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Canadians share mixed feelings of joy, disappointment as COVID-19 vaccinations ramp-up – Global News



Living in British Columbia, Daria Lutz, 26, is in a more peculiar situation than most Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until last Tuesday, when the province imposed a three-week-long “circuit breaker,” B.C. was one of few provinces that hadn’t entered a second lockdown after its first in March of last year. Masks were unregulated outdoors. Life went on relatively unchanged — at least when compared to other provinces with more stringent measures in place, such as Quebec or Ontario, where strict curfews and stay-at-home orders have been implemented to curb transmission.

But despite increasing cases of COVID-19 in B.C., Lutz, who works as a server at an Earl’s Kitchen and Bar in Whistler, spoke of “everyone having to go to work and act like life is normal.”

Read more:
COVID: Sweeping new restrictions in place including in-person dining at B.C. bars and restaurants

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Meanwhile, she worried about her elevated exposure risk due to her work and avoided seeing friends even while following official guidelines on gatherings.

“There’s just that big mental health aspect that’s really been holding a lot of people down,” she said.

On March 24, she received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Now, Lutz says she feels like she can finally breathe again.

Age eligibility in British Columbia is between 60 and 79 years of age, but as a frontline worker at a restaurant, she qualified for an early vaccination and was slotted into an appointment on March 24.

“My family lives in Ontario. I haven’t seen my mom in over a year now,” she said. “Just being that much closer to hugging my parents again is really, really big.”

That sense of relief is being felt by Canadians at home and abroad as the federal government ramps up its vaccine rollout and rushes to inject Canada’s most vulnerable with any one of its authorized doses.

Click to play video: 'Will the vaccine rollout be able to outpace the new COVID-19 variants?'

Will the vaccine rollout be able to outpace the new COVID-19 variants?

Will the vaccine rollout be able to outpace the new COVID-19 variants?

“It’s fantastic,” said Stanley Zhou, 27, who moved to San Francisco from Toronto in September to work as a scientist.

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His father, who is 90 years old, was vaccinated on March 29 in Toronto.

“I’ve been abroad for the last six months, so I haven’t been able to be home and take care of them,” he said of his parents. “To be able to know that he is vaccinated and protected like that definitely makes me feel very relieved.”

To date, the federal government’s vaccination coverage page says 73.23 per cent of adults aged 80 and older have been vaccinated with at least one dose, while 92.48 per cent of adults living in long-term care facilities have received their first shot.

COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNtech, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have been approved for use in Canada. The country’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for Canadians under the age of 55 on March 29.

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Don’t start hugging your grandparents just yet

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have been vaccinated can now safely meet indoors without masks in small groups. In an announcement on March 8, the CDC said vaccinated people can also meet in a single household with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.

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Canada, however, has no such guidance yet.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on March 9 that measures will adapt “when it is safe to do so … based on evolving scientific evidence and expert advice.”

Click to play video: 'If you’ve received one vaccine dose, what are you allowed to do?'

If you’ve received one vaccine dose, what are you allowed to do?

If you’ve received one vaccine dose, what are you allowed to do?

For some, that means any hope of a quick return to normal due to COVID-19 vaccines have been short-lived.

Montrealer Valerie Shoif, 28, spoke of initial excitement when all three of her grandparents, who are in their 80s, were vaccinated earlier this month.

“I was so happy. I was thrilled, things had slightly shifted. I thought I was going to be able to breathe a sigh of relief and since I’m so careful, I thought maybe I would get to see them a little bit more often or see them at all,” she said.

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But that didn’t happen. Shoif’s grandparents may be vaccinated, but Quebec still has provincial guidelines that prohibit her from seeing her grandparents.

“Relief has quickly shifted to disappointment,” she said.

Read more:
So you got a COVID-19 shot. Now what can you do?

To make matters worse, the increasing threat of COVID-19 variants has only prompted more severe regulations from provincial health authorities.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced an “emergency brake” shutdown on April 1 for a period of four weeks that temporarily shuttered many small businesses and non-essential services.

Three regions of Quebec — Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau — went under a 10-day lockdown on March 31 that will last until April 12. Saskatchewan extended all public health orders until April 12.

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How deadly are the new COVID-19 variants? Doctor explains

How deadly are the new COVID-19 variants? Doctor explains

Max Smith, a professor at Western University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, advised against flouting public health measures just because a person’s been vaccinated.

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“Until we hear otherwise from public health officials and until enough of the population is vaccinated and our case count gets low, (everyone) sticking to the public health measures like wearing a mask and socially distancing is the best bet to make sure that we get out of this sooner rather than later,” he said.

Vaccines aren’t 100 per cent effective, he said, adding there isn’t sufficient evidence yet showing that vaccines prevent transmission. This means that a person could still transmit COVID-19 even though it’s unlikely someone who has been vaccinated would have a severe outcome.

“You might transmit the virus to your grandparents, and even if they don’t get sick, they could still serve as a vector and then transmit the virus on to some of their other older friends or relatives who may not be vaccinated, which would just continue that spread, which could just make other people sick,” he said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Taiwan blasts China for Pacific trade pact threats



China is an “arch-criminal” intent on bullying Taiwan and has no right to oppose or comment on its bid to join a pan-Pacific trade pact, Taiwan’s government said in an escalating war of words over Taipei and Beijing’s decision to apply.

Chinese-claimed Taiwan said on Wednesday it had formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), less than a week after China submitted its application.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it opposed Taiwan “entering into any official treaty or organization”, and on Thursday Taiwan said China sent 24 military aircraft into the island’s air defence zone, part of what Taipei says is an almost daily pattern of harassment.

In a statement late on Thursday, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said China had “no right to speak” about Taiwan’s bid.

“The Chinese government only wants to bully Taiwan in the international community, and is the arch-criminal in increased hostility across the Taiwan Strait,” it said.

China is not a member of the CPTPP and its trade system has been widely questioned globally for not meeting the high standards of the bloc, the ministry added.

China sent its air force to menace Taiwan shortly after the application announcement, it said.

“This pattern of behaviour could only come from China,” it said.

In a statement also issued late Thursday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said China’s entry into the CPTPP would benefit the post-pandemic global economic recovery.

China opposes Taiwan using trade to push its “international space” or engage in independent activities, it added.

“We hope relevant countries appropriately handle Taiwan-related matters and not give convenience or provide a platform for Taiwan independence activities,” it said.

The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was seen as an important economic counterweight to China’s growing influence.

But the TPP was thrown into limbo in early 2017 when then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States.

The grouping, which was renamed the CPTPP, links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.


(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Canada's costly election: Could $600M have been spent elsewhere? – CTV News



With an estimated record-setting price tag of $610 million, the 2021 election is the most expensive in Canadian history — at a cost of about $100 million more than the 2019 election.

After all of that spending resulted in little change politically, many are asking whether it was worth the money and where else those hundreds of millions of dollars could have been directed.

Indigenous organizations have criticized the election as being “unnecessary,” suggesting the money could have been better spent on clean drinking water initiatives, reconciliation projects, and mental health initiatives.

Child-care advocates have similarly suggested that the funds could have been used to propel the Liberals’ $10-a-day child-care promise. And many Canadians have spoken out, wishing the money had instead been spent on pandemic recovery.

Experts say that it’s not quite that clear-cut, as governments don’t have a set amount of money in their pot each year – and some say you can’t put a price on democracy, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Ian Lee, associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, says it’s important to first understand that government budgets don’t operate like your run-of-the-mill household budget.

“Governments don’t have a ‘fixed, rigidly financed, precise’ amount of money in their pot each year. They roughly know revenues come in and expenditures go out. Sometimes they’re a little short and they just have a deficit, and then they print the money because that’s what governments do,” Lee told by phone Thursday.

“Budgeting, unlike for the average consumer, is not a zero-sum game – consumers, if they don’t have the money for something, you’re just out of luck. You don’t buy it. Governments don’t face that dilemma, especially the federal government.”

In other words, just because a certain amount of money million was spent on the election, that doesn’t mean there is the same amount less to spend on something else.

But as for the principle of calling a pricey election during the fourth wave of a pandemic, experts are split.

“For me – it is true that anytime the government spends money it could be spent elsewhere and the point of elections is to judge the government on how they spent money and the decisions they made,” Michael Johns, visiting professor in the Department of Politics at York University, told by email Thursday.

“There are far too many examples of things that could be funded and are not and other things that are spent that are problems.”

But Johns says he is uncomfortable with the idea that spending money on an election should be considered an issue, suggesting that those upset with the timing of the election should have reflected such in their ballot.

“There would have been an election a year ago if the opposition had been successful in voting out the government on a matter of confidence; there would have been one in probably a year if it had not been triggered now due to the nature of minority governments,” he explained

“Either way the act of voting and having our preferences registered matters and costs money. People could judge the government on its timing and vote accordingly but we should be very careful when we start making decisions about holding elections based on their cost.”

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, a non-profit citizen group advocating democratic reform, has a different view, saying the money spent on the election could have been spent on “anything else.”

“The prime minister decided to hold an election even though 327 MPs voted against holding the election at the end of May,” Conacher told by phone Thursday.

“And he knew in calling an election that Elections Canada would have a right to spend any money it needed to run it, which ended up being more than usual because of the costs of, for example, buying one pencil for everybody.”

As for what that money could have been spent on instead, Conacher says the government should make those decisions based on what the large majority of the country needs – like health-care solutions during a pandemic.

“In terms of where the $600 million could be spent, there’s many areas where the health of Canadians is at risk or where Canadians want money spent – pharmacare, child care – the polls show the large majority want those in place,” he said.

Lee disagrees that it has to be one or the other, saying that “you cannot make the argument that because they spend $600 million on the election, that therefore some other spending item will be cut by $600 million.”

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Billionaire countries: Canada jumps up the list – CTV News



Canada added seven billionaires in 2020, increasing its total to 53, tied for 12th-most in the world, up from 14th the previous year, according to a new global report.

The combined wealth of Canadian billionaires also tops US$100 billion, an increase of 4.5 per cent from last year.

In its latest billionaire census, Wealth-X, an ultra-high net worth (UHNW) data company, stated the number of billionaires in the world surpassed 3,000 (up to 3,204) for the first time in 2020, after an additional 670 individuals entered the billionaire class. The combined wealth of this group is now approximately US$10 trillion.

The share of wealth held by billionaires among the UHNW class, which is defined as those with a net worth of US$30 million or more, has also increased to 28 per cent, despite billionaires making up just one per cent of the UHNW population.

Seven of the top 15 billionaires in the world made their fortunes in the technology sector.

These are the top five billionaires by net worth as listed by Wealth-X:

  1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon, US$201.2 billion
  2. Elon Musk, Tesla, US$181.1 billion
  3. Bernard Arnault, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, US$154.4 billion
  4. Bill Gates, Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, US$142.4 billion
  5. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, US$137.4 billion, Facebook

Here’s a breakdown of the top 15 countries ranked by billionaire population and their combined wealth.

  1. U.S., 927, US$3.709 trillion
  2. China, 410, US$1.303 trillion
  3. Germany, 174, US$515 billion
  4. Russia, 120, US$397 billion
  5. U.K., 119, US$225 billion
  6. Hong Kong, 111, US$282 billion
  7. Switzerland, 107, US$318 billion
  8. India, 104, US$316 billion
  9. Saudia Arabia, 64, US$144 billion
  10.  France, 64, US$238 billion
  11.  Italy, 60, US$169 billion
  12.  Brazil, 53, US$151 billion
  13.  Canada 53, US$100 billion
  14.  United Arab Emirates, 50, US$151 billion
  15.  Singapore, 50, US$86 billion 

Wealth-X lists Hong Kong as a semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China.

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