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

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The latest:

Quebecers out in the streets after 8 p.m. on Saturday can expect to be questioned by police as a month-long curfew comes into effect to control the spread of COVID-19.

The province announced earlier this week that the curfew will be in place from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., except for those who fall into certain exempted categories, such as essential workers.

It’s a state of affairs Premier François Legault is defending as unpleasant but necessary. In an open letter on his Facebook page, Legault said, “I consider the situation critical, and it requires a shock treatment.”

With hospitals in many areas, including greater Montreal, reaching the breaking point, the government is making a desperate effort to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the community. The point, Legault writes, “is to prevent gatherings, even the smallest ones.”

The province will send out an emergency alert this afternoon to remind Quebecers of the curfew and that police will be more visible on the streets over the weekend.

The curfew comes as Quebec’s COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise and hospitals say they’re filling up and risk becoming overwhelmed.

The province reported 3,127 new cases on Saturday and 41 more deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 226,233 confirmed cases and 8,647 people have died.

The curfew will last at least four weeks, until Feb. 8, and violators could face fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.

Meanwhile, federal Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Ottawa will do “whatever it takes” to get more vaccine doses delivered to Canada faster.

But she said there has not yet been any change in the number of doses the government is expecting to receive this winter, and approvals for additional vaccines are still at least several weeks away.

WATCH | Ottawa promises more COVID-19 vaccines to come next week:

As some provinces begin to run low on doses, Prime Minister Trudeau promises to ‘scale up’ COVID-19 vaccine deliveries. 1:38

Anand said Canada has already put a number of offers on the table to vaccine-makers to get more deliveries faster, including upping the price per dose.

Canada has approved two vaccines and is currently scheduled to receive four million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and another two million from Moderna before the end of March.

That is the same delivery plan that has existed since November.

Fewer than 250,000 people have received doses in Canada.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 12:15 p.m. ET, Canada had reported 650,918 cases of COVID-19, with 82,202 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 16,788.

Ontario reported 3,443 cases on Saturday, including 1,070 in Toronto, 548 in Peel Region, 303 in York Region, 282 in Windsor-Essex County and 179 in Ottawa.

The education minister said Saturday the province is expanding the list of essential workers eligible to receive free child care during the time school is taught remotely. Stephen Lecce says Canada Post staff, workers with the RCMP and
the Canada Border Services Agency, and workers with homeless shelters and children’s aid societies are among those on the expanded list.

WATCH | Alberta and Ontario differ on schools despite similar COVID-19 numbers:

Two provinces with similar COVID-19 infection numbers have made opposite decisions on school going forward. Alberta is sending kids back to the classroom next week, while Ontario is keeping most students at home. 2:00

Manitoba announced 222 new COVID-19 cases and nine new deaths on Friday. Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there has been a spike in cases related to gatherings over the holidays. 

Saskatchewan reported 336 new cases on Friday — the second day in a row that officials in the province recorded more than 300 new cases — and it announced seven additional deaths.

Alberta reported 1,183 new COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths on Friday. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, announced the province has detected its first case of a variant of COVID-19 first found in South Africa.

WATCH | WestJet cuts 1,000 full-time positions amid second-wave job losses:

WestJet announces cuts affecting the equivalent of 1,000 full-time positions and says the government hasn’t done enough to help a flailing but necessary industry. Meanwhile, Canada lost 63,000 jobs over the last month. 2:31

British Columbia health officials announced 617 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 more deaths. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said 358 people are in hospital, 75 of whom are in intensive care.

In the Northwest Territories, Indigenous leaders say the territorial government must address vaccine hesitancy if it wants to reach target immunization levels. The territory received 7,200 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last week and unveiled its vaccination strategy on Tuesday. 

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 18 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, while Nova Scotia reported two new cases..

With case numbers rising in New Brunswick, health officials urged people to follow the rules, be honest with contact tracers and support people who are in isolation because of a positive test or a contact.

Nova Scotia announced that it is tightening border restrictions with New Brunswick. As of 8 a.m. on Saturday, everyone coming into Nova Scotia from New Brunswick will have to self-isolate for 14 days. There are exceptions for those who are crossing the border due to work, a medical appointment, child-custody arrangements or legal reasons.


What’s happening around the world

As of 12:20 p.m. ET Saturday, more than 89.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 49.5 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.9 million.

In the Americas, Mexico on Friday posted its third straight day of a new high for coronavirus infections, with 14,362 newly confirmed cases and a near-record of 1,038 more deaths. The country has now topped 1.5 million total infections and over 132,000 deaths so far in the pandemic. The country’s extremely low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is over 180,000.

WATCH | Florida allows COVID-19 vaccine access to snowbirds:

Canadian snowbirds have early access to COVID-19 vaccines in Florida because the state has put all people over age 65 at top priority. 2:04

In Europe, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, royal officials said Saturday. The couple are in their 90s and therefore eligible for Britain’s earliest waves of vaccinations.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis said on Saturday he planned to have a COVID-19 vaccination as early as next week and 
urged everyone to get a shot, to protect not only their own lives but those of everyone else.
 
“I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine,” the Pope said in an interview with TV station Canale 5. “It is 
an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of 
others.”

WATCH | U.K. sees 68,000 new COVID-19 cases three days into national lockdown:

Record-high COVID-19 counts were reported in the United Kingdom on the third day of a national lockdown that includes school closures. More than 68,000 new cases were recorded and another 1,325 deaths. 1:55

In the Asia-Pacific region, several regional governments in Japan have asked for a state of emergency declaration like the one issued by the prime minister to the Tokyo area to stem the surging rise in coronavirus cases. The heads of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures in central Japan relayed their request Saturday. There was no immediate decision, but the government panel of medical experts will study the situation. Japan’s state of emergency, which kicked in Friday for Tokyo and nearby Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, centres around asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. It lasts for a month but can be extended. 

WATCH | What scientists know about the new coronavirus variant:

The B1-17 coronavirus variant, first discovered in the U.K., is now in at least 40 countries, including Canada. It has 23 mutations, including one that attaches to healthy cells like a key going into a lock. 1:56

In China, authorities are asking residents in two cities south of Beijing to stay home for seven days as they try to stamp out a coronavirus outbreak in which more than 300 people have tested positive in the past week. According to official notices on social media, the cities of Shijiazhuang and Xingtai in Hebei province are restricting people to their communities and villages and have banned gatherings.

India will start its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Jan. 16, with priority given to about 30 million health-care and front-line workers, a government statement said on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the preparedness for the COVID-19 vaccination program on Saturday. India hopes to inoculate 300 million of its 1.35 billion people free of charge in the first six to eight months of this year.

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Health Canada approves use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine – CBC.ca

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Health Canada has approved use of the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, clearing the way for millions of more inoculations in Canada.

Canada’s regulatory experts had been assessing the submission from AstraZeneca and Oxford University for safety and efficacy since October, and announced their approval Friday morning.

“AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine is indicated for active immunization of individuals 18 years of age and older for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019,” reads their website.

“The efficacy of the vaccine was estimated to be 62.1 per cent. Overall, there are no important safety concerns and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants.”

Canada has secured access to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Some jurisdictions, notably France, have restricted the vaccine to people under the age of 65 despite the World Health Organization’s insistence that the product is safe and effective for all age groups. Health Canada said it has no immediate safety concerns for those 65 and older.

‘Potential benefit’

The regulator said the clinical trial results “were too limited to allow a reliable estimate of vaccine efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older.”

“Efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older is supported by immunogenicity data, emerging real world evidence and post-market experience in regions where the vaccine has been deployed, which suggest at this point in time a potential benefit and no safety concerns,” said the approval.

“Efficacy in this age group will be updated as additional data becomes available from currently ongoing trials.”

Health officials are expected to give a technical briefing on the approval at 10 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, members of his cabinet along with Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy Dr. Howard Njoo will give an update at 11:30 a.m. ET. CBC News will carry it live.

Regulator still reviewing 2 other vaccine candidates 

Earlier this week, Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, told the House of Commons health committee that the regulator has received all the necessary scientific information from the company but was still looking into questions about labelling and the product monograph — the information disseminated by Health Canada to medical professionals about how and when a vaccine should be administered and in what groups.

Health Canada has approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are already being rolled out in Canada.

Unlike those two shots, which are based on mRNA technology, the AstraZeneca uses more conventional viral vector technology.

Health Canada is reviewing two other vaccines: one from Johnson & Johnson and another from Novavax.

Other countries — notably Australia, the European Union and the United Kingdom —  have already authorized AstraZeneca for use in their jurisdictions.

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U.S. ticketing company's box office bust costing grassroots Canadian artists – CBC.ca

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Community theatre director Nicole Jennissen believed she did everything right staging her original play, Love in the Time of COVID, in September 2020.

It was written as a series of vignettes, keeping actors in two-or-three-person bubbles. It was performed outside obeying health guidelines. And it was completed inexpensively for non-profit Tumbleweed Theatre of Brooks, Alta.

“In fact, the only two lines on the budget were masks and hand sanitizer,” Jennissen said. 

But the romantic comedy became a tragedy.

Nicole Jennissen, left, acts in a scene from Love in the Time of COVID with fellow performer Cassandra Socchia. (Nicole Jennissen)

Tumbleweed used Seattle-based Brown Paper Tickets to handle ticketing online to avoid cash but Brown Paper is facing complaints and legal action over allegations of not paying collected ticket proceeds.

Jennissen alleged Brown Paper owes $2,030 for Love in the Time of COVID. Despite repeatedly contacting the company, she has no idea when or if Tumbleweed will be paid.

“It’s absolutely defeating,” she said. “We put all of this effort in and the money that our patrons expected to come to us is not sitting with us.”

A screenshot from Jennisson’s Brown Paper Tickets account shows the $2,030 earned from Love in the Time of Covid. (Nicole Jennissen)

Other Canadian artists and organizations alleged they too are owed money from Brown Paper or their audiences are owed refunds for events cancelled by the pandemic.

Washington State is suing, claiming it has received 583 complaints and the company owes more than $6.75 million US  across the United States. 

The state’s attorney general said 80,000 people in the U.S. may be affected by the company’s conduct.

Artists and organizations in Canada, having spent up to 11 months trying to get answers from the company, are wondering when or if they or their audiences will ever see the money they say Brown Paper collected on their behalf. 

A scene from Love in the Time of Covid, staged in a city park in Brooks, Alta. (Nicole Jennissen)

Popular with grassroots artists

CBC News called and emailed Brown Paper several times to comment on this story but received no reply.

In a September statement, the company promised better communication.

“While we can’t offer an estimated timeline for your specific refund at this moment, our team has been and continues to initiate full refunds to ticket holders… and pay event organizers,” the statement read.

“Like many businesses, we were unprepared for a crisis of this scale but we are making headway.”

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, seen here in 2017, alleged in a statement that 80,000 people in the U.S. have been impacted by Brown Paper Tickets’ conduct. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Brown Paper is popular with smaller arts organizations for its low fees. 

Audience members purchase their ticket from Brown Paper online, then, after the event, Brown Paper passes collected money to event organizers, minus a service charge.

Jennissen said $2,030 might not seem like a lot but Tumbleweed relies solely on ticket sales for funding.

“When we can’t do a lot of shows… that’s a huge cut for us,” she said. “This is going to affect the ability for us to do shows.”

Brown Paper Tickets has posted statements online apologizing for poor communication and is blaming the inability to pay out some events on a rash of pandemic-related cancellations. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Festival hurting

Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival artistic director Robert Remington said his festival sold $20,415 of advance tickets through Brown Paper for their June 2020 jamboree on Vancouver Island. 

In April 2020, the pandemic forced the festival to cancel. Organizers told Brown Paper to issue refunds, which should have taken two to six weeks.

Omie Wise performs at the 2019 Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival. Remington says money lost due to the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 festivals might impact the growing festival’s lineups going forward. (Robert Remington)

Almost 11 months later, no one has been paid back, Remington said, so the festival is reimbursing ticket holders from its own contingency fund.

“We just feel an obligation to our fans to take care of them,” Remington said. “For an all-volunteer, community-run festival… $20,000 is a lot of money.”

Refunding the tickets might mean a scaled-back festival going forward.

Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival artistic director Robert Remington says the festival will be back but might have to hire fewer headliners. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

‘It’s really frustrating’

Victoria-based roots rocker Stephen Fearing was to play a gig in March 2020. Brown Paper sold tickets online.

The show was cancelled over the pandemic. His promoter told Brown Paper to refund ticket buyers.

Some fans passed on a refund to donate $2,200 to Fearing but he still hasn’t seen a cent.

Musician Stephen Fearing said he is amazed by the generosity of his fans but angry he never received their donation. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

“Their generosity never got to me,” Fearing said. “It’s really frustrating.”

Marc Jenkins, another Victoria-based musician, had two Bob Dylan tribute shows at Herman’s Jazz Club in May 2020.

The shows were cancelled with $700 of tickets sold through Brown Paper. No refunds have yet been given.

Musician Marc Jenkins said any donations from his cancelled shows in Victoria would be helpful. The band is made up of independent musicians who have struggled for work since the pandemic started. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

“The most frustrating part is just being left in the dark and having to answer emails from folks,” Jenkins said. 

“I never got the money from them in the first place. I’m just standing in the middle getting yelled at.”

Jenkins said some of his audience members wanted to donate their money as well but he hasn’t been able to confirm how many and he hasn’t received any cash.

“It might not seem like a lot of money… but it is important,” Jenkins said. “It’s tough when there’s not many gigs coming in.”

Marc Jenkins said his cancelled shows at Hermann’s Jazz Club have led to numerous angry emails from would-be audience members unable to get a refund. (CHEK News)

Legal action

The lawsuit filed by Washington State is presently in the discovery stage, a spokesperson from the attorney general’s office said this week.

While individuals are not eligible to join in attorney general enforcement actions, the spokesperson said, the attorney general’s office “routinely” seeks court orders for financial restitution for all impacted consumers under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

At least two separate class action lawsuits have been filed in the U.S., but CBC hasn’t seen any that are certified.

Pittsburgh-based law firm Carlson Lynch is behind one.

“It’s sort of like musical chairs… when the music stopped, they were holding all this money,” said lawyer Jamisen Etzel.

“Where did the money go?”

CBC Vancouver’s Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

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Head of Canada's largest pension plan received COVID-19 vaccine in Dubai: memo – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The head of Canada’s largest pension fund received a COVID-19 vaccination while on a “very personal” trip to Dubai, he told staff in an email Thursday night.

Mark Machin disclosed the information in an internal memo after the Wall Street Journal reported he flew to the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, where he received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and is awaiting the second dose.

Machin said in the email viewed by The Canadian Press that he remains in Dubai with his partner “for many reasons, some of which are deeply personal.”

“This was a very personal trip and was undertaken after careful consideration and consultation,” the memo reads.

CPP Investments did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.

The federal government is actively discouraging Canadians from travelling abroad and recently implemented strict quarantine measures for those returning home.

Machin told staff he followed all travel protocols related to his role as head of the pension fund while on the trip.

“This trip was intended to be very private and I am disappointed it has become the focus of public attention and expected criticism,” he wrote.

Several politicians and health-care officials have become high profile flashpoints of public anger in recent months for leaving the country despite public health advice to the contrary.

Among them, the former CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre is now embroiled in litigation after his travel to the U.S. prompted the hospital to terminate his contract.

Rod Phillips, Ontario’s former finance minister, resigned from his post in late December after taking a personal trip to St. Barts.

CPP Investments, which had $475.7 billion in assets under management as of Dec. 31, invests money on behalf of retired and active employees covered by the Canada Pension Plan.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that while CPPIB is an independent organization, the revelation is “very troubling.”

“The federal government has been clear with Canadians that now is not the time to travel abroad,” Katherine Cuplinskas said in an emailed statement.

“We were not made aware of this travel and further questions should be directed to the CPPIB on this matter.”

Machin, who has been in his current role since 2016, joined CPP Investments in 2012. Prior to joining the pension fund manager, he spent 20 years at investment bank Goldman Sachs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.

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