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

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The latest:

  • N.L. ends regional lockdown, reports no new cases for 1st time in 5 weeks.
  • U.S. to buy an additional 100 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses.
  • Quebec, Alberta expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility.
  • Significantly higher death rate reported for coronavirus variant first detected in U.K.
  • Biden’s massive COVID-19 relief bill expected to get final congressional approval.
  • Texas lifts mask and business occupancy restrictions.
  • Have a question about the coronavirus pandemic? You can reach us at COVID@cbc.ca

The United States Congress sped toward final approval Wednesday of a landmark $1.9-trillion US COVID-19 relief bill, as President Joe Biden and Democrats neared a major triumph for the party’s priorities.

The House was on track to use a virtual party-line vote to approve the 628-page measure, which represents Democrats’ effort to revive the enfeebled economy. Four days after the Senate passed the measure over unanimous Republican opposition, Republican House counterparts were poised to do the same for a bill they’ve characterized as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the dual crises are easing.

Democrats rejected those complaints.

“I call upon my Republican colleagues to stop their March madness and show some compassion for their constituents who are less than wealthy,” said No. 3 House Democratic Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina as the House debated the legislation.

In this May 7, 2020 file photo, a pedestrian walks by The Framing Gallery, closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Grosse Pointe, Mich. (Paul Sancya/The Associated Press)

For Biden and the Democrats, the bill is essentially a canvas on which they’ve painted their core beliefs — that government programs can be a benefit, not a bane, to millions of people and that spending huge sums on such efforts can be a cure, not a curse.

They were also empowered by three dynamics: their unfettered control of the White House and Congress, polls showing robust support for Biden’s approach and a moment when most voters care little that the national debt is soaring toward a stratospheric $22 trillion US.

Help for lower- and middle-income families

A dominant feature of the bill are initiatives making it one of the biggest federal thrusts in years to assist lower- and middle-income families. Included are expanded tax credits over the next year for children, child care and family leave, plus spending for renters, food programs and people’s utility bills.

The measure provides up to $1,400 US direct payments to most Americans, extended emergency unemployment benefits, and hundreds of billions for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, schools, state and local governments, and ailing industries from airlines to concert halls. There is aid for farmers of colour and pension systems, and subsidies for consumers buying health insurance and states expanding Medicaid coverage for lower earners.

Its very expansiveness is a chief GOP talking point.

“It’s not focused on COVID relief. It’s focused on pushing more of the far-left agenda,” said No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Texas rolls back restrictions

The moves out of Congress come as vaccination efforts continue across the U.S. As of Tuesday, 18.4 per cent of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Biden is expected to announce Wednesday that the U.S. is buying an additional 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The drugmaker is already obligated to supply 100 million doses to the federal government by the end of June. The additional vaccine doses would be delivered in the months following.

Meanwhile, Texans are waking up on Wednesday with a statewide mask mandate and occupancy restrictions on businesses lifted, a move some heralded as freedom and others as foolishness.

Caution tape promotes physical distancing at a bar in Houston on Tuesday as Texas prepares to lift its mask mandate and reopen businesses to full capacity. (Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters)

On paper, Texas’s rollback of coronavirus mitigation efforts is the most sweeping seen in the United States, along with a similar measure in Mississippi. In practice, vast swaths of Texas have rarely enforced mask or occupancy mandates in the past year, anyway.

Several major retailers, grocery stores and restaurant chains in Texas said they would still require that masks be worn in their stores, which under Gov. Greg Abbott’s order relaxing restrictions is their right to do.

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


What’s happening across Canada

As of 12:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 895,632 cases of COVID-19, with 30,456 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,330.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada has been warned of manufacturing problems plaguing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with a target date for the first deliveries still unknown.

The viral vector vaccine developed by J&J’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, was authorized by Health Canada as safe and effective last week. Canada pre-ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine, which is the first and only one in Canada’s plan that requires only one dose.

As of noon on Tuesday, more than 1.9 million Canadians have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, about five per cent of the population.

WATCH | COVID-19 vaccines protecting elderly despite limited outbreaks, experts say:

Despite concerns about several COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes where residents have been vaccinated, experts say vaccines have significantly reduced severe cases and deaths from the virus. 3:48

In Nunavut, restrictions in the community of Arviat were lifted on Wednesday. Businesses, workplaces and daycares can reopen, while schools can reopen part-time.

The territory is reporting no new cases and one recovery to bring its total number of active cases down to 22, all of them in Arviat.

Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday the decision to lift restrictions was made because there is no evidence of COVID-19 circulating uncontrolled in the community.

Saskatchewan also relaxed some restrictions on Tuesday, allowing indoor home gatherings of up to 10 people — though the 10 people should be from two to three consistent households — and, starting March 19, increasing capacity for worship services.

An epidemiologist in the province is warning against lifting restrictions too quickly, pointing out the province still has the highest per capita seven-day average of daily new cases. Health officials reported 113 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Tuesday.

​​​​​WATCH | Veterinarian on joining the ranks of COVID vaccinators in Quebec:

Veterinarian Dr. Caroline Kilsdonk is among those from different professions who are pitching in for the vaccination campaign. A welcome duty, she says, caring deeply about the elderly. 1:03

Meanwhile, vaccination efforts are picking up across Canada. In Quebecall residents who are at least 70 years old can now book an appointment for their COVID-19 shot.

Since the province started administering doses to the general population, the minimum age requirement for registration has varied from region to region.

Quebec reported 792 new cases and 10 new deaths on Wednesday. Across the province, 581 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19, including 112 in intensive care.

In Alberta, anyone who was born in 1957 can start booking their AstraZeneca vaccine through Alberta Health Service beginning at 8 a.m. local time today. Appointments also open for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1972.

It’s the first step in a staggered distribution plan for Albertans between the ages of 50 and 64 who want this particular vaccine and do not have a severe chronic illness. The province says appointments will be rolled out in stages by birth year, as long as supplies last.

Raphael Jaranillo, 77, prepares to receive his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Canadian Martyrs Seniors Residence in Toronto on Monday. As of Wednesday, 978,797 total vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario, meanwhile, is expected to unveil details this afternoon on how and where residents aged 60 to 64 years old can book an appointment to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The province is reporting 1,316 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 new deaths on Wednesday. There were 678 people in hospital due to the illness, including 281 in ICU.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on Wednesday as health officials announced some public health restrictions will be lifted in the Avalon Peninsula.

The region has been in lockdown since early February, after an outbreak of the coronavirus variant B117 swept through the area.

Starting Friday, some non-essential businesses in the Avalon may open, such as hair salons and retail stores. Daycares can also operate at full capacity, but recreational facilities will stay dark.

In other provincial and territorial updates, Nova Scotia reported one new COVID-19 case on Wednesday, while New Brunswick and Yukon reported no new cases.

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

– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 12:45 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of 11:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, more than 117.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 66.7 million of those cases listed as recovered by Johns Hopkins University, which maintains a case-tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan has started vaccinating people who are 60 years old or above to protect them from COVID-19 amid a steady increase in cases and fatalities from the disease.

Pakistan is currently using China’s Sinopharm vaccine, which was donated to it by Beijing last month. Pakistan hopes to start receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine this month under the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility.

Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Tokyo 2020 games organizing committee said in response that a decision would be made by the end of March. The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

A woman walks past the Olympic rings in Tokyo on Wednesday. Japan will reportedly stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators. (Koji Sasahara/The Associated Press)

In the Americas, Mexico is turning to China to fill a vaccine shortfall with an order for 22 million doses, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said, a week after the U.S. ruled out sharing vaccines with Mexico in the short term.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the Mexican government has signed agreements for 12 million doses of the yet-unapproved Sinopharm vaccine and increased to a total of 20 million doses its contracts for the Coronavac dose made by China’s Sinovac.

In Africa, Mauritius has gone into lockdown and suspended flights in and out of the island for two weeks following the discovery of 15 more cases of COVID-19, the Mauritius state tourism agency said on Wednesday. All residents and visitors are being asked to stay at home or in their hotels until March 25.

The Indian Ocean island of 1.4 million people has had 641 confirmed coronavirus cases with 10 deaths.

Zimbabwe has authorized the emergency use of four COVID-19 vaccines — Sinopharm and Sinovac shots from China, Russia’s Sputnik V and India’s Covaxin — the minister of information said on Tuesday.

The country of 15 million has recorded 36,321 coronavirus cases and 1,489 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Women do their laundry next to signs reminding people to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at a farm on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 4. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/The Associated Press)

In Europe, the European Commission says it has secured an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for an extra four million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for its 27 nations to tackle the surge of cases in several coronavirus clusters.

The European Union mentioned Tyrol in Austria, Nice and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy, and some parts of Bavaria and Saxony in Germany where COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise. The Commission said the new doses will be made available to all member states on a pro-rata basis this month.

Overall, the EU has six contracts for more than two billion doses of vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people.

Portugal is joining other European countries in extending the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to people age 65 and over, after initial uncertainty about its effectiveness in that age group.

In the United Kingdom, researchers are reporting that a highly infectious coronavirus variant that was first discovered in Britain late last year is between 30 per cent and 100 per cent more deadly than previous dominant variants.

The B117 variant was first detected in Britain in September 2020, and has since also been found in more than 100 other countries.

Students take coronavirus tests at a school in Birmingham, England, on Monday. Millions of British children returned to school this week after a two-month closure. (Jacob King/PA/The Associated Press)

In the Middle East, Palestinian hospitals are overfull and intensive-care units operating at 100 per cent capacity with coronavirus patients in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday.

Palestinian cities have introduced full lockdowns over the last two weeks to control soaring COVID-19 infections, even as neighbouring Israel has begun to lift restrictions as it proceeds with one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns.

– From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

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Canadas Immigration Problems Solved by Invisible Border Walls

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Canadas’s immigration story is seen by the world as too liberal that gives them a good image through out but there seems to be some lesser-known information. It is not only liberal but conservative as well and they hide this fact all too well. This is only made possible by the invisible border walls that Canada has instore.

No this is not something out of sci-fi novel. This is actually true and will be discussed further down the article. But first we need to see what happen in the 1980s.

Since the 1980s, Canada has consistently been a high-immigration country, at least relative to the U.S. As a result, the proportion of Canadians born outside the country hit 21.9 percent in 2016. That same year, America’s foreign-born population was 13.4 percent. That’s a record high for the U.S.—but it’s been 115 years since Canada’s foreign-born population was at such a low level. As Derek Thompson put it in his article analyzing how Canada has escaped the “liberal doom loop,” Canada’s floor is America’s ceiling.

So, the question remain why has Canada managed to sustain popular acceptance and cross-party support for so much legal immigration?

Well firstly, this is because the intake of the Canadian population has been so law abiding and orderly so to be undisruptive and thus not being newsworthy. Canada unlike the neighbor USA is a country where mostly come in from the front door, in the open and during the daylight hours.

Everyone coming to Canada would have to apply from there home countries to come to Canada before they are granted access to the country, they have to go through a huge line of people already waiting after which they are subjected to extensive vetting by the Canadian authorities. Those who make the cut are then let in the country. In short it is not only you that chooses Canada but Canada would also have to choose you. For this to work.

For those who choose to trespass and try to enter Canada by illegal means well that where the invisible border walls come in. that right Canada has a border wall. In a sense of course. In fact, there are 5 of them. Four geographic and 1 bureaucratic. All of which have been effective at sustaining the legitimacy and popularity of Canada’s immigration policy.

Three of the walls are the dumb luck of geography: the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. You can cross the Aegean from Asia to Europe in a dinghy, but unless you can get your hands on a ship and a crew trained in navigating thousands of miles of difficult water, you aren’t sailing to Canada. So far in 2018, Canada has received exactly 10 asylum applications at sea ports.

The fourth wall is Canada’s southern border with the U.S. The world’s leading economy has historically been a magnet for people, not the reverse. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the volume of emigrants from Canada to the U.S. was at times so high that Canadians actually feared for the future of their country. The strength of the American economy long meant that few immigrants would think to use the U.S. as a back door into Canada.

The fifth wall is the bureaucratic barrier that Canadian governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have meticulously maintained to cover any gaps in the other defenses.

This is the underlying reason for Canada having an amazing immigration system, that would present itself as liberal but is actually more a concern of some natural luck.

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How to Immigration System in Canada has Changed Since the Covid-19

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Before we jump into the current situation we need to look into what Canada and its immigration system has been for people all around the world. Canada has been a keeper of refugees; for people that are involved in international controversies, religious persecution etc from there country of origin.

We see this in the 1947-1953 Canada welcomed thousands of Hungarians and Vietnamese “boat people”. In the late 1970s and Syrians in the 2010s.

This still continues to date since the immigration and retention of people from Hong Kong.

But all of this would begin to change since the beginning of the covid 19. The real question is Canada has suffered far worst and still managed to land on its feet. Will this time be different? Only time will tell.

The History of Immigration in Canada:

Canada has a history of coping with situation that limited its ability to accept newcomers to its country. The First World War saw immigration to Canada drop precipitously; in 1915, the intake was only 34,000 people (compared to over 400,000 just two years before).

In the 1920s we began to see an increase in numbers but again dropped sharply with the advent of the Great Depression, dipping still further with World War II. So, the drop in immigration to Canada resulting from the Coronavirus is far from unheralded in Canada’s history.

Canada has also seen great waves of immigration, particularly as part of a response to, and recovery from, challenges. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants poured into the country, many to the west, in the decade or so following the establishment of Saskatchewan and Alberta as provinces. Unlike many countries in Europe, which arguably had too many people and not enough land, Canada had the opposite problem.

After the calamity of the Second World War, Canada, unlike many other nations, had emerged strong and stable. But it was sorely lacking in the labor force and skills necessary for the great post-War economy and recovery taking place. Between 1946 and 1953, over 750,000 souls found a home in Canada.

Plans on Immigration After the Pandemic:

The government has announced a goal of settling over 1,200,000 new permanent residents in Canada from now until 2021-2023. In considerable measure, economic and population needs are the motivation for this ambitious plan. Marco Mendocino, the incumbent Immigration Minister, expressed it well in announcing the targets in the following statement:

“Immigration is essential … to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth … newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves.”

Conclusion:

The pandemic has hit the world hard and well Canada has been no stranger to the virus, we have people lost lives and people that have suffered a lot financially and economically. This would have to turn around in the near future but until that happens Canada would have play there cards right for this to work out in the favor of the country and it’s citizens.

I personally think that Canada can still make a difference in the international world. If it were to continue to follow the plan it has set for itself. I am sure that this is going to be difficult but considering previous Canadian track record this is going to be something that Canada would be coming out of with potentially amazing results.

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Japan’s Suga visits for Biden’s first White House summit; China tops agenda

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By Trevor Hunnicutt and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday became the first foreign leader to be hosted at the White House since President Joe Biden took office, underscoring Tokyo’s central role in U.S. efforts to counter China’s growing assertiveness.

The one-day summit offers the Democratic president a chance to work further on his pledge to revitalize U.S. alliances that frayed under his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

The meeting is expected to yield steps diversifying supply chains seen as over-reliant on China and a $2 billion commitment from Japan to work with the United States on alternatives to the 5G network of Chinese firm Huawei, a senior U.S. official said.

Biden and Suga also plan to discuss human rights issues related to China, including the situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the official said.

The summit, Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader, is expected to produce a formal statement on Taiwan, a Chinese-claimed, self-ruled island under increasing military pressure from Beijing, said the official, who did not want to be identified.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden, in his talks with Suga, would address China’s “increasingly coercive action” on Taiwan, which is China’s most sensitive territorial issue.

It would be the first joint statement on Taiwan by U.S. and Japanese leaders since 1969. However, it appears likely to fall short of what Washington has been hoping from Suga, who inherited a China policy that sought to balance security concerns with economic ties when he took over as premier last September.

In a statement after a March meeting of U.S.-Japan officials, the two sides “underscored the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” and shared “serious concerns” about human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The U.S. official said that both countries, while not wanting to raise tensions or provoke China, were trying to send a clear signal that Beijing’s dispatch of warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone was incompatible with maintaining peace and stability.

A Japanese foreign ministry official said this week it had not been decided whether there would be a joint statement and two Japanese ruling party lawmakers familiar with the discussions said officials have been divided over whether Suga should endorse a strong statement on Taiwan.

The U.S. official said Washington would not “insist on Japan somehow signing on to every dimension of our approach” and added: “We also recognize the deep economic and commercial ties between Japan and China and Prime Minister Suga wants to walk a careful course, and we respect that.”

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday that China has expressed solemn concern about what he called “collusion” between Japan and the United States, and the countries should take China’s concerns seriously.

SUGA MEETS HARRIS

Suga met first with Vice President Kamala Harris and was then due to sit down with Biden in the Oval Office before holding a joint news conference. Earlier, Suga participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Japan highly praises and appreciates that the Biden-Harris administration puts high importance on cooperating with its allies and partners,” Suga told reporters as he began talks with Harris.

“There is no other time than today when the Japan-U.S. alliance needs to be strong,” he added, citing “a wide range of challenges.”

Harris said they would discuss “our mutual commitment in the Indo-Pacific.”

With his in-person summit with Suga, and another planned with South Korea in May, Biden – who took office on Jan. 20 – is working to focus on the Indo-Pacific region to deal with China’s rising power, which he sees as the critical foreign policy issue of the era.

He hopes to energize joint efforts with Australia, India and Japan, in a grouping known as the Quad, as well as with South Korea, to counter both China and longtime U.S. foe North Korea, and its increasingly threatening nuclear weapons program.

It requires a delicate balancing act given Japan and South Korea’s economic ties with China and currently frosty relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

Also expected to figure into the White House discussions are the summer Olympics due to be held in Tokyo. Psaki said the administration understands the careful considerations Japan is weighing as it decides whether to go ahead with the games. Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections with fewer than 100 days from the planned start.

The emphasis on Japan’s key status could boost Suga ahead of an election this year, but some politicians are pushing him for a tougher stance towards Beijing as it increases maritime activities in the East and South China Seas and near Taiwan.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada have all imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for alleged abuses in Xinjiang and some Japanese lawmakers think Tokyo should adopt its own law allowing it to do the same, even as Japanese executives worry about a Chinese backlash.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Trevor Hunnicutt, additional reporting by Nandita Bose and Steve Holland; writing by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick;Editing by Kieran Murray, Lincoln Feast and Chizu Nomiyama)

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