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First Nations watch, wait as Manitoba vaccine task force meets – Winnipeg Free Press



OTTAWA — Despite making up an increasing share of Manitoba’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, Indigenous communities still have no clue when they’ll get vaccinated.

For the coming weeks, only health-care workers are getting shots, the province has said.

“Our acute care system needs that stability,” Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, told reporters Tuesday.

“We have to look at that hierarchy (and) understand where the risk is (and) protect those (who) have impact, from a risk perspective — and also from an operations perspective.”

He was speaking hours before a Tuesday meeting to sort out who will receive the first doses of the Moderna vaccine, which can be kept in a regular freezer. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, currently only available within Winnipeg, must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.

Indigenous leaders have argued their people need to be among the first in line, because of a substantially higher death rate and poor access to health care.

Ottawa has asked the provinces to include Indigenous people in vaccine planning and include them as a priority group, but publicly has refused to compel provinces to actually do so.

Atwal argued Tuesday that Manitoba’s entire health-care system would collapse if nurses and doctors weren’t at the front of the line for shots.

“We have limited supplies of vaccine, and we have health-care workers all across Manitoba in different jurisdictions and in First Nations communities, or servicing First Nations,” he said.

Yet, Dr. Barry Lavallee, who oversees a First Nations health body for northern Manitoba, said the strain on the province’s health system is resulting from Indigenous people falling ill.

“Our leadership wants First Nations prioritized,” Lavallee told the Free Press. “We have 30 per cent of the population who are hospitalized (due to COVID-19) and (occupy) 40 to 45 per cent of ICU beds.”

The province’s vaccine task force met Tuesday afternoon to go over those plans.

After weeks of demands from Indigenous leaders, the group now includes Lavallee as well as another First Nations doctor (a medical officer under Manitoba’s public health team), but there is still no Métis representative.

Meanwhile, Northern Ontario chiefs have already come up with a plan in lockstep with their provincial government for a Moderna rollout in Indigenous communities.

Lavallee said it was necessary to be part of the task force to understand who is actually being prioritized, with both Manitoba’s regional chiefs complaining for weeks the province had left them in the dark.

“The guidelines from public health are to give the initial vaccines to people 80 years of age and over. But our (First Nations) life expectancy is 10 or 11 years younger in Manitoba,” Lavallee said. “We have people dying younger — our average age is 65, versus 80-plus.”

First Nations are disproportionately getting infected and having severe outcomes, both within the city of Winnipeg, and in remote communities. Many reserves have cramped housing and high diabetes rates, helping a handful of COVID-19 cases ripple out into dozens of infections.

Though the province seems to have hit the apex of its second COVID-19 wave a month ago, First Nations have taken on an increasing share of the active cases since then.

First Nations make up about 10.5 per cent of Manitoba’s population.

Meanwhile, the province has sent out six advanced care paramedics to remote First Nations reserves for a short-term deployment between the holidays.

Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said the six are supporting nursing stations Dec. 27-30 at the request of Ottawa, as staff take holiday leave. They are working at the Shamattawa, Bunibonibee, and Wasagamack reserves.

— with files from Kevin Rollason

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Britain in talks with 6 firms about building gigafactories for EV batteries



Britain is in talks with six companies about building gigafactories to produce batteries for electric vehicles (EV), the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the discussions.

Car makers Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd, conglomerates LG Corp and Samsung, and start-ups Britishvolt and InoBat Auto are in talks with the British government or local authorities about locations for potential factories and financial support, the report added .


(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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EBay to sell South Korean unit for about $3.6 billion to Shinsegae, Naver



EBay will sell its South Korean business to retailer Shinsegae Group and e-commerce firm Naver for about 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion), local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

EBay Korea is the country’s third-largest e-commerce firm with market share of about 12.8% in 2020, according to Euromonitor. It operates the platforms Gmarket, Auction and G9.

Shinsegae, Naver and eBay Korea declined to comment.

Lotte Shopping had also been in the running, the Korea Economic Daily and other newspapers said, citing unnamed investment banking sources.

South Korea represents the world’s fourth largest e-commerce market. Driven by the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce has soared to account for 35.8% of the retail market in 2020 compared with 28.6% in 2019, according to Euromonitor data.

Shinsegae and Naver formed a retail and e-commerce partnership in March by taking stakes worth 250 billion won in each other’s affiliates.

($1 = 1,117.7000 won)


(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Canada launches long-awaited auction of 5G spectrum



Canada is set to begin a hotly anticipated auction of the mobile telecommunications bandwidth necessary for 5G rollout, one that was delayed more than a year by the pandemic.

The 3,500 MHz is a spectrum companies need to provide 5G, which requires more bandwidth to expand internet capabilities.The auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks with Canadian government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.

Smaller operators are going into the auction complaining that recent regulatory rulings have further tilted the scales in the favour of the country’s three biggest telecoms companies – BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications Inc – which together control around 90% of the market as a share of revenue.

Canadian mobile and internet consumers, meanwhile, have complained for years that their bills are among the world’s steepest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers did not cut bills by 25%.

The last auction of the 600 MHz spectrum raised C$3.5 billion ($2.87 billion) for the government.

The companies have defended themselves, saying the prices they charge are falling.

Some 23 bidders including regional players such as Cogeco and Quebec’s Videotron are participating in the process. Shaw Communications did not apply to participate due to a $16 billion takeover bid from Rogers. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that market concentration will intensify if that acquisition proceeds.

In May, after Canada‘s telecoms regulator issued a ruling largely in favour of the big three on pricing for smaller companies’ access to broadband networks, internet service provider TekSavvy Inc withdrew from the auction, citing the decision.

Some experts say the government has been trying to level the playing field with its decision to set aside a proportion of spectrum in certain areas for smaller companies.

Gregory Taylor, a spectrum expert and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said he was pleased the government was auctioning off smaller geographic areas of coverage.

In previous auctions where the license covered whole provinces, “small providers could not participate because they could not hope to cover the range that was required in the license,” Taylor said.

Smaller geographic areas mean they have a better chance of fulfilling the requirements for the license, such as providing service to 90% of the population within five years of the issuance date.

The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said winners would be announced within five days of bidding completion.

($1 = 1.2181 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio)

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