President Joe Biden is expected to mark 500,000 U.S. lives lost from COVID-19 with a moment of silence and candle-lighting ceremony at the White House.
The country is expected to pass the grim milestone on Monday, just over a year after the first confirmed U.S. fatality of the pandemic.
The White House said Biden will deliver remarks at sunset to honour those who lost their lives. He will be joined by his wife, Jill Biden, and Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. They will participate in the moment of silence and lighting ceremony.
Biden has made a point of recognizing the lives lost from the coronavirus. His first event upon arriving in Washington for his inauguration a month ago was to deliver remarks at a COVID-19 memorial ceremony.
A tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University put the number of recorded COVID-19 cases in the U.S. at more than 28.1 million as of late Monday morning, with a death toll of more than 499,000.
Hospitalizations, however, have been declining in the hard-hit country, which has been working to scale up vaccination efforts.
The White House said about a third of the coronavirus vaccine doses delayed by this week’s winter weather have been delivered this weekend.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration has been working with shippers and states to close the roughly six-million dose backlog created this week as power outages closed some vaccination centres and icy weather stranded some vaccine in shipping hubs.
Speaking to ABC’s This Week, Psaki said: “We’ve been able to get about two million of those six million doses out,” noting, “We expect to rapidly catch up this week.”
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 10:53 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Nova Scotia moves into next stage of vaccine rollout:
As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 847,520 cases of COVID-19, with 31,173 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,696.
Ontario on Monday reported 1,058 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths. Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients stood at 646, with 280 people in intensive care units.
Ontario is reporting 1,058 cases of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> and nearly 31,200 tests completed. Locally, there are 325 new cases in Toronto, 215 in Peel and 87 in York Region. <br> <br>As of 8:00 p.m. yesterday, 569,455 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
One of Ontario’s long-standing COVID-19 hot spots returns to the province’s colour-coded system of pandemic restrictions while a stay-at-home order remains in effect for three others. Businesses in York Region are allowed to reopen as the public health unit returns to the second-most restrictive red level of public health precautions.
Non-essential retailers and restaurants can welcome customers back, with capacity limits and physical distancing in place.
York has long logged some of Ontario’s highest COVID-19 case counts, but the region’s chief medical officer of health requested that the province move it back to the tiered framework to bring it in line with most of Ontario’s other public health units. The stay-at-home order remains in effect only for Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound until at least March 8.
Across Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island opened its first community COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Monday. The clinic is for people over 80 who don’t live in retirement homes or long-term care facilities. Nova Scotia is also expanding its vaccination efforts with a prototype clinic for people aged 80 and up at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 430. All of the cases were in the Eastern Health region, which includes St. John’s. Health officials said there was also one presumptive positive case awaiting confirmation.
COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at three, according to a provincial dashboard.
New Brunswick reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. Health officials in New Brunswick confirmed the death of a person in their 80s at the Manoir Belle Vue, an adult residential facility in Edmundston. The province has now logged a total of 25 deaths related to the novel coronavirus.
In Quebec, health officials reported 805 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths on Monday. Hospitalizations stood at 689, with 117 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, a provincial dashboard updated Monday said.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 58 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Sunday. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 182 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. Alberta, meanwhile, reported 328 new cases and nine additional deaths.
In British Columbia, health officials will provide updated COVID-19 figures later Monday.
Across the North, there was one new case of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut on Sunday, and there were no new cases reported in the Northwest Territories and Yukon.
WATCH | Ottawa confident provinces are ready for flood of vaccines:
Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 111.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 62.8 million of those listed as recovered or resolved on a tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.4 million.
GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.
In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed toward the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.
GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.
“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice-president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.
The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.
Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX program.
To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from July.
Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.
In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a slow easing of one of Europe’s strictest pandemic lockdowns on Monday, saying children will return to class and people will be able to meet a friend outside for coffee in two weeks’ time.
But those longing for a haircut, a restaurant meal or a pint in a pub have almost two months to wait, and people won’t be able to hug loved ones they don’t live with until May at the earliest.
Johnson said the government’s plan would move the country “cautiously but irreversibly” out of lockdown.
Britain has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 120,000 deaths. Faced with a dominant virus variant that scientists say is both more transmissible and more deadly than the original virus, the country has spent much of the winter under a tight lockdown. Bars, restaurants, gyms, schools, hair salons and nonessential shops are closed, people are urged not to travel out of their local area and foreign holidays are illegal.
That will begin to change, slowly, on March 8, when schools reopen and people are allowed to meet one friend or relative for a chat or picnic outdoors. Three weeks later, people will be able to meet in small groups outdoors for sports or relaxation.
Under the government plan, shops and hairdressers will reopen April 12. So will pubs and restaurants, although only outdoors. Indoor venues such as theatres and cinemas, and indoor seating in bars and restaurants, are scheduled to open May 17, and limited crowds will be able to return to sports stadiums. It is also the earliest date Britons may be allowed foreign holidays.
The final stage of the plan, in which all legal limits on social conduct are removed, is set for June 21. The government says the dates could all be postponed if infections rise.
The measures being announced apply to England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have slightly different lockdowns in place, with some children returning to class in Scotland and Wales on Monday.
Hopes for a return to normality rest largely on Britain’s fast-moving inoculation program that has given more than 17.5 million people, one-third of the country’s adult population, the first of two doses of vaccine. The aim is to give every adult a shot of vaccine by July 31, and to protect the over 50s and the medically vulnerable by getting them a first vaccine jab by April 15.
But the government cautions that the return of the country’s social and economic life will be slow.
Elementary schools and kindergartens in more than half of Germany’s 16 states reopened Monday after two months of closure because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes despite growing signs that the decline in case numbers in Germany is flattening out again and even rising in some areas. Germany’s Education Minister, Anja Karliczek, has defended the decision to reopen schools, saying younger children in particular benefit from learning together in groups.
In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand will remove remaining coronavirus restrictions from Auckland on Monday after an outbreak discovered in the largest city fades.
Serum Institute of India asked for patience from foreign governments awaiting their supply of shots, saying it had been directed to prioritize India’s requirements. Meanwhile, the state of Maharashtra, home to the country’s financial hub Mumbai, imposed new lockdowns in some areas.
Japan will only receive limited doses of vaccines for the first months of the rollout and shots for the elderly will be distributed gradually, the country’s inoculation chief said.
The Philippines and Thailand have approved Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine for emergency use, while Malaysia moved up its inoculation drive by two days.
In the Americas, Argentina’s drug regulator has authorized the emergency use of Sinopharm’s vaccine ahead of an expected delivery of one million doses of the Chinese-made vaccine.
In the Middle East, Palestinians in Gaza began a limited vaccination program after receiving doses donated by Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Israel reopened swaths of its economy including malls and leisure facilities, saying the start of a return to routine was enabled by vaccines administered to almost half the population.
In Africa, South Africa remained the hardest-hit country on the continent, with more than 1.5 million reported cases of COVID-19 and more than 49,000 recorded deaths.
The head of the World Health Organization urged Tanzania to share information on its measures to combat the pandemic, saying the authorities there had repeatedly ignored his requests.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
BHP delays decision on Jansen potash project
BHP Group expects to present its board with a decision on whether to proceed with its Jansen potash project in Canada in a few months’ time – rather than mid-year – after choosing between two port options, an executive said on Thursday.
The world’s biggest miner has estimated the project in Saskatchewan province would cost up to $5.7 billion in its first phase. The project offers diversification into agriculture markets given that potash is a key element in plant nutrition that also makes crops more drought resistant.
“We are considering two options in terms of the port. One is a commercial option at the port of Vancouver, one is a greenfield option,” said Ragnar Udd, president of BHP’s Minerals America.
“We would like to have those locked in before we take them to the board,” he said.
“We continue to expect that this (decision) will occur in the next, coming few months.”
The miner expects the project will take five years to develop and have an annual production capacity of around 4.4 million tonnes of potash in its first phase. It will have capacity for an additional 12 million tonnes in stages thereafter for a life of 100 years.
Udd was speaking to investors about the outlook for the potash market, for which BHP expects demand to catch up with supply by late this decade or early next.
BHP estimated global production of potash was 76 million tonnes (Mt) in 2020, which could rise to 86 Mt when factoring in latent capacity.
It expects demand to grow by 15 Mt to around 105 Mt by 2040 or 1.5% to 3% a year, along with the global population and pressure to improve farming yields given limited land supply.
BHP sees operational expenditure at the Jansen potash mine at $100 per tonne and sustaining capital expenditure at $15 per tonne. It sees incentive pricing for new projects at $300 to $500 a tonne, with Canada the main supplier.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin and Christopher Cushing)
Deutsche Telekom seeks investors to bankroll German internet overhaul
Deutsche Telekom is offering investors stakes in a company it is creating to overhaul Germany’s internet cables to help foot the bill for much-needed network modernisation, three people familiar with the matter said.
The deal is part of a German bid to catch up with other European countries such as Spain, which has outpaced Europe’s industrial powerhouse by laying high-tech glass fibre cables while Germany is mainly stuck with old-fashioned copper lines.
Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s main telecoms company, has come under increasing pressure to act quickly as the coronavirus pandemic has forced more people to work from home and rely on fast, stable internet connections.
The sources told Reuters that Deutsche Telecom and its adviser Deutsche Bank are targeting investors such as Dutch funds APG and PGGM and Canada‘s Brookfield and CDPQ, as well as sovereign wealth funds.
Deutsche Telekom’s initial plan is to roll out fibre cables to 4 million households and investors will be offered stakes equivalent to up to half of the project’s equity, the sources said. Further extensions of the network are likely.
The German company is following the strategy adopted by rivals, such as Spain’s Telefonica, which have struck similar deals with investors to help pay for network upgrades.
Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Bank and the prospective bidders all declined to comment.
At the same time, the German telecoms giant is kicking off the sale of its T-Mobile Netherlands business to cut its debt and free up cash for investment in infrastructure.
Deutsche Telekom is a laggard when it comes to fibre as it bet on improved copper cables to supply internet connections and only switched to focusing on faster fibre cables in 2019.
Its move is part of a trend among German companies of turning to foreign investors to fund parts of the infrastructure that keeps the wheels of industry whirring, such as energy.
Power network 50Hertz, for example, is now majority owned by Belgium’s Elia while gas-power firm Open Grid Europe is part-owned by Australian investor Macquarie.
Investment by China, however, is viewed sceptically. When China’s State Grid wanted to take a stake in 50Hertz in 2018, German state lender KfW prevented the move.
Fibre networks are typically financed with 30% equity and 70% debt and Deutsche Telekom is looking for investors to contribute half of the equity with it providing the rest.
Telefonica struck a deal in October 2020 with German insurer Allianz to develop a fibre optic network in Germany for 2.2 million households in a project valued at 5 billion euros ($6.1 billion).
Assuming a similar valuation, Deutsche Telekom’s project to supply about 4 million households would be worth some 10 billion euros, meaning investors would need to contribute 1.5 billion euros, or half of the 30% equity.
At its capital markets day in May, Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Tim Hoettges underlined the company’s commitment to accelerating the rollout of fibre in Germany, taking it from 600,000 households last year to 2.5 million in 2024.
He said the company plans to invest 2.5 billion euros a year in fibre infrastructure.
DUTCH MOBILE SALE
Deutsche Telekom’s plan would still leave it trailing countries such as Spain and Sweden, where more than 60% of homes already get their internet via fibre cables. In Germany, only 5% of homes have fibre, slightly lower than Italy.
Deutsche Telekom executive Dominique Leroy has said its goal is to reach 10 million households with fibre by the end of 2024 and that it would seek partnerships where it makes sense.
While Deutsche Telekom is preparing to invest billions, it is also faces a large bill to exercise options to raise its holding in T-Mobile U.S. to more than 50% from 43%.
However, it is already saddled with 130 billion euros of debt and is now selling businesses to reduce the pile.
First in line is its subsidiary T-Mobile Netherlands, which is estimated to be worth up to 5 billion euros. The Dutch mobile business has 6.8 million customers and its sales last year came to 1.9 billion euros.
Deutsche Telekom’s adviser on the deal, Morgan Stanley, has sent out first information packs to prospective bidders asking for offers by the end of July, people familiar with the process said.
Suitors including buyout groups KKR, EQT and Warburg Pincus are expected to take part, as is French telecoms entrepreneur Xavier Niel, the people said.
Warburg Pincus, which employs former Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann, came close to buying the business in 2015.
Morgan Stanley and the potential bidders all declined to comment.
Once that sale is out of the way, Deutsche Telekom may look to sell its telecom towers division, the people said, adding that while conversations with banks are taking place no decision has been taken.
($1 = 0.8248 euros)
(Editing by John O’Donnell and David Clarke)
Israel strikes Hamas sites in Gaza in first attack since May fighting
Israeli aircraft struck Hamas sites in Gaza on Wednesday after incendiary balloons were launched from the Palestinian enclave in the first such attacks since the end of 11 days of cross-border fighting last month.
The overnight airstrikes gave way to calm by morning, and there were no reports of casualties on either side.
The flare-up, a first test for Israel’s new government, followed a march in East Jerusalem on Tuesday by Jewish nationalists that had drawn threats of action by Hamas, the ruling militant group in Gaza.
The Israeli military said its aircraft attacked Hamas armed compounds in Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Younis and was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza”.
The strikes, the military said, came in response to the launching of balloons laden with incendiary material, which the Israeli fire brigade reported caused 20 blazes in open fields in communities near the Gaza border.
A Hamas spokesman, confirming the Israeli attacks, said Palestinians would continue to pursue their “brave resistance and defend their rights and sacred sites” in Jerusalem.
Hours earlier, thousands of flag-waving Israelis congregated around the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City before heading to Judaism’s holy Western Wall, drawing Palestinian anger and condemnation.
Israel, which occupied East Jerusalem in a 1967 war and later annexed it in a move that has not won international recognition, regards the entire city as its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state that would include the West Bank and Gaza.
Prior to Tuesday’s march, Israel beefed up its deployment of the Iron Dome anti-missile system in anticipation of possible rocket attacks from Gaza.
But as the marchers began to disperse after nightfall in Jerusalem, there was no sign of rocket fire from the enclave.
The procession was originally scheduled for May 10 as part of “Jerusalem Day” festivities that celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem.
At the last minute, that march was diverted away from the Damascus Gate and the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, but the move was not enough to dissuade Hamas from firing rockets towards Jerusalem, attacks that set off last month’s round of fighting.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Peter Cooney and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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