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Ontario reports 2,448 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths – CBC.ca

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Ontario reported 2,448 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths on Sunday, marking the fourth consecutive day of new daily cases topping 2,000. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Toronto has 780 cases, Peel Region has 356, York Region has 278, Durham Region has 219 and Ottawa has 150.

There are 917 people with COVID-19 in hospital, although the province says more than 10 per cent of hospitals have not reported their numbers over the weekend.

Of the people in hospital, 366 of them are in intensive care units and 217 are on ventilators. 

The province’s network of labs completed 50,200 tests in the past 24 hours. 

As of 8 p.m. on Saturday, Ontario reported that 64,950 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the last daily update. A total of 1,981,282 vaccines have been given in the province so far.

The new deaths reported on Sunday bring the province’s COVID-19-related death toll to 7,327.

Ontario has a cumulative total of 343,140 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That is the total number of cases recorded in the province since the pandemic began. The province says 317,408 cases have been marked as resolved.

There are 60 ongoing outbreaks, or outbreaks not yet declared over, in long-term care homes, 38 in retirement homes and 34 in hospitals, according to the Ministry of Health.

The province’s seven-day rolling average, which helps smooth out peaks and valleys in the data, now stands at 2,038. This is the first time Ontario has seen this figure top 2,000 since late January. 

An undated transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, also known as novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. (NIAID Integrated Research Facility/Reuters)

Variants of concern account for 1,755 new cases

As for variants of concern, Ontario has a cumulative total of 1,625 confirmed COVID-19 cases of the B117 lineage, or the variant first detected in the United Kingdom, 63 of the B.1.351, or the variant first detected in South Africa, and 67 of the P1, or the variant first detected in Brazil. 

Variants of concern now account for 1,755 COVID-19 cases across the province.

Early evidence suggests all of the variants of concern make COVID-19 more transmissible, while the variants first detected in South Africa and Brazil also are believed to reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

Samples that test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are tested for mutations common to variants of concern. If the samples screen positive for a mutation, genome sequencing is done to pinpoint the variant of concern.

As of 8 p.m. on Saturday, Ontario reported that 64,950 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the last daily update. A total of 1,981,282 vaccines have been given in the province so far. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

Education minister asks Ottawa for vaccines for children

In a letter on Friday, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce asked the federal government to consider procuring and distributing COVID-19 vaccines for children.

The letter was addressed to Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Ahmed Hussen, the Families, Children and Social Development Minister.

“We are now entering a new phase of the pandemic, one represented by cautious hope with the introduction of vaccines for adults that will help reduce the impact of COVID-19,” Lecce wrote.

“As Canada continues its vaccination efforts for adults, it is critical that we look ahead and apply lessons learned on the importance of forward planning for the procurement and distribution of vaccines for our students and children.”

Lecce noted that the clinical trials are underway to determine vaccine efficacy in children and results are expected in months. 

“While this is hopeful news, it also underscores the necessity to start to plan immediately so that Canada is the leader on vaccine roll-out. Vaccination of children and students will be a critical part of ending the pandemic and keeping our children safe,” Lecce continued.

The minister said that while children and young people often experience milder COVID-19 symptoms, they are not immune to the virus and can spread disease in child care and education settings, among family members and in the larger community. 

‘As Canada continues its vaccination efforts for adults, it is critical that we look ahead and apply lessons learned on the importance of forward planning for the procurement and distribution of vaccines for our students and children,’ Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce writes in a letter to three federal cabinet ministers. (CBC)

Lecce called on Anand to firstly ensure that the federal government secures vaccine supply from a range of suppliers for children under 16.

Second, he asked Health Canada to be ready to review, and, when possible, approve vaccines when they are safe for children. And third, he called on the federal government to earmark funds for educating children about vaccinations.

“We cannot count on the vaccination of adults alone to end the pandemic,” Lecce wrote.

Get vaccinated, Toronto mayor urges those 70 and older

Toronto Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, urged residents 70 years and older to get vaccinated.

Tory says three new COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics will open on Monday, but there are still many appointments unfilled. He said supply issues of the vaccine have been resolved and the city is ramping up its rollout of the shots.

Tory said more than 450,000 people in Toronto have received doses thus far. He said he won’t be satisfied until all the vaccination appointments are “sold out.”

2 regions face more restrictions on Monday

Sunday’s numbers come before the province moves two regions into more restricted areas of its colour-coded reopening framework on Monday. As well, five regions in the province’s grey-lockdown zone will see some restrictions loosen on Monday and later in April. 

Starting on Monday at 12:01 a.m., Hamilton will move into the grey-lockdown zone, while the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will move into the red-control zone.

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Molson Coors’ JV Truss launches 6 pot-infused drinks in Canada

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(Reuters) – Miller Lite beer-maker Molson Coors Beverage Co’s cannabis joint venture Truss Beverage Co on Wednesday launched six pot-infused beverages in Canada, as it hopes that summer demand will offset recent sales hits from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Coronavirus restrictions in major provinces including Ontario have forced weed stores to shut for extended periods, and are expected to hit cannabis companies’ results for the March quarter.

The summer season, which tends to represent peak demand for beverages, will be crucial for companies to undo the damage.

Truss, jointly run by Canadian pot producer Hexo Corp, launched five CBD-infused beverage brands in August last year and claims to have already won a 43% market share in the category in Canada. (https://bit.ly/3wThh2D)

“Summer … is the biggest opportunity for the beverage category; it is the inflection point for consumers to try out our products,” Truss Beverage’s Chief Executive Scott Cooper told Reuters in an interview.

“Cannabis-infused beverages are still new and tend to be an impulsive purchase, so having the store open is important to the trial and awareness of the category,” he added.

Truss said its latest beverage line included watermelon, lemonade, sparkling tonic and honey green iced tea flavors, and are expected to be rolled out to retailers over the next few months.

 

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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Canadian retail titan W. Galen Weston dies at 80

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(Corrects April 13 story to remove references to Primark in paragraph 3 and what had been paragraph 6, to reflect that Primark is actually owned by a different Weston family)

By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) -W. Galen Weston, patriarch of one of Canada‘s wealthiest families and retail titan, has died at age 80, according to a statement by the family on Tuesday.

Weston was the third generation of his family to lead George Weston Limited, an already-prosperous retail empire founded by his grandfather, which he expanded significantly.

The family company, now run by his son, Galen Weston, owns Selfridges in the United Kingdom, as well as the Canadian grocery chain Loblaw Co Ltd, pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart, and real estate company Choice Properties.

Weston passed away peacefully at home after a long illness, the statement said.

He was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and moved to Dublin at 21 to escape a domineering father, the Irish Times reported in 2014, where he met his wife, Irish model Hilary Frayne. They married in 1966.

In the 1970s Weston returned to his family’s base of operations, Canada, to revive the family’s struggling Loblaws supermarket chain, and helped turn it into one of the largest food distributors in the country.

“In our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy,” Galen Weston, chairman and CEO of George Weston Ltd, said in a statement.

“The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary,” Alannah Weston, Weston Sr.’s daughter and chairman of Selfridges Group, said.

The Weston family is among the wealthiest in Canada, with Forbes estimating their total wealth at $8.7 billion.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in VancouverEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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Canada’s migrant farmworkers remain at risk a year into pandemic

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Pedro, a Mexican migrant worker, knew he had to leave the Ontario cannabis operation where he worked when so many of his coworkers caught COVID-19 that his employer began to house them in a 16-person bunk house alongside the uninfected.

Pedro moved in with friends in the nearby farming town of Leamington, Ontario, at the end of October. He asked to be identified under a pseudonym because he fears that speaking out will affect his chances of employment.

“I didn’t know where to go, where to get help. So I was left behind, hopeless,” he said, speaking through a translator. About a week later, Pedro landed another job, working with peppers in a greenhouse. Conditions are better, he said.

But he added: “To be honest, I don’t think all employers are taking precautions.”

Pedro is one of about 60,000 migrant farmworkers – many from Central America and the Caribbean – who come to Canada as part of an annual migration of people that ramps up in spring. They grow and harvest the country’s food supply and have continued to work in the midst of a pandemic.

They feed the country and are a crucial part of a C$68.8 billion ($54.8 billion) sector, making up about one-fifth of the country’s agricultural workforce, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

As the pandemic crippled travel last year, agricultural employers were unable to fill one-fifth of the temporary foreign worker positions they needed, costing Canadian farmers C$2.9 billion due to labour shortages, according to research commissioned by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

These workers are also uniquely at risk. They live and work in crowded settings, and language barriers coupled with precarious immigration status tied to their employment prevent them from speaking out about unsafe conditions.

Last year they were hit hard by COVID-19, with 8.7% of migrants in Ontario testing positive. This year they are returning as Canada is in the grip of a third wave. While governments and employers say they are taking steps to keep these workers safe, advocates and workers contacted by Reuters say the dangers remain – except that now, those dangers are known.

Graphic on COVID-19 global tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/

SAME CRISIS

Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, argues the same factors that made workers more vulnerable to COVID-19 last year – crowded workplaces, congregate living, visas that tie them to an employer and make them fearful of speaking out – still exist.

“We are walking into the same crisis yet again, the only difference being that we already know how bad it is.”

Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said employers are doing their best, but some transmission of the virus will occur.

“Because they’re living on the farm, they’re in contact with each other when they’re working … despite all our efforts, it spreads. Just like it does elsewhere in society.”

Some 760 farmworkers have been infected so far this year in Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, according to provincial data. Ontario put agriculture workers in Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccinations, which begins this month, and has set up a clinic at Toronto’s airport offering vaccines to migrants on arrival.

But advocates worry migrant workers might lack requisite identification, especially if they are undocumented.

Advocates argue not enough is being done to keep these workers safe from the pandemic. They say rules such as the requirement to get – and pay for – a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of coming to Canada place an undue logistical and financial burden on migrants.

Last month the federal government announced new measures meant to protect migrant agricultural workers, including beefed-up inspections.

But the migrants interviewed by Reuters argued what will protect them is more stable status that does not tie them to an employer.

“Hopefully this year, the government of Canada gives us status,” said Teresa, a migrant worker from Baja California.

($1 = 1.2559 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis)

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