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

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The latest:

  • Alberta reports 1,100 new cases of COVID-19, highest daily total in months
  • Non-essential travel a low risk for the vaccinated, CDC says in new guidance for Americans.
  • Christians in the Holy Land are marking Good Friday without mass pilgrimages due to COVID-19.
  • Quebec reports 1,314 new cases of COVID-19, 5 additional deaths.
  • Saskatchewan is reporting 254 new cases, and 1 death.
  • California to allow indoor concerts, vaccinations for older teens as of April 15.
  • Doctors monitor how Alberta’s variant-driven 3rd wave could impact children.
  • Essential but forgotten? Youth working in grocery stores, cafés feel the strain.
  • ANALYSIS | Did the political art of compromise fail Canada during the pandemic?
  • ANALYSIS | What’s behind Quebec’s targeted approach to 3rd wave and could it work?
  • Have a question about the COVID-19 pandemic? Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca

Canada’s two most long-standing coronavirus hot spots marked their second Good Friday in the COVID-19 era by either ushering in or preparing to impose new public health measures to curb resurgent case numbers.

Friday’s tally showed there were 990,620 COVID-19 cases in the country, including 51,174 active cases. Canada’s coronavirus death toll stood at 23,008.

Three regions of Quebec issued a 10-day lockdown that took effect hours before the province reported its highest daily case load since late January.

The province says 1,314 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, marking the third day in a row Quebec reported more than 1,000 new cases.

The news comes as residents of Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau begin a 10-day shutdown that will shutter schools, gyms and most non-essential businesses.

Ontario did not share new case data today, but residents are trying to take advantage of one last day of loosened public health measures before a provincewide shutdown takes effect on Saturday at 12:01 a.m.

Most Canadians are being asked to spend yet another holiday isolated from family and friends, as case counts surge and hospitals are being pushed to the brink.

WATCH | Expert warns of health-care overload across Canada:

Ontario is already experiencing health-care overload due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to infectious diseases specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, and other provinces are headed in that direction. 5:58

Atlantic Canada is the notable exception, where case loads are low.

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick reported nine new infections a piece on Friday.

Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says the Easter weekend in his province “is looking very different” than in most other jurisdictions, but said people still need to be careful.


Ontario’s provincewide shutdown will see personal care services such as hair salons close — or remain closed — and restaurants restricted to takeout only.

WATCH | ICUs across Canada seeing younger COVID-19 patients:

The third wave of COVID-19 is putting a lot of strain on ICUs across the country and doctors say this cohort of patients is significantly younger than in previous waves. 2:02

But the Progressive Conservatives stopped short of replicating the stay-at-home order that came into effect in early January, even as they touted its success at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re not going to be producing a stay-at-home order, because we saw the last time that it had tremendous ill effect on both children and adults,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “We of course have to balance any measures that we take with people’s mental health as well.”

Empty pews are seen in 2020 at St. Mary’s Parish Catholic church in Ottawa as Father Mark Goring celebrates the Easter Sunday mass last year in front of an iPhone broadcasting live on YouTube. Many churches across Canada will again offer online services this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Quebec, too, found itself tightening restrictions in some regions — a measure announced Wednesday evening.

Schools and non-essential businesses were closed and the curfew moved to 8 p.m. in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau. Premier François Legault said the lockdown would last for at least 10 days.

People enjoy the recently opened Robson Square plaza in Vancouver on Wednesday. B.C. health officials recently gave churches latitude to open, only to revoke it after a surge in COVID-19 cases. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe stopped short of changing any rules, instead asking people to follow public health advice. Still, at least one Saskatoon church is opting for virtual Easter services to be safe.

– From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:25 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported Thursday that nearly 15 per cent of adult Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander in charge of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, said about 7.4 million doses have been distributed so far to the provinces and territories. He said he expects that number to rise to 9.5 million by the weekend.

New Brunswick reported nine new COVID-19 cases on Friday. Recently it has led Atlantic Canada in active COVID cases and daily case reports.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia also reported nine new cases, a day after Premier Iain Rankin announced that people aged 70 and older can now book for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new travel-related case of COVID-19 on Thursday and Prince Edward Island also reported a single new case.

Ontario will not update its COVID-19 figures on Friday due to the Good Friday holiday. On Thursday, health officials reported 2,557 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 23 additional deaths. According to data released by the province to the public, hospitalizations stood at 1,116, with 433 people listed as being in ICUs.

WATCH | Ontario announces 4-week ‘shutdown’ as ICUs near limit:

Ontario announced a 4-week provincewide shutdown after ICUs neared their limit and COVID-19 cases surged, but some doctors say the restrictions aren’t enough to control the third wave. 2:43

Quebec on Friday reported 1,314 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 503, including 121 people in intensive care, according to a provincial dashboard.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba won’t provide a COVID-19 update on Friday. It reported 59 new cases on Thursday and two additional deaths. Experts there are warning that the province could see a third wave of COVID-19 as cases surge elsewhere in Canada.

In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials are reporting 254 new cases, and 1 death, an increase from 199 new cases and no additional deaths on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Alberta reported 1,100 new cases on Friday, bringing the total of COVID-19 cases to 150,307 in that province, and 1,994 deaths. 

WATCH | Kenney pleads with Albertans to follow health guidance:

Premier Jason Kenney says the province is seeing a new wave of COVID-19 infections and it’s up to Albertans to follow health guidance to bring cases down. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says vaccines offer hope, but Albertans need to keep cases low until more people can be vaccinated. 2:20

In British Columbia, health officials reported 832 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths on Thursday, but were not reporting new numbers on the Good Friday holiday.

Across the North on Thursday, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories. Yukon did not have any new cases to report on Thursday, but a case was reported overnight on Wednesday.

– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:25 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of Friday, more than 130.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.83 million.

The United States has reported 30.6 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 100 million Americans — or about 30 per cent of the U.S. population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

California announced Friday it would allow indoor concerts, theatre performances and other private gatherings starting April 15 because the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the state is nearing a record low.

Also starting April 15, young adults aged 16 and over will be eligible for the vaccine.

To attend gatherings, people will have to either be tested or show proof of full vaccination. California has administered nearly 19 million doses and nearly 6.9 million people are fully vaccinated in a state with nearly 40 million residents. 

Also Friday, the CDC updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward.

In the Middle East, Christians in the Holy Land marked Good Friday without the mass pilgrimages usually seen in the days leading up to Easter because of the coronavirus. Worshippers in many other predominantly Christian countries where the virus is still raging observed their second annual Holy Week with tight restrictions on gatherings.

In Jerusalem, many holy sites were open, thanks to an ambitious Israeli vaccination campaign. It was a stark contrast to last year, when the city was under lockdown.

In neighbouring Lebanon, Christians observed Good Friday under a lockdown in sparsely-attended church services and heavy rain ahead of a three-day curfew starting Saturday to discourage family get-togethers over the Easter holiday.

.In Latin America, penitents from Mexico and Guatemala to Paraguay carried tree branches covered with thorns and large crosses in Passion Plays reenacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis presided over a torch-lit Way of the Cross ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, foregoing for a second year the traditional Colosseum procession that draws thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Filipinos marked Good Friday, one of the most solemn holidays in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation, with deserted streets and churches following a strict lockdown to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

Major highways and roads were eerily quiet after religious gatherings were prohibited in metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces. The government placed the bustling region of more than 25 million people back under lockdown this week as it scrambled to contain an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.

Police patrol as Roman Catholic devotees gather in front of Quiapo church during Good Friday in Manila, Philippines, on Friday, after the government imposed strict lockdowns to cope with a surge in COVID-19 infections. (Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images)

In Africa, Namibia will for the first time receive $271 million from the International Monetary Fund to address its deteriorating fiscal position, which has been worsened by the pandemic, its Finance Ministry said on Thursday.

In Europe, the British government is adding four more countries — Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines — to its travel ban list amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus. The Department for Transport said the latest restrictions will take effect in England from April 9.

Under the terms of the travel bans, international visitors who have departed from or travelled through through the countries in the preceding 10 days will be refused entry into England.

British and Irish nationals, and those who have residence rights in the U.K., can enter but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days, at their own expense.

When the four countries are added, there will be a total of 39 nations on the government’s so-called “red list.” They include Brazil and South Africa, where two of the variants of the virus have been identified.

The other nations of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have similar lists to those that apply in England.

Coronavirus infections and deaths in Ukraine reached new records on Friday, with health authorities reporting 19,893 cases and 433 confirmed deaths.

Ukraine began vaccinations in late February after receiving 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. However, reluctance to take the shots has been strong despite the influx of new infections and the strain on the health-care system.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, the government says it is temporarily halting AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccinations for people under age 60, following reports of a very small number of people suffering unusual blood clots after receiving the shot.

The Dutch decision comes three days after authorities in Germany also stopped using AstraZeneca’s vaccine in under-60s.

In the Americas, Brazil has been grappling with a surge in cases that has left the hospitals and health care system struggling to keep up, the WHO said on Thursday. There are currently 12,839,844 active cases and 553,980 deaths. In March alone, over 66,000 Brazilians died of the virus, and cemeteries extended services to all hours to accommodate burials. 

Brazil’s cemeteries struggle to keep up with record COVID-19 casualties, extend services to all hours and attempt to accommodate new caskets. 1:23

Chile has closed most of its borders to control surging coronavirus cases despite a region-leading vaccine campaign.

The government says Chilean citizens would be unable to come and go through April. Truck drivers bringing essential goods would need to show a negative test for the coronavirus. Domestically, Chileans will be limited to permits for a single trip out of the home per weekend to buy essential goods.

Passengers who just landed wait to be transferred to designated facilities to comply with a 10-day quarantine imposed on travellers at Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, on Thursday. (Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:39 p.m. ET

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Molson Coors’ JV Truss launches 6 pot-infused drinks in Canada

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(Reuters) – Miller Lite beer-maker Molson Coors Beverage Co’s cannabis joint venture Truss Beverage Co on Wednesday launched six pot-infused beverages in Canada, as it hopes that summer demand will offset recent sales hits from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Coronavirus restrictions in major provinces including Ontario have forced weed stores to shut for extended periods, and are expected to hit cannabis companies’ results for the March quarter.

The summer season, which tends to represent peak demand for beverages, will be crucial for companies to undo the damage.

Truss, jointly run by Canadian pot producer Hexo Corp, launched five CBD-infused beverage brands in August last year and claims to have already won a 43% market share in the category in Canada. (https://bit.ly/3wThh2D)

“Summer … is the biggest opportunity for the beverage category; it is the inflection point for consumers to try out our products,” Truss Beverage’s Chief Executive Scott Cooper told Reuters in an interview.

“Cannabis-infused beverages are still new and tend to be an impulsive purchase, so having the store open is important to the trial and awareness of the category,” he added.

Truss said its latest beverage line included watermelon, lemonade, sparkling tonic and honey green iced tea flavors, and are expected to be rolled out to retailers over the next few months.

 

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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Canadian retail titan W. Galen Weston dies at 80

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(Corrects April 13 story to remove references to Primark in paragraph 3 and what had been paragraph 6, to reflect that Primark is actually owned by a different Weston family)

By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) -W. Galen Weston, patriarch of one of Canada‘s wealthiest families and retail titan, has died at age 80, according to a statement by the family on Tuesday.

Weston was the third generation of his family to lead George Weston Limited, an already-prosperous retail empire founded by his grandfather, which he expanded significantly.

The family company, now run by his son, Galen Weston, owns Selfridges in the United Kingdom, as well as the Canadian grocery chain Loblaw Co Ltd, pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart, and real estate company Choice Properties.

Weston passed away peacefully at home after a long illness, the statement said.

He was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and moved to Dublin at 21 to escape a domineering father, the Irish Times reported in 2014, where he met his wife, Irish model Hilary Frayne. They married in 1966.

In the 1970s Weston returned to his family’s base of operations, Canada, to revive the family’s struggling Loblaws supermarket chain, and helped turn it into one of the largest food distributors in the country.

“In our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy,” Galen Weston, chairman and CEO of George Weston Ltd, said in a statement.

“The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary,” Alannah Weston, Weston Sr.’s daughter and chairman of Selfridges Group, said.

The Weston family is among the wealthiest in Canada, with Forbes estimating their total wealth at $8.7 billion.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in VancouverEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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Canada’s migrant farmworkers remain at risk a year into pandemic

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Pedro, a Mexican migrant worker, knew he had to leave the Ontario cannabis operation where he worked when so many of his coworkers caught COVID-19 that his employer began to house them in a 16-person bunk house alongside the uninfected.

Pedro moved in with friends in the nearby farming town of Leamington, Ontario, at the end of October. He asked to be identified under a pseudonym because he fears that speaking out will affect his chances of employment.

“I didn’t know where to go, where to get help. So I was left behind, hopeless,” he said, speaking through a translator. About a week later, Pedro landed another job, working with peppers in a greenhouse. Conditions are better, he said.

But he added: “To be honest, I don’t think all employers are taking precautions.”

Pedro is one of about 60,000 migrant farmworkers – many from Central America and the Caribbean – who come to Canada as part of an annual migration of people that ramps up in spring. They grow and harvest the country’s food supply and have continued to work in the midst of a pandemic.

They feed the country and are a crucial part of a C$68.8 billion ($54.8 billion) sector, making up about one-fifth of the country’s agricultural workforce, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

As the pandemic crippled travel last year, agricultural employers were unable to fill one-fifth of the temporary foreign worker positions they needed, costing Canadian farmers C$2.9 billion due to labour shortages, according to research commissioned by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

These workers are also uniquely at risk. They live and work in crowded settings, and language barriers coupled with precarious immigration status tied to their employment prevent them from speaking out about unsafe conditions.

Last year they were hit hard by COVID-19, with 8.7% of migrants in Ontario testing positive. This year they are returning as Canada is in the grip of a third wave. While governments and employers say they are taking steps to keep these workers safe, advocates and workers contacted by Reuters say the dangers remain – except that now, those dangers are known.

Graphic on COVID-19 global tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/

SAME CRISIS

Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, argues the same factors that made workers more vulnerable to COVID-19 last year – crowded workplaces, congregate living, visas that tie them to an employer and make them fearful of speaking out – still exist.

“We are walking into the same crisis yet again, the only difference being that we already know how bad it is.”

Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said employers are doing their best, but some transmission of the virus will occur.

“Because they’re living on the farm, they’re in contact with each other when they’re working … despite all our efforts, it spreads. Just like it does elsewhere in society.”

Some 760 farmworkers have been infected so far this year in Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, according to provincial data. Ontario put agriculture workers in Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccinations, which begins this month, and has set up a clinic at Toronto’s airport offering vaccines to migrants on arrival.

But advocates worry migrant workers might lack requisite identification, especially if they are undocumented.

Advocates argue not enough is being done to keep these workers safe from the pandemic. They say rules such as the requirement to get – and pay for – a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of coming to Canada place an undue logistical and financial burden on migrants.

Last month the federal government announced new measures meant to protect migrant agricultural workers, including beefed-up inspections.

But the migrants interviewed by Reuters argued what will protect them is more stable status that does not tie them to an employer.

“Hopefully this year, the government of Canada gives us status,” said Teresa, a migrant worker from Baja California.

($1 = 1.2559 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis)

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