The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Permanent residents in limbo waiting to immigrate to Canada – CBC.ca
Aashray Kovi refreshes his email several times a day hoping for good news from Canadian immigration officials.
The 28-year-old computer programmer from Bangalore, India is one of about 23,000 aspiring immigrants with expired or soon-to-be expired documents waiting to enter Canada during the pandemic.
“It’s really depressing for all of us,” said Kovi, who plans to settle in Ottawa but can’t travel because his confirmation of permanent residency (COPR) document expired in early June.
Late last month, the federal government lifted COVID-19 restrictions allowing anyone with a valid COPR to land in Canada, which comes after a significant drop in immigration in 2020.
The country permitted 184,000 immigrants last year — the fewest since 1998 — compared to 341,000 in 2019. Canada aims to jump-start immigration with 400,000 new residents per year for the next three years.
Quicker process to reapply
There is a silver lining for those like Kovi who, instead of having to reapply for a new document, waits for Canada to reissue the documents.
That will be a quicker process as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is making exceptions.
The pandemic has significantly impacted processing times, and the government is contacting individuals with expired papers in the “weeks and months to come,” according to a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.
Immigration lawyer Kyle Hyndman estimates more than half of those holding expired COPR documents are skilled workers who were chosen “to contribute to the Canadian labour market.”
Hyndman said the communication from the federal government has been messy, though.
“These people are kind of in a holding pattern … you do a bunch of things to get ready to move that are kind of hard to undo,” he said.
Barely holding on
Sophie Ballesteros from Barcelona, Spain had a job lined up in Halifax and her husband Carlos quit his job months ago to ready himself for a move to Canada.
Then the family’s COPR documents expired in June and there’s been no word yet on when they’ll be renewed.
“This is the first time in my life that I am unemployed,” said Carlos Ballesteros. “I don’t sleep at night.”
Sophie said she is struggling to immerse into her new digital marketing job in Canada while staying physically in Barcelona, while also trying to find a preschool for her four-year-old daughter.
“I have to work within the time zone of Canada and sometimes there are some clients that are from Vancouver,” she said. “It’s hard for my family.”
After receiving their initial approval documents, Sameer Masih and his wife began selling their belongings, including their furniture and car in New Delhi, India.
Seven months later, the couple and their son live in a mostly empty apartment waiting and hoping to find a better life in Canada.
“I am actually surviving on a bare minimum set up,” said Masih, who said the wait cost him a job at his employer’s Toronto office.
The lack of clarity has Masih wondering when his Canadian dream will come true.
“The word ‘soon’ is turning out to be a very negative and dangerous word in this context,” he said.
Canada offers ‘path to protection’ for Afghan interpreters amid ‘critical’ situation – Global News
- The Taliban is advancing rapidly across Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdraw.
- Afghans who aided Canadian troops during the war there are now facing torture and death from the Taliban, prompting urgent calls for the government to help them.
- The program announced Friday will see them and their families welcomed to Canada as refugees, though details on specifics of the plan are scarce.
Canadian officials are on the ground in Afghanistan and working to identify those eligible for a new “path to protection” for Afghans who supported Canadian troops during the war in that country.
The update from the government comes amid what Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino called a “critical” time for those who have helped Canadian soldiers and now face the risk of death and torture by a rapid Taliban advance across the country.
Details on the program are scarce so far but Mendicino said the program will welcome the Afghans and their families as refugees for resettlement. He said while the numbers are in flux, the estimate is that Afghans eligible under the program will be in the “thousands.”
Mendicino said the plan will focus on special immigration measures for Afghan interpreters, Afghans who have worked or are currently working to support the Canadian embassy, as well as their families.
It is also being kept deliberately broad in scope, and will also apply to those who worked in roles such as security guards, cooks, cleaners, drivers, and other roles in support of the embassy.
“We know that time is of the essence,” said Mendicino.
“We expect the first arrivals will be in Canada very shortly.”
Work continues to try to identify the Afghans who will be eligible, he said, but did not provide details when asked on how many individuals will be able to come to Canada or what the timeline is for the effort.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said they could not provide further details because of “operational security,” and said planning with coalition allies on logistics is underway.
“The plan itself has to be guarded for the safety of the people we’re trying to bring to Canada,” he said.
Mendicino talks logistics of resettlement plan for Afghan interpreters, advisors
Canada withdrew troops from Afghanistan in 2011 but after roughly 20 years, U.S. forces are now also in the process of withdrawing from the country after waging a war to remove the Taliban from power.
The Taliban are Islamist extremists who enforce sharia law and held power in Afghanistan from roughly 1996 to 2001 when coalition forces overthrew them.
Now, the Taliban insurgency has been making rapid gains and now holds roughly half of the 421 districts as U.S. forces retreat, raising concerns that the militant extremists will be in a position to support other regional terrorist groups like ISIS and also target those who helped Canadian forces during the war.
Thousands of people have fled the Taliban advance.
As the fighters retake broad swaths of territory, former military leaders and veterans of Canada’s fight in Afghanistan have been urging the government to act quickly to honour the “moral obligation” this country owes to the Afghans who supported the coalition mission.
Mendicino echoed those sentiments on Friday.
“Not only does Canada owe them a debt of gratitude, we have a moral obligation to do right by them,” he said, and described the risk they will face retaliation from the Taliban as “grave.”
Afghan interpreters face death threats from Taliban after U.S. troops leave
In recent days, a group of Canadian veterans have been working to virtually try to coordinate a way for some of the Afghans who worked with soldiers to get to a safer place, pending evacuation, by using their existing network of contacts in the country.
“We managed to get a guy who was surrounded by gunfire, active airstrikes coming in to try and clear the Taliban from the area. He was trapped. And we got him to safety,” said Robin Rickards, a Canadian veteran of the war.
“Well, to relative safety.”
Global News was able to speak with that man — a former Afghan interpreter who was stuck in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province currently under siege by the Taliban. Out of concern for his safety, Global News is not identifying the man or where he is currently located.
“They already have information about the people who work with the coalition forces,” said the interpreter of the Taliban fighters entering the city.
He described witnessing fighting just 500 metres from his home, and said Taliban fighters are dumping bodies of those who helped coalition forces on highways and roads to send a signal as they continue to retake territory across the country.
“They wanted to show the people … we’re going to kill all of them,” he said.
“We want the government to start evacuation as soon as possible.”
Canadian veterans mobilize to help, as Taliban targets Afghan translators
The U.S. State Department said on Monday it plans to evacuate around 2,500 Afghans who assisted American troops during the conflict, and fly them to a military base in Virginia within days.
The U.S. also has what’s known as the Special Immigrant Visa program which allows those who worked with U.S. troops in Afghanistan or Iraq to apply to immigrate. NBC News has cited U.S. officials as saying thousands of Afghans in the process of applying to that program will be flown to either military bases or a third country in order to be able to complete their application in safety.
It’s not yet clear to what extent Canada could coordinate with the U.S. on the evacuations or on moving the Afghans to a safer third country or area while their paperwork is processed.
Sajjan said while Canada is in discussions, he could not provide specific details.
Both the Conservatives and NDP, though, said the government could and should have acted sooner.
Tory Leader Erin O’Toole said the advance of the Taliban was predictable and that there should have been action before now to get the Afghans and their families to safety.
“The Liberal government should have made this announcement weeks ago. The Americans made it clear that they would be leaving Afghanistan months ago, and the rise of the Taliban was an expected result,” he said in a statement.
“Instead of putting forward a plan to help the heroic Afghan interpreters, support staff, and their families, the Trudeau Liberals sat on their hands and did nothing. It’s quite disappointing that these Afghans who saved the lives of our men and women in uniform were an afterthought to this Liberal government.”
NDP defence critic Randall Garrison accused the government of treating the Afghans as an “afterthought” and criticized the lack of details about the plan from the government.
“The US government has committed to providing airlift services for Afghans while their applications are processing, but details of the program are lacking from the Canadian government, including how quickly they will be able to bring them to safety,” he said.
“These collaborators, who played a vital role, have been abandoned for a decade without the support they desperately needed to find safety in Canada and deserve better. Countless interpreters and vital staff along with their families have been living in danger while the Liberals dragged their feet.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Heat waves are increasing across Canada — and hotter nights are also dangerous – CBC.ca
When it comes to climate change, there is one fairly well-understood extreme that will affect humans in the decades to come: heat.
Scientists know that climate change will see events like hurricanes, droughts, floods and heat waves increase in frequency or intensity. But when it comes to heat waves in particular, it’s already being seen across the world with deadly consequences. According to a recent study published in the journal The Lancet, more than five million deaths annually between 2000 and 2019 were associated with “non-optimal temperatures,” with roughly 500,000 of these deaths related to heat.
While many of these deaths occur in tropical countries, heat waves are beginning to affect more northerly climes.
During the heat wave that suffocated British Columbia at the end of June into the first week of July, more than 800 people (as of this writing) died in the province. For comparison, in the same period last year, there were 232 deaths, according to B.C. Coroners Service’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jatinder Baidwan. The coroner’s office is continuing to investigate all of the deaths in order to nail down exactly how many were heat-related.
While we know that daytime temperatures are rising, in some regions — specifically in parts of Ontario and Quebec — nighttime temperatures are warming faster.
Those warmer nights mean our bodies don’t have any time to cool off. For people with health issues like heart disease or asthma, for example, this can be extremely problematic and potentially deadly.
“Our bodies were not designed to put up with environmental heats that exceed the high 30s,” Baidwan said. “If you think about it, what happens to an air conditioning unit? When you stress it, it builds up with lots of ice on the outside and then it stops working. And in some ways that’s a great analogy for what happens to our bodies. With extreme heat, we just find it really hard to do the usual homeostatic sort of mechanisms and protocols that happen in our body.”
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The heat wave that affected the Pacific Northwest was highly unusual — a one in 1,000-year occurrence, according to a recent analysis by the group World Weather Attribution, a collection of scientists who analyze severe weather events. However, parts of eastern Canada, including Ontario and Quebec, are seeing more frequent heat waves and tropical nights, defined as nighttime temperatures 20 C or higher.
For example, according to the Climate Atlas of Canada, the number of tropical nights in Toronto averaged roughly 6.9 annually from 1976 to 2005. With climate change, under a scenario where carbon emissions decline substantially, that is expected to climb to 17.6 annually from 2021 to 2050.
If current rates of carbon emissions continue, the average number of tropical nights in Toronto is expected to hit 20.6 annually from 2021 to 2050. From 2051 to 2080, under the two different scenarios for emissions, the average number would rise to 26.4 and 42.8 respectively.
In 2018, a heat wave blanketed Montreal from June 29 to July 5; temperatures averaged roughly 34 C during the day. Nighttime temperatures didn’t fall below 20 C. In all, 66 people died.
“We’re seeing an increase in hot extremes in Canada that’s larger than the global mean warming,” said Nathan Gillet, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “The average warming in Canada is about twice the global mean warming. And the heat extremes are also increasing at a similar rate. And it’s not just the hottest, maximum temperatures, but the minimum temperatures, the nighttime minimums that are also increasing.”
Widespread effects on nature
Average temperatures in Canada have already warmed by 1.7 C and the country is warming at more than twice the rate of the planet.
Increasing heat waves with higher-than-average temperatures during days and nights are also taking a toll on animals and delicate ecosystems, as well as crops.
A study published in the journal Global Change Biology last October found that nighttime temperatures are rising across most of the world. In those areas that saw more nighttime temperature warming than daytime, there was more cloud cover, higher precipitation and more humidity. This can affect nocturnal animals, but also animals that are active during the day who use the cooler nighttime temperatures to recover from heat stress.
“[The changes] increase the boundaries at which nocturnal species can operate. So you may get shifts in ranges, which then messes up ecosystems from changing competition and changing predation/prey relationships, and things like that,” said Daniel Cox, lead author of the study and a research associate in the U.K. at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute.
A new set of metrics
With the changing climate, governments are finding they need a new set of metrics for severe heat events.
In 2013, Australia added new colours to their heat maps, as temperatures soared beyond anything they’d experienced in the past.
More recently, on Tuesday, the U.K. Met Office issued its first Amber Extreme Heat Warning as temperatures were forecast to rise to the 30s in parts of the country. Daytime temperatures in the 30s may not seem high compared to some parts of Canada but it’s all about what people are accustomed to.
This is how all the Junes since 1880 stack up.<br><br>This is Northern Hemisphere temperature anomaly compared to the long term average 1951-1980. <a href=”https://t.co/97Bn0SnuGn”>pic.twitter.com/97Bn0SnuGn</a>
In another example of how governments are attempting to adapt to a warming climate, a team from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Quebec, together with the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) announced on Wednesday that a new heat wave warning threshold for the province should be introduced. Quebec’s warm seasons, researchers said, are starting earlier and ending later.
As Earth continues to warm, air conditioning may seem like a possible solution. The problem is that energy is needed to operate them, and this also produces heat. And cities create “heat islands” where heating is further amplified by concrete structures, adding more stress to people who are living in a hotter climate. Some cities like Toronto and Montreal are trying to introduce greener building codes and designs to address this.
“[Heat waves aren’t] something we think about as a big hazard in Canada, but as the climate warms, we’re going to see this more and more,” said Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Gillet. “Heat waves cause deaths and and are dangerous. And yeah, it is something … that we’re going to see more and more here in Canada.”
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