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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 3 – CBC.ca

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The all-important College Scholastic Ability Test took place Thursday across South Korea, including in this Seoul classroom. More than 426,000 students were taking the one-day exam, including, in isolation, 41 who have tested positive for the coronavirus and hundreds of others in self-quarantine. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

National vaccine deployment plan calls for up to 205 vaccine distribution locations across Canada

Canadians heard extensively for the first time on Thursday from Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who has been tasked by the federal government with leading vaccination logistics and operations. While the country is facing unprecedented “logistical complexities,” the military and its partners will be ready to deploy COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are approved in Canada, Fortin said.

The former NATO commander, along with the other public health officials who spoke at Thursday’s news conference, tried to provide assurances for the many questions still swirling in the air, including the cold storage capacities for feeding the supply chain given the temperature requirements of some of the vaccines.

Eventually, there will be 205 “points of issue” locations across the country where health-care professionals can administer the vaccine, Fortin said. It will be up to the provinces and territories to specify where and when individual Canadians will be inoculated.

The national operations centre has conducted one dry run scenario, with others planned. Fortin said exercises and planning have contemplated a number of possible complications, including treacherous winter delivery conditions, fires at distribution hubs and cyberattacks.

With respect to Pfizer’s vaccine, which needs to be kept at approximately -80 C to remain stable, Fortin said his team is in daily contact with the company and there have been no hiccups with Canada’s plans. The Pfizer product will be delivered by that company directly to provincial and territorial distribution points as early as the end of the month, he said, and the federal government has secured the cold storage required for this vaccine. In addition, the provinces have indicated where the Pfizer-specific fridges should be placed, according to Fortin.

The total supply of doses and prioritization of vaccine recipients will be key, ongoing questions. Government officials have previously said they hoped some three million people could get vaccinated through the first quarter of 2021, but Canada is not manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines and will rely on importing them through deals it’s struck with the pharmaceutical companies.

Health Canada has said its approval of at least one vaccine could come within the next two weeks, not long after U.S. regulators meet.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said the federal government is now refining who is best suited to first get a dose of a vaccine. Early guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) suggests seniors in long-term care homes and front-line health-care workers will be among the first to get a shot.

Click below to watch more from The National

IN BRIEF

Alberta planning for COVID-19 field hospitals, according to internal document

An Alberta Health Services document obtained by CBC News shows the province has been planning for more than a week to set up indoor field hospitals that could treat up to 750 COVID-19 patients.

The document dated Nov. 28 outlines plans for 375 beds each in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms. Patients requiring intensive care would remain in city hospitals.

The field hospitals draft plan underscores the severity of the public-health crisis Alberta faces — and provides a sobering sign of where officials believe the trajectory of virus infections could be headed. There were 504 people in hospitals and 97 in ICUs in Alberta on Wednesday. A total of 561 people in the province have died from the disease since the start of the pandemic.

The greatest challenge to making the hospitals operational by December or January would be staffing, and the document references potentially calling in the military to assist. Other logistical challenges would be building adequate toilet, shower and handwashing facilities at the proposed sites as well as determining whether an oxygen supply infrastructure could be established.

Dr. Noel Gibney, a veteran Edmonton critical-care doctor who has publicly criticized the government’s pandemic response, says the field hospital planning is sensible due diligence planning, but he said the government has clearly not told the public the degree of risk they are now facing while continuing with policies that downplay the risk.

“On one hand, we are having provincial planning at a disaster level or for an upcoming disaster,” he said. “And on the other hand, we are being told everything is fine.”

In addition, CBC News has learned through a source close to the federal government that Alberta has inquired with the Trudeau government and the Red Cross about supplying field hospitals to help offset the strain COVID-19 is having on the province’s health-care system.

Read more about what’s happening in Alberta 

Quebec cancels plans to allow Christmas gatherings as COVID-19 cases surge

Quebec Premier François Legault on Thursday backtracked on his plan to allow gatherings over the Christmas holiday period after a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths that caused doctors at some hospitals to voice their concerns.

Legault said that gatherings in the province’s hard-hit “red zones,” which encompass most of the province, will be prohibited over the holidays.

“When we look at the situation, we are forced to realize that it is not realistic to think that we are going to succeed in reducing the progression of the virus in a satisfactory way by Christmas,” he said.

Legault announced last month that people would be allowed to gather in groups of 10 over a four-day period, from Dec. 24 through Dec. 27, if they isolated for a week before and after. He later said people should only gather twice during that period.

The province reported more than 1,500 daily cases for the first time ever on Wednesday, and more than 1,400 again Thursday.

“If we continue in this direction, hospitals will start to overflow. We have a limited number of nurses, and our nurses are very tired,” the premier said.

Legault did allow that Quebecers could individually visit a person living alone, particularly the elderly, over the holidays. But he stressed visitors in such circumstances need to be wearing masks, maintaining a two-metre distance and not staying very long. Visits to the province’s long-term care homes and seniors’ residences, however, will be prohibited — with the exception of caregivers.

Read more about the situation in Quebec

Dozens of internationally educated nurses are on the sidelines in Manitoba

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said recently a special designation will be granted to 39 internationally educated nurses waiting on English tests so they can practise in Manitoba and have the language requirement temporarily waived, but it’s not clear when that will happen.

Bhupinder Grewal, originally from India, is among the internationally educated nurses who’ve struggled and been inconvenienced by a recurring two-year English language test that is required for licensing. Both of the English tests that would be suitable to take are not being administered this year because of the pandemic.

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said it’s a shame the internationally educated nurses are unable to work because of a language test when they have otherwise shown the necessary skills through bridging tests to meet Canadian standards. The union says the nursing vacancy rate in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health combined is around 16 per cent.

“We are in a nursing shortage. We’re at a critical nursing shortage in many areas. We are desperate to have every possible nurse that can work in the system,” she said.

The Touchstone Institute, responsible for administering the Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses, says the two-year expiry date on the language requirement, is “based on the assumption that the measure of examinees’ capabilities at a given point in time may become less trustworthy indicators of those capabilities as time passes.”

When contacted by CBC for this story, Friesen’s office declined to comment, but said it will provide an update on the special designation soon.

Read more about the situation

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

Why children in Canada won’t immediately receive a COVID-19 vaccine

There is currently no human pediatric data for vaccine candidates to protect against COVID-19, although that could change in 2021.

Federal statistics show that at 8.1 million Canadians, children and teens make up one-fifth of the population. But younger immune systems are more active than those of adults, and children often show stronger immune reactions to vaccines in terms of side-effects.

“Children often will need either a slightly different formulation or a smaller dose of a vaccine, so it’s appropriate to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective in adults and then move on to that testing,” said Shannon MacDonald, an assistant professor in the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta who conducts public health research, including on vaccines.

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that it could take months before those younger than 18 in the U.S. general public could get a coronavirus vaccine, if approved by regulators.

Pfizer announced in October it was expanding vaccine testing to those 12 and older, while Moderna said this week it expects to test the vaccine on children between the ages of 12 and 17 in the coming weeks and on younger children in 2021. The developments are likely welcomed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which wrote an open letter to U.S. federal health officials to ensure children are not left out of vaccine efforts.

Although it’s far from guaranteed, it is possible adults will gain enough immunity from vaccinations that widespread vaccinations of children will not be necessary.

“Some vaccines contribute to herd immunity because the person who gets the vaccine doesn’t spread any infection,” says Dr. Joanne Langley of Dalhousie University, who is the co-leader of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine task force. “We don’t know for sure yet whether that occurs with the COVID vaccines and how effective it is.”

AND FINALLY…

From a tiny outport to a Vietnamese city, how one Newfoundlander is enduring the pandemic

Sabrina Pinksen, an artist, has been painting and drawing portraits for the last five years. She is shown with a Vietnamese security guard. (Submitted by Sabrina Pinksen)

Many Canadians who live abroad won’t be coming home for the holidays for safety reasons or because of the complications involved with travel quarantines, but Newfoundland and Labrador native Sabrina Pinksen is in one of the safest spots in the world, statistically speaking, with respect to the coronavirus.

Pinksen, who is originally from tiny Wild Cove, near the Baie Verte Peninsula, has been living in Hanoi since 2017. It’s a city nearly twice as populous as Canada’s biggest, but with one-third of the physical space.

But as of Wednesday, Vietnam has recorded 1,351 cases and 35 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the World Health Organization. Even if there was a moderate amount of underreporting, it would be a status that ranks favourably with any country in the world.

“I don’t even think about COVID, going out into my daily life,” Pinksen said. “It’s almost like it wasn’t real.”

Pinksen, who’s passionate about her art but earns her income teaching English through a school, said the disruptions that have occurred with daily life have actually led to more of a demand for her services, as some Vietnamese have more free time.

Unlike in North America, there is no cultural resistance to the most publicly visible mitigation measure. Pinksen said: “This is a mask-wearing country anyway. So even before COVID, a lot of people would wear masks.”

Pinksen is not able to travel to Canada for the holidays and admits to being homesick — it’s been 15 months since she’s been home and her father has a serious health issue.

But, she said, “I’m very grateful that everything in Newfoundland is OK right now.”

Read more about life in Vietnam during the pandemic 

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here

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Alberta premier suggests Canada impose trade sanctions if U.S. refuses to discuss Keystone XL decision – CBC.ca

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to revoke the permit for Calgary-based TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline was a “gut punch,” characterizing it as a direct attack on the trade relationship between the two countries.

“Sadly, [this is] an insult directed at the United States’s most important ally and trading partner,” Kenney said during a press conference held Wednesday.

Kenney said he was calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sit down with the new administration, suggesting that the federal government impose trade and economic sanctions should those efforts be refused.

“Canada is part of the solution to the energy transition, but today’s decision was made without giving Canada the chance to make that case,” Kenney said.

WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reacts to Keystone decision:

Premier Jason Kenney responds to U.S. President Joe Biden’s move to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, calling it, “an insult directed at the United States’s most important ally and trading partner.” 1:55

Prior to Kenney’s comments, both Trudeau and Canadian Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman indicated that while disappointed with the decision, they were resigned to live with it.

“While we welcome the president’s commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the president’s decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL,” Trudeau said in a statement.

Biden revoked the permit for the $8-billion pipeline via executive action a few hours after being sworn in as the 46th U.S. president Wednesday.

“I’m proud of today’s executive actions, and I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people,” Biden said from the Oval Office.

Biden’s revoking of the permit was part of a series of executive orders aimed at tackling climate change that also included re-entering the Paris climate accord. 

Biden’s 15 executive actions also introduced a national mask mandate and reversed outgoing president Donald Trump’s ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries.

The Alberta government agreed last year to invest about $1.5 billion as equity in the project, plus billions more in loan guarantees. As a result, the Canadian leg of the project has been under construction for several months with about 1,000 workers in southeast Alberta. 

Trudeau pledges support for energy workers

In his statement, Trudeau said he had spoken directly with Biden about the project in November, and Hillman along with others in the government had made Canada’s case to high-level officials in the administration.

“Workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and across Canada will always have our support,” he said. “Canada is the single-largest supplier of energy to the United States, contributing to U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness, and supporting thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.”

Trudeau said his government did welcome the new administration’s moves to rejoin the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, and to temporarily suspend oil and natural gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole called the cancellation of the pipeline “devastating.”

“We need to get as many people back to work, in every part of Canada, in every sector, as quickly as possible. The loss of this important project only makes that harder,” O’Toole said in a statement.

“Justin Trudeau should have done more to stand up for our world-class energy sector and the men and women who depend on it to provide for their families.”

TC Energy says it’s considering its options

In a statement released Wednesday morning, TC Energy said it was disappointed in the move and warned it would lead to the layoffs of thousands of unionized workers.

“TC Energy will review the decision, assess its implications and consider its options,” the statement reads. “However, as a result of the expected revocation of the presidential permit, advancement of the project will be suspended.”

The company said the decision would “overturn an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade.”

The company struck a deal with four labour unions to build the pipeline and has an agreement in place with five Indigenous tribes to take a roughly $785-million ownership stake.

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada said in a news release it is disappointed that Biden is “putting politics before reason.” 

“We’re disappointed that the new president has lost sight of the huge economic and strategic advantages of this project,” said PCAC president Paul de Jong.

“Pulling the plug on a major project, hours after taking office, is a rocky starting point for re-setting Canada/U.S. relations.”

The association, whose member companies employ thousands of Alberta and B.C. construction workers, said the pipeline would have generated as many as 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada and the United States.

If completed, the 1,897-kilometre pipeline, first announced in 2005, would carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to Nebraska. It would then connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

Canadian producers, who have struggled for years from low prices partly related to sometimes-congested pipelines, have long supported Keystone XL.

In a statement, Suncor Energy said it backed expanding market access to the U.S. through pipelines like KXL, which would provide responsibly sourced oil to U.S. refineries for the benefit of U.S. consumers.

(CBC News)

But a Canada Energy Regulator report in November said western Canadian crude exports are expected to remain below total pipeline capacity over the next 30 years if KXL and two other projects proceed, prompting environmental groups to question the need for all three.

Biden signalled plan for months

For months, Biden had said he intended to cancel the project if elected.

Trudeau said he raised the issue with Biden prior to the inauguration and reaffirmed Canada’s support for the project.

Hillman said she was disappointed but that Canada would accept the decision. 

“We respect that that’s the decision he’s made,” she said. “He had made a commitment during his campaign, and he lived up to that commitment, and I think we have to accept that and move forward.”

WATCH | Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman reacts to Keystone decision:

Canada’s Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman tells the CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault that she “respects” but is “disappointed” by U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit. 0:47

Greg Anderson, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, says Canadians tend to look at narrow trade conflicts as a sort of barometer for the larger relationship with the U.S. but added “that just isn’t the case.”

He also says the province faces bigger challenges than the loss of one pipeline. 

“I think a lot of Albertans were hoping that maybe this could just kind of slide by and the pipeline would get built,” said Anderson. 

“But the Keystone pipeline is not the Alberta economy. You know, it’s not going to save Alberta or solve Alberta’s problems. It might have helped on the margins, but Alberta has bigger fish to fry.” 

The pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change.

The Obama administration rejected it in 2015, prompting TC Energy in 2016 to launch a lawsuit and a multibillion-dollar North American Free Trade Agreement claim against the U.S. government.

The company changed course after Donald Trump revived it once he became president four years ago and gave it strong support. Construction has already started in the United States. 

TC Energy could now take similar action in order to prevent walking away from Keystone XL empty-handed after a dozen years of setbacks, billions of dollars spent and thousands of pages of filings.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Health officials throughout the United States are pinning their hopes on U.S. President Joe Biden as they struggle to obtain coronavirus vaccines.

Doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been arriving haphazardly as they make their way from the federal government to their final destinations in counties, cities and hospitals throughout the U.S. 

A number of states are reporting they are running out of vaccines, and tens of thousands of people who managed to get appointments for a first dose are seeing them cancelled.

The full explanation for the apparent mismatch between supply and demand was unclear, but last week the U.S. Health and Human Services Department suggested that states had unrealistic expectations for how much vaccine was on the way.

Amazon on Wednesday sent a letter to Biden offering to help by administering vaccines at its facilities. 

“We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts,” Dave Clark, the chief executive of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, said in the letter.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday that more than 2.1 million people in the country have now received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, up more than 138,000 from Tuesday’s number. More than 16 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the U.S. overall, according to the CDC. The country’s COVID-19 death toll tops more than 400,000.

San Francisco’s public health department said it was likely to run out of the vaccine on Thursday, in part because the state pulled back on administering a batch of Moderna shots after several health workers had a bad reaction.

A person gets an antibody test during the ‘No Cost Antibody’ testing event organized by Calvary Baptist Church of Santa Monica and GUARDaHEART Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif., on Tuesday. California has been struggling with surging COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations. (Valeria Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

The county health department received 12,000 doses last week but fewer than 2,000 doses this week, although local hospitals had their own supplies. But Mayor London Breed said she was “ready to celebrate” when Biden takes office on Wednesday, believing there will be more support.

Across the country, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the city had to cancel 23,000 appointments for people awaiting their first dose this week because of inadequate supply. The mayor, who has been sounding the alarm about vaccine shortages for days, said the situation was compounded by a delay in this week’s delivery of the Moderna vaccine to the city.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said the 103,400 Moderna doses that were scheduled for delivery on Tuesday — 54,200 first doses and 49,200 second doses — were now expected Wednesday and Thursday.

Citing a statewide shortage of vaccine, New York City’s police department suspended first-shot vaccinations for its officers.

Biden addresses COVID-19 pandemic

Biden wasted no time addressing the COVID-19 pandemic after his inauguration. One of the first executive orders he signed as president requires masks to be worn and physical distancing measures to be followed in federal buildings, on federal land and by federal employees and contractors — a departure from former president Donald Trump, who often refused to wear one.

The 46th president of the United States is also directing the government to rejoin the World Health Organization.

During his inauguration speech on Wednesday, Biden spoke of the damage done by the global pandemic, calling it a “once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country.”

The virus, he said, has “taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War Two.”

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden’s inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Biden spoke about the ravages of COVID-19 on people’s lives and the economic cost of the pandemic as he took office, becoming the 46th president. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Biden urged people to come together and not “retreat into competing factions.”

“My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we’re going to need each other,” he said in his first address as president “We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.”

The U.S. is entering what may be the “toughest and deadliest” period of the pandemic, Biden said.

“We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation — one nation.”

As he stood on stage before a physically distanced crowd, Biden asked people to join him in a prayer for all those who have died as a result of COVID-19.

“Those 400,000 fellow Americans — moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbours and co-workers — we’ll honour them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.”

– From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

As of 3:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 724,326 cases of COVID-19, with 68,923 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,427.

Vaccine distribution remained a concern in several provinces as supplies ran low and federal officials worked to answer questions about when new doses would arrive. 

Canada won’t be getting any Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines next week and will be getting 50 per cent fewer than expected over the next month, officials said Tuesday, prompting the leader of Canada’s most populous province to ask U.S. president-elect Joe Biden to share a million doses from Pfizer’s Michigan plant.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout and distribution of vaccines, called it a major reduction but said Pfizer is still expected to meet its contractual obligation to ship four million doses to Canada by the end of March.

Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, said he’s angry. He asked Biden to help Canada out, noting there’s a Pfizer plant in Michigan.

“Our American friends, help us out,” Ford said. “You have a new president, no more excuses. Help us out.”

In measured comments on Wednesday, health officials in Manitoba said the reduction will not lead any vaccine appointments to be cancelled. It has reduced its vaccination goal to 1,496 per day in Februrary, down from 2,500 doses per day.

In Ottawa, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the federal government is working with the provinces to prioritize vaccinating Indigenous people against COVID-19.

Miller told a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday that there is a need to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to Indigenous people living both on reserves and in urban centres.

He said he has been concerned that the federal government is not able to vaccinate Indigenous people living off-reserve, where the provinces provide heath services.

“This is the case with respect to Métis populations,” Miller said, noting that that’s also the case for First Nations people living off reserves, as well as for Inuit people.

“This is a particularly acute issue and challenge when we’re talking about the deployment of the vaccine,” he said.

Ottawa is doing “quiet work” with the provinces, he said, to prioritize vaccinating Indigenous people living off-reserve.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, left, with the department’s chief medical officer of public health, Dr. Tom Wong, responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

In a news release on Wednesday, Indigenous Services Canada said there have been 89 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths in long-term care homes in Indigenous communities on reserves.

The number of COVID-19 active cases in First Nations communities reached an all-time high this week with 5,571 reported cases as of Tuesday.

Officials with Nunavut‘s Department of Health met a passenger on an inbound flight to Iqaluit on Wednesday. The individual received a positive test result for COVID-19 after taking off from Ottawa.

“The passenger is asymptomatic and doing well. As a precaution, the individual will be taken to Qikiqtani General Hospital and isolated,” Dr. Mike Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said in a statement. “A followup COVID-19 test will be performed to rule out the possibility of a false positive. We are expecting the test results later this afternoon.”

The rest of the passengers — approximately 100 people — will be kept at the airport until the test results are back, according to the statement.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver announced the territory has no active cases of COVID-19 in the territory’s weekly briefing, down from six active cases last week. He praised residents’ vigilance and collective efforts and said they are “clearly working.”

Ontario reported 2,655 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 89 additional deaths, bringing the death toll in the province to 5,568. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 stood at 1,598, with 395 in intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard.

Saskatchewan reported 234 new cases of COVID-19 and four new deaths on Wednesday.

Manitoba reported six new deaths and 154 more cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, though health officials said case numbers are headed in the right direction overall. The province also announced the release of a new online dashboard to provide information about its immunization campaign. Officials are expected to announce the loosening of some pandemic restrictions on Friday.

Quebec on Wednesday reported 1,502 new cases of COVID-19 and 66 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 9,208. Figures published by the province on Wednesday showed a slight decrease in hospitalizations, with 1,467 COVID-19 patients in Quebec hospitals including 216 in intensive care.

The update comes a day after Premier François Legault called on the federal government to ban all non-essential flights to Canada. Legault said he’s worried that people travelling to vacation destinations will bring back new variants of COVID-19.

Public health officials in New Brunswick, meanwhile, reported 31 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and one additional death from the disease.

“We have never been in a situation like this since pandemic began,” Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday. “I cannot stress enough that this is a critical moment…. Stay home as much as you possibly can and avoid interacting with people outside your household bubble.”

As of midnight Tuesday, the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions were set to join the Edmundston region at the red level of the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

Nova Scotia reported three new cases and one new death Wednesday. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the province is 1,564.

Here’s a look at what else is happening with COVID-19 across the country:

– From CBC News, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press, last updated at 4:15 p.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

WATCH | ‘The world was not prepared,’ says WHO interim pandemic report:

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the world, the World Health Organization released an interim report on lessons learned. And it’s not flattering toward the WHO itself, China or even Canada. 2:00

As of Wednesday evening, more than 96.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 53 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than two million.

In the Americas, five trucks carrying oxygen from Venezuela have arrived at Manaus, a city of two million people in the Brazilian rainforest where the local health system has collapsed amid a devastating second wave of COVID-19 and a severe shortage of oxygen for breathless patients.

Family members of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 line up with empty oxygen tanks in an attempt to refill them outside the Nitron da Amazonia company in Manaus, Brazil, on Jan. 15, 2021. Five trucks containing oxygen tanks reached the city Tuesday from Venezuela. (Edmar Barros/The Associated Press)

Venezuela’s consul in Manaus says the trucks delivered 132,000 litres of oxygen late Tuesday. They came from the state of Bolivar in southern Venezuela and travelled more than 1,500 kilometres to Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state. 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the move Sunday night. He is a political adversary of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has drawn criticism for his handling of the crisis in Manaus as well as the pandemic in general, which has caused more than 207,000 deaths in Brazil.

Dozens of merchants protested Wednesday in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota against the local government’s pandemic restrictions. Some protesters carried signs suggesting keeping their businesses closed will make them go bankrupt. The city is set to experience the third weekend in a row under a strict lockdown.

Protesters march toward the residence of Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez on Wednesday to demand the lifting of the citywide curfew and the reopening of businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ivan Valencia/The Associated Press)

Mayor Claudia Lopez has said the restrictions are in response to an increase in COVID-19 infections and the high occupancy of hospital intensive care units.

Colombia has recorded 1,939,071 COVID-19 cases and 49,402 deaths, according to the latest report from the country’s Ministry of Health. Government data shows more than 91 per cent of ICU beds are currently in use.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China’s capital Beijing said it will investigate all individuals who entered the city from abroad from Dec. 10 and shut down a subway station after reporting the biggest daily jump in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks.

South Korea may secure additional coronavirus vaccines for 20 million people from U.S. drugmaker Novavax Inc., President Moon Jae-in said, according to a statement from the presidential office.

.

In the Middle East, Kuwait has registered its first cases of a more contagious coronavirus variant in two Kuwaiti women who had been in Britain.

The government of Dubai on Wednesday ordered all hospitals to cancel non-essential surgeries for the next month as coronavirus infections surge to unprecedented heights in the United Arab Emirates. For the ninth consecutive day, the UAE shattered its record for new infections, reporting 3,509 cases. Daily infections in the country have nearly tripled since November. 

In Africa, Nigeria will seek to procure vaccines that are less dependent on cooling facilities, as more than 2,600 Nigerian physicians have contracted COVID-19 and dozens have died.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Germany may need to consider border crossing curbs if other European countries do not act to halt the spread of the coronavirus, particularly its new, more transmissible variants.

The spread of the coronavirus in France could sharply accelerate in the coming months due to the emergence of a more contagious variant, two Paris hospital executives said on Wednesday, raising fears of a third lockdown in the country.

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 5:15 p.m. ET

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Pfizer pitches Canada for tax breaks in upcoming budget – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Pfizer Canada is pitching the federal government to bring in new tax breaks and change related corporate tax policies, suggesting the feds need to do more to incentivize pharmaceutical companies to invest domestically in a post-pandemic world.

Specifically, Pfizer is proposing that in the upcoming federal budget, the government “maintain or reduce corporate income tax rates,” and offers a series of suggestions of ways to do so.

The company suggests that the federal Liberals provide certainty about how Canadian tax rules, regulations, and policies will be “fair, clear and predictable,” particularly in how they apply to scientific research and development as well as contract manufacturing.

Pfizer also wants to see Canada:

  • Improve existing legislative tax measures such as increasing the Manufacturing & Processing (M&P) credit which decreases the federal corporate income tax rate;
  • Repeal or postpone the planned phasing out of the Accelerated Investment Incentive beyond 2023, which offers tax relief on newly-acquired eligible property assets; and 
  • Expand eligibility to certain tax credits so that they are refundable to multinational enterprises, not only to Canadian-controlled private corporations.

The company makes the case that a strong pharmaceutical sector can play a role in Canada’s economic restart and recovery post-pandemic but in order for that to happen, the government has to create a “fertile and hospitable environment” to retain and attract that investment.

It also notes that Canada will be competing for that investment with other countries who are implementing tax policies that attract manufacturing, research and development facilities looking to set up new locations and offer high-skilled and well-paid jobs.

The policy recommendations are detailed by the Canadian arm of the international pharmaceutical giant, in a pre-budget submission provided to the House of Commons Finance Committee. 

“Pfizer and others in the health and life sciences industry have been at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, we also wish to be at the forefront of helping with the economic recovery,” said Pfizer Canada President Cole C. Pinnow in the submission.

“Improvements to tax incentives cannot, alone, succeed in retaining and attracting economic activity in the healthcare sector but they are important building blocks. The overall business environment must be attractive, including clear and predictable tax outcomes.”

The pre-budget submission was one of 792 different pitches from various stakeholders, corporations and business people, offering their perspective to federal policymakers as to what should, or shouldn’t be included in the upcoming 2021 federal budget.

Pfizer’s submission was published by the committee on Nov. 21, 2020, before the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was granted Health Canada regulatory approval. Since then the federal government has been in ongoing discussions with Pfizer about its vaccine delivery schedule.

That schedule was recently interrupted by Pfizer, and is leaving Canada without any new doses arriving next week. It’s thrown the national rollout off track, though the company has made assurances that it’ll soon make up for the temporary shortages. 

CTVNews.ca has reached out to Pfizer Canada for comment.

According to the Finance Committee’s website, no submission has been received from Moderna, the second pharmaceutical giant to have its COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in this country.

Receiving and scrutinizing pre-budget submissions are a routine aspect of the work done by the committee. Ahead of every federal budget the members hear from often hundreds of witnesses during dozens of committee hearings or as part of written proposals.

The committee then compiles what it’s heard and that’s submitted to the finance minister and other federal officials who are in charge of crafting the federal budget to inform their consideration.

The upcoming 2021 federal budget will be presented by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. It’ll be the first formal budget presented by the Liberals since 2019, after the 2020 version was postponed and then ultimately not completed, citing the unprecedented economic uncertainty and spending resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.  

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