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Canada sees another Easter weekend with rising COVID-19 cases, tough restrictions – Global News

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Three of the provinces hardest-hit by COVID-19 spent their second pandemic-era Good Friday either adjusting to or bracing for stricter public health measures meant to bring resurgent case counts back in check.

Three regions of Quebec, including the provincial capital, are now under a 10-day lockdown that took effect hours before the province reported the highest daily case load since late January.

On Wednesday, British Columbia imposed what they are calling a three-week long “circuit breaker” across the province hoping to “break the chain of COVID-19 transmission.”

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Ontario, meanwhile, will pull what it dubs an “emergency brake” at midnight for the entire province, forcing the closure of personal services and in-person dining while imposing tighter capacity limits on both essential and non-essential businesses.

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The move came in response to modelling that showed case counts could top 6,000 a day by month’s end without intervention.

While the problem in all three provinces is the same — faster-spreading variants and rising hospitalizations — the rules are all slightly different.

Quebec closed schools in the affected regions while Ontario and B.C. did not.


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All three are prohibiting indoor gatherings at private residences, but Quebec is also banning outdoor gatherings at homes and cottages. Ontario and B.C. both say it’s safe to allow up to 10 people to assemble outside.

Quebec’s rules include a curfew banning people from leaving their homes between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. in most regions, though the start of the curfew has been moved back to 8 p.m. in the province’s three newly locked-down cities.

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Residents of Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau will also see schools close and non-essential business shut down for at least 10 days in a bid to bring soaring local case counts back under control.

Elsewhere, Quebec allows up to 250 people inside a place of worship as long as they can maintain a two metre distance from others. But the number differs for weddings and funerals, where the limit is 25 attendees.

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British Columbia only allows worship outdoors, up to a maximum of 50 people, plus two more to enforce the rules. In Ontario, worship services are limited to 15 per cent capacity.

A new survey suggested Canadians navigating the complex patchwork of public health measures are likely to disregard them altogether and even ignore nearly universal calls from public health officials and politicians to skip Easter gatherings this year.

An online poll done by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies and the University of Manitoba found more than 40 per cent of the people surveyed feel safe attending family gatherings at this point, and a quarter believe the government is overhyping the dangers of COVID-19.

Toronto mother Marcia Martins said she is scaling back her family’s usually large Easter gathering to just four households this year, noting the move feels safe since most attendees don’t work outside the home.

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“These are just difficult times right now,” she said. “And I’m just glad that there’s a way that we can just keep as close to normal — or what our old normal was.”

But for some Ontario retail workers, the coming lockdown is welcome news.

“I think this will help prevent the increasing rates of the virus,” said Odessa Ordanza, a cashier at Shoppers Drug Mart in Mississauga, Ont.

The 22-year-old said “it’s still kind of scary going to work,” particularly with some people still coming into the store without masks on.

But one home-care supervisor west of Toronto has a much harsher appraisal of the government’s current approach, which allows schools to stay open and allows most retailers to operate with capacity caps rather than shutting them down entirely.

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“I don’t know if it’s the right approach,” said Terri Neufeld of Mississauga, noting comparable measures have been in place locally for months. “I don’t know if we need to have a more targeted approach? What we’ve been doing (in Ontario) has really not been working.”

Many provinces opted not to report new case data on the Good Friday holiday. Those that did included Quebec, which added 1,314 new cases to its total.

It’s the third day in a row the province tallied more than 1,000 new infections, and the highest daily number since Jan. 26.

Saskatchewan reported 254 new infections on Friday, while Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw estimated there had been about 1,100 new infections over the most recent 24-hour period.


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New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, meanwhile, reported nine new infections each.

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Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says the Easter weekend in his province “is looking very different” than in most other jurisdictions, but said people still need to be careful.

— with files from Nicole Thompson and Denise Paglinawan in Toronto.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike

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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)

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Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara

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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)

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Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits

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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)

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