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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday –



The latest:

  • WHO teams visits Wuhan food market in search of clues into spread of coronavirus.
  • Hospital numbers must meet target to allow Alberta gyms and restaurants to reopen Feb. 8.
  • Disrupted schooling, learning loss will have effects long after pandemic, say education experts.
  • Portugal close to running out of ICU beds for COVID patients.
  • Moderna to cut deliveries to Canada in new blow to vaccination campaign.

A World Health Organization team looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has visited the food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was linked to many early infections.

The team members visited the Huanan Seafood Market for about an hour on Sunday. The market was the site of a December 2019 outbreak of the virus.

Scientists initially suspected the virus came from wild animals sold in the market. The market has since been largely ruled out but it could provide hints to how the virus spread so widely.

The WHO mission has become politically charged, as China seeks to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak.

“Very important site visits today — a wholesale market first & Huanan Seafood Market just now,” Peter Daszak, a zoologist with the U.S. group EcoHealth Alliance and a member of the WHO team, said in a tweet. “Very informative & critical for our joint teams to understand the epidemiology of COVID as it started to spread at the end of 2019.”

A World Health Organization team is briefed outside the Huanan Seafood Market on the third day of their field visit in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Sunday. (Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press)

Earlier in the day, the team members were also seen walking through sections of the Baishazhou market — one of the largest wet markets in Wuhan — surrounded by a large entourage of Chinese officials and representatives. The market was the food distribution centre for Wuhan during the city’s 76-day lockdown last year.

The members, with expertise in veterinary medicine, virology, food safety and epidemiology, have so far visited two hospitals at the centre of the early outbreak — Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital and the Hubei Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine Hospital.

What’s happening in Canada

As of 6 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 775,048 cases of COVID-19, with 54,186 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,942.

In British Columbia, some Whistler residents are calling for a ban on out-of-town visitors to the ski town amid a surge in cases, while others fear that doing so would adversely affect the community’s economy.

Alberta reported 383 new COVID-19 cases and 11 new deaths on Saturday. The number of people in hospital fell to 582, 12 fewer compared to Friday’s update.

Restaurants and gyms will be permitted to reopen for in-person service on Feb. 8 in the province, but only if the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stays below 600.

When it comes to gyms and studios, the province is allowing only one-on-one classes with a trainer and by appointment.

Saskatchewan saw 258 new cases and eight new deaths. The new figures come as the province said it will extend COVID-19 restrictions for three more weeks and its premier said no additional measures are needed.

Manitoba registered 166 new  cases and two more deaths.

Ontario reported 2,063 new cases and 73 additional deaths.

Also on Saturday, the province announced that 112 tickets have been issued to businesses and individuals in its COVID-19 inspection blitz so far this year. 

Quebec announced 1,367 new cases and 46 more deaths

People wear face coverings as they skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa on Saturday. (Olivier Plante/Radio-Canada)

Meanwhile, Premier François Legault said on social media on Saturday that he plans to announce changes to Quebec’s COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, adding that he hopes to be able to relax some restrictions, particularly those around retail stores, if the situation permits.

New Brunswick registered 12 new cases and an additional death on Saturday.

Meanwhile, most residents can now expand their number of close contacts as the government loosened rules for parts of the province under orange-phase restrictions. However, the Moncton region and the Edmundston and Grand Falls region remain in the red phase and are in full lockdown.

Nova Scotia reported three new cases. Officials say all three are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and are currently self-isolating.

Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases. Meanwhile, health officials say it is postponing its plans to vaccinate people 75 years and older because of the reduced supply of the Moderna vaccine.

Nunavut added a new case, but its caseload remained the same after also reporting one new recovery.

What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday morning, more than 102.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 56.8 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at just over 2.2 million.

WATCH | CBC medical contributor answers your COVID-19 questions:

The CBC’s John Northcott puts your coronavirus-related questions to family physician and CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin. 9:19

In the Americas, Peru has imposed new lockdowns in the capital and several other regions, starting Sunday and lasting until Feb. 15.

It’s the second time in 10 months that Peru has announced such rules. All non-essential shops will close and people are urged to work from home. Peru has also suspended inter-regional land and air travel and extended a ban on flights coming from Europe.

A worker measures a shopper’s temperature before entering a supermarket in Lima, Peru on Saturday. (Raul Sifuentes/Getty Images)

In Europe, Austria and Germany say they will provide medical assistance to Portugal as the country struggles with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Sunday it will receive intensive care patients from Portugal, without specifying a number.

A driver shows an identity card to checkpoint personnel and Portuguese National Republican Guards at a checkpoint in the Portuguese-Spanish border crossing between Valenca and Tui on Sunday. (Miguel Riopa/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the German military plans to send medical aid and doctors to Portugal in the coming days.

Portugal said on Saturday it only had seven vacant beds left in intensive care units set up for COVID-19 cases on its mainland.

The country has the world’s highest seven-day rolling average of cases and deaths per capita. It has so far reported more than 12,000 COVID-19 deaths and more than 711,000 cases.

In Asia, South Korea will extend its social distancing curbs by two weeks until the end of the Lunar New Year holidays as new COVID-19 infection clusters emerge in the country, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Sunday.

That means a continued ban on gatherings of more than four people and a restaurant curfew. South Korea reported another new 355 cases on Sunday.

In Africa, Tunisia has become the third country on the continent to register Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.

To date Sputnik V has been registered in Russia, Belarus, Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Serbia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Hungary, the U.A.E., Iran and the Republic of Guinea. It has also been approved for use by the Palestinian Authority.

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Why Can’t The Federal Government Eliminate Systemic Racism In The Canadian Military?



“Racism in Canada is not a glitch in the system; it is the system.

By Harinder Mahil

A recently released report indicates that systemic racism is rampant throughout the Canadian Armed Forces which is putting the country’s national security at risk. 
The report released by Defence Minister Anita Anand says that the military has not acted on dozens of previous studies and reviews on racism in the ranks over the past two decades. The report says the military is not doing enough to detect and prevent white supremacists and other extremists from infiltrating its ranks.
I have read numerous stories about the racism in the military over the years but never thought it was such a big problem. I am shocked at the extent of the problem as identified in the report.
The report concludes that more and more Canadians will have no interest in joining the military until it fixes its long-standing issues of racism, abuse of power, gender discrimination and sexual misconduct.
“Unless it is rapidly reined in and addressed, the impact of this toxicity will linger for years, affecting the reputation of the Defence Team to the point of repulsing Canadians from joining its workforce”
The report says military leadership must accept that some members will either leave or need to be removed.
The report comes after a yearlong review by a panel of retired Armed Forces membersand follows numerous incidents linking some military personnel with violent extremism and hate groups, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
“Racism in Canada is not a glitch in the system; it is the system,” reads the report by the Minister of National Defence’s Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination.
There has been increasing pressure on the military to do more to crack down on hateful ideologies within its ranks.
“A common thread was evident throughout these consultations: membership in extremist groups is growing, it is becoming increasingly covert, and technological advances such as Darknet and encryption methods pose significant challenges in detecting these members,” the report said.
White men account for 71 per cent of Canadian military members but only 39 per cent of the country’s civilian workforce. The report notes Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities and women are significantly under-represented in Canada’s armed forces.

Over the last two decades the military has been seeking recruits from the Indigenous and visible minority communities. Why would Indigenous and visible minority communities’ members join the military if they are discriminated against by others especially those who have links with neo-Nazis?

I am of the opinion that the report only scratches the surface of the problem. It talks about consultations but who is consulted. 
If the military is serious about dealing with the problem it should monitor the social media posts of its members and weed out those who harbour white supremacist views and recognize those who are likely to be drawn towards extremist groups.

Harinder Mahil is a community activist and President of the West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WCCAR).

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Government’s changing vape strategy shifts focus away from cigarettes, advocates fear



OTTAWA — In the eight years or so since he opened his first vape shop in Ottawa, Ron Couchman said a great sense of community has been lost.

A former cigarette smoker himself, Couchman said he remembers when his store operated almost as a support group for people trying to find a healthier alternative to cigarette addiction.

“We could teach other people how to vape when people were struggling to get off cigarettes, we’d play board games and have movie nights,” Couchman said.

As provincial and federal legislation started to clamp down on those activities, he said the camaraderie has faded.

Couchman is a passionate advocate for the potential of vaping to help people leave more harmful tobacco habits behind. At one point the federal government appeared to be onside with that, he said, but that seems to be changing.

“The last few bouts of legislation (have) really swung the other way to the point that it’s serving as a disincentive to quit smoking,” he said.

The government is in the midst of its first review of the 2018 legislation that legalized vaping, and appears to be veering away from the narrow path between treating vapes as a harm reduction tool, or a danger in and of themselves.

The harms of vaping relative to smoking tobacco cigarettes are still something of a mystery, but the government’s website suggests it’s safer than inhaling cigarette smoke.

Advocates on both sides of the issue say regulations have become tougher on vapes and have more or less abandoned the product as an alternative to cigarettes, leaving them to wonder how the government plans to deal with cigarette smoking in Canada.

“They bet heavily on harm reduction as a way to address tobacco. It hasn’t worked for them, and they didn’t have a more comprehensive plan,” said Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

Health Canada’s goal is to reduce the number of people who smoke tobacco to just five per cent by 2035, from about 14.8 per cent in 2019.

An audit of the department shows tobacco smoke is declining in popularity, but mainly because young people aren’t picking up the habit and existing smokers are dying.

Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Canada, with approximately 48,000 people dying from smoking-related illnesses every year, the government says.

Vaping remains relatively unpopular for adults over the age of 25, with just three per cent reporting that they vaped within the last month in 2020, according to the results of the Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey. That’s about the same it was in the 2017 Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey.

But vaping has spiked among youth between 15 and 19 years old, to 14 per cent in 2020 up from six per cent in 2017.

In response, the government clamped down on vaping with a range of regulations, banning promotion and advertising of the products in certain spaces and putting limits on the amount of nicotine that can be in them. It’s also expected to restrict which flavours can be sold.

In their most recent budget, the Liberals proposed an excise tax on vape products as of Oct. 1.

Now, it’s as if Health Canada is fighting the war on two fronts, Callard said.

The department has been focusing resources on youth vaping, leaving anti-smoking groups like Callard’s concerned that a tobacco strategy may be falling by the wayside.

The recent audit shows the department has been taking on projects to reduce tobacco use, but it won’t be enough to meet their own targets.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups like Rights4Vapers say smokers are being punished for making a healthier choice.

“It is probably the only addiction currently where we continue to use fear and shame to get individuals to quit,” said Maria Papaioannoy, the group’s spokesperson and a vape store owner.

The strategy does appear to be at odds with the harm-reduction approach the government has embraced when it comes to to drug use, said David Sweanor, chair of the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics.

“We’ve seen the success replicated numerous times simply by giving people alternatives, which is consistent with what we’ve done with things like clean needles, safe injection sites,” said Sweanor, who contributed to the 1988 Tobacco Products Control Act.

The government must table its legislative review this year. The discussion paper the department released touches almost exclusively on how to toughen vaping regulations, Sweanor said, though that’s not what the legislation was primarily set out to do.

“Is it accomplishing what it’s supposed to be accomplishing? Are there ways that you can improve it?” he said.

“Instead, what we got is a document that takes very few aspects of, primarily, their anti-vaping strategy.”

In the paper the government says the review will focus on vaping regulations because the vaping products market in Canada has changed so much in the years since the law was passed.

The review gives the opportunity to examine whether the act offers the government enough authority to address the rise in youth vaping, the paper said.

“A full assessment of whether the measures taken since the legislation was introduced in 2018 have been effective in responding to the rise in youth vaping will benefit from more time and data. Subsequent reviews will continue to monitor youth use along with other dimensions of the Act,” the document reads.

Advocates for and against using vaping as a way to transition people away from harmful cigarette smoke agree, tobacco is being left out of the conversation.

“Tobacco remains the fundamental problem,” said Callard. “It’s tobacco that continues to kill.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.


Laura Osman, The Canadian Press



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Multiple reports say Marner’s SUV was stolen in an armed carjacking in west Toronto



There are multiple reports that an SUV belonging to Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner has been stolen in a carjacking in the city’s west end.

The Toronto Sun, Global News and City TV all quoted unnamed police sources as saying Marner’s black Range Rover was taken outside a movie theatre in Etobicoke.

Police confirmed there was a carjacking without any injuries, but would not give any information out on the victims or witnesses.

The Sun says Marner was shaken but not hurt.

Police tweeted they were called to The Queensway and Islington Avenue area around 7:46 p.m. for reports of a man robbed of his car.

Authorities are looking for three suspects armed with two handguns and a knife, who took off in the stolen vehicle.

Marner and the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday in a seventh and deciding game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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