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

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The latest:

The Ontario government is launching a pilot project that will see people aged 60 to 64 eligible to get vaccinated as soon as this weekend in pharmacies around the province. 

As of this Friday, more than 325 pharmacies will be offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to eligible Ontarians, by appointment only, as part of the vaccine delivery pilot program in specific regions. Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province received 194,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday.

Select pharmacies in three health regions — Toronto, Windsor-Essex, and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington — began booking appointments on Wednesday. Primary-care physicians will also begin offering vaccines in some health regions, and will contact eligible patients. 

WATCH | Ontario Premier Doug Ford outlines the pilot project:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says over 325 pharmacies will begin administering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines to people aged 60-64 by Friday. The AstraZeneca shot will also be given to people in that age category in some primary care settings as well. 1:20

“We are going to hit one million doses in the arms of the people of Ontario today,” Retired general Rick Hillier, chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, told reporters from a vaccine distribution clinic in Toronto. He noted that the number will be surpassed this afternoon. “And in the next three weeks, we will do another million.” 

More details, including the list of participating pharmacies, can be found here


What’s else is happening across Canada

As of 1:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 895,703 cases of COVID-19, with 30,456 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,330.

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

Ontario reported 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.

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.

Across the Prairies, Manitoba reported one additional COVID-19 death and 77 new cases Wednesday. The province is also expected to expand eligibility for vaccination after receiving shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine Tuesday. 

Saskatchewan 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

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.

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.

Also in the Atlantic region, Nova Scotia reported one new COVID-19 case on Wednesday, while New Brunswick reported no new cases. Prince Edward Island officials have not yet updated their numbers. 

In the North, restrictions in the community of Arviat, Nunavut 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.

In the Northwest Territories, people 18 and up are now eligible to be vaccinated. 

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

– From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 1:45 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of early afternoon ET on Wednesday, more than 117.8 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.

The United States Congress passed a landmark $1.9-trillion US COVID-19 relief bill Wednesday, a major triumph for President Joe Biden and the Democrats.

The House gave final congressional approval to the sweeping package by a near party line 220-211 vote precisely seven weeks after Biden entered the White House and four days after the Senate passed the bill without a single Republican vote. Republican lawmakers opposed the package, calling it bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the 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.

Most noticeable to many Americans are provisions to provide up to $1,400 US direct payments this year to most adults and extend $300 per week emergency unemployment benefits into early September.

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference about the $1.9-trillion US coronavirus relief package on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. After the Senate passed the aid legislation over the weekend, the House is expected to vote on the revised legislation on Wednesday. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Elsewhere 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 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 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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Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike

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MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada‘s manufacturers on Monday asked the federal government to curb a brewing labor dispute after dockworkers at the country’s second largest port said they will work less this week.

Unionized dockworkers, who are in talks for a new contract since 2018, will hold a partial strike starting Tuesday, by refusing all overtime outside of their normal day shifts, along with weekend work, they said in a statement on Monday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Quebec’s 1,125 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected a March offer from the Maritime Employers Association.

The uncertainty caused by the labour dispute has led to an 11% drop in March container volume at the Montreal port on an annual basis, even as other eastern ports in North America made gains, the Maritime Employers Association said.

The move will cause delays in a 24-hour industry, the association said.

“Some manufacturers have had to redirect their containers to the Port of Halifax, incurring millions in additional costs every week,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).

While the government strongly believes a negotiated agreement is the best option for all parties, “we are actively examining all options as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said.

Last summer’s stoppage of work cost wholesalers C$600 million ($478 million) in sales over a two-month period, Statistics Canada estimates.

($1 = 1.2563 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara

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OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada on Monday scrapped export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.

Turkey, which like Canada is a member of NATO, is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces gained territory in the enclave after six weeks of fighting.

“This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey,” Garneau said in a statement, adding he had raised his concerns with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier in the day.

Ottawa suspended the permits last October so it could review allegations that Azeri drones used in the conflict had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.

In a statement, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa said: “We expect our NATO allies to avoid unconstructive steps that will negatively affect our bilateral relations and undermine alliance solidarity.”

Earlier on Monday, Turkey said Cavusoglu had urged Canada to review the defense industry restrictions.

The parts under embargo include camera systems for Baykar armed drones. Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased, but reimposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan jumped sixfold last year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million in September alone before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, data showed.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)

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Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits

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By Liz Hampton

DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado refinery owned by Canadian firm Suncor Energy Inc meets required environmental permits and is adequately funded, according to an investigation released on Monday into a series of emissions violations at the facility between 2017 and 2019.

The 98,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, reached a $9-million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) March 2020 to resolve air pollution violations that occurred since 2017. That settlement also addressed an incident in December 2019 that released refinery materials onto a nearby school.

As part of the settlement, Suncor was required to use a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the violations and spend up to $5 million to implement recommendations from the investigation.

Consulting firm Kearney’s investigation found the facility met environmental permit requirements, but also pinpointed areas for improvement, including personnel training and systems upgrades, some of which was already underway.

“We need to improve our performance and improve the trust people have in us,” Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City refinery said in an interview, adding that the refinery had already undertaken some of the recommendations from the investigation.

In mid-April, Suncor will begin a turnaround at the facility that includes an upgrade to a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Plant 1 of the facility. That turnaround is anticipated to be complete in June 2021.

Suncor last year completed a similar upgrade of an automatic shutdown system for the FCCU at the refinery’s Plant 2.

By 2023, the company will also install an additional control unit, upgraded instrumentation, automated shutdown valves and new hydraulic pressure units in Plant 2.

Together, those upgrades will cost approximately $12 million, of which roughly $10 million is dedicated to Plant 2 upgrades, Suncor said on Monday.

 

(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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