Canada’s chief public health officer warned Saturday that current health orders are not enough to stop rapid growth of COVID-19, as provinces push ahead with plans to reopen their economies.
Longer-range forecast models predict a resurgence of COVID-19 infections unless public health measures are enhanced and strictly followed, Dr. Theresa Tam said in a written statement.
“With increasing circulation of highly contagious variants, the threat of uncontrolled epidemic growth is significantly elevated,” she said.
Her statement comes amid another 4,428 cases of COVID-19 identified by public health units across Canada on Saturday, pushing the national total to 961,088. Another 26 fatalities were also announced, with the death toll standing at 22,852.
To date, 896,211 patients have recovered after being diagnosed with the disease however, while more than 28 million tests and 4.8 million vaccine doses have since been administered.
Tam in her statement said public health orders across Canada need to be stronger, stricter and sustained long enough to control the rise of variants of concern.
High infection rates in the most populous provinces are driving up the country’s average daily case counts, she said.
Quebec reported more than 1,000 new infections on Saturday for the first time since mid-February, a day after the province reopened gyms and spas in red zones, including Montreal.
Americans race to get vaccinated as COVID-19 surges
The province’s government-mandated public health institute also warned on Friday that more transmissible variants would represent the majority of infections in Quebec by the first week of April.
Premier Francois Legault told reporters he wasn’t ready to reverse decisions to reopen gyms or to allow places of worship to welcome up to 250 people.
In Ontario, new cases topped 2,400 for the first time since January.
The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario released a statement Saturday urging Premier Doug Ford to scale back reopening plans, including the scheduled reopening of personal care services, such as hair salons, on April 12 in regions of the province that are in “grey-lockdown” zones.
The province’s own modelling projections indicate highly contagious variants could see daily case counts balloon, while COVID-19 patients are already occupying Ontario’s intensive care beds at levels “well above the threshold at which hospitals say they can cope,” the statement said.
Gyms in Ontario will be allowed to offer outdoor fitness classes and personal training in the lockdown zones starting Monday. Earlier changes allowed outdoor restaurant dining to resume in those zones, including Toronto, and increased indoor capacity limits for restaurants in other regions.
British Columbia reported 908 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, among the highest daily totals in that province since the pandemic began.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday she would ease restrictions on visits to long-term care homes, where most staff and residents have been vaccinated.
Variants could make 3rd wave the worst yet: new COVID-19 modelling
Limited indoor religious services will also be allowed starting Sunday through May 13 to allow for the observation of holidays including Passover, Easter and Ramadan.
In Alberta, rising hospitalization rates and variant cases have delayed reopening plans that would have included relaxed restrictions on worship services, entertainment venues and adult team sports.
That province counted 668 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, of which the chief medical officer of health said 207 were variants of concern.
— With files from Global News
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike
MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada‘s manufacturers on Monday asked the federal government to curb a brewing labor dispute after dockworkers at the country’s second largest port said they will work less this week.
Unionized dockworkers, who are in talks for a new contract since 2018, will hold a partial strike starting Tuesday, by refusing all overtime outside of their normal day shifts, along with weekend work, they said in a statement on Monday.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Quebec’s 1,125 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected a March offer from the Maritime Employers Association.
The uncertainty caused by the labour dispute has led to an 11% drop in March container volume at the Montreal port on an annual basis, even as other eastern ports in North America made gains, the Maritime Employers Association said.
The move will cause delays in a 24-hour industry, the association said.
“Some manufacturers have had to redirect their containers to the Port of Halifax, incurring millions in additional costs every week,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).
While the government strongly believes a negotiated agreement is the best option for all parties, “we are actively examining all options as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said.
Last summer’s stoppage of work cost wholesalers C$600 million ($478 million) in sales over a two-month period, Statistics Canada estimates.
($1 = 1.2563 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara
OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada on Monday scrapped export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.
Turkey, which like Canada is a member of NATO, is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces gained territory in the enclave after six weeks of fighting.
“This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey,” Garneau said in a statement, adding he had raised his concerns with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier in the day.
Ottawa suspended the permits last October so it could review allegations that Azeri drones used in the conflict had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.
In a statement, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa said: “We expect our NATO allies to avoid unconstructive steps that will negatively affect our bilateral relations and undermine alliance solidarity.”
Earlier on Monday, Turkey said Cavusoglu had urged Canada to review the defense industry restrictions.
The parts under embargo include camera systems for Baykar armed drones. Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased, but reimposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan jumped sixfold last year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million in September alone before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, data showed.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)
Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits
By Liz Hampton
DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado refinery owned by Canadian firm Suncor Energy Inc meets required environmental permits and is adequately funded, according to an investigation released on Monday into a series of emissions violations at the facility between 2017 and 2019.
The 98,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, reached a $9-million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) March 2020 to resolve air pollution violations that occurred since 2017. That settlement also addressed an incident in December 2019 that released refinery materials onto a nearby school.
As part of the settlement, Suncor was required to use a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the violations and spend up to $5 million to implement recommendations from the investigation.
Consulting firm Kearney’s investigation found the facility met environmental permit requirements, but also pinpointed areas for improvement, including personnel training and systems upgrades, some of which was already underway.
“We need to improve our performance and improve the trust people have in us,” Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City refinery said in an interview, adding that the refinery had already undertaken some of the recommendations from the investigation.
In mid-April, Suncor will begin a turnaround at the facility that includes an upgrade to a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Plant 1 of the facility. That turnaround is anticipated to be complete in June 2021.
Suncor last year completed a similar upgrade of an automatic shutdown system for the FCCU at the refinery’s Plant 2.
By 2023, the company will also install an additional control unit, upgraded instrumentation, automated shutdown valves and new hydraulic pressure units in Plant 2.
Together, those upgrades will cost approximately $12 million, of which roughly $10 million is dedicated to Plant 2 upgrades, Suncor said on Monday.
(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)