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Cruise line says only vaccinated passengers can sail – CTV News

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Given all the problems faced by the cruise industry in 2020, the announcement by one operator that all passengers must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before they board sounds sensible.

But when Saga Cruises this week became the first to introduce the requirement, not everyone agreed — the British operator was inundated with so many responses, good and bad, it temporarily made its Twitter account private while it dealt with them.

Nevertheless, the move by Saga will be eagerly watched by many in the cruise industry interested to see if whether a vaccine rule will help kick start travel, or prove as divisive as other attempts to work around COVID-19.

Saga, which caters mostly to British people over the age of 50, told CNN Travel that the vaccinated-passengers-only rule was prompted by the results of a recent customer poll, which suggested 95 per cent of regular Saga customers would support such a policy change.

Saga Holidays’ CEO Chris Simmonds said in a statement that the decision was made partly because “many of our customers [are] amongst the first groups of people to be offered the vaccine.”

“With this in mind and having spoken with our customers, we want to ensure we are providing the safest possible experience whilst they are on holiday with us,” said Simmonds.

As well as offering cruises, Saga also organizes tours and all-inclusive holidays. Travelers will also need to be vaccinated before embarking on these vacations.

Before boarding a Saga ship, passengers must have had both COVID-19 jabs at least 14 days before departure.

Right now, Saga’s operations are paused, but the company aims to restart cruises in May 2021. If the U.K.’s vaccine rollout goes to plan, by then, a substantial number of Brits over 50 should have been inoculated against coronavirus.

Saga said crew, who largely skew younger, would not need to be vaccinated before working on board, stating that other protocols would be in place to protect staff until they’re able to receive inoculation.

The announcement raises the question of whether compulsory pre-boarding Covid vaccinations could become the norm for cruise passengers and/or staff.

Previously, testing had previously been championed as the key to unlocking the industry, but when seven people tested positive on-board small cruise ship SeaDream 1 in Nov. 2020, the efficacy of preboarding testing was called into question.

‘MULTI-LAYERED APPROACH’

Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), a global body that represents 95 per cent of the world’s cruise fleet, said “a multi layered approach” to on-board safety “is the right one to mitigate risk.”

Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokesperson for CLIA, said measures implemented by cruise lines are being constantly evaluated and will evolve “as the pandemic and circumstances change over time.”

Golin-Blaugrund wouldn’t comment on whether CLIA would enforce a vaccinated passengers-only rule for its member cruise lines.

“We share in the excitement surrounding the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and are optimistic that it will help facilitate the global recovery from the pandemic,” she told CNN Travel.

“At the same time, we understand that the rollout of the vaccine will take some time.”

Saga confirmed to CNN Travel that it will still instigate other safety measures on board its sailings, including reduced capacity, pre-departure COVID-19 testing, social distancing, increasing cabin air flow and improving on-board medical facilities.

British cruise goer Sara Roberts, 59, who was a passenger on board the virus-hit Coral Princess back in spring 2020, told CNN Travel she thinks a widespread return to cruising will only happen if and when passengers are confident ships are Covid safe.

“Vaccination is a good way forward, providing the vaccine is proven to work,” said Roberts, who expressed concern at the current wait times in the U.K. between administration of the first dose and second dose.

Following her experience last year, Roberts also has lingering concerns surrounding cruise travel more generally.

“We have sailed with the majority of cruise lines over the last 15 years and it had always been my preferred type of holiday,” she said.

“However our experience aboard the Coral Princess made me realize you are not in control of your own destiny whilst aboard a cruise. Therefore, I would not consider embarking another for the foreseeable future until COVID is no longer a risk.”

GLOBAL CRUISE LINE PERSPECTIVE

For cruise lines that serve passengers from across the world, and of all ages, establishing a vaccinated-passenger-only policy could be difficult.

But alongside Saga’s announcement, there is already some precedent for this. Australian airline Qantas last year said passengers will need to be vaccinated before boarding international flights. Meanwhile Singapore Airlines recently announced plans to become the world’s first fully vaccinated airline, pledging to inoculate all crew and staff.

There’s also a possibility that port cities will only allow travelers to disembark cruise ships if they have proof of vaccination, which would take the decision out of the cruise lines’ hands.

Last fall, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on cruising in U.S. waters was lifted, the CDC introduced its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for cruise ships, outlining the lengthy process cruise lines need to follow to recommence US cruising.

Measures include mock “trial” cruises, universal mask wearing, physical distancing and COVID-19 testing. There’s no mention of compulsory vaccinations. The guidance was issued before the vaccines had been approved.

When asked whether Royal Caribbean, which owns Royal Caribbean Cruise Line alongside Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises, would adopt a vaccinated-passengers-only policy, spokesperson Jonathon Fishman told CNN Travel that the company was “still in the process of finalizing the details for our return to service.”

“As soon as we have more information on our requirements, we will let our guests know,” he added.

MSC Cruises, which was one of the first major cruise lines to restart operations last summer — in the form of a seven-day, Italian-residents-only, Mediterranean cruise — declined to comment, deferring to the CLIA.

MSC’s voyages were paused over the festive season due to the new Italian lockdown, but MSC Grandiosa is due to restart Italian voyages this weekend.

U.K.-based cruise line Fred Olsen said it had no news to share on this front as yet.

Roger Frizzell, who represents Carnival Corporation — the cruise giant that owns Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Cunard, Holland America and P&O Cruises — also said no firm decisions had been made.

“The new vaccines represent an important breakthrough for people throughout the world, including the travel, hospitality and cruising industries,” said Frizzell.

“We are reviewing the various vaccines, but we have not made any decisions on next steps at this point.”

Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line stated that “all options regarding vaccinations” were being explored for guests and crew — but that staff safety would be at the fore.

“It is our intention that all crew members be vaccinated before boarding our vessels to begin their duties, subject to availability of the vaccine,” said a Norwegian spokesperson.

CREW PERSPECTIVE

Conny Seidler, who worked as a dancer on board the Costa Deliziosa during the first half of 2020, said she’d long expected pre-boarding COVID vaccinations to become compulsory for crew.

The Deliziosa was the last ship carrying large numbers of passengers to make it back to port amid the global shutdown of the cruise industry last year.

“You need certain vaccines to be able to work on a cruise anyway,” points out Seidler, citing the yellow fever jab and tuberculosis as examples.

“From the point of view of the cruise, it’s obviously safer and lower risk if all the crew is vaccinated.”

Seidler, who is from Austria, acknowledges that such a regulation could put off some people, but she thinks most crew members would welcome this rule.

Many crew are currently out of work, and experienced a tough time working on COVID-hit vessels in the wake of the pandemic.

“I honestly don’t think there’s going to be a lot of crew members who are going to be against the vaccine,” says Seidler. “I can imagine most of the crew will be like: ‘As long as I can work, I’m happy to do it.'”

As for the passengers, Seidler suggests some may be unwilling to travel unless they know everyone on board has been vaccinated.

But Seilder thinks most big cruise lines will be hesitant to introduce a vaccinated-passengers-only rule, because the global vaccine rollout won’t be fast enough, and it could deter certain guests.

Still, Seidler reckons the more people vaccinated on board, the safer the environment will be, and the likelier it is that cruising can recommence successfully.

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GameStop shares surge more than 100 per cent – CTV News

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GameStop shares climbed rapidly and were halted twice for volatility ahead of the closing bell Wednesday. The gaming retailer’s stock was priced at $91.71 at market close, up nearly 104% from the previous day.

Shares were halted once around 3:40pm ET after climbing nearly 74%, and again just over 10 minutes later after gaining 104%. GameStop’s trading volume was roughly three times higher the five-day average for the stock, according to data provider Refinitiv.

Less than an hour after the closing bell, the stock was on the move again — gaining nearly 90% in after-hours trading.

Having déjà vu yet? The surge comes about a month after a wild GameStop trading frenzy caused its stock to jump around 1,600% in a matter of days, though it quickly fell from highs around $350. The late January surge was fueled by individual retail investors, many from the Reddit page WallStreetBets, some of whom believed the GameStop was undervalued and others who wanted to squeeze hedge funds that had shorted the stock.

The jump in GameStop also comes a day after the company announced its chief financial officer would resign next month to help “accelerate GameStop’s transformation,” which could fuel investors who believe in the long-term value of the retailer and its ability to shift from relying on physical stores to an e-commerce sales model.

AMC, another “meme stock” involved in the trading frenzy last month, also jumped around 18% on Wednesday.

Redditors on WallStreetBets cheered as GameStop soared. Posts on the subreddit included diamond emojis (a reference to holding a stock long term) and titles like “NEXT STOP IS THE MOON BABY” with rocket emojis, representing a belief that the stock will continue its upward trajectory.

Some GameStop investors have talked publicly about not selling their positions in the company during last month’s trading frenzy because they believe in its long-term potential.

Around 4pm, the entire Reddit site was down for many users, though the company did not identify the cause of the outage. Within about half an hour, Reddit said it had identified the underlying issue and “systems are beginning to recover.”

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RBC warns of credit performance dependence on government aid after profit beat

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By Nichola Saminather and Noor Zainab Hussain

(Reuters) – Royal Bank of Canada executives cautioned on Wednesday that the company’s 2021 credit performance hinges on the outlook for government support after its quarterly profit beat estimates on much lower than expected provisions for loan losses.

RBC, Canada‘s top lender, also flagged a moderation in trading activity this year.

National Bank of Canada, which also beat profit expectations, said trading revenues could decline if volumes come off following recent surges, some of which Chief Executive Louis Vachon attributed to “pockets of irrational exuberance” and distortions caused by quantitative easing.

Both banks posted record earnings in their capital markets businesses in the first quarter.

RBC and National Bank, the smallest of Canada‘s six major lenders, followed rivals Bank of Montreal and Bank of Nova Scotia in posting better-than-expected profits that have also now surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

Canadian banks have largely avoided an increase in soured loans thanks to several government assistance measures, expected to end this summer.

While BMO and RBC released some reserves on performing loans during the quarter, signaling an improving outlook for loan losses, RBC said delinquencies will still increase for the remainder of 2021, accompanied by a rise in impaired loan provisions.

RBC Chief Risk Officer Graeme Hepworth told analysts the degree to which the government support is extended or transformed “will drive … the expectations and implications for our credit performance in the latter half of the year.”

National Bank executives said that while loan losses could be lower than initially thought, the bank is maintaining its provisions on performing loans.

Despite the somewhat murky credit picture, RBC executives said they were heartened by expected improvement in the second half on expectations of growth in higher-margin loans like commercial and credit cards as businesses reopen and the economy recovers.

RBC shares rose 0.3% to C$112.53 in afternoon trading in Toronto, while National Bank stock was up 4.6% at C$79.30, both heading for their highest close on record. The Toronto stock benchmark was up 0.9%.

Canadian lending rose 6% in the three months through January at RBC but this was driven entirely by increases in residential mortgages.

RBC expects continued mortgage growth will help drive a consumer-led recovery in its Canadian banking unit, based on a forecast of high-single-digit growth in Canadian housing prices this year, following a record year in 2020 for resale activity.

RBC reported adjusted cash earnings of C$2.69 per share versus analysts’ expectations of C$2.26. National Bank’s adjusted income rose to C$2.15 per share, compared with estimates of C$1.71.

 

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sohini Podder in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel, Matthew Lewis and Marguerita Choy)

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J&J's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, says FDA – Yahoo Canada Finance

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The Canadian Press

A look at COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021

The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 49,917 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,652,282 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,359.666 per 100,000. There were 36,279 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,040,089 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 80.99 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,827 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 20,285 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.739 per 1,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 26,800 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.69 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,020 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 11,630 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 73.316 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 13,045 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 89.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 5,188 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 29,237 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 29.959 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 47,280 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 61.84 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 35,015 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.16 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 10,932 new vaccinations administered for a total of 376,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 44.049 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 509,325 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 17,141 new vaccinations administered for a total of 602,848 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 41.041 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 683,255 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.7 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 88.23 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,402 new vaccinations administered for a total of 66,372 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 48.20 per 1,000. There were 14,040 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 98,850 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 67.14 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 1,003 new vaccinations administered for a total of 63,345 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 53.721 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 59,395 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 106.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 5,817 new vaccinations administered for a total of 186,572 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 42.383 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 205,875 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.7 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.62 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 6,521 new vaccinations administered for a total of 230,875 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 44.991 per 1,000. There were 19,899 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 307,849 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 941 new vaccinations administered for a total of 14,364 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 344.205 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 76 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 62 new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,073 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 182.642 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 15,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 40 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 45.93 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press

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