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

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The latest:

Germany’s health minister said there are at least “10 hard weeks” ahead amid difficulties in getting large quantities of vaccines.

Health Minister Jens Spahn, who faces political pressure over the slow start to Germany’s vaccination campaign, wrote on Twitter Thursday that Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors should hold a special meeting to discuss vaccine strategy.

Spahn said vaccine manufacturers also should be invited to “explain how complex production is.” He stressed that “the quality must be very good” in order to protect people.

Spahn wrote that “we will go through at least another 10 hard weeks with the scarcity of vaccine.”

A man asks for information at the Corona Center in Duisburg, Germany on Monday. The former musical theatre has been turned into a COVID-19 test and vaccination centre. (Martin Meissner/The Associated Press)

Germany’s current lockdown, its second, was recently extended until Feb. 14. Infection figures are falling, but officials are worried about the potential impact of coronavirus variants such as the one first detected in Britain.

Some 1.67 million people in Germany had received the first dose of the vaccine and over 318,000 the second by Tuesday, about a month into the vaccination campaign.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:15 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

Questions around who gets vaccine doses and when is a pressing issue in Canada, too, as provinces scramble to adjust their vaccination programs to deal with supply issues.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday the president of the European Commission has reassured him any vaccine export controls the EU enacts won’t impact shipments of Canada’s doses from Europe.

WATCH | Health officials looking at double masking, regional travel rules as concerns about new COVID-19 variants grow:

Health officials are raising the possibility of regional travel restrictions and double masking as concerns about new COVID-19 variants grow. 2:04

Trudeau said EU President Ursula von der Leyen told him transparency measures taken by the EU will not affect Canada’s Pfizer and Moderna vaccine deliveries from Europe.

The EU has threatened to impose export controls on vaccines produced within its borders, and warned pharmaceutical companies that have developed coronavirus vaccines with EU aid that it must get its shots on schedule. All of Canada’s Pfizer and Moderna vaccines come from Europe.

Canada isn’t getting any deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine made in Europe this week, and shipments are set to resume next week.

As of 10:20 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 763,319 cases of COVID-19, with 57,740 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,589.

Ontario, which is expected to provide an update on COVID-19 modelling projections later in the day, reported 56 additional deaths and 2,093 new cases on Thursday.  A day earlier, Ontario had reported 1,670 new cases of COVID-19 — its lowest single-day case number since late November.  

The province said 1,338 people with COVID-19 were in hospital on Thursday, with 358 people in intensive care units.

In Quebec, health officials reported 1,328 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The two hard-hit provinces have imposed restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting strained health-care systems.

Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:

WATCH: Frustration over Saskatchewan’s anti-lockdown protesters targeting top doctor:

Anti-lockdown protestors in Saskatchewan are increasingly targeting the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Saqib Shahab. Many, including the premier, say they’ve crossed a line by showing up at his home over the weekend. 2:01

-From The Canadian Press, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 10:25  a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of early Thursday morning, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 globally was approaching 101 million, with more than 55.8 million cases of the novel virus considered recovered or resolved. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

In the Americas, the Biden administration is projecting as many as 90,000 Americans will die from the coronavirus in the next four weeks. That warning came Wednesday as the administration held its first televised science briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic. In the briefing, experts outlined efforts to improve the delivery and injection of vaccines.

The administration is examining additional ways of speeding up vaccine production, a day after President Joe Biden announced the U.S. plans to have delivered enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end of summer.

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said there’s concern about virus variants. But he said vaccines provide a “cushion” of effectiveness, noting the government was working with pharmaceutical companies on potential “booster” shots for the new variants.

The Biden administration is asking citizens to recommit to physical distancing measures and mask-wearing, pointing to scientific models that suggest those practices could save 50,000 lives over the coming months.

People walk by a sign for both a COVID-19 testing clinic and a COVID vaccination location outside of a Brooklyn hospital on Wednesday. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In Chile, the health regulator approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use among its population by a unanimous vote of its advisory board.

Colombia, meanwhile, will ban flights from Brazil effective Friday over concerns of a variant of the coronavirus that is circulating in that country.

Colombia President Ivan Duque on Wednesday announced the 30-day measure. No flights will take off from Colombia to Brazil either. In addition, anyone who arrived from in Colombia from Brazil between Jan. 18 and Wednesday will have to quarantine for 14 days.

The Brazil variant was first identified in four travellers who were tested at an airport outside Tokyo. It contains mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Middle East, violent confrontations between protesters and security forces in northern Lebanon left a 30-year-old man dead and more than 220 people injured, the state news agency said Thursday.

Frustrations boiled over amid deteriorating living conditions and strict coronavirus lockdown measures that have exacerbated a severe economic and financial crisis, the worst in the Mediterranean country’s history.

People run away from tear gas canisters fired by security forces during ongoing demonstrations in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli on Wednesday amid rising anger over a total lockdown aimed at stemming a spike in coronavirus cases. (Fathi Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images)

The violence in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city and the most impoverished, marked a serious escalation in protests that began Monday and continued for three straight days into Wednesday night.

In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand’s health authorities conducted further tests and began contact tracing efforts after two more cases of the South African variant were confirmed in Auckland.

Vietnam confirmed its first two locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in nearly two months.

More than 90 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for COVID-19 will be produced in Japan by a Japanese pharmaceutical company under a licensing agreement, officials said Thursday. The production will cover three quarters of the 120 million doses the British pharmaceutical company has pledged to supply to the country.

In Africa, hard-hit South Africa expects the flight carrying its first one million coronavirus vaccine doses to arrive on Feb. 1.

Morocco will start rolling out its mass coronavirus vaccination program on Thursday, the first African country to do so.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said another 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been secured for the continent through the Serum Institute of India.

Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong told reporters that with the new doses, on top of the 270 million doses announced earlier, “I think we’re beginning to make very good progress.”

As with many vaccine deals, there are no immediate details on cost or how much people might pay per dose.

Parts of the African continent are now seeing a strong second surge in coronavirus infections, which Nkengasong calls “very aggressive now.”

Africa has more than 3.4 million confirmed virus cases, including more than 87,000 deaths.

In Europe, Portugal is in a terrible phase of the coronavirus pandemic and can hope for only limited help from abroad, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said, as hospital staff warned they were being overwhelmed.

WATCH | WHO calls on Europeans to be patient:

While acknowledging the fatigue due to COVID-19 restrictions, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, asked people to stay the course as the pandemic is far from over. 0:52

With a total of 668,951 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11,305 deaths, including a record 293 dead on Wednesday, Portugal has the world’s highest seven-day average of new daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants.

“There is no point in feeding the illusion that we are not facing the worst moment,” he told TVI broadcaster overnight. The situation was not bad but terrible, he said, “and we’ll face this worst moment for a few more weeks, that is for sure.”

At least two dozen French police officials are facing internal punishment for holding a party inside a police station where they were filmed dancing the Macarena and violating multiple virus protection rules.

A police headquarters spokesperson said Thursday that those involved in the party in the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers were ordered to file reports on their actions and that “sanctions are planned.”

In a video of the event posted by online media Loopsider, several people are seen dancing closely together without masks in a crowded room. The video prompted criticism at a time when French police are out every night enforcing a 6 p.m.-6 a.m. virus curfew, and are under scrutiny for abuses during violent protests and identity checks.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10 a.m. ET

Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.

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Firing Bank of Canada head would spark global ‘shock wave’: ex-budget watchdog – Global News

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If any Canadian government were to fire the head of the Bank of Canada, the result would be a “global financial shock wave,” warned the country’s former budget watchdog.

In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorenson, former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said the Bank of Canada’s reputation is one as a “strong” and “transparent” institution.

“We’ve gotten used to, over the past three decades, having an independent central bank that is independent — making decisions on these policy interest rates that is divorced from the political environment,” said Page, now president and CEO of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.

“It would be quite a shock wave, a global financial shock wave, to have a government literally remove a central banker who, by all intents, seems to be doing a fine job — but is doing a very difficult job.”

Page had been asked what the effects could be if a Canadian government were to fire a central banker.

That comes as Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has been leading a campaign of criticism centring on the Bank of Canada’s handling of rampant inflation, which sits at 6.7 per cent.

The domestic target is two per cent per year.

Read more:

Canada’s treasury ‘depleted’ as budget weans COVID spending, eyes uncertainty

As part of his criticism of the central bank, Poilievre has vowed that he would fire Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, if elected prime minister. That comment triggered rapid criticism over concerns it signalled an intent by the perceived leadership frontrunner to interfere with the bank.

Long-standing tradition is that the Bank of Canada operates independently of political decisions, with governors appointed on seven-year terms.

Officials have emphasized that those longer terms are what allows them to operate with a “measure of continuity over economic cycles — not electoral cycles — and allows for decision making that considers the long-term economic interests of Canadians.”

The Bank of Canada has opted to keep interest rates at rock-bottom during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is among the factors experts say have fuelled skyrocketing home prices. And as inflation keeps pushing the cost of living higher and higher, critics of the central bank like Poilievre have pointed the finger and argued its low rates are powering domestic inflation.

Canada, however, is far from alone.

Read more:

Conservative leadership hopefuls debate future of party, trade Netflix suggestions

Inflation is rampant around the world right now, with no clear end in sight.

High consumer spending amid the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has combined with supply chain shocks worsened both by factory closures caused by the reality that the virus is still circulating in high numbers, as well as the sharp shortages in supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Click to play video: 'Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022'



1:51
Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022


Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022 – Apr 25, 2022

“I think it’s a very simplification to assume that if we just change the leader, that somehow this sort of global environment — and inflation truly is a global issue — just somehow disappears,” Page said.

Sorenson asked: “Can the Bank or the Canadian government on their own bring inflation down in this country?”

Page said: “No.”

“This is a global phenomenon. A lot of it is supply-related, and it’s because of those very strong supports that went in 2020 to help during the lockdown,” he added.

“The economy’s come back really fast and eventually markets will adjust.”

So when might Canadians expect to see inflation back in a more normal range?

Page said the Bank of Canada’s moves to raise interest rates will play a role in helping slow the economy.

“I think over the next couple of years we could see inflation back maybe in that three per cent range.”


Click to play video: 'Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada'



2:01
Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada


Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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David Milgaard, who advocated for justice after he was wrongfully convicted of murder, has died

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David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent more than 23 years in prison, has died. Milgaard was only 17 when he was arrested for the rape and murder of Gail Miller in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He was released from prison in 1992 after DNA evidence proved his innocence. In 1999, Milgaard was awarded $10 million in a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the Canadian government. Milgaard and two friends had been on a road trip, driving through the city when the murder happened.

Milgaard, who was born in Winnipeg, had been living in Calgary with his son and daughter.

Milgaard maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. His mother Joyce Milgaard, who died in 2020, tirelessly advocated on her son’s behalf. In the decades since his release, Milgaard had spoken publicly, calling for changes in how Canadian courts review convictions.

His picture is now included in the Canadian Journey’s gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Isha Khan, the museum’s CEO, said Milgaard was a human rights defender.

“He is someone we know, and the reason we know is that he was able to tell his story, and it takes a special kind of person to continue to try to connect with people,” she said, adding his work is not over.

“There are people across this country in correctional institutions who have been wrongfully convicted, who need a voice and don’t have a voice that David Milgaard did for whatever reason it may be, and it is our job to listen and to look for those stories.”

Milgaard had recently been pushing for an independent review board to prevent miscarriages of justice.

“David was a marvellous advocate for the wrongly convicted, for all the years he’s been out since 1992. We’re going to miss him a lot. He was a lovely man,” James Lockyer, a Toronto-based lawyer, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

Lockyer, a founding director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, joined Milgaard’s case following his release in 1992 and helped him through the process to get DNA testing done. Lockyer said as a result of the DNA evidence, a man named Larry Fisher was arrested, and charged with the rape and murder. Fisher died while serving a life sentence.

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Ontario international students, families making 'massive sacrifices' for the Canadian dream – CBC.ca

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The death of an Indian student in Toronto last month made international headlines, but while Kartik Vasudev’s story ended in tragedy, his parents’ sacrifices offer a glimpse into the hardships that many international students and their families face to achieve the dream of a future in Canada.

Vasudev’s father, Jitesh Vasudev, told CBC News he and his wife spent their entire life savings and mortgaged their house to take out a loan of $50,000, just to afford the first year of his son’s education in Canada, before he was shot and killed. 

“The only mistake of my innocent child was that he dreamt big of studying in a foreign country, and he wanted to make a name of himself while representing India,” said Vasudev’s mother, Pooja Vasudev, in a video posted to Instagram. “We had a lot of dreams and expectations with our child, he was going to be our support in our old age.”

International students who spoke to CBC News say those kinds of sacrifices are common, and can take a major toll. 

They say international students can pay almost four times more in tuition fees than domestic students, and are calling for change.

An Ontario Auditor General’s report from last year highlighted the reliance of Ontario colleges on international student tuition.

The report showed that while international students represented only 30 per cent of the total enrolment in public colleges, they accounted for 68 per cent of tuition fee revenue at a total of $1.7 billion. A majority of students — 62 per cent — were from India.

According to a 2020 report from Global Affairs Canada, international students contributed $16.2 billion and $19.7 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2017 and 2018.

A better future in Canada

Students and advocates told CBC News that many international students from India come to Canada to become permanent residents and build a better future for themselves as well as their families.

They say there are limited employment opportunities in India compared to Canada, leading their parents to go to great lengths to send them abroad.

Jobanpreet Singh knows that struggle firsthand.

Jobanpreet Singh, left, says his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and also sold assets just to pay for his first year of college. (Submitted by Jobanpreet Singh)

“[Vasudev’s family] sacrificed a lot to send their child to Canada for a brighter future,” the 22-year-old international student said. “I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for them.”

Born and raised in a farmer’s family in Punjab, India, Singh came to Canada as an international student in August 2021, where he is studying at the Academy of Learning Career College in Toronto. 

For his first year in Canada, his family spent around $30,000 on his tuition and living expenses.

Singh said his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and sold assets just to be able to pay for his first year of college.

“[International students] have work stress, school stress, and we have extremely high tuition fees, which is topped off with the fact that we can only work 20 hours a week,” he said.

Singh said it is very difficult to handle expenses and living costs in Toronto while working those limited hours.

According to a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), “limiting off-campus work to 20 hours per week reflect the fact that the focus for international students in Canada is on their studies.”

Tuition gap between domestic and international students

Sarom Rho from advocacy group Migrant Students United says international students who come to Canada also face rising costs of tuition fees, which are already three to four times more than domestic tuition.

“The majority of current and former international students and their families have made massive sacrifices for them, for example by selling lands, taking out massive educational loans, selling assets, just to pay for these extremely high tuition fees,” said Rho.

Rho added that because of these financial burdens, international students also face significant mental health issues.

Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities said in a statement that it understands that as newcomers to Canada and Ontario, international students can face unique challenges. 

“Student wellbeing is paramount, and we support the steps taken by Ontario’s colleges and universities to ensure that international students are well supported before and after their arrival in Ontario,” said James Tinajero, spokesperson for the ministry.

Gurpreet Singh, a 22-year-old Seneca College student, came to Canada in September 2020. His parents mortgaged their entire agricultural farmland to send him to Canada.

Gurpreet Singh has completed half of his education and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. He says he is paying for the rest of his studies on his own. (Submitted by Gurpreet Singh)

He said because of his international student status in Canada, he can’t apply for scholarships and bursaries at his college.

“That’s a huge drawback for us,” said Gurpreet. “If we’re not getting anything extra [over] the domestic students and we pay the same taxes, then why do we pay this huge amount for our tuition?”

The ministry says college and university boards of governors have the full authority to set tuition fees for international students.

“Colleges and universities are allowed the discretion to establish tuition fees for international students at levels the institutions deem appropriate,” said Tinajero.

Gurpreet has completed half of his education, and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. But instead of asking for help from his family, Gurpreet is taking the responsibility on himself.

According to the IRCC, international students can work full-time when they are on a scheduled break, like during winter and summer holidays, or during a fall or spring reading week. 

Gurpreet is currently on a summer break from his college. He says this is his last chance to work full-time before he begins his third semester in the fall.

For the next four months of summer break, Gurpreet says he’ll be working in two different warehouses doing long days of general labour.

“Right now I’ve [got] to concentrate on my work to pay off my fees, so I’m willing to compromise for the next four months,” he said.

“I know this is going to be hard, but these hardships are temporary, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

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