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Feds unveil $37B CERB transition plan, setting up new sickness and care benefits – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The federal government is extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) into September, before transitioning the millions of people who are still claiming CERB onto a revamped Employment Insurance program starting Sept. 27.

The new plan released Thursday details how most people will be transitioned onto EI, though three new temporary benefits are also being established, including a form of paid sick leave. In total, these new financial assistance plans are budgeted to cost at least $37 billion over the next year.

Chrystia Freeland—making her first announcement as Canada’s finance minister—alongside Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough, are speaking to the plan for next phase of the recovery.

While the economic reopening has seen millions back on the job, there are still millions of unemployed Canadians, particularly in harder-hit industries that are set to take longer to bounce back from COVID-19’s impact.

While CERB was set to run out at the start of the month for those who have been on the program from the outset, the government is extending the program by an additional four weeks, to a maximum of 28 weeks.

Then, as of Sept. 27, almost all CERB claimants who qualify for Employment Insurance will be transitioned onto that program as their avenue for support once their 28 weeks of CERB run out.

“With an overall objective to support economic recovery, the announcement follows an approach that provides support to workers while strengthening work incentives, facilitates access to the EI program and enhances equity,” said one senior official speaking with reporters on a not-for-attribution basis in outlining the new plan.

For most, this transition will be automatic but the government says there will be “a few instances” where applications will need to be filed, and those people are being contacted.

The EI system itself is getting a facelift, opening up the criteria for the next year to make it so that Canadians with 120 insurable hours across Canada can apply and receive a minimum payment of $400 per week, and a maximum of $573 per week, depending on past earnings.

The reworked EI can be claimed for between 26 and 45 weeks, depending on time worked prior.

EI claimants can earn income, but will have their benefits adjusted, reducing their benefit by $0.50 for each dollar of earnings. The government is also freezing the EI premium rate for two years, as typically it would be set to increase, raising costs for workers and employers.

The intent of the longstanding program remains: as a financial aid to employees who involuntarily lose their jobs and are actively looking for work.

These changes are able to be implemented through regulation through interim ministerial orders, though the three new benefits are going to be delivered through legislation, which will have to wait to be tabled until after Parliament resumes on Sept. 23 given the current prorogation.

On Tuesday, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the prorogation, he signalled his intent to come back with a throne speech outlining bold new policy moves responding to the inequities exposed in Canada’s social supports and economic system.

“It will take time to make up the economic ground we’ve lost to this pandemic. It will take hard work to fix these gaps… We’ve supported Canadians with a huge emergency response to make sure that everyone could cope during this time. We’ve carefully and successfully reopened many parts of the economy. Now we also need to look to the future,” Trudeau said.

THREE NEW BENEFITS

In addition, the federal government is launching three new benefits meant to target specific reasons why Canadians may be out of work or in need of financial aid. These will also come into effect on Sept. 27. These benefits are also taxable, meaning the tax will be deducted from the payments.

The trio are projected to cost $22 billion.

The first is being called the “Canada Recovery Benefit” and will be available for 26 weeks to workers who are self-employed, gig or contract workers, or otherwise not EI eligible but still cannot return to work.

In order to qualify for this $400-a-week program, Canadians must be looking for work and had stopped working or had their income reduced due to COVID-19. Workers will need to repay $0.50 of every dollar earned above an annual net income of $38,000 through their income tax return.

A new “Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit” is being created for those who don’t already have paid sick leave through their employer, to make it easier for people to stay home from work when they are sick or have to self-isolate due to COVID-19, without worrying about their income.

This benefit will provide $500 per week, for up to two weeks, which remains the current time frame required for Coronavirus isolation. It cannot be claimed if the employee has paid sick leave through their workplace.

The federal government has previously spoken about ongoing talks with the provinces and territories to ensure that every worker in Canada who needs it can access 10 days of paid sick leave a year, a concern more important than ever to reduce the spread of the virus by making it possible for anyone who isn’t feeling well to stay home.

And the third new program is a “Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit” providing help in the instances where someone needs to stay home to care for a loved one such as a child under the age of 12 or a dependent because schools, daycares, or other care facilities are closed due to the pandemic.

This program offers up to 26 weeks per household, with just one adult per household able to claim the program at a time, and provides $500 a week. It can only be used when facilities are closed and not because people “prefer” to keep their loved ones at home.

SMOOTH TRANSITION PROMISED

In late July, the government first signalled that this change was coming, announcing after months of work the newly-strengthened EI system was ready to handle thousands more applications than pre-pandemic. Officials said $7 billion is estimated to be the cost associated with the changes to EI, not counting the payments that will be made.

Qualtrough has committed that when the CERB cycle expires in September, moving the up to four million Canadians who still need support onto EI will happen without a disruption to their payments.

In mid-September a new webpage will launch, facilitating access to these new benefits when their application windows open.

Since March 15, CERB has paid $69.37 billion in benefits to 8.61 million unique applicants, and so far, 4.1 million applicants have returned to work. The extension of CERB by another month is set to add an additional $8 billion on to the total cost of the program.

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Chinese company says coronavirus vaccine ready by early 2021 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Sam McNeil, The Associated Press


Published Thursday, September 24, 2020 10:20PM EDT

BEIJING – A Chinese pharmaceutical company said Thursday the coronavirus vaccine it is developing should be ready by early 2021 for distribution worldwide, including the United States.

Yin Weidong, the CEO of SinoVac, vowed to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell CoronaVac in the United States if it passes its third and final round of testing in humans. Yin said he personally has been given the experimental vaccine.

“At the very beginning, our strategy was designed for China and for Wuhan. Soon after that in June and July we adjusted our strategy, that is to face the world,” Yin said, referring to the Chinese city were the virus first emerged.

“Our goal is to provide the vaccine to the world including the U.S., EU and others,” Yin said.

Stringent regulations in the U.S., European Union, Japan and Australia have historically blocked the sale of Chinese vaccines. But Yin said that could change.

SinoVac is developing one of China’s top four vaccine candidates along with state-owned SinoPharm, which has two in development, and military-affiliated private firm CanSino.

More than 24,000 people are participating in clinical trials of CoronaVac in Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia, with additional trials scheduled for Bangladesh and possibly Chile, Yin said. SinoVac chose those countries because they all had serious outbreaks, large populations and limited research and development capacity, he said.

He spoke to reporters during a tour of a SinoVac plant south of Beijing. Built in a few months from scratch, the plant is designed to enable SinoVac to produce half a million vaccine doses a year. The bio-secure facility was already busy on Thursday filling tiny bottles with the vaccine and boxing them. The company projects it will be able to produce a few hundred million doses of the vaccine by February or March of next year.

SinoVac is also starting to test small doses of CoronaVac on children and the elderly in China after noticing rising numbers of cases globally among those two groups.

Yin said the company would prioritize distribution of the vaccine to countries hosting human trials of CoronaVac.

While the vaccine has not yet passed the phase 3 clinical trials, a globally accepted standard, SinoVac has already injected thousands of people in China under an emergency use provision.

Yin said he was one of the first to receive the experimental vaccine months ago along with researchers after phase one and two of human trials showed no serious adverse effects. He said that self-injecting showed his support for CoronaVac.

“This is kind of a tradition of our company,” Yin said, adding that he had done the same with a hepatitis vaccine under development.

Earlier this year, China permitted “emergency use” of vaccine candidates for at-risk populations like border personnel and medical workers if companies could show “good safety and good antibodies” from tests of about 1,000 people, Yin said.

SinoVac received that approval in June along with SinoPharm and CanSino, and was able to provide tens of thousands of doses of CoronaVac to Beijing’s municipal government, Yin said.

SinoVac employees qualified for emergency use of the vaccine because an outbreak inside the company would cripple its ability to develop a vaccine, he said. About 90% of the company’s staff have received it.

“We are confident that our research of the COVI-19 vaccines can meet the standards of the U.S. and EU countries,” Yin said.

— Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang contributed to this report.

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 24 – CBC.ca

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A protester blows a bicycle horn outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on Thursday, after Israel moved to further tighten its second countrywide lockdown amid soaring coronavirus case numbers. (Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press)

Public health officials call for tighter restrictions, warn COVID-19 could spiral out of control 

Infectious disease experts say Canadian health authorities must tighten restrictions again, or hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 will increase exponentially in the coming weeks. Canada reported 1,248 new cases Wednesday, and Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam has outlined projections that show new cases could climb to 5,000 daily by October if we continue on the current course.

“To date, we’re not moving fast enough to get ahead of this,” Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease physician based at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, told CBC News. “I think we’re being lulled into a false sense of security because of the low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths [relative to earlier in the pandemic]. But they will come in the next six weeks or so.”

He said asking people nicely to tighten their social circles is not going to be enough. Gardam said Canadians grew fatigued with the restrictions imposed on their social circles earlier in the year and won’t be eager to return to them unless pressed. “I think we’re going to have to be a lot more forceful,” he said. Right now, “people are playing fast and loose with bubbles all over the place.”

The actions taken in the next two weeks could change the trajectory of the pandemic in the months to come, said Laura Rosella, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “There’s a lot of things with this pandemic that we can’t control, but we might be able to control who we interact with, especially socially, and who’s in our bubble,” said Rosella. “I would encourage everyone to rethink what their bubbles are given the new situation.”

Getting a handle on this COVID-19 surge means returning to restrictions implemented earlier in the pandemic, said Dr. Samir Gupta, a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto. Speaking with Heather Hiscox on CBC Morning Live Wednesday, Gupta said Canadians “need to start making similar sacrifices to the ones we made the first time around,” which was successful with flattening the curve in the spring.

Click below to watch more from The National

IN BRIEF

Ontario sees 409 new COVID-19 cases, rolls out $1B updated testing and contact-tracing plan 

Ontario reported an additional 409 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as Premier Doug Ford said his government will invest $1 billion to expand testing and contact-tracing capacity heading into flu season, including some $30 million to “prevent and manage outbreaks” in priority settings such as long-term care facilities, retirement homes and schools.

The province’s network of labs is currently facing a backlog of 53,840 test samples, the most since cases of the infection were first detected in January. During a media briefing, health officials said that publicly funded testing sites are moving away from offering tests to asymptomatic people. Instead, the province will return to a more targeted approach as hospitals, testing sites and labs have reported being overwhelmed by public demand for tests.

“We know that over the summer, when we opened up testing to anybody who wanted it, we did not find cases,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health. “Right now, we need to focus on people who are symptomatic, people who are contacts, people in outbreaks, or in very specific populations where we have designated that testing needs to occur. Your average person out there who is not exposed to a case … should not be going for testing. There’s no value. In fact, what we found is when there’s very little COVID in that group, what we end up with is false positives, which just complicates things even more.”

Testing of asymptomatic people will be limited to pharmacies, an initiative announced by Ford earlier this week. According to Matthew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health, the province hopes to have capacity for up to 50,000 tests per day some time in October.

No one likes wearing a mask — but with COVID-19 cases rising, you should put it on more often than you think 

Experts are warning that at this point in the pandemic, when the benefits of mask-wearing are growing clear and COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly, Canadians should be donning their masks as much as possible.

“Keep wearing your mask, as much as you can, especially with people you don’t live with,” Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, stressed on Monday. Multiple experts who spoke to CBC News this week say that means keeping a mask on in a variety of settings, even if local bylaws don’t mandate it.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University and an infectious disease consultant at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said masks are helpful when staying a couple of metres apart is challenging — “even if you’re on the patio, until you have to eat and drink, and then putting it back on afterwards,” he said. “We just have to kind of get people to make it a reflex.”

Edmonton-based health policy expert Timothy Caulfield agreed that people should strive to wear a mask around anyone from outside their own household. “If it’s an indoor environment and you can’t get that good two-metre space all the time, think about wearing a mask — even if it’s family members,” said Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy and research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.

Liberals boost some COVID-19 benefits in new bill 

The federal government tabled legislation Thursday to provide what it’s calling a “safe bridge” for Canadians who are still experiencing lost income due to COVID-19. The proposed new suite of measures aims to transition people from the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) to an employment insurance program with expanded eligibility or to one of three new recovery benefits. Bill C-2 also provides for a 10-day sick leave benefit — something the NDP had demanded.

During a news conference in Ottawa, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the CERB was introduced quickly at a time when most of the economy was at a standstill. As the country moves into economic recovery mode, the government is better placed to deliver financial support in a more sophisticated way, she said. “I think we’ve created, in Bill C-2, a much more elegant balance between the need to not disincentivize work but also support people who, regardless of effort, still aren’t working or have significantly reduced hours,” she said.

Qualtrough said the past few months have exposed gaps in the EI system, which is why the government wants to modernize it to better reflect Canada’s current labour market. Measures in the legislation offer greater flexibility on the work hours required for the EI benefit, making it easier for people to qualify for a one-year period.

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world.

THE SCIENCE

Quebec’s early March break contributed to province’s spring woes, study suggests 

COVID-19 could have been carried to Quebec by as few as 247 people coming home from travelling, according to a new genome sequencing study conducted by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec and the McGill Genome Center. The study looked at the genome sequences of 734 COVID-19 samples in Quebec between mid-February and April 1 and compared them to over 21,000 other samples elsewhere in the world.

In Quebec, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was traced back to as early as Feb. 25, according to the study, but it and other early cases were well contained and did not lead to sustained transmission. “It was a trickle at first,” said Jesse Shapiro, an associate professor in the department for human genetics and head of genome sciences at McGill, noting that it was easier to manage the few cases of COVID-19 in the province at that time.

That trickle turned into a rush of new arrivals after the province’s early spring break, with hundreds of travellers returning to Quebec after travelling abroad. The study, which has not been peer reviewed, suggests what many already suspected: the early break, which began Feb. 29, was a key factor in the spread of the virus before the lockdown in mid-March.

According to the study, nearly one-third of the infections in Quebec came through Europe, with 12 per cent coming from France. Just under 31 per cent of the virus samples studied came from the Caribbean and Latin America, and around 24 per cent came from the United States. Few transmissions appeared to come from Asia.

AND FINALLY…

Disney postpones Black Widow, West Side Story

From left, president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Scarlett Johansson, David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle, director Cate Shortland and Rachel Weisz of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow stand on stage at the San Diego Comic-Con last year in San Diego, Calif. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

The Walt Disney Co. has further postponed its next mega-movies from Marvel, including Black Widow, while also postponing Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story a full year in the company’s latest recalibration due to the pandemic.

Ten of Disney’s top films shuffled release dates Wednesday, uprooting several of the company’s major fall releases. The Scarlett Johansson Marvel movie Black Widow, last set for Nov. 6, heads now to May 7 of next year. Instead of opening next month, Kenneth Branagh’s murder mystery Death on the Nile moves to Dec. 18. That was the date set for West Side Story, but Spielberg’s musical will instead debut in December 2021.

Disney didn’t entirely abandon the season. The Pixar release Soul remains on the calendar for late November. But the delays of Disney’s upcoming blockbusters reinforce the growing exodus from 2020 among the movies that hadn’t already uprooted to next year.

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here

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Concerns over safety, confusion over rollout of Ontario's pharmacy testing plan – Ottawa Citizen

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Article content continued

Patients can look up test results online, similar to the public health reporting sites, and positive cases will receive a call both from the pharmacist and from Public Health.

Staff at The Medicine Shoppe pharmacy on Canotek Road, one of the 60 pharmacies in Ontario designated for testing, said they would be offering testing to people after-hours, and would likely roll out testing this weekend.

The Cedarview Guardian pharmacy on Strandherd Drive said it was working toward offering testing but would not be ready for Friday.

Rexall, with one location in Orléans designated for testing, did not return a request for comment Thursday.

Hurley said the government should be working to expand capacity at existing assessment centres rather than engaging private companies in testing.

“You already have hospitals running assessment centres, where the only people going in there are professionals, well-equipped, regulated and supported by people in infection control. There’s intense cleaning and the only thing going on in those environments is testing,” Hurley said.

“With pharmacies, there’s whole side industry selling groceries, but a lot of the clientele who are going to a pharmacy are people with medical conditions, or people who are elderly who are going in to pick up prescriptions, and they’re not people who can afford to contract coronavirus,” Hurley said. “The idea you would use a commercial facility to test people seems really unwise, and I can’t imagine this is the safest alternative.

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