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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Alaska Highway News

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OTTAWA — The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):

7:20 p.m.

Health officials in British Columbia are pleased with a national vaccine panel’s endorsement of their approach to wait four months before a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine is offered. 

The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health has also given its nod to the province’s four-month interval between shots, up from 42 days. 

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say setting the booster dose at four months allows more people to access a vaccine, and the wait may even provide longer-lasting protection against COVID-19. 

British Columbia has recorded 524 new cases of the illness, along with seven more deaths. 

Two hundred people are now infected with a variant, with the vast majority of cases involving the one first identified in the United Kingdom.

6:20 p.m.

Alberta says it will begin extending second doses of COVID-19 for up to four months as recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, starting March 10. 

The province is reporting 402 new cases and 4,649 active ones.

There are 251 people in hospital with the illness. 

There were 12 more deaths, bringing that total to 1,902. 

More than 255,000 Albertans have received one or both vaccine doses.

5:30 p.m.

A national panel of vaccine experts is recommending extending the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to up to four months.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says that would help provinces quickly vaccinate more people when faced with a limited supply.

The new guidance applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada.

Several provinces, including British Columbia and Manitoba, have already indicated they would opt for a four-month interval between doses.

5:15 p.m.

Quebec is moving more regions into the lower, “orange” pandemic-alert level, including Quebec City and the Eastern Townships, starting on March 8.

Premier Francois Legault said today the greater Montreal area will remain in the highest, “red” level, because of fear of novel coronavirus variants.

Residents of Quebec City, Chaudiere-Appalaches, Mauricie, Estrie and Centre-du-Quebec will be permitted to eat inside restaurants and go to the gym, and the nighttime curfew will be pushed back from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Legault is also reporting that Quebec will wait up to four months to administer a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, up from the current 90-day interval.

3:10 p.m.

Manitoba expects to receive its first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by mid-March and plans to target people aged 50 to 64 with high-risk underlying conditions. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead on the province’s vaccine task force, says people on dialysis because of kidney failure could be one example, but details are being worked out. 

Reimer says she is following the advice of a national panel that’s recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and over. 

Manitoba is focusing on older people with other vaccines.

2:55 p.m.

Saskatchewan is reporting 121 new cases of COVID-19.

Two more residents who were 80 and older have also died.

There are 153 people in hospital, with 20 in intensive care.

Health officials say around 7,000 more shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have arrived and another 7,000 doses are expected by the end of today.

To date, around 81,000 vaccinations have been done across the province.

2:45 p.m.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says uptake of COVID-19 vaccines has been “fantastic” as just over half the territory’s residents have received their first dose. 

However, Silver says he’s concerned about the rising numbers of variants elsewhere in Canada, even though Yukon currently has no active cases of COVID-19. 

Chief medical health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley says vaccine hesitancy is a reality and he’s urging everyone to get vaccinated at a mass clinic in Whitehorse or through mobile vans that are making their way around Yukon. 

Seventy-one people have recovered from COVID-19 and one person has died since the pandemic began.

2:30 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19, and now has 30 known active infections.

Health officials say two of the new cases have been identified in the Halifax area and the other in the northern zone.

All are close contacts of previously reported cases.

As of Tuesday, officials say 35,291 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 13,512 people having received their second dose.

2:25 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say two travel-related cases are in the Fredericton area and involve people in their 20s, while the third case is in the Miramichi region and involves a person in their 50s.

Officials have identified a list of locations in Miramichi where there may have been public exposures, and a mass testing clinic will be held to determine whether there has been any further spread in the area.

There are now 37 active reported cases in the province and three people are hospitalized with the disease, including two in intensive care.

2:20 p.m.

Health Canada says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be shipped and stored for up to two weeks in standard freezer temperatures.

When it was approved in December, Health Canada said the vaccine had to remain in ultra-low temperatures until just before it is thawed for use. 

It limited the distribution of the vaccine mainly to bigger urban areas which were equipped with the specialty freezers required.

Last week, the companies asked the regulator to make the change after their own data showed their messenger RNA vaccine remained stabled stored for two weeks in -15 C to -25 C.

Health Canada says the vaccine can be returned to ultra-low temperatures after being warmed up to the standard freezer temperatures.

The change should make it easier for provinces to distribute the vaccine, and could open up the possibility it can go to remote communities and the territories as well.

2:05 p.m.

Manitoba health officials say they will delay second doses of all vaccines in order to focus on getting first doses to more people more quickly. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of the province’s vaccine task force, says it’s in response to studies that show first doses may be more effective than first thought. 

She says details will be worked out in accordance with a national panel’s guidelines, and second-dose appointments already booked will be honoured.

1:45 p.m. 

Ontario will give the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to residents aged 60 to 64.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says the province feels the targeted use of that shot will help cut illness and death across Ontario.

Jones says the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot will not be administered through mass immunization clinics but through a “different pathway,” although she did not elaborate what that would be. 

Ontario said yesterday it plans to follow the advice of a national panel that’s recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older.

1:35 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 50 additional COVID-19 cases and three deaths. 

The province is also dropping its age for vaccinations in the general public by one year. 

Vaccinations can now be booked for First Nations people aged 69 and up and for other people aged 89 and up.

1:05 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s optimistic the timeline to vaccinate Canadians against COVID-19 can be sped up.

He says his government’s plan to administer COVID-19 shots to all Canadians who want one by the end of September didn’t factor in the approval of new drugs.

Trudeau says that includes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was delivered today.

Canada has received its first 500,000 doses of the shot — the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in the country.

1 p.m.

Quebec’s statistics agency says life expectancy in the province declined by five months for men and eight months for women between 2019 and 2020.

It says the number of deaths reported in the province in 2020 was 10 per cent higher than in 2019 — an increase of 6,750 deaths.

The agency says the decline is largely due to an increase in deaths reported last year during the pandemic.

12:45 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador is extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months.

Public health officials announced the new measures Wednesday, saying it will help close to 40,000 more people be vaccinated with a single dose by the end of March.

Officials also reported three new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and said all are linked to previously identified cases.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the low case numbers and clear sources of infections are a good sign following the outbreak that spread rapidly through St. John’s in February.

11:40 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says three federal aid programs designed to blunt the fallout from COVID-19 are being extended.

Trudeau says the federal wage subsidy, rent support and lockdown programs will remain in place until June.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says all three programs will keep support at the current levels.

She says the trio of programs are being extended because the economy is still struggling even with encouraging signs of a recovery on the horizon.

11:15 a.m.

Prince Edward Island will lift restrictions that closed schools and most businesses at midnight.

Premier Dennis King says results from 11,000 COVID-19 tests conducted since the weekend provide confidence that restrictions can be eased.

The health orders were imposed after COVID-19 case clusters emerged in Charlottetown and Summerside.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison is reporting one new COVID-19 case today; P.E.I. has 22 active reported infections.

11:15 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 729 new cases of COVID-19 today and 19 more deaths from the virus, including two within the past 24 hours.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped to 618 and the number of people in intensive care dropped to 120.

10:30 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 958 new COVID-19 cases today.

The province says 17 more people have died from the virus.

More than 27,000 tests were completed to compile the data.

The province says 27,398 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered since the last daily update.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Ontario reports 653 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday – CBC.ca

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Ontario reported another 653 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The majority of the new cases, 499, have occurred in individuals who have either not been fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unclear.

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health’s daily provincial update:

Tests completed: 31,063

Provincewide test positivity rate: two per cent

Active cases: 5,591

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 177; 127 needed a ventilator to breathe

Deaths: Six, pushing the official toll to 9,704

Vaccinations: 21,651,850 doses have been administered to date. Nearly 86 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 or older have now received a first dose, while slightly more than 80 per cent have received two doses.

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The 2 Michaels are home. But what about the 115 Canadians still detained in China? – Global News

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All eyes were on Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on Saturday as the two returned home following nearly three years spent in apparent arbitrary detention in China.

Heartwarming images and video surfaced of the two reuniting with their families. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday called their homecoming “good news for all of us,” noting that they had both gone through an “unbelievably difficult ordeal.”

But as of Sunday at least 115 Canadians remain in custody in Chinese prisons, Global Affairs Canada said in an emailed statement to Global News. Not all Canadians imprisoned in China are in arbitrary detainment, but the agency said at least four of those jailed are on death row.

Read more:
‘Two Michaels’ welcomed home by friends, family after years in Chinese detention

“Canada opposes the death penalty in all cases, everywhere,” Global Affairs Canada said.

“We have raised our firm opposition to the death penalty with China and continue to call on China to grant clemency for all Canadians sentenced to death.”


Click to play video: '“Two Michaels” and Meng Wanzhou return home'



2:32
“Two Michaels” and Meng Wanzhou return home


“Two Michaels” and Meng Wanzhou return home

The agency said it reviews each detention on a case-by-case basis, as consular officials often require a “tailored approach” that can adapt to different local contexts and circumstances.

Here’s a look at the four Canadians currently on death row.


Click to play video: 'Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison'



1:51
Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison


Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison

Robert Schellenberg

Of those sentenced to death, the most recent is Canadian Robert Schellenberg of Abbotsford, British Columbia. The Liaoning High Court upheld his death sentence on Aug. 10 following an appeal made over the summer.

Schellenberg was detained on drug charges in China in 2014 and was formally charged with drug smuggling in January 2015. Initially, a Chinese court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison. But four years later, his verdict was overturned following a retrial and he was sentenced to death.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in August that Canada “strongly” condemned the court’s decision to uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.

Read more:
Chinese court upholds death sentence for Robert Schellenberg in drug smuggling case

“We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” he said, shortly after the ruling was delivered.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases, and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence.”

In an emailed statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada reiterated that the federal government remains “strongly opposed” to the decision to arbitrarily impose and uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.

The agency added it “will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to seek clemency for Mr. Schellenberg.”


Click to play video: 'Chinese court upholds death sentence against B.C. man'



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Chinese court upholds death sentence against B.C. man


Chinese court upholds death sentence against B.C. man – Aug 10, 2021

Xu Weihong

Canadian Xu Weihong was sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court over drug manufacturing charges on Aug. 6, 2020. They also handed down a life sentence to Wen Guanxiong, whom they claim helped Xu make ketamine.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin justified Xu’s death sentence during a briefing last year, saying that death penalties would help “deter and prevent” similar crimes in the future.

“I would like to stress that China’s judicial authorities handle the relevant case independently in strict accordance with Chinese law and legal procedures,” Wang had said.

He added that “this case should not inflict any impact on China-Canada relations.”


Click to play video: 'China defends death sentence for Canadian convicted of making illegal drugs'



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China defends death sentence for Canadian convicted of making illegal drugs


China defends death sentence for Canadian convicted of making illegal drugs – Aug 6, 2020

Ye Jianhui

Ye Jianhui is the fourth Canadian to receive the death penalty in China.

His sentence was handed down in August of last year over charges to manufacture and transport drugs by the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court, just one day after Xu’s.

Ye and co-defendant Lu Hanchang conspired with others to manufacture and transport drugs between May 2015 and January 2016, the Associated Press reported last year.

Asked last year if the sentencing of the Canadian drug offenders was linked to Meng’s case, Wang said China’s judicial organs “handle cases independently,” while also adding that “the Canadian side knows the root cause” of difficulties in China-Canadian relations.

Read more:
China sentences another Canadian to death over drug charges

Fan Wei

Fan Wei was given the death penalty on April 30, 2019 along with 11 others over his involvement in an international methamphetamine operation.

Speaking to Global News the day of his sentencing, Global Affairs Canada said officials attended the sentencing and reading of the verdict. They called on China to grant clemency, adding the decision to apply the “cruel and inhumane” death penalty to Fan’s case was of “extreme concern” to their government.

“Obtaining clemency for Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei is also of primary importance given China’s decision to impose the death penalty in these cases,” Global Affairs Canada said, in an emailed statement to Global News on Sunday.

“Canada will continue to provide consular services to Robert Schellenberg, Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei, as well as to their families.”

— With files from Global News’ Saba Aziz and Aaron D’Andrea, as well as the Canadian Press, Associated Press and Reuters.

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

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Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have finally landed in Canada – CTV News

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Two Canadians who’ve been imprisoned in China for more than 1,000 days have arrived safely in Canada.

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, detained on espionage charges since Dec. 10, 2018, arrived at the Calgary International Airport early Saturday morning, following an overnight fuel stop in Alaska.

Footage from CTV News on the tarmac shows several passengers greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a hug, though everyone in the footage is wearing a mask.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office told CTV News’ Bill Fortier at the airport that the passengers are indeed the two Michaels. The spokesperson added that it is very emotional moment for both of them and they would not be taking questions.

Later in the day, a smiling Kovrig landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where he was met by his sister and wife. Kovrig briefly spoke to media, where he issued his thanks for the support and said he would have more to say in due time.

“It’s wonderfully fantastic to be back home in Canada,” he told reporters. “I’m so grateful for everybody who worked so hard to bring both of us back home.”

Trudeau announced the two would be returning to Canada in a late-night press conference on Friday, only once the two had left Chinese airspace.

“Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Trudeau wrote in a tweet on Saturday. “You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”

News of their release has garnered celebration from across Canada, including ​from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, as well as from people who knew the two Canadians.

“It’s hard to describe but I’m just so thrilled for him and his family more than anybody else,” Praveen Madhiraju, a colleague of Kovrig’s, told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “This has been a long time coming and we’re just thrilled for this next chapter.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the two Michaels showed “incredible strength” during their detention.

“Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are now home — they, as well as their families, have shown incredible strength, bravery and resilience,” she tweeted on Saturday. “The Canadian government has worked hard to secure their release. We thank everyone involved who helped make it possible.”

The Michaels arrived in Canada just one day after a British Columbia court dropped the extradition case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou over fraud and conspiracy charges related to American sanctions against Iran.

Meng had earlier Friday pleaded not guilty to all charges in a virtual appearance in New York court, where the judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement.

The two Michaels were both convicted of spying in closed Chinese courts earlier this year. Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in Chinese prison, while Kovrig had yet to be sentenced.

The detainment of the two Canadians has largely been seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest, though China has repeatedly denied any connection between the Michaels and Meng.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that the swift release of the two Michaels shows that their detainment was in fact retaliatory.

“Obviously this is the acknowledgment that this was really a retaliatory hostage taking for Meng Wanzhou,”

“I think (this is) a triumph for quiet diplomacy, because this was kept very much to wraps. Nobody knew what was going on. I was as surprised as the rest of Canada.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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