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

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The latest:

COVID-19 deaths and cases are on the rise again globally in a dispiriting setback that is triggering another round of restrictions and dampening hopes for an almost normal summer of fun.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Wednesday that deaths climbed last week after nine straight weeks of decline. It recorded more than 55,000 lives lost, a three per cent increase from the week before.

Cases rose 10 per cent last week to nearly three million, with the highest numbers recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain, the WHO said.

The reversal has been attributed to low vaccination rates, the relaxation of mask rules and other precautions, and the swift spread of the more-contagious delta variant, which WHO said has now been identified in 111 countries and is expected to become globally dominant in the coming months.

“It’s important that we recognize that COVID has the potential for explosive outbreaks,” warned Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

Sarah McCool, a professor of public health at Georgia State University, said the combination amounts to a “recipe for a potential tinderbox.”

Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk in front of National Stadium, the main stadium of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Japan. The sprawling city is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases ahead of the Games. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Amid the surge: the death toll in hard-hit Argentina approached 100,000; daily deaths in Russia hit record highs this week; and, in Belgium, infections, driven by the delta variant among the young, have almost doubled over the past week. Britain also recorded a one-day total of more than 40,000 new cases for the first time in six months.

As troubling as the figures are around the world, they are still well below the alarming numbers seen earlier this year.

Seven months into the vaccination drive, global deaths are down to around 7,900 a day, after topping out at over 18,000 in January, according to Johns Hopkins data. Cases are running at around 450,000 a day, down by half since their peak in late April.

The WHO acknowledged that many countries are now facing “considerable pressure” to lift all remaining precautions but warned that failing to do it the right way will just give the virus more opportunity to spread.

Pressure is growing worldwide to boost vaccination rates to counter the rise.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 5:35 p.m. ET

A medical worker administers a shot of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination centre in a huge exhibition place in Moscow on Tuesday. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)

What’s happening across Canada

People take advantage of the warm weather as they walk down a pedestrian mall in Montreal on Wednesdsay. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

As of 3:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,421,726 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4,861 considered active. The country’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 26,457. More than 43.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to a CBC News tally.

In Quebec on Wednesday, health officials reported no new deaths and 75 additional COVID-19 cases. 

Across the North on Wednesday, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut. Health officials in the Northwest Territories and Yukon hadn’t provided any updated information for the day.

Ontario on Wednesday reported 153 cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths. The province, which is still seeing cases at some long-term care homes, also announced changes around entry to long-term care homes on Wednesday.

WATCH | Yukon premier on state of emergency:

Premier Sandy Silver says Yukon will be able to lift its state of emergency next month if COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline and vaccination numbers continue to increase. ‘We are getting to a better place,’ he said. 2:15

According to an update, the province is lifting COVID-19 testing requirements for vaccinated visitors, caregivers and staff at long-term care homes as of Friday — provided they aren’t showing any symptoms. The new guidance from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health also recommends exempting fully vaccinated people from routine testing.

In Atlantic Canada, there were no new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick on Wednesday. There weren’t any new cases in Newfoundland and Labrador either, but officials reported three cases recorded on board a ship docked in Conception Bay, N.L.

Prince Edward Island had not reported any new cases by early Wednesday evening. 

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 53 new cases Wednesday, but no additional deaths, as Saskatchewan reported just 18 new cases and British Columbia reported 41. Alberta reported 46 new cases and one additional death.

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

WATCH | COVID-19: What we know about mixing vaccines: 

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch explains comments from the World Health Organization about COVID-19 vaccines taken out of context and what health experts know about mixing vaccines. 2:25

What’s happening around the world 

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 188 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, according to a tool from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, which has been collecting coronavirus data from nations around the world. The reported death toll stood at more than four million.

A health-care worker gives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday at a drive-in vaccination centre in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Jose Cabezas/Reuters)

In the Americas, El Salvador’s congress voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to impose a 90-day ban on sporting events, concerts, festivals and other mass gatherings because of a surge in coronavirus cases. Face masks will be mandatory at any public event still allowed. Fines and closures will be assessed against any venue or organizer that violates the ban.

Guatemala declared a “state of prevention” for the entire country, limiting outdoor meetings and public demonstrations, after a dramatic spike in cases last week.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo reported its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost six months on Wednesday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said with the Summer Olympics opening there in just over a week.

Tokyo reported 1,149 new cases on Wednesday. This was the highest since 1,184 were reported almost six months ago on Jan. 22. It also marked the 25th straight day that cases were higher than they were a week earlier.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a plastic replica of food displayed at a restaurant in Tokyo on Wednesday. (Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

South Korea has confirmed 1,615 new COVID-19 patients, a new domestic record for daily cases, as authorities struggle to curb a viral resurgence that has placed its capital region under the toughest distancing rules. The newly reported cases Wednesday took the country’s total to 171,911 with 2,048 deaths.

Malaysia announced new measures to support its ailing public health system as the country saw another record daily rise in COVID-19 cases.

People wait in line to be tested for the coronavirus amid the spread of COVID-19 in Seri Kembangan, Malaysia. (Lim Huey Teng/Reuters)

Indonesia saw a record of more than 54,000 new coronavirus cases, surpassing recent daily infections in India. Officials fear the more highly transmissible delta variant is spreading from the islands of Java and Bali. 

In the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his country can beat the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus without a national lockdown. He told reporters on Wednesday that a shutdown is a “last resort,” but that depends on people complying with new rules to wear masks indoors.

In Africa, Tunisia is struggling to contain its worst outbreak ever, with the virus infecting parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, while Morocco has planned to send 100 intensive care beds and a similar number of ventilators to help tackle the crisis.

Medical staff members work at a department for patients suffering from COVID-19 inside Charles Nicole Hospital in Tunis, Tunisia, on Tuesday. (Jihed Abidellaoui/Reuters)

In Europe, Russia reported 786 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, the most confirmed in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, and 23,827 new cases nationwide.

The country is facing a surge in cases that authorities have blamed on the more infectious delta variant and a slow rate of vaccinations.

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 4 p.m. ET

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Permanent residents in limbo waiting to immigrate to Canada – CBC.ca

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Aashray Kovi refreshes his email several times a day hoping for good news from Canadian immigration officials.

The 28-year-old computer programmer from Bangalore, India is one of about 23,000 aspiring immigrants with expired or soon-to-be expired documents waiting to enter Canada during the pandemic.

“It’s really depressing for all of us,” said Kovi, who plans to settle in Ottawa but can’t travel because his confirmation of permanent residency (COPR) document expired in early June.

Late last month, the federal government lifted COVID-19 restrictions allowing anyone with a valid COPR to land in Canada, which comes after a significant drop in immigration in 2020.

The country permitted 184,000 immigrants last year — the fewest since 1998 — compared to 341,000 in 2019. Canada aims to jump-start immigration with 400,000 new residents per year for the next three years.

Aashray Kovi, a 28-year-old from Bangalore, India, waits in his home country until his permanent residence documents get renewed. (Aashray Kovi)

Quicker process to reapply

There is a silver lining for those like Kovi who, instead of having to reapply for a new document, waits for Canada to reissue the documents.

That will be a quicker process as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is making exceptions.

The pandemic has significantly impacted processing times, and the government is contacting individuals with expired papers in the “weeks and months to come,” according to a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

Immigration lawyer Kyle Hyndman estimates more than half of those holding expired COPR documents are skilled workers who were chosen “to contribute to the Canadian labour market.”

Hyndman said the communication from the federal government has been messy, though.

“These people are kind of in a holding pattern … you do a bunch of things to get ready to move that are kind of hard to undo,” he said.

Kyle Hyndman, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver, estimates more than half of those holding expired COPR documents are skilled workers. (Supplied by Kyle Hyndman)

Barely holding on

Sophie Ballesteros from Barcelona, Spain had a job lined up in Halifax and her husband Carlos quit his job months ago to ready himself for a move to Canada.

Then the family’s COPR documents expired in June and there’s been no word yet on when they’ll be renewed. 

“This is the first time in my life that I am unemployed,” said Carlos Ballesteros. “I don’t sleep at night.”

Sophie said she is struggling to immerse into her new digital marketing job in Canada while staying physically in Barcelona, while also trying to find a preschool for her four-year-old daughter.

“I have to work within the time zone of Canada and sometimes there are some clients that are from Vancouver,” she said. “It’s hard for my family.”

Sophie and Carlos Ballesteros got ready to make a move to Canada months ago, lining up jobs and bank accounts in Halifax. But border closures prevented the couple from moving and their confirmation documents expired in June. 1:14

After receiving their initial approval documents, Sameer Masih and his wife began selling their belongings, including their furniture and car in New Delhi, India.

Seven months later, the couple and their son live in a mostly empty apartment waiting and hoping to find a better life in Canada.

“I am actually surviving on a bare minimum set up,” said Masih, who said the wait cost him a job at his employer’s Toronto office.

The lack of clarity has Masih wondering when his Canadian dream will come true.

“The word ‘soon’ is turning out to be a very negative and dangerous word in this context,” he said.

Sophie and Carlos Ballesteros hope to resettle in Halifax, but the Spanish couple doesn’t know when their expired permanent residence documents will be renewed. (Supplied by Carlos Ballesteros)

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Canada offers ‘path to protection’ for Afghan interpreters amid ‘critical’ situation – Global News

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Taliban is advancing rapidly across Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdraw.
  • Afghans who aided Canadian troops during the war there are now facing torture and death from the Taliban, prompting urgent calls for the government to help them.
  • The program announced Friday will see them and their families welcomed to Canada as refugees, though details on specifics of the plan are scarce.

Canadian officials are on the ground in Afghanistan and working to identify those eligible for a new “path to protection” for Afghans who supported Canadian troops during the war in that country.

The update from the government comes amid what Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino called a “critical” time for those who have helped Canadian soldiers and now face the risk of death and torture by a rapid Taliban advance across the country.

Details on the program are scarce so far but Mendicino said the program will welcome the Afghans and their families as refugees for resettlement. He said while the numbers are in flux, the estimate is that Afghans eligible under the program will be in the “thousands.”

READ MORE: Canada has ‘moral obligation’ to protect Afghan interpreters from Taliban resurgence, say experts

Mendicino said the plan will focus on special immigration measures for Afghan interpreters, Afghans who have worked or are currently working to support the Canadian embassy, as well as their families.

It is also being kept deliberately broad in scope, and will also apply to those who worked in roles such as security guards, cooks, cleaners, drivers, and other roles in support of the embassy.

“We know that time is of the essence,” said Mendicino.

“We expect the first arrivals will be in Canada very shortly.”

Work continues to try to identify the Afghans who will be eligible, he said, but did not provide details when asked on how many individuals will be able to come to Canada or what the timeline is for the effort.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said they could not provide further details because of “operational security,” and said planning with coalition allies on logistics is underway.

“The plan itself has to be guarded for the safety of the people we’re trying to bring to Canada,” he said.


Click to play video: 'Mendicino talks logistics of resettlement plan for Afghan interpreters, advisors'



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Mendicino talks logistics of resettlement plan for Afghan interpreters, advisors


Mendicino talks logistics of resettlement plan for Afghan interpreters, advisors

Canada withdrew troops from Afghanistan in 2011 but after roughly 20 years, U.S. forces are now also in the process of withdrawing from the country after waging a war to remove the Taliban from power.

The Taliban are Islamist extremists who enforce sharia law and held power in Afghanistan from roughly 1996 to 2001 when coalition forces overthrew them.

Now, the Taliban insurgency has been making rapid gains and now holds roughly half of the 421 districts as U.S. forces retreat, raising concerns that the militant extremists will be in a position to support other regional terrorist groups like ISIS and also target those who helped Canadian forces during the war.

Thousands of people have fled the Taliban advance.

As the fighters retake broad swaths of territory, former military leaders and veterans of Canada’s fight in Afghanistan have been urging the government to act quickly to honour the “moral obligation” this country owes to the Afghans who supported the coalition mission.

Mendicino echoed those sentiments on Friday.

“Not only does Canada owe them a debt of gratitude, we have a moral obligation to do right by them,” he said, and described the risk they will face retaliation from the Taliban as “grave.”


Click to play video: 'Afghan interpreters face death threats from Taliban after U.S. troops leave'



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Afghan interpreters face death threats from Taliban after U.S. troops leave


Afghan interpreters face death threats from Taliban after U.S. troops leave – Jun 3, 2021

In recent days, a group of Canadian veterans have been working to virtually try to coordinate a way for some of the Afghans who worked with soldiers to get to a safer place, pending evacuation, by using their existing network of contacts in the country.

“We managed to get a guy who was surrounded by gunfire, active airstrikes coming in to try and clear the Taliban from the area. He was trapped. And we got him to safety,” said Robin Rickards, a Canadian veteran of the war.

“Well, to relative safety.”

Global News was able to speak with that man — a former Afghan interpreter who was stuck in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province currently under siege by the Taliban. Out of concern for his safety, Global News is not identifying the man or where he is currently located.

“They already have information about the people who work with the coalition forces,” said the interpreter of the Taliban fighters entering the city.

He described witnessing fighting just 500 metres from his home, and said Taliban fighters are dumping bodies of those who helped coalition forces on highways and roads to send a signal as they continue to retake territory across the country.

“They wanted to show the people … we’re going to kill all of them,” he said.

“We want the government to start evacuation as soon as possible.”


Click to play video: 'Canadian veterans mobilize to help, as Taliban targets Afghan translators'



2:22
Canadian veterans mobilize to help, as Taliban targets Afghan translators


Canadian veterans mobilize to help, as Taliban targets Afghan translators

The U.S. State Department said on Monday it plans to evacuate around 2,500 Afghans who assisted American troops during the conflict, and fly them to a military base in Virginia within days.

The U.S. also has what’s known as the Special Immigrant Visa program which allows those who worked with U.S. troops in Afghanistan or Iraq to apply to immigrate. NBC News has cited U.S. officials as saying thousands of Afghans in the process of applying to that program will be flown to either military bases or a third country in order to be able to complete their application in safety.

It’s not yet clear to what extent Canada could coordinate with the U.S. on the evacuations or on moving the Afghans to a safer third country or area while their paperwork is processed.

Sajjan said while Canada is in discussions, he could not provide specific details.

Both the Conservatives and NDP, though, said the government could and should have acted sooner.

Tory Leader Erin O’Toole said the advance of the Taliban was predictable and that there should have been action before now to get the Afghans and their families to safety.

“The Liberal government should have made this announcement weeks ago. The Americans made it clear that they would be leaving Afghanistan months ago, and the rise of the Taliban was an expected result,” he said in a statement.

“Instead of putting forward a plan to help the heroic Afghan interpreters, support staff, and their families, the Trudeau Liberals sat on their hands and did nothing. It’s quite disappointing that these Afghans who saved the lives of our men and women in uniform were an afterthought to this Liberal government.”

NDP defence critic Randall Garrison accused the government of treating the Afghans as an “afterthought” and criticized the lack of details about the plan from the government.

“The US government has committed to providing airlift services for Afghans while their applications are processing, but details of the program are lacking from the Canadian government, including how quickly they will be able to bring them to safety,” he said.

“These collaborators, who played a vital role, have been abandoned for a decade without the support they desperately needed to find safety in Canada and deserve better. Countless interpreters and vital staff along with their families have been living in danger while the Liberals dragged their feet.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Heat waves are increasing across Canada — and hotter nights are also dangerous – CBC.ca

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When it comes to climate change, there is one fairly well-understood extreme that will affect humans in the decades to come: heat.  

Scientists know that climate change will see events like hurricanes, droughts, floods and heat waves increase in frequency or intensity. But when it comes to heat waves in particular, it’s already being seen across the world with deadly consequences. According to a recent study published in the journal The Lancet, more than five million deaths annually between 2000 and 2019 were associated with “non-optimal temperatures,” with roughly 500,000 of these deaths related to heat. 

While many of these deaths occur in tropical countries, heat waves are beginning to affect more northerly climes.

During the heat wave that suffocated British Columbia at the end of June into the first week of July, more than 800 people (as of this writing) died in the province. For comparison, in the same period last year, there were 232 deaths, according to B.C. Coroners Service’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jatinder Baidwan. The coroner’s office is continuing to investigate all of the deaths in order to nail down exactly how many were heat-related.

A man leaves a community centre in Toronto during a heat wave earlier this month. Some cities have been opening cooling centres during heat waves for people who do not have access to air conditioning. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

While we know that daytime temperatures are rising, in some regions — specifically in parts of Ontario and Quebec — nighttime temperatures are warming faster

Those warmer nights mean our bodies don’t have any time to cool off. For people with health issues like heart disease or asthma, for example, this can be extremely problematic and potentially deadly.

“Our bodies were not designed to put up with environmental heats that exceed the high 30s,” Baidwan said. “If you think about it, what happens to an air conditioning unit? When you stress it, it builds up with lots of ice on the outside and then it stops working. And in some ways that’s a great analogy for what happens to our bodies. With extreme heat, we just find it really hard to do the usual homeostatic sort of mechanisms and protocols that happen in our body.”

WATCH | How can we better prepare our homes and buildings for rising temperatures?

After a record-breaking heat wave in B.C., experts weigh in on long-term and efficient infrastructure solutions. 5:59

The heat wave that affected the Pacific Northwest was highly unusual — a one in 1,000-year occurrence, according to a recent analysis by the group World Weather Attribution, a collection of scientists who analyze severe weather events. However, parts of eastern Canada, including Ontario and Quebec, are seeing more frequent heat waves and tropical nights, defined as nighttime temperatures 20 C or higher. 

For example, according to the Climate Atlas of Canada, the number of tropical nights in Toronto averaged roughly 6.9 annually from 1976 to 2005. With climate change, under a scenario where carbon emissions decline substantially, that is expected to climb to 17.6 annually from 2021 to 2050.

If current rates of carbon emissions continue, the average number of tropical nights in Toronto is expected to hit 20.6 annually from 2021 to 2050. From 2051 to 2080, under the two different scenarios for emissions, the average number would rise to 26.4 and 42.8 respectively.

In 2018, a heat wave blanketed Montreal from June 29 to July 5; temperatures averaged roughly 34 C during the day. Nighttime temperatures didn’t fall below 20 C. In all, 66 people died.

“We’re seeing an increase in hot extremes in Canada that’s larger than the global mean warming,” said Nathan Gillet, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “The average warming in Canada is about twice the global mean warming. And the heat extremes are also increasing at a similar rate. And it’s not just the hottest, maximum temperatures, but the minimum temperatures, the nighttime minimums that are also increasing.”

Widespread effects on nature

Average temperatures in Canada have already warmed by 1.7 C and the country is warming at more than twice the rate of the planet. 

Increasing heat waves with higher-than-average temperatures during days and nights are also taking a toll on animals and delicate ecosystems, as well as crops.

A study published in the journal Global Change Biology last October found that nighttime temperatures are rising across most of the world. In those areas that saw more nighttime temperature warming than daytime, there was more cloud cover, higher precipitation and more humidity. This can affect nocturnal animals, but also animals that are active during the day who use the cooler nighttime temperatures to recover from heat stress.

Dead fish are seen floating in Alberta’s Pembina River. The fish are thought to have died due to the heat wave across Alberta that resulted in low oxygen in rivers and lakes earlier this month. (Stephanie Coombs/CBC)

“[The changes] increase the boundaries at which nocturnal species can operate. So you may get shifts in ranges, which then messes up ecosystems from changing competition and changing predation/prey relationships, and things like that,” said Daniel Cox, lead author of the study and a research associate in the U.K. at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute.

A new set of metrics

With the changing climate, governments are finding they need a new set of metrics for severe heat events. 

In 2013, Australia added new colours to their heat maps, as temperatures soared beyond anything they’d experienced in the past.

More recently, on Tuesday, the U.K. Met Office issued its first Amber Extreme Heat Warning as temperatures were forecast to rise to the 30s in parts of the country. Daytime temperatures in the 30s may not seem high compared to some parts of Canada but it’s all about what people are accustomed to. 

In another example of how governments are attempting to adapt to a warming climate, a team from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Quebec, together with the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) announced on Wednesday that a new heat wave warning threshold for the province should be introduced. Quebec’s warm seasons, researchers said, are starting earlier and ending later. 

As Earth continues to warm, air conditioning may seem like a possible solution. The problem is that energy is needed to operate them, and this also produces heat. And cities create “heat islands” where heating is further amplified by  concrete structures, adding more stress to people who are living in a hotter climate. Some cities like Toronto and Montreal are trying to introduce greener building codes and designs to address this. 

“[Heat waves aren’t] something we think about as a big hazard in Canada, but as the climate warms, we’re going to see this more and more,” said Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Gillet. “Heat waves cause deaths and and are dangerous. And yeah, it is something … that we’re going to see more and more here in Canada.”

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