- Amazon warehouse near Toronto closed amid an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.
- Premier John Horgan supports vaccine passports for international travel but lukewarm for B.C.
- Trudeau cool to the idea of vaccine ‘passports’ for the post-pandemic world.
- China hopes to ‘take the lead in achieving herd immunity,’ health agency director says.
- Italy set to go back into lockdown next week.
- Have a question about the coronavirus pandemic? You can reach us at COVID@cbc.ca
Roughly 5,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse near Toronto are staying home for at least two weeks because of an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility.
Health officials ordered the warehouse in Brampton close, effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, after 240 of its workers tested positive for the virus that causes the respiratory illness.
Peel Public Health said it’s possible that everyone working there was at high risk for exposure to the coronavirus. It said all workers must self-isolate until March 27, unless they have tested positive in the last 90 days and completed quarantine.
WATCH | Brampton, Ont., Amazon warehouse closed after 240 workers test positive for COVID-19:
Amazon said in a statement it has taken measures to keep workers safe during the pandemic, including providing buses to transport them to the warehouse.
All employees at the Heritage Road facility have been tested for COVID-19 twice in the past three weeks, the company said.
As more Canadians get their COVID-19 vaccines, B.C. Premier John Horgan on Friday said he backs the concept of a so-called COVID-19 vaccine passport for international travellers.
However, he said he’s not sold on a similar system for British Columbia residents to attend local events like sports or entertainment.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday he’s reluctant to introduce a system of vaccine passports to show proof of immunization because of lingering concerns about inequities — but such a system might be necessary for international travel.
Trudeau said he’s uneasy with the idea of a national program to document vaccination status as it could marginalize people who, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t get a vaccine.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 904,706 cases of COVID-19, with 31,087 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,415.
Ontario reported 1,468 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and 11 additional deaths. On Friday, the province reported 1,371 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 more deaths.
Meanwhile, it was a second consecutive day of record-high vaccinations, with 43,503 doses administered yesterday. A total of 1,062,910 doses of vaccine have been administered in the province so far.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday, as did Newfoundland and Labrador. New Brunswick reported three new cases and one additional death. Prince Edward Island reported no new cases.
WATCH | Canadians who saved during pandemic expected to go on spending spree:
In Quebec, health officials reported 753 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and nine additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 550, with 106 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
The update came a day after Premier François Legault on Thursday praised essential workers for their efforts and urged people to remember the lives lost in the pandemic — more than 10,500 in Quebec alone.
“We lost grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, and today, Quebec remembers these people that left us too soon,” he said at an event marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic.
WATCH | The future of online learning post-pandemic:
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories on Friday.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 104 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Friday, which was the one-year anniversary of the first cases of coronavirus in the province. This is the first time in more than three weeks that Manitoba has had a daily case count above 100.
Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 176 new cases and three new deaths. The province is recommending that residents of Regina and area, particularly those older than 50, limit interactions with others amid an increase in community transmission of variants of concern in the region.
Meanwhile, Alberta reported 425 new cases and two new deaths, as the province continued to lower the age range of those able to get COVID-19 vaccinations in a staggered rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine for Albertans who don’t have a severe chronic illness.
There were two new groups eligible to book on Friday: all Albertans born in 1959 and 1960, and all First Nations, Métis and Inuit born in 1974 and 1975.
In British Columbia, health officials announced 648 new cases on Friday, the highest number since Jan. 7, but no additional deaths.
The update comes a day after the provincial health officer said she is now allowing up to 10 people to meet outdoors after nearly four months of restrictions that barred in-person gatherings between people from different households.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said restrictions on indoor gatherings and rules for restaurants, bars, retail stores and other venues remain in place.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 119.2 million people around the world had been reported to having COVID-19, according to a tracking tool maintained by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. Of those, more than 67.5 million were listed as recovered. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.
China is aiming to vaccinate 70 to 80 per cent of its population by mid-2022, the head of the country’s Center for Disease Control said Saturday.
With four approved vaccines, China will vaccinate 900 million to 1 billion people, Gao Fu, the CDC head, said in an interview with Chinese state media broadcaster CGTN. “We hope that China can take the lead in achieving herd immunity in the world,” he said.
Herd immunity occurs when enough of the population has immunity, either from vaccination or past infection, to stop the uncontrolled spread of an infectious disease such as COVID-19.
China had administered 52.5 million vaccine doses through the end of February. It has been slower in its vaccination campaign than many other countries, including the U.S., government health experts have acknowledged.
China has committed roughly 10 times more doses abroad than it has distributed at home.
In Europe, Italy is set to enter a near-nationwide lockdown in the coming week. Officials have ordered schools, museums, bars and restaurants and non-essential shops to close on Monday in most regions.
The restrictions will remain in place at least until Easter. People are urged to remain home, except for essential trips. The rules will apply to all of Italy over the Easter weekend, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office confirmed on Friday.
The move is a repeat of one year ago this past week when all of Italy went into a strict lockdown, the first of the pandemic in Europe.
Italian health officials say new hospital admissions to ICUs due to COVID-19 this week were well over 200 a day, twice the number they were as the second wave of the respiratory illness began last fall.
WATCH | Benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweigh risks, experts say:
Elsewhere in Europe, Poland reported 21,049 daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, health ministry data showed, the highest figure since November 2020.
The health ministry said there were a further 343 coronavirus-related deaths. In total, Poland has reported 1,889,360 cases and 47,068 deaths.
In the Middle East, Jordan has become the first country in the region to receive coronavirus vaccines through the global COVAX initiative.
A plane carrying 144,000 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine landed in Amman’s airport late Friday and was greeted by representatives of the agencies supporting the COVAX program — the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the European Union.
The COVAX alliance aims to share COVID-19 vaccines with more than 90 lower and middle-income nations. However, the program is facing delays, underfunding and limited supply.
WATCH | Air pollution dropped significantly during the pandemic:
The EU has allocated 8 million euros to support Jordan’s purchase of vaccines. A second shipment from COVAX is expected in April.
Jordan launched its vaccination drive in mid-January with plans to inoculate over 4 million residents in 2021, according to Health Minister Nathir Obeidat.
The kingdom, home to nearly 10 million people, has approved five vaccine types, including Russian and Chinese ones. The vaccination campaign also targets some of the 650,000 Syrian refugees.
The country is struggling to contain the surge of infections. It has reported over 465,000 cases and more than 5,200 deaths.
Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike
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)
Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara
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)
Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits
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)