jan. 24, while as many as 100,000 more people could contract the novel coronavirus.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 698,763 cases of COVID-19, with 75,860 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,780.

In British Columbia, where all available vaccine doses are being deployed as they arrive, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Pfizer’s delay in deliveries will have “some significant effect” on when priority groups get their shot.

The delay could also affect the wait time between each shot of the two-dose regime, he said.

Although Pfizer-BioNTech suggests a second dose 21 days after the first, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that could be extended to 35 days.

A spokesperson for Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the temporary slowdown in deliveries reinforced the province’s decision to wait up to 90 days to administer the vaccine’s second dose.

WATCH | Businesses plan when remote employees return to the office:

Businesses are beginning to prepare for what happens when employees return to the office after working from home since the start of the pandemic. 2:03

“The strategy remains the same: We must give a boost now and vaccinate as many vulnerable people and health workers as possible, as quickly as possible,” Marjaurie Côté-Boileau said.

Alberta decided earlier this week to push back its second shots to 42 days. The province’s health minister, Tyler Shandro, said Friday that he had hoped to soon announce all seniors over 75 and Indigenous people over 65 would be eligible for the vaccine, but the delay makes that out of the question.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province was evaluating the impact of the delay and “will adjust as necessary.”

On Saturday, Ford’s government announced that it’s extending for another 30 days legislation that gives it broad authority over emergency orders. The Reopening Ontario Act 2020 came into effect last July.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick recorded 25 new cases on Friday, continuing a recent surge in cases that has seen provincial officials warning of new restrictions.

Nova Scotia reported two new cases and two new recoveries on Friday, leaving its number of active cases at 32. In Truro, a mobile health unit has been set up in response to an increase in the number of potential exposures in the area during the last week.

Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case on Friday. Prince Edward Island saw one new case on Thursday.

WATCH | Ontario schools for special-needs students stay open despite lockdown:  

Schools for special needs students aren’t closing despite Ontario’s new lockdown measures — and that’s a worry for teachers and staff who work in them. 2:06

Quebec announced 1,918 new cases and 62 deaths on Friday. There are 1,496 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 231 in intensive care.

Ontario reported 3,056 new cases and 51 more deaths from the illness on Saturday. The province saw 2,998 new cases and a record 100 deaths on Friday and reported 1,647 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 387 in intensive care.

WATCH | COVID-19 treatment Bamlanivimab goes unused:

COVID-19 vaccines have come fast but treatments for the disease are still limited. When a Canadian company developed Bamlanivimab, a new monoclonal antibody drug, Ottawa spent millions on doses. But after the rush to buy them they’ve sat on shelves for months, unused. 2:04

Manitoba reported 191 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths on Friday. The update comes a week before provincewide restrictions that ban most gatherings and the sale of non-essential goods expire. The provincial government is now considering reducing some of those restrictions and is asking for input from the public in an online survey.

Saskatchewan reported 382 new cases of COVID-19 and four deaths on Friday. Intensive care units in the province are at 95 per cent capacity, stretched by emergencies, including COVID-19 cases, the head of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Scott Livingstone, said on Thursday.

Alberta reported 785 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths on Friday, while British Columbia health officials reported 509 new cases and nine more deaths.

In Yukon, a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for physicians and high-risk hospital staff has inoculated about 300 people.

Northwest Territories chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola announced that one person in Yellowknife had tested positive for COVID-19. Kandola said the person has not travelled, and there is no known source of infection at this time.

In Nunavut, more than 600 people are estimated to have received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine so far, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said.


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday morning, more than 93.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 51.8 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has been granted approval for emergency use in Pakistan, Faisal Sultan, the country’s health minister said on Saturday.

Pakistan is in the process of speaking to a number of vaccine makers, but this is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be given the green light in the South Asian country.

In Europe, Spain on Saturday ruled out a new national lockdown despite the record number of COVID-19 cases recorded on Friday. The country registered 40,197 new cases on Friday, while the incidence of the disease measured over the past 14 days hit a new high of 575 cases per 100,000 people.

Unlike other European countries such as Britain and the Netherlands, which have extended national lockdowns, Spanish officials have repeatedly said a return to home confinement should not be necessary.

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine inside Lichfield Cathedral, which has been turned into an emergency vaccination centre, in Lichfield, north of Birmingham, England, on Friday. (Carl Recine/Reuters)

Prince William is encouraging everyone in Britain to follow the example of Queen Elizabeth, his grandmother, in being inoculated against COVID-19 as authorities battle unsubstantiated fears about vaccine safety.

The second in line to the throne spoke about the Queen and her spouse, Prince Philip, during a video call with National Health Service staff and volunteers that was released late Saturday. The medics told William some members of the public are reluctant to get any of the coronavirus vaccines authorized by regulators.

“My grandparents have had the vaccine and I am very proud of them for doing that,” William said. “It is really important that everyone gets the vaccine when they are told to.”

The Queen, 94, last week disclosed that she and Philip, 99, had received the first dose of vaccine. The disclosure was meant to boost confidence in the shots as the NHS seeks to give the first dose of vaccine to everyone over 70 by the middle of February.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca

Published

 on


The latest:

  • India begins ambitious COVID-19 vaccination drive.
  • Trudeau says delayed Pfizer vaccine deliveries will ramp up again in February.
  • New modelling shows roughly 2,000 more Canadians could die from COVID-19 over next 10 days.
  • Alberta’s Phase 1 vaccination rollout slowed over Pfizer supply issues.
  • Why playing arena hockey can be risky during the pandemic.
  • Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.

India began its mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 on Saturday, with plans to inoculate about 300,000 people on the first day of the drive.

The first recipients are to include doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. They are to be followed by people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to the respiratory illness.

The first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital of New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the campaign with a nationally televised speech.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumours about the safety of the vaccines.”

People will not be able to choose between the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine and a government-backed vaccine developed by India’s Bharat Biotech whose efficacy is not entirely known because it’s still undergoing Phase 3 trials. Both vaccines are being produced locally.

Canada’s vaccine supply, meanwhile, has hit a stumbling block. Pfizer is upgrading and expanding its European production line, so its vaccine deliveries to Canada and other countries will be temporarily disrupted, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand said on Friday.

Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by half for four weeks, said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the development will not thwart plans to have enough vaccine doses by September for every Canadian who wants to be inoculated and that deliveries will ramp up again in February.

The news came as the Public Health Agency of Canada released federal projections that suggested the pandemic’s impact may soon exceed levels seen in the first wave, rising to 19,630 cumulative deaths and 10,000 daily infections over the next 10 days.

WATCH | Pfizer delays will slow vaccine program, says Ontario’s task force leader:

Retired general Rick Hillier says Pfizer’s shipment delay means there will be adjustments to the vaccine program in Ontario. 2:23

PHAC said the modelling data showed that roughly 2,000 more people are expected to die from COVID-19 by Jan. 24, while as many as 100,000 more people could contract the novel coronavirus.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 7 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 695,707 cases of COVID-19, with 76,067 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,729.

In British Columbia, where all available vaccine doses are being deployed as they arrive, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Pfizer’s delay in deliveries will have “some significant effect” on when priority groups get their shot.

The delay could also affect the wait time between each shot of the two-dose regime, he said.

Although Pfizer-BioNTech suggests a second dose 21 days after the first, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that could be extended to 35 days.

A spokesperson for Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the temporary slowdown in deliveries reinforced the province’s decision to wait up to 90 days to administer the vaccine’s second dose.

WATCH | Businesses plan when remote employees return to the office:

Businesses are beginning to prepare for what happens when employees return to the office after working from home since the start of the pandemic. 2:03

“The strategy remains the same: we must give a boost now and vaccinate as many vulnerable people and health workers as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Marjaurie Cote-Boileau.

Alberta decided earlier this week to push back its second shots to 42 days. The province’s health minister, Tyler Shandro, said Friday that he had hoped to soon announce all seniors over 75 and Indigenous people over 65 would be eligible for the vaccine, but the delay makes that out of the question.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province was evaluating the impact of the delay and “will adjust as necessary.”

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick recorded 25 new cases on Friday, continuing a recent surge in cases that has seen provincial officials warning of new restrictions.

Nova Scotia reported two new cases and two new recoveries on Friday, leaving its number of active cases at 32. In Truro, a mobile health unit has been set up in response to an increase in the number of potential exposures in the area during the last week.

Newfoundland and Labrador added one new case on Friday. Prince Edward Island saw one new case on Thursday.

WATCH | Ontario schools for special needs students stay open despite lockdown:  

Schools for special needs students aren’t closing despite Ontario’s new lockdown measures — and that’s a worry for teachers and staff who work in them. 2:06

Quebec announced 1,918 new cases and 62 deaths on Friday. There are 1,496 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 231 in intensive care.

Ontario reported 2,998 new cases and a record 100 deaths on Friday, though 46 deaths reported by Middlesex-London Health Unit occurred earlier in the pandemic. There are 1,647 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 387 in intensive care.

WATCH | COVID-19 treatment Bamlanivimab goes unused:

COVID-19 vaccines have come fast but treatments for the disease are still limited. When a Canadian company developed Bamlanivimab, a new monoclonal antibody drug, Ottawa spent millions on doses. But after the rush to buy them they’ve sat on shelves for months, unused. 2:04

Manitoba reported 191 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths on Friday. The update comes a week before provincewide restrictions that ban most gatherings and the sale of non-essential goods expire. The provincial government is now considering reducing some of those restrictions, and is asking for input from the public in an online survey.

Saskatchewan reported 382 new cases of COVID-19 and four deaths on Friday. Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, said Thursday he will recommend new restrictions next week if COVID-19 case numbers don’t decline.

Alberta reported 785 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths on Friday, while British Columbia health officials reported 509 new cases and nine more deaths.

In Yukon, a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for physicians and high-risk hospital staff has inoculated about 300 people.

Northwest Territories chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola announced that one person in Yellowknife had tested positive for COVID-19. Kandola said the person has not travelled, and there is no known source of infection at this time.

In Nunavut, more than 600 people are estimated to have received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine so far, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said.


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday morning, more than 93.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 51.7 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine has been granted approval for emergency use in Pakistan, Faisal Sultan, the country’s health minister said on Saturday.

Pakistan is in the process of speaking to a number of vaccine makers, but this is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be given the green light in the South Asian country.

In Europe, Spain on Saturday ruled out a new national lockdown despite the record of COVID-19 cases recorded on Friday. The country registered 40,197 new cases on Friday, while the incidence of the disease measured over the past 14 days hit a new high of 575 cases per 100,000 people.

Unlike other European countries such as Britain and the Netherlands, which have extended national lockdowns, Spanish officials have repeatedly said a return to home confinement should not be necessary.

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine inside Lichfield Cathedral, which has been turned into an emergency vaccination centre, in Lichfield, north of Birmingham, England on Friday. (Carl Recine/Reuters)

Prince William is encouraging everyone in Britain to follow the example of Queen Elizabeth, his grandmother, in being inoculated against COVID-19 as authorities battle unsubstantiated fears about vaccine safety.

The second in line to the throne spoke about the Queen and her spouse, Prince Philip, during a video call with National Health Service staff and volunteers that was released late Saturday. The medics told William some members of the public are reluctant to get any of the coronavirus vaccines authorized by regulators.

“My grandparents have had the vaccine and I am very proud of them for doing that,” William said. “It is really important that everyone gets the vaccine when they are told to.”

The Queen, 94, last week disclosed that she and Philip, 99, had received the first dose of vaccine. The disclosure was meant to boost confidence in the shots as the NHS seeks to give the first dose of vaccine to everyone over 70 by the middle of February.

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