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

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The latest:

Germany is looking to ramp up the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after authorities last week gave the green light for it to be administered to people 65 and over.

Hundreds of thousands of doses have been gathering dust in recent weeks due to the restrictions on who could get the vaccine and misgivings among some who were eligible.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany has received 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot so far but administered just 721,000.

Berlin is opening a sixth vaccine centre Monday at the former Tempelhof airport in the centre of the city that will administer only the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ZDF that he expects Germany to be able to administer up to 10 million shots a week by the end of the month.

LISTEN | Are all COVID-19 vaccines created equal?

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In Italy, the health ministry has now officially approved using the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for healthy people over age 65, citing limited vaccine supplies and the need to vaccinate people who might be vulnerable to complications.

The order was signed Monday. The European Medicines Agency had approved AstraZeneca for all age groups, but some nations like Italy and Germany initially limited it to under 65s due to what they called limited data.

Those limitations are one of the reasons why the 27-nation European Union has lagged so far behind Britain and the United States in vaccinating its people. Millions of doses of AstraZeneca have piled up across Europe, waiting to be given out.

Speeding up Italy’s vaccination campaign will enable the country to overcome the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Monday, noting that his government would do whatever was necessary to protect lives.

“The pandemic is not yet over, but with the acceleration of the vaccine plan, a way out is not far off,” Draghi said in a speech to mark International Women’s Day, his first such public address since taking office last month.

Italy is approaching 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths and health officials have warned that the country faces a third wave of cases as a more contagious variant of the disease gains ground.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:55 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | The community volunteers helping B.C. seniors get COVID-19 vaccines:

Several community and religious groups in British Columbia are armed with computers and phones, ready to help local seniors sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations. 2:03

As of 10:50 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 887,910 cases of COVID-19, with 30,594 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,249.

Across the North, Nunavut reported no new cases on Monday but added two additional recoveries, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 23. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided updated figures on Monday.

Ontario reported 1,631 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 10 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 626, with 282 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

A stay-at-home order in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay is lifting Monday as the province loosens pandemic restrictions. The three regions were the last ones still under the order, and are transitioning back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.

Toronto and Peel will enter the “grey lockdown” category, something local public health officials asked for in both regions.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova ScotiaPrince Edward Island and New Brunswick reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported one new case on Sunday.

In an interview with CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said the province has a “very robust” public health nursing system and is ready to go for the broader vaccine rollout. But the premier also noted that he is open to conversations about sharing some of the province’s allocated vaccine supply with provinces dealing with higher caseloads.

King also said Sunday that he believes the so-called Atlantic bubble will be back in action by early spring.

In Quebec, people in many parts of the province will be able to eat in restaurants and work out in gyms starting Monday as five regions are downgraded from red to orange on the province’s colour-coded pandemic alert level system.

The province on Sunday reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 592, with 107 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 56 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and two additional deaths. Saskatchewan health officials, meanwhile, reported 116 new cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus and two additional deaths. In Alberta, there wasn’t a formal update from health officials over the weekend because of a system upgrade.

In British Columbia, health officials will provide updated figures that cover the weekend later Monday.

WATCH | Vaccines won’t be the end of masks, physical distancing, Tam says:

Dr. Theresa Tam says that a year into the pandemic, with COVID-19 vaccines helping Canada gain an upper hand, masks, physical distancing and travel restrictions won’t disappear immediately because vigilance is needed to beat the evolving virus. 1:53

From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:50 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

People in need wait to take a bag with free food at a non-profit association called ‘Pane Quotidiano’ in Milan, Italy, on Monday. The number of people in need has increased after the start of the pandemic. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Monday morning, more than 116.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 66.1 million listed on the Johns Hopkins University tracking database as recovered. The global death toll was approaching 2.6 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam administered its first COVID-19 doses Monday to the front-line workers who made the nation’s relative success in controlling the pandemic possible — health workers, contact tracers and security forces who handled quarantine duties.

The Southeast Asian nation of 96 million people has a goal to inoculate at least half of the population by the end of the year. Thousands of doctors, nurses and technicians working at hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients lined up in the morning and received the first jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I have been waiting for this day for a long time,” nurse Nguyen Thi Huyen said after she got her injection. Huyen has been caring for COVID-19 patients at a tropical disease hospital in Hanoi the past year. Health protocols have limited her time with family, among other challenges.

A health worker prepares a dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi on Monday. Vietnam has started the vaccination campaign with a hope to inoculate half of the population against COVID-19 by the end of the year. (Hau Dinh/The Associated Press)

The first batch of over 100,000 AstraZeneca doses in a 30 million order arrived two weeks ago. Separately, Vietnam expects to secure another 30 million doses of the same vaccine through the UN-backed COVAX program for vaccine equality.

The UN children’s agency said Afghanistan has received nearly half a million coronavirus vaccine doses via the global COVAX initiative. War-torn Afghanistan received 468,000 AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, the first shipment through COVAX, UNICEF said in a statement.

The vaccines were made by the Serum Institute of India, and arrived in the capital of Kabul aboard an Emirates flight, UNICEF said. More vaccines will arrive in the coming weeks and months. India previously donated 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Afghanistan.

Thailand will reduce mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days starting in April for foreigners arriving in the country who have been vaccinated.

In the Americas, Dr. Anthony Fauci is projecting that U.S. high school students will be able to get vaccinated early in the next school year and that elementary school students should be in line for vaccinations in early 2022.

Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer and director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News’ Face the Nation that vaccines for teens will be available “maybe not the first day but certainly in the early part of the fall.”

Currently, three vaccines are approved for use in the United States. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-shot Moderna vaccine are approved for individuals 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for 16 and up.

Trials are underway to determine the safety of vaccines on younger people. Teenagers contract the coronavirus almost twice as often as younger children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Ecuador and Paraguay have both received some 20,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from Chile.

In the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president’s office said Monday, with both having only mild symptoms of the illness.

In a statement, Assad’s office said the couple did PCR tests after they experienced minor symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 illness. It said that Assad, 55, and his wife Asma, who is 10 years younger, will continue to work from home, where they will isolate for between two and three weeks.

Both were in “good health and in stable condition,” the statement said.

Syria, which marks 10 years of war next week, has recorded nearly 16,000 virus cases in government-held parts of the country, including 1,063 deaths. But the numbers are believed to be much higher with limited amounts of PCR tests being done, particularly in areas of northern Syria outside government control.

The pandemic, which has severely tested even developed countries, has been a major challenge for Syria’s health-care sector, already depleted by years of conflict. A decade of fighting has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Syria began a vaccination campaign last week, but no details have been given about the process, nor have local journalists been allowed to witness the rollout. The health minister said the government procured the vaccines from a friendly country, which he declined to name.

After delays, Israel started vaccinating Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements on Monday, more than two months after launching an immunization blitz of its own population.

Palestinian labourers who crossed into Israel at several West Bank checkpoints received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine from Magen David Adom paramedics. The vaccination drive orchestrated by COGAT, Israel’s military agency co-ordinating government operations in the West Bank, had been beset by postponements.

Some 100,000 Palestinian labourers from the West Bank work in Israel and its settlements, which are widely seen internationally as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, the head of COGAT, said in a statement in Arabic that Israelis and Palestinians, “live in the same epidemiological space” and that it was a shared interest to vaccinate Palestinians.

Israel has administered over 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its population of 9.3 million. Over 3.7 million Israelis — more than 40 per cent — have received two doses of the vaccine. But until Monday, Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move that has underscored global disparities and drawn international criticism.

Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005, but still maintains control over airspace, the seafront and a large amount of the movement in and out of the area.

Human rights groups and many Palestinians say that as an occupying power, Israel is responsible for providing vaccines to the Palestinians. Israel says that under interim peace accords reached in the 1990s, it does not have any such obligation.

Israeli officials have said the priority is vaccinating Israel’s own population first, while the Palestinian Authority has said it will obtain its own vaccines through a World Health Organization partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX.

To date, the PA has acquired enough vaccine doses for only 6,000 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are home to nearly five million Palestinians. It received 2,000 doses from Israel and acquired another 10,000 doses of a Russian-made vaccine. Each is given in two doses.

Israel had also announced plans to share surplus vaccines with far-flung allies in Africa, Europe and Latin America, but the decision was frozen by legal questions. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with leaders of Denmark and Austria and said the three nations would join forces in the fight against COVID-19 with an investment in research and rollout of vaccines.

In Europe, British children returned to school on Monday after a two-month closure, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was a plan to get the country to “start moving closer to a sense of normality.”

As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to U.K. classrooms will be tested for the first few weeks. Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.

“We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far,” Johnson said as he urged people to get vaccinated. High schools and colleges can reopen in phases to allow for testing.

France could approve Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week, in line with the timetable for its broader European Union approval, the president of the country’s health regulator said.

Hungarians on Monday awoke to a new round of strict lockdown measures aimed at slowing a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths powered by virus variants.

In Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is set to take a lead role in ferrying COVID-19 vaccines around the world and expects demand for the service to last for up to three years.

The deputy chief executive of South African bank ABSA died on Sunday due to COVID-19 complications, his family said.

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:55 a.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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