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Personal gatherings limited, sports tournaments cancelled as COVID cases rise – Times Colonist

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As of Monday, the size of indoor ­personal gatherings and large events will be limited in B.C., sports ­tournaments will be cancelled, proof of vaccination will be required for all events and movement will be restricted in restaurants, under new provincial health orders intended to slow a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.

The measures will remain in place until Jan. 31.

The revised orders announced Friday come on the heels of 302 cases of ­Omicron detected in B.C. on Friday — more than double the previous day’s total — with almost half of those, 145, in the Island Health region.

Provincial health officer Dr. ­ Bonnie Henry said Omicron is ­rapidly ­replacing other variants in B.C., ­primarily Delta, and there’s been a sharp increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19, particularly in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions and Vancouver Island.

“We will see rapidly rising cases over the next few weeks,” said Henry.”And we need to take additional measures to slow that down so that we don’t ­overwhelm our hospital system.”

B.C.’s COVID-19 case rate nearly doubled over the past week. New cases spiked from 345 on Dec. 1 to 789 Friday. New COVID modelling shows daily cases could climb to 2,000 a day by the end of the month. Active COVID‑19 cases in the province jumped from 2,994 on Dec. 10 to 4,313 Friday.

Island Health posted its highest-ever one-day COVID case count Friday at 147, eclipsing the previous high of 143 on Dec. 10. “It is moving quickly and so must we,” said Henry.

Most of the new cases so far have been in younger vaccinated people, and have caused mostly mild illness, she said.

Henry is asking people to limit holiday gatherings “to be only with our family and close friends.”

“We can still host a holiday meal, but ensure everybody’s fully vaccinated so that you can do that in the safest way possible.”

The new measures include:

• limiting indoor personal gatherings, including in rental and vacation properties, to one household plus up to 10 individuals, or one additional household — providing all youth and adults are fully vaccinated

• requiring the B.C. Vaccine Card for organized events of all sizes and ensuring the QR code is scanned at events

• requiring that restaurant patrons remain seated with no movement between tables; stay masked when not sitting

• limiting venues of 1,000 individuals or more to 50 per cent of the seated capacity, reinforcing mask wearing, and scanning of the B.C. Vaccine Card QR code

• restricting all New Year’s Eve organized gatherings and events to seated-only events — no matter their size — with no mingling or dancing allowed

• pausing all sports tournaments.

A number of sports tournaments, particularly hockey tournaments, had been due to start on Boxing Day, and will need to be suspended, Henry said.

Two large-scale events in Victoria will be affected by the venue capacity limits, including a Jan. 14 performance at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre as part of Canada’s Drag Race Season 2 Tour, and a concert by the Glorious Sons at the Royal Theatre on Jan. 15. Contingency plans for either event had not been announced as of late Friday.

An order for B.C. public service workers to return to the office was delayed until at least Jan. 17, when an update will be issued. Henry recommends other organizations also “consider continuing your work from home if that’s possible.”

Henry is also asking retail stores to have COVID-19 safety plans in place for holiday and Boxing Day sales.

“While vaccination remains the best defence against COVID-19, we are now dealing with the new threat of a more transmissible variant,” she said. “We need to take these measures until we understand the full impact Omicron will have in the B.C. context.”

In addition to the provincial health orders, British Columbians are being advised to avoid all travel if not fully vaccinated and avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.

“This is going to be a very difficult three weeks,” said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix. “We can deal with that in a number of ways, but I think what we need to do together is continue to make the best efforts we can across British Columbia supporting one another.”

The province says it will update its plan for rapid tests on Tuesday and aims to give people boosters six months after their second shots, which means many people will receive invitations to book in the next few weeks.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

— With a file from Mike Devlin

^

• For those feeling mentally and emotionally overwhelmed and unable to cope under this latest surge of cases and added restrictions, Henry advised calling 811, visiting Bounce Back B.C. for free mental health help at https://bouncebackbc.ca/, calling the Kids Help toll-free 24-hour phone counselling line at 1 800-668-6868 or texting 68686.

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China cuts rates on policy loans for first time since April 2020 – CNBC

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A woman walks past the headquarters of the People’s Bank of China in Beijing, China.
Jason Lee | Reuters

China’s central bank on Monday cut the borrowing costs of its medium-term loans for the first time since April 2020, defying market expectations, to cushion any economic slowdown.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said it was lowering the interest rate on 700 billion yuan ($110.19 billion) worth of one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans to some financial institutions by 10 basis points to 2.85% from 2.95% in previous operations.

Thirty-four out of the 48 traders and analysts, or 70% of all participants, polled by Reuters last week predicted no change to the MLF rates, although a rising number of market participants start to forecast a rate cut.

With 500 billion yuan worth of MLF loans maturing on Monday, the operation resulted a net 200 billion yuan of fresh fund injections into the banking system.

The central bank also lowered the borrowing costs of seven-day reverse repurchase agreements, or repos, by the same margin to 2.10% from 2.20%, when it offered another 100 billion yuan worth of reverse repos into the banking system on the day, compared with 10 billion worth of such short-term liquidity tool due on Monday.

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Credit Suisse chairman resigns after company probe – BBC News

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Antonio Horta-Osorio, former chairman of Credit Suisse.

Reuters

The chairman of global banking giant Credit Suisse, Antonio Horta-Osorio, has resigned with immediate effect after an internal company probe.

He was reportedly found to have broken the UK’s Covid-19 quarantine rules.

The former boss of Lloyds Banking Group joined Credit Suisse after a series of scandals at the Swiss bank.

Now, Mr Horta-Osorio, who was the chairman of Credit Suisse for less than a year, has been replaced by board member Axel Lehmann.

“I regret that a number of my personal actions have led to difficulties for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally,” Horta-Osorio said in a statement issued by the bank.

“I therefore believe that my resignation is in the interest of the bank and its stakeholders at this crucial time,” he added.

Last month, it was reported by the Reuters news agency that a preliminary investigation by Credit Suisse had found that Mr Horta-Osorio had breached Covid-19 rules.

He reportedly attended the Wimbledon tennis finals in July at a time when the UK’s Covid-19 rules required him to be in quarantine.

Speaking to the BBC, a spokesperson for Credit Suisse said that the bank would give no further details on Mr Horta-Osorio’s resignation other than those in its statement.

They also said that there were no plans to release the findings of the investigation.

Before joining Credit Suisse Mr Horta-Osorio was chief executive of British lender Lloyds Banking Group.

He was brought in to lead Switzerland’s second-largest bank to help clean up a corporate culture marred by its involvement with collapsed investment company Archegos and insolvent supply chain finance firm Greensill Capital.

In February 2020, then-Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam resigned after a scandal revealed the bank had spied on senior employees.

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UK government to cut funding for BBC – Mail on Sunday report

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Britain’s government will cut the BBC’s funding by ordering a two-year freeze on the fee that people pay to watch the broadcaster, the Mail on Sunday reported.

The future of the licence-payer funded British Broadcasting Corporation is a perpetual topic of political debate, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government most recently suggesting its funding needs to be reformed.

Set against an inflation rate expected to reach a 30-year high of 6% or more in April, freezing the licence cost at its current 159 pounds ($217.40) would provide some relief to consumers battling sharply rising costs of living.

But it would also be a large blow to the BBC’s finances as it tries to compete with privately funded news outlets and the likes of Netflix and other entertainment streaming services funded by consumer subscriptions.

In November, the government launched negotiations to agree how much the TV licence would cost, part of a five year funding settlement due to begin in April 2022.

The Digital, Media, Culture and Sport department declined to comment when asked about the Mail on Sunday report.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said that the licence fee settlement would be the last such agreement and tweeted a link to the Mail on Sunday article.

“Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content,” she said on Twitter.

The BBC declined to comment on Dorries’ tweet or the Mail on Sunday report.

The opposition Labour Party said the funding cut was politically motivated.

“The Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary seem hell-bent on attacking this great British institution because they don’t like its journalism,” said Lucy Powell, Labour lawmaker and culture policy chief.

The BBC’s news output is regularly criticised by UK political parties. Its coverage of Brexit issues – central to Johnson’s government – has long been seen as overly critical by supporters of leaving the European Union.

Last week, one Conservative lawmaker said BBC coverage relating to parties in Johnson’s Downing Street residence during coronavirus lockdowns amounted to a “coup attempt” against the prime minister.

($1 = 0.7314 pounds)

 

(Reporting by William James. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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