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

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The latest:

Facing months of increasing pressure, Ontario announced Wednesday that the province will provide a plan for paid sick days.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton is introducing legislation that would require employers to provide workers with up to $200 of pay for up to three days if an employee has to stay home because of COVID-19.

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This program would be retroactive to April 19, 2021, and effective until Sept. 25, 2021.

Employers will be reimbursed for costs of up to $200 a day for three days. 

McNaughton also said the province has offered to provide funding to the federal government to double the Canada recovery sickness benefit payments for Ontario residents, adding an additional $500 per week to eligible individuals, for a total of $1,000 per week.

For months, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has resisted bringing in a provincially-run program, arguing the federal sick leave program was adequate.

The province on Wednesday reported 3,480 new cases of COVID-19 and 24 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 2,281, with 877 people in intensive care units as a result of COVID-19.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 3:45 p.m. ET


What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

WATCH | Nova Scotia enters lockdown: 

With COVID-19 stretching Nova Scotia’s health-care system to its limits, officials ordered a provincewide lockdown to try and prevent further spread of the virus. 2:01

As of 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,202,743 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 83,354 considered active. A CBC tally of deaths stood at 24,117.  

People in Nova Scotia are under new rules Wednesday after officials imposed a provincewide lockdown for at least two weeks to deal with an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Health officials in the province reported 96 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — a new single-day high — followed by 75 on Wednesday.

The restrictions, which will be in place until at least May 12, call for strict rules around gatherings, sweeping closures and a shift to remote learning.

“We won’t hesitate to use whatever means that we need to do,” Rankin said, noting that he has confidence that, “Nova Scotians, by and large, will follow these orders.”

In New Brunswick, meanwhile, health officials on Wednesday reported eight new cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. A lockdown that was in effect for nearly three weeks in the Edmundston and Upper Madawaska regions ended, though a lockdown at the Fredericton’s campus of the University of New Brunswick had to be extended through Sunday because of an outbreak at one of the residences.

The province lifted the order overnight Tuesday, placing that section of the Edmundston region, Zone 4, under the less restrictive orange COVID alert level.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, including its first case of the P1 COVID-19 variant of concern, which was first identified in Brazil. The province has confirmed 46 cases in April so far, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says the majority of those have now been linked to variants.

The province has also had a case of the B1167 variant of interest, which first emerged in India, as well as several cases of the B1351 variant, first detected in South Africa.

There were two new cases reported by Prince Edward Island.

In Quebec, health officials on Wednesday reported 1,094 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations, as reported by the province, stood at 643, with 161 people in intensive care.

The province’s public health director says the government is studying the possibility of vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 16 over the summer. Dr. Horacio Arruda says he is following the ongoing studies involving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and said the province could move quickly if the shot is authorized for those under 16.

WATCH | Inside a Montreal ICU where COVID-19 patients are getting younger:

CBC News goes inside the intensive care unit of Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital where doctors say everyone — no matter their age — needs to take COVID-19 seriously. 6:23

Across the North, Nunavut reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 50. Health officials in Yukon reported that more than 70 per cent of people in the territory have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The Northwest Territories had no new cases Wednesday. 

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 189 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and three additional deaths, including two people in their 20s. The province is expanding vaccine eligibility to include more hard-hit regions. Individuals 18 and older living in the designated neighbourhoods, as well as people working in specified front-line jobs, will be able to book appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine at one of the province’s supersites or pop-up clinics.

Saskatchewan reported 213 new cases and four additional deaths Wednesday. Despite the province’s chief medical health officer saying Saskatoon is on “red alert,” the province is not imposing any new restrictions for now.  

WATCH | Millions of rapid COVID-19 tests unused across Canada:

The federal government has published data showing only four per cent of rapid tests supplied to the provinces and territories have been used. 2:02

Alberta on Wednesday reported 1,839 new cases of COVID-19 and an additional six deaths as a result of the illness. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that the province would make all of its expected shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, expected Monday, available to the two hardest hit areas in the province — the Wood Buffalo and Banff areas. Age of vaccine eligibility in the areas will be 30 and older for both the J&J and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines. 

In British Columbia, health officials reported 841 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and five additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 515, with 171 in intensive care. A provincial court judge sentenced a man who turned his condo into a makeshift nightclub during a lockdown in January to a day in jail plus 18 months probation.

“If someone who had been at your party was infected and died, as far as I’m concerned, you’re guilty of manslaughter. If someone who had been at your party was infected and passed it on to grandma, as far as I’m concerned, you’re guilty of manslaughter,” Judge Ellen Gordon told Mohammad Movassaghi.  

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

Wearing a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, volunteer math teacher Yanina Lopez helps Oscar Martinez at a makeshift school set up by Guarani language professor Edgar Villalba in the Bañado Norte slum of Asuncion, Paraguay, earlier this week. (Jorge Saenz/The Associated Press)

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 149 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global reported death toll stood at more than 3.1 million.

In Europe, the European Commission’s lawsuit against drugmaker AstraZeneca over vaccine supplies began at a Brussels court, where the bloc’s lawyers pressed for immediate deliveries from all factories. The parties agreed to hold two more hearings on May 26.

The Netherlands on Wednesday became the latest European country to begin cautiously relaxing its lockdown even as infection rates and intensive care occupancy remain stubbornly high.

The Dutch follow Italy, Greece, France and other European nations in moving to reopen society and edge away from economically crippling lockdowns.

In the Middle East, Iran has found three suspected cases of the coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa, its health minister said.

Authorities in Lebanon on Wednesday recommended a ban on travellers arriving from hard-hit India and Brazil unless they had been out of the two countries for more than two weeks.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan recorded more than 200 deaths in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic, while the COVID-19 death toll in India topped 200,000. The country also reported 362,757 new infections in one day, a global record.

South Korea said it will offer some exemptions to mandatory quarantine measures for people who have been fully inoculated against COVID-19.

People try to secure a ticket to go back to their village a day prior to lockdown in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of people left the Nepalese capital Wednesday, a day ahead of a 15-day lockdown imposed by the government because of spiking cases of COVID-19 in the country. (Niranjan Shrestha/The Associated Press)

In Africa, Egypt’s daily reported cases of coronavirus have surpassed 1,000 for the first time in months amid a surge in infections in the Arab world’s most-populous country. The health ministry recorded 1,003 cases and 61 fatalities in the past 24 hours.

South Africa has resumed giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to health-care workers after a more than two-week pause in the use of the only vaccine in the country. South Africa implemented the pause on April 13 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported the J&J vaccine might be linked to rare blood clots. The country’s drug regulatory body determined the vaccine is safe.

In the Americas, Mexico will produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine domestically, its foreign minister said on a visit to Moscow.

A Senate inquiry into the Brazilian government’s handling of the pandemic kicked off on Tuesday, with lawmakers launching what may be a major headache for the president ahead of next year’s election.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:00 p.m. ET

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Air Canada suspending flights to Calgary from YXE and YQR – CTV News Saskatoon

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Starting in mid-January Air Canada will no longer be offering direct flights to and from Calgary for the province’s two biggest airports.

Travelers at the Saskatoon Airport were not happy with the announcement.

“I want them to continue. There are many people in Saskatoon that go to Calgary,” said Josephine Regan.

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“Who wants to go to Vancouver and then fly back again,” said Anne McDonald.

Air Canada passengers will now have to catch a connecting flight through Vancouver, more than tripling the time it takes to reach Calgary with a direct flight.

“It was a surprise, we were not aware that this decision was going to be made,” said Vice-President of Business Development for Skyxe Airport CJ Dushinski.

“It’s obviously disappointing anytime a carrier decides to cease service from a market, especially when we’re talking about a market like Calgary which is one of our largest markets out of Saskatoon.”

Saskatoon and Regina both see approximately two in-bound and out-bound flights to Calgary daily.

“We know loyal Air Canada customers will be disappointed. It provides a few less options for connections through a variety of places,” said Manager of Customer Experience for Regina Airport Authority Justin Reves.

In a statement to CTV News the airline provider said “Air Canada has made some changes to its flights to/from Calgary. We are continuing to rebuild our business in a prudent and disciplined way and that means looking at every aspect of our network and deploying our resources where they will be most productive. After careful review, we’ve decided that we must continue to strategically focus on rebuilding our main hubs of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. As a result, we have made the difficult decision to suspend a number of regional routes from Calgary effective Jan. 2023.”

Sandy Levinton who operates Marlin Travel Agency says the direct flight suspensions will force her company to switch up some flights for customers.

“We have to find alternate routes for them,” she said. “The airlines have to streamline their operations whenever they can. They’re seeing that flights are not filling up and they’re just going start pulling those or suspending them.”

In the wake of the suspension Levinton says WestJet Airlines has already added more direct flights to Calgary.

Air Canada says it does “review opportunities to add services,” which could have the company add the flights back to the province’s two major airports, however it provided no timetable for when that could happen. 

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Blood Donations: The Gift We take for Granted

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How has the pandemic affected the blood pool within the North America Region? Has the blood supply so needed by the racialized, Black and Asian Communities suffered?

Black and Racialized North Americans tend to die or have blood-related illnesses more often than White Folk. The exact cause is unknown, but it is likely a combination of genetics, behavior, and risk factors entering into it. Blacks tend to have smaller blood vessels, leading to heart-centered illnesses. Ethnic health issues are front and center, in front of our political and health officials these days.

Canada is facing a blood shortage, and 100,000 donors are required to maintain the nation’s blood supply. This is a challenge to accomplish in itself. There are racial communities that have particular needs not being serviced. For many of these people, there is a shortage of donations from their specific genetic community, causing a life-or-death situation.

“Most of the time, blood really never sees race,” says Madeline Verhovsek, a hematologist from St. Joseph’s healthcare in Hamilton. Matching blood transfusions between donors and recipients is usually an easy endeavor, but in some special cases, the blood types available are not sufficient. Sometimes a person with special unique medical conditions or complications may require extended matching, challenging the system’s blood pool. In some cases, people from specific ethnic communities are required to donate to their kin and community members.

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One such condition is sickle-cell anemia, which affects people living in malaria-prone areas of Sub-Sahara Africa and The Middle East Regions. Sickle Cell Anemia can require patients to experience up to 25 transfusions annually. While there are 4 main blood types (O, A/B, A, and B are antigens that sit upon red blood cells), there are other antigens contained in blood, and their genetic codes can vary. Blood from the black community is like gold to the Canadian Blood Services, mostly because of its rarity and availability. That is not to say that the black community does not donate blood, but rather that there are stumbling blocks placed before racialized community members. If you have had malaria, you are not allowed to donate in Canada. In America, those who have had malaria are not banned for life.

Margaret Media of Canadian Blood Services (director of philanthropy) said “Canadians must realize and acknowledge that some government policies are a hindrance to people donating their blood, marrow, and stem cells”.

Sikh Nation, a community-based organization, raises the Sikh Community into donating their blood. They want a safe supply, but also adequate supply, so when there is a need the supply is there. The ban that disallowed LGBTQ Community Members to donate has been re-imaged recently. Those communities with a historic rare blood record have been organizing community drives, as well as blood storage with the Canadian authority’s assistance and cooperation. Those that help themselves through organizing and determining action seem to achieve wonderful results. In our crazy energetic world, finding the time to donate is another problem. The Business World has often responded to this difficulty through employee-encouraged blood drives, paid wages while donating, and promoting blood donations. The blood agency and activist organizations pursue diligently those employed in super active jobs, such as truck drivers and seasonal workers to encourage and achieve blood donations.

Governmental action to lower the barriers to donating blood, especially within Black and African, and Asian populations seems to be achieving its necessary goals. The Indian community of Brampton has responded well to the presence of increased donation centers in Brampton. Sikh Canadian activists point out that blood donation is perfectly in line with Canadian – Sikh values, to save lives.

Sources…Canadian Blood Services, CBC, and Brampton Guardian.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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Military faces calls to return general to duty after sexual assault acquittal

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The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to return Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to duty after the senior officer, who previously oversaw the Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, was acquitted of sexual assault.

The military says it is considering the implications of the ruling, which was handed down by a Quebec civilian judge on Monday following a high-profile trial.

Fortin’s lawyer, Natalia Rodriguez, says her client is ready, willing and able to return to service after being essentially put on paid leave for more than a year.

But Rodriguez also says that Fortin’s career and reputation have suffered as a result of the allegation against him, and the way it was handled by the Liberal government and the military.

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Retired colonel Michel Drapeau, who is now a lawyer specializing in military cases, says the acquittal should pave the way for Fortin should be immediately assigned to a new role with full duties.

But he and others say the government may instead offer a settlement in return for Fortin’s retirement, similar to what happened when the breach of trust case against vice-admiral Mark Norman was dropped in May 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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