The number of active COVID-19 cases in First Nations communities has declined by 80 per cent since mid-January thanks to the high uptake of vaccines, says the top doctor at Indigenous Services Canada.
Dr. Tom Wong, the department’s chief medical officer of public health, says the number of active dropped from a peak of 4,875 in mid-January to just 860 as of March 30.
“It’s very encouraging to see that,” Wong said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“We are back to where (we were) in November … when we had that low number of active cases.”
According to Indigenous Services Canada, a total of 246,675 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered in 612 First Nation, Inuit and territorial communities by the end of March.
While the number of new COVID-19 cases has been spiking elsewhere across the country, Wong said there’s been a downward trend in Indigenous communities because of vaccinations and public health measures.
More than 50 per cent of adults living in First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities have already received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine — four times higher than in the general adult population in Canada, he said.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday that the vaccine uptake has been high, despite the complexities involved in delivering them to Indigenous communities.
“We are succeeding thanks to the continued collaboration and strong partnerships of Indigenous leaders,” he told a news conference.
Miller said more than 70 per cent of the population in the northern territories has already been vaccinated.
“Nunavut, in particular, has now received enough doses to vaccinate three quarters of their adults, and over 20,000 total vaccine doses have been administered.”
Miller said all eligible Indigenous adults should have received their first dose by June 30.
Wong said the high vaccination rates in First Nations communities are contributing to fewer outbreaks, although some are still occurring.
“We can’t be complacent. The reason why is that the variants of concern are much more transmissible,” he said.
“If we get complacent, then we’ll let our guard down (and) the variants of concern will rapidly spread.”
Miller stressed the low number of COVID-19 cases doesn’t mean people should ignore public health measures.
“A third wave is coming, and we must remain vigilant,” he said.
The B117 variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom is the dominant variant now spreading in Canada.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both mRNA vaccines, are very effective against this variant, Wong said. He predicted the continued vaccine rollout should allow Canadians to get to a “new normal” this summer.
“We look forward to having enough people vaccinated, together with all of the public health measures, to be able to get to that stage in the coming months.”
Almost half of Shopify’s top execs to depart company: CEO
By Moira Warburton
(Reuters) – Three of e-commerce platform Shopify’s seven top executives will be leaving the company in the coming months, chief executive officer and founder of Canada‘s most valuable company Tobi Lutke said in a blog post on Wednesday.
The company’s chief talent officer, chief legal officer and chief technology officer will all transition out of their roles, Lutke said, adding that they have been “spectacular and deserve to take a bow.”
“Each one of them has their individual reasons but what was unanimous with all three was that this was the best for them and the best for Shopify,” he said.
The trio follow the departure of Craig Miller, chief product officer, in September. Lutke took on the role in addition to CEO.
Shopify, which provides infrastructure for online stores, has seen its valuation soar in the last year as many businesses went virtual during COVID-19 lockdowns. It has a market cap valuation of C$182.7 billion ($146 billion), above Canada‘s top lender Royal Bank of Canada.
It is Canada‘s biggest homegrown tech success story, founded in 2006 and supporting over 1 million businesses globally, according to the company.
“We have a phenomenally strong bench of leaders who will now step up into larger roles,” Lutke said, but did not name replacements.
Shopify said in February revenue growth would slow this year as vaccine rollouts encourage people to return to stores and warned it does not expect 2020’s near doubling of gross merchandise volume, an industry metric to measure transaction volumes, to repeat this year.
Chief talent officer, Brittany Forsyth, was the 22nd employee hired at Shopify and has been with the company for 11 years. She said on Twitter that post-Shopify she would be focusing on Backbone Angels, an all-female collective of angel investors she co-founded in March.
Shopify shares fell 5.1% while the benchmark Canadian share index ended marginally down.
($1 = 1.2515 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Aurora Ellis)
CANADA STOCKS – TSX falls 0.14% to 19,201.28
* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.14 percent to 19,201.28
* Leading the index were Stantec Inc <STN.TO>, up 3.4%, Imperial Oil Ltd, up 3.3%, and Corus Entertainment Inc, higher by 2.9%.
* Lagging shares were Aphria Inc, down 14.2%, Village Farms International Inc, down 9.9%, and Aurora Cannabis Inc, lower by 9.4%.
* On the TSX 91 issues rose and 134 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 24 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 228.0 million shares.
* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Royal Bank Of Canada and Suncor Energy Inc.
* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.32 points, or 0.3%, while the financials sector climbed 2.46 points, or 0.7%.
* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.52%, or $0.31, to $59.63 a barrel. Brent crude rose 0.4%, or $0.25, to $63.2 [O/R]
* The TSX is up 10.1% for the year.
Air Canada signs C$5.9 billion government aid package, agrees to buy Airbus, Boeing jets
By David Ljunggren and Allison Lampert
OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada, struggling with a collapse in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached a deal on Monday on a long-awaited aid package with the federal government that would allow it to access up to C$5.9 billion ($4.69 billion) in funds.
The agreement – the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company – was announced after the airline industry criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling. The United States and France acted much more quickly to help major carriers.
Canada‘s largest carrier, which last year cut over half its workforce, or 20,000 jobs, and other airlines have been negotiating with the government for months on a coronavirus aid package.
In February, Air Canada reported a net loss for 2020 of C$4.65 billion, compared with a 2019 profit of C$1.48 billion.
As part of the deal, Air Canada agreed to ban share buybacks and dividends, cap annual compensation for senior executives at C$1 million a year and preserve jobs at the current level, which is 14,859.
It will also proceed with planned purchases of 33 Airbus SE 220 airliners and 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX airliners.
Chris Murray, managing director, equity research at ATB Capital Markets, said the deal took into account the “specific needs of Air Canada in the short and medium term without being overly onerous.”
He added: “It gives them some flexibility in drawing down additional liquidity as needed.”
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government was still in negotiations with other airlines about possible aid.
Canada, the world’s second-largest nation by area, depends heavily on civil aviation to keep remote communities connected.
Opposition politicians fretted that further delays in announcing aid could result in permanent damage to the country.
Air Canada said it would resume services on nearly all of the routes it had suspended because of COVID-19.
‘SIGNIFICANT LAYER OF INSURANCE’
The deal removes a potential political challenge for the Liberals, who insiders say are set to trigger an election later this year.
The government has agreed to buy C$500 million worth of shares in the airline, at C$23.1793 each, or a 14.2% discount to Monday’s close, a roughly 6% stake.
“Maintaining a competitive airline sector and good jobs is crucially important,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, adding the equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit when the airline’s fortunes recovered.
The Canadian government previously approved similar loans for four other companies worth up to C$1.billion, including up to C$375 million to low-cost airline Sunwing Vacations Inc. The government has paid out C$73.47 billion under its wage subsidy program and C$46.11 billion in loans to hard-hit small businesses.
Michael Rousseau, Air Canada‘s president and chief executive officer, said the liquidity “provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada.”
Jerry Dias, head of the Unifor private-sector union, described the announcement as “a good deal for everybody.”
Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector.
But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents roughly 10,000 Air Canada flight attendants, said the package protected the jobs of current workers rather than the 7,500 members of its union who had been let go by the carrier.
($1=1.2567 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)
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