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

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The latest:

Hospitals in New Brunswick are feeling the strain of the Omicron wave, with four hospitals at or near capacity.

“Our hospitals are caring for higher volumes of COVID-positive inpatients than at any other point in the pandemic,” a statement from the Horizon Health network said Tuesday.

The hospital network said that the number of people in hospital combined with staff shortages is having an impact on how it delivers care. The province shifted to emergency and urgent hospital care only at the end of 2021 as it faced a mounting Omicron wave. 

According to the provincial update on Tuesday, a total of 138 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 — a pandemic high in the province — including 11 in intensive care. The province also reported three additional deaths and 350 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement Tuesday that while hospitalizations are rising, they are trending below the province’s projections.

“The data indicates that New Brunswickers have reduced their contacts by about 30 per cent,” she said in a statement. “This has made a tremendous difference to our acute care system, which has been heavily impacted by employees who are absent due to Omicron and the increasing number of patients.”

Tight restrictions are still in place in the Atlantic province, and students are expected to continue with remote learning until Jan. 31.

In Nova Scotia, health officials on Tuesday said 92 people were in the province’s designated COVID-19 units, including 15 people in intensive care. The provincial update showed a total of 304 people in hospital with COVID-19, including cases where people contracted the virus while in hospital. The province also reported five additional deaths and 492 additional lab-confirmed cases.

Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday said COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 20, with five people in critical care. The province, which sent students back to in-person learning Tuesday, also reported an additional 296 lab-confirmed cases.

Prince Edward Island health officials on Tuesday reported a ninth COVID-19-related death and 275 additional lab-confirmed cases. Health officials in the province said there were 10 people in hospital being treated for COVID-19 — including two in ICU. There were two others in hospital with COVID-19 being treated for other illnesses, the province said. 

-From CBC News, last updated at 10:05 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Quebec premier talks about living with COVID-19 long-term and structural issues in the health-care system: 

Legault describes Quebec living with COVID-19 long-term

21 hours ago

Duration 1:22

Living with COVID-19 long-term means accepting hospitalizations and deaths, says Quebec Premier François Legault. 1:22

With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.

For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.

You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.

In Central Canada, Ontario’s health minister on Wednesday reported a total of 4,016 hospitalizations, with 608 people in intensive care. The province, which saw 5,368 new lab-confirmed cases, also reported 89 additional deaths — though Christine Elliott’s office noted that the deaths occurred over the past 21 days.

Quebec on Wednesday reported 3,270 hospitalizations, with 252 people in intensive care. The province reported 73 additional deaths and 4,150 new lab-confirmed cases, according to the COVID-19 situation report posted daily by health officials.

The update comes a day after Premier François Legault said that the province will ease some COVID-19 restrictions in the weeks ahead. The initial shift, which is set for Jan. 31, will allow restaurants to open dining rooms with limited capacity. Some sports will return, with further easing expected in early February.

Quebec’s health system, however, is still feeling the strain, Legault said, noting that it will take time to build the capacity the province needs.

Across the North, Nunavut on Wednesday reported 48 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths, while Yukon reported 25 additional cases and no new deaths.

Health officials in the Northwest Territories had not yet provided updated information for the day.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba on Tuesday reported a total of 729 COVID-19 hospitalizations — another pandemic high. Of those, 49 people were receiving intensive care. Health officials also reported six additional deaths and 637 additional lab-confirmed cases.

In Saskatchewan, the total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 291, with 33 people in the province’s intensive care units. The province also reported two additional deaths and 1,049 lab-confirmed cases.

Alberta on Tuesday said hospitalizations stood at 1,377 — a pandemic high — with 111 people in intensive care. The province also reported 13 additional deaths and 2,772 additional cases.

“Our hospitals are under strain, especially in the larger urban centres,” said Jason Copping, the province’s health minister. “Staff are tired, not just from the current wave of cases, but from five waves over two years.”

Copping said there are signs Omicron transmission may be slowing, but he had cautious words about the weeks ahead, saying they will be the “toughest yet for many Albertans.”

In British Columbia, total COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 985, health officials said Tuesday, with 144 in intensive care units. The province also reported one additional death and 1,446 additional lab-confirmed cases. 

People in the province will need to bring their vaccine card with them through to the end of June if they want to access indoor spaces, restaurants or most events, says the provincial health officer. Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday the vaccine card is specifically designed to mitigate the risks of spreading COVID-19, allowing certain businesses and activities to remain open.

“As we move through this period, it will, I expect, no longer be necessary,” Henry told a news conference. “But right now, it is one of those important tools that we have.”

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 12:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

The Australian Navy’s HMAS Adelaide docked at Vuna Wharf in Tonga’s capital Nukualofa to deliver aid following the Jan. 15 eruption of the nearby Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano. (Mary Lyn Fonua/Matangi Tonga/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Wednesday afternoon, more than 359.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.6 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Australian navy’s largest ship docked at disaster-stricken Tonga on Wednesday and was allowed to unload humanitarian supplies in the South Pacific nation despite crew members being infected with COVID-19, officials said.

Nearly two-dozen sailors aboard HMAS Adelaide were reported infected on Tuesday, raising fears the mission could bring the coronavirus to the small archipelago devastated by an undersea volcanic eruption and a tsunami on Jan. 15. Supplies were to be delivered without contact with the local population to avoid infections, the Australian government said in a statement.

Since the pandemic began, Tonga has reported just a single case of COVID-19 and has avoided any outbreaks. It’s one of the few countries in the world currently completely virus free. About 61 per cent of Tongans are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

South Korea’s daily new cases exceeded 13,000 for the first time, as the government seeks to revise its anti-virus response scheme to focus on Omicron.

Shoppers look at plants at a flower market ahead of the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Current physical distancing rules will be extended to cover Lunar New Year as the semi-autonomous region continues to see a number of COVID-19 infections linked to imported cases. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

In Europe, Austria’s lockdown for people not fully vaccinated will end on Monday because the pressure on hospitals has eased, the government said.

Sweden will extend several restrictions for another two weeks, while neighbouring Denmark was expected to announce that it no longer considers COVID-19 as “a socially critical disease” as of next month and will remove most restrictions.

Sweden’s Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said the country was seeing “an extremely record-high spread of infection,” so the existing measures “need to remain in place for another two weeks.” It was not immediately clear what restrictions will end in Denmark. But a letter from the health minister to lawmakers said the “categorization of COVID-19 as a socially critical disease will be abolished as of Feb. 1.”

Russia, meanwhile, has expanded a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine for children aged 12-17 to include more regions, amid the country’s biggest infection surge yet due to the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

In Africa, Uganda wants to curb its borrowing and boost exports in sectors such as meat and dairy as the East African country lifts restrictions triggered by the pandemic, President Yoweri Museveni and government officials told Reuters.

In South Africa, health officials on Tuesday reported 3,197 new cases of COVID-19 and 132 additional deaths.

LISTEN | What can Canada learn from South Africa’s experience with the Omicron variant: 

The Current19:49What can Canada learn from South Africa’s bout with Omicron?

South Africa’s bout with Omicron is slowing down — offering other countries a glimpse of what might be coming next in the pandemic. Matt Galloway discusses what Canada might learn, with Dr. Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand; and Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba. 19:49

In the Middle East, Kuwait on Tuesday reported more than 5,742 additional cases and one additional death. 

In the Americas, the United States has shipped 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as part of its earlier pledge to donate about 1.2 billion doses to low-income countries, the White House said on Wednesday.

“Today, we will hit a major milestone in our global effort: 400 million vaccine doses shipped to 112 countries … for free, no strings attached,” White House COVID-19 co-ordinator Jeff Zients told reporters at a briefing.

President Joe Biden’s administration had previously said it would donate a second tranche of 500 million doses to the COVAX global vaccine sharing program, raising its total pledge to some 1.2 billion COVID vaccine doses, with the latest batch expected to start shipping this month.

Global health experts have said at least five billion to six billion doses are needed by poorer countries to help protect them against the coronavirus amid the ongoing pandemic.

Overall COVAX, backed by the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, has delivered more than a billion doses to 144 countries and aims to achieve 70 per cent COVID-19 immunization coverage by mid-2022.

-From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 12:25 p.m. ET

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Supreme Court of Canada to rule on sentencing for Quebec City mosque shooter

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to rule Friday on the sentencing of a man who went on a deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque.

The decision in Alexandre Bissonnette’s case will determine the constitutionality of a key provision on parole eligibility in multiple-murder convictions.

As a result, it will also reverberate far beyond the case before the court.

In March 2021, a judge found Alek Minassian guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder, three years after he smashed into people with a van on a busy Toronto sidewalk. The judge decided to delay sentencing until after the Supreme Court decision.

At issue is the tension between society’s denunciation of such horrific crimes and the notion of rehabilitation as a fundamental value in sentencing.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder in the January 2017 mosque assault that took place just after evening prayers.

In 2019, Bissonnette successfully challenged a 2011 law that allowed a court, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.

A judge found the provision unconstitutional but saw no need to declare it invalid and instead read in new wording that would allow a court to impose consecutive periods of less than 25 years.

Ultimately, the judge ruled Bissonnette must wait 40 years before applying for parole.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal agreed that the sentencing provision violated Charter of Rights guarantees of life, liberty and security of the person, as well as freedom from cruel or unusual punishment.

“Parliament’s response to the problem identified is so extreme as to be disproportionate to any legitimate government interest,” the Appeal Court said.

“The judge was therefore right to conclude that the scope of the provision is clearly broader than necessary to achieve the objectives of denunciation and protection of the public.”

The Appeal Court, however, said the judge erred in making the ineligibility period 40 years.

It declared the sentencing provision constitutionally invalid and said the court must revert to the law as it stood before 2011, meaning the parole ineligibility periods are to be served concurrently — resulting in a total waiting period of 25 years in Bissonnette’s case.

The Court of Appeal noted there is no guarantee the Parole Board would grant Bissonnette parole in 25 years.

“This will depend on the circumstances at the time, including the appellant’s level of dangerousness, his potential for rehabilitation and the manner in which his personality has evolved,” the court said.

“Furthermore, as with any parole, if it is granted, it will include the necessary conditions for adequately ensuring the security of the public, failing which it will not be granted.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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Minke whale carcass found northeast of Montreal is likely one seen near city: expert

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MONTREAL — A dead whale found in the St. Lawrence River northeast of Montreal is probably one of two minke whales seen near the city earlier this month, a marine researcher said Thursday.

Robert Michaud, president of a Quebec marine mammal research group, said experts have yet to examine the carcass found in Contrecoeur, Que., about 50 kilometres downstream from Montreal.

Michaud said a necropsy could be performed depending on that assessment, adding that the task would fall to veterinary medicine students at Université de Montréal.

Two minke whales were spotted this month near Montreal, and there were concerns for their well-being, as they were about 450 kilometres upstream of their usual range.

Minke whales are common in Quebec but don’t generally venture west of the saltwater St. Lawrence estuary around Tadoussac, Que.

Ronald Gosselin, one of the fishermen behind the discovery on Thursday morning, said he was in his boat fishing when he saw a bizarre shape in the water.

“In my life, I’ve seen maybe two or three whales, including one that beached in Contrecoeur,” Gosselin said.

A local fishing guide, Gosselin, 66, said whales are not a common sight in the area. He spotted the mammal floating in the St. Lawrence River near Île Saint-Ours.

The two Montreal whales had not been seen since mid-May.

It’s unclear why whales occasionally venture into freshwater habitats, but Michaud has said there isn’t much that can be done to help them besides hoping they turn around and head home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Murray Sinclair honoured with Order of Canada at Rideau Hall ceremony

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OTTAWA — Murray Sinclair received the Order of Canada Thursday for dedicating his life to championing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and freedoms.

Sinclair held his wife’s hand as the award was announced in Rideau Hall, and was met with a standing ovation as he rose to receive it.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon presented Sinclair with the award at the ceremony, which was held several months after it was announced he would receive the honour.

By accepting the award, Sinclair wanted to show the country that working on Indigenous issues calls for national attention and participation, he said in an interview.

Sinclair, 71, said at his age he has begun to reflect on his life, and he realizes that he’s had both the joy and sadness that comes with participating in this work.

Receiving the award recognizes the importance of that work, and can act as inspiration for younger people, Sinclair said.

“When I speak to young people, I always tell them that we all have a responsibility to do the best that we can and to be the best that we can be,” he said.

Sinclair led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the experiences of Indigenous children sent to residential schools.

Sinclair said it was a particular honour to receive the award from Simon, the first Indigenous Governor General, as she is a good friend and was an honorary witness to the commission.

“As an Indigenous person, we had a unique relationship. And I think we brought it to what happened here today,” he said.

The former senator is a highly respected voice on matters of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest distinctions, for those who have made exceptional contributions to Canadian society.

Sinclair also received the Meritorious Service Cross for his role in overseeing the Truth and Reconciliation commission and producing the final report.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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