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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Friday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay-Parry Sound will remain under the current stay-at-home order for at least another two weeks, according to a statement released by the Ontario government on Friday.

York Region, located just north of Toronto, will transition to Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 restriction system, the release said. This transition to the red level will take effect on Feb. 22 at 12:01 a.m. ET. The extension for Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay-Parry Sound will be in effect until at least March 8.

“Our government’s number one priority is the safety of all individuals and families, and that’s why we are taking a gradual, cautious approach to returning regions to the framework,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said in the release. “These are difficult but necessary decisions, in order to protect against COVID-19 variants and maintain the progress we have all made together.

“Until vaccines are widely available, we continue to urge all Ontarians to follow public health advice and measures, and stay home, stay safe and save lives.”

Earlier, Ontario health officials reported 1,150 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with 47 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 689, with 269 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units.

WATCH | How vaccines can keep up with coronavirus variants:

New coronavirus variants won’t necessarily mean new vaccines or vaccine boosters are needed. And if adjustments are needed, they would take less time to develop than the original vaccines. 2:01

Alberta, meanwhile, announced the next steps in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Premier Jason Kenney said all seniors age 75 and older will be able to book appointments for vaccines beginning next Wednesday.

Kenney also announced that residents of lodges and other continuing care facilities will be offered the vaccine as of Friday. He said all residents in long-term care and designated supportive living have received their second shot.

Previously, vaccines in the province were offered to residents of public long-term care and designated supportive-living facilities.

Kenney said Phase 2 is expected to begin in April, pending vaccine availability. It will include anyone aged 50 to 74, anyone with high-risk underlying health conditions, First Nations and Métis people 35 or older and residents and staff of congregate-living settings and eligible caregivers. According to a news release, details about qualifying underlying health conditions will be released before Phase 2 begins.

The province reported 325 new cases of COVID-19 and seven related deaths.


What’s happening in Canada

As of 6:25 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 840,591 cases of COVID-19, with 32,241 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,576.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will extend the period of time claimants can receive several pandemic income benefits.

Trudeau told reporters Friday afternoon that the Canada recovery benefit (CRB), the Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB), the Canada recovery caregiving benefit (CRCB) and employment insurance (EI) will all see extensions in the number of weeks eligible recipients can receive them.

WATCH | Who is keeping track of thousands of private COVID-19 tests?

A CBC News investigation into the growing and largely unregulated private sector of COVID-19 tests and found a hodge-podge industry of inconsistent prices, and sometimes, test results. 2:39

At a briefing earlier on Friday, top federal health officials pointed out that the country has seen a steady decline in COVID-19 activity in Canada, but expressed worry about so-called variants of concern.

Health officials said Friday that variants of concern had been reported in all 10 provinces. According to figures provided at the briefing, as of Friday there had been:

  • More than 660 cases of the B117 variant first identified in the U.K.

  • 39 cases of the B1351 variant first identified in South Africa.

  • One case of the P1 variant first traced to travellers from Brazil.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, officials reported 60 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday and nine new presumptive cases on Friday.

WATCH | COVID-19 testing ramps up as N.L. struggles to contain outbreak:

Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of health for Newfoundland and Labrador, says labs are now processing more than six times the number of tests every 24 hours than they were two weeks ago. 1:08

New Brunswick reported six new COVID-19 cases on Friday, while Nova Scotia reported two new cases.

In Quebec, health officials reported 800 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 14 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 723, with 127 of those patients in intensive care.

Manitoba health officials reported 92 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and two related deaths. Dr. Jazz Atwal, the deputy chief provincial public health officer, also said three more cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K. have been identified in Manitoba. All three are linked to international travel and have since recovered, Atwal said.

Saskatchewan reported 146 new cases of COVID-19 and three related deaths on Friday.

British Columbia announced 508 new COVID-19 cases and six related deaths on Friday. Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson also announced that 12,250 vaccine doses were administered over the last 24 hours — a record for the province.

“This is very good news because every individual protected through vaccination makes us all safer,” Gustafson said.

In Nunavut, the territorial government confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 Friday in Arviat. It’s the seventh day in a row new cases have been reported in the hamlet of 2,650 people, and it brings the total number of active cases in the territory to 29, all in Arviat.


What’s happening around the world

A coffee and sandwich vendor walks amid empty oxygen cylinders while people rest waiting for a shop to open to refill their tanks, in the Villa El Salvador neighbourhood of Lima on Thursday. (Martin Mejia/The Associated Pres)

As of Friday evening, more than 110.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 62.2 million of those cases listed as recovered on a tracking site run by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.4 million.

In the Americas, the United States has a backlog of six million COVID-19 vaccine doses due to inclement weather, White House officials said at a media briefing on Friday, adding that the federal government expects to catch up with vaccine distribution by next week.

All 50 states are impacted, according to Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House’s COVID-19 response team. He said delays were due to road closures, shipping company employees unable to get to work and power outages in certain locations.

Venezuela started vaccinating health workers with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, adding that it hopes to inoculate 70 per cent of the country’s population by the end of the year.

In Africa, an African Union-created task force working to secure COVID-19 vaccines says Russia has offered 300 million doses of the country’s Sputnik V vaccine. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said in a statement Friday that the body is “tremendously proud” to offer the doses to Africa’s 54 countries. The statement says the Sputnik V doses will be available in May.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan confirmed a new variant of COVID-19, and an infection cluster emerged at a Tokyo immigration facility.

South Korea may consider a fifth round of COVID-19 cash handouts, the prime minister said, even as the details of a planned fourth cash payout have yet to be completed.

China’s Sinovac delivered 1 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac to Hong Kong on Friday evening. Government officials approved Sinovac’s two-dose vaccine on Thursday. The semi-autonomous city is relying on three vaccines and has purchased 22.5 million doses in total.

Priority groups include health-care workers and those above the age of 60, as well as essential workers. Online appointments will begin on Tuesday.

In Europe, the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned Friday that the drop in new coronavirus cases has levelled off even as the share of more contagious variants is rising. Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, said Germany may be heading toward another “turning point” in the pandemic after weeks of falling infections.

His agency reported 9,113 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past day and 508 deaths. Germany has recorded almost 2.4 million cases and 67,206 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Earlier this week Health Minister Jens Spahn said the share of the more contagious variant first detected in Britain has reached about 22 per cent in Germany, from six per cent two weeks ago.

Students get food during a distribution organized by the French charity Restaurants of the Heart at a student residence in Paris earlier this week. (Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters)

A Dutch appeals court will rule next Friday in a case against the government’s coronavirus curfew, the judge said on Friday. The court is weighing an appeal against the ruling by a lower court, which found on Tuesday that the government measure lacked legal justification and must be scrapped.

Hungarian health authorities issued final approval to a COVID-19 vaccine produced in China, clearing the way for the first inoculations with a Chinese vaccine in the European Union.

Ireland will remain under significant restrictions until the end of April, the prime minister was quoted as saying.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia this week approved the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Barrick Gold profit beats expectations as copper, gold prices surge

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -Barrick Gold Corp reported a 78% jump in first-quarter profit on Wednesday, beating analyst expectations thanks to rising gold and copper prices, and said it was on track to meet annual forecasts.

Production in the second half is expected to be higher than the first, the gold miner said, thanks in part to the ramp-up of underground mining at the Bulyanhulu mine in Tanzania and higher expected grades at Lumwana in Zambia.

Barrick’s first-quarter gold production fell to 1.10 million from 1.25 million ounces due partly to lower grades at its Pueblo Viejo mine in Dominican Republic.

Adjusted profit surged 78% to $507 million in the quarter ended March 31, from $285 million a year earlier, and Barrick announced a 9 cent per share quarterly dividend.

Stronger prices helped boost Barrick’s revenue from its copper mines in Chile, Saudi Arabia and Zambia by 31% from the fourth quarter. Overall earnings per share were $0.29, ahead of analysts’ estimate of $0.27.

“We expect a positive stock reaction to the earnings beat and strong cash flow,” said Credit Suisse analysts.

POTENTIAL FOR SOUTH AFRICA MERGER

Barrick CEO Mark Bristow, who has championed mergers across the gold industry, said he backed the idea of South Africa-listed miners Goldfields and AngloGold Ashanti combining.

Speculation has been swirling around the two companies and Sibanye-Stillwater, whose CEO Neal Froneman floated the idea of a three-way merger in March.

“I’m a South African, and this country has such a great mining history and it would be great to see a real gold business come out of the many failed discussions that we’ve seen,” said Bristow.

Goldfields declined to comment. In a statement, AngloGold Ashanti said it was focused on delivering on its growth plan to unlock value from its portfolio of gold assets.

Bristow also said he had met with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s new mines minister and other officials and was continuing to work on getting $900 million belonging to its Kibali mine joint venture out of the country.

“We have a solution, it just needs to be sanctioned by the appropriate authorities which haven’t been around for a while,” he said, referring to a recent government overhaul by President Felix Tshisekedi.

(Reporting by Helen Reid in Johannesburg and Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Bernadette Baum)

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Loblaw gets quarterly sales, profit boost from online demand surge

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Retailer Loblaw Cos Ltd beat market estimates for quarterly revenue and profit on Wednesday, as its online sales more than doubled on soaring demand from homebound buyers for groceries and other essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns and other virus-related restrictions in Canada, including reduced store capacity, during the first three months of the year pushed consumers to stockpile groceries and other essential items.

Loblaw, one of the biggest retailers in Canada, said that the momentum from the first quarter has continued into the current quarter, adding that it expects to exceed its own full-year profit expectations.

However, the company has warned that its food retail unit, which saw a surge last year at the peak of stockpiling, would not be as robust in the current quarter. In the first month of the ongoing quarter, food same-store sales have declined slightly, Loblaw said.

For the second quarter, the company expects to incur pandemic-related costs of about $65 million to $75 million, compared with $282 million a year earlier.

Net earnings available to its common shareholders rose to C$313 million, or 90 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended March 27 from C$240 million, or 66 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the retailer earned C$1.13 per share, beating the average analysts’ estimate of 87 Canadian cents per share.

Its revenue rose to C$11.87 billion ($9.67 billion) in the first quarter from C$11.80 billion a year earlier, surpassing analysts’ estimate of C$11.72 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

($1 = 1.2277 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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Bombardier in talks to amend bondholders’ agreement after breach claim on asset sales

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(Reuters) – Bombardier on Monday contested a bondholder’s claims that its recent sales of non-core assets breach the terms of certain notes, and said it would seek bondholders’ consent to amend terms on eight bond issues.

Bombardier has emerged as a pure play business jet maker after divesting assets including the sale of its transportation business to Alstom, which it completed in January, to pay down debt and boost earnings.

The company said it launched consent solicitations with respect to outstanding senior notes or debentures, following the claims by the unnamed bondholder that the asset sales constitute a breach of certain covenants under the indenture governing the 2034 notes.

Bombardier said in a statement these claims are without merit and it has not breached any covenant, adding that after evaluating various options it had determined requesting bondholders to amend the terms of the bonds was the most “expedient and efficient path” to maintain value and protect itself and its stakeholders.

If the amendments are approved, Bombardier will make a consent payment of $1.25 per $1,000 principal amount for applicable series of notes, and C$1.25 per C$1,000 principal of Canadian dollar-denominated 7.35% debentures due 2026, the statement said.

Bombardier also flagged early first-quarter revenue that would beat analysts’ estimates, as rising vaccinations encourage wealthy travelers to return to flying.

Bombardier reports earnings on Thursday.

The jet maker said it expects first-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) from continuing operations of $123 million, above analysts’ average estimate of $89 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company expects business jet revenue to rise by 18% to $1.3 billion in the first quarter, from a year ago, beating Wall Street’s estimate of $1.18 billion.

Bombardier stock closed up 3.3%.

While deliveries are roughly the same, Bombardier’s product composition is shifting toward its flagship Global 7500 jets, a revenue driver.

Bombardier said it remains on track to deliver between 110-120 business aircraft in 2021. The company’s full-year deliveries fell 20% to 114 jets in 2020.

 

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Karishma Singh)

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