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

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The latest:

  • U.K. speeds up vaccinations, hoping all adults get first jab by July 31.
  • Tam stresses need for Canadians to maintain precautions as variant cases mount.
  • Canada’s new air travel rules go into effect Monday for testing, hotel quarantine.
  • Almost half a million dead from COVID-19 in the United States.
  • Israel starts reopening economy after nearly half its population receives vaccine.
  • Coronavirus  tracker: The cases, hospitalizations and vaccinations in your area.
  • Have a question about the coronavirus pandemic? Send your question to COVID@cbc.ca

The British government declared Sunday that every adult in the country should get a first coronavirus vaccine shot by July 31, at least a month earlier than its previous target, as it prepared to set out a “cautious” plan to ease the U.K.’s lockdown.

The new target also aims for everyone 50 and over and those with an underlying health condition to get their first of two vaccine shots by April 15, rather than the previous date of May 1.

The makers of the two vaccines that Britain is using, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have both experienced supply problems in Europe. But U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that “we now think that we have the supplies” to speed up the vaccination campaign.

The early success of Britain’s vaccination effort is welcome good news for a country that has had more than 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. More than 17.2 million people, a third of the country’s adults, have had at lease one vaccine shot since inoculations began on Dec. 8.

Britain is delaying giving second vaccine doses until 12 weeks after the first, rather than three to four weeks, in order to give more people partial protection quickly. The approach has been criticized in some countries — and by Pfizer, which says it does not have any data to support the interval — but it is backed by the U.K. government’s scientific advisers.

News of the new vaccine targets came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Sunday with senior ministers to finalize a “road map” out of the national lockdown that he plans to announce on Monday.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, meanwhile, is urging Canadians to maintain COVID-19 precautions as the number of variant cases increases.

Public health officials have identified at least 704 cases of COVID-19 variants across Canada, Tam said on Saturday as she urged people to have “the fewest interactions with the fewest people, for the shortest time, at the greatest distance possible, while wearing the best-fitting face mask.”

Tam said overall daily case counts continued to trend downward, but cases of variants of concern could fuel a bigger resurgence of the pandemic.

Her warning came as a suspected case of a coronavirus variant forced Quebec City officials to close an elementary school on Saturday.

The Marguerite d’Youville school in Quebec City is seen here on Saturday. The school population of 283 students and more than 50 staff members will be tested. (Jean-Michel Cloutier/Radio-Canada)

Regional public health director Dr. André Dontigny said the school would remain closed until public health authorities had more information, including confirmation that the case in question is in fact linked to a variant of concern. All staff and students were asked to get tested for COVID-19 over the weekend.

Quebec authorities said there had been 22 confirmed cases of variants of concern provincewide and an additional 286 cases under investigation.

The vast majority of variants detected in Canada thus far are the strain that first emerged in the U.K., while there have been 39 cases of the variant first discovered in South Africa and one of the variant first traced to travellers from Brazil.

Starting Monday, air travellers arriving in Canada, unless they are exempt, will have to submit to a COVID-19 test upon arrival and quarantine in a government-approved hotel for up to three days while they await their results.

The federal government has provided a list of authorized hotels for passengers arriving in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. The government says the list is incomplete and will be finalized in the coming days.

WATCH | Navigating Canada’s new restrictions on airline passengers:

From hotel quarantines to mandatory PCR testing, we hear from two panellists about how they are experiencing Ottawa’s latest and strictest travel measures. Rohan Jumani flew to India for his father’s funeral and now faces these new measures, and Richard Vanderlubbe is the president of the tripcentral.ca travel agency. 8:25

Travellers heading back to Canada might have to be patient while trying to book their quarantine hotels. It appears the reservation phone line is overloaded and some people are waiting up to three hours, while others have had to call back multiple times after being cut off after a long wait. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that people should only call when they are within 48 hours of returning to Canada.


What’s happening in Canada

As of 8:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 844,393 cases of COVID-19, with 31,764 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,643.

Ontario reported 1,087 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 more deaths from the respiratory illness on Sunday. The numbers are down from 1,228 new cases and 28 more deaths reported Saturday.

In British Columbia, officials at an Abbotsford school had windows in the building either screwed shut or blocked from opening wider than a few inches after teachers began using them to compensate for poor ventilation, says the Abbotsford Teachers’ Union. The school district says the windows were shut to address safety concerns.

Alberta saw 380 new COVID-19 cases and six new deaths on Saturday.

Saskatchewan confirmed 193 new cases and three more deaths.

Manitoba registered 95 new cases and three additional deaths.

WATCH | Ontario reopens amid concern over new variants:

As Ontario plans to reopen some regions, CBC News medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin says people must continue to avoid others outside their household. 8:25

In Quebec, health officials reported 769 new cases and 14 additional deaths.

New Brunswick saw three more cases, all in the Edmundston region.

Nova Scotia recorded four new cases. Meanwhile, six people have been fined $1,000 each following two social gatherings in Halifax early Saturday.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported 38 new cases, all within the Eastern Health region. Health officials in that region are recommending COVID-19 testing for anyone in the Mount Pearl Senior High School community, after an outbreak was declared there on Feb 7.

Nunavut confirmed six new cases in Arviat. It’s the eighth day in a row that new cases have been reported in the hard-hit community. With one recovery, Arviat now has 30 active cases.

The Northwest Territories announced dozens of new clinic dates in communities across the territory where residents can receive their second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine — or their first dose, if they missed the clinic’s first visit.


What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday morning, more than 111.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 62.7 million of those cases listed as recovered on a tracking site run by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.4 million.

U.S. infectious diseases official Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that it’s possible Americans will still be wearing masks in 2022 but that measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 would be increasingly relaxed as more vaccines are administered.

Fauci made the comment during an interview on CNN as the United States came closer to recording 500,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. The U.S. has the largest COVID-19 death count of any country in the world.

As of 10:30 a.m. ET, the U.S. had registered 497,670 deaths from the illness, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In South Korea, health workers will begin administering the first of 117,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 27, a day after the country begins its first vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s products, the prime minister announced on Sunday.

Police officers wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus stand in downtown Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

Plans call for about 10 million high-risk people, including health-care workers, staff, some residents of assisted care facilities and nursing homes, to be inoculated by July.

The authorities have said they will not use the AstraZeneca vaccine on people aged 65 and older until more efficacy data becomes available, reversing an earlier decision.

Aside from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, South Korea has also reached agreements with Moderna, Novavax Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX, for the supply of their vaccines.

A health worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli at a mobile clinic parked near a bar in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on Feb. 18. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images)

In Israel, retail stores, malls, gyms, museums, places of worship and other public services for limited crowd sizes will be resuming operations starting Sunday — but entrance to these places is only for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

Israel says it’s easing lockdown restrictions because of the success of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. The country has the highest vaccination rate in the world. More than 49 per cent of Israelis have received at least one dose.

The country’s main international airport remains closed to nearly all air traffic because of concerns of foreign variants of the virus entering the country.

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Calgary Stampede to proceed with limited events

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The Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival that is also Canada‘s biggest and booziest party, will go ahead this year after being pulled in 2020 due to the pandemic, though it will not look and feel the same, an event organizer told CBC Radio.

“It won’t be your typical Stampede … it’s not the experience that you had in years past,” Kristina Barnes, communications manager with the Calgary Stampede, told a CBC Radio programme on Friday.

She said organizers were still deciding whether to include rodeo or the grandstand show in this year’s version.

Known as “the greatest outdoor show on earth,” the Stampede draws tourists from around the world for its rodeo and chuckwagon races, but much of the action happens away from official venues at parties hosted by oil and gas companies.

“The Safest and Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth is what we’re going to call it this year,” Barnes said, adding the organizers are working directly with Alberta Health to ensure Stampede experiences stay “within the guidelines” that may be in effect in July.

The event is scheduled to take place between July 9-18, according to the Calgary Stampede website.

Last month, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told reporters the Calgary Stampede can probably go ahead this year as Alberta’s coronavirus vaccination campaign accelerates.

Barnes and the office of the Alberta premier were not available for immediate comment.

The cancellation of the event last year was a crushing disappointment for Canada‘s oil capital.

The news comes as Alberta has been dealing with a punishing third wave of the pandemic, with the province having among the highest rate per capita of COVID-19 cases in the country. Data released on Friday showed the province had 1,433 new cases, compared with the seven-day average of 1,644.

 

(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Chris Reese)

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U.S. trade chief pressured to lift duties on Canadian lumber

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 As U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai prepares to meet her Canadian and Mexican counterparts on Monday to review progress in the new North American trade agreement, she is under pressure from home builders and lawmakers to cut U.S. tariffs on Canadian lumber.

Shortages of softwood lumber amid soaring U.S. housing demand and mill production curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused prices to triple in the past year, adding $36,000 to the average cost of a new single-family home, according to estimates by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Republican lawmakers have taken up the builders’ cause, asking Tai during hearings in Congress last week to eliminate the 9% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports. Senator John Thune told Tai that high lumber costs were “having a tremendous impact on the ground” in his home state of South Dakota and putting homes out of reach for some working families.

The Trump administration initially imposed 20% duties in 2018 after the collapse of talks on a new quota arrangement, but reduced the level in December 2020.

“The Biden administration must address these unprecedented lumber and steel costs and broader supply-chain woes or risk undermining the economic recovery,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Without tariff relief and other measures, vital construction projects will fall behind schedule or be canceled.”

On Friday, White House economic adviser Cecilia Rouse said the Biden administration was weighing concerns about commodity shortages and inflation as it reviews trade policy.

The tariffs are allowed under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which permits duties to combat price dumping and unfair subsidies.

The U.S. Commerce Department has ruled that lumber from most Canadian provinces is unfairly subsidized because it is largely grown on public lands with cheap harvesting fees set by Ottawa. U.S. timber is mainly harvested from privately-owned land.

Tai said she would bring up the lumber issue with Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng at the first meeting of the USMCA Free Trade Council, a minister-level body that oversees the trade deal.

WILLING PARTNER

But Tai told U.S. senators that despite higher prices, the fundamental dispute remains and there have been no talks on a new lumber quota arrangement.

“In order to have an agreement and in order to have a negotiation, you need to have a partner. And thus far, the Canadians have not expressed interest in engaging,” Tai said.

Youmy Han, a spokeswoman for Canada‘s trade ministry, said the U.S. duties were “unjustified,” and that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has raised the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden.

“Our government believes a negotiated agreement is possible and in the best interests of both countries,” Han said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

But builders are growing frustrated with a lack of high-level engagement with high-level Biden administration officials on the issue as they watch lumber prices rise.

“They are clearly still gathering facts, which is even more frustrating given that this issue has been going on since before the election, before the inaugural,” said James Tobin, a vice president and top lobbyist at the NAHB.

 

(Reporting by David Lawder and Jarrett Renshaw in Washington and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Centerra to fight Kyrgyzstan takeover of its gold mine

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Centerra Gold said on Sunday it has initiated binding arbitration against Kyrgyzstan government, after the parliament passed a law allowing the state to temporarily take over the country’s biggest industrial enterprise, the Kumtor gold mine operated by Centerra.

Recently, a Kyrgyzstan court also imposed $3.1 billion fine on Kumtor Gold Company (KGC), which operates the gold mine, after ruling that the firm had violated environmental laws.

The gold miner said that it intends to hold the government accountable in the arbitration for “any and all losses and damage” due to its recent actions against KGC and the Kumtor mine if no resolution is reached.

“The Government’s actions have left Centerra no choice but to exercise our legal rights, through the pursuit of arbitration and otherwise, to protect the interests of KGC, Centerra and our shareholders,” Centerra’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Perry said in a press release.

Kyrgyzstan has a long history of disputes with Centerra Gold over how to share profits from the former Soviet republic’s biggest industrial enterprise.

 

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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