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Russian hackers trying to steal Canadian COVID-19 vaccine data

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KEY FACTS

  • 5:18 a.m.: California reports second-highest daily total of new cases

  • 5:11 a.m.: India virus cases surge nearly 32,700

  • 4 a.m.: Commons finance committee begins probe into WE Charity’s volunteering contract

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

9:45 a.m. Russian hackers are targeting Canadian, U.S. and U.K. organizations working on COVID-19 vaccine research and recovery efforts, a rare joint statement from the three countries’ cyber defence agencies asserts says.

The Communications Security Establishment says Russia’s intelligence services are “almost certainly” behind persistent cyber attacks on Canadian organizations “including vaccine research entities involved in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.”

“These malicious cyber activities were very likely undertaken to steal information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines and serve to hinder response efforts at a time when healthcare experts and medical researchers need every available resource to help fight the pandemic,” the statement, released Thursday morning, reads.

8:35 a.m. As Premier Doug Ford takes a campaign-style tour of southwestern Ontario, the Progressive Conservative government is further loosening the province’s restrictive booze laws.

In a bid to help the pandemic-stricken hospitality sector, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is now allowing licensed liquor delivery services to contract out work to freelance drivers.

At the same time, the provincial regulator will allow boat operators with liquor licences to sell and serve beer, wine, and spirits while docked.

 

Before, they were limited to serving during “booze cruises” on lakes and rivers.

“The AGCO remains committed to supporting businesses and workers who have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, including those who have helped to build Ontario’s vibrant hospitality sector,” said the commission’s registrar, Jean Major.

“By allowing more businesses to enter the liquor delivery market, we also hope to offer more convenience and choice for consumers as we all adapt to the current reality,” said Major.

The temporary changes to the Liquor Licensing Act, which are to expire on Jan. 1, will give consumers more delivery options from the LCBO, The Beer Store, and restaurants and bars that are currently allowed to sell booze to go.

7:55 a.m. The European Central Bank has left its monetary stimulus programs unchanged ahead of a key meeting of EU leaders on a recovery plan meant to help the economy bounce back from the coronavirus shutdowns.

The ECB held off providing new measures Thursday after unleashing in recent weeks and months massive doses of monetary stimulus that have helped keep borrowing costs for companies and consumers at roughly pre-virus levels.

One big goal for central banks such as the ECB and the U.S. Federal Reserve is to prevent the public health crisis from creating panic on financial markets that would constrict financing for companies at a time when many are struggling to stay in business due to restrictions on activity or reluctance by consumers to risk infection through face to face interaction.

The next big policy news in Europe will come on Friday, when leaders of the 27 EU countries discuss a proposed recovery fund backed by common borrowing. The ECB has urged governments to help support the economy through their spending policies.

Rancorous disagreement among leaders over how to deliver the aid could affect market interest rates as well as future ECB policy by unsettling markets and leading to higher market borrowing costs for indebted countries such as Italy. But if leaders narrow their differences that could contribute to further market calm. A complete deal is expected later this year.

6:17 a.m.: New French Prime Minister Jean Castex says masks will be mandatory in closed public places as of next week, sooner than Aug. 1 as announced earlier by President Emmanuel Macron.

The change in date comes as the Mayenne area of the Loire region has seen several COVID-19 outbreaks, and authorities have recorded a marginal increase in infections in the Paris region.

 

Calling the situation in Mayenne “problematic,” French Health Minister Olivier Veran said he asked the prefect of Mayenne personally to make masks compulsory in closed public places without waiting for the later date.

5:54 a.m.: Israel reached a new daily record of confirmed coronavirus cases, the country’s Health Ministry said Thursday, as a new nationwide lockdown to curb the pandemic appeared imminent.

Adding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s troubles, a new economic bailout plan announced by the embattled premier came under tough criticism from some of the government’s top economic experts.

The growing coronavirus outbreak, coupled with a struggling economy, have marked a dramatic turnaround for Netanyahu. The Israeli leader received widespread praise for moving quickly to contain the coronavirus last spring.

But since lifting a series of restrictions in May, the country has experienced a surge in cases. With unemployment over 20%, the pandemic’s economic impact is generating domestic unrest and Netanyahu’s approval rating is plummeting.

5:22 a.m.: Unemployment across the U.K. has held steady during the coronavirus lockdown as a result of a government salary support scheme, but there are clear signals emerging that job losses will skyrocket over coming months to levels not seen since the 1980s.

The Office for National Statistics said Thursday there were 649,000 fewer people, or 2.2%, on payroll in June when compared with March when the lockdown restrictions were imposed.

That’s an indication that the country’s unemployment rate is set to rise during the summer months from the still historically low level of 3.9% recorded in May.

5:18 a.m.: California has reported its second-highest daily total of new coronavirus cases and equalled its second worst day for deaths.

More than 11,000 new cases were recorded by state officials Tuesday, a rise of 3.3 per cent. California also recorded 140 deaths, tying a recent tally for its second-highest daily figure.

The number of tests and the rate of those testing positive also rose. The positivity rate over the past two weeks has now topped 7 per cent, while in hard-hit Los Angeles County with a quarter of California’s population that rate has soared to nearly 10 per cent.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that Los Angeles County is in “an alarming and dangerous phase” that could overwhelm intensive care units and prompt sweeping closure orders if not reversed.

5:11 a.m.: India’s virus cases have surged another 32,695, taking the nation closer to 1 million and forcing a new lockdown in the popular western beach state of Goa, two weeks after it reopened to tourists.

The new confirmed cases took the national total to 968,876. The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported a record number of 606 deaths for a total of 24,915.

The Indian Medical Association said 99 doctors have died and another 1,302 are infected with the coronavirus. It called for shortening of working hours for health workers following safety concerns.

It also said the fatality rate among doctors was 7.6%, much high than the national average of about 2.5%.

5:07 a.m.: Australia’s coronavirus hot spot — Victoria state — is reporting a record 317 newly confirmed cases in a day.

The tally for Thursday surpassed the state’s previous high of 288 on July 10. The previous one-day Australian record was 212 cases set March 28 by New South Wales state at the first peak of the pandemic. New South Wales reported only 10 new cases Thursday.

Two men in their 80s died in Victoria in the last 24 hours, bringing the national death toll for the pandemic to 113.

5:05 a.m.: Spain is paying homage to the nation’s victims of the new coronavirus and workers who put their lives at risk during the worst of the pandemic.

Relatives of around 100 people who died, representatives of medical personnel, police and other essential workers are joining King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, government authorities and officials from the European Union and the World Health Organization in a solemn ceremony at an esplanade in Madrid’s Royal Palace.

The guests, masked and seated in a socially distanced fashion surrounding a central cauldron, include representatives from a dozen religious organizations and ambassadors. The ceremony is being shown live on television and online.

5 a.m.: Pakistan has reported its lowest number of daily COVID-19 deaths in about a month.

It recorded 40 deaths in the past 24 hours on Thursday, compared to the highest single-day toll of 153 on June 19.

Pakistan has recorded 257,914 confirmed cases, including 2,145 in the past 24 hours, and 5,426 fatalities.

Until weeks ago, Pakistan had witnessed a 20% infection rate as a result of daily testing. It is now less than 10%, but authorities fear another spike if people ignore social distancing during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which will be celebrated on July 31.

4 a.m. Heart researchers say there’s a surprising reason Canada has seen higher COVID-19 deaths than many countries with fewer health-care resources — more Canadians live longer with chronic disease, putting them at greater risk of dying from COVID-19.

Research led by Heart & Stroke also found the pandemic has likely postponed thousands of cardiovascular procedures.

Lead author Cindy Yip said the findings underscore the devastating consequences of poor heart health, even if excellent medical care and technology is available.

“Quality of care is good to have, but it’s not enough,” said Yip, principal investigator and director of data knowledge management at Heart & Stroke, formerly known as the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

She said Canadians are somewhat vulnerable to pandemics such as COVID-19 because so many have survived other health crises.

“Because people are living longer with chronic disease like heart conditions and stroke we need to take actions, and we need them to take care of their health in order to avoid the poor outcome from COVID-19.”

The study notes 11.7 per cent of Canadians suffer from cardiovascular disease, including strokes. That puts us in the top third among 63 countries studied — worse than the 11.6 per cent found in the United States, 10 per cent in Russia, 7.6 per cent in South Korea, 4.3 per cent in India and 3.8 per cent in Pakistan.

4 a.m.: The first of multiple parliamentary investigations of the federal government’s aborted deal with WE Charity to run a volunteering program begins this afternoon.

The House of Commons finance committee is set to hear from Youth Minister Bardish Chagger and some senior public servants as it probes how WE got a sole-sourced contract to administer the $900-million program.

The Canada Student Service Grant is aimed at students who haven’t been able to find work this summer, offering up to $5,000 toward education costs in exchange for 500 hours of volunteering.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has admitted he should have recused himself from the decision to award the contract, given his family’s links to the group co-founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger.

WE gave up the contract amid the controversy two weeks ago.

Wednesday 10 p.m.: In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie noted that her city recorded only one new case on Tuesday and zero on Wednesday, a first since the lockdown started.

Wednesday 9:45 p.m.: Peel police have issued a summons for a man caught on viral video in a racist tirade against employees at a T&T grocery store in Mississauga following a mask dispute last week.

Police said that on July 5, the suspect went to a supermarket near Central Parkway West and Grand Park Drive. The man wasn’t wearing a face covering and was asked by employees to put one on, police said, which is the store’s policy.

In a video that went viral, the man became agitated, said he has asthma and yelled at an employee to “go back to China” while the worker repeatedly responds that he’s a Canadian.

Police said in their release that a summons has been issued for 48-year-old John McCash of Mississauga, for the offence of causing a disturbance.

 

 

Source: Toronto Star

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3 Nova Scotians appointed to the Order of Canada – CBC.ca

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Three Nova Scotians have been appointed to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours.

They are among the 114 appointees announced Friday.

The list includes eight companions, 21 officers, one honorary member and 84 members. The full list can be found here.

“Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation,” said a statement on the office of the Governor General’s website.

Appointments are made by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada. More than 7,000 Canadians have received the honour since its inception.

Jeff Dahn of Halifax, who has led groundbreaking research on lithium-ion batteries, was appointed as an officer.

Dahn is considered a pioneer of lithium-ion battery research. (Jill English/CBC)

In 2017, he won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering for his work in making batteries increasingly efficient. He also won a Governor General’s Award for Innovation in 2016.

Dahn works out of a lab at Dalhousie University. He also began a five-year research partnership with Tesla In 2016.

In the statement, the Governor General’s office also commended him for “his mentorship and adroit bridging of academia and industry.”

Dahn could not be reached for comment Sunday.

‘It’s humbling’

Meanwhile, Dr. Ken Wilson and John Eyking were appointed as members.

Wilson, a plastic surgeon in the Halifax area, was appointed “for his nationally recognized expertise in reconstructive and plastic surgery, and for his volunteer work on international medical missions.”

“It’s humbling, but a very nice addition to a great career,” Wilson said of the honour.

In the mid-80s, Wilson became the first person east of Montreal to dedicate himself to doing plastic surgery for children.

“It was a very satisfying thing for me to be able to look after a lot of the children who have either had to travel, or that hadn’t had, sometimes, the attention they would’ve had otherwise,” he said.

Wilson has spent more than 30 years doing plastic and reconstructive surgery for children. (Submitted by Ken Wilson)

In the mid-90s, Wilson began working with Operation Smile, an organization that provides surgeries and dental care to children with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. He travelled a couple times a year to do surgery in underdeveloped countries, and he estimates he went on about 46 missions.

In the late 1990s, Wilson became the chief of surgery at the IWK children’s hospital in Halifax, a position he held for more than a decade.

He stopped practising five years ago, but Wilson now works as a medical consultant for Doctors Nova Scotia and is chair of the board for Operation Smile Canada.

“It was a wonderful career,” said Wilson. “I gotta say, I’ve been very lucky over the years to have the opportunity to do what I did.”

While there is no ceremony this year due to COVID-19, Wilson was mailed his snowflake insignia, as well as a “lovely book” detailing the history of the Order of Canada and the many recipients over the years.

‘All in a day’s work’

Eyking, a farmer and entrepreneur who founded Eyking Farms, was recognized for his “personal and professional dedication to the Cape Breton community, particularly within the agriculture industry.”

Eyking, of Millville, N.S., immigrated to Canada in 1963 from the Netherlands. He started a farm, which later grew into a family operation run by him, his wife and their 10 children.

He is also an inductee of the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Reached by phone Sunday, Eyking, 89, was modest about his appointment. He credited his farm’s accomplishments to the work of his large family.

“For me, it was all in a day’s work and I enjoyed it,” he said.

He, too, received a parcel from the Order of Canada, and said he enjoyed the book.

“There’s quite a few Cape Bretoners in there,” he said.

The recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.

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Ottawa extends international travel restrictions citing COVID-19 risk – CBC.ca

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The federal government has extended existing international travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, barring entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons.

In a news release issued Sunday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21.

Similarly, restrictions on travellers arriving from other countries will be extended until Jan. 21, as will the mandatory requirement for anyone who is granted entry to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Emergency orders brought forward on Mar. 16 banned most foreign nationals from entering Canada for non-essential travel. There are a number of exceptions for immediate family members of citizens, essential workers, seasonal workers, caregivers and international students, to name a few.

By extending the expiration dates to the 21st of the month, today’s change brings the timing of the international travel restrictions in alignment with those governing the Canada-U.S. land border. Previously, international restrictions expired on the last day of each month while the Canada-U.S. border restrictions expired on the 21st.

Both have been regularly extended since March.

“The government continues to evaluate the travel restrictions and prohibitions as well as the requirement to quarantine or isolate on an ongoing basis to ensure Canadians remain healthy and safe,” the release said.

“The ability to align U.S. and international travel extension dates, as well as the mandatory isolation order, beginning on Jan. 21, 2021 will enable the government to communicate any travel extensions or changes as quickly as possible and provide certainty for Canadians, U.S. and international travelers.”

International travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Exemption for amateur sports events

The release also said the government will begin accepting applications from “high-performance amateur sport organizations” seeking to hold single sport events in Canada. Applicants will need to show they have a plan to protect public health that is approved by provincial or territorial officials and the relevant local health authorities in order to be considered.

Sport Canada, which is part of the Department of Canadian Heritage, will be responsible for authorizing such events, in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the release said.

More than 1,300 professional athletes have been issued national interest exemptions, which allow those who don’t qualify under current COVID-19-related restrictions to travel to Canada, or to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine when they arrive.

Last month, the federal government expanded the eligibility for people coming from the U.S. on compassionate grounds. Those changes governing family reunification have been broadened to include exceptions for certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents including couples who have been dating for at least a year, including their children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents. 

Despite travel restrictions, more than five million arrivals into Canada have been allowed to skip the 14-day quarantine requirement, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency, mainly because they’re essential workers.

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Ottawa extends international travel restrictions citing COVID-19 risk – CBC.ca

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The federal government has extended existing international travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, barring entry to most travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons.

In a news release issued Sunday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21.

Similarly, restrictions on travellers arriving from other countries will be extended until Jan. 21, as will the mandatory requirement for anyone who is granted entry to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Emergency orders brought forward on Mar. 16 banned most foreign nationals from entering Canada for non-essential travel. There are a number of exceptions for immediate family members of citizens, essential workers, seasonal workers, caregivers and international students, to name a few.

By extending the expiration dates to the 21st of the month, today’s change brings the timing of the international travel restrictions in alignment with those governing the Canada-U.S. land border. Previously, international restrictions expired on the last day of each month while the Canada-U.S. border restrictions expired on the 21st.

Both have been regularly extended since March.

“The government continues to evaluate the travel restrictions and prohibitions as well as the requirement to quarantine or isolate on an ongoing basis to ensure Canadians remain healthy and safe,” the release said.

“The ability to align U.S. and international travel extension dates, as well as the mandatory isolation order, beginning on Jan. 21, 2021 will enable the government to communicate any travel extensions or changes as quickly as possible and provide certainty for Canadians, U.S. and international travelers.”

International travel restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada from the U.S. will be extended until Dec. 21. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

Exemption for amateur sports events

The release also said the government will begin accepting applications from “high-performance amateur sport organizations” seeking to hold single sport events in Canada. Applicants will need to show they have a plan to protect public health that is approved by provincial or territorial officials and the relevant local health authorities in order to be considered.

Sport Canada, which is part of the Department of Canadian Heritage, will be responsible for authorizing such events, in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the release said.

More than 1,300 professional athletes have been issued national interest exemptions, which allow those who don’t qualify under current COVID-19-related restrictions to travel to Canada, or to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine when they arrive.

Last month, the federal government expanded the eligibility for people coming from the U.S. on compassionate grounds. Those changes governing family reunification have been broadened to include exceptions for certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents including couples who have been dating for at least a year, including their children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents. 

Despite travel restrictions, more than five million arrivals into Canada have been allowed to skip the 14-day quarantine requirement, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency, mainly because they’re essential workers.

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