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

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U.S. President Joe Biden is promising that a majority of elementary schools will be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, restating his goal after his administration came under fire when aides said schools would be considered open if they held in-person learning just one day a week.

Biden’s comments, made during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, marked his clearest statement yet on school reopenings. Biden had pledged in December to reopen “the majority of our schools” in his first 100 days but has since faced increasing questions about how he would define and achieve that goal, with school districts operating under a patchwork of different virtual and in-person learning arrangements nationwide.

“I said open a majority of schools in K through eighth grade, because they’re the easiest to open, the most needed to be open in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home,” Biden said.

He said comments by White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier this month that one day a week of in-person learning would meet his goal were “a mistake in the communication.”

Asked when the nation would see kindergarten through eighth grades back to in-person learning five days a week, Biden said, “We’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days.” He said he expected many schools would push to stay open through the summer, but suggested reopening would take longer for high schools due to a higher risk of contagion among older students.

WATCH | How susceptible are kids to COVID-19?

Two pediatric infectious disease specialists answer viewer questions about COVID-19 including how susceptible children are to COVID-19 and if they are more likely to be asymptomatic. 6:54

The town hall touched on a range of issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, from protections for small businesses to the administration’s vaccination plans. Biden said that by the end of July there would be 600 million doses of the vaccine available, enough to vaccinate every American.

But with many of his answers, he sought to emphasize the need for funding to achieve his goals. The town hall was aimed at selling his $1.9-trillion US coronavirus aid package directly to the American people, part of an effort designed in part to put pressure on Republican lawmakers and refocus Congress on speedy passage of the bill now that his predecessor’s impeachment trial is behind him.

The House is expected to vote on the measure next week.

Biden’s trip to Wisconsin, a political battleground state he narrowly won last November, comes as coronavirus infection rates and deaths are falling after the nation endured the two deadliest months so far of the pandemic. The White House is also reporting an increase in the administration of vaccines throughout the country after a slow start.

But Biden has stressed that the nation still has a long road ahead as thousands of Americans die each day in the worst U.S. public health crisis in a century. The virus has killed more than 485,000, and newly emerging variants are complicating the response effort.

The Biden administration is trying to get enough Americans vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity” and allow life to return to a semblance of normalcy. But it’s unclear when vaccination will be widely accessible to Americans.

Biden’s team hopes funding provided in the coronavirus aid bill will help accelerate vaccination production and distribution. His team also argues that the federal government must keep open the spigot of government relief to help people who are suffering economically and to get the country back to pre-pandemic employment levels.

But many Republican lawmakers continue to bristle at the price tag of a package that calls for sending $1,400 cheques to most Americans as well as assistance for businesses, schools, and homeowners and renters.

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


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Is Canada ready for a COVID-19 vaccine ramp up?

After weeks of delayed COVID-19 vaccine shipments, Canada is expected to see more doses start arriving this week. But there are concerns that the provinces aren’t ready to ramp up their vaccine rollouts. 2:01

As of early Wednesday morning, Canada had reported 831,582 cases of COVID-19, with 33,972 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,397.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported seven new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 25 presumptive cases of the virus. The province, which is working to ramp up tracing and testing in the face of increased case numbers, had 297 active cases.

The province had been a model of low coronavirus numbers until the mutation first identified in the United Kingdom and known as the B117 variant flared up suddenly over the past week and a half. That prompted lockdowns and caused the province’s chief electoral officers to delay a general election, with ballots now to be submitted entirely by post.

Across Atlantic Canada, there were three new cases reported in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on Tuesday. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island on Tuesday.

In Quebec, health officials reported 669 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 20 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 771, with 134 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units. 

In Quebec City, Premier Francois Legault announced a slight loosening of restrictions beginning Feb. 26, when the province heads into its March break.

Cinemas will be allowed to reopen, he said, and swimming pools and arenas can open to groups of two or family bubbles. Legault said he wanted to give parents and children options for activities during the school break. However, he said Montreal and Quebec City will remain at the highest pandemic-alert level, meaning an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will remain in effect.

WATCH | Respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta says there should be more success demonstrated from lockdowns and vaccinations first before opening economies because of concerns around coronavirus variants:

Respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta says there should be more success demonstrated from lockdowns and vaccinations first before opening economies because coronavirus variants could contribute to a massive third wave. 2:13

Ontario health officials reported 904 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 13 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 742, with 292 people in intensive care units. 

The figures in Ontario, while higher than daily counts during the first wave, continued a downward trend since mid-January, when daily new cases peaked at around 4,000.

In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe announced an extension of the province’s health order, set to expire Friday, into March. The province reported 136 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths on Tuesday.

Officials in Manitoba, which has one confirmed case of the variant first identified in the U.K., said the variant had been ruled out in suspected cases in Pauingassi First Nation. Health officials in the province reported 167 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths.

In Alberta, health officials reported 263 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and nine additional deaths.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, the provincial health officer warned Tuesday that COVID-19 cases and test positivity rates are ticking up in some jurisdictions due to increased interactions. Dr. Bonnie Henry said that while the overall number of cases has slowly been coming down across B.C., the seven-day rolling average is starting to creep up.

This is particularly true in the Fraser Health region, where the viral reproductive rate has risen above one, meaning each infected person is passing the virus on to at least one other person on average, she said.

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

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world 

Medical workers register residents for coronavirus testing at a testing centre in Shah Alam city, Malaysia on Wednesday. (Vincent Thian/The Associated Press)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 109.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with 61.6 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.4 million.

In Europe, the EU commission has approved a new contract for 300 million additional doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. The second contract with Moderna provides for an additional purchase of 150 million in 2021 and an option to purchase an additional 150 million in 2022 on behalf of all 27 EU member states. The deal also provides for the possibility of donating the vaccine to lower- and middle-income countries if the EU has enough supplies.

“With a portfolio of up to 2.6 billion doses, we will be able to provide vaccines not just to our citizens, but to our neighbours and partners as well,” said EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday they have finalized an agreement to supply the European Union with another 200 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. and German companies said in a statement that the doses come on top of the 300 million vaccine doses initially ordered. The EU’s executive commission has an option to request a further 100 million doses.

They said the 200 million doses are expected to be delivered this year, with an estimated 75 million of them in the second quarter.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first of three so far to be approved for use in the EU, which faces criticism for a slow start to its vaccination campaign compared with countries such as Israel, Britain and the United States. The other two EU-approved vaccines are from Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Meanwhile, in France, three out of four people in nursing homes for the elderly have received a COVID-19 vaccination shot, a government spokesperson said Wednesday.

In the Asia-Pacific region, months after other major economies, Japan has begun giving its first coronavirus vaccines to front-line health workers. Many are wondering if the campaign will reach enough people, and in time, to save a Summer Olympics already delayed a year by the worst pandemic in a century.

Despite recent rising infections, Japan has largely dodged the kind of cataclysm that has battered other wealthy countries’ economies, social networks and health-care systems. But the fate of the Olympics, and the billions of dollars at stake should the Games fail, makes Japan’s vaccine campaign crucial. Japanese officials are also well aware that China, which has had success eradicating the virus, will host next year’s Winter Olympics, something that heightens the desire to make the Tokyo Games happen.

Health officials in India say cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa and Brazil have been found in India. They said Tuesday that the variant was detected in four travellers last month. Over 150 cases of another variant first detected in the United Kingdom have previously been found in India.

In the Americas, El Salvador’s government says the Central American nation will receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from India on Wednesday. The country has recorded about 58,000 coronavirus infections and
1,758 deaths from COVID-19 so far in the pandemic.

Mexico has topped two million confirmed coronavirus cases and 175,000 deaths, though officials concede that the country’s extremely low rate of testing means the real figures are much higher.

A woman receives her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the novel coronavirus in Mexico City earlier this week as the country began vaccinating people over 60 years of age. (Claudio Cruz/AFP/Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa will administer its first vaccine as it inoculates health workers with the Johnson & Johnson shot as part of a research study.

Zimbabwe will begin vaccinating on Thursday, starting with health workers and other essential service personnel.

In the Middle East, Gaza will receive its first shipment of vaccines on Wednesday after Israel approved the transfer via its territory, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:25 a.m. ET

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

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Germany is looking to ramp up the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after authorities last week gave the green light for it to be administered to people 65 and over.

Hundreds of thousands of doses have been gathering dust in recent weeks due to the restrictions on who could get the vaccine and misgivings among some who were eligible.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany has received 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot so far but administered just 721,000.

Berlin is opening a sixth vaccine centre Monday at the former Tempelhof airport in the centre of the city that will administer only the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ZDF that he expects Germany to be able to administer up to 10 million shots a week by the end of the month.

LISTEN | Are all COVID-19 vaccines created equal?

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How solid is the science behind delaying second COVID-19 vaccine doses? Are the shots from AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson effective enough? Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch answers our most pressing questions about the latest vaccine news. 21:55

In Italy, the health ministry has now officially approved using the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for healthy people over age 65, citing limited vaccine supplies and the need to vaccinate people who might be vulnerable to complications.

The order was signed Monday. The European Medicines Agency had approved AstraZeneca for all age groups, but some nations like Italy and Germany initially limited it to under 65s due to what they called limited data.

Those limitations are one of the reasons why the 27-nation European Union has lagged so far behind Britain and the United States in vaccinating its people. Millions of doses of AstraZeneca have piled up across Europe, waiting to be given out.

Speeding up Italy’s vaccination campaign will enable the country to overcome the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Monday, noting that his government would do whatever was necessary to protect lives.

“The pandemic is not yet over, but with the acceleration of the vaccine plan, a way out is not far off,” Draghi said in a speech to mark International Women’s Day, his first such public address since taking office last month.

Italy is approaching 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths and health officials have warned that the country faces a third wave of cases as a more contagious variant of the disease gains ground.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:55 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | The community volunteers helping B.C. seniors get COVID-19 vaccines:

Several community and religious groups in British Columbia are armed with computers and phones, ready to help local seniors sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations. 2:03

As of 10:50 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 887,910 cases of COVID-19, with 30,594 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,249.

Across the North, Nunavut reported no new cases on Monday but added two additional recoveries, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 23. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided updated figures on Monday.

Ontario reported 1,631 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 10 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 626, with 282 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

A stay-at-home order in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay is lifting Monday as the province loosens pandemic restrictions. The three regions were the last ones still under the order, and are transitioning back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.

Toronto and Peel will enter the “grey lockdown” category, something local public health officials asked for in both regions.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova ScotiaPrince Edward Island and New Brunswick reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported one new case on Sunday.

In an interview with CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said the province has a “very robust” public health nursing system and is ready to go for the broader vaccine rollout. But the premier also noted that he is open to conversations about sharing some of the province’s allocated vaccine supply with provinces dealing with higher caseloads.

King also said Sunday that he believes the so-called Atlantic bubble will be back in action by early spring.

In Quebec, people in many parts of the province will be able to eat in restaurants and work out in gyms starting Monday as five regions are downgraded from red to orange on the province’s colour-coded pandemic alert level system.

The province on Sunday reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 592, with 107 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 56 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and two additional deaths. Saskatchewan health officials, meanwhile, reported 116 new cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus and two additional deaths. In Alberta, there wasn’t a formal update from health officials over the weekend because of a system upgrade.

In British Columbia, health officials will provide updated figures that cover the weekend later Monday.

WATCH | Vaccines won’t be the end of masks, physical distancing, Tam says:

Dr. Theresa Tam says that a year into the pandemic, with COVID-19 vaccines helping Canada gain an upper hand, masks, physical distancing and travel restrictions won’t disappear immediately because vigilance is needed to beat the evolving virus. 1:53

From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:50 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

People in need wait to take a bag with free food at a non-profit association called ‘Pane Quotidiano’ in Milan, Italy, on Monday. The number of people in need has increased after the start of the pandemic. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Monday morning, more than 116.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 66.1 million listed on the Johns Hopkins University tracking database as recovered. The global death toll was approaching 2.6 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam administered its first COVID-19 doses Monday to the front-line workers who made the nation’s relative success in controlling the pandemic possible — health workers, contact tracers and security forces who handled quarantine duties.

The Southeast Asian nation of 96 million people has a goal to inoculate at least half of the population by the end of the year. Thousands of doctors, nurses and technicians working at hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients lined up in the morning and received the first jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I have been waiting for this day for a long time,” nurse Nguyen Thi Huyen said after she got her injection. Huyen has been caring for COVID-19 patients at a tropical disease hospital in Hanoi the past year. Health protocols have limited her time with family, among other challenges.

A health worker prepares a dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi on Monday. Vietnam has started the vaccination campaign with a hope to inoculate half of the population against COVID-19 by the end of the year. (Hau Dinh/The Associated Press)

The first batch of over 100,000 AstraZeneca doses in a 30 million order arrived two weeks ago. Separately, Vietnam expects to secure another 30 million doses of the same vaccine through the UN-backed COVAX program for vaccine equality.

The UN children’s agency said Afghanistan has received nearly half a million coronavirus vaccine doses via the global COVAX initiative. War-torn Afghanistan received 468,000 AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, the first shipment through COVAX, UNICEF said in a statement.

The vaccines were made by the Serum Institute of India, and arrived in the capital of Kabul aboard an Emirates flight, UNICEF said. More vaccines will arrive in the coming weeks and months. India previously donated 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Afghanistan.

Thailand will reduce mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days starting in April for foreigners arriving in the country who have been vaccinated.

In the Americas, Dr. Anthony Fauci is projecting that U.S. high school students will be able to get vaccinated early in the next school year and that elementary school students should be in line for vaccinations in early 2022.

Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer and director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News’ Face the Nation that vaccines for teens will be available “maybe not the first day but certainly in the early part of the fall.”

Currently, three vaccines are approved for use in the United States. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-shot Moderna vaccine are approved for individuals 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for 16 and up.

Trials are underway to determine the safety of vaccines on younger people. Teenagers contract the coronavirus almost twice as often as younger children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Ecuador and Paraguay have both received some 20,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from Chile.

In the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president’s office said Monday, with both having only mild symptoms of the illness.

In a statement, Assad’s office said the couple did PCR tests after they experienced minor symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 illness. It said that Assad, 55, and his wife Asma, who is 10 years younger, will continue to work from home, where they will isolate for between two and three weeks.

Both were in “good health and in stable condition,” the statement said.

Syria, which marks 10 years of war next week, has recorded nearly 16,000 virus cases in government-held parts of the country, including 1,063 deaths. But the numbers are believed to be much higher with limited amounts of PCR tests being done, particularly in areas of northern Syria outside government control.

The pandemic, which has severely tested even developed countries, has been a major challenge for Syria’s health-care sector, already depleted by years of conflict. A decade of fighting has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Syria began a vaccination campaign last week, but no details have been given about the process, nor have local journalists been allowed to witness the rollout. The health minister said the government procured the vaccines from a friendly country, which he declined to name.

After delays, Israel started vaccinating Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements on Monday, more than two months after launching an immunization blitz of its own population.

Palestinian labourers who crossed into Israel at several West Bank checkpoints received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine from Magen David Adom paramedics. The vaccination drive orchestrated by COGAT, Israel’s military agency co-ordinating government operations in the West Bank, had been beset by postponements.

Some 100,000 Palestinian labourers from the West Bank work in Israel and its settlements, which are widely seen internationally as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, the head of COGAT, said in a statement in Arabic that Israelis and Palestinians, “live in the same epidemiological space” and that it was a shared interest to vaccinate Palestinians.

Israel has administered over 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its population of 9.3 million. Over 3.7 million Israelis — more than 40 per cent — have received two doses of the vaccine. But until Monday, Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move that has underscored global disparities and drawn international criticism.

Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005, but still maintains control over airspace, the seafront and a large amount of the movement in and out of the area.

Human rights groups and many Palestinians say that as an occupying power, Israel is responsible for providing vaccines to the Palestinians. Israel says that under interim peace accords reached in the 1990s, it does not have any such obligation.

Israeli officials have said the priority is vaccinating Israel’s own population first, while the Palestinian Authority has said it will obtain its own vaccines through a World Health Organization partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX.

To date, the PA has acquired enough vaccine doses for only 6,000 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are home to nearly five million Palestinians. It received 2,000 doses from Israel and acquired another 10,000 doses of a Russian-made vaccine. Each is given in two doses.

Israel had also announced plans to share surplus vaccines with far-flung allies in Africa, Europe and Latin America, but the decision was frozen by legal questions. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with leaders of Denmark and Austria and said the three nations would join forces in the fight against COVID-19 with an investment in research and rollout of vaccines.

In Europe, British children returned to school on Monday after a two-month closure, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was a plan to get the country to “start moving closer to a sense of normality.”

As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to U.K. classrooms will be tested for the first few weeks. Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.

“We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far,” Johnson said as he urged people to get vaccinated. High schools and colleges can reopen in phases to allow for testing.

France could approve Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week, in line with the timetable for its broader European Union approval, the president of the country’s health regulator said.

Hungarians on Monday awoke to a new round of strict lockdown measures aimed at slowing a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths powered by virus variants.

In Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is set to take a lead role in ferrying COVID-19 vaccines around the world and expects demand for the service to last for up to three years.

The deputy chief executive of South African bank ABSA died on Sunday due to COVID-19 complications, his family said.

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:55 a.m. ET


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'Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined': Canada's tourism industry in crisis – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s tourism industry is facing a crisis greater than the combined impacts of Sept. 11, 2001, the SARS outbreak and the global financial crisis, according to a new report.

The depth of the crisis means it will be a long recovery for the tourist industry with potential shock waves for other areas of the economy, says Destination Canada, a Crown corporation whose mandate is to promote domestic tourism. The agency compiled new data for the report to be released Monday on an industry that is linked to one in 10 Canadian jobs, Destination Canada says.

“Tourism has a ripple effect into so many other parts of our quality of life as Canadians,” said Marsha Walden, president and chief executive officer of Destination Canada. “It’s one of those very few industries, maybe the only one, that can be found in every corner of this country.”

The report adds a new dimension to discussions about the pandemic’s uneven effects across different regions and sectors of the Canadian economy, for which limited data had previously been available. It also sheds light on the amount of time needed for certain key areas of Canada’s economy to recover.

Overall, the number of “active” businesses — one that is operating and has employees — in the sector declined by nine per cent between January and November of last year. Half a million people in the tourism industry lost their jobs in 2020, Walden said.

Within the tourism sector, travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating. Rail, scenic and sightseeing transportation saw the second-biggest drop with a 14.9-per-cent decline.

The hotel industry suffered throughout 2020, with losses concentrated in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, whose downtown hotels had the lowest occupancies of any region in Canada. Revenues for hotels in those three cities fell 79 per cent in the last year for a total loss of $2.3 billion across the three cities, the report says.

To compile the data used in the report, Destination Canada conducted original research and relied on information from government and industry reports, Walden said.

The report doubles as a call to action for Canadians to offset the damage to the country’s tourism industry by taking domestic vacations once the public health situation improves. If enough Canadians shift their international travel plans to focus on domestic destinations, that could speed up recovery for the tourism sector by up to one year, the report states.

Without any major change in consumer spending habits, it would take five years for the industry to reach pre-pandemic levels, the report says. But reallocating two thirds of the dollars spent on international travel in 2019 to domestic travel would replace the estimated $19.4 billion shortfall in the industry in 2020 and sustain more than 150,000 jobs, the report says.

“Canadians have been sitting at home, saving a lot of money this year, which is great for individuals and not so great for the economy,” Walden said. “We really need them to get out there and travel the country and spend money across the country once it’s safe to do so.”

Guidatour, which sells walking tours of downtown Montreal and other areas, is one of the small tourism-dependent businesses whose revenues plummeted last year as its usual customer base of international tourists disappeared. The company’s revenues were down 95 per cent last year, said the company’s owner, Angele Vermette.

Prior to the pandemic, Guidatour employed eight people full-time and had a network of about 100 tour guides that worked on a freelance basis, Vermette said.

Guidatour sometimes arranged more than 100 tours per day, but during the pandemic there were often days when it didn’t give a single one, Vermette said.

“These are passionate people that love their job,” Vermette said. “Being a tour guide, you don’t do that for your retirement, you don’t do that for the pay, you do that because you love history and you love tourism, you love your city.”

Improving economic activity in Canada’s downtown centres, where Guidatour primarily operates, will be key to a recovery for the tourism sector as a whole, Walden said, because visitors to a region typically travel first to a city core before continuing on to other areas.

Vermette said her staff have been working on developing new programming, some of which could also appeal to locals, in order to capitalize on any uptick in travel later this year. With the rollout of the vaccine, Vermette said she was hopeful that Guidatour would have more customers this year, but she noted that sales still won’t be close to what the company saw in 2019.

Similarly, Frontiers North Adventures, a family-owned business that offers tours to Churchill, Man., where visitors can see local attractions like polar bears and beluga whales, has been changing its offerings to appeal to Canadians looking to take domestic vacations this year.

In the past, around 80 per cent of the company’s customer base has been made up of foreign travellers, who begin the tour in Winnipeg before flying to Churchill, said John Gunter, the company’s president. But anticipating another weak year for international travel, the company is adding flights to Churchill directly from Calgary and Montreal in the hopes of tapping into the domestic market for northern adventures.

“We had to rejig our offerings to be more attractive to domestic and local audiences,” Gunter said. “If we have only Winnipeg to rely on, then it’s going to be another year of losses.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.

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Canadians' hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccine dropping, new poll suggests – CBC.ca

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A new survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute suggests Canadians are more willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine immediately rather than take a “wait-and-see” approach. 

Those who responded to the poll also said they were less concerned about contracting COVID-19 than they were in the fall and earlier this winter, hinting at a spark of optimism about the pandemic.  

Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, said the results offer both comfort and concern for public health officials, especially in places like B.C. where the daily number of COVID-19 cases has been rising in the past two weeks.

“I think people are perhaps indicating that their guard is a little bit lower than it was even two months ago,” Kurl said. “And that’s something that public health officials are really going to have to grapple with.” 

Lower vaccine hesitancy

The online survey was conducted between March 1 and March 4, among a representative randomized sample of 1,748 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Specifically, 66 per cent of respondents said they would get a vaccine as soon as possible, opposed to a low of 39 per cent who gave the same answer in September. 

The number of Canadians who say they refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine remains relatively stable since last summer. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters )

And only 16 per cent said they would wait to get the vaccine, compared to a high of 38 per cent in September. 

The number of respondents who said they would not get the vaccine at all remained relatively steady at 12 per cent, compared to 14 per cent in July. 

Concerns dropping

As for worries about contracting the virus, 62 per cent of respondents cited varying degrees of concern — a drop of nine per cent compared to January but still relatively high compared to last February, at 30 per cent, and even June at 46 per cent. 

The survey suggests Canadians are more concerned about friends or family contracting COVID-19 — 79 per cent said they had varying degrees of concern, compared to less than 10 per cent who said they weren’t concerned at all. 

Seniors are among some of the first people to be vaccinated across the country. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

But while the number of respondents who are willing to get the vaccine sooner grows, the poll suggests more people are critical of the government’s actions to secure and distribute it. 

More than half of survey respondents said “Canada has done a poor job in securing sufficient doses for Canadians,” compared to only 23 per cent who gave the same response in December. 

However, just over half of the respondents also agreed that the amount of time they expect to wait for a vaccine is “not ideal but OK given the circumstances.”

Dropping confidence in government

Asked how confident they were in the federal government’s ability to effectively manage vaccine distribution, 54 per cent of respondents said they weren’t confident, compared to only 36 per cent in December. 

On a related topic, there was a steady decline of Canadians who said the federal government had done a good job handling the pandemic over time — 48 per cent, opposed to a high of 70 per cent in April. Confidence in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic has similarly declined.

In B.C., Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has consistently had high approval ratings during the pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In B.C., confidence in Premier John Horgan’s handling is stronger — 66 per cent said Horgan has done a good job, compared to only 44 per cent of Canadians saying the same of Trudeau.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s approval rating among British Columbian respondents was even better. While it has declined from a high of 89 per cent last April, it still sits at 76 per cent as of this month. 

Rollout fair, says majority in B.C.

However, Kurl warns those approval ratings can be highly variable. 

“Approval numbers around these types of questions or metrics are really only as good or as bad as your performance in the recent past,” she said. 

The majority of respondents in B.C., 63 per cent, also said they watch provincial or federal health media briefings from chief medical officers as their top choice for information about the virus. 

Most of them also agreed that the vaccine rollout is fair, a good plan overall, and clear and easy to understand. The majority, 53 per cent, also said they believe it had been well thought out. 

However, only 42 per cent said they believe the vaccine rollout will meet its targets and timelines.


CBC British Columbia is hosting a town hall on March 10 to put your COVID-19 vaccine questions to expert guests, including Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. You can find the details at cbc.ca/ourshot. Have a question about the vaccine, or the rollout plan in B.C.? Email us: bcasks@cbc.ca

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