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Ontario reports 6,098 new COVID-19 cases and 39 new deaths over past 2 days –



Ontario reported 3,009 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 3,089 cases on Friday, marking the two highest single-day case counts since Jan. 17.

Saturday’s new cases include 954 in Toronto, 434 in Peel Region, 348 in York Region, 205 in Ottawa and 146 in Hamilton.

On Jan. 17, the province had reported 3,422 cases, marking the last time the daily case count topped 3,000.

Since Friday, the province’s network of labs completed more than 59,100 tests, bringing the test positivity rate to 5 per cent. Friday’s case count comes after more than 62,300 tests were completed.

The seven-day rolling average now stands at 2,552 daily cases, an increase from 1,944 the same time last week. 

Ontario’s health ministry did not update the daily case count on Friday because Good Friday is a statutory holiday.

At 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, the province entered a month-long “emergency brake” shutdown, which means personal care services, gyms and indoor dining must shut down, but schools and most retailers can stay open with specific capacity limits in place.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the shutdown on Thursday, saying it was necessary due to surging numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the province. 

The shutdown means tighter restrictions on gatherings and restaurants and it comes after the province allowed outdoor restaurant patios to reopen just two weeks ago. 

As well, owners of personal care services had been told they would be allowed to reopen on April 12, but that start date has been delayed because new restrictions will be in place for at least 28 days. 

“We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern,” Ford said in a statement on Thursday. 

Shutdown restrictions include: 

  • No indoor organized public events and social gatherings allowed, and a limit on the capacity for outdoor gatherings to a five-person maximum — except for gatherings with members of the same household, or gatherings of members of one household and one other person who lives alone.
  • Limits on in-person shopping: a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies; and a 25 per cent limit for all other retail outlets, including big box stores.
  • No personal care services.
  • No indoor and outdoor dining. Take out, delivery and drive-thru options are allowed.
  • No use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness, with very limited exceptions.
  • Closure of day camps.
  • Limited capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of people who can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. The limit does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.

‘The emergency brake will not work,’ ICU doctor says

On Saturday, Ontario’s health ministry reported 796 patients in hospital with COVID-19, with 451 of those people in intensive care units and 261 on ventilators.

Currently, the number of ICU patients is more than at the worst point of the pandemic’s second wave in mid-January, when a total of 420 people were in the ICU.

WATCH | Dr. Michael Warner of Michael Garron Hospital speaks to CBC News Network about Ontario’s latest plan to tackle the pandemic:

Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, says the current restrictions are not enough to protect people who are getting sick in the third wave of the pandemic. Warner says the provincial framework won’t stop young people from getting sick and ending up in intensive care units. With permission, Dr. Warner spoke of one patient in particular who was very ill. She has since died. 5:23

Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, says the current restrictions are not enough to protect people who are getting sick in the third wave of the pandemic. He said the stay-at-home order, imposed in January, was the only thing that worked during the second wave. 

“The emergency brake will not work,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network on Saturday. 

“The patients I have in my ICU right now, many of them are younger than me, and unless we take much more drastic action to cut this off, it’s just going to get worse and worse.”

On Thursday, provincial modelling showed that a stay-at-home order could significantly curb the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. However, even with a four-week stay-at-home order, admissions to intensive care will likely top 800 this month, experts said. 

This number would be nearly double the number seen during the second wave of the pandemic. According to Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, it is a “definite possibility” that physicians would need to begin implementing a triage protocol if admissions reached this level. 

Before Ford’s announcement on Thursday, 153 ICU physicians wrote an open letter to the province, arguing that the current framework will not be enough to curb rising number of cases, given the variants of concern. They urged the province to implement stricter public health measures. 

The letter warned that doctors are seeing younger patients, including parents of school-aged children, and entire families infected by the more transmissible variants of concern. 

According to Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO), a government agency that puts together daily internal reports for hospitals and health organizations, the number of patients in ICU with COVID-19-related critical illnesses stands at 447. 

Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, says 25 per cent of all open ICU beds in Ontario are now occupied by COVID-19 patients.

For his part, Warner called the term “emergency brake” meaningless because it simply means shifting the whole province into the grey-lockdown zone of the province’s colour-coded framework. Toronto and Peel Region, the areas that have continuously seen the highest number of infections throughout the pandemic, have been under this zone since March 8. 

“I haven’t heard the premier say anything about the people who are actually getting infected. My patients. What is he going to do for my patients who are still going to factories without adequate protection, who are not vaccinated, who do not have paid sick leave and they continue to die?” Warner said. 

‘Take the vaccine to the workplaces’ Unifor president says

Unifor National President Jerry Dias says essential workers are still having to decide between going to work feeling sick or staying at home and receiving no money. He said lack of access to vaccines as well as no paid leave are major contributors to their plight. 

“We’re frustrated,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network. “If you’re going to send people to work, then you better make sure they can go to work safely.” 

Dias said he represents 55,000 essential workers in Ontario, most of whom are minimum wage workers and can’t afford to take off work if they’re sick. 

“People have gone to work that have tested positive for COVID. Why? Because they have financial responsibilities at home. They cannot afford not to have a roof over their children’s head.”

Unifor National President Jerry Dias says essential workers are still having to decide between going to work feeling sick or staying at home and receiving no money. (CBC)

He said everybody understands this except for the government, who in 2019 amended the Employment Standards Act and repealed two paid personal emergency leave days and replaced them with three unpaid days for personal illness.

“When workers are sick, tell them to stay at home, but make sure they’re paid. It’s the only way that they’re going to stay at home,” Dias said.

As of Saturday, Ontario’s health ministry says more than 2.4 million vaccine doses have been administered in the province, adding that over 80 per cent of individuals aged 80 years and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

The two-day accumulation of new deaths pushed the total number of COVID-19-related deaths to 7,428. 

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



(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. (

“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



(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



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:


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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