Canada’s procurement minister urged drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to get the country’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule back on track as soon as possible as cases of the novel coronavirus surged past the 700,000 mark on Saturday.
The country hit the milestone less than two weeks after recording 600,000 cases of the virus on Jan. 3 — a feat that took months during the pandemic’s first wave.
Seven provinces recorded 6,479 cases on Saturday, pushing the national tally over 702,000.
Nationwide inoculation efforts had resulted in more than half a million residents receiving a vaccine dose as of Friday night, though the pace of immunizations is set to decrease as Pfizer-BioNTech upgrades its production facilities in Europe.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision to delay international vaccine shipments for four weeks during the upgrades.
“We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said on Twitter Saturday. “Pfizer assured us that it is deploying all efforts to do just that.”
She noted that shipments for the upcoming week will be largely unaffected, and said Ottawa will provide updates as they become available.
Ontario became the latest province to adjust its vaccination rollout plans in light of Pfizer’s announcement.
Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued a statement on Saturday saying officials do not yet know the full impact the delay will have on Ontario’s immunization strategy.
“We understand that this change in supply could see deliveries reduced by at least half for Canada in the coming weeks,” Williams said in a statement Saturday.
“We will assess and take appropriate action to ensure we can continue providing our most vulnerable with vaccines.”
In Ontario, long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine will get their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week beyond what was originally planned.
But that time frame will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday the reduced shipments mean that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the vaccine expected by Feb. 8 won’t be delivered on schedule.
Officials are establishing a new distribution plan, but the Quebec Health Department said it still intends to immunize as many people as possible within priority groups, with a delay of up to 90 days for the second dose.
Officials in Saskatchewan said COVID-19 vaccinations will continue as doses are received, with Premier Scott Moe telling reporters Friday that the province’s strategy for the two-dose regime depends on steady shipments.
Canada’s top doctor continued her push for strict adherance to public health guidelines as Saturday’s case count inched closer to levels forecasted in bleak federal projections released earlier in the week. Modeling released on Thursday indicated Canada could see 10,000 daily cases by the end of January if current infection rates continue.
“If we ease measures too soon, the epidemic will resurge even stronger,” Dr. Theresa Tam said in a tweet. “This is double-down time!!”
Tam said Hospitalizations and deaths across the country, which tend to lag one to several weeks behind a spike in cases, are still on the rise.
Canada averaged 4,705 hospitalizations across the country with 875 patients requiring intensive care treatment For the seven-day period ending Jan. 14.
During the same period, an average of 137 deaths were reported daily.
Ontario topped 3,000 cases in a 24-hour period once again on Saturday and added another 51 deaths linked to the virus.
In Quebec, 2,225 new infections were reported along with 67 deaths attributed to the virus, pushing the province over the 9,000 death mark since the beginning of the pandemic.
New Brunswick continued to report the highest daily COVID-19 case counts in Atlantic Canada, with 27 new diagnoses reported Saturday. Nova Scotia, by contrast, reported just four.
Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two further deaths on Saturday. Alberta logged 717 new infections, while Manitoba reported 180.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.
Best Buy cuts 5000 jobs, including 750 in Canada – CTV News
NEW YORK —
Best Buy said Thursday that it laid off 5,000 full-time store workers earlier this month, even as the company’s sales soared during the pandemic as homebound people bought laptops, TVs and other gadgets.
The company said it cut the jobs because more shoppers are choosing to buy online instead of coming inside its stores. Best Buy said it will replace the 5,000 full-time employees with 2,000 part-time workers.
The company said 750 positions were impacted in Canada, of which 660 were part-time.
Best Buy’s workforce has shrunk in the last year after having to furlough workers when it closed stores during the pandemic. It currently has more than 100,000 workers, down by 21,000, or 17%, from the year before.
The company is retraining workers to help with online orders. And more space in stores is being used to ship orders or to get them ready for curbside pickup, where shoppers buy online and fetch their orders in the parking lot.
A group of workers has posted an online petition calling for Best Buy to compensate employees for lost wages related to cuts. The petition said the company had begun drastically reducing the hours of employees at 150 stores on Jan. 10. About 792 of the nearly 4,000 signatures were from Best Buy workers, said Shannon Fulfs, the petition organizer who works at a Best Buy in the Omaha, Nebraska area.
Fulfs said workers struggled with the sudden loss of income of up to 40% and uncertainty about what to do because they were not told whether the reductions would be permanent. On Thursday, she learned she had been laid off.
“It’s just overall been pretty stressful and I don’t think they have been making it easier with the lack of information,” Fulfs said.
Best Buy said it was “not realistic to pay employees for hours they didn’t work, which is what a small number are asking for in this petition.”
“We told the petitioners that we disagree with their claim, but fully support their right to make it,” the company said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “Like any retailer, our business model has always allowed us to adjust staffing to meet customer demand.”
The company’s online sales soared 89% from November to the end of January, compared with the same months a year ago, Best Buy said Thursday.
Revenue during that quarter grew 11% to $16.9 billion. Its profit rose nearly 10% to $816 million. Its adjusted earnings per share came to $3.48 per share, beating Wall Street expectations.
Sales online and at established stores, a key metric of a retailer’s health, rose 12.6% in the last quarter and increased 9.7% last year. It expects that number to rise 20% in the current quarter, but growth is expected to slow this year to fall 2% or rise as much as 1%.
Best Buy shares fell nearly 6% to $107.05 in morning trading Thursday.
AP Business Writer Alexandra Olson in New York contributed to this report.
With files from CTV News
Canada Post urging Canadians to reach out to loved ones – TheChronicleHerald.ca
SYDNEY, N.S. —
Canada Post is urging Canadians to reach out to loved ones with a free, postage-paid postcard that will soon be arriving in mailboxes across the country.
Some 13.5 million postcards are expected to start arriving March 1, which can be used to send a special message to anyone, anywhere in Canada.
Every household across the country will receive one of six specially designed postcards that can be used.
“Meaningful connection is vital for our emotional health, sense of community and overall well-being,” said Doug Ettinger, president and CEO of Canada Post, in a news release.
“Canada Post wants everyone to stay safe, but also stay in touch with the people who matter to them.”
The postcards are part of the “Write Here Write Now” program that was launched in September 2020 to encourage Canadians to use letter writing to connect in a heartfelt way.
Messages on the cards include “I miss you,” “I’ve been meaning to write,” Wishing I were there,” and “Sending hugs.”
Those who send the cards are encouraged to share photos and video of sending and receiving their postcards using #WriteHereWriteNow.
For more details on the program visit: canadapost.ca/writenow.
The campaign is similar to one announced by Engage Nova Scotia, “From Me to You.” That campaign urges provincial residents to send a cheery note to strangers and friends alike.
It is hoped the notes will be used by multiple sectors from businesses to individuals as a way to reach out to others in a time of a global pandemic. Public health restrictions across the country have now been in place for nearly a year in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Such restrictions include limitations on the number of people gathering both indoors and outdoors and have also curtailed travelling between provinces with the exception of essential workers.
Both programs are hoped to provide a measure of comfort for those having reduced contact with family and friends.
To learn more, visit https://engagenovascotia.ca/from-me-to-you.
Australia's standoff with Facebook has lessons for Canada, publisher says – CBC.ca
Canada should move quickly on legislation to make Facebook and Google pay for news content, because it was only when Australia began taking action that the digital giants responded with deals, says the head of the association representing the Canadian news media industry.
“If these companies will only act once legislation is imminent, then we’d like to see legislation sooner rather than later,” said Bob Cox, chair of News Media Canada and publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press.
Australia’s Parliament on Thursday passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code that forces Google and Facebook to pay for news. Last week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said Canada would introduce its own rules in the coming months.
How Canada proceeds will likely have a major impact on the future of news in the country. Cox said Google and Facebook have so much power in the marketplace that it makes it impossible for small players to to compete. And they’re so big — Google parent Alphabet had about $180 billion US in revenue last year — that almost everyone is a small player.
In Australia, the digital giants won’t be able to make take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the case of a standoff, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning offer. A last-minute amendment gave digital platforms one month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code, giving the parties more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration arrangements.
In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news on their platform. Google had already struck deals with major Australian news businesses in recent weeks, including News Corp.
Canada’s news media industry has come out hard against Facebook and asked the government for more regulation of tech companies to allow the industry to recoup financial losses it has suffered in the years that Facebook and Google have been steadily gaining greater market shares of advertising.
‘They basically forced Facebook’
Cox said Facebook and Google had been reluctant to make any deals with publishers until Australia “forcefully” pushed forward, and it worked.
“They basically forced Facebook and Google to work with that legislation,” he said. “Now Facebook managed to get some changes to the legislation, but basically they’ll still be required to negotiate deals with publishers and that’s the end goal.”
WATCH | Newspaper publisher on making tech giants pay for news:
Cox said he gives credit to Google and Facebook for programs they’ve enacted to support journalism, including training, grants and tools. Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would raise its funding of news publishers to $1 billion over three years, and the company estimates that the traffic it sends to news websites contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Canadian news industry.
“What they haven’t done, though, is pay for content, and that’s what we’ve been trying to get them to do,” he said.
Google recently announced a willingness to pay for content through its Google News Showcase licensing model, but it hasn’t begun to operate yet, Cox said. In a statement, Meg Sinclair, head of communications for Facebook Canada, said the company is “exploring” investments in news licensing and programs to support sustainability of journalism in Canada, but isn’t in any discussions about specific licensing agreements.
Chris Moos, a lecturer at Oxford University’s Business School, said the last-minute amendments in Australia’s legislation amounted to a “small victory” for Facebook.
Moos said the legislation would likely result in small payouts for most Australian news publishers. But Facebook could again block Australian news if negotiations broke down.
Andrea Carson, an associate professor in the department of communication and media at La Trobe University in Melbourne, agreed, but also said the government had gotten what it wanted.
What Canada can learn
As for what can be learned from Australia’s situation, Carson said Canada should consider whether Australia took the right approach.
“There are other mechanisms for doing this, such as putting a tax on digital advertising,” she said. “Maybe other countries might consider that rather than looking through competition law, which is what Australia’s done.”
Carson also suggested countries should make certain the money is used to fund public-interest journalism, a guarantee that doesn’t exist under the Australian system.
“It goes into the larger pool of News Corp.,” she said.
WATCH | Facebook and Australia are in a standoff. Is Canada next?
Guilbeault, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday, has promised a “made-in-Canada” approach.
“We need to find a solution that is sustainable for news publishers, small and large, digital platforms, and for the health of our democracy,” he said on Tuesday.
There have been concerns in Australia that smaller publications might miss out while the tech giants focus on big players, a “real danger” that Cox said should be dealt with in any legislation.
“The main reason why we’ve always argued that government action is necessary [is] so that it helps the entire industry and helps support local news across the country, as opposed to simply the bigger publishers who have had access to Facebook and Google for a long time anyway,” he said.
Disclosure: CBC/Radio-Canada has business partnerships with Facebook for content distribution and with Google for services that encompass mobile distribution, data storage and communication tools.
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