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What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday

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Israel has opened most of its economy as part of its final phase of lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions, some of them in place since September.

Bars and restaurants, event halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary education may reopen to the public on Sunday, with some restrictions on entry and capacity. The move comes after months of government-imposed shutdowns.

The Israeli government approved the easing of limitations Saturday night, including the reopening of the main international airport to a limited number of incoming passengers each day.

Most large public activities, including dining at restaurants, are available to people vaccinated against the coronavirus. Israel has sped ahead with its immunization campaign. More than 52 per cent of its population has received one dose and almost 40 per cent have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, one of the highest rates in the world.

Meanwhile, Canada’s chief public health officer pointed to the country’s accelerating vaccine campaign as a reason for optimism, but she also warned against complacency.

Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement on Saturday that more than 2.2 million vaccine doses have been administered across Canada as of Friday and that cases have “levelled off” after experiencing a decline from mid-January through mid-February.

But she noted that these encouraging signs don’t mean pandemic challenges have ended, and she urged Canadians to continue following public health guidance and practising individual precautionary measures.

In an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday, Tam said it’s important to “just hang on in there for a bit longer” so that vaccines can be provided “to as many people as possible” and Canadians can “break the most severe consequences, the crisis phase of this pandemic.”

Canada is expanding its stockpile of shots to protect against COVID-19, prompting provinces to accelerate their vaccine rollouts.

Health Canada approved the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, making it the fourth to be approved for use in the country. Meanwhile, the manufacturer of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is ramping up shipments ahead of the summer.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has also recommended that time between doses of COVID-19 vaccines can be changed from three weeks to four months, which would allow provinces to at least partially inoculate as many people as quickly as possible.

What’s happening in Canada

As of 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 886,100 cases of COVID-19, with 30,042 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,235.

Alberta announced 341 new COVID-19 cases and an additional death on Saturday.

 

Linda Dickinson, a senior living in Alberta, got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. She says getting the vaccine made her feel like a free person. 0:48

Saskatchewan added 163 new cases and three more fatalities.

Manitoba on confirmed 71 more cases of COVID-19 and one more death from the illness.

Ontario reported 1,299 new cases and 15 additional deaths on Sunday after registering 990 new cases and six new deaths on Saturday.

The COVID-19 hot spots of Toronto and Peel Region — which have been under stay-at-home orders since Dec. 26 — will move into the less strict grey zone of Ontario’s reopening framework, starting Monday. Non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen with strict capacity limits.

Stay-at-home orders are also being lifted in North Bay-Parry Sound, and the region will return to the framework’s red-control level.

 

Toronto has begun administering vaccines to people in the city’s shelter system. Provincial officials have updated the vaccination framework to include those experiencing homelessness as part of its Phase 1 priority for vaccinations. 6:47

Quebec reported 707 new cases and seven new deaths on Sunday.

Quebec provincial police handed out 36 tickets of $1,500 to a group of people who gathered in a chalet in Stoneham, outside Quebec City, on Saturday night. Police say neighbours called them about an illegal gathering at a rented chalet.

Police say most of the people came from outside of the Capitale-Nationale region, which is slated to go from being a designated red zone to a less-restrictive orange zone on Monday.

New Brunswick confirmed six new cases Saturday as the entire province prepares to return to the less-restrictive yellow phase at the end of the weekend.

Nova Scotia reported two new cases and two new recoveries on Sunday.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case and one new recovery on Sunday.

Yukon has unveiled its strategy on what the territory will need to achieve before it will reduce or modify some of its COVID-19 restrictions, including changes to self-isolation requirements, expanding social bubbles and easing capacity limits inside bars and restaurants.

Nunavut reported four new cases on Saturday.


What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 116.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with more than 65.9 million of the cases listed on the Johns Hopkins University tracking site as resolved. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million.

Austrian authorities have suspended inoculations with a batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as a precaution while investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after the shots, a health agency said on Sunday.

“The Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BASG) has received two reports in a temporal connection (closeness in time) with a vaccination from the same batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the district clinic of Zwettl” in Lower Austria province, it said.

One 49-year-old woman died as a result of severe coagulation disorders, while a 35-year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering, it said. A pulmonary embolism is an acute lung disease caused by a dislodged blood clot.

“Currently there is no evidence of a causal relationship with the vaccination,” BASG said.

Swiss newspaper Niederoesterreichische Nachrichten, as well as broadcaster ORF and the APA news agency, reported that the women were both nurses who worked at the Zwettl clinic.

BASG said blood clotting was not among the known side-effects of the vaccine. It was pursuing its investigation vigorously to completely rule out any possible link.

AstraZeneca had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

In the United States, the Democratic-led Senate has passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion US COVID-19 relief bill by a razor-thin margin, sending it back to the House of Representatives, which could pass it on Tuesday and have it ready for a presidential signature before unemployment aid programs expire on March 14.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden makes remarks from the White House after his pandemic relief legislation passed in the Senate on Saturday. He said stimulus cheques would be delivered starting this month. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

 

After an all-night debate, the Senate voted 50-49 for the package on Saturday, with no Republicans voting in favour.

The package includes a third round of stimulus payments up to a maximum of $1,400 for individual Americans earning $75,000 or less per year.

Source: – CBC.ca

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Iran indicts 10 over Ukraine plane crash, prosecutor says; Canada demands justice

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has indicted 10 officials over the shooting-down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020 that killed all 176 people on board, a military prosecutor said on Tuesday.

In a report published last month, Iran’s civil aviation body blamed the crash on a misaligned radar and an error by an air defence operator. Ukraine and Canada, home to many of those who died, criticised the report as insufficient.

“Indictments have been issued for 10 officials involved in the crash of the Ukrainian plane…and necessary decisions will be taken in court,” Gholam Abbas Torki, the outgoing military prosecutor for Tehran province, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA. He did not elaborate.

In Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “tremendously concerned about the lack of accountability” from Iran about the disaster.

Canada, along with its partners, will continue to press Tehran to deliver justice and compensation for families of the victims, he told a briefing when asked about the indictments.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight on Jan. 8, 2020, shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport.

The Iranian government later said the shooting-down was a “disastrous mistake” by its forces at a time when they were on high alert in a regional confrontation with the United States.

Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.

 

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)

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Canadian oil producers CNRL, Cenovus plan new emissions targets, no pivot to renewables

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CNRL

By Rod Nickel and Nia Williams

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) -Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL) and Cenovus Energy Inc, two of Canada‘s biggest oil producers, said on Tuesday they would set new goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but not pivot away from their core businesses.

Oil sands producers, which extract some of the world’s most carbon-intense crude, face investor pressure to reduce their environmental impact. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to raise Canada‘s carbon price steeply over time to position the country for carbon-neutral status by 2050.

CNRL’s corporate emissions-cutting goal will be announced in the second quarter, President Tim McKay said at the Scotiabank CAPP Energy Symposium, which is being held remotely.

The company cut carbon intensity per barrel by 18% between 2016 and 2020 and sees carbon capture as a way to further reduce its environmental toll, McKay said.

It does not plan major investments in renewable energy as European oil majors have done.

“The preference is to stick with what we know and what we’re good at,” McKay said. “There’s going to be a need for oil long-term.”

Cenovus is also planning new emissions-cutting targets and might invest in renewable power partnerships.

“Where we’re likely to remain is focused on oil and gas production,” Cenovus Chief Executive Officer Alex Pourbaix told the symposium. “But don’t look for us to become a late-entrant renewable-power developer.”

Suncor Energy Inc is on track to achieve its goal of cutting the emissions intensity of production by 30% versus 2014 levels by 2030, said Chief Financial Officer Alister Cowan, and is now talking about updating its target beyond 2030.

Imperial Oil Ltd could adopt technologies of parent company Exxon Mobil Corp like carbon capture and biofuel blending, Senior Vice President of Finance Dan Lyons said.

“When it comes to wind farms and solar farms, that’s not really in our wheelhouse.”

Sticking to fossil fuels will jeopardize the businesses long-term, said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada.

“They will go the way of Blockbuster Video once Netflix arrived,” Stewart said.

Canada‘s transition to a low-carbon economy could displace up to 450,000 oil and gas workers over the next three decades, TD Economics said.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Peter Cooney)

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Saskatchewan sees bigger, C$2.6-billion deficit to fight pandemic

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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Saskatchewan forecast on Tuesday a C$2.6-billion ($2.07 billion)deficit in the current 2021-22 fiscal year, up from last year’s C$1.9 billion, as the pandemic drives up costs.

The province, whose economy relies on farming, oil production and mining, is running a larger deficit so it can effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said.

Canadian provincial governments, like the national government, have run bigger deficits since the pandemic began, trying to slow its spread and buttress economies that lockdowns have hit hard.

With government debt rising, credit rating agencies are watching closely for provincial strategies to tame deficits, TD Economics said in a report last month.

Saskatchewan expects to continue running deficits until balancing the books in 2026-27, the provincial government said while introducing its new budget.

The Saskatchewan Party government, led by Premier Scott Moe, forecast spending to increase by 7% to C$17.1 billion from last year, including costs such as vaccinations, tests for infection and purchases of protective equipment.

It forecast provincial revenues for the 2021-22 fiscal year at C$14.5 billion, up nearly 3% from last year.

Saskatchewan’s real gross domestic product looks to grow 3.4% in 2021 after contracting 4.2% last year, the government said.

The budget assumes an average North American oil futures price of $54.33 per barrel during its fiscal year, generating C$505.1 million in royalties.

Neighboring Alberta estimated in February that its 2021-22 budget deficit would shrink to C$18.2 billion, as its economy starts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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