A deadly trend of COVID-19 continued in Manitoba on Friday, as health officials announced a near record-breaking number of deaths.
On Friday, Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer announced 14 more people have died of COVID-19. This is among Manitoba’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day.
“We continue to announce these deaths every day, we continue to announce higher numbers than what we can sustain,” Roussin said, adding in total, 280 people have died due to COVID-19 in Manitoba.
Along with these deaths, the province reported 344 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in Manitoba since March to 15,632. These cases push the five-day test positivity rate in the province to 14.5 per cent.
The majority of the cases announced were in the Winnipeg region, which had 178 cases, and a test positivity rate of 14.2 per cent.
The other cases announced on Friday include:
- 15 cases in the Interlake-Eastern health region;
- 73 cases in the Northern health region;
- 13 cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region; and
- 65 cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region.
INTENSIVE CARE NOW OPERATING AT 152 PER CENT CAPACITY
The province reported 310 more people have been listed as recovered, which brings the total number of recoveries to 6,487. Hospitalizations jumped by 15 on Friday, with a total of 322 people in hospital.
Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said as of midnight, the province’s intensive care units were operating at 152 per cent of its normal pre-COVID capacity. She said 46 people out of the 110 patients in ICU have COVID-19.
To free up inpatient beds, as well as redeploy staff to help with the surge of COVID-19 patients, the province has postponed 1,136 surgeries in the past month, Siragusa said.
While daily case numbers are no longer dramatically climbing, Roussin said they are staying at a level the province cannot maintain much longer.
ROUSSIN URGES MANITOBANS TO STAY HOME THIS WEEKEND
“The message has been clear and it’s been unwavering – it’s to stay home,” Roussin, asking Manitobans to stay home as much as possible this weekend.
He said there should not be any gatherings this weekend – including faith-based gatherings.
“The weekend is coming up, and so there is always those urges to get together with others, or to run non-essential errands,” Roussin said. “My ask to you is to stay home – stay home this weekend. Connect with people virtually, only out for essential reasons, don’t leave the province to go shopping, don’t do any non-essential activities.”
The deaths reported on Friday include:
- A man in his 50s and a man in his 70s from the Winnipeg health region;
- A man in his 50s and a man in his 70s from the Interlake-Eastern health region;
- A man in his 70s from the Southern Health region;
- Two women in their 80s, and a woman in her 100s from Winnipeg, whose deaths are linked to the outbreak at the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre;
- Two men in their 90s from Winnipeg, whose deaths are linked to the outbreak at Golden Links Lodge;
- A woman in her 90s from the Prairie Mountain Health region, whose death is linked to the outbreak at Fairview Home;
- A man in his 90s from the Southern Health region, whose death is linked to the outbreak at the Rest Haven Nursing Home;
- A woman in her 70s from Winnipeg whose death is linked to the outbreak at Parkview Place; and
- A man in his 90s from Winnipeg whose death is linked to the outbreak at the St. Norbert Personal Care Home.
This is a developing story. More to come.
Couche-Tard to pursue other deals after Carrefour failure – BNN
Executives at Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. defended a failed bid for Carrefour SA and said they would still like to buy the French grocer some day, but will turn their focus to other potential deals.
The Canadian convenience store operator made a US$20 billion offer that was shot down by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday. The bid caught investors off guard because Couche-Tard does not operate supermarkets.
The shares tumbled nearly 11 per cent last week. On Monday, they were up 2.4 per cent to $38.90 as of 9:36 a.m. in Toronto.
In response to criticism of the deal, Couche-Tard executive chairman Alain Bouchard said previous large deals — including the 2003 acquisition of Circle K — also surprised the market, but they worked out.
“Over the last decades while growing our business we have made many bold moves, some of which were not always obvious to our stakeholders,” Bouchard said on a conference call with investors Monday.
“Was I hoping our bold approach to Carrefour would have turned out differently? Of course. Yet I’m tremendously proud that Couche-Tard had the financial strength and acumen to make such an offer.”
The companies announced the end of negotiations on Saturday, four days after Bloomberg first reported the talks, and said they’ll work instead on a looser alliance in areas including fuel purchasing and product distribution.
Couche-Tard executives gave few details on that alliance Monday, calling the talks exploratory. Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch said there is a “robust” set of other acquisitions to examine as it pursues a five-year goal of doubling profit by 2023.
Hannasch said the door is open to a future Carrefour merger if the political climate in France changes.
“I’m old enough to believe there’s no such thing as permanently,” he said. “We’d love to do the transaction, so if we got signals that the environment could change or would change from the French government or the key stakeholders, we’d love the opportunity to re-engage — under the right conditions and assuming we haven’t found another way to create more value for our shareholders.”
The Laval, Quebec-based company has been making headway on its growth plans even without a major acquisition in recent years. Analysts expect adjusted earnings per share to be 16 per cent higher for the fiscal year that ends in April, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Even so, its valuation has dipped.
The chain has been improving its coffee and adding fresh food offerings, which come with higher margins. It’s digging into analytics to improve pricing and promotions, and planning to roll out electric vehicle charging stations in North America after learning from its experience in Norway.
Couche-Tard strengthened its foothold in Asia by buying about 370 stores in Hong Kong and Macau that previously were Circle K brand licensees. But a large takeover has remained elusive since it signed a US$4 billion purchase of Texas-based CST Brands Inc. in 2016.
In April, the company walked away from a US$5.6 billion proposal for gas station chain Caltex Australia Ltd. (now known as Ampol Ltd.), citing pandemic uncertainty. And it missed out on Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Speedway gas stations, which were scooped up in August by Japan’s Seven & i Holdings Co., the world’s largest convenience store operator, for US$21 billion.
Couche-Tard executives have scoffed at the valuation of Speedway. Addressing shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in September, Bouchard cited it as an example of the company’s discipline around acquisitions.
The balance sheet leaves it in a good place to hunt for deals. The company had about US$5.5 billion in net debt at the end of its October quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s earned US$3.5 billion in operating profit in the last four quarters.
Chief Financial Officer Claude Tessier told analysts in November that the current debt ratio is at half of Couche-Tard’s comfort level.
Hacked emails allegedly detail how EU drug regulator was pressured to approve Pfizer jab despite ‘problems’ with the vaccine – RT
An alleged cache of email exchanges between EU officials and the European Medicines Agency show that the drug regulator was uncomfortable about fast-tracking approval for the Pfizer and Moderna Covid jabs, Le Monde has reported.
The EMA has claimed that the contents of the messages, which were obtained by hackers and published on the dark web, were tampered with in order to undermine confidence in the drugs, without providing further details. However, the agency acknowledged to the French newspaper that the correspondences reflect “issues and discussions” that took place in the lead-up to the decision to grant approval to the vaccines. The agency said it can’t specify which documents are genuine.
Some of the “discussions” appear to have been less than congenial. For example, in a document dated November 19, a senior EMA official described a “rather tense, sometimes even a little unpleasant” conference call with the European Commission regarding the review process for the drugs. The official said he felt there was a clear “expectation” that the vaccines would be approved. A day later, the same individual had an exchange with the Danish Medicines Agency in which he expressed surprise that Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, had announced that the Moderna and Pfizer jabs could receive the green light before the end of the year.
“There are still problems with both,” the unnamed EMA official noted in the leaked correspondence.
According to Le Monde, the hacked documents primarily detail issues that the EMA had with the Pfizer/BioNTech drug. The regulator apparently had three “major issues” with the vaccine: certain manufacturing sites used for its production had not yet been inspected, data on batches produced for commercial use were still missing, and, most importantly, available data revealed qualitative differences between the commercial batches and those used during clinical trials.
The EMA expressed particular concern about the last point, noting that mass production had decreased the purity of the RNA contained in the vaccine. The Pfizer jab uses a mRNA strand, a sequence of molecules that tell cells what to ‘build’ in order to produce a disease-specific antigen.
The EU drug regulator signaled that it was worried that less rigorous manufacturing methods would make the vaccine less effective and safe. However, Pfizer appears to have agreed to make necessary adjustments in order to meet the EMA’s standards.
Despite its hesitancy, it appears the EMA understood that it was under a clear deadline. In an email exchange between colleagues at the agency, one employee said the EMA needs to “accelerate the process to align [with other agencies],” and risks facing “questions and criticisms” from Brussels, the media and the general public if it did not fast-track approval.
The Pfizer jab was granted approval by the EU on December 21, while the Moderna variant was given the go-ahead earlier this month. Since then, numerous reports have emerged of both drugs being linked to adverse effects in countries around the world, prompting investigations by health authorities.
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COVID-19: Ontario case total dips below 2,500; Big-box blitz finds compliance wanting – Ottawa Citizen
Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the lowest this daily total has been since Jan. 1.
The seven-day average for new cases in Ontario is now 3,035, and has declined every day in the last week from the record-high average of 3,555 reported Jan. 11.
There are 1,571 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario (an increase of one from the previous day), including 394 people in ICU (down one), with 303 on ventilators.
Twenty-four additional COVID-19 deaths were reported by the province.
Monday’s new case total includes 92 in Ottawa, according to Public Health Ontario. The confirmed case total rose by 36 in Eastern Ontario, four in Hastings Prince Edward, two in Renfrew County and District and one in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark. There was no change to the pandemic case total in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington.
In terms of active cases, Peel Region is currently the hardest-hit Ontario health unit with 416 cases per 100,000 people. It’s followed by Windsor-Essex (399), Niagara Region (328), Toronto (319) and Middlesex-London (234).
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