The director of the World Health Organization’s Europe office said Thursday the continent is now entering a “plausible endgame” to the pandemic and that the number of coronavirus deaths is starting to plateau.
Dr. Hans Kluge said at a media briefing that there is a “singular opportunity” for countries across Europe to take control of COVID-19 transmission due to three factors: high levels of immunization due to vaccination and natural infection; the virus’s tendency to spread less in warmer weather; and the lower severity of the Omicron variant.
“This period of higher protection should be seen as a ceasefire that could bring us enduring peace,” he said.
As the winter subsides in much of Europe in the coming weeks, when the virus’s transmission naturally drops, Kluge said the upcoming spring “leaves us with the possibility for a long period of tranquility and a much higher level of population defence against any resurgence in transmission.”
Even if another variant emerges, Kluge said, health authorities in Europe should be able to keep it in check, provided immunization and boosting efforts continue, along with other public health interventions.
He said, however, this demands “a drastic and uncompromising increase in vaccine-sharing across borders,” saying vaccines must be provided to everyone across Europe and beyond. Scientists have repeatedly warned that unless the majority of the world’s population is vaccinated, any opportunities for COVID-19 to keep spreading means it could mutate into deadlier and more transmissible forms.
Numerous countries across Europe, including parts of Britain and Denmark, have dropped nearly all their coronavirus restrictions after saying that Omicron has peaked. Others, including Spain, are now considering whether to consider COVID-19 to be an endemic problem that might be handled more like seasonal flu.
Italy will soon announce a timetable to roll back its COVID-19 curbs, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Wednesday, as a surge in cases fuelled by the Omicron variant started to slow.
At WHO’s Geneva headquarters, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned this week that the world as a whole is still far from exiting the pandemic.
“We are concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines — and because of Omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity — preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary,” Tedros said Tuesday. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The agency has said even countries with high levels of vaccination should not succumb to political pressure and release all of their coronavirus measures at once.
Kluge noted that there were 12 million new coronavirus cases across WHO’s European region last week — the highest single weekly total during the pandemic. He said that spike was driven by the hugely infectious Omicron variant, but admissions to hospital intensive care units haven’t risen significantly.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | No clear end to Parliament Hill protest for police or residents:
With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.
In Atlantic Canada, the total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Brunswick stood at 165, health officials said Wednesday — a fresh high in the province. Of those, 16 people were in intensive care units, the provincial COVID-19 dashboard showed. The province also reported four additional COVID-related deaths and 381 additional lab-confirmed cases.
In Nova Scotia, some hospitals were facing serious strain on capacity amid pandemic pressures, a health official said. The province, which provides some detail on different types of COVID admissions in its daily releases, said Wednesday that 92 people who were admitted because of COVID-19 were receiving specialized care in a dedicated unit, including 13 people in ICU. An additional 255 people were in hospital with COVID-19, health officials said, including people who were admitted for another reason but tested positive on arrival and those who contracted COVID-19 after being admitted. The province also reported six additional deaths and 395 lab-confirmed cases.
Prince Edward Island health officials said Wednesday that 15 people were in hospital due to COVID-19, including two people in the province’s ICU. “There are eight other people in hospital who were admitted for other reasons and were COVID positive on admission or tested positive after being admitted,” a statement from the province said. Health officials also reported 238 additional lab-confirmed cases.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials said 20 people were in hospital with COVID-19, including nine people in critical care. The province also reported four additional deaths and 248 lab-confirmed cases.
In Central Canada, Ontario’s top doctor is set to hold a news conference on the pandemic later Thursday, his first since public health restrictions began to ease this week. Dr. Kieran Moore’s afternoon briefing comes after modelling from the province’s expert pandemic advisers predicted COVID-19 cases would rise after Monday’s partial reopening.
The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said relaxing public health measures aimed at controlling the Omicron variant would increase virus spread, but the experts couldn’t say by how much. The group said outcomes will depend partly on how many people have recently been infected, a number that is hard to determine because the province has limited access to PCR tests.
The province’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 2,939 hospitalizations on Wednesday — down by 152 from a day earlier — with 555 people in ICU due to the virus. The province also reported 72 additional deaths and 3,909 lab-confirmed cases.
Quebec, meanwhile, reported 2,730 hospitalizations — down by 122 from a day earlier — with 204 people in intensive care. The province also reported 50 additional deaths and 3,816 lab-confirmed cases.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba on Wednesday reported a total of 744 COVID-19 hospitalizations — up by seven from a day earlier — with 54 people in ICUs. The province also reported seven additional deaths and 526 additional lab-confirmed cases.
Manitoba’s chief public health officer said that data shows the province may have passed the peak of the Omicron-fuelled surge and restrictions on gathering sizes and people allowed at sports events will be relaxed beginning on Tuesday.
“The next few weeks will be critical as we monitor these trends and determine if it is appropriate to reduce additional restrictions over the longer term,” Dr. Brent Roussin said.
Saskatchewan on Wednesday reported a pandemic high of 372 hospitalizations on its COVID-19 dashboard — up by two from a day earlier — with 40 in ICUs. The province also reported four additional deaths and 611 lab-confirmed cases.
Health officials in Alberta on Wednesday reported a total of 1,598 COVID-19 hospitalizations — up by 13 from a day earlier — with 106 people in the province’s ICUs. The province also reported 14 additional deaths and 3,024 lab-confirmed cases.
Across the North, the public health state of emergency in Nunavut expires Thursday. The territory on Wednesday reported 22 additional cases of COVID-19. Yukon saw 18 additional cases, while the Northwest Territories reported 148 new cases.
In British Columbia, the province reported 988 COVID-19 hospitalizations — down by 47 from a day earlier — with 136 people in the province’s ICUs. Health officials also reported 18 additional deaths and 1,776 lab-confirmed cases.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
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As of early Thursday morning, roughly 385.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.7 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, a total of 55 new COVID-19 infections were found among Olympics-related personnel on Feb. 2, the chair of the Beijing 2022 medical expert panel said on Thursday — the highest daily tally so far.
New Zealand on Thursday announced a phased reopening of its border that has been largely closed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but travel bodies said self-isolation rules need to be removed to revive the struggling tourism sector.
In the Americas, COVID-19 infections and deaths are still increasing, but the rise in infections seems to be slowing in places hit earliest by the Omicron variant, the Pan American Health Organization said.
Mexico, for example, topped five million total confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, registering 42,181 new cases and 573 new deaths, according to health ministry data.
Africa has not reached an endemic phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Meanwhile, health officials in South Africa on Wednesday reported 4,502 additional cases of COVID-19 and 175 deaths.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia said Thursday that citizens will be required to take the COVID-19 booster shot to be able to travel abroad starting Feb. 9, state media reported. The kingdom is also requiring visitors to present a negative PCR result before entry.
Iran on Wednesday reported 59 additional deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, with 38,160 additional cases reported.
-From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 7:55 a.m. ET
The Canadian Congress on Inclusive Diversity & Workplace Equity presents the 2nd Annual George Floyd Memorial Lecture
TORONTO, May 18, 2022 – The Canadian Congress on Inclusive Diversity and Workplace Equity (Canadian Congress) brings you the 2nd annual George Floyd Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM EDT. Canadian Congress supports & empowers people by the exchange of ideas & strategic training on progressive ways of eliminating systemic racism in the country & transforming the culture of their organizations. May 25th will mark the second anniversary of the killing of George Floyd.
The Memorial Lecture, which is also the call for a National Social Justice Day, presents leaders in organizations, institutions, and the government to learn and discuss the strategic actions they have been taking since the video that changed the world two years ago; or has it? Join the conversation, Wednesday, May 25th, as prominent social justice advocates, community activists, diversity consultants, community, corporate, religious, academic, and political leaders equip thousands of people with tips, tools, techniques, training, and technology to eliminate racism and discrimination.
This year’s theme is The Quest for Black Representation, Empowerment & Brilliance, while enlightening delegates on the UN’s Resolution 68/237 proclaiming 2015 to 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. The 2nd George Floyd Memorial Lecture will bring together a lineup of exceptional speakers, which includes the following:
Alex Ihama, Executive Director of the Canadian Congress on Inclusive Diversity, President, International School of Greatness and a global strategist, executive coach, professional speaker & author of The Mystique of Leadership.
Isaac Olowolafe Jr., an award-winning entrepreneur, philanthropist, board member at the Sick Kids Hospital, Founder/CEO, of The Dream Maker Realty and Olowolafe Family Scholarship Award at the University of Toronto, the largest endowment for African Studies in any Canadian university.
Patricia DeGuire, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission, and a mediator, adjudicator, and arbitrator in human rights and equity for more than 25 years.
Rosemary Sadlier, OOnt (Order of Ontario), a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant; past President of the Ontario Black History Society & author of seven books on African Canadian history.
Farley Flex, a Partner at Urban Rez Solutions – Social Enterprise, a former Canadian Idol judge, an inductee into the Scarborough Walk of Fame, recipient of the Harry Jerome Award for Entertainment and Community Service, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award for Protecting the World’s Most Vulnerable Children and two Juno Awards as Manager of Maestro Fresh-Wes.
Dr. Helen Ofosu, an Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Carleton University.
Dr. Pat Francis, global transformation speaker, author, business consultant, pastor of the Kingdom Covenant Ministries & Founder of the Canadian Black Directorate and For a Better Canada.
Pauline Christian, award-winning entrepreneur and community advocate, immediate Past- President of the Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) & Founder/CEO of Best Lifestyle Residence.
Dr. Ardavan Eizadirad, Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University & author, Decolonizing Educational Assessment: Ontario Elementary Students and the EQAO.
Dr. Wesley Crichlow, a Critical Race Intersectional Theorist at the Ontario Tech University and co-author of Diversity Issues in Policing.
Ray Williams, ICD.D, Managing Director & Vice Chairman of Financial Markets at National Bank Financial & Co-Founder of the Black Opportunity Fund which is committed to dismantling the impacts of systemic racism by providing funding and helping to build the capacity of Canadian Black led businesses.
Tiffany Callender, CEO of the Federation of African Canadian Economics (FACE), a coalition of Canadian Black business support organizations that worked with the federal government to co-develop and administer the $291.3 million Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund.
Kevin Junor, retired Deputy Superintendent from the Ministry of the Solicitor General & Regimental Sergeant Major; an awardee of the Order of Military Merit & Harry Jerome Professional Excellence
Dr. Delores Mullings, the inaugural Vice-Provost for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at the Memorial University in Newfoundland, and Labrador; author of Confronting Anti-Black Racism.
Tonya Williams, the Canadian actress, producer, director, and activist who is globally known for her role as Dr. Olivia Barber Winters on the American daytime drama The Young and the Restless; also, the Founder & Executive Director of Reelworld Screen Institute & Festival.
Neville Wright, a 3x Olympian who spent almost two decades as an athlete representing Canada on the World Stage in Track and Field and Bobsleigh; a performance therapist and resilience coach.
Dr. Francis Mpindu, York Region Police Chaplain for almost two decades, Community & Police Relations facilitator, Workplace Fairness Analyst, and the Founder of Niigon Abin Resolutions Services.
Fareed Khan; human rights advocate, a regular journalist on CBC, CTV, Global, Canadian Press, Toronto Star, OMNI, and Founder/CEO of the anti-racism group, Canadian United Against Hate.
In addition to other executives at the Canadian Congress, Chrissy Benz, Henry Luyombya, Moy Fung and Roberto Hausman & a series of entertainers which include the globally renowned Dwayne Morgan, two-time Canadian National Poetry Slam Champion, there is a segment for a group of mayors to share their municipal strategy to dismantle colonialism, embrace diversity & build cohesive cities and towns.
Confirmed mayors are Kassim Doumbia of Shippagan, New Brunswick and the only Black mayor in Canada, and Amarjeet Sohi of Edmonton, Alberta. Others are Philip Brown of Charlottetown, Edward Macaulay of the town of Three Rivers and Basil Stewart of Summerside, all on Prince Edwards Island.
According to Nosakhare Alex Ihama, the Executive Director of the Canadian Congress on Inclusive Diversity & Workplace Equity and Executive Producer of the George Floyd Memorial Lecture:
“No call for social justice can be louder than the graphic live transmission of the modern-day lynching of George Floyd, with no mercy on the part of the law, law enforcers and inequitable justice of our days, even as the dying man cried repeatedly for his long-dead mom to come to his rescue. Two years after over a billion people watched the gruesome murder of George Floyd live on social media, the unjust killings of Black men and women by the police are still on the rise. When coupled with mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, only about a week before Floyd’s second death anniversary, it is clear we need more allies to help reduce these atrocities towards people of African descent.”
Tickets are free and available at www.canadiancongressondiversity.ca.
THE CANADIAN CONGRESS ON INCLUSIVE DIVERSITY & WORKPLACE EQUITY
The Canadian Congress is a national organization with over 100 academic and experiential experts, researchers, and facilitators in Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) that offers an end-to-end strategic framework for organizations, institutions, and the government to eliminate systemic racism from their brand, culture, systems, policies, and management.
To enable organizations to foster a cohesive, inclusive, and progressive corporate culture, we facilitate customized training programs, audit policies and processes from an EDI lens, engage their staff and coach their executives to maximize Inclusive Diversity & Workplace Equity.
While we organize some of the largest and most impactful events in the country, empowering thousands of Canadians each year to stand up for social justice, we also help organizations to develop and implement short & long-term corporate EDI strategies, specialized EDI initiatives, content for Learning Management Systems (LMS), and a three-to-five-year corporate strategy and strategic roadmap to facilitate the transformation of their corporate culture.
For more information about this or other programs by the Canadian Congress, sponsorship packages, strategic partnerships and opportunities to develop corporate EDI strategies, audit policies from an EDI lens and facilitate corporate workshops and other EDI services for your organization, contact Henry Luyombya at +1-416-854-8935 or email email@example.com
Keep up with Canadian Congress on Inclusive Diversity & Workplace Equity:
For more media inquiries and interviews, kindly contact Sasha Stoltz Publicity, Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804
China has lifted a 3-year ban on Canadian canola, Ottawa says – CBC News
A three-year Chinese ban on Canadian canola has come to an end, according to the federal government.
In a joint statement released Wednesday afternoon, Trade Minister Mary Ng and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said China has reinstated market access for two Canadian grain trading companies that have been prevented from exporting canola seed to China since March 2019.
“We welcome this decision to remove the restrictions and immediately reinstate the two companies to allow them to export Canadian canola seeds,” the statement said.
“Canada will always firmly uphold the international rules-based trade system and related dispute settlement mechanisms, as well as a science-based approach to resolving such issues.”
In March 2019, the Chinese government blocked canola shipments from Canadian companies Richardson International Ltd. and Viterra Inc. by suspending their licences, alleging the detection of pests in canola shipments.
The move followed the arrest of Chinese tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver a few months earlier.
In September of 2019, Canada took the canola dispute to the World Trade Organization. A WTO dispute resolution panel was composed in November 2021.
Before the trade tensions, the Chinese market made up 40 per cent of Canada’s canola exports.
According to the Canola Council of Canada, seed exports to China have fallen from $2.8 billion in 2018 before the restrictions, to $800 million in 2019, $1.4 billion in 2020 and $1.8 billion in 2021.
The industry organization estimates the dispute cost the industry between $1.54 billion and $2.35 billion from lost sales and lower prices between March 2019 and August 2020 alone.
“This is a positive step forward, restoring full trade in canola with China and ensuring that all Canadian exporters are treated equally by the Chinese administration,” said Canola Council of Canada President Jim Everson in a news release.
“We will continue efforts to nurture and maintain a predictable, rules-based trade environment.”
Canada is the world’s largest producer of canola. It is one of the most widely grown crops in Canada, and is currently trading at all-time record highs as the war in Ukraine drives up prices for agricultural commodities.
Canola is primarily used to make cooking oil, but can also be used as livestock feed and to make biodiesel.
Tangled in Canada's immigration backlog? What you can do about the delay – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News
Dixon D’mello hasn’t seen his wife since she left India and came to Canada for university 10 months ago.
D’mello, who lives in Mumbai working as a lawyer, says looking after two young kids – aged 1 and 3 years – without their mom around has been “very difficult.”
“Especially the children are missing their mom,” the 39-year-old told Global News. “A young child without its mom, how can he survive?”
His wife is enrolled in a two-year program at the Red Deer Polytechnic in Alberta.
The family applied for a Spouse Open Work Permit (SOWP) for D’mello and a temporary resident visa for the children in July 2021 and since then, has received no updates to their applications from the Canadian immigration department.
“We have done our … medical and then our biometrics. We are just waiting,” says D’mello.
He is not alone.
Displaced Ukrainians struggling to obtain Canadian visas
More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, wait times for immigration applications to come to Canada continue to be a concern, with many people stuck in limbo and growing impatient.
There are currently more than two million immigration applications for citizenship, permanent residence and temporary residence in the inventory, according to the latest figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shared with Global News this month.
While travel restrictions and other constraints brought on by the pandemic have caused long delays, the war in Ukraine this year has only added to the inventory backlog, IRCC says.
“Despite our considerable efforts, we know that some applicants have experienced considerable wait times with the processing of their applications, and we continue to work as hard as possible to reduce processing times,“ said Rémi Larivière, an IRCC spokesperson, in an email.
IRCC is trying to play catch up and reduce wait times with additional funding, hiring new processing staff, digitizing applications and reallocating work among offices around the world, Larivière said.
Long lines reported at Service Canada offices as demand grows for passports
But for those applicants tangled in the backlog, there is “a lot of frustration” as they wait to be reunited with family members or get work permits, immigration lawyers say.
“Many of them are waiting for months and months and months, and they don’t know what to do,” said Ravi Jain, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer and co-founder of the Canadian Immigration Law Association.
“Some of them are just distraught over how long it’s taking and they don’t have any answers as to how more long it could be,” he said, adding that customer service is at “an all-time low.”
What options do applicants have?
In March, the IRCC updated its processing times tool to “more accurately show” the expected wait times.
When D’mello filed his application last year the estimated wait time shown was 16 weeks. That has now gone up to 55 weeks.
Lawyers say the new tool has helped reduce the number of inquiries to IRCC and alleviate the anxiety for many applicants — but it doesn’t solve their problems.
“I think it’s a good initiative for sure … but … what you really need is someone to process the file,” said Jain.
The main way to communicate with the IRCC is to submit a web form through their website to follow up on the progress of an application, said Sonia Matkowsky, a partner at an immigration law firm based in Toronto whose firm has been helping the D’mello family.
“The majority of the time we receive a generic or automated response, basically saying your application is processing and there are delays due to COVID,” she said. “So we don’t really get any substantive information when we follow up.”
International students in limbo due to paperwork delays
However, for clients whose applications have been pending for a very long time, a judicial review by the federal court can be requested that often speeds up the process, Matkowsky says.
The federal court is asked to issue a mandamus, which is a court order that requests the IRCC to make a decision within a certain time period.
“If we can show that the processing times have been unreasonably delayed and it’s at no fault of the applicants, then the federal court is very cooperative and a lot of times we don’t even get to a hearing,” said Matkowsky.
Her firm has been able to settle cases with the Department of Justice lawyer and the counsel for the IRCC.
Delays in processing permanent residence applications causing ‘uncertainty’
Many applicants also try to follow up with MPs, which D’mello has tried without much luck.
He got a response saying there is absolutely nothing they can do and IRCC would be processing applications on a first-come-first-serve basis, D’mello said.
For people who submitted a visitor visa application before Sept. 7, 2021, whose situation has changed since then, the recommendation is to start a new online application.
In January 2021, the IRCC also introduced a new program that allows international students whose post-graduation work permit is no longer valid or is expiring to be extended for another 18 months.
That extension will be offered again starting this summer, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced last month.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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