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Sobeys brings back hero pay for grocery workers in lockdown areas –



Grocery chain Sobeys has reinstated a program that will see its workers in areas locked down because of COVID-19 get a pay bump.

Empire Co., which owns Sobey’s, has brought back so-called “hero pay” for its hourly workers in Winnipeg, Toronto and Peel region, which is just west of Toronto. All three regions are currently on some sort of lockdown because of rising COVID-19 cases, and all but essential retail has been brought to a halt.

Sobeys workers who get paid by the hour in those regions will get between $10 and $100 extra per week, depending on how many hours they work per week. Although the figure may change as the situation improves or worsens, the company estimates that the initiative will cost it about $5 million.

The chain, like others, had a similar program for its workers in the early days of the pandemic as grocery stores were inundated by shoppers panic buying, the initial bonus program was halted in June as supply chains and stores got back to some semblance of normal.

“Our teammates continue to work tirelessly to keep our stores safe and our communities fed,” CEO Michael Medline said in a statement to CBC News.

“Launching the Lockdown Bonus, in the face of new government mandated lockdowns, was simply the right thing to do. I said that if we ever faced the same level of lockdowns in a region or province like we saw in the early spring, we would bring a recognition program back for our teammates.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our teammates’ efforts to keep stores open, shelves stocked and Canadian families fed have been nothing short of heroic.”

In its most recent earnings release, rival grocery chain Loblaws stated it has no plans to bring back a similar pay bump despite raising its dividend to shareholders by two cents per share because of strong sales growth.

“The company remains steadfast in its commitment to put customers and colleagues first, as we sustained investments and safety measures at store level, while resisting pressure to raise prices at a time when Canadians need value more than ever,” CEO Galen Weston said at the time.

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COVID-19: Nine New Cases In Southern Health, Zero In Steinbach – –



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  1. COVID-19: Nine New Cases In Southern Health, Zero In Steinbach –
  2. Two more COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba, 173 new cases reported on Friday  CTV News
  3. Coronavirus: Manitoba reports further vaccine supply disruptions, 2 additional deaths  Global News
  4. ‘No zero-risk situation,’ Manitoba official warns ahead of loosened visitor restrictions starting Saturday
  5. Make sure COVID-19 isn’t on your guest list when visitor restrictions ease, epidemiologist warns
  6. View Full coverage on Google News

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173 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths in Manitoba on Friday –



There are 173 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba on Friday and two more people have died from the illness, the province says in a news release.

More than one-third of the new cases — 64 — are in the Northern Health Region, which has been hit hard by outbreaks in recent weeks.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is up slightly to 9.3 per cent, the release says, while Winnipeg’s is down to 6.2 per cent.

The deaths are two people in their 80s, the release says; a woman linked to Niverville’s Heritage Life Personal Care Home and a man connected to Winnipeg’s Southeast Personal Care Home.

There are also 56 new cases in the Winnipeg health region, the release says, while the remaining new infections are split between the Interlake-Eastern health region (33), the Prairie Mountain Health region (11) and the Southern Health region (nine).

Those deaths bring Manitoba’s total to 795.

People working in all Manitoba schools will have access to a rapid testing site in Winnipeg starting Monday. The site at 1066 Nairn Ave. opened on Jan. 18 to staff working in five divisions, but is now open to all school staff, the release says.

That includes anyone who works directly with students, including teachers, educational support staff, bus drivers, custodians and child-care staff in school-based facilities, the province said when the first site opened.

People going to that site need to either have symptoms of COVID-19, be identified as a close contact of a school exposure or live with someone who has symptoms, the release says. Appointments need to be made ahead of time by phoning the province’s general appointment line, which is listed on the province’s website.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Manitoba are now up slightly to 274, from 268 on Thursday. Thirty-nine of those people are in intensive care, the release says, five more than on Thursday.

An outbreak has been declared at the Pembina Manitou Health Centre and Personal Care Home, the release says. 

Previously announced outbreaks are now over at Morden’s Tabor Home, Selkirk’s Tudor House Personal Care Home and Winnipeg’s Deer Lodge Centre Lodge 4 East, West Park Manor Personal Care Home, St. Amant Health and Transition Services and the Carpathia Children’s Centre.

The latest update comes hours before Manitoba’s latest set of pandemic rules come into effect one minute after the stroke of midnight on Saturday. The latest public health orders will allow most Manitobans to have two designated people over as visitors and permit stores to sell non-essential items again.

Those rules will apply everywhere but northern Manitoba, which will remain under the current heavy restrictions because of a spike in cases in recent days and significant COVID-19 outbreaks in several communities.

The military was deployed to Garden Hill First Nation earlier this week to help the community get a handle on skyrocketing cases.

Since Jan. 11, there have been 818 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Northern Health Region. The massive region is Manitoba’s most sparsely populated, with a 2019 population just shy of 77,000.

As of Friday, that part of the province has a COVID-19 infection rate of 4,225.50 cases per 100,000 people, Manitoba’s online dashboard says — about four cases for every 100 people. 

That’s by far Manitoba’s highest infection rate, and more than double the province’s second-highest of 2,087.63 in Winnipeg — or about two in every 100 people.

Places like restaurants and gyms still must stay closed to in-person services.

The rules that take effect Saturday will stay in place for three weeks before being evaluated again.

The changes come more than two months after Manitoba brought in its tightest pandemic restrictions yet, banning most household visitors and barring stores from selling non-essential goods.

Two cases were removed from Manitoba’s total on Friday because of a data correction, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 28,260, the province’s news release says.

To date, 24,204 people in Manitoba have recovered from COVID-19, while 3,261 cases are still considered active, though health officials have said that number is inflated by a data entry backlog.

There were 2,070 COVID-19 tests done in Manitoba on Thursday, bringing Manitoba’s total number of swabs completed to 461,250 since February.

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Trudeau speaks to Pfizer CEO as delays to vaccine shipments get worse – BNN



OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by phone Thursday, the same day the company informed Canada delays to its shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are going to be even worse than previously thought.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last week a factory expansion at Pfizer’s Belgium plant was going to slow production, cutting Canada’s deliveries over four weeks in half.

In exchange, Pfizer expects to be able to ship hundreds of millions more doses worldwide over the rest of 2021.

Tuesday, Fortin said Canada would receive 80 per cent of the previously expected doses this week, nothing at all next week, and about half the promised deliveries in the first two weeks of February.

Thursday, he said the doses delivered in the first week of February will only be 79,000, one one-fifth of what was once expected. Fortin doesn’t know yet what will come the week after, but overall, Canada’s doses over three weeks are going to be just one-third of what had been planned.

Trudeau has been under pressure to call Bourla, as the delayed doses force provinces to cancel vaccination appointments and reconsider timing for second doses.

Fortin said some provinces may be hit even harder than others because of limits on the way the Pfizer doses can be split up for shipping. The vaccine is delicate and must be kept ultra frozen until shortly before injecting it. The company packs and ships specialized coolers, with GPS thermal trackers, directly to provincial vaccine sites.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week he doesn’t blame the federal government for the dose delays but wanted Trudeau to do more to push back about it.

“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives.

Trudeau informed Ford and other premiers of the call with Bourla during a regular teleconference to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Thursday, all calls between the federal cabinet and Pfizer had been handled by Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

Ford also spoke to Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow Wednesday.

Trudeau didn’t suggest the call with Bourla made any difference to the delays, and noted Canada is not the only country affected.

Europe, which on the weekend thought its delayed doses would only be for one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to Bourla, now seems poised to be affected longer. Italy is so angry it is threatening to sue the U.S.-based drugmaker for the delays.

Mexico said this week it is only getting half its expected shipment this week and nothing at all for the next three weeks. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also reported delays getting doses. Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said more countries were affected but wouldn’t say which ones.

Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March and that is not going to change with the delay. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over 7 1/2 weeks to meet that commitment.

Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.

Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.

Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.

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