New Brunswick has stepped up restrictions in part of the province in the face of rising variant cases, with the province’s top doctor saying the goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Edmundston area “before it gets an even stronger grip than it has now.”
In Atlantic Canada, health officials reported 34 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday — with the vast majority of them in New Brunswick. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said 24 of the 30 cases reported in New Brunswick on Thursday were in the Edmundston region, in the northwest of the province.
“Just when it seemed like things were getting better and we’re entering the last period of this pandemic, the game has changed again,” Russell said at a briefing announcing the circuit-breaker restrictions, which will be in place for at least four days. “And the game changer really is the variants.”
Variant cases are “really daunting” because of the increased transmissibility and the difficulty of keeping cases contained, she said.
Russell said the B117 strain first identified in the U.K. is responsible for 62 per cent of the cases in the Edmundston area.
Slowing the spread will require “a lot of interventions” and targeted actions, she said, but also a renewed effort and co-operation from the public as the province rolls out vaccines. Russell said New Brunswick is aiming to give every adult who wants a vaccine their first dose by mid-June.
Nova Scotia, meanwhile, reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, while Prince Edward Island reported one new case.
There were no new cases reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, which as of Thursday had just one active case of COVID-19 and no patients in hospital.
–From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:26 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
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As of 10:35 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 953,737 cases of COVID-19, with 39,405 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,802.
Health officials across the country have been expressing concern about increasing case numbers linked to variants of concern. As of Thursday evening, a federal website that posts figures reported by the provinces and territories had reported more than 7,100 variant cases, including:
- 6,611 cases of the B117 variant first reported in the U.K.
- 257 cases of the B1351 variant first reported in South Africa.
- 236 cases of the P1 variant originally linked to tourists from Brazil.
Canada Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that updated forecasting and data shows that COVID-19 “still has a few tricks in store.” She urged people to hold on and follow public health guidelines as vaccination efforts ramp up.
“While the news of increasing disease activity and shifting trends in severe outcomes is discouraging after so many months of sacrifice, we’ve made significant progress — and as the warmer days approach we’ll have more options to get outside as we work through this critical leg of the COVID-19 marathon,” Tam said.
“We are closer now than ever, but it is still too soon to relax measures and too soon to gather in areas where COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada.”
Ontario reported 2,169 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 12 additional deaths. Hospitalizations increased to 913, according to provincial data, with 359 in intensive care units. Reporting from Critical Care Services Ontario put the number of patients with COVID-19-related illness in the province’s ICUs even higher, at more than 400. (The number posted online by the province daily doesn’t include patients who have been in hospital for more than two weeks.)
The update comes a day after the scientific director of an expert panel advising the province said that a strict provincial shutdown, similar to one imposed when the pandemic hit, is needed to curb the alarming spread of variants in Ontario. Currently, even the strictest level of the province’s pandemic framework isn’t enough to reduce rising infections from more contagious variants, Dr. Peter Juni, of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, told The Canadian Press.
“We need stronger, more strict public health measures to keep the new variants contained enough to avoid tremendous challenges for the health-care system.”
In Quebec, health officials reported 945 new cases and four additional deaths on Thursday. Hospitalizations stood at 496, with 117 COVID-19 patients listed as being in the province’s intensive care units.
Meanwhile, the province’s Health Department confirmed Thursday that Quebecers who’ve had a confirmed COVID-19 infection will only need a single dose of vaccine, which will act as an immunity booster.
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In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 111 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one additional death.
In Saskatchewan, meanwhile, health officials reported 168 new cases and two additional deaths. In the Regina area, which is facing stepped up restrictions in the face of mounting variant cases, health officials said 84 per cent of the cases reported were variants of concern.
Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, said on Thursday that Regina is not the only part of the province seeing an increase in variant cases.
“This just reinforces that while we have significant measures in Regina right now, all of us all throughout Saskatchewan should continue to observe everything we’ve been doing,” he said. He urged people to be “very cautious” and shield people who are older and at higher risk.
Alberta reported 764 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and three additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 294, with 55 COVID-19 patients reported to be in intensive care.
In British Columbia, health officials reported 800 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and five additional deaths. In a statement, the province said of the active COVID-19 cases in the province, 306 were in hospital including 79 in intensive care.
Across the North, health officials in Yukon reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, including its first known case of a variant of concern. In a statement, health officials said one of the cases, in a non-resident who travelled into the territory earlier this month, isn’t considered a local case.
“This is a reminder that Yukoners must remain vigilant. COVID-19 is always lurking around the corner,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley said in a statement.
There were no new cases reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 10:45 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Friday morning, more than 125.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, which runs a coronavirus case-tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.
In Africa, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday announced a halt to all movement in the capital, Nairobi, and four other countries on Friday as the COVID-19 outbreak reached its worst ever stage in East Africa’s richest economy.
In a televised address, Kenyatta said a wave of new lockdown measures, including a stricter curfew, the suspension of in-person schooling and the closing of bars in the capital, were essential to fight the COVID-19 spread.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia is considering diverting COVID-19 inoculations from its vaccination program to Papua New Guinea, where the coronavirus is threatening to unleash a humanitarian disaster, a government source said.
South Korea said it will extend its coronavirus distancing rules, which include an outside dining curfew and ban on gatherings of five or more people, for two weeks.
In Europe, a senior European Union official says 55 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to EU member states in the second quarter of this year, starting next month.
The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, says the bloc will receive another 120 million doses of the single-shot jabs between July and September.
Breton spoke Friday during a visit to a plant in northeastern Spain where the vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is being bottled. It is one of four vaccines approved for use in the EU.
He said the EU will be producing two or three billion doses by end of year, making it the world’s top vaccine manufacturer, and allowing 70 per cent of the EU population to be inoculated by mid-July.
France’s president, meanwhile, said he has nothing to be sorry about for refusing to impose a third virus lockdown earlier this year, even as his country is now facing surging infections that are straining hospitals and more than 1,000 people with the virus are dying every week.
Emmanuel Macron’s government has stressed the importance of keeping children in school and businesses afloat as the pandemic stretches into a second year.
“We were right not to implement a lockdown in France at the end of January because we didn’t have the explosion of cases that every model predicted,” he said late Thursday night. “There won’t be a mea culpa from me. I don’t have remorse and won’t acknowledge failure.”
For months France has championed a “third way” between confinement and freedom, including a nationwide curfew and closing all restaurants, tourist sites, gyms, large shopping malls and some other businesses.
Many doctors and scientists have been urging the French government for weeks to impose stronger restrictions, notably because of the more contagious and more dangerous virus variant first identified in Britain.
“A zero-virus situation doesn’t exist and that’s true for every country in Europe. We’re not an island and even the islands who’d protected themselves sometimes saw the virus come back,” Macron said. “But we considered that with the curfew and the measures we had, we could cope.”
France has recorded the fourth-highest number of virus infections in the world, and among the highest death tolls, at 93,378. Intensive care units are again at or beyond capacity in Paris and several other regions because of a new surge of critically ill virus patients.
Norway will delay its decision on whether to resume the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, broadcaster TV2 reported.
In the Middle East, Lebanon’s private sector is stepping in to speed up the vaccination campaign against coronavirus by importing at least a million doses of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine. The move aims at reopening businesses around the small country that has been hit by an unprecedented economic crisis.
The first batch of 50,000 doses arrived early Friday, making Lebanon one of few nations where the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is being boosted by private sector initiatives. Lebanon, a tiny nation of six million people including around one million Syrian refugees, began its inoculation campaign in mid-February after finalizing a deal for some two million doses with Pfizer.
In the Americas, Colombia has approved emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, the director of food and drug regulator INVIMA said.
Argentina has decided to suspend flights from Brazil, Chile and Mexico starting on Saturday to prevent variants of the coronavirus from entering the country.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10 a.m. ET
The cost of down payments in Canadian cities skyrocketed in 2021, new data shows – CTV News
Skyrocketing housing prices in 2021 are driving up how long it would take for homebuyers to save for a down payment, new data shows.
The National Bank of Canada (NBC)’s latest report found that during the second quarter of 2021, housing affordability has worsened by the widest margin in 27 years. The report examined housing and mortgage trends in 10 cities across the country.
To save up enough for a down payment for an average home in Canada, it would take just short of six years – or 69 months – if you saved at a rate of 10 per cent of their median pre-tax household income.
This marked a notable jump compared to the 57 months of saving at that same rate this time last year.
And, if you live in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, it could take decades – assuming you put away 10 per cent of your before-tax household income.
Here’s a breakdown of how much time it would take to save up for a down payment for an average home or condo, if you saved a tenth of your pre-tax income:
- Standing head and shoulders above the other cities, it would take a staggering 34 years – or 411 months – of saving to be able to afford a home here.
- The average home here costs $1.47 million.
- It would take just under five years – 57 months — to save up enough for a down payment on an average condo in Vancouver.
- An estimated 28 years, or 338 months, of saving to make a down payment for a non-condo home, with the total price of a representative home set at $1.03M.
- It would take 47 months of saving to afford a condo down payment.
- To save enough for a down payment for a home here would take 26.5 years – or 318 months.
- The average home here costs approximately $1.2 million.
- To afford a condo down payment here would take just under five years, or 56 months.
- At a 10-per-cent saving rate, you’re looking at 6.5 years of saving up to afford a down payment for a home — and around four years to afford a condo in this city.
- Trying to save up a home down payment in Canada’s capital could take a little over four years.
- Saving up a tenth of your pre-tax earnings for 3.5 years would mean you could afford a down payment on a representative home in Montreal
- The total price tag of a non-condo home sits at $492,777.
- Trying to afford a condo here could take you just a little more than two and a half years of saving.
- You’d need to save up for just under three years – or 34 months – to afford a home here, or about half that time to afford a condo.
- Potential homebuyers were looking at 2.5 years – or 30 months – of saving if you’re looking to make a down payment on a non-condo home.
- The average total cost of a non-condo home was $428,600.
- Affording a down payment on a $370,000 home could take homebuyers about 2.3 years worth of saving.
- Home buyers needed 18 months to save up a down payment on a condo.
- The price of a representative home in Quebec’s capital is $330 742 and it would take the average Canadian household just over two years – or 28 months — to save up a down payment.
Researchers also found mortgage payments now make up 45 per cent of the income for a representative household, slightly above the average amount (43 per cent of income) needed in 1980.
NBC noted that during most of the past two years, income growth and lower interest rates have been conducive to improving affordability.
But 2021 has been a stark contrast, the bank said, with home price increases outpacing income growth and mortgage interest rates also rising.
Countries making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory
A sharp upturn in new coronavirus infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant and a slowdown in vaccination rates have pushed governments to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups.
A growing number of countries also stipulate that a shot, or a negative test, will be needed for dining out, among other activities.
Here are some countries’ vaccine mandates:
Australia decided in late June to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels.
It has also made vaccinations obligatory for Paralympic athletes heading to Tokyo because unvaccinated members on the team could pose a health risk.
It will be mandatory for care home workers in England to have coronavirus vaccinations from October.
English nightclubs and other venues with large crowds will require patrons to present proof of full vaccination from the end of September.
Canada‘s Treasury Board Secretariat said on July 20 it was considering whether COVID-19 vaccines should be required for certain roles and positions in the federal government, according to CBC News.
The French parliament on Aug. 2 approved a bill which will make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health workers as well as require a bolstered health pass in many social venues.
The government said on July 19 that the planned 45,000 euro ($53,456) fine for businesses that do not check that clients have a health pass will be much lower, starting at up to 1,500 euros and increasing progressively for repeat offenders. Fines will not be imposed immediately.
Greece on July 12 made vaccinations mandatory for nursing home staff with immediate effect and healthcare workers from September. As part of new measures, only vaccinated customers are allowed indoors in bars, cinemas, theatres and other closed spaces.
Indonesia made COVID-19 inoculations mandatory in February, with the capital Jakarta threatening fines of up to 5 million rupiah ($357) for refusing.
A decree approved by the Italian government in March mandates that health workers, including pharmacists, get vaccinated. Those who refuse could be suspended without pay for the rest of the year.
Hungary’s government has decided to make vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told public radio on July 23.
Kazakhstan will introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for people working in groups of more than 20, the health ministry said on June 23.
Lebanon is to limit entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches to people holding vaccine certificates or those who have taken antibodies tests, the tourism ministry said on July 30. Non-vaccinated employees of these establishments would be required to conduct a PCR test every 72 hours.
Malta banned visitors from entering the country from July 14 unless they are fully vaccinated.
Poland could make vaccinations obligatory for some people at high risk from COVID-19 from August.
The Russian capital has unveiled a plan https://bit.ly/2TWsroN requiring 60% of all service sector workers to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15, according to the Moscow Times.
Moscow residents no longer have to present a QR code demonstrating they have been vaccinated or have immunity in order to sit in cafes, restaurants and bars from July 19.
In May, Saudi Arabia mandated all public and private sector workers wishing to attend a workplace get vaccinated, without specifying when this would be implemented.
Vaccination will also be required to enter any governmental, private, or educational establishments and to use public transportation as of Aug. 1.
Saudi citizens will need two vaccine doses before they can travel outside the kingdom from Aug. 9, state news agency SPA reported on July 19, citing the ministry of interior.
Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry said on July 7 it was making vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced on July 29 that all civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and travel limits, a source familiar with the matter said.
New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require, from Sept. 13, proof of vaccination for customers and staff at restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses as the country enters a new phase of battling the Delta variant.
New York will require state employees to be vaccinated or get tested weekly, a mandate that will go into effect on Sept. 6, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will require their workers to get the vaccine or get tested weekly, Cuomo said on Aug. 2.
New Jersey state health care workers and employees who work in jails must by vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face testing twice a week.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said that all state employees would be ordered to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.
Denver municipal employees and people working in high-risk settings in the city will be required to get vaccinated, Mayor Michael Hancock said on Aug. 2.
($1 = 0.8418 euros)
(Compiled by Paulina Cwikowska, Dagmarah Mackos and Oben Mumcuoglu; editing by Milla Nissi, Steve Orlofsky, Joe Bavier and Nick Macfie)
U.S. to outfit border agents with body cameras in major oversight move
The United States will require thousands of border agents to wear body cameras, according to three officials and government documents, a major operational change that could increase oversight of agents and also help capture criminal activity.
The cameras are expected to be rolled out in parts of Texas and New Mexico during the summer and expanded in the fall and winter to Arizona, California, and Texas’ busy Rio Grande Valley, which all border Mexico, according to a recent government assessment of how the devices could impact privacy. Agents in Vermont along the U.S. border with Canada will also be equipped with cameras, the assessment said.
U.S. border authorities plan to deploy a total of 7,500 body-worn cameras, with 6,000 in the field by the end of the year, a border agency official told Reuters.
Pro-immigrant activists will likely welcome the increased oversight that cameras could bring to an agency some have criticized for excessive use of force and institutional racism. But a union for border patrol agents also supports cameras, saying they could assist criminal investigations and help show that agents act professionally.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have called on border patrol agents to use the cameras to improve accountability in the wake of several high-profile fatal shootings by law enforcement over the past decade.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, stressed that agents should have access to the footage, including when an agent is accused of wrongdoing.
Border Patrol’s parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, which presents a unique challenge for video footage collection and storage.
Recordings of illegal activity, use of force or agent misconduct could be used as evidence in investigations or prosecutions, the privacy assessment said.
The cameras could offer new insight into the policing of the southern border, where migrant arrests have risen to 20-year highs in recent months and encounters sometimes take place in remote areas.
In cases where footage could be used as evidence in a criminal case, it could be retained for up to 75 years, according to the privacy assessment. Footage that does not have value as evidence would be destroyed within 180 days.
After a bipartisan group of lawmakers spearheaded efforts to secure funding for bodycams, CBP awarded a total of about $21 million to Axon Enterprises Inc [AXON.O] for body cameras and to connect the cameras to a cloud-based storage system, according to the agency official.
The devices are the size of a deck of playing cards and will be affixed to the front of agents’ uniforms, the official said.
Axon declined to comment on the rollout.
CBP conducted a small pilot of body cameras in 2015, but ultimately opted not to deploy them then.
An agency assessment at the time said the cameras would likely reduce the use of physical force on the job, but cited a number of reasons not to adopt the devices, including cost and agent morale.
Gil Kerlikowske, who was CBP commissioner at the time, said another consideration was that the cameras “did not hold up particularly well” in the field, where they could be knocked off in the brush or mucked up with dust and dirt.
Body cameras have become more commonplace since the 2015 effort. The U.S. Department of Justice said in June that its agents would be required to wear cameras when serving search and arrest warrants.
Kerlikowske said many law enforcement officers support the idea, too.
“There are now police officers who won’t go on the street without their body camera,” he said. “They want that video image.”
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington, editing by Ross Colvin, Aurora Ellis, Mica Rosenberg and Diane Craft)
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