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The coronavirus in Canada and Parliament resumes

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of Jan. 27.

What we are watching in Canada …

TORONTO — Officials anticipate the lone Canadian patient diagnosed with the new coronavirus won’t be the last, but they also note the risk of infection in this country remains low.

Public health officials made the comment at a news conference yesterday, when they announced that the man in his 50s had been showing mild symptoms on his flight from Guangzhou, China, to Toronto.

They’ve since been reaching out to those aboard the China Southern Airlines flight who sat within two metres of the man.

Canada’s chief public health officer says she believes there will be more cases “imported into Canada” because of global flight patterns, but she notes there’s little risk of becoming infected here.

Dr. Theresa Tam also says she expects to receive official confirmation today from Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Lab that the man’s illness is indeed the new coronavirus.

The diagnosis is “presumptive” until that lab finds the same positive results as the tests conducted in Toronto.

The patient is in stable condition at Sunnybrook Hospital, where he’s being held in a negative-pressure room used to contain airborne illnesses.

Also this …

OTTAWA — The work begins in earnest today for the Liberal minority government as the House of Commons opens for business after a lengthy winter break.

The first piece of major legislation is expected to be a bill to ratify the new North American free trade deal, as Canada is the now the only hold out on the trilateral pact.

The Liberals have asked the Opposition parties to help get it passed quickly, but the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are making no such guarantees, while the Conservatives say they’re hoping for further study of its implications.

The government is also sure to face a grilling over major issues that have developed in recent weeks.

Among them are relations with Iran and the status of an investigation into what killed at least 57 Canadians on a flight leaving Tehran earlier this month.

Looking ahead, the Liberal government is also expected to introduce legislation to ban military-style assault rifles and make what’s sure to be a controversial decision on whether to allow a new oilsands project in Alberta to proceed.

ICYMI (in case you missed it) …

TORONTO — The survival of preterm babies jumped by 25 per cent after new practices were introduced in neonatal units across Canada, according to a study of nearly 51,000 infants between 2004 to 2017.

Changes introduced in 2003 included increased use of steroids for mothers 48 hours before delivery to help babies whose lungs would not be fully developed; raising infants’ body temperature upon birth and reducing the use of invasive ventilation to help them breathe.

The study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal says babies born at less than 33 weeks’ gestation had an increase in survival from 56.6 per cent to 70.9 per cent, without major health problems.

It says the improved practices were initiated by the Canadian Neonatal Network, which includes researchers and health-care professional such as physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists all neonatal in every province.

Dr. Prakesh Shah, director of the network and a senior author of the study that originated from Sinai Health in Toronto, said the measures also hiked survival by five per cent for babies born at 23 to 25 weeks’ gestation.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

LOS ANGELES — The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others that crashed into a rugged hillside outside Los Angeles was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.

The helicopter plunged into a steep hillside at about 9:45 a.m. Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed all aboard.

The accident unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers around the world who mourned the sudden loss of the all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 41-year-old Bryant, who perished with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the game’s most popular players and the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers.

The cause of the crash was unknown, but conditions at the time were such that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff’s department grounded their helicopters.

The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said the rugged terrain complicated efforts to recover the remains. He estimated it would take at least a couple of days to complete that task before identifications can be made.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

BEIJING — China on Monday expanded sweeping efforts to contain a viral disease by extending the Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading infection as the death toll rose to 80.

Hong Kong announced it would bar entry to visitors from the province at the centre of the outbreak following a warning the virus’s ability to spread was growing. Travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide, adding to the rising economic cost.

Increasingly drastic anti-disease efforts began with the Jan. 22 suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China where the virus was first detected last month. That lockdown has expanded to a total of 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.

The end of the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s busiest travel season, was pushed back to Sunday from Thursday to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” a Cabinet statement said.

The National Health Commission said 2,744 cases were confirmed by midnight Sunday.

President Xi Jinping has called the outbreak a grave situation and said the government was rushing medical staff and supplies to Wuhan.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 27, 2020.

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Brazil’s Vale says output begins at Reid Brook nickel deposit in Canada

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Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Northern Labrador has started the production at its Reid Brook deposit, the Brazilian miner said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

Vale said the Canadian Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps mines are likely to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025.

 

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by Jason Neely)

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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U.S. fine Air Canada $25.5 milliom over delayed refunds

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The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds requested by thousands of customers for flights to or from the United States.

The department said it filed a formal complaint with a U.S. administrative law judge over flights Air Canada canceled or significantly changed. The penalty is “intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future,” the department said, adding Air Canada continued its no-refund policy in violation of U.S. law for more than a year.

Air Canada said it believes the U.S. government’s position “has no merit.” It said it “will vigorously challenge the proceedings.”

Air Canada obtained a financial aid package this spring that gave the carrier access to up to C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) in funds through a loan program.

The carrier said it has been refunding nonrefundable tickets as part of the Canadian government’s financial package. Since April 13 eligible customers have been able to obtain refunds for previously issued nonrefundable tickets, it said.

The Transportation Department disclosed it is also “actively investigating the refund practices of other U.S. and foreign carriers flying to and from the United States” and said it will take “enforcement action” as appropriate.

The administration said the Air Canada penalty sought was over “extreme delays in providing the required refunds.”

Refund requests spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Transportation Department has received over 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds for flights canceled or significantly changed. The department said the airline committed a minimum of 5,110 violations and passengers waited anywhere from five to 13 months to receive refunds.

Last month, a trade group told U.S. lawmakers that 11 U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upended the travel industry.

In May, Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

($1 = 1.2195 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in MontrealEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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