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Cases of COVID-19 variant identified in Canada over weekend – Toronto Star

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Four cases of the new COVID-19 variant recognized first in the United Kingdom have been identified in Canada. The new variant was first discovered last week.

The Canadian cases were detected in the Durham region in Ontario, Ottawa and Vancouver Island since Saturday.

“While early data suggests that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that they cause more severe disease or have any impact on antibody response or vaccine effectiveness. More research is required to confirm these findings and the Canadian and global medical, public health and research communities are actively evaluating these mutations,” the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

The agency stated that the (PHAC) National Microbiology Laboratory monitors Canadian cases of COVID-19 with the provinces and territories through ongoing analysis of genomic databases in Canada.

The cases have been identified through this national monitoring.

“As the monitoring continues, it is expected that other cases of this variant and other variants of concern may be found in Canada. Furthermore, as cases did not travel outside of Canada, it is important to follow public health measures and limit contacts with others, to reduce the transmission of the virus and any of its variants in communities,” the release said of the Durham cases.

The Government of Canada has a monitoring program in place with the provinces and territories to identify new COVID-19 variants in Canada, such as the ones identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

To reduce the risk of importation of the virus and its variants, Canada has had travel restrictions and border measures in place since March including mandatory quarantine. “These rigorous quarantine measures are among some of the strongest in the world. Under two per cent of all cases reported in Canada are from those who travelled outside of Canada.”

All travellers must present their quarantine plan to the Quarantine Officer at the point of entry to Canada, and those with an inadequate plan are directed to a federal quarantine facility.

PHAC monitors travellers’ compliance with quarantine and uses law enforcement officers to verify compliance during the 14-day quarantine. Individuals who are not complying with the quarantine requirements can face fines of up to $750,000 or six months in prison.

Canada also announced on Dec. 20 that in response to concerns about the UK variant, all flights from the United Kingdom were suspended until Jan. 6, 2020

“Travellers are since being asked additional health screening questions to help identify if their travel itinerary included a country of concern reporting this variant in the last 14 days prior to appearing at a Canadian port of entry.”

The Federal Government also continues to advise against non-essential travel to other countries and advising extra caution when traveling to the U.K. and South Africa.

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Economy

Northern Development reports unexpected pandemic related benefits to Northern BC's economy – mycariboonow.com

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(Files by Dione Wearmouth-MyPGNow)

The 2020 State of the North Economic Report by Northern Development outlined some surprising impacts the pandemic had on Northern BC’s economy.

According to the report, the overall impact of COVID-19 has been more moderate in the North as the region’s economy doesn’t depend as heavily on hospitality and recreation.

“Our economy in the North is more traditionally on industries like mining, forestry, oil and gas and clean energy,” explained Joel McKay, CEO of Northern Development, “and those particular sectors weren’t hit as hard by the shutdowns involved with the pandemic.”

Since there are fewer service-sector jobs that were heavily impacted by the changing provincial health guidelines, the North was better off than other areas of the province.

The forestry sector managed to do surprisingly well in the North throughout 2020, as the pandemic presented a unique opportunity to the sector.

“Once COVID hit, a lot of people at home took on home improvement and renovation projects and housing starts remained relatively strong, both of which are key indicators of the lumber being manufactured in BC,” noted McKay.

This led to the price of lumber reaching a record high last summer.

This comes after a particularly hard 2019 for forestry, as nine mills closed permanently in Northern BC, resulting in over 1,000 lost jobs.

According to the report, lumber prices are expected to remain relatively high through the end of 2020 and into 2021.

McKay also explained that major energy projects including Site C, Coastal Gaslink projects and the LNG Canada site had a major impact on the North’s economy last year.

“The multi-year construction horizon, the thousands of workers, all the companies and businesses in places like Prince George that are working to support the construction of those projects meant that there was money flowing in the North,” he explained, “which saved the North’s economic bacon.”

Even though the tourism and hospitality sectors didn’t see as many visitors in 2020,  there were many construction workers that came and supported businesses such as restaurants and hotels.

“These three projects are expected to bring people to spend money in the North for the next 4 to 5 years,” McKay added.

Commodity prices for some base and precious metals such as copper spiked as well, which presented an opportunity for the mining industry to thrive in the North.

“That’s driving renewed interest in exploration activity and also some projects that are well established could also start being built for the first time,” McKay added, “we single out the Blackwater project south of Vanderhoof in the report.”

He explained that the Blackwater project could create significant long-term construction jobs filled by people that will spend money on hospitality businesses in the North.

Even though 2020 presented some significant opportunities for economic development in the North, the report explained the region will continue to face economic challenges for some time.

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Real eState

These are the most affordable cities for real estate in Ontario – blogTO

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If you’re looking to take the dive into homeownership but, like the vast majority of us, can’t possibly afford housing in Toronto, there are a number of nearby cities where you can get more bang for your buck (and won’t have to spend a million dollars).

While prices have continued to skyrocket in Toronto and other parts of the GTA as if there isn’t a global pandemic and worldwide lockdowns taking place, there are parts of the province where homes can still be purchased for fairly reasonable prices.

Take Kingston, for example, just halfway between T.O. and Montreal and under two hours’ drive from Ottawa.

Known for being home to Queen’s University and the Kingston Penitentiary, the city of less than 200,000 people is rich with history and beautiful heritage architecture. It also has the benefits of low crime rates.

As noted by RE/MAX, the average price of a residential property sold in Kingston in 2020 was only $464,083, compared to a whopping $986,085 in Toronto — a huge difference that just may make the move a few hours east worth it.

Then, there’s somewhere like Windsor, the most southernmost locale in Ontario.

Separated by the Detroit River from the U.S. — which actually sits to the northwest of the city — the border crossing in Windsor is the busiest commercial land crossing between the two countries, meaning it’s bustling with Americans and provides easy access to the states.

Slightly larger than Kingston, Windsor is known for its auto industry and its cheap real estate, with houses in 2020 going for an average of just $406,861, which is actually way up from the year previous.

As the experts at RE/MAX state, “when you consider that this price will not get you any house or condominium in Toronto or Vancouver, this market could be considered a steal for first-time homebuyers.”

If you’re willing to move further north in the province, things get even cheaper, even while staying in an urban centre. The average home in Sudbury, an old mining settlement that’s a four-and-a-half hour drive north of Toronto, sold for a meagre $311,940 last year.

If you’re really looking for a steal but still want to live in an Ontario city, you’ll have to go another 11 hours northwest of even Sudbury, all the way to Thunder Bay, which has a population of around 120,000 and abuts Lake Superior. It is also known for its scenic views and nearby hiking trails where residents can get in touch with nature.

While Sudbury has a giant nickel, Thunder Bay is home to a giant curling rock, as well as the cheapest home prices in Ontario: just $248,462, on average. For comparison, you can buy a coveted parking spot in Toronto for a third of that price, or the average detached home for about $1.5 million.

But, with population forever on the rise and municipalities across the province growing, housing costs are expected to increase in many Ontario housing markets this year, some of them significantly, so things may not be so affordable for long.

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Business

Business exec and his wife charged after flying into remote Canadian town to get Covid-19 vaccine, officials say – CNN

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Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been charged under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA), according to court documents.
Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker said the couple showed up at a mobile clinic last Thursday in Beaver Creek, home to an indigenous community.
One of them presented a British Columbia health care card, the other had one from Ontario, Streicker said in a statement.
The Bakers weren’t charged for getting the vaccine. Rather, they were accused of not following quarantine requirements after arriving in the Canadian territory.
According to a charging document, the Bakers are from Vancouver, British Columbia, southeast of the Yukon territory.
“I am outraged by this selfish behaviour, and find it disturbing that people would choose to put fellow Canadians at risk in this manner,” Streicker said. “Reports allege these individuals were deceptive and violated emergency measures for their own advantage, which is completely unacceptable at any time, but especially during a public health crisis.”
CNN was unable Tuesday to reach the Bakers for comment.

Couple posed as local motel employees, reports say

Indigenous communities are one of the groups given priority for Covid-19 vaccinations, according to Canada’s vaccine guidance. They are often also disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus because they can be in areas where health care access is limited.
Beaver Creek, the westernmost community in Canada, is the home of the White River First Nation. It is just a few miles from the Alaska border.
The Bakers allegedly chartered a plane from the city of Whitehorse in Yukon to Beaver Creek, which has about 125 residents, and claimed they were employees at a local motel, Streicker told CNN news partner CBC.
The Bakers arrived in Yukon from Vancouver on January 19 and were supposed to be self-isolating for 14 days in Whitehorse, according to officials. According to a complaint made to law enforcement, they traveled to Beaver Creek on January 21. The travel was not allowed because of quarantine requirements, officials said.
After getting their shots, the couple raised suspicions in the community by asking for a ride to the airport, Streicker told CNN news partner CBC.
“And people were like, ‘Well, why would you be going to the airport?’ ” Streicker said.
Following an investigation, the couple was located at the Whitehorse airport, and Yukon officials told CNN the couple left the territory that same day.
Members of the mobile clinic team called the motel and were informed the couple did not work there, Streicker told CBC.
CNN reached out to Streicker for comment on Tuesday but did not hear back.
As for getting the vaccines, according to Streicker, the British Columbia and Ontario health cards wouldn’t have necessarily prevented the Bakers from getting them, as there are many out-of-territory workers in the region.
Rodney, 55, and Ekaterina Baker, 32, were each charged with failure to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry into the territory and failure to behave in a manner consistent with the declaration provided upon entry into the territory.
Charges under the Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) may include fines up to $500; up to 6 months in prison; or both, according to Yukon’s Covid-19 orders and directions. The Bakers were each levied a $500 fine and $75 surcharge on both counts.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were alerted to the situation. The RCMP’s Yukon office said Tuesday it is investigating; it would not reply to CNN questions.
The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, a hotel and casino company with 25 Canadian properties, told CNN that while it didn’t comment on personnel matters relating to former employees, effective January 24, Rodney Baker was no longer the president and CEO of Great Canadian and is “no longer affiliated in any way with the company.”
“As a company, Great Canadian takes health and safety protocols extremely seriously, and our company strictly follows all directives and guidance issued by public health authorities in each jurisdiction where we operate,” the statement added.
The White River First Nation said it “is particularly concerned with the callous nature of these actions taken by the individuals, as they were a blatant disregard for the rules in which keep our community safe during this unprecedented global pandemic.”

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