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Ontario health officials record another 1,723 cases of disease caused by novel coronavirus, 35 more deaths – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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More than 1,700 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ontario today along with 35 more deaths, a tie for the highest single-day death toll since the start of the second wave of the pandemic.

Provincial health officials logged 1,723 new infections today, up from the 1,707 recorded on Tuesday and the 1,373 confirmed one week ago.

With more than 44,000 tests completed over the past 24 hours, the province’s positivity rate now stands at 4.7 per cent when factoring in duplicates and errors in testing.

That number is down from 5.1 per cent on Tuesday but on par with the positivity rate at this point last week.

Of the new infections reported today, 410 were in Toronto, 500 were in Peel Region, 196 were in York Region, 124 were in Durham Region, and 103 were in Waterloo.

Thirty-five COVID-19 related deaths were confirmed in the province today, a tie for the highest death toll recorded in a single day in Ontario during the second wave of the pandemic.

Provincial health officials say 22 of those deaths involve patients in long-term care homes.

Seven-day average surpasses 1,700

The rolling seven-day average of new cases in Ontario has been steadily climbing over the past month and is now 1,719, up from 1,389 just one week ago.

Virus-related hospitalizations are up to 656 today but intensive care admissions dropped by two down to 183, according to data provided by the province.

A count of local public health units and individual hospitals puts the number of hospitalizations at 663.

Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, told CP24 Tuesday that some GTA hospitals are starting to see a surge in COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU).

In York and Halton regions, he said, close to 24 per cent of all patients in the ICU are infected with COVID-19 and at some Toronto hospitals, that number is closer to 40 per cent.

In Peel Region, hospitals are starting to care for patients in “non-traditional” spaces due to the influx of COVID-19 patients, that region’s chief medical officer of health told CP24 on Wednesday.

Experts have said ICU occupancy of more than 150 in Ontario challenges the health-care system’s ability to keep up with scheduled surgeries and other elective procedures.

On Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said while there are certain hospitals that are under “stress” right now, she denied the assertion from members of the opposition that Ontario hospitals are in a “crisis” situation.

“There is no question that many Ontario hospitals are under stress right now, particularly in the lockdown areas,” she said, noting that both Scarborough General Hospital and William Osler Health System have been forced to cancel some non-emergency surgeries and procedures.

“To say they are in crisis is not the case. Alberta is in crisis when you have to have double cohorts in a single intensive care room. That’s a crisis. We are not at that stage in Ontario.”

Elliott said the province has worked to “build capacity” in hospitals to deal with the second wave of the pandemic.

“What we are really trying to do in dealing with that backlog in surgeries and procedures is take a more regional look at it,” Elliott added.

“If there is one hospital that might not be able to deal with those volumes of surgeries and procedures but there is another hospital in the same region that is able to do that we want to be able to continue that process as much as possible because we know there are significant, very important surgeries.”

Elliott confirmed Tuesday that officials planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across Ontario are now speaking directly to the manufacturers of seven different vaccine candidates that have signed deals with the federal government, including Pfizer, to get a better idea of when the province can expect to receive the first doses.

Elliott has previously said that Ontario expects to receive a combined 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by March, a figure the federal government has not publicly confirmed.

Neither of those vaccines have been green lit by Health Canada but Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom on Wednesday.

Elliott has said the first shipment of vaccines will be used to inoculate the province’s most vulnerable populations, including residents of long-term care homes.

Once priority groups are protected, widespread rollout of the vaccine will follow.

Speaking to CP24 on Wednesday morning, Epidemiologist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said while the latest developments on the vaccine front are positive, he cautioned that even when a vaccine arrives in Canada, people should not expect for things to immediately return to normal.

“We are so excited about returning to normalcy and getting a vaccine and forgetting that this whole thing ever happened but in all fairness, we will still be physically distancing from one another. We still will be wearing masks throughout much but not all of 2021,” he said.

“As we see larger and larger and larger segments of the population vaccinated, I think then we’ll start to see the gradual lifting of some of the measures. For example, I think we’ll probably start to see larger crowds allowed to gather together. Perhaps the border restrictions will loosen up.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously told reporters that he expects most Canadians who want to be vaccinated will be able to do so by September 2021.

New cases in the GTA:

Toronto: 410

Peel Region: 500

York Region: 196

Durham Region: 124

Halton Region: 45

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Barrick Gold profit beats expectations as copper, gold prices surge

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -Barrick Gold Corp reported a 78% jump in first-quarter profit on Wednesday, beating analyst expectations thanks to rising gold and copper prices, and said it was on track to meet annual forecasts.

Production in the second half is expected to be higher than the first, the gold miner said, thanks in part to the ramp-up of underground mining at the Bulyanhulu mine in Tanzania and higher expected grades at Lumwana in Zambia.

Barrick’s first-quarter gold production fell to 1.10 million from 1.25 million ounces due partly to lower grades at its Pueblo Viejo mine in Dominican Republic.

Adjusted profit surged 78% to $507 million in the quarter ended March 31, from $285 million a year earlier, and Barrick announced a 9 cent per share quarterly dividend.

Stronger prices helped boost Barrick’s revenue from its copper mines in Chile, Saudi Arabia and Zambia by 31% from the fourth quarter. Overall earnings per share were $0.29, ahead of analysts’ estimate of $0.27.

“We expect a positive stock reaction to the earnings beat and strong cash flow,” said Credit Suisse analysts.

POTENTIAL FOR SOUTH AFRICA MERGER

Barrick CEO Mark Bristow, who has championed mergers across the gold industry, said he backed the idea of South Africa-listed miners Goldfields and AngloGold Ashanti combining.

Speculation has been swirling around the two companies and Sibanye-Stillwater, whose CEO Neal Froneman floated the idea of a three-way merger in March.

“I’m a South African, and this country has such a great mining history and it would be great to see a real gold business come out of the many failed discussions that we’ve seen,” said Bristow.

Goldfields declined to comment. In a statement, AngloGold Ashanti said it was focused on delivering on its growth plan to unlock value from its portfolio of gold assets.

Bristow also said he had met with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s new mines minister and other officials and was continuing to work on getting $900 million belonging to its Kibali mine joint venture out of the country.

“We have a solution, it just needs to be sanctioned by the appropriate authorities which haven’t been around for a while,” he said, referring to a recent government overhaul by President Felix Tshisekedi.

(Reporting by Helen Reid in Johannesburg and Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Bernadette Baum)

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Loblaw gets quarterly sales, profit boost from online demand surge

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Retailer Loblaw Cos Ltd beat market estimates for quarterly revenue and profit on Wednesday, as its online sales more than doubled on soaring demand from homebound buyers for groceries and other essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns and other virus-related restrictions in Canada, including reduced store capacity, during the first three months of the year pushed consumers to stockpile groceries and other essential items.

Loblaw, one of the biggest retailers in Canada, said that the momentum from the first quarter has continued into the current quarter, adding that it expects to exceed its own full-year profit expectations.

However, the company has warned that its food retail unit, which saw a surge last year at the peak of stockpiling, would not be as robust in the current quarter. In the first month of the ongoing quarter, food same-store sales have declined slightly, Loblaw said.

For the second quarter, the company expects to incur pandemic-related costs of about $65 million to $75 million, compared with $282 million a year earlier.

Net earnings available to its common shareholders rose to C$313 million, or 90 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended March 27 from C$240 million, or 66 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the retailer earned C$1.13 per share, beating the average analysts’ estimate of 87 Canadian cents per share.

Its revenue rose to C$11.87 billion ($9.67 billion) in the first quarter from C$11.80 billion a year earlier, surpassing analysts’ estimate of C$11.72 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

($1 = 1.2277 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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Bombardier in talks to amend bondholders’ agreement after breach claim on asset sales

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(Reuters) – Bombardier on Monday contested a bondholder’s claims that its recent sales of non-core assets breach the terms of certain notes, and said it would seek bondholders’ consent to amend terms on eight bond issues.

Bombardier has emerged as a pure play business jet maker after divesting assets including the sale of its transportation business to Alstom, which it completed in January, to pay down debt and boost earnings.

The company said it launched consent solicitations with respect to outstanding senior notes or debentures, following the claims by the unnamed bondholder that the asset sales constitute a breach of certain covenants under the indenture governing the 2034 notes.

Bombardier said in a statement these claims are without merit and it has not breached any covenant, adding that after evaluating various options it had determined requesting bondholders to amend the terms of the bonds was the most “expedient and efficient path” to maintain value and protect itself and its stakeholders.

If the amendments are approved, Bombardier will make a consent payment of $1.25 per $1,000 principal amount for applicable series of notes, and C$1.25 per C$1,000 principal of Canadian dollar-denominated 7.35% debentures due 2026, the statement said.

Bombardier also flagged early first-quarter revenue that would beat analysts’ estimates, as rising vaccinations encourage wealthy travelers to return to flying.

Bombardier reports earnings on Thursday.

The jet maker said it expects first-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) from continuing operations of $123 million, above analysts’ average estimate of $89 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company expects business jet revenue to rise by 18% to $1.3 billion in the first quarter, from a year ago, beating Wall Street’s estimate of $1.18 billion.

Bombardier stock closed up 3.3%.

While deliveries are roughly the same, Bombardier’s product composition is shifting toward its flagship Global 7500 jets, a revenue driver.

Bombardier said it remains on track to deliver between 110-120 business aircraft in 2021. The company’s full-year deliveries fell 20% to 114 jets in 2020.

 

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Karishma Singh)

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