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Ontario to implement provincewide lockdown on Christmas Eve, sources say –



The Ontario government is poised to impose a provincewide lockdown starting Christmas Eve, sources confirm, as the province logs more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the sixth consecutive day.

A 28-day lockdown for the southern portions of the province, south of Sudbury, Ont., will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, sources confirm.

Meanwhile, the northern parts of Ontario will be under a 14-day lockdown, sources say.

The restrictions will look similar to the shutdown in March, with only essential businesses remaining open. 

On Sunday, the province recorded 2,316 new cases of the virus.

Sources say the government is still “fine-tuning” the list to provide maximum clarity and note that the decisions made were based on modelling data. 

Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce more public health rules on Monday, following a weekend of emergency talks.

Lockdown orders in Toronto and Peel Region that were set to expire this week are being extended, Ford said in an announcement on Friday.

GTA Hospitals calling for ‘stronger’ restrictions

Hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area are also calling on the Ontario government for “stronger” lockdown measures amid the surge of COVID-19 cases.

Hospitals across the GTA say they are fearful if restrictions aren’t tightened, a surge in cases will follow. 

The joint statement was released on Sunday by hospitals in Toronto and neighbouring regions of Durham, Halton, Peel and York.

The letter, in collaboration with the Ontario Hospital Association, is urging the Ford government to implement tightened restrictions during the holidays, as hospitals deal with growing numbers.

Winter break would be extended for elementary students for a period of one to two weeks, sources tell CBC News.

Under any scenario, Ontario would see 300 people in ICU by the end of the month.

At the current rate of transmission, that would mean upwards of 700 people in the ICU by the end of January, and the number of new cases would grow to 10,000 per day.

‘Level of strain simply not sustainable for much longer’

Staff are grappling with increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals while also assisting in other settings such as long-term care homes, the statement says.

“These trends show no sign of slowing — in fact, a surge in cases following the holiday season is expected to make the situation even worse,” it reads.

“We recognize that lockdown measures are challenging for many members of our communities, but we cannot afford to put patients and health-care workers at further risk.”

The statement says hospitals are seeing increasing numbers of staff falling ill and becoming unable to work both with COVID-19 and other illnesses.

“For many months now, these front-line health-care workers have been devoting enormous energy and skill to caring for their patients, at the very epicenter of the pandemic,” it notes. “They are stressed and overstretched. This level of strain is simply not sustainable for much longer.”

Locally, there are 486 new cases in Toronto, 468 in Peel, 326 in York Region, 151 in Windsor-Essex County and 128 in Niagara.

All of those regions are currently under lockdown due to rising case counts, except for Niagara, which is moving to the red alert level of the province’s pandemic plan on Monday.

Elliott said more than 69,400 tests completed over the last 24 hours, a record for the province. The previous record of 68,246 tests were completed on Friday.

There are currently 54,546 tests under investigation in the province.

There were 2,275 new cases on Tuesday, 2,139 on Wednesday, 2,432 on Thursday, 2,290 on Friday, and 2,357 on Saturday.

There are currently 18,567 active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario.

More than 50 new cases of the virus were recorded in the following areas:

  • Halton Region: 97.
  • Waterloo Region: 91.
  • Hamilton: 88.
  • Durham Region: 82.
  • Middlesex-London: 80.
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 62.

There are currently 875 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of this number, 261 are in intensive care units across the province, and 156 are breathing with the help of a ventilator.

Elliott said the safest way to celebrate this holiday season is at home with the people you live with.

“Connect virtually to keep in touch with extended family and friends,” the health minister said in a tweet. 

“If you live alone, consider exclusively celebrating with one additional household.”

25 new COVID-19-related deaths

Twenty-five additional deaths have been linked to the virus, bringing the province’s death toll is now 4,150. Of the deaths confirmed on Sunday, 18 were residents of long-term care homes.

There are 162 active outbreaks at long-term care homes in the province.

Sunday’s case count brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario to 155,930, including deaths and recoveries.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce more public health rules on Monday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Hamilton enters grey lockdown phase Monday

Today is the last day before Hamilton enters the grey “lockdown” phase of the province’s pandemic response plan.

Hamilton is joining Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex in lockdown mode.

The stricter public health protocols — which restrict restaurants to offering takeout and delivery only, and close non-essential stores — kick in at 12:01 a.m. on Monday.

Ontario is providing details on 17 hospitals that will be distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks to health-care workers. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Meanwhile, Ontario is providing details on 17 hospitals that will be distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks to health-care workers. The facilities include hospitals from Windsor to Thunder Bay.

The hospitals will join the University Health Network in Toronto and the Ottawa Hospital in giving the vaccine to workers. The province expects to receive an additional 90,000 doses.

Vaccine doses will be available at:

  • Windsor Regional Hospital.
  • London Health Sciences Centre.
  • Grand River Hospital.
  • Halton Healthcare.
  • Hamilton Health Sciences.
  • William Osler Health System.
  • Trillium Health Partners.
  • Southlake Regional Health Centre.
  • Mackenzie Health.
  • Humber River Hospital.
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
  • Toronto East Health Network.
  • Unity Health Toronto.
  • Scarborough Health Network.
  • Lakeridge Health.
  • Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.
  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

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The U.S. is vaccinating nearly 1M people per day. How does Canada compare? – Global News



As the United States moves to vaccinate around one million people per day against the novel coronavirus, Canada appears to be falling short.

As of Sunday, Canada had administered 816,557 vaccine doses. In comparison, the U.S. had administered 20,537,990, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On a per capita basis, the U.S. has so far inoculated 5.2 per cent of its population, while Canada stands at 1.1.

In total, 1,119,225 doses of the vaccine have been delivered to the provinces and territories as of Jan. 21. However, only 72.9 per cent of those doses have been administered.

Click to play video 'Tracking the global race to vaccinate against COVID-19'

Tracking the global race to vaccinate against COVID-19

Tracking the global race to vaccinate against COVID-19

This is much more than the States however, where the U.S. government has administered 49.6 per cent of the 41,411,550 million doses delivered throughout the country.

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While Canada’s neighbours to the South were off to a sluggish start, the CDC told the Associated Press that U.S. was steadily ramping up vaccinations, with health officials administering 1.6 million vaccine doses on Friday.

Last Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser for COVID-19, called the president’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days an “absolutely a doable thing.”

Canada has secured access to more vaccines than any other country in the world — enough to inoculate its entire population three times over — thanks to agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Medicago, Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson.

Read more:
Coronavirus vaccine tracker: How many Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19?

Did Canada make a wrong turn?

Not necessarily, experts say.

Delivery shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines have been delayed while the pharmaceutical giant expands its European manufacturing facility, which could temporarily slow the rate at which doses are administered. The delays, announced Jan. 15, will see Canada’s vaccine deliveries chopped in half for another three weeks.

But Colin Furness, an epidemiologist teaching at the University of Toronto, told Global News that administering doses faster doesn’t always equal a slower mortality rate.

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“My sense is that speed is being prioritized over equity in the U.S. — fast at the expense of fair,” Furness speculated.

“The more equity you embed in the distribution process, the longer it will take — you have to organize your priority list and then seek out those who qualify.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Fauci says Biden administration not ‘starting from scratch’ on vaccine rollout'

Coronavirus: Fauci says Biden administration not ‘starting from scratch’ on vaccine rollout

Coronavirus: Fauci says Biden administration not ‘starting from scratch’ on vaccine rollout

Many of those at highest risk of infection from COVID-19 have clustered in long-term care homes, he said, but frontline health-care workers, caregivers and essential workers are also high on the list.

“By contrast, if you prioritize those who own a car and can pay, you can generally make the process much faster,” Furness said.

Canada’s capacity for vaccination isn’t the problem — just last year, the federal government said they were able to inoculate almost 42 per cent of Canadians for the flu in a single season.

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However, storage requirements for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine present an issue.

Read more:
‘Massive undertaking’: Roadmap of Canada’s coronavirus vaccine roll-out

Ryan Imgrund, a biostatistician who works with Ottawa Public Health, previously said the slow vaccine rollout could be attributed to Pfizer’s additional storage needs, which require deep freezing at ultra-low temperatures of -70C.

Imgrund called the slow rollout “embarrassing.”

We just haven’t had great planning on this,” he said.

“I know health care professionals that volunteered weeks and even more than a month [ahead] to go to help with the vaccine rollout. And they haven’t even been contacted.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline sees fortunes shine after KXL’s demise



Keystone XL

By Rod Nickel and Steve Scherer

WINNIPEG/OTTAWA (Reuters) – The expansion of Canada‘s government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline assumes greater importance for the oil sector after the cancellation of rival Keystone XL reduced future options to carry crude, potential buyers say.

Trans Mountain Corp, a government corporation, is spending C$12.6 billion ($9.9 billion) to nearly triple capacity to 890,000 barrels per day (bpd), a 14% increase from current total Canadian capacity.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government bought the 68-year-old pipeline in 2018 when previous owner Kinder Morgan faced legal hurdles to expand the 1,150-kilometre (715-mile) line running from Alberta to the British Columbia coast. Ottawa has always said it would find new owners.

This week, U.S. President Joe Biden revoked the presidential permit for TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), undoing efforts by former President Donald Trump to build the line that would have supplied U.S. refiners with 830,000 bpd of Canadian oil.

That decision has made the case for completing Trans Mountain’s expansion stronger.

“This pipeline is even more valuable now,” said Joe Dion, chief executive of Western Indigenous Pipeline Group, one of several First Nations groups interested in buying Trans Mountain.

“Everybody thought Trudeau wasn’t going to get things done in Canada, and he’s the one who successfully got a pipeline over Trump.”

Trans Mountain takes on more strategic importance with KXL cancelled, but it does not mean his group would pay more for it, Dion said.

Trans Mountain has completed 22% of the expansion project, called TMX, which is scheduled for service in December 2022. Suncor Energy Inc, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd and BP PLC are among the committed shippers who have secured 80% of its additional capacity long-term.

“All eyes are on TMX,” said Delbert Wapass, executive chair of Project Reconciliation, a First Nations coalition that hopes to buy 51% this year.

Sharing Trans Mountain’s profits would help improve living conditions on First Nations, he said.

Canadian companies have long struggled to secure top price for their crude as pipeline congestion forced them to sell at a discount.

However reduced fuel demand due to pandemic travel lockdowns and advancing pipeline expansions have eased the flow. Even without KXL, Canada may have surplus export pipeline capacity once TMX enters service, said Matt Taylor, director of infrastructure research at investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt, who expects modest oil production growth to 2025.

Ottawa plans to sell the pipeline once there are fewer risks to completion and consultations wrap up with First Nations, said Finance Ministry spokeswoman Katherine Cuplinskas. TMX has faced stiff opposition over spill concerns.

A second government source said it bought Trans Mountain for its strategic importance, as its Pacific Ocean connection enables shippers to move oil to Asia, as well as the United States, which buys most Canadian crude.

Now its importance is even greater, the source said.

Enbridge Inc, which runs North America’s Mainline oil network, also stands to gain from KXL’s demise. It intends to sell long-term contracts for most of the Mainline’s capacity, pending regulator approval, rather than continue to ration it on the spot market.

KXL’s cancellation frees up long-term commitments by shippers who may now sign Mainline contracts, Taylor said.

($1 = 1.2710 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canada’s taxpayers’ watchdog says complaints have spiked amid coronavirus pandemic – Global News



Canada’s taxpayers’ ombudsperson says his office has seen a steep spike in complaints compared to one year ago, delivering an early warning about how complicated returns should be handled this year.

Francois Boileau says the number of complaints from taxpayers about the Canada Revenue Agency was up 93 per cent in December from the same month in 2019.

Urgent requests, for people in dire financial straits, are up 120 per cent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he says.

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Canadian dentists push for clarity about vaccine priority: ‘We’re doctors too’

Boileau says the statistics paint a portrait of the difficult circumstances some Canadians find themselves in as a result of COVID-19, and the need for the agency to improve services for the coming tax season.

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He says too many Canadians still spend hours trying to get through to a call centre agent.

Boileau adds that delays are especially frustrating for people who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit last year and are now trying to sort out whether they have to repay some of the aid.

Just a few weeks ago, the CRA sent out letters to 441,000 people questioning their eligibility for the CERB, and warning they may owe back some of the payments. The Liberals have promised leniency for people who will have problems paying the money back, but have yet to say what options will be available.

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Boileau noted that some callers continue to complain about waiting five hours or more to speak with an agent.

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Coronavirus: Feds deploy mobile health units to GTA hospitals

Coronavirus: Feds deploy mobile health units to GTA hospitals

He says he is worried the CRA won’t be able to meet response-time standards as the calendar ticks closer to what will likely be a complicated tax season due to the pandemic.

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“I hope it (won’t) be,” Boileau says. “They are preparing for it. They know what’s going on and they’re taking all the necessary steps.”

While the pandemic has been a focus of Boileau in his first few months as ombudsperson, his office continues to work away on a review of how the CRA has handled the processing of Canada Child Benefit payments.

Boileau’s predecessor, Sherra Profit, launched the review of the CCB in late 2019 after three years of flagging overly stringent eligibility rules that prevented payments to some of Canada’s most vulnerable families.

In some cases, newcomer families to Canada haven’t receive child benefits because they can’t get needed documents, such as a note from a school or family doctor. In other situations, women fleeing domestic violence have felt like they need to get their partner’s signatures on forms and other information about custody _ despite the government promising that wouldn’t be the case.

Boileau says some of these situations add complications for the CRA, which has to take time to sort things out.

Read more:
Canada reports 146 more COVID-19 deaths as feds approve rapid PCR test

“It takes time and time is of the essence with the CCB,” he says.

“It’s really touching the lives of citizens, taxpayers that are in a vulnerable state of mind.”

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Boileau says his officials are currently reviewing answers from the agency to some additional questions, although there is no firm timeline on when the review will be complete.

The office of the federal auditor general is doing its own review of the CCB, which it expects to publish this year. According to the auditor general’s website, the review will focus on whether recipients were eligible for the benefits, and that payments are made in a timely and accurate manner.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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