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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for March 24, 2021 – The Battlefords News-Optimist



The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

6:20 p.m.

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British Columbia is reporting 717 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 93,969.

There are 5,573 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced three new COVID-19-related deaths.

Henry and Dix say there are 71 new confirmed COVID-19 variant cases in B.C. as well.

Nearly 600,000 vaccine doses have been administered in B.C., of which 87,180 are second doses.

6 p.m.

The Canadian military is on its way to getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a letter to military personnel today, acting defence chief Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre says the Canadian Armed Forces is planning to receive 150,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine over the next three months.

He says administering those doses will be the primary focus of the military’s health services.

Eyre is “strongly” encouraging all members of the Forces to get vaccinated and says that “operational effectiveness depends on it.”

6 p.m.

Alberta is reporting 692 new cases of COVID-19.

There are 285 people in hospital, 53 of whom are in intensive care.

Two more people have died, bringing that total to 1,973.

There are 202 new variant cases, and variants now make up 19 per cent of all active cases.

There have been 512,000 doses of the vaccine administered.

5:30 p.m.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says she does not expect any interruption in the delivery of vaccines to Canada despite export restrictions imposed by the European Union and India.

Canada’s contracts in Europe are with Pfizer and Moderna, neither of which are targeted by the EU restrictions, she says.

Anand says Canada has 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine remaining in its contract with the Serum Institute of India.

She says she spoke today to India’s high commissioner to Canada, “who assures us that the contractual commitments that the Serum Institute has made will be observed.”

4:30 p.m.

India’s high commission in Canada says it is trying to glean information from its government about a media report that the country is freezing major exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which could affect shipments to Canada.

Anshuman Gaur, the deputy high commissioner in Ottawa, says in a text that the 10-hour time difference is complicating the task, but that diplomats are seeking “more clarity” from New Delhi.

A Reuters news report Wednesday said India has halted exports of its AstraZeneca vaccine due to shortages on the subcontinent.

India has already supplied 500,000 doses of a planned two million to Canada, with another one million initially slated for arrival in mid-April followed by a final shipment a month or so later.

Gaur says delivery schedules remain under discussion between the Serum Institute of India, which produces AstraZeneca doses, and its Ontario-based partner Verity Pharmaceuticals.

4:15 p.m.

Ontario’s finance minister has delivered his second pandemic-era budget.

The spending plan is aimed at helping the province recover from the COVID-19 outbreak.

It contains $6.7 billion for pandemic-related measures, including $1 billion for the vaccine effort, and an additional $2.3 billion for testing and contact tracing this year.

The plan projects a deficit of $33.1 billion for the year, with the province saying it will take until 2029 to balance the books.

3:45 p.m.

British Columbia’s premier says more than 1,400 laid-off tourism and hospitality workers are now set to help with non-clinical work during the province’s COVID-19 immunization campaign.

John Horgan says B.C. has partnered with hard-hit businesses including Air Canada, WestJet, Vancouver International Airport, the Vancouver Canucks and Tourism Whistler to get some of their employees back to work.

Ceres Terminals Canada, which operates the cruise port at Vancouver’s Canada Place, is also providing staff to work in the mass immunization clinics being set up across the province.

Horgan adds the opportunity will be available as long as the province needs the help.

He says B.C. has seen significant success in its vaccination program so far, but recent increases in COVID-19 case numbers mean residents must continue to follow public health rules.

3:35 p.m.

Saskatchewan health officials are reporting 190 new COVID-19 cases.

The province says 116 of the infections come from the Regina area, which is battling a spread of more infectious variants.

Of Saskatchewan’s 954 variant cases, 824 are from in and around the capital.

There are 147 people in hospital, with 22 in intensive care.

Another resident in their 80s has died of COVID-19, bringing the province’s pandemic death toll to 420.

To date, around 151,000 vaccinations have been done.

3 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’ll communicate with the “highest levels” of European leaders to make sure COVID-19 vaccine doses continue to be sent to Canada.

The European Union is imposing stricter controls on exports of the vaccines produced within its boundaries to try to accelerate a slow vaccination campaign there.

In question period in the House of Commons, Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner asked Trudeau whether he could “absolutely guarantee” shipments to Canada wouldn’t be affected.

Trudeau didn’t answer directly but said he expects Canada will work with the EU to make sure the vaccines keep flowing.

Shipments of vaccines made in Europe by Pfizer and Moderna have not been affected by previous European export controls.

2:35 p.m.

Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 12 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today.

Ten of the cases are in the Edmundston region in the northwest of the province, and most are considered travel-related or close contacts of previously reported cases.

There are two new cases in the Moncton area.

With confirmed variant cases in the Edmundston area, a mass testing clinic will be held Thursday and Friday to determine if there has been further spread in the region.

There are now 63 active cases in New Brunswick, and three patients are hospitalized.

2:30 p.m.

About 65 per cent of all adults in Yukon have received their first shot of COVID-19 vaccine, but the territory’s chief medical health officer says there is some hesitancy.

Dr. Brendan Hanley says health officials are working to reassure those who have expressed concern about the vaccine and its potential side-effects.

Hanley says he’s hopeful their outreach efforts will reduce concerns.

Yukon has no current infections, but has had 72 cases since the pandemic began and one death.

2:25 p.m.

The European Union adjusted its export controls on COVID-19 vaccines today to add new tests to ensure Europe isn’t being disproportionately affected by any production slowdowns and drug companies are honouring their contracts with the EU.

Canadian shipments of vaccines will still require an authorization from Europe, and a European Commission source said those “should be granted” as long as they don’t pose a threat to Europe’s supply.

A new test for “reciprocity and proportionality” is being added that will look at receiving countries for whether they’re far ahead of Europe in vaccinating their citizens, and whether the shipments are disproportionate to what Europe is getting.

Canada is lagging slightly behind Europe on its vaccination rate thus far, with the European Union giving out almost 14 doses for every 100 people and Canada about 11, though recently Canada has been vaccinating faster than Europe has.

Canada has no COVID-19 vaccine production in place at the moment and is reliant almost entirely on Europe for its current supply of vaccines.

More than 90 per cent of the almost seven million doses of vaccines exported to Canada have come from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna batches produced in Europe. Only 500,000 doses have come so far from outside Europe: a delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made at the Serum Institute of India.

2:15 p.m.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner says the federal government needs to roll out a concrete plan to help provinces deal with a potential bottleneck in COVID-19 vaccine supply.

The demand follows media reports that India is freezing major exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the European Union is finalizing emergency legislation that would give it broad powers to curb vaccine shipments abroad for six weeks amid supply shortages at home.

The federal government says it does not believe vaccine shipments to Canada would be affected by export restrictions being considered by the EU.

Rempel Garner says verbal assurances don’t cut it, and she’s calling for written guarantees from the EU and other countries on whether Canada will be impacted by export restrictions.

She says provincial plans for lifting lockdowns hinge on a steady ramp-up in dose deliveries.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet says he is not concerned about overall vaccine supply into Canada.

1:40 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting 80 new cases of COVID-19 today and no new deaths.

Thirty-seven of the cases are in the northern health region.

Members of the military are landing in Manitoba this week to help the vaccination effort in 23 northern First Nations.

Officials say the effort will accelerate the pace of immunizations so that 100,000 First Nations people can get doses in 100 days.

Immunizations in the province have now been expanded to people 65 and older, and First Nations people 45 and older.

1:10 p.m.

Nova Scotia is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today.

All are in the Halifax area with three close contacts of previously reported cases and the other two related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.

The province currently has a total of 24 active infections.

As of Tuesday, health officials say 71,733 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 21,648 people having received their required second shot.

1 p.m.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the Canadian Armed Forces will support Indigenous Services in its vaccination efforts in 23 remote Indigenous communities in Manitoba.

He says up to 200 military personnel will be deployed to provide assistance and administer vaccines.

He says the CAF logistics professionals will help with establishing vaccination clinics as well as transporting community members to and from clinics where required.

Sajjan says the military members will start delivering vaccines in Indigenous communities in Manitoba on March 29 and the operation will continue until at least the end of June.

12:55 p.m.

Public health restrictions are loosening once again in Newfoundland and Labrador as the province reports one new case of COVID-19.

Effective midnight Saturday, the entire province will move to Alert Level 2, allowing households to keep a so-called “steady 20” group of consistent contacts.

Health officials put the province in lockdown on Feb. 12 as a COVID-19 outbreak spread through the St. John’s area.

There are now just three active cases across the province, with one of those patients in hospital due to the disease.

11:50 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 783 new cases of COVID-19 today and eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 11, to 508, and 118 people were in intensive care, a rise of five.

Officials say Quebec surpassed the mark of one million vaccine doses administered in the province, after giving 31,025 shots Tuesday.

10:35 a.m.

Ontario reports 1,571 new cases of COVID-19 today and 10 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 459 of those new cases are in Toronto, 309 are in Peel Region and 143 are in York Region.

The province says that more than 72,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Tuesday’s update.

10:20 a.m.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has lowered the age for booking vaccinations.

It says residents 65 and older can now book a shot.

The health authority says those living in the Far North can also do so if they’re 50 and older.

Residents deemed clinically vulnerable or with underlying health conditions are also eligible but will have to wait for a letter first.

Priority health-care workers can also get vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.

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Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike



MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada‘s manufacturers on Monday asked the federal government to curb a brewing labor dispute after dockworkers at the country’s second largest port said they will work less this week.

Unionized dockworkers, who are in talks for a new contract since 2018, will hold a partial strike starting Tuesday, by refusing all overtime outside of their normal day shifts, along with weekend work, they said in a statement on Monday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Quebec’s 1,125 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected a March offer from the Maritime Employers Association.

The uncertainty caused by the labour dispute has led to an 11% drop in March container volume at the Montreal port on an annual basis, even as other eastern ports in North America made gains, the Maritime Employers Association said.

The move will cause delays in a 24-hour industry, the association said.

“Some manufacturers have had to redirect their containers to the Port of Halifax, incurring millions in additional costs every week,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).

While the government strongly believes a negotiated agreement is the best option for all parties, “we are actively examining all options as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said.

Last summer’s stoppage of work cost wholesalers C$600 million ($478 million) in sales over a two-month period, Statistics Canada estimates.

($1 = 1.2563 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara



OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada on Monday scrapped export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.

Turkey, which like Canada is a member of NATO, is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces gained territory in the enclave after six weeks of fighting.

“This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey,” Garneau said in a statement, adding he had raised his concerns with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier in the day.

Ottawa suspended the permits last October so it could review allegations that Azeri drones used in the conflict had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.

In a statement, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa said: “We expect our NATO allies to avoid unconstructive steps that will negatively affect our bilateral relations and undermine alliance solidarity.”

Earlier on Monday, Turkey said Cavusoglu had urged Canada to review the defense industry restrictions.

The parts under embargo include camera systems for Baykar armed drones. Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased, but reimposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan jumped sixfold last year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million in September alone before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, data showed.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)

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Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits



By Liz Hampton

DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado refinery owned by Canadian firm Suncor Energy Inc meets required environmental permits and is adequately funded, according to an investigation released on Monday into a series of emissions violations at the facility between 2017 and 2019.

The 98,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, reached a $9-million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) March 2020 to resolve air pollution violations that occurred since 2017. That settlement also addressed an incident in December 2019 that released refinery materials onto a nearby school.

As part of the settlement, Suncor was required to use a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the violations and spend up to $5 million to implement recommendations from the investigation.

Consulting firm Kearney’s investigation found the facility met environmental permit requirements, but also pinpointed areas for improvement, including personnel training and systems upgrades, some of which was already underway.

“We need to improve our performance and improve the trust people have in us,” Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City refinery said in an interview, adding that the refinery had already undertaken some of the recommendations from the investigation.

In mid-April, Suncor will begin a turnaround at the facility that includes an upgrade to a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Plant 1 of the facility. That turnaround is anticipated to be complete in June 2021.

Suncor last year completed a similar upgrade of an automatic shutdown system for the FCCU at the refinery’s Plant 2.

By 2023, the company will also install an additional control unit, upgraded instrumentation, automated shutdown valves and new hydraulic pressure units in Plant 2.

Together, those upgrades will cost approximately $12 million, of which roughly $10 million is dedicated to Plant 2 upgrades, Suncor said on Monday.


(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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