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LeBlanc 'very confident' provinces can handle ramped-up vaccine delivery – CBC.ca

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Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says he has full confidence that Canada’s provinces will be able to handle the influx of COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in the country in the weeks and months ahead.

“We’re going to see a significant ramp-up in these last weeks of February and into March … so we’re very confident, and provinces certainly tell us they’re anxious and ready to receive more vaccines, as I know all Canadians are,” LeBlanc said Sunday in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live. “We’re quite confident it will be very effective.”

The minister said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin — the commander in charge of Canada’s vaccine logistics — has been conducting a series of rehearsals and tabletop exercises with counterparts in each province to prepare for the 23 million doses expected between April and June. 

“Everything that Gen. Fortin and the public health agency tell us is that the provinces are ready. But as always, if there are gaps or if there are needs for redundancy, sort of for backup plans, the government of Canada … will be there to help them,” LeBlanc told CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton.

Hundreds of thousands of doses expected each week

In the coming week, Canada is slated to receive just over 643,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that hundreds of thousands of doses are now expected to arrive each week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to a news conference in Ottawa on Friday. After convening a call with Canada’s premiers on Thursday evening, Trudeau said Ottawa is working with the provinces and territories to ensure they’re ready to dole out more vaccines. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“Vaccines are my top priority. I know the premiers feel the same,” Trudeau said. “The big lift we’re going to face, as our vaccine deliveries shift to the millions, means the provinces will need to be ready.”

The federal government has taken pains to reassure Canadians that the country’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign is back on track after several hiccups earlier this year.

The early weeks of the vaccine rollout were marked by disagreements between Ottawa and the provinces over how quickly provinces were administering the doses they had received. In the weeks that followed, Canada saw reduced shipments of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — the only shots to receive regulatory approval in Canada.

LeBlanc said approving other vaccine candidates and broadening the types of health-care professionals who can administer jabs — such as family doctors and pharmacists — could also speed up Canada’s rollout. 

Ottawa won’t foot hotel quarantine bill

The minister’s comments come one day before the federal government’s mandatory hotel quarantine for air travellers comes into effect. 

Starting Monday, passengers returning from non-essential trips abroad will need to book a stay in participating hotels in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal for up to 72 hours — or until the results of their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test come through.

But LeBlanc said Canadians who say they can’t afford the stay — which could cost between several hundred dollars up to $2,000 — shouldn’t expect the government to foot the bill.

“For the moment, no. That is a cost that shall properly be borne by the returning traveller,” the minister said, adding that the government has been firm on discouraging non-essential travel and that public health measures exist to keep all Canadians safe.

“We understand they’re tough, and it might represent a hardship for some people, but it’s necessary, in our judgment, to continue to protect Canadians during a pandemic.”

Concerns over costs

Gabby Boulding, a Canadian studying abroad in Scotland, is one person facing that dilemma. 

She first arrived in Scotland in 2019 before the pandemic hit, but her visa expires in early March. That means she has no choice when it comes to returning home.

“I legally have to come home, and I’ve known this is happening for so long that I’ve budgeted, I’ve planned, I know flight costs, baggage fees and all the extra stuff. But $2,000 for a just-finished student is absolutely something I don’t have,” Boulding told Barton in a separate interview. 

“I don’t think people are really choosing to travel,” she said of situations similar to her own. “We’re just doing what we have to. If you look at the definition of essential, that’s exactly what it is.”

WATCH | Canadian student abroad on expiring visa seeks hotel quarantine exemption:

Gabby Boulding, a Canadian student in Edinburgh, is petitioning to exempt students living abroad on visas from hotel costs during quarantine in Canada. Her student visa expires in March, and she says the new travel requirements make returning home difficult to afford. 6:56

LeBlanc said those studying abroad have a “more compelling reason” to travel than those choosing to visit resorts in sunny destinations.

“But these people have an obligation to follow the public health advice that can change without notice,” he said.

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service. 

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Doping raises its head as BMX marred by crashes

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American swimmer Ryan Murphy stoked controversy at the Tokyo Games on Friday when he raised the spectre of doping after losing his second Olympic title to Russian rival Evgeny Rylov.

Murphy, who won three gold medals at the 2016 Rio Games, said his 200 metre backstroke final was “probably not clean” after he lost to Rylov, competing as part of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

The comments threw an unwelcome spotlight on doping for Tokyo 2020 organisers as the blue riband athletics competition got under way, on a day further marred by accidents on the BMX track, including a horrendous spill that saw 28-year-old American favourite Connor Fields rushed to hospital.

Held in Tokyo without spectators and after a year’s delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Games have been characterised by tumult and scandals from the get-go.

With China and Japan jostling for top spot in the medal tally https://graphics.reuters.com/OLYMPICS-2020/MEDALTALLY/rlgpdynkjvo/media-embed.html ahead of the United States, it hasn’t been a ratings boon for global broadcasters either.

Data from the opening ceremony and the first few nights show the Tokyo Games are so far the least watched Olympics in recent history across Europe and in the United States.

TV viewership is up in Australia and Japan, however.

COVID-19 infections have also risen, totalling 3,300 in Tokyo on Friday, after hitting a record 3,865 a day earlier, adding to the strain on the medical system.

The government broadened a state of emergency to four more prefectures and extended Tokyo’s until the end of August from Aug. 22.

‘THOUGHTS WOULD GET ME INTO TROUBLE’

Murphy, who won gold in the 100 metre and 200 metre Rio finals, surrendered both titles to Rylov in Tokyo.

“I’ve got 15 thoughts, 13 of them would get me into a lot of trouble,” he said when asked by a reporter if he had any doping concerns about his races, subsequently suggesting the 200m had been tainted.

Later, said he had no intention of making an allegation against his opponent. Rylov said Murphy was entitled to his thoughts given that there had been scandals.

The World Anti-Doping Agency handed Russia a four-year ban from top sporting events in 2019. Those sanctions were then lessened by a sports arbitration court.

More than 300 Russian athletes are competing at the Tokyo Games as part of the ROC. While they are not allowed to compete under their own flag, they can wear their tri-colour uniforms.

In other swimming events, the medals were again spread between countries other than traditional powerhouses.

South African Tatjana Schoenmaker won the women’s 200 metre breaststroke in a world record time, while China won their first men’s swimming gold in Tokyo with Wang Shun’s victory in the 200 metre medley.

Emma McKeon won the 100 freestyle for Australia’s sixth gold in the pool, holding off Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey down the final straight to win by 0.31 seconds.

BILES’ STRUGGLES

In gymnastics, Zhu Xueying led China to the top two podium positions in the women’s trampoline as Canada‘s Rosie MacLennan was denied a golden hat-trick.

That sport has also been overshadowed by drama around U.S. star Simone Biles. On Friday, she spelled out her struggles to perform, days after pulling of competitions, but shed no clear light on whether she would take part in further events.

In fencing, the top four teams in the men’s team epee crashed out in the quarter-finals. One of the day’s biggest surprises, Japan, ranked eighth, defeated top-ranked France, who will miss out on a medal for the first time since 1992.

In badminton, world number three Nozomi Okuhara was beaten by number nine China’s He Bing Jiao. Another surprise was the entry of world number 59, Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon, into the men’s quarter-finals.

The final day of Olympic rowing also delivered thrills when Greece’s Stefanos Ntouskos upset the favourites in the men’s single sculls and Canada ended U.S. dominance of the women’s eights. Four-time Olympian Emma Twigg, of New Zealand, ensured her country kept a grip on the sport with another gold in the women’s single sculls.

Athletics exploded into life with the women’s 100 metres round-one heats. Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou roared across the finish line with a blistering 10.78 seconds at a hot and spectator-less Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

Defending Olympic champion Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah ran a scorching 10.82 seconds to advance, while compatriot Shelly Anne Fraser-Pryce posted 10.84 seconds.

AMERICAN “AWAKE” AFTER CRASH

Reigning BMX champion Fields, who crashed heavily in the third run of his semi-final, was “awake” in hospital awaiting further checks to determine the extent of his injuries, an American team spokesperson said.

He was close to the front heading into the first steeply-banked corner at the Ariake Urban Sports Park and appeared to tangle with another rider, crashing heavily.

The semi-finals were marred by other crashes after a 45-minute rain delay, although the course was dry and did not appear to be a factor.

“I don’t think that the track or the weather had anything to do with the crashes,” Dutch rider Merel Smulders, who took bronze in the women’s race after her sister Laura also crashed in the semi-finals, told Reuters.

“I feel like there were a lot more crashes in Rio. But there were some bad crashes today and no one wants to see that.”

(Reporting by David Dolan and Mari Saito; Writing by Leela de Kretser and David Dolan; Editing by Stephen Coates and John Stonestreet)

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Pistons select Cade Cunningham with No. 1 overall pick in 2021 NBA Draft – Sportsnet.ca

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The Detroit Pistons selected Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.

Cunningham had been widely expected to be the first name called in New York, though Pistons general manager Troy Weaver wouldn’t reveal plans earlier this week and said the team would look at every scenario, including trades.

In the end, Detroit stuck with the 19-year-old mentioned as a potential top pick before ever stepping foot on the Oklahoma State campus.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound point guard from Arlington, Texas, lived up to expectations with his size and fluid game to become a first-team Associated Press All-American. He averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists with a game that allowed him to hit from 3-point range, score off the dribble or find teammates out of traps.

Cunningham — the first player in Oklahoma State history to be picked No. 1 overall — joins a Pistons franchise that has won 20 games for two straight seasons and hasn’t finished better than .500 for five straight years.

Cunningham was the headliner of a class that included scorers, playmakers and potentially elite defenders at the top. That group included Southern California freshman big man Evan Mobley, Gonzaga freshman point guard Jalen Suggs and Florida State freshman forward Scottie Barnes.

There are also a pair of preps-to-pros prospects in guard Jalen Green and forward Jonathan Kuminga, both of whom bypassed college basketball to play in the G League.

The draft is later than its traditional late-June slot for the second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that interrupted the 2019-20 season. The 2021-22 season is scheduled to return to its normal schedule, with next year’s draft set for June again.

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NBA Draft 2021: Toronto Raptors select Scottie Barnes with the 4th overall pick – RaptorsHQ

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The Raptors have upended consensus in the 2021 NBA Draft, opting to select Florida State forward Scottie Barnes with the fourth overall pick. To say this was a complete shock is not entirely true — there was buzz the Raptors were at least somewhat intrigued by Barnes’ potential — but it also felt like Toronto would not take the gamble (e.g. it felt like Jalen Suggs at no. 4 was a lock).

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Barnes joins the Raptors just before his 20th birthday. He’s listed at 6’9” and 227 pounds, which puts him in the small forward category, by my math. Barnes spent one season at Florida State during which he averaged 10.3 points, 4.1 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game across 24 contests. Admittedly, the numbers don’t exactly pop — Barnes only started seven games — but Toronto must love his potential.

Said potential is what our guy JD got at in his column here. Barnes has serious defensive skills, a player who can already guard almost every position via his strength, speed and know-how. The broadcast compared him to Draymond Green, which is not a bad place to be — particularly for a Raptors team that obviously values defensive ability and versatility. Like Green, Barnes has flashed an advanced play-making game for a forward, and he also has a limited offensive arsenal. Few are looking at Barnes, who shot 28 percent from three and 62 percent from the free-throw line, to be a lights-out gunner. Maybe he gets there in time, or maybe his skill-set is less dependent on his shot.

So then the risk: did the Raptors just get a player who can’t start for the current squad with OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam locked in at the small and power forward position? Could it be that Barnes only tracks as another second or third-ranked player on a championship calibre team? (If that; some are worried he’s the next Stanley Johnson.) In all, the question remains: will Toronto regret missing on Suggs?

Or do the Raptors have something else planned with regards to their roster construction? Right now it’s unclear, but we do know one thing for now: Toronto has selected Scottie Barnes in the 2021 NBA Draft.

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