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

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The latest:

Brazil currently accounts for one-quarter of the entire world’s daily COVID-19 deaths, far more than any other single nation, and health experts are warning that the country is on the verge of even greater calamity.

The nation’s seven-day average of 2,400 deaths is poised to reach 3,000 within weeks, six experts told The Associated Press. That’s nearly the worst level seen by the United States, although Brazil has two-thirds its population. Spikes of daily deaths could soon hit 4,000; on Friday there were 3,650.

Having glimpsed the abyss, there is growing recognition that shutdowns are no longer avoidable — not just among experts, but also many mayors and governors. Restrictions on activity they implemented last year were half-hearted and consistently sabotaged by President Jair Bolsonaro, who sought to stave off economic doom. He remains unconvinced of any need for a clampdown, which leaves local leaders pursuing a patchwork of measures to prevent the death toll from spiralling further.

It may be too late, with a more contagious variant rampaging across Brazil. For the first time, new daily cases topped 100,000 on Thursday, with many more uncounted. Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University who advised several Brazilian governors and mayors on pandemic control, anticipates the total death toll reaching 500,000 by July and exceeding that of the U.S. by year’s end.

WATCH | Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ as COVID-19 death toll rises:

Brazil has entered the deadliest phase of the pandemic so far, with the daily death toll exceeding 2,000 on some days this past week. But the government is still downplaying the disaster, and President Jair Bolsonaro has told people to ‘stop whining.’ 2:04

“We have surpassed levels never imagined for a country with a public health-care system, a history of efficient immunization campaigns and health workers who are second to none in the world,” Nicolelis said. “The next stage is the health system collapse.”

The system is already buckling, with almost all states’ intensive care units near or at capacity. Dr. Jose Antonio Curiati, a supervisor at Sao Paulo’s Hospital das Clinicas, the biggest hospital complex in Latin America, said its beds are full, but patients keep arriving. The city’s oxygen supply isn’t guaranteed, and stocks of sedatives required for intubation in intensive care units will soon run out.

“Four thousand deaths a day seems to be right around the corner,” Curiati said.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 960,196 cases of COVID-19, with 41,599 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,851.

In Saskatchewan, the opposition NDP and a body that represents teachers in the province are calling for faster implementation of rapid tests in schools. 

NDP education critic Carla Beck noted some tests were already “on the doorsteps” of some schools in Saskatchewan, but there was still confusion about things like permission forms and procedures for administering them.

WATCH | How businesses and schools use rapid COVID-19 tests:

Many businesses and schools across Canada are utilizing rapid COVID-19 tests and onsite testing technology to help catch asymptomatic cases and prevent spread of the virus. 7:41

Manitoba registered 57 more COVID-19 cases and one death on Saturday.

The province also says that it has now administered more than 163,000 vaccine doses and that more than 10 per cent of residents aged 18 or older have received a shot.

Ontario logged 2,453 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day total in more than two months. The province also reported 16 more deaths.

Saturday’s daily case count comes before the province moves Hamilton and Eastern Ontario Health Unit into more restricted areas of its colour-coded reopening framework on Monday. As well, five regions in the province’s grey lockdown zone will see some restrictions loosen on Monday and later in April. 

Quebec confirmed 1,009 new cases and eight deaths. It’s the first time in a month and a half that the province’s saw more than 1,000 new infections in a single day.

People wearing face masks are seen in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick reported 12 new cases on Saturday, all in the Edmundston region.

The province’s northwest remains under tightened restrictions following a spike in variant cases. The area was moved from yellow to red for a four-day “circuit breaker” on Thursday.

Prince Edward Island will open its first mass vaccination clinics on Monday. 

The clinics in Charlottetown and Summerside are for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, as opposed to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is being distributed in pharmacies to younger Islanders who must work with the public.

A mass vaccination clinic is shown in Charlottetown before its Monday opening. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Nova Scotia confirmed five new cases, all in the central health zone. The new cases are close contacts of previously reported cases, including one probable case reported on Friday at Sackville Heights Junior High in Lower Sackville.

In a news release, Premier Iain Rankin said a mobile testing unit will be set up in the Sackville region on Saturday and Sunday.

Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new infections. Effective midnight Saturday, the entire province will move to Alert Level 2, allowing households to keep a “steady 20” group of consistent contacts.

What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 126.2 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 Europe, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the country needs a strict lockdown to last at least 10 to 14 days to reduce the rapid rise of coronavirus infections, which has been fuelled by a more contagious variant.

A woman wearing a face mask is seen in Berlin on Saturday. (John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images)

In the Americas, the U.S. government will distribute 11 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine next week in its continued effort to get 200 million shots in people’s arms in the first 100 days of President Joe Biden’s term.

In Africa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta restricted travel in the capital Nairobi and four other counties as infections hit record levels in East Africa’s richest economy.

In Asia, Pakistani Minister for Planning and Development Asada Umar said disregard for precautionary measures has led to a sudden rapid increase in the country, and he warned of strict actions if people don’t follow guidelines to counter the spread of the virus.

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Cargill to build new Canadian canola plant

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Cargill Inc will build a $350-million canola plant in Regina, Saskatchewan, the U.S. agribusiness said on Thursday, in the latest project that aims to profit from booming demand for oilseeds.

Canola futures hit record highs this week and soybeans have hit multi-year tops as demand for canola to process into vegetable oil and animal feed exceeds supply.

Refiners are also planning to produce renewable diesel from canola and soybeans to comply with government mandates in Canada and several U.S. states to make cleaner-burning fuels.

“There’s going to continue to be strong pull, we believe, into countries like China, from a food perspective,” Jeff Vassart, President of Cargill’s Canadian unit, said in an interview. “We do see increasing demand for renewable diesel too and we want to make sure that we’re positioned for it.”

The plant will have capacity to crush 1 million tonnes of canola annually.

Privately held Cargill expects the plant to start operating by early 2024, creating 50 full-time jobs.

Cargill said it would also modernize its two canola crush facilities in Camrose, Alberta, and Clavet, Saskatchewan to increase volume.

In March, rival Richardson International said it would double its canola-crushing capacity at Yorkton, Saskatchewan, making it Canada‘s largest such plant. Cargill also said last month it would expand its U.S. soybean-crushing capacity.

Vassart said the company is confident that Canada will produce enough canola to match demand, as farmers boost yields and, to a lesser extent, expand plantings. If production does not increase enough, Canada may export less canola seed, he said.

Canadian canola stocks are expected to dwindle to an eight-year low by midsummer, but Cargill expects to be able to continue crushing at a strong pace, Vassart said.

 

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; editing by Grant McCool)

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U.S., other countries deepen climate goals at Earth Day summit

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By Jeff Mason and Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and other countries hiked their targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions at a global climate summit hosted by President Joe Biden, an event meant to resurrect U.S. leadership in the fight against global warming.

Biden unveiled the goal to cut emissions by 50%-52% from 2005 levels at the start of a two-day climate summit kicked off on Earth Day and attended virtually by leaders of 40 countries including big emitters China, India and Russia.

The United States, the world’s second-leading emitter after China, seeks to reclaim global leadership in the fight against global warming after former President Donald Trump withdrew the country from international efforts to cut emissions.

“This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” Biden, a Democrat, said at the White House.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the new U.S. goal “game changing” as two other countries made new pledges.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who visited Biden at the White House this month, raised Japan’s target for cutting emissions to 46% by 2030, up from 26%. Environmentalists wanted a pledge of at least 50% while Japan’s powerful business lobby has pushed for national policies that favor coal.

Canada‘s Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, raised his country’s goal to a cut of 40%-45% by 2030 below 2005 levels, up from 30%.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced his most ambitious environmental goal yet, saying the country would reach emissions neutrality by 2050, 10 years earlier than the previous goal.

Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic, said the summit had more targets than an archery competition.

“Targets, on their own, won’t lead to emissions cuts,” she said. “That takes real policy and money. And that’s where the whole world is still way off course.”

PUTIN SAYS PROBLEMS GO WAY BACK

Most of the countries did not offer new emissions goals. Chinese President Xi Jinping said China expects its carbon emissions to peak before 2030 and the country will achieve net zero emissions by 2060.

Xi said China will gradually reduce its coal use from 2025 to 2030. China, a leader in producing technology for renewable energy like solar panels, burns large amounts of coal for electricity generation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed giving preferential treatment for foreign investment in clean energy projects, but also made an apparent reference to the United States being historically the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter. “It is no secret that the conditions that facilitated global warming and associated problems go way back,” Putin said.

The U.S. climate goal marks a milestone in Biden’s broader plan to decarbonize the U.S. economy entirely by 2050 – an agenda he says can create millions of good-paying jobs but which many Republicans say will damage the economy.

The U.S. emissions cuts are expected to come from power plants, automobiles, and other sectors across the economy. Sector-specific goals will be laid out later this year.

The new U.S. target nearly doubles former President Barack Obama’s pledge of an emissions cut of 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

CEMENTING CREDIBILITY

How Washington intends to reach its climate goals will be crucial to cementing U.S. credibility on global warming, amid international concerns that America’s commitment to a clean energy economy can shift drastically from one administration to the next.

Biden’s recently introduced $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan contains numerous measures that could deliver some of the emissions cuts needed this decade, including a clean energy standard to achieve net zero emissions in the power sector by 2035 and moves to electrify the vehicle fleet.

But the measures need to be passed by Congress before becoming reality.

The American Petroleum Institute, the top U.S. oil and gas lobbying group, cautiously welcomed Biden’s pledge but said it must come with policies including a price on carbon, which is a tough sell among some lawmakers.

‘THE U.S. IS BACK’

The summit is the first in a string of meetings of world leaders – including the G7 and G20 – ahead of annual UN climate talks in November in Scotland. That serves as the deadline for nearly 200 countries to update their climate pledges under the Paris agreement, an international accord set in 2015.

Leaders of small island nations vulnerable to rising seas, like Antigua and Barbuda and the Marshall Islands, also spoke at the summit.

World leaders aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold scientists say can prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

A Biden administration official said with the new U.S. target, enhanced commitments from Japan and Canada, and prior targets from the European Union and Britain, countries accounting for more than half the world’s economy were now committed to reductions to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed delight that the United States was back in the climate fight.

“The importance of this day in my judgment is the world came together,” Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry told reporters at the White House.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Valerie Volcivici; additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Elaine Lies and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo, David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Jake Spring and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia, David Stanway in Shanghai, writing by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Lisa Shumaker)

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Ontario third wave, blame piled on Doug Ford

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By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Ontario Premier Doug Ford, facing backlash over his government’s handling of the pandemic, resisted calls to resign on Thursday as Canada‘s most populous province grappled with a third wave of COVID-19 infections that critics said could have been prevented.

With pressure building on hospitals, Ottawa is sending federal healthcare workers to help. Ontario had 3,682 new infections on Thursday and 40 deaths, the highest of any province.

#Dougfordmustresign has trended on Twitter this week, while newspaper editorials and provincial opposition leaders also called on Ford, 56, to step down.

Some 46% of Ontario residents have a negative view of Ford, up nine percentage points from a week earlier, according to an Abacus Data poll on Wednesday. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives(PC) trailed the opposition provincial Liberals by one point in the same poll, ahead of a June 2022 provincial election.

“Mr. Ford’s real mistake has been repeatedly ignoring the deep bench of scientists who are there to advise him, impulsively imposing himself as the province’s Fearless Decider,” an editorial in the national Globe and Mail newspaper said this week.

The premier ruled out resigning on Thursday, almost a week after issuing unpopular orders to close playgrounds and allow police to randomly stop people, both of which were abandoned within 48 hours.

Multiple police departments refused to enforce Ford’s orders while Toronto-area health units unilaterally ordered businesses that experience outbreaks to close.

“I’m not one to walk away from anything,” an emotional Ford told reporters on Thursday. “I know we got it wrong and we made a mistake, and for that I’m sorry.”

Ford said he was apologizing for acting “too quick”. Critics said the problem was that he opened the economy up too fast after the second wave, and then moved too slowly when it was obvious that cases were spiking.

Had Ontario kept stay-at-home measures in place longer in February, the case-count “would not have been nearly as bad as what we’re seeing now,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital.

“We saw case numbers rising for a month … and they were never really acted on,” said Bogoch, who is a member of the Ontario government’s vaccination task force.

Ford extended stay-at-home measures until mid-May last week and on Thursday said his government would provide paid sick leave to workers who need to isolate, a measure many say would have helped prevent the third wave.

On Thursday, Ford said 40% of the province would have at least one vaccine shot by the end of the month.

But the political damage could be lasting.

“It’s going to be a pretty hard hole to climb out of,” said Frank Graves, president of polling company EKOS Research.

Ford, the brother of Toronto’s late mayor Rob Ford who once admitted to smoking crack, has been in power since 2018, sweeping to an unlikely victory after the PC’s former leader was forced to resign in the midst of the election campaign.

During the 2019 federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau capitalized on Ford’s unpopular cost cuts, attacking him repeatedly while touring Ontario, a crucial battleground province that is home to almost 40% of Canada‘s population.

“This does remind me of 2019 where absolutely the best asset in Ontario for the federal Liberal Party was Doug Ford,” a well-placed Liberal source said.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; additional reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Diane Craft)

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