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

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The latest:

Japan warned on Wednesday that coronavirus infections are surging at an unprecedented pace as new cases hit a record high in Tokyo, overshadowing the Olympics and adding to doubts over the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The metropolitan government in Tokyo on Wednesday reported 4,166 new cases of COVID-19, surpassing the previous single-day high of 4,058 new cases set on Saturday. A website maintained by the regional government said the health-care system is “under strain” as infections spread. Health officials in Tokyo on Wednesday listed 115 cases as serious.

The delta variant was leading to a spread of infections “unseen in the past,” Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said as he defended a new policy of asking patients with milder symptoms to isolate at home rather than going to hospital.

“The pandemic has entered a new phase…. Unless we have enough beds, we can’t bring people to hospital. We’re acting pre-emptively on this front,” Tamura told parliament.

In Tokyo, more than 14,000 patients with mild symptoms are isolating at home — more than a 10-fold increase from a month ago — and about 8,400 others are waiting for beds in hospitals or special hotels.

— From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Ontario students head back to the classrooms full-time this fall: 

Ontario has released its plan to get students back into the classroom in September, requiring masks indoors and allowing some activities to resume, but not mandating vaccines. 1:57


What’s happening around the world

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 199.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking cases of the novel coronavirus. The reported death toll stood at more than 4.2 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China reported on Wednesday the highest number of new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases since January as some cities stepped up restrictions, cut flights and increased testing to try to control an outbreak driven by the delta variant.

Medical workers in protective suits enter a residential compound under lockdown to perform COVID-19 tests following new cases in Changsha, in China’s Hunan province. (cnsphoto/Reuters)

The gambling hub of Macau will begin testing its 600,000 people and close some entertainment spots after the Chinese-ruled city confirmed four new coronavirus cases, its government said on Wednesday

In Africa, South Africa’s mass vaccination drive gave jabs to 220,000 people a day last week and is accelerating toward the goal of 300,000 per day. With large deliveries of doses arriving and some vaccines being assembled here, South Africa appears on track to inoculate about 35 million of its 60 million people by the end of the year and 40 million by February.

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the Houghton Mosque in Johannesburg, South Africa, in late July. The mosque was being used as a drive-thru vaccination centre. (Denis Farrell/The Associated Press)

More than 7.7 million South Africans have received at least one dose, with more than 100,000 fully vaccinated, representing 1.6 per cent of the population, according to official figures. Across Africa, less than 1.5 per cent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Middle East, Israel warned against travel to the United States and other countries and said it would tighten quarantine measures for inbound travellers from more than a dozen countries.

In hard-hit Iran, health officials reported another 39,019 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — once again setting a new single-day high. The country also reported 378 deaths, bringing the reported COVID-19 related death toll in Iran to 91,785, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the Americas, Louisiana was dealing with one of the worst outbreaks in the United States, prompting Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to order residents to wear masks again indoors.

“It has never been more clear that we are in an unchecked COVID surge that, in addition to threatening the health and wellbeing of many Louisianans, also threatens the capacity of our hospitals and medical facilities to deliver care to their patients,” he said in a statement earlier this week.

In Europe, England’s COVID-19 mobile phone app will be tweaked so that fewer contacts of asymptomatic people who test positive for the disease will need to self-isolate.

— From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 7:25 a.m. ET


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Bitcoin hovers near 6-month high on ETF hopes, inflation worries

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Bitcoin hovered near a six-month high early on Monday on hopes that U.S. regulators would soon allow cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETF) to trade, while global inflation worries also provided some support.

Bitcoin last stood at $62,359, near Friday’s six-month high of $62,944 and not far from its all-time high of $64,895 hit in April.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to allow the first American bitcoin futures ETF to begin trading this week, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, a move likely to lead to wider investment in digital assets.

Cryptocurrency players expect the approval of the first U.S. bitcoin ETF to trigger an influx of money from institutional players who cannot invest in digital coins at the moment.

Rising inflation worries also increased appetite for bitcoin, which is in limited supply, in contrast to the ample amount of currencies issued by central banks in recent years as monetary authorities printed money to stimulate their economies.

But some analysts noted that, after the recent rally, investors may sell bitcoin on the ETF news.

“The news of a suite of futures-tracking ETFs is not new to those following the space closely, and to many this is a step forward but not the game-changer that some are sensing,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone in Melbourne, Australia.

“We’ve been excited by a spot ETF before, and this may need more work on the regulation front.”

 

(Reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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China’s plunging construction starts reminiscent of 2015 downturn

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China’s September new  construction starts slumped for a sixth straight month, the longest spate of monthly declines since 2015, as cash-strapped developers put a pause on projects in the wake of tighter regulations on borrowing.

New construction starts in September fell 13.54% from a year earlier, the third month of double-digit declines, according to Reuters calculations based on January-September data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.

That marks the longest downtrend since declines in March-August 2015, the last property malaise.

When the sector recovered in 2016 after authorities loosened their grip on purchases and development, tens of thousands of real estate firms borrowed heavily to build homes.

But as regulations tightened again this year, many of them have started to face a liquidity crunch, which was then worsened by sharply weaker demand due to tighter restrictions on speculative purchases.

Property sales by floor area dropped 15.8% in September, down for a third month, according to Reuters calculations based on the statistics bureau’s data.

The slowdown in the sector was also underscored by a 3.5% drop in property investments by developers in September, the first monthly decline since January-February last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in China.

“All the data are poor,” said Zhang Dawei, chief analyst with property agency Centaline.

“Financing is hard, sales are tough, so of course, there has been no enthusiasm to build. For the first time in history, developers are encountering two blockages – blockages in sales and blockages in financing.”

The potential collapse of highly indebted real estate firms such as China Evergrande Group have raised concerns about systemic risks to the broader economy. The real estate sector accounts for a quarter of China’s gross domestic product.

Authorities will try to prevent problems at Evergrande from spreading to other real estate companies to avoid broader systemic risk, Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank, said on Sunday.

On Friday, a central bank official said the spillover effect of Evergrande’s debt problems on the banking system was “controllable.”

“There is a likelihood that housing policies may loosen in the fourth quarter, and that would ease the pessimism in the property transaction data,” said Yan Yuejin, director of Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institution.

On Friday, representatives from 10 Chinese Property Companies met government regulators to ask for an “appropriate loosening” on policy restrictions, financial news outlet Yicai reported.

China’s real estate shares have fallen 22% so far this year. On Monday, they were down 2.6% as of 0300 GMT.

In the first nine months, property investment rose 8.8% from a year earlier, slowing from 10.9% growth seen in January-August.

Funds raised by China’s property developers grew 11.1%, slower than the 14.8% rise seen in the first eight months.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Saks Fifth Avenue ecommerce unit aims for IPO at $6 billion valuation – WSJ

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The ecommerce business of luxury department store  Saks OFF 5TH is preparing for an initial public offering and targeting a $6 billion valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing sources.

The company is interviewing potential underwriters this week for an  IPO that could take place in the first half of next year, according to the report.

 

(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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