Provincial health officials say Ontario logged more than 2,900 new COVID-19 cases today and more than 3,000 on Sunday, driving the number of active infections above 25,000 for the first time in months.
According to Ontario’s ministry of health, 2,938 new cases were reported today and 3,041 infections were recorded on Sunday.
The number of infections confirmed over the past two days are in line with daily case counts reported earlier this weekend. The province reported 3,009 new cases on Saturday and 3,089 on Friday.
Approximately 36,600 tests were completed over the past 24 hours and nearly 46,400 tests were processed one day prior. According to the province, today’s positivity rate is 7.8 per cent, the highest it has been since January 12.
The rolling seven-day average of new cases is now 2,758, up from 2,094 just one week ago.
Another 22 virus-related deaths were confirmed in Ontario over the past two days, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 7,450. The average daily death toll is up week-over-week, from 14 last Monday to 16 today.
Intensive care admissions continue to reach alarming levels, with a record 494 COVID-19 patients currently in ICUs across Ontario, according to the latest numbers from the province.
Of those patients in intensive care, 469 are testing positive for COVID-19, the province says, while the other 25 were admitted due to the virus but are no longer testing positive.
According to information released by local public health units, there are at least 1,232 people with COVID-19 receiving treatment in Ontario hospitals.
The number of known active COVID-19 cases in Ontario is now 25,487, up from 18,965 one week ago.
Of the new cases reported today, 906 are in Toronto, 533 are in Peel Region, 391 are in York Region, 230 are in Ottawa, and 140 are in Durham Region.
Province’s shutdown won’t lead to ‘significant improvement’ in hot spots
Ontario is entering its first full week of the Ford government’s provincewide shutdown, halting in-person dining in all regions and closing gyms and other businesses, with the exception of retail stores, for at least a month.
Some experts have been critical of the new measures, suggesting that they do not go far enough to address the situation in some of the province’s COVID-19 hot spots, including Toronto and Peel Region.
“When you look at where transmission is occurring and you look at the measures that were in place before this announcement was made and then you look at what measures are here now, nothing really changes in many of the high-burden areas… Toronto and Peel have over a thousand new cases per day combined and they moved from grey zone into grey zone,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, told CP24 on Monday morning.
“Things are even a little bit more permissive than they were a while ago so I just don’t think we can expect significant improvement, if any, especially in these hot spots in Toronto and Peel and other places that were already in the grey zone. I don’t think it would come to anyone’s surprise if we continue to see cases climb.”
The more transmissible variants of concern propelled Ontario into a third wave of the pandemic last month and to date, 2,135 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, have been confirmed by provincial labs. More than 26,000 cases in Ontario have screened positive for a variant of concern but the lineage has not yet been determined through a lengthy process known as whole genome sequencing. The B.1.1.7 variant is believed to be the dominant strain for all new COVID-19 cases in Ontario.
More than 2.5 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered in the province, which began Phase 2 of the Ford government’s vaccination rollout plan at the beginning of the month.
The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.
China tells Evergrande to avoid near-term dollar bond defaults – Aljazeera.com
Chinese regulators told cash-strapped property developer Evergrande to focus on completing unfinished properties and repay individual investors while avoiding a near term-term default on its dollar bonds, sources tell Bloomberg.
Financial regulators in Beijing issued a broad set of instructions to China Evergrande Group, telling the embattled developer to focus on completing unfinished properties and repaying individual investors while avoiding a near-term default on dollar bonds.
In a recent meeting with Evergrande representatives, regulators said the company should communicate proactively with bondholders to avoid a default but didn’t give more specific guidance, a person familiar with the matter said. The developer has an $83.5 million coupon due Thursday, with a 30-day grace period to make the payment.
There’s no indication that regulators offered financial support to Evergrande for the bond payment, and it’s unclear whether officials believe the company should eventually impose losses on offshore creditors. Policy makers are trying to learn more about who holds Evergrande’s bonds, the person said, asking not to be identified discussing sensitive information.
While the regulatory guidance offers few clues about what an Evergrande endgame might look like, it does suggest China’s government wants to avoid an imminent collapse of the developer that might roil financial markets and drag down economic growth. Any sign that Beijing is taking steps to give Evergrande more time to manage its debt problems could calm investor nerves in China and around the world.
Fears of an Evergrande failure have caused a sharp rise in borrowing costs for other junk-rated Chinese developers and cast doubt on the health of some smaller Chinese banks. Individual investors, homebuyers and suppliers have staged protests at Evergrande offices across the country, while markets from Hong Kong to New York have convulsed this week as traders weighed the prospect of financial contagion from the world’s most indebted developer.
Even though Evergrande’s crisis can be traced in part to President Xi Jinping’s campaign to rein in over-leveraged property companies and discourage moral hazard, his government is unlikely to welcome a messy default that could threaten economic and social stability. Large cash injections into the financial system by the People’s Bank of China in recent days suggest policy makers are already focused on shoring up sentiment.
Evergrande, the PBOC and the nation’s financial and housing regulators didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Speculation that Evergrande may avoid a worst-case scenario helped lift its bonds and stock on Thursday. The company’s 8.25% dollar note due 2022 climbed 4.8 cents on the dollar to 30 cents as of 5:39 p.m. local time, hitting session highs after Bloomberg reported regulators’ instructions to Evergrande. The bonds are still pricing in expectations of a deep haircut, but not quite as extreme as earlier this week. Shares jumped 18% in Hong Kong before the Bloomberg report, paring this year’s loss to 82%.
The rally was fueled in part by a vaguely worded statement from Evergrande on Wednesday, in which the company said an interest payment on one of its yuan-denominated bonds had been “resolved via negotiations off the clearing house.” The developer likely struck a deal with local bondholders to postpone the payment without having to label the move a default, analysts said.
It’s unclear whether Evergrande would be able to pull off something similar for its dollar bonds. While some of the notes are likely owned by billionaire founder Hui Ka Yan and his associates, holders also include global investment firms that might be less willing to go along with opaque payment arrangements.
Deeply discounted prices for Evergrande dollar bonds suggest investors view a restructuring of some kind as all but inevitable. Offshore bondholders are widely seen as near the bottom of Beijing’s priority list of Evergrande creditors, though that assessment may depend in part on how worried authorities become about Chinese companies’ access to dollar funding. The turmoil at Evergrande, Asia’s biggest issuer of junk bonds, has sent yields on an index of junk-grade Chinese dollar bonds to a decade high.
In a meeting with Evergrande employees on Wednesday, Hui emphasized the importance of resuming construction on unfinished properties, according to Jiemian, a Chinese media outlet. He also said Evergrande will ensure repayment of investment products.
Property sales are a key source of cash for Evergrande, though the company has struggled to attract buyers in recent months amid waning confidence in its ability to deliver on projects. Homebuyers in China often have to make large down payments on properties that may take years to complete. About 1.5 million buyers are currently waiting for Evergrande to deliver unfinished homes.
The company is also trying to offload assets to raise cash, with mixed success. It said earlier this month it hadn’t made material progress on plans to sell stakes in its electric-car and property services units. Evergrande has hired Houlihan Lokey and Admiralty Harbour Capital to “explore all feasible solutions” to ease its liquidity problems.
While the developer doesn’t have any bonds maturing until 2022, it faces about $669 million in coupon payments this year. The bulk of its $300 billion-plus in total liabilities are to homebuyers, suppliers and local financial institutions.
(Updates markets in eighth paragraph.)
SNC-Lavalin, former executives charged with fraud in alleged bribery case: RCMP – Globalnews.ca
The SNC-Lavalin legal saga was thrust back into the spotlight Thursday after the RCMP announced they’ve charged they’ve charged two former executives and the engineering company itself for allegedly paying bribes to obtain a Montreal bridge repair contract.
Former SNC-Lavalin vice-president Normand Morin and former SNC-Lavalin International Inc. vice-president Kamal Francis, along with SNC-Lavalin and its subsidiary, have each been charged with forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud against the government, and conspiracy to commit fraud against the government.
The two former executives have been released from custody and are due to appear in a Montreal court on Sept. 27 along with representatives from SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International.
The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) has agreed to send an invitation to negotiate a remedial agreement with SNC-Lavalin and SNC-Lavalin International Inc. The invitation went out on Thursday. Neither executive is eligible for such an offer.
Such a deal, a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, would allow SNC-Lavalin to continue doing business with the governments of Quebec, Canada and abroad.
“It also reduces the negative consequences on employees, retirees, customers and shareholders of organizations,” the DPCP said in a statement.
SNC-Lavalin said it welcomes the opportunity to negotiate an agreement to resolve these charges that promote accountability while also permitting the company to continue to do business and protect the livelihoods of employees, clients, investors and other stakeholders.
”I want to emphasize that these charges stem from events that took place nearly 20 years ago, involving former employees who left the company years ago and who no longer have any involvement with our organization,“ stated CEO Ian Edwards.
He said the company has made great strides over the past decade and today operates at the highest ethical standards.
Canada election: Trudeau says SNC-Lavalin discussions were ‘fully litigated’ before 2019 vote
“We see this as a further step to put the past behind us and allow the company to focus on the future.”
The RCMP said the charges are the result of a complex investigation dubbed Project Agrafe (“Staple”) that started in 2013. It said the investigation was carried out by the Sensitive and International Investigations division of the force, which is mandated to investigate criminal activity that poses a threat to Canada’s government institutions, public officials, the integrity of the Crown, or that imperils Canada’s political, economic and social integrity.
Once the investigation was complete, the RCMP said it passed on its evidence to Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecution to proceed with formalizing the charges and warrants of arrest.
The charges date back to events that took place between 1997 and 2004. Michel Fournier, former president and CEO of the Federal Bridge Corp., admitted to receiving bribes from SNC-Lavalin worth $2.23 million related to a $128-million Jacques-Cartier Bridge repair project through Swiss bank accounts. Fournier of Victoria, B.C., was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in 2017 and has since received full parole.
After retiring in 2004, Fournier created an offshore shell company in the Virgin Islands to bring the bribe money back to Canada, according to court documents. The government was only able to confiscate $775,000 of the bribes because Fournier lost a significant amount of money in the stock market.
SNC-Lavalin was previously charged with bribery and fraud in relation to its past work in Libya, which was at the centre of the high-profile 2019 battle between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould.
In December 2019, the company reached an agreement in which its construction division pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud, accompanied by a $280-million fine, while other charges related to acts committed in Libya between 2001 and 2011 were set aside. The company retained the right to bid on federal government contracts.
SNC-Lavalin was an issue during the 2019 federal election and surfaced again in the election this year after Wilson-Raybould wrote a book that touched on the criminal prosecution of the company and her testimony that senior party leaders pressed her to halt the case for political reasons.
Canada election: Trudeau denies he ever told Jody Wilson-Raybould to lie in SNC Lavalin prosecution
Trudeau said during the recent campaign that the matter had been thoroughly dissected in parliamentary committee hearings, newspaper articles and other testimony prior to the last federal election. He said the RCMP had never contacted him regarding the SNC affair.
The Liberals won another minority government on Monday.
Industry analysts downplayed the significance of the latest charges and potential penalty on SNC-Lavalin.
Yuri Lynk of Canaccord Genuity said the development doesn’t diminish his “bullish stance on SNC in the least.”
He said investors shouldn’t be taken off-guard because alleged improprieties surrounding the company’s involvement in the bridge have been in the news for years and SNC has warned that potential charges are a risk.
Lynk added in a report that the potential financial penalty shouldn’t be significant given that the magnitude of the gains was small and SNC lost money on the project. The past fine of $280 million payable over five years was for $127 million in bribes, compared with $2.23 million in bribes in this instance.
“Based on this, we estimate a fine related to the Jacques Cartier Bridge would be in the tens of millions of dollars range,” he wrote, noting that SNC has more than $660 million in cash.
“We view this as a bump in the road leading to SNC’s recovery.”
Analyst Maxim Sytchev of National Bank Financial said he expects a quicker resolution to these charges because SNC-Lavalin would want to quickly sit down with the federal government, whereas last time it was not invited to negotiate an agreement.
“Given the long-dated nature of the contract and its small size, we believe any charges would be commensurate with the infraction,” he wrote in a note to clients.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
As COVID-19 vaccines for kids get closer, experts weigh up how to reassure parents – CBC.ca
As Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech say they’ve moved a step closer to providing their COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, one mother says she’s keen to have her eldest vaccinated, but hears some hesitation among other parents.
“As parents, you’re nervous and you’re apprehensive, obviously, about any risks,” said Fallon Jones, who lives in Halifax with a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.
“But we have to weigh the pros and the cons here, and I think that this is a good opportunity to protect them against a potentially deadly virus,” she told The Current’s Matt Galloway.
Pfizer-BioNTech said Monday that a clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine recorded a robust immune response in five- to 11-year-olds, and the company plans to seek regulatory approval as soon as possible. Children received two shots, each one-third the dose size given to adults. The findings have not been peer-reviewed, nor published.
For any vaccine to be approved by Health Canada, the manufacturers supply the necessary clinical trial data for review. If the regulator grants approval, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make a recommendation on their use, but the final decision to deploy the vaccines rests with provincial authorities.
In a statement to The Current, Health Canada said the makers of all COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are conducting or planning studies in adolescents and younger children, but it has so far not received any submission for the approval of any COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12.
In her work at a vaccine hesitancy clinic in Calgary, Dr. Cora Constantinescu meets parents who are experiencing “a lot of fear and anxiety” around their children potentially getting the vaccine.
“We often have parents who are fully vaccinated themselves, who may be hesitant about their kids,” said Constantinescu, a pediatrician and infectious disease doctor at Alberta Children’s Hospital.
She said that parents talk to her about things they’ve seen online, including “anti-vaccine rhetoric and a lot of misconstrued science.”
In Halifax, Jones said she often hears other parents say they don’t know what’s in the vaccine, so they won’t give it to their kids. When she asks if they knew what was in the vaccines their kids received as babies, the response is usually no, she said.
“I completely respect and understand how there would be some fear associated with it,” she said.
But ultimately, “we trusted our doctors then and we trusted the science then, and we need to do the same with this vaccine.”
How should parents approach vaccine question?
Constantinescu said many parents have seen misinformation on social media, where there is a “huge polarization of the pro-vaccine and the anti-vaccine crowd.”
“The parents are caught in the middle, scared and worried about their kids, trying to make the best decision they can,” she said.
As parents approach the decision, they should consider the dual impact of COVID-19 on children, she said.
“We’re seeing the direct effects of COVID on children, and we know that that can range from mild disease, to respiratory illness, to being hospitalized, having a multi-system inflammation, to ending up in ICU,” she said.
There is also an indirect cost, including mental health issues and issues around socialization, she said.
The news from Pfizer-BioNTech gives her hope that those impacts can soon be addressed, but she warned that the data has not yet been made public, or reviewed by Health Canada.
If it is approved, she said parents should approach the vaccine as an issue of “personal protection first.”
“It’s about protecting their kids directly, looking out for them, and wanting to return them to a normal life,” she said.
‘Pull out all the stops’ to protect kids
Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto, wants to see a safe vaccine for kids approved and available as quickly as possible.
“I’m calling for all of these processes to be speeded up and done very transparently,” said Pirzada, who is also a co-founder of Masks4Canada, a group that advocates for public health measures to slow the spread of the virus.
He added that more work should be done to reassure parents that the vaccines are safe. He warned that COVID-19 is not harmless to children, and the longer they remain unprotected, the more infections there will be.
In the meantime, vaccination sites and health-care workers could be prepared to ramp the vaccination campaign back up, he said.
“Once that approval comes, we should pull out all the stops and get these shots into little arms as quickly as possible.”
Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin, Arianne Robinson and Joana Draghici.
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