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'Don't lose patience,' says Canada's top doctor as Ontario reports 1,299 new COVID-19 cases, 15 new deaths –



Ontario reported 1,299 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 15 new deaths on Sunday, according to Health Minister Christine Elliott.

Toronto is reporting 329 new cases, Peel Region is reporting 192 new cases and York Region is reporting 116 new cases.

The province’s cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases has now reached 308,296, with 7,067 cumulative deaths.

Both the daily case count and number of deaths reported on Sunday are an increase from provincial numbers reported on Saturday, when the province logged 990 new cases and six new deaths.

The latest figures come one day before Toronto and Peel Region are set to lift stay-at-home orders that have been in place for four months.

On Monday, both regions will move into the grey zone, which will allow for non-essential stores to open at 25 per cent capacity.

Grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies will operate at 50 per cent capacity. Individuals will still need to wear a mask and practice physical distancing.

Dr. Barry Pakes, program director for Public Health and Preventative Medicine at the University of Toronto, told CBC News on Sunday that the transition feels like “a reasonable thing to do right now.”

“The changes are really marginal,” he said, “and we do have to go really slow.”

Medical officers of health in both regions have stressed the need for a slow transition and Pakes says he approves of that approach.

Ontario delivers over 890,600 shots of vaccine

As of 8 p.m. on Saturday, Ontario has administered 890,604 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Toronto accounts for at least 197,155 of those doses. The city has vaccinated nearly 125,000 people as of Friday.

Ontario recently announced plans for an accelerated vaccine rollout, which should see all adults 60 and older given a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by early June. That’s a full month sooner than initially planned.

However, that plan is contingent upon supply.

“We know how to run mass vaccination campaigns and engage our partners to get all adults vaccinated by June. It’s doable as long as the vaccine arrives,” Pakes said. 

Pakes added that the challenge has really been the “whiplash back-and-forth” on availability.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, echoed Pakes’ caution.

“I think that it’s doable,” Bogoch told CBC News of the June timeline, “but it’s hard to talk in concrete terms with this because the timelines keep changing.”

That change is mostly a good news story, Bogoch said, since the timeline is moving up with increased access to vaccines and a plan to space out dosing so more Canadians can have a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine sooner.

Still, Canada’s top doctor Dr. Theresa Tam said “don’t lose patience” and urged the public to continue to exercise vigilance while speaking on the Rosemary Barton Live show on Sunday.

“It’s a pretty tremendous thing that we have several, not just one, but several pretty great vaccines,” she said. 

“We’re buoyed by that sense of optimism,” she added noting that “with that sense of optimism comes the need to just hang on in there for a bit longer.”

Tam said once Canadians are vaccinated, the country will be able to break through the “crisis phase of this pandemic.” 

However, until then, she said people need to continue to rely on the years’ worth of good habits. That includes avoiding crowded areas, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and practising social distancing.

COVID-19 variants remain a concern

“We’re working hand-in-glove with provinces and territories,” Federal Health Minister Patty Hadju told the Rosemary Barton Live show. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we do have effective vaccines.”

Still, Tam said COVID-19 variants continue to be a concern.

“The virus constantly mutates, particularly in areas where there’s a lot of infection,” she said, which requires an increase in testing and screening.

“The good thing is that these variants, even though they can spread more readily, more quickly, can be controlled by the public health measures that we have,” Tam said.

WATCH | What still worries Dr. Theresa Tam one year into the pandemic:

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that the government is closely monitoring the new coronavirus variants and how vaccines respond to them. She says public health measures need to be in place to bring cases down. 9:33

Tam’s caution around variants echoes comments made earlier this week by top doctors in Toronto and Peel Region.

In both areas, the doctors recommended the lifting of stay-at-home orders which takes effect on Monday, but warned people against complacency.

As Dr. Lawrence Loh said during a press conference earlier in the week: “Chasing normal too quickly could mean losing the progress that we’ve made to this point.”

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Citigroup lawyer says another bank made bigger payment error than Revlon



NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lawyer for Citigroup Inc told a U.S. judge on Friday he was aware of another large bank that recently made a bigger payment error than Citigroup made last August when it sent $894 million of its own money to Revlon Inc lenders.

Neal Katyal, the lawyer, made the disclosure at a hearing in Manhattan federal court, where Citigroup urged U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to extend a freeze on $504 million that it has been unable to recoup from the Revlon lenders.

Katyal did not identify the bank, the size of the payment error, or whether the error was fixed.

Citigroup is appealing Furman’s Feb. 16 decision that 10 asset managers, whose clients include Revlon lenders, could keep its mistaken payments.

Furman accepted the asset managers’ argument that Citigroup, as Revlon’s loan agent, paid what they were owed, and they had no reason to think a sophisticated bank would blunder so badly.

Citigroup has said the lenders received a “windfall,” and Furman’s decision could steer banks away from doing wire transfers in a “finders, keepers” marketplace.

Katyal is a partner at Hogan Lovells and former Acting U.S. Solicitor General. Citigroup hired him for its appeal.


(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Diane Craft)

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Canada aims to raise safety along notorious “Highway of Tears” with cell phone service



By Moira Warburton

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Canadian authorities will help fund mobile phone service to increase safety along a remote stretch of highway in British Columbia known as the “Highway of Tears” for the number of women who have gone missing on the route, most of them indigenous.

Indigenous groups recommended the move in 2006 in a report on disappearances and murders of women along the highway between the cities of Prince Rupert and Prince George, roughly 800 km (500 miles) north of Vancouver.

The recommendation was endorsed by a provincial government-mandated commission several years later.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating 13 cases of murdered women and five who disappeared on or near the Highway of Tears, although no new cases have been added since 2007. Advocates believe the number of homicides and missing is significantly higher.

Lisa Beare, British Columbia’s minister of citizens’ services, called the project “a critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies along this route.”

Cell phone plans in Canada are among the most expensive in the world, according to government data, and the cost and lack of coverage in rural areas was a top issue in the last election.

The provincial and federal governments will contribute C$4.5 million towards the C$11.6 million ($9.24 million) cost for Rogers Communications to install 12 cell phone towers, the British Columbia government said on Wednesday.

Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, applauded the plan but said it was only one step in making the area safer for indigenous women.

“This truly is a blessing for the women,” she said. “But not all women have a phone. These towers are being put up, but it makes no use to the person that has no cell phone.”

($1 = 1.2558 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Canadian fertilizer producer Nutrien to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030



By Rod Nickel and Rithika Krishna

(Reuters) –Canada‘s Nutrien Ltd, the world’s largest fertilizer producer by capacity, said on Thursday it aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by 2030, in a plan costing the company up to $700 million.

Agricultural companies, including Mosaic and Corteva, have set carbon emissions targets as climate-conscious investors push firms to become more environmentally friendly.

Nutrien plans to spend $500 million to $700 million to meet the carbon emissions target, which includes cutting emissions from nitrogen production by 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually by the end of 2023.

“We’re in a really unique spot to address two big societal challenges – food security, and in a way that reduces our environmental footprint,” said Mark Thompson, Nutrien’s chief corporate development and strategy officer, in an interview.

Synthetic fertilizers account for 12% of global emissions from agriculture, according to a 2016 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report.

Nutrien’s target includes Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which reflect direct operations and electricity use. Nutrien is addressing Scope 3 emissions – those related to on-farm activity – with a program that encourages growers to adopt sustainable practices that generate monetary credits.

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company plans to deploy wind and solar energy at four potash plants by the end of 2025, replacing electricity generated by coal and natural gas.

It also plans to expand its sequestration of carbon emissions from nitrogen fertilizer production and to invest in technology to capture nitrous oxide gas from its facilities.

Nutrien estimates that its carbon credit program could directly amount to $10 to $20 per acre for farmers, and it expects to benefit financially itself as well.

“If we can provide agronomic value and the value of the carbon credit over time, we’ll have customer loyalty – we anticipate that we’ll be a preferred supplier,” Thompson said.

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Steve Orlofsky)

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