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

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The latest:

The British government is investigating whether built-in racial bias in some medical devices led to Black and Asian people getting sick and dying disproportionately from COVID-19.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Sunday that the pandemic had highlighted health disparities along race and gender lines. He said that a third of intensive care admissions in Britain at the height of the pandemic were people from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds, more than double their share of the population.

Britain’s statistics office has found that in the first year of the pandemic, up to March 2021, Black and South Asian people in the U.K. had higher death rates than their white compatriots, even after factors like occupation and underlying health conditions were taken into account.

Javid said one issue was research showing that pulse oximeters, which measure blood oxygen levels through the skin, work less well on darker skin. He called it a “systemic” worldwide issue.

“Now, I’m not saying this was deliberate by anyone, I think it’s just, it’s a systemic issue potentially, with medical devices and it may go even further than that with medical textbooks, for example,” Javid told Sky News.

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, says the pandemic highlighted health disparities along race and gender lines. (Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout/Reuters)

Writing in the Sunday Times, he said that “the possibility that a bias — even an inadvertent one — could lead to a poorer health outcome is totally unacceptable.”

In a statement, the Health Ministry said the review will aim to identify where systematic bias and risk exist with current devices and to recommend how the issues should be tackled in the creation of medical devices from design to use.

Javid said he hoped to work with his U.S. counterpart, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and officials in other countries to eliminate bias in the health system.

He said a U.K. review, which will also look at gender bias, will report its findings by the end of January.

Britain has recorded more than 143,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest total in Europe after Russia.

Europe is currently the only part of the world where COVID-19 cases are rising, and many countries are reintroducing restrictions to fight the surge.

In the U.K., however, cases are broadly flat, and deaths and hospitalizations are slowly falling. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that he saw no need to move to the government’s winter “Plan B,” in which people would be required to wear masks indoors and advised to work from home.

— From The Associated Press, last updated at 12:45 p.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

A woman walks past a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal earlier this week. Health Canada on Friday approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children aged five to 11. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)


What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday afternoon, more than 257.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.1 million.

In Europe, ten of thousands of people demonstrated through central Brussels on Sunday to protest reinforced COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Belgian government to counter the latest spike in coronavirus cases.

Many among the police estimate of 35,000 at the rally had already left for home when the demonstration descended into violence as several hundred people started pelting police, smashing cars and setting garbage bins ablaze. Police replied with tear gas and water cannons.

Riot police in Brussels direct a water cannon at protesters during a demonstration on Sunday against the Belgium government’s reinforced COVID-19 measures. Many in the crowd also protested against the strong advice to get vaccinated and any moves to impose mandatory shots. (Olivier Matthys/The Associated Press)

French authorities sent police special forces to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France, as protests over COVID-19 restrictions erupted into rioting and looting for the third day in a row. On Sunday, many road blockades by protesters made travelling across the island nearly impossible.

Meanwhile, Dutch police have arrested more than 30 people amid unrest in The Hague and other towns in the Netherlands during protests against coronavirus restrictions on Saturday night. On Friday night, police in Rotterdam opened fire on rampaging rioters and arrested 51 people.

In the Asia-Pacific region, a group of international university students arrived in Australia from Singapore on Sunday after a nearly two-year pandemic absence, as a travel bubble between the two countries came into effect.

Fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore are now allowed into Melbourne or Sydney without the need to quarantine — part of Australia’s gradual reopening of its borders that began this month. Australia closed its international borders in March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In the Americas, Brazil’s Health Ministry on Saturday reported 8,833 COVID-19 cases and 217 deaths in the past 24 hours. The rolling 14-day average of deaths has fallen to 228 a day, the lowest since April 2020. That compares with a toll of almost 3,000 deaths a day in Brazil at the peak of the pandemic in April of this year.

The ministry said 70 per cent of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated and 90 per cent has received a first dose. On Saturday, the ministry launched a campaign to reach 21 million Brazilians who have not returned for a second shot.

— From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 12:45 p.m. ET

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Canada's inflation not caused by stimulus: Poloz – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says government spending and stimulus are not to blame for increased inflation.

“I think that’s not right,” he said during an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday. “In fact, what the stimulus did was to keep the economy from going into a deep hole in which we would have experienced persistent deflation.”

Inflation has reached 4.7 per cent, according to the latest numbers released by Statistics Canada in October. The Bank of Canada expects it to peak at the end of this year and start to decline in the latter half of 2022.

“We have to accept the fact that policy [stimulus] response was in the right time, well intended and it did avert all the worst calls that people were making at that time,” he said.

In response to affordability concerns, the federal government has repeatedly referenced their national childcare program, as a means to combat higher costs of living. Nine provincial and territorial governments have signed childcare deals with the federal government, while Ontario and New Brunswick have yet to sign on.

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said in a separate interview that the inflation problem is not a uniquely Canadian issue and can be attributed to global supply chain problems.

Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre says the federal government’s fiscal spending is to blame for inflation.

The average inflation rate for member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is currently at 4.3 per cent but Poilievre says the problem is only a global issue as a result of other central banks around the world taking a similar approach to Canada on fiscal stimulus.

“I think those are the countries that did the best job of countering the downside risk that everybody was facing,” said Poloz. “Read a book or two about the Great Depression in the 1930s and realize what was averted when we went through this.”

Poloz says that while governments can try to address affordability concerns in the short-term, any government policy normally takes a year or two to have any effect on inflation.

But he expects housing inflation to persist and says those rising costs can be something the federal government can address immediately.

“What they can do there is get all the levels of government together and figure out a list of things that they should be doing in order to promote supply of housing, we’re clearly short of supply and housing,” he said.

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

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The latest:

  • Liberals introduce bill to ban intimidation of patients and health-care workers.

More omicron infections were reported around the world on Sunday, with 13 cases of the new coronavirus variant found in the Netherlands and two in Australia, as more countries tried to seal themselves off by imposing travel restrictions.

Dutch health authorities announced that the 13 cases of the variant were found among passengers who were on flights from South Africa that arrived in Amsterdam on Friday.

The discovery of omicron, classified as a variant of concern last week by the World Health Organization, has sparked worries around the world that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic. Scientific research has yet to confirm those concerns about the infectiousness and transmissibility of the new variant.

First discovered in South Africa, the variant has also been detected in Britain, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

WATCH | What’s known about the omicron variant: 

What’s known about the omicron variant

2 days ago

The World Health Organization has declared a new variant of concern called omicron, first identified in South Africa. Scientists say there are a large number of mutations in the omicron variant, which means it could be more infectious and cause more severe illness. 3:00

New Zealand announced it was restricting travel from nine southern African countries because of the threat posed by the variant, and Japan widened its border controls to include more countries from the region.

Tourist-dependent Thailand, which only recently began loosening its tight border restrictions to leisure travellers from certain countries, announced a ban of its own on visitors from eight African counties. Similar restrictions took effect in the business hub of Singapore, which is barring entry and transit to anyone with a recent history of travel to seven southern African nations.

Sri Lanka banned disembarkation of passengers arriving from six African countries due to the detection of the omicron variant, as did the Maldives, the luxury Indian Ocean resort archipelago. In addition to the similar entry ban, quarantine officials in the Philippines have been ordered to track down recent travellers from southern Africa and put them in quarantine.

Israel banning all foreign travellers

Israel went further, barring entry to all foreign nationals, mandating quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad and red-listing travel to 50 African countries. On Sunday, it also approved use of the Shin Bet internal security agency’s controversial phone monitoring technology to perform contact tracing of individuals confirmed with the new omicron variant  in Israel.

Travellers arrive at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on Sunday. Israel has approved barring entry to foreign nationals and the use of controversial technology for contact tracing as part of its efforts to clamp down on a new coronavirus variant. (Ariel Schalit/The Associated Press)

Austria has detected its first suspected case of the omicron coronavirus variant in the state of Tirol, authorities in the alpine region said late Saturday.

A traveller who returned from South Africa last week tested positive for COVID-19 with indications of the new variant, though confirmation requires further sequencing over the coming days, Tirol authorities said in a statement.

Under Canada’s new rules, all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini or Mozambique are barred from entering Canada. Canadian citizens and permanent residents in those places are allowed to return home, but they must get tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and quarantine for 14 days. 

The tighter restrictions reflect steps rapidly taken by countries around the world to limit the spread of the omicron variant just days after it was identified by researchers in South Africa. The act-first-ask-questions-later approach reflected growing alarm about the emergence of a potentially more contagious variant in a pandemic that has killed more than five million people, upended lives and disrupted economies around the globe.

The United States is praising South Africa for sharing information about the new coronavirus variant. In a tweet on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked its government and scientists for their “professionalism and transparency.”

Safura Abdool Karim, a public health lawyer from South Africa and member of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, says there is a downside to the flight bans.

“In many senses, they are counterproductive in efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic because they disincentivize countries and almost punish countries for being open and transparent with their surveillance,” she told CBC News on Sunday.


What’s happening across Canada

So far, no cases of COVID-19 involving the omicron variant have been confirmed in Canada, although health officials reported almost 2,200 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, the vast majority in Ontario and Quebec.

In Ontario, health officials reported 964 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and one more death. It’s the highest number of new cases in a single day since the province’s fourth wave of the pandemic began in September.


What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday morning, more than 261.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus database. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.1 million.

In Asia, more than 2.48 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered on the Chinese mainland as of Saturday, according to data released on Sunday by China’s National Health Commission. 

The Philippines, meanwhile, will buy an additional 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, seeking to fully inoculate more than 80 per cent of its population against COVID-19 by mid-2022, a government official said on Sunday.

In the Americas, France’s minister for overseas territories will hold crisis talks about its Caribbean islands on Sunday, an official said, as the government looks to defuse tensions after more than a week of unrest stemming from its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic there.

PHOTOS | France mulls more autonomy for Martinique, Guadeloupe amid COVID-19 riots: 

A plan for compulsory vaccination for health workers stoked a sentiment among the majority Black population of Guadeloupe and Martinique of being excluded and marginalized from the mainland, although the same measure had already been introduced on the mainland.

The issue sparked protests and fanned long-standing grievances over living standards and the relationship with Paris. Protesters have insisted they should be allowed to make their own choices about health treatment.

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More areas placed under flood watch in southern B.C., as province braces for return of storms – CBC.ca

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THE LATEST:

  • Rain has begun to fall on the southern parts of British Columbia on Saturday, threatening communities already ravaged by floods and mudslides. Up to 120 millimetres of rain is expected.
  • The River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for the South Coast, Lower Fraser Valley and the southern regions of Vancouver Island.
  • Evacuation alerts were issued Saturday for some low-lying properties north of Pemberton and in B.C.’s Southern Interior. Find more information here.
  • Three highways were proactively closed on Saturday afternoon as the province braces for more damage from storms. For all road closures see here.
  • More than 2,000 residents in Merritt are under a boil water advisory after being allowed to return home, following the evacuation of the city due to floods.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that a new committee will be formed to manage the province’s recovery from the flooding disaster.
  • The provincial and federal governments will be matching all donations to the Red Cross’s flood fundraising campaign for one month, tripling the donation amount for each individual donation.
  • For a list of up-to-date flood warnings, visit the River Forecast Centre.

Communities throughout southern B.C. are preparing for an atmospheric river to strike on Saturday, even as federal plans to help the province recover from devastating floods and mudslides were announced.

Rain is falling in the region, but the heaviest precipitation is set to arrive on Saturday night, according to Environment Canada, which issued a rainfall warning on Friday and warned of another storm front arriving on Tuesday.

More than 100 millimetres of rain will hit near the mountains in southern B.C., with 80 millimetres of rain set to fall on the Fraser Valley, an area southeast of Metro Vancouver devastated by floods two weeks ago.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the community of Abbotsford in the Fraser Valley on Friday, seeing flood damage first-hand and talking to local officials, first responders and First Nations leaders.

Hundreds of people remain away from their homes due to the disaster, with supply chains still constrained and communities still dealing with standing water.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said the estimated 220 millimetres of rain falling on the city over the next five days would be a “situation they had never faced before.”

Trudeau said he saw “amazing” strength and resilience from first responders in Abbotsford, and he praised community efforts in the wake of the floods.

WATCH | The prime minister visits a community battered by floods: 

Trudeau tours flood-ravaged B.C.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his first visit to B.C. since record-breaking rainfall caused widespread flooding and mudslides in the province. 2:54

Later on Friday, he announced a committee set to shape the province’s recovery from the widespread floods at a joint media conference with B.C. Premier John Horgan.

“It’s not going to be enough for us to be there now and in the coming weeks — we need to be there for each other in the coming months and coming years,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, with Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun on Friday. Braun said the community is bracing for more than 200 millimetres of rain over the next five days, threatening a community already swamped by floodwaters. (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)

Highways proactively closed

The province closed some highways on Saturday as further damage from storms is anticipated.

The three highways affected are:

  • Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton.

  • Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet.

  • Highway 1 in the Fraser Canyon.

Highway 1 and Highway 3 closed at 2 p.m. PT, and Highway 99 closed at 4 p.m. PT.

Reopening times will vary based on weather conditions, the province said.

B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming urged residents not to travel unless they needed to over the weekend, and he said large-scale rebuilding operations will take extreme weather events into account.

“Consider restricting your travel because we have significant weather events,” he said on Friday. “We do need to have our highways functioning for the movement of goods and we need to be safe.”

B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming asked residents of the province to avoid travel this weekend unless it was essential, with further storms on the horizon. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Merritt evacuees to be allowed back in phases

In the community of Merritt in the province’s Interior, some residents are being allowed back to see how floods have impacted their homes, but others remain away due to damage to power lines.

Re-entry to the city of 7,500 is being done on a phased basis after it was entirely evacuated following floods on Nov. 15. Currently, residents in phases 1 to 3 of the plan can return.

Greg Lowis, an emergency public information officer in Merritt, said there has been “substantial” damage to the city’s infrastructure, including a collapsed bridge and damage to dikes.

More than 2,000 of the returning evacuees are under a boil water advisory as sewage systems in the city remain damaged by the floods.

Donna Ray’s home was placed in Phase 4 of the re-entry plan, meaning there is no estimated time for when she can return. She described her future as “uncertain,” as short-term forecasts threaten to bring more damage to the city.

“The looming threat … isn’t going to affect me anywhere I am because my house is already ruined,” she said. “It can’t do any more damage.”

Water floods a street in a residential part of Merritt, B.C. Many residents of the city of 7,500 are unable to return to their homes due to damage to power and water lines. (CBC)

Premier admits dike management model flawed

The province says supply chains are getting back to normal after significant damage to road networks. 

Federal support to clear the backlog at the Port of Vancouver, as well as fuel shipments from the U.S., is said to have helped alleviate shortages.

Horgan told the news conference on Friday that neighbouring Washington state was also helping with water management.

The City of Sumas, Wash., said damage to levees during the previous storm event may lead to greater water flows, and the Nooksack River was expected to reach the “moderate flood” stage on Sunday.

Particular attention is being paid to the Nooksack and whether it will overflow its dikes. If that happens, floods may worsen in the Fraser Valley region.

Braun, Abbotsford’s mayor, said at a news conference on Saturday that he thought the city could handle the incoming precipitation after dike repairs were made.

But he also said the Nooksack riverbed had experienced sediment buildup during the last period of heavy rain, making forecasting a potential flood scenario tougher.

Crews repair the Sumas dike in Abbotsford, B.C., after heavy rains and flooding. Premier John Horgan says the current dike management system in the province, largely left to municipalities, is flawed. (City of Abbotsford)

“We’re going to watch the Nooksack like a hawk,” he told reporters. “We are not anticipating to lift any evacuation orders before the middle of next week.”

Braun said he appreciated provincial and federal help with rebuilding the dikes in the city.

WATCH | Metro Vancouver mayor calls for more uniform flood mitigation:

Port Coquitlam, B.C., mayor calls for more uniform flood preparation after ‘big wake-up call’

4 hours ago

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West called on the provincial and federal governments to provide more funding for flood response and mitigation in British Columbia. 1:14

Horgan admitted that B.C.’s dike management system, which is largely left up to local municipalities, is flawed and needs changing.

“[The diking system] was a bad call,” he said. “There needs to be more than those local dollars at play if we’re going to protect communities going forward.”

The premier said he would be working with Trudeau to get provincial and federal funding and support communities with their flood management plans.

READ MORE:

  • The flood disaster has caused an unprecedented load on shelters throughout the province, with a co-ordinator in Abbotsford saying they were seeing record numbers of beds being occupied.

  • The B.C. Agriculture Council said some farms have lost acres of crops due to the floods, and it may take years for them to recover.

  • One of those farms was run by Avtar Dhillon, who lost his saffron crop to the floods in the Sumas Prairie region of Abbotsford. He says he has not lost hope and wants to grow the crop in B.C. again.

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