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Infections soar as Mexico moves toward restarting economy – The Globe and Mail

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Indigenous woman wear cloth masks in front of the National Palace as they protest to ask for government assistance, since the coronavirus distancing rules prevent them from making a living by selling traditional handicrafts in the streets, in Mexico City, Monday, May 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The Associated Press

As Mexico moves toward a gradual reactivation of its economy Monday, the number of new coronavirus infections grows higher every day, raising fears of a new wave of infections that other countries have seen after loosening restrictions.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is straddling the issue, telling the public that the fight against the virus depends on continued social distancing in many places while describing how other areas will begin to return to work Monday.

“We’re at the point where we begin to have fewer cases,” López Obrador said Friday. “But in these days we have to be more careful, not relax the discipline, don’t trust ourselves.”

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The comments came on the same day the government clarified guidelines for the construction, mining and automotive industries to return to work Monday. The next two weeks will serve as a period to formalize their protocols to keep workers safe, but if they do so and get approval they can open any time before June 1.

There were 2,437 new coronavirus test confirmations Friday, the highest daily total yet and the second straight day with over 2,000 new cases. There were 2,409 on Thursday.

The numbers suggest the pandemic has not yet peaked in Mexico, while the daily number of deaths rose by 290, below the one-day peak of 353 deaths reported Tuesday. Mexico has seen a total of 4,767 deaths so far.

“We are at the moment of the fastest growth in new cases,” said Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell. “This is the most difficult moment.”

Health officials have said the real number of infections is far higher. Mexico has a lower rate of testing for the virus than any of the world’s largest economies, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The country’s lockdown – which began in March – will remain in place, but those particular industries will be allowed to resume because Mexico’s top advisory body on the pandemic, the General Health Council, said Tuesday it had decided to classify them as “essential activities.”

There were signs that hospital capacity was nearing its limit Mexico City, the hardest-hit area. The Health Department reported that 73% per cent of the city’s general care hospital beds were full; the percentage was lower for intensive-care beds, but that was partly because of the expansion of improvised ICU units at hospitals and other venues.

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On Friday, about 2,000 ventilators purchased by private companies and donated to Mexican hospitals arrived aboard a flight from Chicago, Illinois. The machines are made by Royal Philips, a Dutch company with plants in the U.S., and were acquired by major Mexican companies.

There is concern in the medical community that talk of relaxing social distancing measures is coming too soon and could lead to a devastating second wave of infections as resources dwindle and medical personnel are running on fumes.

Mexican officials also confirmed that a total of 827 Mexicans have died of COVID-19 in the United States – 594 of them in the New York area.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei announced Thursday night that he was putting the country back on lockdown after a surge of new infections in the first week after he allowed shopping centres to reopen.

Guatemalans will be under a 24-hour per day stay-at-home order through the weekend. The restriction will loosen Monday to a 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for the week.

“Without health, life isn’t possible, nor the economy,” Giammattei said.

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Cuthand: First Nations must be included in the new economy – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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On the surface, it was ridiculous and condemned by Indigenous and environmental groups, but on the other hand, her comment reflects the misguided belief of the Kenney government and, to a lesser extent, Premier Scott Moe in Saskatchewan that things will just continue as before.

The world economy is in a state of flux. China will continue to retaliate against Canada for the arrest and possible deportation of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Oil prices will remain low for the foreseeable future and Canada, like most western nations, has taken on record amounts of debt.

The oil industry is evolving due to environmental concerns, competition from OPEC and an economy that may take years to recover. For example, air travel, a major consumer of fuel, will be drastically changed. Smaller airliners, reduced fleets and fears of contagion will affect the usage of fuel. The petroleum industry will remain an important source of energy in the future, but the worldwide glut will continue to keep prices low.

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Cuthand: First Nations must be included in the new economy – The Province

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This is a time of crises. If we play our cards right, out of it will come greater equality and a more egalitarian society.

The post-COVID world will be much different than today’s economic and social structure. We have to start thinking about what our priorities are and what direction we want to go.

There is growing discussion about implementing a four-day work week to increase employment. There are also ideas being floated about guaranteed annual income, expanded medicare to include elder care and revamping the tax system to increase taxes on the rich.

While some are looking toward an exciting future, others are stuck in the past and think, like U.S. President Donald Trump, that the economy will rebound and everything will go back to the way it was.

But the COVID-19 pandemic revealed weaknesses in the social safety net, the need for better elder care and the gap between rich and poor in Canada.

In Alberta, Sonya Savage, the energy minister in the Kenney government, told a podcast of the Association of Canadian Oil Drilling contractors that it was a good time to build pipelines since COVID-19 makes it impossible for protesters to gather in groups larger than 15 people.

On the surface, it was ridiculous and condemned by Indigenous and environmental groups, but on the other hand, her comment reflects the misguided belief of the Kenney government and, to a lesser extent, Premier Scott Moe in Saskatchewan that things will just continue as before.

The world economy is in a state of flux. China will continue to retaliate against Canada for the arrest and possible deportation of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Oil prices will remain low for the foreseeable future and Canada, like most western nations, has taken on record amounts of debt.

The oil industry is evolving due to environmental concerns, competition from OPEC and an economy that may take years to recover. For example, air travel, a major consumer of fuel, will be drastically changed. Smaller airliners, reduced fleets and fears of contagion will affect the usage of fuel. The petroleum industry will remain an important source of energy in the future, but the worldwide glut will continue to keep prices low.

First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples will have to be part of the new economy. As the source of employment in the oil patch is reduced, there will be a need for new industries to rise up and fill the vacuum. Saskatchewan will see a shift away from an emphasis on resource industries in favour of the tech sector and cultural industries, including the revival of the Saskatchewan film industry.

Agriculture is the bedrock of the Saskatchewan economy, and First Nations have recently acquired new land based on land claims and Treaty Land Entitlement. I see a future where we pay a major role in food production, including livestock and crop production.

We also need to rethink the agriculture industry. Older farmers are getting out of the business and moving away. The rural population is hollowing out as fewer and fewer farmers live on the land and small towns dry up. We joke that in the future the majority of rural residents will be Indians and Hutterites. In the future, as towns continue to shrink and reserve populations grow, the emphasis will shift to reserves. Post offices, grocery stores, schools and other public services may well become a part of the services offered by the First Nations.

In the short term, our communities have done a good job at self-isolating and preventing the spread of the disease. The only exceptions have been where the disease was introduced from the outside.

In the longer term, we are facing a new world with major changes in the social and economic fabric. We will have to rely less on imports and develop many of our own products in-house. We will have to grow more of our own food and be more self-sufficient. The large meat packing factories will become a thing of the past and more emphasis will be placed on local abattoirs.

This is a time of crises. If we play our cards right, out of it will come greater equality and a more egalitarian society.

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Canada must come together and build more pipelines to lift economy out of COVID-19 hole – CBC.ca

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Canada has the world’s third-greatest proven petroleum reserves, behind only Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.  

Canada is currently both the fourth-largest producer and the fourth-largest exporter of petroleum in the world.  

Ninety six per cent of Canada’s 168.5 billion barrels of oil is heavy oil.

Some experts believe Canada has heavy oil reserves in the trillions of barrels.  

Canada, due to its political stability, has the world’s most secure source of heavy crude known as Western Canada Select.  

What Canada currently requires are pipelines, which, in my opinion, will enable it to deliver its oil to market in the safest, most cost-effective manner.

Prior to pandemic

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, world oil production was slightly greater than the demand of 100 million barrels per day. 

However, all of that changed with the onset of COVID-19, coupled with the flooding of the market by Saudi Arabia due to their conflict with Russia. We have now seen a dramatic drop in demand and it is unclear when demand will return to normal.

On April 20, 2020, the world experienced something that had never happened before. On that date the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude went from $17.73 to -$37.63 per barrel.

Futures Traders were caught off-guard and unable to trade out of their options for the May contract.

There were no buyers!

If you wanted to unload your contract, you had to pay someone to take your oil and as physical storage was scarce, in my opinion, the market had nowhere to go but down.

Efforts to get this valuable resource to market have been stymied …– Donald Benson

The carnage has impacted trading prices of our Canadian benchmark Western Canada Select. 

However, fear not.

I believe that demand will rebound and Canada’s time will only continue to glow brighter as the century moves forward.

The world is evolving away from the internal combustion engine. It is light crude, notably Saudi Arabian Light and West Texas Intermediate, which will become out of favour, as the world shifts away from jet and internal combustion engines.  

Light oil is the principal source of oil refined into gasoline and jet fuel. The market for light oil will continue to diminish as the increase of air and land vehicle traffic turns to electric. 

But heavy oil, such as Western Canada Select, has a much wider market.  

While it can be upgraded to allow for refinement into gasoline, due to the molecular makeup of heavy oil, with its greater numbers of long chain carbon molecules, it is the feedstock used for the manufacture of thousands of consumer products.  

The following is a partial list of products that are derived from petroleum: 

Ballpoint pens, ink, floor wax, upholstery, sweaters, boats, insecticides, bicycle tires, sports car bodies, nail polish, fishing lures, dresses, tires, golf bags, perfumes, dishwasher parts, tool boxes, shoe polish, shampoo, wheels, paint rollers, shower curtains, guitar strings, luggage, aspirin and safety glasses.

Because heavy oil is so utterly predictable and stable, and responds precisely the same way every time, companies are not looking to replace it as a feedstock.

What Canada needs now — and what will be required into the future — are pipelines.  

Pipelines provide the ability for Canada to get its oil to market in a safe and sustainable manner. Canada is a unique country that has the capability of exporting its oil and gas to the north, south, east and west.  

But efforts to get this valuable resource to market have been stymied — in my opinion — by political and environmental forces intent on keeping our country from being allowed to market its resources.  

Quebeckers should embrace pipeline

Today, people have allowed the catastrophic 2013 train crash, which killed 47 people in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Que., to escape from their memory.  

That terrible event would not have happened if we were shipping our oil to markets through the safe, dependable means of a pipeline.  

Our eastern brothers and sisters in Quebec should be embracing the Energy East line of TransCanada Corp., now known as TC Energy Corp.  

However, their application was withdrawn due to the impractical, unreasonable decision of Quebec’s leaders, who object to new pipelines in their province. 

Instead the Quebec and New Brunswick refineries import their oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and elsewhere.

In the West we are struggling to get pipelines built to tidewater.  

What Canada must consider is a Manitoba pipeline …”– Donald Benson

The constant government interference, objections and (in my opinion) disobedience of others has to stop, if we Canadians are going to have the prosperity that our oil industry can provide.  

The Trans Mountain and Coastal Gas pipelines must be built.  

For far too long we have been held hostage by a minority of special interest groups, many of them from the U.S.A., which will go to whatever limits to destroy our country’s prosperity.  

In this June 12, 2019, file photo, demonstrators walk to Andrew W. Bogue Federal Courthouse as they protest against the Keystone XL pipeline in Rapid City, S.D. (Adam Fondren/Rapid City Journal via Associated Press)

To the south, the never-ending interference from one group after another has again caused the Keystone XL Pipeline to be delayed.  

On April 15, 2020, Montana Chief District Judge Brian Morris ruled more work needed to be done on permits required for two river crossings.  

Now, news out of Washington that if elected in November, Democratic hopeful Joe Biden vows that he will cancel Keystone XL pipeline.  

This $8-billion project has been needlessly held up for more than a decade.  

Revenge for TC Energy will come, once the pipeline is completed and recourse from the provisions of the now-replaced NAFTA free trade agreement will be relied upon for the damages that TC Energy has endured.

Northern pipeline

What Canada must consider is a Manitoba pipeline to the northern Port of Churchill and a Northwest Passage route from Alberta, north to the Beaufort Sea.  

Pipelines in the northern hemisphere are not new, neither is the task insurmountable. Russia has been transporting oil and gas through above-ground pipelines in the Arctic Circle for decades.  

The Alaska pipeline, which is constructed above ground, was completed in 1977. Engineers faced a wide range of difficulties stemming mainly from extreme cold and difficult terrain. Special construction techniques had to be developed due to the difficulties caused by permafrost.   

Today, the COVID-19 financial crisis is now unfolding and to what extent we can only imagine.  

It will cause Canada to endure a deficit like never before.  

How will we overcome that debt, which must be repaid?  

It will take decades and Alberta oil once again will be one of the economic engines driving the recovery, and all of the have-not provinces, Quebec included, will be eagerly looking for Alberta’s continuation of transfer payments.  

Canadians need to disregard the unfounded ranting from the likes of  Elizabeth May, with all her negativity toward the oil industry.

Canadians need to come together and bend a little where necessary to see the common good achieved, through the construction of pipelines north, south, east and west.  

Be a proud Canadian!


This column is part of  CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.

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