Canadians are being urged to remain vigilant and practice good public health measures as the number of active COVID-19 cases across the country surpasses 6,000.
Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and B.C. have all seen steady increases in the number of active COVID-19 cases recently, some recording numbers that haven’t been seen since the height of the outbreak.
On Friday, B.C. announced 121 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 1,233 active cases, the highest ever recorded. Thirty-one people are currently hospitalized, the most since May.
The same day, Quebec reported 184 new cases of COVID-19, a negligible dip from Thursday when the province recorded its biggest spike since the end of July. Neighbouring Ontario recorded its ninth straight day with more than 100 new cases.
“You see this trend that has been very persistently increasing for the last several weeks,” infectious diseases expert Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti told CTV News Channel Friday.
“The absolute numbers are fairly low, but we have to remember the trend is what’s concerning.”
Chakrabarti says B.C.’s numbers are particularly concerning, given that the province was largely seen as a champion in flattening the initial curve.
B.C.’s first wave of COVID-19 peaked on April 28 when there were 717 confirmed cases in the province. By June, that number dipped to below 200.
On Aug. 10, B.C. surpassed 400 active cases. Now the province has more active cases than were reported at any point during the first wave.
“I do agree that B.C. needs to do something. They’re seeing a wave coming… they may need to intervene fairly soon,” Chakrabarti said.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Abdu Sharkawy says that while it’s too early to declare a second wave of COVID-19 in Canada, the rising case numbers need to be watched carefully.
“Those kinds of trends before we get into cooler weather aren’t what we want to see,” Sharkawy told CTV’s Your Morning.
“We need to allow a little more time to pass before we can properly gauge whether or not this is a trend or a blip on the radar.”
But Sharkawy, who has been working on the frontlines of the pandemic since the virus made its way into Canada, fears some Canadians have adopted the sentiment that the pandemic is effectively behind us.
“This is not the weather—we can change the trend of COVID-19,” he said.
“I don’t think we want to get ahead of ourselves and panic. What we see is a perfect reflection of the fact that if we move from an attitude of awareness and vigilance, to one of relevant complacency, that’s what happens.”
Sharkawy says that Canadians must remain vigilant about public health measures such as hand washing, distancing, and masking to prevent the spread of the virus, noting that these measures will become even more important as flu season ramps up.
“I think this is just a reminder that we can do this. It’s not something that can’t be changed—and the great news is, if we do it the right way, we’ll protect ourselves from the flu and spare ourselves two hardships,” he said.
U.S. researchers project Canada could see over 16,000 coronavirus deaths by January – Global News
Researchers whose projections for the spread of the novel coronavirus have proven grimly accurate for the United States say the number of deaths in Canada could surge dramatically late this year, unless measures change.
The latest model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington says Canada could see 16,214 deaths by Jan. 1. That number drops down to 12,053 fatalities if masks are universally worn by people across the country.
At least one expert has expressed doubt on the projections, however, saying they don’t take increased protections for vulnerable populations into account.
Since the coronavirus was first detected in Canada in January, 9,244 Canadians to date have died of complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Dr. Ali Mokdad, a member of the IMHE’s senior management team and a professor of health metrics sciences, says the majority of the projected deaths will likely occur in December.
Coronavirus: Trudeau says 2nd wave of COVID-19 infections ‘already underway’ in 4 biggest provinces
“That’s when the weather will get much colder and align with what we see during a pneumonia season,” he said.
“We’re seeing the same pattern over and over between COVID-19 and pneumonia in every country in the southern hemisphere, and now that’s heading in our direction.”
While coronavirus cases have been surging across Canada over the past week, with over 1,000 new cases being reported daily, deaths have stayed relatively flat for months. The country hasn’t reported over 20 daily deaths since July 3, and has seen fewer than 10 nearly every day in September.
But Mokdad says that could change if cases don’t start trending downward. He pointed to the U.S., where deaths began spiking over 1,000 a day roughly a month after cases surged this past summer.
“We saw this in other countries too: when you start opening schools and businesses, who’s more likely to go there? The younger generation,” he said.
“But they don’t live in a bubble. So they’ll start interacting with their parents and grandparents, and that’s when you’ll start to see a spike in mortality.”
According to the IMHE’s modelling, the majority of new deaths in Canada will be seen in Ontario and Quebec, which Mokdad says is based on population size. Ontario could rise from over 2,800 deaths now to 5,773 by Jan. 1 if measures stay the same. Quebec, which has seen more than 5,800 fatalities to date, is projected to jump to 9,825.
The death tolls in British Columbia and Alberta, the other two provinces currently driving up the national case numbers, are projected to remain relatively flat through the winter, according to the modelling.
Coronavirus: Canadians should ‘redouble their efforts’ at preventing COVID-19 spread as national case count rises, Tam says
Stephen Hoption Cann, an infectious disease expert at the University of British Columbia, thinks the IMHE’s model doesn’t reflect protections now in place for vulnerable people like the elderly, which could help limit any new deaths.
“We’re seeing more caution when it comes to long-term care residents, immune compromised people, where we’re limiting their interactions and keeping them protected,” he said.
That, coupled with the lower mortality rate among younger patients, makes Hoption Cann think the fall and winter could be less deadly than anticipated.
“So many people I talk to now who are in that older group, they simply don’t want to take the risk of opening themselves up to more interaction and the like,” he said. “So if that continues, we’ll be in a better place.”
What can bring the numbers down?
The IHME model has been considered a tentpole for data mappers during the pandemic and has been frequently cited by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. It has also largely aligned with projections from the country’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
After projecting earlier this year that the U.S. would surpass 200,000 deaths in September — which proved to be accurate — the model now estimates there could be up to 371,509 lives lost by Jan. 1.
Modelling released by the Public Health Agency of Canada on Tuesday only goes as far as early October, when it predicts Canada’s death toll will reach up to 9,300. However, it does suggest cases could see a major upswing through October into early November if measures aren’t tightened, potentially reaching up to 5,000 new cases daily.
While Hoption Cann says that upswing could lead to a surge in deaths a month later, he again said the majority of deaths projected by the IMHE can be avoided.
“It all depends on what kind of further measures the provinces put in place to tamp down this rise in cases we’re seeing,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll see widespread business closures, but they’ll likely just ask people to kick what they’re already doing into a higher gear.”
Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said this week that the current surge can be countered if people “redouble their efforts with personal precautions.” In his address to the nation Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed that plea and said he’s confident Canadians can “bend the curve” together again.
Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canada can ‘bend the curve’ together again
Mokdad agreed, saying widespread mask-wearing could help control the spread of COVID-19.
“If 95 per cent of people in Canada wear a mask … you can avoid many of the cases and deaths that we are projecting,” he said.
“We can’t avoid new cases and deaths entirely, because we have schools and businesses open and the weather is getting colder. But masks can make a difference.”
Mokdad, who is watching the Canadian response to the pandemic from the U.S., says he admires the steps Ottawa has taken to help flatten the curve — particularly compared to the conflicting messages coming from Washington, D.C.
“(Canada) went by the book,” he said. “The lockdown early on, the testing, all was by the book. But the most important part that was done right was the cohesive national message given to the public.
“And Canadians have done a better job than Americans at following those messages.”
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With 20 years of experience working at the CDC before joining the IMHE, he says it’s “frustrating” to watch the institution struggle to deliver a clear message to Americans.
“We have taught other countries how to handle situations like this one,” he said. “So when you’re watching people all over the world dealing with the pandemic, and you know that you taught them how to do it, and they have done what you taught them — why the people here are not doing the same thing here, and not being allowed to in some ways, it’s very frustrating.
“I’m a very optimistic guy. If we get our act together (in the United States), if we are united but not divided and let science dictate policies, then we can do what you guys have done.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ontario tightens rules on bars and restaurants, closes strip clubs – CBC.ca
Ontario is tightening rules aimed at curbing its recent surge in COVID-19 cases — moving last call at bars and restaurants to 11 p.m., and closing all strip clubs.
Bars and restaurants must close at midnight, except tor takeout and delivery, and businesses must screen anyone who wishes to enter the premises, the province said Friday.
“Over the past five weeks, Ontario has experienced an increase in the rate of new COVID-19 cases,” the province said in a news release.
“Private social gatherings continue to be a significant source of transmission in many local communities, along with outbreak clusters in restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments, including strip clubs, with most cases in the 20-39 age group.”
The orders take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday. The province said it will work with municipalities to ramp up enforcement.
Premier Doug Ford said Ontario mayors asked for the measures.
“It’s precautionary … it won’t be forever,” Ford said at his Friday news conference.
WATCH | Premier explains Ontario’s new restrictions:
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 409 new cases of COVID-19 for a second straight day on Friday, with about three-quarters of them in the Toronto area. Toronto itself saw 204 new cases, while Peel Region reported 66 and York had 33. Ottawa registered another 40.
Durham and Halton regions were the only other public health units with double-digit increases in newly confirmed infections, with 12 each.
Some Ontario pharmacies on Friday started appointment-only COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people, under certain conditions.
Ford said that next week, up to 18 more pharmacies in southwestern Ontario and Niagara Region will start testing, in places including St. Catharines-Niagara Falls, London, Windsor, Sarnia, Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge.
The province is also spending millions of dollars to fix backlogs for surgeries and other procedures that were pushed back because of COVID-19, and is building surge capacity in hospitals, Ford said.
“It will help us reduce the surgery backlog, while still ensuring patients will receive the care they need,” he said.
Ontario has seen a total of 48,905 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, about 86.2 per cent are resolved. Another 283 were marked resolved in Frtiday’s report.
There are currently some 3,899 active infections of the coronavirus provincewide, the most since June 8.
Public health units with more than 100 active cases include:
- Toronto: 1,242.
- Peel Region: 764.
- Ottawa: 619.
- York Region: 323.
- Waterloo Region: 146.
- Halton Region: 125.
Further, the number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases continues its slow but steady climb and now sits at 88. Twenty-five patients are being treated in intensive care, while 13 of those are on ventilators.
Also Friday, the Ontario NDP updated its COVID-19 recovery plan, called “Save Main Street.”
The Official Opposition says the Progressive Conservative government has been slow to dole out billions in federal relief funds in the province. Among other things, the NDP is calling on the government to:
- Ban all evictions, lockouts and threats of eviction by commercial landlords until the pandemic is over.
- Implement a utility payment freeze for small- and medium-sized businesses.
- Offer a monthly, emergency 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy to small- and medium-sized businesses for the length of the pandemic.
- Create a safe reopening and remote-work setup fund for small businesses.
- Institute guaranteed paid sick days for all workers, including those in low-wage and precarious employment.
- Cap school class sizes at 15 students.
- Institute an auto-insurance grace period.
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Top-secret records show New Brunswick, Alberta companies received millions in suspicious transfers – CBC.ca
Off the coast of Mauritania in northwest Africa, thick black smoke billowed from a massive fishing trawler, trapping the crew on a vessel operated by a Canadian shell company.
It was July 19, 2019, and the Ivan Golubets, an imposing vessel comparable to the size of a soccer field, was fishing in the resource-rich waters of the western Sahara — considered a hot zone for illegal fishing by large trawlers — when tragedy struck.
Oleg Niculescu, a 39-year-old married father of two, ran to the engine room to investigate the source of the fire.
The burning vessel was evacuated: 59 crew members made it out, but Niculescu was never seen again.
“He was a cheerful man who loved life,” Anna Niculescu, Oleg’s wife, told a Ukrainian television station through tears.
“And in the end, everyone was saved, but he is gone.”
The trawler burned for two days before sinking about 50 metres into the Atlantic Ocean while being towed by another vessel.
Niculescu’s remains are presumed to have sunk with the wreckage, along with evidence that might have explained what the trawler was doing for eight days before the fire, when, according to location data, its tracking system was off.
“They say he was burned to death,” Niculescu’s wife said. “But there is no specific information — with a signature or a seal — to confirm that.”
In the midst of their tragedy, Niculescu’s family has spent the past year fighting for compensation from the vessel’s operators.
It’s a fight that’s taken them to an unexpected place: Canada, where the company that operated the Ivan Golubets is registered, despite having no actual business activity in this country.
Evial Business LP is registered in Calgary, and its website says it processes and sells fish from Mauritania. It has no footprint in Calgary, and Alberta corporate records leave no trace of the true beneficiaries of the company — only nominee directors in the Seychelles, a known tax haven.
“They try to hide under the umbrella of Canada’s good reputation,” said Borys Babin, an Odessa-based lawyer who has been helping Niculescu’s family navigate the courts.
The company appears in the FinCEN files, a 16-month-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), BuzzFeed News and partners. It’s based on top-secret bank reports filed to the U.S. Treasury Department’s intelligence unit, the Financial Crime Enforcement Network, other documents and dozens of interviews.
A CBC News/Radio-Canada investigation traced the complex corporate trail and found it extends all the way from Russia to Alberta and New Brunswick, two provinces with little corporate transparency.
Along the way, Canadian corporations have become caught in a story that involves allegations of insurance fraud and illegal fishing.
It comes amid a global reckoning around corporate transparency and a move to force corporations to reveal who really owns and controls them, called beneficial ownership.
But according to some experts, Canada and many of its provinces are moving too slowly.
“If you’re a white-collar criminal and wanting to hide money, Canada is the place to go,” said Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus, who has studied the issue over the years.
“In fact, there’s an expression that’s used internationally that if you want to clean your dirty money, come to Canada. It’s called ‘snow washing.'”
Insurance policy took effect hours before vessel sunk
Babin believes not only that Niculescu’s death could have been prevented, but also that the sinking of the vessel amounted to fraud. He believes the ship’s operators wanted to sink it in order to collect an insurance payout.
A $15 million US insurance policy written by a Russian insurance company took effect mere hours before the Ivan Golubets caught fire, according to a policy reviewed by CBC News/Radio-Canada. It names Evial Business LP, the Calgary company, as one of its beneficiaries.
“They needed to have it go underwater and sink,” Niculescu’s wife told a Ukrainian television station.
“How could they not put out the fire? It’s inconceivable there wasn’t some sort of rescue team available to put it out, even if just to find the body. They simply let it all burn out.”
The 28-year-old ship and three other vessels were together valued at a total of $16 million US in 2016, according to a Centre for Transport Studies article. That means that the Ivan Golubets on its own would have been worth much less than the $15 million US payout.
It’s partly why Dyhia Belhabib also suspects insurance fraud.
She is the principal investigator of fisheries for Ecotrust Canada, a Canadian charity that promotes environmental sustainability, and has written a peer-reviewed study on illegal fishing in the waters off western Sahara.
“Immediately when you said that the insurance policy was effective the same day that the vessel has sunk, I immediately thought of fraud,” Belhabib said.
CBC News/Radio-Canada reached out to Evial Business LP with a list of questions, but did not receive a response.
The FinCEN Files
Niculescu’s family wrote to Evial Business LP a year ago to ask for compensation, but Babin said they never received a reply.
Babin said he Googled Evial Business LP and was surprised to find it is a small company with no presence in Canada, given the money that would be required to operate the big trawler.
A reporter who visited Evial Business LP’s address at a Calgary business plaza found no trace of the company or of any fish production. Instead, they found a corporate services company that provides mail forwarding.
But the company certainly has money.
Documents shared with the ICIJ and other news organizations by BuzzFeed News show that the company was flagged by banks for receiving more than $4 million US through wire transfers that banks deemed suspicious. The suspicious activity reports are not proof of wrongdoing.
They offer a window into how easy it is to manipulate Canada’s corporate registration system.
A New Brunswick connection
On its website, Oceanic Fisheries N.B. promises “to make your every fish come true!”
The company advertises products like smoked and dried fish as well as “delicious caviar, shrimps, crab sticks and sea cabbage.”
But despite the initials in its corporate name, there’s no evidence that Oceanic Fisheries N.B. operates in New Brunswick, a province known for its fisheries.
CBC News/Radio-Canada has found that Oceanic Fisheries N.B. is linked to Evial Business LP, according to website records and confidential banking records that tie the two companies together.
In 2016, Oceanic Fisheries N.B. and Evial Business LP both received transfers of large sums of money from senders that used the same Swiss bank, according to records in the FinCEN Files. The transfers typically happened within a few days of each other or sometimes even on the same day. For both Evial Business LP and Oceanic Fisheries N.B., the money ultimately landed at the same branch of a bank in Moscow.
Again in 2017, both companies had a similar banking footprint. Both received big transfers — more than $640,000 US to Evial Business LP and $1 million US to Oceanic Fisheries N.B. — from the same sender, one day apart. In both cases, the money ended up at a Russian bank branch.
Online records show both companies created similar-looking websites using the same registrant within weeks of each other. Both were updated on the exact same day in 2018.
Based in Saint John but banking on another continent
Despite being based in Canada, neither Oceanic Fisheries N.B. nor Evial Business LP used the Canadian banking system — a red flag for banks, according to records in the FinCEN files.
In total, Oceanic Fisheries N.B. was flagged for more than $31 million US in suspicious transfers.
WATCH: New Brunswick’s lax corporate registration rules make it easy to conceal company identity:
In September 2013, Oceanic Fisheries N.B. received two wire transfers, totalling $2.79 million US, at a bank account in Latvia.
“Shell entities can be created and used by individuals and businesses for legitimate purposes,” the suspicious-activity report says.
“However, they are a concern for money laundering and financial crimes given that they are easy to form, inexpensive to operate and are structured in a manner designed to conceal the transactional details of the entities.”
Records from the FinCEN files indicate that Oceanic Fisheries N.B. is tied to a Latvian company called Baltreids, which does commercial fishing in Mauritania and Morocco.
When the Ivan Golubets caught fire, vessels operated by Baltreids and Oceanic Fisheries N.B. came to the rescue.
The Latvian owner of Baltreids denied having links to Evial Business LP or Oceanic Fisheries N.B. or to engaging in any illegal fishing or money laundering, in response to questions posed by CBC News/Radio-Canada and TV3 in Latvia.
However, Belhabib, the fisheries investigator with Ecotrust, said she is “100 per cent confident” that the Ivan Golubets had “done something shady, at least fishing where they’re not supposed to fish,” before it sank. That’s based on her knowledge of illegal fishing in the region and location tracking data she reviewed for CBC News/Radio-Canada.
The data shows the vessel’s tracking system was off for eight days before the fire, something Belhabib found suspicious because ships are supposed to immediately go to the nearest port to fix any technical problems when a tracker stops working.
Searching for a shell
With no online trace of any real connection to New Brunswick, CBC News/Radio-Canada went on a hunt to find Oceanic Fisheries N.B.
On its website, Oceanic Fisheries N.B. claims it was established in the early 2000s and has spent more than 15 years “being engaged in wholesale and retail sales of freshly frozen fish and seafood products as well as self-made fish dishes.”
But New Brunswick corporate records show the company wasn’t established in the province until 2011. Its current director lists an address in South Africa, and there aren’t any Canadian employees or phone numbers listed on its website.
In August, a reporter visited the Saint John address that was listed on the company’s website at the time. It matches a UPS store on Rothesay Avenue.
The owner of the UPS Store, who bought the franchise within the last year, said she had never heard of Oceanic Fisheries N.B. Nor had the owner of the building.
A day later, Oceanic Fisheries N.B. removed the Rothesay Avenue address from its website.
Last year, Oceanic Fisheries N.B. changed its address on corporate records to 60 Charlotte St., in Saint John’s uptown.
But when a reporter visited that address, expecting to find Oceanic Fisheries N.B., they hit another dead end.
Instead of a fish production operation, there was a corporate services company, Document Searching Services, which collects mail for Oceanic Fisheries N.B. The building is also home to a large seniors’ apartment complex called the Admiral Beatty.
Three residents of the complex who spoke to CBC News were surprised to hear that a fish production company would claim to operate out of the same building where they live.
“I’d be shocked,” one woman said.
Oceanic Fisheries N.B. didn’t respond to a list of questions from CBC News/Radio-Canada.
A call from an agent
Soon after the visit to Oceanic Fisheries N.B.’s address, a reporter got a call from a man who identified himself as Eugene Pödesberger. He said he was an assistant manager with a company called Fulcrum Office.
CBC News/Radio-Canada couldn’t verify the existence of that company, but Pödesberger described it as an “agent service” that represents Oceanic Fisheries N.B.
He said he doesn’t know much about Oceanic Fisheries N.B. and what they do.
But Pödesberger, who was calling from a Toronto number, knew a lot about why New Brunswick is an appealing locale for international companies that otherwise have no footprint in the province: it offers cheap office space compared to major hubs like Toronto.
The province also doesn’t require directors of corporations to be resident Canadians — as some other provinces do — nor does it require corporations to disclose who holds beneficial ownership.
Pödesberger said demand to set up businesses in New Brunswick is “high.” But It’s impossible to say exactly how high it is, since New Brunswick has a closed corporate registry.
It’s a problem that New Brunswick’s government seems to know about.
A 2015 provincial government report discussed whether the province should require companies to have at least one director who’s a resident Canadian and whether it “would lessen the potential misuse of a [New Brunswick] corporation being used as part of an international securities scam or fraud.”
But if New Brunswick changed its rules, businesses could just move to another province with lax rules, the report concluded.
Across the board, Canada has “really lax” reporting standards for corporations, “which is why international crime loves us,” Angus said.
But Angus said New Brunswick has “lower than the lowest of standards.”
“This is a place where if you want to evade, say, sanctions with Russia, if you want to hide your dirty money, come to New Brunswick and set up shop,” Angus said.
When asked about the issue earlier this month, Premier Blaine Higgs indicated a willingness to explore the idea of beneficial ownership.
“If we have illegal activity or revenue being hidden or taxes being avoided that are certainly illegal in that sense, then I would want to close those loopholes and I would want to adopt the best practices,” Higgs said.
New Brunswick Green Party MLA Kevin Arseneau wants New Brunswick to develop a more transparent corporate registry. He believes the province has a moral obligation to change things.
When he learned that Oceanic Fisheries N.B. was operating with New Brunswick’s initials in its name and marketing itself as a New Brunswick company, he was frustrated.
“That reputation, using New Brunswick in any way, shape or form that’s misleading, it shouldn’t be tolerated at all,” Arseneau said.
“This is our reputation. This is our hard work.”
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