The number of Canadians who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus grew by 865 on Saturday, while the national death toll rose by six.
There have been 142,654 cases since COVID-19 was first diagnosed in Canada in late January and 9,211 deaths overall.
Across the country more than 7.7 million tests have been conducted throughout the pandemic, and 87 per cent of all cases are resolved.
The number of new cases being reported daily has increased by more than 60 per cent in the last two weeks, and demand for testing has increased sharply as well.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said on average about 849 cases were reported per day in the last week.
“I urge all Canadians to take action now to slow the spread of the virus. In addition to strict adherence with personal protective measures (e.g. physical distancing, handwashing and wearing non-medical masks where appropriate), we must all reduce our number of contacts to a minimum,” she said in a statement.
“Most importantly, stay home and isolate yourself from others if you are experiencing any symptoms, even if mild.”
The vast majority of the new cases occurred in Ontario and Quebec, though Saturday’s numbers are incomplete because the territories, Alberta, B.C. and P.E.I. do not release daily statistics on the weekend.
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Quebec announced 427 new infections, bringing its total to 67,080. Five deaths were recorded, three of which occurred earlier this month, officials said.
Premier François Legault said Saturday he has tested negative for COVID-19 but would remain in isolation until Sept. 28.
Legault and his wife were tested after meeting with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole — who has since tested positive.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be extending restrictions on private events to all areas of the province.
Earlier in the week, new limits on the number of people allowed to gather were announced for virus hotspots such as Toronto and Ottawa.
“Over the past several days, we have seen alarming growth in the number of COVID cases in Ontario,” Ford said.
“The alarm bells are ringing. And too much of it has been tied to people who aren’t following the rules. People who think it’s OK to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.”
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Ontario added 407 new cases on Saturday and one new death was announced. The province has seen a cumulative total of 46,848 infections.
Officials in Saskatchewan said they hit a record high in testing on Friday, with 2,873 samples taken. There were 11 cases discovered. Overall, the province has seen 1,787 cases and 24 fatalities.
In Manitoba, 18 new cases were reported Saturday. The province has the lowest cumulative case total in Western Canada at 1,558, including some cases considered presumptive.
Nunavut reported its first two confirmed cases Saturday. The two people diagnosed are workers at the Hope Bay Mine, located southwest of Cambridge Bay, officials said. They are believed to have been exposed to the virus in their home province.
“Hope Bay Mine is an isolated location, and no Nunavut residents currently work there. The risk of COVID-19 spreading in our communities because of these cases remains very low,” Health Minister George Hickes said in a statement.
There are currently no other active cases in Canada’s North. The infections previously announced in Yukon and Northwest Territories — 20 in total — have long been resolved.
Three out of four provinces in Atlantic Canada provided updates on the pandemic Saturday but no new cases were announced. There are only a handful of active cases remaining in the region.
On Friday, British Columbia added 179 new cases, though 40 of them dated back to early August, and Alberta reported 107 new positive tests.
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On Saturday, the U.S. coronavirus death toll was poised to reach 200,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Around the world, more than 30 million people have been diagnosed with the illness, and nearly 954,000 people have lost their lives.
—With files from The Canadian Press, Mickey Djuric, Ryan Rocca and David Lao, Global News
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Federal government to announce new immigration targets today – CBC.ca
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino will unveil a three-year immigration plan today that will set targets for bringing skilled workers, family members and refugees into Canada in the midst of a global pandemic.
Last year’s plan promised to bring in more than one million immigrants over a three-year period, but the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting travel restrictions have slowed down the process. Mendicino said the government remains committed to welcoming newcomers as a way to keep Canada’s economy afloat.
“We believe strongly in building Canada through immigration. Immigration is helping us get through the pandemic, and will be the key to both our short-term economic recovery and long-term prosperity,” he said in a press statement to CBC News.
“That’s exactly why we need to continue with measured, responsible growth to drive Canada’s success into the future.”
The immigration level plan is expected to be tabled in the House of Commons at about noon ET, and Mendicino is scheduled to hold a news conference in Ottawa at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Traditionally, Ottawa’s goal in immigration policy has been to attract top talent in a competitive global market while reuniting families and offering refuge to people displaced by disaster, conflict and persecution.
In its last three-year plan, the federal government sought to bring in 341,000 immigrants this year, 351,000 next year and another 361,000 in 2022.
Focus on labour gaps, says C of C
Leah Nord, senior director of workforce strategies and inclusive growth for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the world has changed a great deal since those targets were set. However the government chooses to set its immigration targets in today’s new policy, she said, it will have to focus squarely on matching economic migrants to worker shortages in various sectors and regions of the country.
Despite changes in the labour market and a major spike in the unemployment rate since the onset of the pandemic, gaps in the market remain, Nord said — and immigration will continue to play a large role in filling persistent labour shortages.
“We’re in this rather strange situation where we do have higher unemployment rates than we’ve seen for a number of years. Before the crisis there were record low unemployment rates. Now, they’re tipping towards the other end,” she said.
“But we still have a situation where there are still job vacancies and jobs that need to be filled across the country. Immigration can play an important role in diversity and economic growth, but also in filling labour market gaps, for sure.”
The government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth recommended that Canada boost its annual immigration levels to 450,000 by 2021 to stimulate the economy and tackle the twin labour market problems of an aging population and a low birth rate.
Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said that whatever the Trudeau government announces today, it must have a concrete plan for bringing people safely into the country during a pandemic and for integrating them into Canadian society.
She said the backlog of applicants has grown during the pandemic.
“The immigration system has not been well-managed, I think to say the least, in the last eight months. So I will be looking for some sort of plan for how they’re going to improve it,” Dancho said.
“The number can be whatever it’s going to be, but unless they bring forward a plan for how they’re going to change course and get better at processing immigration applications, it’s really all for nothing.”
Dancho said Canadians must have a clear explanation of how immigration targets will meet Canada’s labour needs while upholding its humanitarian commitments.
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan urged the government to increase its capacity to help vulnerable people in need of protection in Canada, noting that persecution abroad has not stopped during the pandemic.
She said Canada also should give permanent residence status to people who want it and are already in the country, such as temporary foreign workers and international students with job offers.
“Canada can, in fact, take a true humanitarian approach by regularizing all those immigrants and refugees and undocumented people,” she said.
Sales of cancer-fighting drugs soared in Canada over the past decade – CBC.ca
Sales of medications to treat cancer have nearly tripled in Canada over the past decade, reaching $3.9 billion last year, a report by a federal agency says.
The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board has released data showing cancer medications account for about 15 per cent of all spending on pharmaceuticals.
“In 2019, medicines with 28-day treatment costs exceeding $7,500 made up 43 per cent of private plan oncology drug costs, compared with 17 per cent in 2010,” says the report by the board, which aims to protect consumers by ensuring manufacturers aren’t charging excessive prices for patented medications.
It says growth in the Canadian oncology market last year exceeded that of other countries including the United States and Switzerland, with a 20 per cent increase over sales from 2018.
Sales of oral cancer medications account for half of all oncology sales in Canada, up from 37 per cent in 2010, the report says, adding that while intravenous chemotherapy is publicly funded in all provinces, reimbursement of oral drugs differs across the country.
Steve Morgan, a professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, said it doesn’t make sense to cover the cost of intravenous chemotherapy in hospitals and not medications prescribed to patients outside of those facilities, but that’s justified in a country without a national drug plan.
“This is one of the messy bits of the Canadian health care system,” he said, adding there’s a patchwork system of coverage across jurisdictions, with cancer agencies in some provinces providing limited payment for at-home oncology treatments.
A national pharmacare plan would allow Canada to negotiate better drug prices, Morgan said, noting it’s the only country in the world with a universal health care system without coverage for prescription drugs.
Much of the national-level negotiating countries do with manufacturers happens in secret, Morgan said. The negotiations start with a list or sticker price — much like buying a vehicle at a dealership — as part of a complicated regime involving rebates to bring down prices.
“It’s deliberately made to cloud the real transaction price, the real price to health the system, so that no country can look at it and say, ‘Hey, wait a second, I heard that the people in Australia got this amazing new price on this drug,'” Morgan said.
“What we can’t know is exactly which countries are getting the most value for money because we don’t get to see their secret deals. We do know that Canada’s list prices are among the highest in the world, and even above the level that the (Patented Medicine Prices Review Board) would like to see in terms of just the beginning of negotiations.
Countries with universal single-payer systems for medications — including Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand — are likely using their negotiating power to get better prices from manufacturers asking for unreasonable amounts of money, he said.
Canada is expected to have about 225,000 new cancer cases and 83,000 deaths from the disease this year alone, the report by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board says.
Provinces negotiate with manufacturers individually and should not “cave” to requests for unreasonable prices, Morgan said.
“They cannot, in essence, have patients being used as hostages.”
Prescription drug affordability
Results of an online survey released Thursday by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) say 26 per cent of Canadians had to pay for at least half their prescription drug costs over the past year. That figure rises to 37 per cent for households earning less than $50,000 annually.
“Regionally, the highest rates of self-payment for prescriptions are found in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba,” said the survey. “In all three of these provinces, one in three households reported paying half of their prescription drug costs or more. By contrast, Ontario and Alberta report the highest rates of insurance and government coverage.”
The survey was conducted in partnership with the University of B.C.’s School of Population and Public Health, St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the University of Toronto, Carleton University’s Faculty of Public Affairs and School of Public Policy and Administration in Ottawa and Women’s College Hospital, Toronto.
It was done between Oct. 13 and 18 included a representative randomized sample of 1,936 Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.
Meng Wanzhou scores victory as lawyers allowed to argue U.S. tried to trick Canada – CBC.ca
Meng Wanzhou scored a victory in her battle to fight extradition Thursday as the judge overseeing the proceedings agreed to let the Huawei executive’s lawyers pursue their claim that the United States misled Canada about the basics of the case.
In a ruling posted online, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said there was an “air of reality to Ms. Meng’s allegations of abuse of process in relation to the requesting state’s conduct.”
At a hearing held last month, the chief financial officer’s lawyers said they believed the evidence was strong enough to prove that the United States omitted key components of the case that undermine allegations of fraud against their client.
Holmes’ ruling means Meng’s lawyers will be able to include those claims as one of three lines of attack in February, when they try to convince the judge that the entire case should be thrown out for abuse of process.
In her ruling, Holmes noted that staying the proceedings against Meng was a possibility if the defence can make its case, but that she might also consider a less drastic remedy, like cutting out parts of the Crown’s record deemed unreliable.
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Meng is charged with fraud and conspiracy in the United States in relation to allegations that she lied to HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with a hidden subsidiary that was accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.
Prosecutors claim that by lying to HSBC to continue a financial relationship, Meng placed the bank at risk of loss and prosecution for breaching the same sanctions.
As part of the extradition process, the United States provided a record of the case that includes slides from the PowerPoint presentation Meng gave an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in August 2013.
But Meng’s lawyers claim the U.S. deliberately omitted two slides from the PowerPoint that showed Meng didn’t mislead the bank.
And they also claim that where the U.S. said only “junior” employees knew about the real relationship between Huawei and its subsidiary, senior executives at the bank were also aware.
In her ruling, Holmes said she would allow two statements from the missing slides to be included as evidence in the extradition case. She also agreed to allow evidence about HSBC’s management structure to help determine who is junior and who is not.
Rights violation issue not raised, CBSA agent testifies
Holmes released her decision even as Meng’s lawyers were in court gathering evidence related to the second line of argument that there was an abuse of process: the claim that her rights were violated at the time of her arrest.
Meng was questioned by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers for three hours before she was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018, after her arrival at Vancouver’s airport on a flight from Hong Kong.
The defence team claims the CBSA and RCMP conspired with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to mount a covert criminal investigation into Meng by using the border agency’s extraordinary powers to question her without a lawyer.
The CBSA agent who seized Meng’s phones was on the stand Thursday for his second day of testimony.
Border services officer Scott Kirkland testified that he believed there were grounds to question Meng about the possibility she might be involved in espionage.
During his testimony Wednesday, Kirkland said that was because the CBSA’s internal system has flagged her for “national security” reasons, but he admitted in cross-examination Thursday that this might not have been the case. Meng’s lawyer suggested that she was only targeted because of the criminal charges.
Kirkland also said he thought the RCMP should have arrested Meng immediately, before the CBSA carried out its inquiries, because he worried about the impact of a delay on her right to obtain legal counsel.
Kirkland said he knew the high profile case would end up in court.
But he said he didn’t raise the issue of possible Charter of Rights and Freedoms violations out loud. And no one else among the RCMP and CBSA officers who were present said the word “Charter.”
Two weeks have been set aside in February 2021 for arguments about the record of the case and the alleged violation of Meng’s rights at the time of her arrest.
The third defence claim relates to allegations that U.S. President Donald Trump has politicized the case by threatening to use Meng as a bargaining chip to get a better deal with China.
Holmes noted in her ruling that if any one of those lines of argument were proven, they might not be enough in and of themselves to derail the case, but the cumulative effect of all of them might end in a stay.
Meng has denied the allegations against her.
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