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Cuts to WestJet service 'a major blow' to Atlantic airports as region still isolated due to COVID-19 –



Airports in Atlantic Canada are facing another “major blow” due to the COVID-19 pandemic after WestJet announced Wednesday that it will soon no longer fly to Moncton, N.B., Fredericton, Sydney, N.S., and Charlottetown and will drastically cut back its service to St. John’s and Halifax.

“It’s a major blow. … Any time you lose a service, that’s very challenging,” said Mike MacKinnon, CEO of the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.

“It’s not an unexpected situation. I think the writing was on the wall for some time, given the restrictive travel policies, the low passenger demand and some of the other factors involved.”

The Calgary-based airline said it is eliminating 100 flights, which represent about 80 per cent of its service into and out of Atlantic Canada. 

“We are just finding that the demand is not there,” said Richard Bartrem, WestJet’s vice-president of communications. “The Atlantic Canada bubble makes it tremendously difficult for people to move back and forth to those destinations in Atlantic Canada, and recognizing that we are simply losing a considerable amount of money every day that we’re operating there.”

“So until there is something like a vaccine or a testing regime that allows us to see that bubble reduced or lifted, we’ve got no choice but to make the difficult decision.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only residents living within the four Atlantic provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador — may travel freely within the Atlantic bubble without the need to isolate. Canadians coming from outside the bubble must self-isolate for 14 days.

WestJet will no longer operate out of the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport in Sydney, N.S., as of Nov. 2. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The route cancellations mean that the airline will also shutter its operations at the airports in Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton and Sydney. 

The routes will be cancelled as of Nov. 2, and as a result about 100 jobs will be eliminated. Earlier this summer, Air Canada cancelled 30 routes, most of which were in Atlantic Canada.

WestJet will now only fly three routes within and outside of Atlantic Canada — to St. John’s, Calgary and Toronto — all out of the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

“The biggest blow to Halifax Stanfield as part of today’s announcement is the reduction of key connections that we have within our own province to Sydney, as well as to our nation’s capital of Ottawa,” said Tiffany Chase, the spokesperson for the Halifax airport.

Tiffany Chase, the spokesperson for the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said it will be difficult to reestablish the strong network of flights, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is resolved. (Héloise Rodriguez-Qizilbash/Radio-Canada)

“We’ve worked very hard over a number of years to establish a very strong network within our region and to the rest of Canada, the [United States] and Europe. … We expect that it will be very difficult and take quite a bit of time to get some of these services back, if ever.”

Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority, said the cuts don’t come as a surprise.

“We see the numbers coming and going in the airport these days,” he said. 

Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority, said the airport has been relying on capital reserves since March, and now the loss of WestJet as a carrier will only reduce revenue further. (CBC)

“We see that WestJet has significantly reduced their schedule to Charlottetown over the past number of months, and the demand is simply not there for them to carry passengers at this moment — given the current travel restrictions and the conditions with the pandemic.”

Both the Sydney and Charlottetown airports have been relying on capital reserves since March. Now the loss of WestJet as a carrier will only reduce revenue further.

“We, along with other airports, are hoping and optimistic that the federal government may provide some sectoral specific relief for both the airline industry and the airports, because it’s certainly needed at a time right now where air travel is coming to a complete standstill,” Newson said.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil also called on the federal government to create a national strategy to protect air travel in the region.

“We believe the national government needs to be at the table to recognize that in order for us to recover economically, our greatest success of recovering economically after COVID, will be with a vibrant air service that will include in our region, both Air Canada, WestJet and others,” McNeil said at a news conference Wednesday.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil called on the federal government to create a national strategy to protect air travel in the Atlantic region. (CBC)

Newson said the Charlottetown airport does have enough capital reserves to get through a couple of years, and both he and MacKinnon are confident the cuts are only temporary.

“We’re hopeful that as things improve — maybe [as] restrictions get lifted, which we’re hoping will happen — that they’ll be back in service sometime in the future,” MacKinnon said.

“But we can’t predict — I don’t think anyone in 2020 can predict what is going to happen.”

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BCCDC flags 8 Vancouver flights for possible COVID-19 exposure – BC News –



The BC Centre for Disease Control is warning airline passengers they may have been exposed to COVID-19 on multiple recent Vancouver flights. 

Eight new flights have been added to the BCCDC’s list of affected flights:

  • Oct. 15: Air Canada 8187, Vancouver to Fort St. John (Rows 2 – 6)
  • Oct. 19, Air Canada 8484, Vancouver to Edmonton (Rows 7 – 13)
  • Oct. 14: Air Canada 299, Winnipeg to Vancouver (Rows 21 – 27)
  • Oct. 16: WestJet 714, Vancouver to Toronto (Rows 17 – 23)
  • Oct. 17: WestJet 139, Calgary to Vancouver (Rows 1 – 7)
  • Oct. 11: WestJet 141, Edmonton to Vancouver (Rows 1 – 6)
  • Oct.14: Aeromexico 696, Mexico City to Vancouver (Not reported) 
  • Oct. 16: WestJet 725, Toronto to Vancouver (Rows 2 – 8)

Any travellers returning to B.C. are encouraged to check the public health agency’s website for updates about flights identified for the risk of exposure. Those travelling from outside of Canada, meanwhile, must arrive prepared with a 14-day self-isolation plan. 

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Another store in Orchard Park Mall calls it quits – KelownaNow



Yet another Canadian retailer has called it quits in 2020.

This time it’s Montreal-based fashion retailer Le Chateau, which has occupied a storefront in Orchard Park Mall for decades.

On Friday, the company announced it will be closing 123 stores and cutting 1,400 employees who work in stores and at the company’s head office.

After 60 years in operation, Le Chateau Inc. is seeking court protection from creditors to allow it to liquidate its assets and close its stores.

The company said it has spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic trying to refinance or sell the business to a third party that would keep it in operation, but was unsuccessful.

“Its already evident impact on consumer demand for Le Chateau’s holiday party and occasion wear, which represents the core of our offering, has diminished Le Chateau’s ability to pursue its activities,” the company said.

“Regrettably, these circumstances leave the company with no option other than to commence the liquidation process.”

The company’s application comes after several other Canadian retailers have shuttered or downsized operations in the wake of the pandemic.

Reitmans Canada Ltd., Aldo Group Inc., DavidsTea Inc., Mountain Equipment Co-operative, Moores the Suit People Corp. and Laura’s Shoppe Inc. are among the dozens of retailers that have all filed for CCAA.

With files from the Canadian Press.

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Protesting COVID-19 measures 'just nonsense' — Windsor-Essex's top doc – Windsor Star



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“They think, ‘I know more than them — but I never went to any university or any school. I read something on the Facebook or I heard someone say that,’” Ahmed said. “It’s just nonsense.”

Ahmed said he is disturbed by the spread of misinformation, and lamented the “confusion and chaos” that lead to large numbers of people ignoring COVID-19 guidelines.

“Not following those measures results in what we are seeing right now in the U.S., what we are seeing right now in other areas of the country,” Ahmed said.

“I really worry about these people. They are doing a complete disservice to the entire community.”

Expressing his exasperation with anti-mask protesters, however, wasn’t Ahmed’s purpose for speaking with media on Friday.

In an update on the region’s COVID-19 situation, Ahmed noted that — in recent contrast to parts of the province like Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa — Windsor-Essex is doing well on most metrics.

For example, a new graph by the health unit shows that the percentage of local COVID-19 cases resulting from community transmission has not increased. Indeed, the figure dropped this month: as of Oct. 22, the proportion of new cases in Windsor-Essex that were acquired in the community is 25 per cent, going by a seven-day average.

A graph presented by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in an update on the region’s COVID-19 situation on Oct. 23, 2020. Photo by Windsor-Essex County Health Unit /Windsor Star

“It’s not bad compared to some of the other regions, and what it could be,” Ahmed said.

Local hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19, going by a 14-day moving average, have remained in the single digits since the beginning of September — a trend the health unit considers “low and stable.”

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