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- Coronavirus: What you should know about the COVID-19 variant in Canada Global News
- Third case of new COVID-19 variant confirmed in Ottawa CP24 Toronto’s Breaking News
- First cases of new variant of COVID-19 in Canada CTV News
- What Canadians need to know about the coronavirus variant in Ontario and B.C. CBC.ca
- New Strain of COVID In Canada Could Shut Down Inter-Provincial Travel Travel Off Path
- View Full coverage on Google News
Transat suspends all flights out of Toronto for winter season – Yahoo Canada Finance
Initiative de journalisme local
L’annonce du retrait de Keolis de nombreuses régions du Québec suscite la grogne dans le monde municipal. Plusieurs somment le ministre des Transports, François Bonnardel, d’agir «d’urgence». Ce dernier assure «accorder une grande importance» au dossier. En début de soirée mercredi, le président de la Fédération québécoise des municipalités (FQM), Jacques Demers, s’est entretenu avec le ministre Bonnardel pour lui demander d’agir dans les plus brefs délais. Plus tôt dans la journée, la FQM adressait une lettre au ministre, lui demandant de s’investir «d’urgence» dans le dossier. «Votre gouvernement a mis en place une intervention d’urgence pour le transport aérien, il est, à notre avis, tout aussi urgent, sinon plus, de faire de même pour le service d’autobus interurbains sur le territoire», écrivait le maire de Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley et préfet de la MRC de Memphrémagog. Ce dernier s’est dit rassuré par les propos du ministre des Transports. «Il m’a dit qu’il embarquait sur le dossier tout de suite et qu’il serait très présent. Cependant, il faut encore clarifier la façon de faire et le laps de temps. On comprend la situation, mais il ne faut pas laisser tomber les régions, ce n’est pas le moment pour ça, loin de là.» «Ce qui fait mal, c’est que ces entreprises-là prennent les contrats pour avoir l’exclusivité des dessertes des grands centres, mais les régions sont les premières à payer quand il y a un problème. Tout de suite, on est prêts à nous délaisser», a dénoncé M. Demers en entrevue au Soleil. Même son de cloche du côté du maire de Gaspé, Daniel Côté. «On comprend le contexte difficile, mais il l’est pour tout le monde. C’est un service essentiel qui doit être soutenu comme les autres», soutient celui qui est aussi président de la Régie intermunicipale de transport Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine (RÉGÎM), un organisme assurant le transport en commun dans la péninsule gaspésienne et aux Îles. «On se fait prendre en otage par une multinationale qui fait des milliards! Pourquoi est-ce que c’est toujours à nous de faire les frais ? On se sent souvent isolés, et là, on vient nous couper les ponts», s’indigne M. Côté. Une décision unilatérale Le maire de Gaspé trouve inacceptable que Keolis Canada ait décidé de ne plus desservir la région de façon unilatérale, alors qu’une entente pour assurer le service a été signée en bonne et due forme entre la compagnie et les différentes MRC de la Gaspésie. «Chaque année, on [les MRC et le ministère des Transports] donne 150 000$ à la compagnie pour qu’elle assure un service. On a un “deal” en bonne et due forme, et on ne nous a même pas consultés. Si on a à aller devant la Commission des transports du Québec pour faire respecter l’entente, on va le faire», tranche M. Côté. Le maire de Gaspé souhaite également que Québec reconnaisse le transport interurbain par autocar comme un service essentiel qui doit être maintenu à tout prix. Keolis Canada avait déjà fait connaître ses intentions dans une lettre adressée à certains élus la semaine dernière. Mercredi, l’entreprise a annoncé officiellement qu’elle suspendait les services de sa filiale Orléans Express à compter du 7 février en Gaspésie, en Mauricie et au Centre-du-Québec, conservant uniquement les trajets desservant Québec, Montréal et Rimouski. Une rencontre a été tenue, en journée mercredi, entre le ministre Bonnardel et le PDG de Kéolis Canada, Pierre-Paul Pharand.Simon Carmichael, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Soleil
Canadian politicians struggle to come to grips with the global vaccine race – CBC.ca
The global scramble to vaccinate the human race against COVID-19 is bigger than Canadian politics. But every Canadian politician no doubt understands the political and human importance of this country seeming to do well in this multinational competition.
The result this week is anxiety and a rush to assign blame that has failed to produce easy answers to the central question of what, if anything, Canadian officials could be doing to procure more of what’s arguably the most precious commodity on Earth.
But this consternation among Canadian politicians might be obscuring a bigger question for the world: Is this really the best way to go about vaccinating 7.6 billion people against a common threat?
The latest spasm of concern about Canada’s vaccine supply can be traced to a production facility in Puurs, Belgium, where Pfizer has been manufacturing one of the two approved vaccines for use in Canada. Pfizer has decided to retool that facility so that it can increase production. In the short-term, that means fewer doses will be available.
In response to Pfizer’s change of plans, Ontario Premier Doug Ford quickly declared that, if he were prime minister, he’d be on the phone to Pfizer’s top executive demanding the previously scheduled shipments. “I’d be up that guy’s ying-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” Ford said.
WATCH | Ontario premier says Trudeau’s ‘No. 1 job’ is to get vaccines:
It stands to reason that if getting a plentiful supply of the Pfizer vaccine was as easy as getting up Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s ying-yang with a firecracker, nearly every leader on the planet would be doing so. But Ford got a chance to test his theory — a day later he spoke with the president of Pfizer Canada. If a firecracker was lit during that conversation, it has so far failed to change Pfizer’s plans.
The Conservatives argue that an ill-fated partnership between the National Research Council and China’s CanSino Biologics distracted Justin Trudeau’s government from pursuing better options — but Public Services Minister Anita Anand told the Canadian Press in December that Canada was the fourth country in the world to sign a contract with Pfizer and the first to sign with Moderna, the other major supplier of an approved vaccine.
The New Democrats argue that the federal government should have negotiated for the right to domestically produce the currently approved vaccines — but that presumably depends in large part on the willingness of companies like Moderna and Pfizer to do so.
A real effort to ensure Canada had domestic capacity to produce a pandemic vaccine likely would have had to have been implemented years ago.
Little control over vaccine supply
Eventually, Tuesday night’s debate landed on questions of transparency. The government says it has a plan for vaccinating Canadians, but the opposition says that plan isn’t detailed enough.
The opposition insists the government should release the details of the contracts it has signed with manufacturers, but the government says those contracts are necessarily confidential. There are suggestions that Europe’s supply of the Pfizer vaccine might be smaller than the interruption to Canada’s supply, but it’s not clear why that might be the case.
The Liberals surely understand the gravity of the vaccine race, but they have never shown much interest in explaining themselves in detail. They insist that their agreements with seven potential manufacturers have put Canada in a decent position and that their medium-term and long-term targets for vaccinating Canadians over the course of this year will not be affected by the current shortfall.
WATCH | EU threatens to slow vaccine exports, increasing concerns about vaccine nationalism:
But Pfizer’s decision to retool the plant in Puurs underlines how little control the Liberal government can claim to have over the situation and how little sympathy they’ll receive if things don’t work out the way they said they would.
It was just over a month ago that the federal government was able to answer a previous panic with earlier-than-expected approvals and shipments of the new vaccine. If the Liberals were only too happy to bask in that good news, this interruption feels like the universe’s way of telling them to not get cocky.
Canada vs. other countries
In the meantime, even the definition of success will be up for debate.
On Monday, for instance, Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus complained that Canada was not doing as well as the Seychelles, which had delivered at least a first dose to 20.22 per cent of its population through January 25. By comparison, Canada’s rate of vaccination was 2.23 per cent.
But the tiny island nation has a population of 98,000 people (roughly the equivalent of Red Deer, Alta). In absolute terms, the number of people who had received a dose in the Seychelles was 19,889. Canada, meanwhile, had administered doses to 839,949 people.
WATCH | Ottawa offers assurances about COVID-19 vaccine supply:
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland countered that Canada was ahead of Germany, France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But three of those countries — Japan, Australia and New Zealand — haven’t yet begun their vaccination programs. And in two of those countries — Australia and New Zealand — COVID-19 is almost non-existent.
‘This is pure nonsense’
During the emergency debate on Tuesday night, the NDP’s Don Davies said Canada ranked 16th per capita in doses administered. He meant it as a complaint. But it could just as easily be framed as a compliment — if Canada ends up being the 16th fastest country to vaccinate its population, it will have finished ahead of 174 other countries. Among the 32 OECD countries who have begun vaccinations, Canada ranks 12th in doses administered per capita.
A few countries — the United States, United Kingdom and Israel — seem to be benefiting from their own unique circumstances. The U.S. and U.K., for instance, have access to domestic production of the available vaccines.
In every other country, there might be some version of the Canadian debate playing out; Trudeau said last week that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had commiserated about the similar criticism that they were each facing.
WATCH | COVID’s one year anniversary in Canada:
But all of this might underline the questions of whether an every-country-for-itself scramble to acquire vaccines from a limited number of private manufacturers is the sensible way to go about vaccinating the human race.
“‘Could Canada have done more?’ The problem for me is that this is not the right question. What we’ve been seeing, for me, is a bit of a catastrophe,” said Marc-Andre Gagnon, a political science professor at Carleton University who focuses on pharmaceutical policy.
“You end up with a handful of companies that are developing their own vaccines, each by themselves, working in silos. So then you have a product with a patent, so monopoly rights on the product. And then you end up with this vaccine nationalism of all countries basically doing a free market negotiation in terms of who can jump the queue in order to get faster access to the vaccines. In terms of priorities of global public health, this is pure nonsense.”
A better approach, Gagnon suggests, would have focused on collaboration, data sharing and making use of all available manufacturing capacity around the world.
Pfizer’s new deal with Sanofi, a rival producer, might at least be a step in that direction. But any serious rethinking of global vaccination policy might have to wait for the next pandemic.
Air Transat to suspend all flights from Toronto, some Montreal routes until April 30 – The Globe and Mail
In a move it blames on tighter restrictions imposed by Ottawa, Transat AT Inc. is halting all flights out of Toronto and some from Montreal for the remainder of the winter travel season.
The route cuts will begin Thursday and last until April 30, Transat spokeswoman Debbie Cabana said.
“Continued travel restrictions and the numerous measures imposed by the federal government, including the requirement to present a negative COVID-19 test and to quarantine upon return to Canada, have had a significant impact on our bookings,” she said.
The cancelled routes in Toronto include flights to Cancun, Mexico; Holguin, Cuba; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Varadero, Cuba; Porto, Portugal; and Lisbon, Portugal, Cabana said.
In addition to those flights, Cabana added that Transat is cancelling its flights from Montreal to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and Varadero.
The airline notified travel agents of the cancellations in a memo Wednesday, which was obtained by The Canadian Press.
Passengers who paid for their flight or vacation package with cash or credit card will receive a full refund. Passengers currently at their destinations will be rebooked on flights returning to Canada, the memo says.
Transat’s cancellations come just two weeks after Air Canada announced it would lay off 1,700 workers and cut more routes amid a challenging business environment for the aviation industry.
The federal government has cracked down on international travel in recent weeks, implementing a new requirement in January that all travellers seeking to enter Canada provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government is contemplating further restrictions, prompted by the arrival of more contagious strains of COVID-19 in Canada from abroad.
Mr. Trudeau this past weekend reiterated his call for Canadians to cancel any vacations they may have booked, warning that people who travel abroad could face difficulties returning home.
Quebec Premier François Legault has called on Ottawa to go further by banning non-essential travel completely or requiring that new entrants to Canada quarantine in a hotel at their own expense. Similarly, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has called for a temporary ban on flights to Canada from destinations where new variants of COVID-19 have been discovered.
Canada’s airlines have criticized the government’s travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic, arguing that the mandatory 14-day quarantine is overly strict and should be replaced with a testing program at airports.
The airlines have also said the restrictions were rolled out without co-ordination with the industry, leading to confusion and difficulties for passengers. Since the COVID-19 testing mandate went into effect on Jan. 7, airlines have prevented hundreds of Canadians from boarding flights abroad because they did not produce an acceptable test result.
Allison St-Jean, a spokeswoman for Transport Canada, reiterated that Ottawa is committed to assisting airlines and noted that the government is still in negotiations with airlines to develop a financial aid package.
“We are closely following the difficult and unprecedented situation that has unfolded from the heath crisis we are all living through, and that is having a particular impact on this critical sector of the Canadian economy,” Ms. St-Jean said.
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