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

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The latest:

Manitoba will allow more people to gather outdoors but is largely sticking with existing red level restrictions, the province’s chief public health officer said Tuesday, citing a need to be cautious as the province sees a “slow increase” in case numbers and an increasing proportion of variant cases.

The Manitoba government is increasing the number of people allowed to gather outdoors to 25 from 10. It’s one of a small number of COVID-19 restrictions being eased starting Friday.

The limit on people allowed to attend weddings and funerals will also rise to 25 people from 10. For retail outlets, operators will be allowed to go to either 50 per cent capacity or a maximum of 500 people — whichever is lower.

Premier Brian Pallister said the changes were “cautious” and designed to protect the well-being of people in the province.

Manitoba on Tuesday reported one COVID-19 death and 98 new cases. However, five cases were removed due to data correction, for a net increase of 93.

Dr. Brent Roussin, echoing comments made by Canada’s chief public health officer and many of his provincial colleagues, expressed concern about increasing variant of concern cases. 

“We know these variants spread much more readily, and so we need to continue to do what we can to limit that transmission,” Roussin said on Tuesday. “There continues to be reasons to be optimistic, but we need to be cautious in the meantime.”

Roussin said the province doesn’t have “nearly the amount” of vaccine coverage to change the province’s public health measures, but he said “we can be optimistic that more and more vaccine is on its way over time.”

WATCH | Manitoba’s race to get COVID-19 vaccines into First Nations:

A push is on in Manitoba’s First Nations and some adjacent communities to vaccinate 100,000 people against COVID-19 in 100 days. The inoculation campaign is racing against variants and the melting of ice roads into remote northern communities. 2:02

In neighbouring Saskatchewan, Regina is heading back to some of the toughest public health restrictions seen during the pandemic because of a concerning spread of COVID-19 variants. 

“The rise of the variant cases means we have to continue to be extremely cautious,” Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday.

Moe said that for most of the province the number of COVID-19 cases is stable or declining. In Regina, however, “we are seeing case numbers continue to rise, and that is largely due to the high concentration of variant cases.”

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


What’s happening across Canada 

WATCH | Why your masks may not be as protective as you think:

With more contagious variants of COVID-19 on the rise, there’s more talk of improving people’s masks. The type of mask is important, but as The National’s Andrew Chang found out, so is its fit. 4:47

As of 10:20 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 943,896 cases of COVID-19, with 36,340 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,745.

In Ontario, where the provincial government will unveil a budget later Wednesday, health officials reported 1,571 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths. According to provincial figures updated Wednesday, COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 893, with 333 people in intensive care units.

In Atlantic Canada, health officials reported a total of 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — seven in New Brunswick, two in Prince Edward Island and one in Nova Scotia. There were no new cases reported in Newfoundland and Labrador

In Quebec, health officials reported 656 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths on Tuesday. Hospitalizations stood at 519, with 113 people in intensive care.

In Alberta, health officials reported 465 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths on Tuesday. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 290, with 52 COVID-19 patients in intensive care. 

British Columbia, meanwhile, reported 682 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death. Hospitalizations stood at 314, the province reported, with 83 COVID-19 patients in intensive care. 

Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

According to a list updated by federal health officials every evening at 7 p.m. ET, as of Tuesday Canada had seen more than 6,200 reported cases of variants of concern, including:

  • 5,812 cases of the B117 variant first reported in the U.K.
  • 247 cases of the B1351 variant first reported in South Africa.
  • 152 cases of the P1 variant linked to Brazil.

(Read more from CBC’s Robson Fletcher about how provinces are working to track variant cases and the challenges of interprovincial comparisons.)

From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

Elementary school students wearing masks and seated adhering to physical distancing attend class as schools reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, on Wednesday. (Willy Kurniawan/Reuters)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 124.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.

In Europe, the European Union is moving toward stricter export controls to ensure that there are more COVID-19 shot supplies for the bloc, which should boost its flagging vaccine drive at a time of another surge of the coronavirus pandemic on the continent.

The EU’s executive body said Wednesday on the eve of a summit of the 27 leaders that it has a plan ready to guarantee that more vaccines produced in the bloc are available for its own citizens before they can be shipped for exports.

EU nations have been specifically stung by the United Kingdom, which has received some 10 million doses from EU plants while they say nothing came back from Britain. The EU now insists on reciprocity as it sees vaccination rates in Britain racing upwards, while the bloc proceeds at a crawl.

Medical staff work in a unit where patients suffering from COVID-19 are treated at the private Polyclinique Saint Jean in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France, on Tuesday. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

“We have secured more than enough doses for the entire population. But we have to ensure timely and sufficient vaccine deliveries to EU citizens,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “Every day counts.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, has dropped plans for a five-day shutdown in Germany over Easter, which had prompted confusion and criticism. She called the idea a mistake and apologized to Germans. Merkel announced the decision after calling a hastily arranged video conference with Germany’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions.

The same group had come up with the unexpected plan for deeper restrictions over Easter, which was announced early Tuesday. The plan was to make Thursday, the day before Good Friday, a “rest day,” with all shops closed, and only allow supermarkets to open on Easter Saturday.

France’s culture minister has been hospitalized for COVID-19, the latest senior official to be infected as the nation faces a third surge of infections. Roselyne Bachelot announced last weekend that she had tested positive and her hospitalization was made public Wednesday. The latest surge has been likely propelled by the highly contagious virus variant first seen in Britain.

ICUs in the Paris region as well as in northern and southeastern France are filling up. French President Emmanuel Macron, who was infected months ago but never hospitalized, announced on Tuesday an acceleration of the country’s vaccination campaign. Now all people over 70 are eligible to get a shot.

Poland will likely have to toughen restrictions again after reporting what early figures suggest will be a record number of new infections.

Spain’s coronavirus infection rate edged up, highlighting concern that a long decline is in danger of reversing.

In the Americas, Brazil suffered a record 3,251 COVID-19 deaths, as pot-banging protests erupted across the country during an address by President Jair Bolsonaro in which he defended his pandemic response and pledged to ramp up vaccinations.

A health worker inoculates a woman at a COVID-19 vaccination point for priority elderly persons in the Ceilandia neighbourhood, on the outskirts of Brasilia, Brazil, on Monday. (Eraldo Peres/The Associated Press)

Colombia will impose new restrictions on movement and enact nightly curfews in municipalities with high occupancy levels in intensive care units as it tries to avoid a severe third wave of COVID-19.

In Africa, the first 165,000 of up to seven million COVID-19 vaccine doses that MTN Group is donating to African countries have arrived in Ghana.

In the Middle East Lebanon reported 42 additional deaths and more than 3,850 cases of COVID-19, health officials reported on Tuesday. The country, which is also in the midst of economic and political turmoil, is awaiting delivery of doses of both the AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines, local media reported.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan’s top health official said Wednesday his country will purchase one million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine and 60,000 doses of the vaccine made by Chinese company CanSino Biologics.

Faisal Sultan, a special assistant to the prime minister, said on Twitter that an order has been placed for the purchase of Chinese-made vaccines, which will be delivered to Pakistan within days. The purchases will be in addition to 1.5 million doses of vaccine that China is donating to Pakistan in phases. Without giving more details, Sultan said Pakistan will also receive several million doses of vaccines in April.

Pakistan is currently facing a third wave of coronavirus infections.

Also on Wednesday, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said the government is ordering the closure of schools in the capital, Islamabad, and in several other high-risk cities until April 11.

Hong Kong authorities halted the use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech citing defective packaging, triggering scenes of confusion at inoculation centres across the city.

From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 10:20 a.m ET

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Details of funeral service planned for Britain’s Prince Philip

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LONDON (Reuters) – Following are details of the funeral this Saturday of Britain’s Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, who died on April 9 aged 99.

THE FUNERAL

The funeral, which will be broadcast live, will take place at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle at 3 p.m. (1400 GMT).

As planned, it will be a ceremonial royal funeral, rather than a state funeral, with most of the details in keeping with Prince Philip’s personal wishes.

However, it has had to be scaled back because of COVID-19 restrictions. There will be no public access, no public processions and the funeral will take place entirely within the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The service will begin with a national minute of silence. At the end of the service Philip will be interred in the chapel’s Royal Vault.

WHO WILL ATTEND?

Only 30 mourners are permitted because of COVID-19 rules. These will include the queen, all senior royals including the duke’s grandchildren and their wives, and members of Prince Philip’s family including Bernhard, the Hereditary Prince of Baden, and Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.

Members of the Royal Family will be wearing morning coat with medals, or day dress. The congregation will adhere to national coronavirus guidelines and wear masks for the 50-minute service.

A small choir of four will sing pieces of music chosen by the prince before his death and there will be no congregational singing. The queen will be seated alone during the service.

THE DETAILS (note: all times local, GMT is one hour behind British Summer Time)

At 11 a.m., Philip’s coffin, covered by his standard (flag), a wreath, his naval cap and sword, will be moved by a bearer party from the Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards from the Private Chapel in Windsor Castle – where it has been lying in rest – to the Inner Hall of the castle.

At 2 p.m. the ceremonial aspect begins, and within 15 minutes military detachments drawn from Philip’s special military relationships such as the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Grenadier Guards, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, the Intelligence Corps and the Highlanders will line up in the castle’s quadrangle.

The Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry will line up around the perimeter of the quadrangle.

Between 2.20 p.m. and 2.27 p.m., the royals and members of Philip’s family not taking part in the procession will leave by car for St George’s Chapel.

At 2.27 p.m., a specially-coverted Land Rover that Philip helped design will enter the quadrangle.

At 2.38 p.m., the coffin will be lifted by the bearer party from the Inner Hall.

Bands in the quadrangle will stop playing at 2.40 p.m. and the coffin will emerge from the State Entrance one minute later.

The royals in the procession including Philip’s four children – Princes Charles, Andrew, Edward and Princess Anne, along with grandsons William and Harry – will leave the State Entrance behind the coffin, which will be placed onto the Land Rover.

At 2.44 p.m., the queen will leave the Sovereign’s Entrance in a car known as the State Bentley. The national anthem will be played and as the car reaches the rear of the procession, it will pause briefly.

At 2.45 p.m., the procession will step off with the band of the Grenadier Guards leading. The Land Rover will be flanked by pall bearers.

As it moves to the chapel, Minute Guns will be fired by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and a Curfew Tower Bell will sound.

The queen’s Bentley will stop outside the Galilee Porch where she will be met by the dean of Windsor, David Conner, who will escort her to her seat in the quire of the Chapel.

The coffin will arrive at the foot of the west steps of St George’s Chapel at 2:53 p.m. to a guard of honour and band from the Rifles. Positioned in the Horseshoe Cloister will be the Commonwealth defence advisers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago.

The west steps will be lined by a dismounted detachment of the Household Cavalry. A Royal Naval Piping Party will pipe the “Still” once the Land Rover is stationery at the foot of the steps. A bearer party from the Royal Marines will lift the coffin from the Land Rover as the Piping Party pipe the “Side”.

The coffin will pause for the national minute of silence at 3 p.m.. A gun fired from the East Lawn will signify the start and end.

The coffin will then be taken to the top of the steps where it will be received by the dean of Windsor and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. As the chapel doors close, a piping party will pipe the “Carry On”.

The coffin will move through the nave to the catafalque in the quire, with senior royals processing behind.

Philip’s “insignia” – essentially the medals and decorations conferred on him, his field marshal’s baton and Royal Air Force Wings, together with insignia from Denmark and Greece, will be positioned on cushions on the altar.

The funeral service will then be conducted by the dean of Windsor. After the coffin is lowered into the Royal Vault, Philip’s “Styles and Titles” will be proclaimed from the sanctuary.

A lament will then be played by a pipe major of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and “The Last Post” will be sounded by buglers of the Royal Marines.

After a period of silence, “the Reveille” will be sounded by the state trumpeters of the Household Cavalry and then the buglers of the Royal Marines will sound “Action Stations” at the specific request of the Duke of Edinburgh, as Philip was officially known.

The archbishop of Canterbury will then pronounce the blessing, after which the national anthem will be sung.

The queen and the other mourners will then leave the chapel via the Galilee Porch.

 

(Reporting by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Frances Kerry and Catherine Evans)

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Biden, Suga to send signal to assertive China at U.S.-Japan summit

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By Linda Sieg and David Brunnstrom

TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden will highlight Tokyo’s central role in Washington’s strategy to counter the challenge of an increasingly assertive China at a summit on Friday.

While that emphasis on Japan’s key status will be welcome in Tokyo, where some politicians are pushing for a tougher stance towards Beijing, it also raises questions about how far Tokyo can go to meet demands on regional defence and human rights.

“This will be the precursor to a series of meetings among like-minded countries to send the right signal to Beijing,” Kunihiko Miyake, an adviser to Suga, told Reuters.

Suga took over as premier last September, inheriting a China policy that sought to balance security concerns with deep economic ties.

But striking that balance has become harder as China increases maritime activities in the East and South China Seas and near Taiwan, which Beijing considers a wayward province.

Rights concerns have deepened over the treatment of Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region. China denies abuses, but Washington says Beijing is perpetrating a genocide.

Suga will be the first foreign leader to meet Biden in person since the president took office, something that could give Suga a boost ahead of a general election this year.

“Asking Suga to meet the president first means a lot – that China competition is critical and who is the best partner? Japan,” said Toshihiro Nakayama of Japan’s Keio University.

“That also means that Japan has to do more.”

Suga told reporters before leaving for Washington he hoped to strengthen the alliance based on the shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law, show the two countries’ leadership in creating a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and build a relationship of trust with Biden.

Besides regional security, the two are also expected to discuss climate change, supply chain resilience, a global semiconductor shortage and COVID-19.

Marc Knapper, the senior official for Japan and Korea at the U.S. State Department, said issues that would be “front and centre” in the discussions included “China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea, South China Sea; what’s happening within China, and…around China, Taiwan, Hong Kong.”

He told an event at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies there would also be discussion of North Korea’s nuclear missile program, which threatens both Japan and the United States, and ways to address “existential issues of our time, climate change, clean energy, COVID-19.”

Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections with fewer than 100 days from the planned start of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

‘PEACE AND STABILITY’

In a statement after a March meeting of U.S.-Japan defence and foreign ministers, 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 United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada have 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, while Japanese executives worry about a backlash.

Japanese officials were divided over whether Suga should endorse a strong statement on Taiwan, despite U.S. urging, or Xinjiang, two Japanese ruling party lawmakers familiar with the discussions said.

A Japanese foreign ministry official said it was not decided whether there would be a joint statement after the summit.

Asked to comment, a senior U.S. official said: “We would not want Japan to make any statements that they do not fully support.”

Any comments by Suga on either Taiwan or human rights will be closely watched by China, which has warned Tokyo against “being misled” by countries biased against Beijing.

Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a source of major friction with Washington, which is required by U.S. law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

While Tokyo has no official diplomatic relations with Taipei, non-governmental engagement has flourished. Some Japanese lawmakers want even closer ties.

The last time U.S and Japanese leaders referred to Taiwan in a joint statement was in 1969, when Japan’s prime minister said maintenance of peace and security in the “Taiwan area” was important for its own security. That was before Tokyo normalised ties with Beijing.

Japan hosts over 50,000 U.S. military personnel and, experts say, would be unlikely to stand idly by in any Taiwan crisis, although many ordinary citizens would probably be wary of entanglement.

 

(Reporting by Linda Sieg in Tokyo and David Brunnstrom and Steve Holland In Washington; Additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Elaine Lies; Editing by David Dolan, Michael Perry and Chizu Nomiyama)

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After Air Canada lifeline, small carriers seek aid as virus looms ahead of summer travel

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By Allison Lampert and Steve Scherer

MONTREAL (Reuters) –Canada is facing industry calls to extend financial aid to smaller airlines, after offering a C$5.9 billion ($4.71 billion)life-line to Air Canada, as new COVID-19 variants loom ahead of the vital summer travel season.

The timing of Monday’s deal, which saw the Canadian government take a 6% equity stake in Air Canada, was partly designed to secure “access to air travel when it returns,” as the country’s vaccine rollout ramps up this summer, a source familiar with the discussions said.

But with the spread of new variants threatening to overtake the pace of vaccination, early hopes for a relaxation of Canada‘s strict travel requirements ahead of summer are fading.

Fears of a delayed recovery, along with the Air Canada deal, has upset the “level playing field” for air service, with smaller carriers asking for financial support.

“We want everyone to have access to the same programs,” said John McKenna, chief executive of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), which represents smaller carriers.

On Wednesday, Air Canada joined rival WestJet Airlines in extending a three-month suspension of sun-destination flights to the Caribbean and Mexico originally slated to end on April 30, reflecting the government’s current warnings against international travel. [L1N2M71SG]

The planned April reopening of a bubble in Atlantic Canada, which would allow travel among the region’s four provinces without the need to self-isolate, was postponed this week until at least May 3 over COVID-19 concerns.

WestJet said its previously-planned schedule for Atlantic Canada remains unchanged.

Canada‘s vaccine roll out has been slow, but it is ramping up now. By the end of June, some 44 million doses are expected, and everyone who wants to be fully inoculated will be by the end of September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised.

Trudeau said in a radio interview this week that he supports Canadian provinces which choose to close their borders to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Canada‘s Liberal government, which will deliver its first budget in two years next week, has said talks with carriers like Onex Corp-owned WestJet are ongoing.

“We hope that the other agreements come as soon as possible,” the source familiar with the talks said, adding that “different airlines have different needs”.

WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell said the airline is optimistic that a successful vaccine roll-out will support summer travel and expects “government policy will transition” with mounting jabs.

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, has a mandate that its citizens and residents arriving from abroad self-isolate for 14 days.

Health Canada advised Canadians in a statement to avoid traveling outside the country “for the foreseeable future.”

Calgary-based WestJet has asked the government to end an order requiring international arrivals to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel in favor of COVID-19 testing.

The government must decide whether to renew the controversial hotel order, which expires on April 21.

McKenna also urged the government to relax restrictions on travel with neighboring United States.

“The government can come up with all the financial help they want,” ATAC’s McKenna said. “But until those things are relaxed we can’t do anything.”

($1 = 1.2515 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and Steve Scherer in Ottawa. Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; editing by Diane Craft)

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