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Myanmar’s coup opponents welcome new British, Canadian sanctions



(Reuters) – Opponents of Myanmar’s coup welcomed new sanctions from Britain and Canada as protesters took to the streets on Friday, marking two weeks of daily demonstrations against the Southeast Asian country’s military for seizing power.

Adding to the diplomatic pressure, Japan said it had agreed with India, the United States and Australia on the need for democracy to be restored quickly after the Feb. 1 army takeover in which elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained.

Youth leader and activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi applauded Britain’s asset freezes and travel bans on three generals as well as steps to stop any aid helping the military and to prevent British businesses working with the army. Canada said it would take action against nine military officials.

“We urge other nations to have such coordinated and united response,” she wrote on Twitter. “We will be waiting for EU sanctions announcement on 22nd,” she said, calling on people to gather at the EU office push for sanctions to include measures against military businesses.

A small group of opponents of the coup gathered outside the British embassy in the main city of Yangon saying they wanted to offer thanks for the support. A member of staff came out to talk to them.

Police in Yangon sealed off the city’s main protest site near the Sule Pagoda, setting up barricades on access roads to a big intersection where tens of thousands have gathered this week.

Several hundred protesters gathered at the barricades anyway, a witness said, while crowds also formed at another favourite protest site near the university.

Protesters waving signs and flags drove around the northern city of Myitkyina on motorbikes, images on social media showed, and confronted police blocking some roads.

Clashes have occurred in the town, the capital of Kachin State, over the past two weeks with police firing rubber bullets and catapults to disperse crowds.

Myanmar’s junta has not yet reacted to the new sanctions. On Tuesday, an army spokesman told a news conference that sanctions had been expected.

There is little history of Myanmar’s generals giving in to foreign pressure and they have closer ties to neighbouring China and to Russia, which have taken a softer approach than long critical Western countries.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was already under sanctions from Western countries following the 2017 crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority.

“Sanctioning military leaders is largely symbolic, but the moves to sanction military companies will be much more effective,” said Mark Farmaner, director of the Burma Campaign UK group in a reaction to the sanctions.


After nearly half a century of full military rule, businesses linked to the army have a significant stake across the economy in the country of 53 million people, with interests ranging from banking to beer, telecoms and transport.

The army seized back power after alleging fraud in Nov. 8 elections won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, halting a transition to democracy that had begun in 2011 and detaining her and hundreds of others.

Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 521 people had been detained as of Thursday. Of them, 44 had been released.

The junta has also come under pressure from demonstrations and a civil disobedience campaign that has paralysed much government business.

More protests were planned on Friday, marking the 14th day of what have become the biggest street demonstrations since “Saffron Revolution” protests in 2007, which, though suppressed, helped nudge the military to begin withdrawing from politics.

The marches have been more peaceful than the bloodily suppressed demonstrations under previous juntas, but police have fired rubber bullets several times to disperse protesters.

One protester is expected to die after being shot in the head in the capital Naypyitaw last week. The army says one policeman died of injuries sustained in a protest.

Three people were wounded by rubber bullets late on Thursday in the southeastern town of Dawei when members of the community took to the streets to prevent the arrest of a protest leader, media outlet Dawei Watch said.

Protesters have called for the recognition of last year’s election as well as the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees.

Suu Kyi faces a charge of violating a Natural Disaster Management Law as well as charges of illegally importing six walkie talkie radios. Her next court appearance has been set for March 1.

Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest for her efforts to bring democracy and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her struggle.


(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel and Lincoln Feast.)

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Alaska Highway News



OTTAWA — The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):

7:20 p.m.

Health officials in British Columbia are pleased with a national vaccine panel’s endorsement of their approach to wait four months before a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine is offered. 

The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health has also given its nod to the province’s four-month interval between shots, up from 42 days. 

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say setting the booster dose at four months allows more people to access a vaccine, and the wait may even provide longer-lasting protection against COVID-19. 

British Columbia has recorded 524 new cases of the illness, along with seven more deaths. 

Two hundred people are now infected with a variant, with the vast majority of cases involving the one first identified in the United Kingdom.

6:20 p.m.

Alberta says it will begin extending second doses of COVID-19 for up to four months as recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, starting March 10. 

The province is reporting 402 new cases and 4,649 active ones.

There are 251 people in hospital with the illness. 

There were 12 more deaths, bringing that total to 1,902. 

More than 255,000 Albertans have received one or both vaccine doses.

5:30 p.m.

A national panel of vaccine experts is recommending extending the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to up to four months.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says that would help provinces quickly vaccinate more people when faced with a limited supply.

The new guidance applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada.

Several provinces, including British Columbia and Manitoba, have already indicated they would opt for a four-month interval between doses.

5:15 p.m.

Quebec is moving more regions into the lower, “orange” pandemic-alert level, including Quebec City and the Eastern Townships, starting on March 8.

Premier Francois Legault said today the greater Montreal area will remain in the highest, “red” level, because of fear of novel coronavirus variants.

Residents of Quebec City, Chaudiere-Appalaches, Mauricie, Estrie and Centre-du-Quebec will be permitted to eat inside restaurants and go to the gym, and the nighttime curfew will be pushed back from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Legault is also reporting that Quebec will wait up to four months to administer a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, up from the current 90-day interval.

3:10 p.m.

Manitoba expects to receive its first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by mid-March and plans to target people aged 50 to 64 with high-risk underlying conditions. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead on the province’s vaccine task force, says people on dialysis because of kidney failure could be one example, but details are being worked out. 

Reimer says she is following the advice of a national panel that’s recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and over. 

Manitoba is focusing on older people with other vaccines.

2:55 p.m.

Saskatchewan is reporting 121 new cases of COVID-19.

Two more residents who were 80 and older have also died.

There are 153 people in hospital, with 20 in intensive care.

Health officials say around 7,000 more shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have arrived and another 7,000 doses are expected by the end of today.

To date, around 81,000 vaccinations have been done across the province.

2:45 p.m.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says uptake of COVID-19 vaccines has been “fantastic” as just over half the territory’s residents have received their first dose. 

However, Silver says he’s concerned about the rising numbers of variants elsewhere in Canada, even though Yukon currently has no active cases of COVID-19. 

Chief medical health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley says vaccine hesitancy is a reality and he’s urging everyone to get vaccinated at a mass clinic in Whitehorse or through mobile vans that are making their way around Yukon. 

Seventy-one people have recovered from COVID-19 and one person has died since the pandemic began.

2:30 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19, and now has 30 known active infections.

Health officials say two of the new cases have been identified in the Halifax area and the other in the northern zone.

All are close contacts of previously reported cases.

As of Tuesday, officials say 35,291 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 13,512 people having received their second dose.

2:25 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say two travel-related cases are in the Fredericton area and involve people in their 20s, while the third case is in the Miramichi region and involves a person in their 50s.

Officials have identified a list of locations in Miramichi where there may have been public exposures, and a mass testing clinic will be held to determine whether there has been any further spread in the area.

There are now 37 active reported cases in the province and three people are hospitalized with the disease, including two in intensive care.

2:20 p.m.

Health Canada says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be shipped and stored for up to two weeks in standard freezer temperatures.

When it was approved in December, Health Canada said the vaccine had to remain in ultra-low temperatures until just before it is thawed for use. 

It limited the distribution of the vaccine mainly to bigger urban areas which were equipped with the specialty freezers required.

Last week, the companies asked the regulator to make the change after their own data showed their messenger RNA vaccine remained stabled stored for two weeks in -15 C to -25 C.

Health Canada says the vaccine can be returned to ultra-low temperatures after being warmed up to the standard freezer temperatures.

The change should make it easier for provinces to distribute the vaccine, and could open up the possibility it can go to remote communities and the territories as well.

2:05 p.m.

Manitoba health officials say they will delay second doses of all vaccines in order to focus on getting first doses to more people more quickly. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of the province’s vaccine task force, says it’s in response to studies that show first doses may be more effective than first thought. 

She says details will be worked out in accordance with a national panel’s guidelines, and second-dose appointments already booked will be honoured.

1:45 p.m. 

Ontario will give the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to residents aged 60 to 64.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says the province feels the targeted use of that shot will help cut illness and death across Ontario.

Jones says the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot will not be administered through mass immunization clinics but through a “different pathway,” although she did not elaborate what that would be. 

Ontario said yesterday it plans to follow the advice of a national panel that’s recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older.

1:35 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 50 additional COVID-19 cases and three deaths. 

The province is also dropping its age for vaccinations in the general public by one year. 

Vaccinations can now be booked for First Nations people aged 69 and up and for other people aged 89 and up.

1:05 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s optimistic the timeline to vaccinate Canadians against COVID-19 can be sped up.

He says his government’s plan to administer COVID-19 shots to all Canadians who want one by the end of September didn’t factor in the approval of new drugs.

Trudeau says that includes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was delivered today.

Canada has received its first 500,000 doses of the shot — the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in the country.

1 p.m.

Quebec’s statistics agency says life expectancy in the province declined by five months for men and eight months for women between 2019 and 2020.

It says the number of deaths reported in the province in 2020 was 10 per cent higher than in 2019 — an increase of 6,750 deaths.

The agency says the decline is largely due to an increase in deaths reported last year during the pandemic.

12:45 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador is extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months.

Public health officials announced the new measures Wednesday, saying it will help close to 40,000 more people be vaccinated with a single dose by the end of March.

Officials also reported three new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and said all are linked to previously identified cases.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the low case numbers and clear sources of infections are a good sign following the outbreak that spread rapidly through St. John’s in February.

11:40 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says three federal aid programs designed to blunt the fallout from COVID-19 are being extended.

Trudeau says the federal wage subsidy, rent support and lockdown programs will remain in place until June.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says all three programs will keep support at the current levels.

She says the trio of programs are being extended because the economy is still struggling even with encouraging signs of a recovery on the horizon.

11:15 a.m.

Prince Edward Island will lift restrictions that closed schools and most businesses at midnight.

Premier Dennis King says results from 11,000 COVID-19 tests conducted since the weekend provide confidence that restrictions can be eased.

The health orders were imposed after COVID-19 case clusters emerged in Charlottetown and Summerside.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison is reporting one new COVID-19 case today; P.E.I. has 22 active reported infections.

11:15 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 729 new cases of COVID-19 today and 19 more deaths from the virus, including two within the past 24 hours.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped to 618 and the number of people in intensive care dropped to 120.

10:30 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 958 new COVID-19 cases today.

The province says 17 more people have died from the virus.

More than 27,000 tests were completed to compile the data.

The province says 27,398 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered since the last daily update.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Man found guilty of murder in 2018 Toronto van attack, life in prison likely



By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – A man who plowed a rented van into dozens of people in Toronto in 2018 is guilty of murdering 10 people and attempting to murder 16, a judge ruled on Wednesday, dismissing a defense argument that a mental disorder left the driver unaware of how horrific his actions were.

Alek Minassian, 28, told police he was motivated by a desire to punish society for his perceived status as an “incel” – short for involuntary celibate – because he believed women would not have sex with him. Minassian had pleaded that he was not criminally responsible.

The defense failed to prove Minassian’s autism spectrum disorder deprived him of the capacity to know his actions were wrong, Judge Anne Molloy said in a verdict, live-streamed on YouTube following a trial held virtually due to the pandemic.

Molloy referred to Minassian as “John Doe” to try to deny him the notoriety he said he desired.

“Mr. Doe thought about committing these crimes over a considerable period of time and made a considered decision to proceed. His attack on these 26 victims that day was an act of a reasoning mind notwithstanding its horrific nature and notwithstanding that he has no remorse for it, and no empathy for his victims.”

“This case has in many ways and on many days been a struggle,” Molloy said. “This accused committed a horrific crime – one of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured – for the purpose of achieving fame.”

Minassian’s lawyer argued his autism spectrum disorder prevented him from knowing what he was doing was wrong when he drove the van into pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk.

The attack took place in April 2018 when Minassian drove a rented van down a busy sidewalk on a major street just north of Toronto, hitting one person after another. Those killed ranged in age from 22 to 94.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled and Minassian is likely to automatically get a life sentence, according to criminal lawyers following the case. A sentencing hearing will also allow for victim impact statements.

Minassian’s lawyer Boris Bytensky said he had not yet had a chance to read the entire ruling but he had “tremendous respect” for Molloy even if the verdict was “disappointing.”

He would not say whether Minassian would appeal. “Whether he chooses to appeal or not to appeal is his decision.”

Molloy read the names of the people Minassian killed and injured, listing their injuries: from fractured bones to bleeding brains.

“He had a functioning, rational brain, one that perceived the reality of what he was doing…. He chose to commit the crimes anyway. Because it was what he really wanted to do.”

The outcome was unsurprising given the evidence presented at trial, said Toronto criminal lawyer Daniel Brown.

“It’s not to say that others couldn’t avail themselves of a ‘not criminally responsible’ defence but in Mr. Minassian’s situation, he simply couldn’t.”

First-degree murder carries a life sentence without parole eligibility for 25 years. The question, Brown said, is whether the prosecution will seek to “stack” parole ineligibilities, for example so that 10 first-degree murder convictions render Minassian ineligible for parole for 250 years.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Grant McCool, Jonathan Oatis, Howard Goller and David Gregorio)

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COVID-19 pandemic could be over in Canada by September, microbiologist predicts – CTV Edmonton



With more doses of COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Canada and guidance changing on administering the shots to citizens, a microbiologist suggests the pandemic will “probably” be over in this country by September.

“I think we’re about to go into that third act and finally put an end to the pandemic,” said Jason Tetro, the author known as the Germ Guy, noting many people have been trained to be pessimistic this winter.

The first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Canada on Wednesday, the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in this country.

Late Wednesday, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued new guidance on administering the COVID-19 vaccine. The panel of medical experts says the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines can be given up to four months after the first.

Tetro tells CTV News Ottawa that after a glum few months, there is reason for optimism.

“We’ve got lots of doses coming; we’ve got three approved, we’ve got two others that are in the pipeline. I think we’re going to be definitely getting to that point where by the summer we’re going to be in a very good position and probably see the end of this pandemic by September,” said Tetro.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government will have enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate all Canadians by September. Trudeau said Wednesday he’s “optimistic” the timeline could speed up.

“If we get to a point where we have the entire population vaccinated, at least with the first shot, it’s probably going to get us to a point where we’re going to be able to gather again, we may not even need the masks and while we still will probably be hesitant to get back to normal, we’re going to start looking a lot better by that time,” said Tetro.

The microbiologist says the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine gives Canada a variety of vaccine options to begin targeting different age groups.

Tetro adds the longer intervals between doses can speed up the timeline to vaccinate all Canadians against COVID-19.

“What we’re trying to do now is to remove the pandemic status of COVID-19 and maybe even bring it down by the end of this year to what would essentially be a common cold and flu status,” said Tetro.

He notes research from Scotland, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and Israel shows one dose for all Canadians will make a difference.

“If we get everybody vaccinated with one dose, it doesn’t matter which one it happens to be, that’s going to give us the protection we need to be able to get through the seasonality and also to remove the pandemic emergency that we’re currently living through now,” said Tetro.

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