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B.C. to open AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for ages 55 to 65 in Lower Mainland – CBC.ca

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The B.C. government has announced that people aged 55 to 65 who are living in the Lower Mainland can register on Wednesday to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

The announcement on Tuesday came as provincial health officials reported 840 new cases of COVID-19 but no additional deaths.

In a statement, Health Minister Adrian Dix said anyone in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions within that age range can call their local pharmacy to book a vaccination appointment.

Drop-in service may also be an option at more than 150 participating pharmacies. People must bring their personal health number with them.

The announcement comes one day after British Columbia health officials paused the use of AstraZeneca vaccines in people under the age of 55 in response to European reports of rare but potentially fatal blood clots.

Similar measures are being taken across Canada in response to recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

Health officials said that pause presents an opportunity to use those doses to protect people with higher COVID-19 risks sooner.

Health-care workers provide COVID-19 Pfizer vaccines at a drive-thru clinic in Central Park in Burnaby. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We know from the millions of doses used worldwide, and especially in the U.K., it is highly effective and the benefits to those over age 55 far outweigh the very real risks of getting COVID-19,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a statement.

“I encourage everyone in the Lower Mainland who is between 55 and 65 years of age to receive their safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine today.”

Active cases remain high

Henry and Dix also updated the province’s COVID-19 numbers on Tuesday, putting the number of hospitalized patients at 312, 78 of whom are in intensive care.

There are currently 7,062 active cases of coronavirus in the province — the highest number since Jan. 3 — with public health officials monitoring 11,164 people across B.C. who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure.

A total of 90,401 people who have tested positive for the virus have recovered, while 1,455 people in B.C. have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began early last year.

So far, 724,193 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province, with 87,319 of those being second doses.

B.C. recorded 320 new cases associated with variants of concern on Tuesday, bringing the total number of variant cases in the province to 2,553. Of those, 313 are active cases.

New restrictions in effect

On Monday, the province recorded 2,518 new cases of COVID-19 from over the weekend, with a record high 936 on Saturday.

To interrupt the escalating transmission, Henry announced new restrictions that are in effect until at least April 19.

They include the closure of all indoor dining establishments, the suspension of indoor adult group fitness classes and the temporary closure of the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort.

Henry also outlined new school mask guidelines on Monday for children in elementary school to help curb the rise in cases. The new guidelines now recommend masks for all students down to Grade 4 in schools across the province.

Henry was joined by Premier John Horgan, who singled out British Columbians aged 20 to 39 as the cohort not paying enough attention to COVID-19 public health orders.

Whistler case count grows

Vancouver Coastal Health reported continued case growth in Whistler on Tuesday.

In a statement, VCH said that from March 22 to 28, 218 new cases of COVID-19 were detected in Whistler.

Between Jan. 1 and March 28, 1,120 cases were recorded in the Whistler community, the health authority said, 83 per cent of which occurred among people age 20 to 39 years.

VCH said the most common transmission locations in Whistler are household settings and social gatherings.

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With average prices up another 14%, Swiss bank UBS warns of housing bubbles in Canada – CBC.ca

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Average house prices rose 14 per cent in the past year, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Friday, adding to concerns that Canada’s most expensive real estate markets are dangerously overvalued.

The group that represents realtors across the country says the average price of a Canadian home sold on its MLS system was $686,650, almost 14 per cent higher than it was in the same month a year ago.

Canada’s inflation rate hit four per cent in August, the fastest increase in the cost of living in almost 20 years. The new data on house prices Friday means that house prices are going up at more than three times that record pace.

CREA says the average price can be misleading, since it is heavily skewed by sales in the most expensive markets of Toronto and Vancouver. It trumpets another number, known as the MLS House Price Index (HPI), as a more accurate gauge of the overall market, because it strips out some of the volatility.

But the HPI is rising by even more than the average is right now — up 21.5 per cent in the past 12 months. In the Greater Toronto area, the average price of a home that sold was $1,136,280 in September, up 18 per cent in a year, according to the local real estate board. In Vancouver, the average is 1,186,100 — up by more than 13 per cent in the past year.

“There is still a lot of demand chasing an increasingly scarce number of listings, so this market remains very challenging,” CREA chair Cliff Stevenson said.

The pandemic has had an unexpected impact on house prices in that instead of causing people to be more conservative because of the economic uncertainty, buyers have been eager to shell out for more space.

Canada’s central bank slashed its benchmark rate to help stimulate the economy through the pandemic, and when lenders passed those rates on to consumers in the form of record low mortgage rates that had the effect of pouring gasoline on the fire of housing demand, making it more affordable to borrow more and more money to buy a home.

UBS warns of bubble

The fresh numbers on prices come as a major Swiss bank was already warning that Toronto and Vancouver are home to two of the worst housing bubbles in the entire world.

In an annual ranking, UBS examines the housing markets in 24 major world cities in Europe, North America and Asia to assess them based on how expensive housing is compared to local income levels and other factors.

It then puts all the cities into one of five categories: 

  • Depressed housing market (a score of -1.5 or lower).
  • Undervalued (-0.5 to -1.5).
  • Fairly valued (-0.5 to +0.5).
  • Overvalued (+0.5 to +1.5).
  • Bubble (1.5 and up).

Six cities were deemed to have housing bubbles. Two of them are in Canada. 

Toronto got a score of 2.02. That was higher than every other city except Frankfurt, Germany, which scored a 2.16.

Vancouver scored a 1.66, just behind Hong Kong (1.90), Munich (1.84) and Zurich (1.83).

Realtors say a lack of homes is the problem and are urging the construction of new ones. But one expert says supply and demand imbalances are nowhere near able to explain the current price increases. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The bank says house prices in Toronto have effectively doubled in the past decade. Government interventions through things like foreign buyers taxes and rent controls caused the market to take a breather in 2018 and 2019, but things have only accelerated since, the bank said.

“Real prices increased by almost eight per cent from mid-2020 to mid-2021,” the bank said.

The bank says price gains are being fuelled by record-low mortgage rates, which are not expected to last much longer once the Bank of Canada inevitably has to raise its rate.

That “could lead to an abrupt end to the current housing frenzy,” the bank said.

Isabel Serrano, a prospective homebuyer in Toronto, is well aware of how frothy things have gotten in the city. She and her husband have been renting for the past 15 years, and are finally ready to buy. But despite having more than $200,000 a year in combined income, the pair can’t find anything in their price range — and they keep getting outbid when they try.

In an interview with CBC News, she said she has looked at between 40 or 50 houses in the past few months, and placed offers on four. In some cases, the house sold for six figures more than the asking price.

“I never thought it was going to be this hard. I really didn’t,” she said. “It blows my mind that there are no homes to buy. It blows my mind that we cannot find a house to buy for $800,000.”

WATCH | Isabel Serrano says house prices are out of reach for people like her

House prices out of reach

5 hours ago

Prospective home buyer Isabel Serrano says even though she and her husband have steady incomes, there’s only so high they can go in terms of buying a home to live in. (Credit: Mark Boschler/CBC) 0:53

‘A fast rebound’

Things don’t look much better in Vancouver. Taxes on vacant homes and foreign buyers in 2016 cooled what was then a red-hot market, as prices rose by more than 20 per cent that year. Those moves seemed to relieve some of the pressure, as prices declined by 10 per cent between 2018 and 2019.

“Since then, however, lower prices, falling mortgage rates and looser stress test rules have enticed households to buy properties again, leading to a fast rebound,” UBS said. “From mid-2020 to mid-2021, property prices increased by 11 per cent, offsetting past losses.”

High prices aren’t just bad for would-be buyers like Serrano, who plan to live in them — they don’t augur well for investors hoping to pay them off by renting them out either.

According to UBS, anyone buying an investment property with the intent to rent it out would need to rent it for 31 years in Vancouver to cover the price of buying it. In Toronto, it would take 28 years. In cities like Miami and Dubai, it’s half that.

It’s a big reason why the bank suspects both Toronto and Vancouver are in bubble territory, which UBS defines as “a substantial and sustained mispricing of an asset, the existence of which cannot be proved unless it bursts.”

UBS has no qualms calling what’s happening in Canada’s two biggest housing markets a bubble, and they aren’t the only ones.

Prof. George Fallis, who teaches economics at York University in Toronto, says the city’s housing market shows all the signs of being detached from fundamentals.

Supply and demand

“A bubble exists if you can’t explain price increases by using the normal variables we look at,” he said in an interview. “Whenever you see that kind of thing, that should be a warning light.”

Fallis says he worries some people buying today are doing so based solely on the expectation that gains in the future will be the same as those of the past, and it’s always dangerous when that happens.

“Economists are not psychologists and the psychology of frothy expectations is poorly understood. But it’s clear that it’s [caused by] something arising which sort of shocks you,” he said. The most likely trigger could be a rapid rise in interest rates, something that experts have already warned is inevitable.

“You only know a bubble exists when it bursts,” Fallis said. “It just keeps going and going and going until it doesn’t.”

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Two B.C. women file constitutional challenge of vaccine card – CHEK

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VANCOUVER — Two British Columbia women who say doctors advised them against getting COVID-19 vaccines have filed a constitutional challenge of the province’s vaccine passport.

A petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court says 39-year-old Sarah Webb, who lives in Alberta and B.C., developed an adverse reaction from her first dose of a vaccine in May and ended up in the emergency department of a Calgary hospital six days later.

The court document says Webb’s symptoms included fatigue, heart arrhythmias, severe pain and a rash on her arm.

It says she received antibiotics but developed further complications the next day and went to another hospital, where a doctor told her she should not get a second vaccine shot.

The petition filed against the attorney general and the Ministry of Health says Leigh Anne Eliason of Maple Ridge, B.C., was told by her doctor that she should not get a COVID-19 vaccine because of the risk of side effects due to her medical history.

READ MORE: A look at COVID-19 vaccine certificate programs across Canada

Neither the Attorney General’s Ministry nor the Health Ministry could immediately provide a response to the court challenge.

The petition says both women’s physicians have written exemption letters citing their physical disabilities.

However, the petition says each of the doctors raised concerns that neither the government nor any provincial medical associations had provided guidelines on how to write such a letter or what information should be included.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the attorney general of British Columbia or the (Health Ministry) have considered individuals like the petitioners in making the vaccine card announcement or in crafting the vaccine card orders,” says the petition, which was filed on Sept. 23.

B.C. residents without proof of vaccination are prohibited from certain activities like dining in restaurants, entering movie theatres and gyms. That deprives the petitioners of their charter rights, the petition says.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said anyone who chooses not to be vaccinated has options including ordering takeout from restaurants and watching movies and sports at home because her order is aimed at reducing transmission of the virus from anyone who may be infected.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021.

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Stellantis cutting 1800 jobs at Windsor Assembly Plant – CTV News Windsor

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Windsor, Ont. –

Stellantis says it is cutting its Windsor Assembly Plant down to one shift next spring in a move that will mean about 1,800 lost jobs.

The company, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, says the move comes as the automotive industry faces significant headwinds including the semiconductor shortage and the effects of COVID-19.

The cut from two shifts comes after Stellantis cut the third shift at the minivan plant in 2020 at a loss of about 1,500 jobs.

Stellantis says it will cut the second shift beginning in the spring, but reaffirmed it’s commitment in the 2020 collective agreement with the local Unifor union to spend upwards of $1.5 billion at the plant.

The auto industry has been grappling with a significant shortage of computer chips, pushing auto companies to prioritize high-margin vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs and cutting back production of sedans and minivans.

The Windsor plant produces the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and Chrysler Grand Caravan.

Official statement from UNIFOR Local 444

“The company served the union official notice late this afternoon that they we will be moving to a one-shift operation at the Windsor assembly plant on April 17, 2022. We will be meeting with the company in the coming days to explore ALL other options, however official notice has been given. The company reiterated its commitment to the bargained investment and the three-shift operation in the future. We will be getting more specifics over the course of the weekend and the upcoming days.”

Official statement from Stellantis

“The global automotive industry continues to face significant headwinds such as the persisting semiconductor shortage and the extended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to these factors, Stellantis will adjust production operations at its Windsor Assembly Plant (WAP) in Canada. Beginning in the spring of 2022, WAP will transition to a one-shift operation. The company reaffirms its WAP investment commitment outlined in the 2020 Collective Agreement of up to $1.5B CAD.”

—With files from CTV Windsor’s Angelo Aversa

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