Public health officials call for tighter restrictions, warn COVID-19 could spiral out of control
Infectious disease experts say Canadian health authorities must tighten restrictions again, or hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 will increase exponentially in the coming weeks. Canada reported 1,248 new cases Wednesday, and Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam has outlined projections that show new cases could climb to 5,000 daily by October if we continue on the current course.
“To date, we’re not moving fast enough to get ahead of this,” Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease physician based at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, told CBC News. “I think we’re being lulled into a false sense of security because of the low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths [relative to earlier in the pandemic]. But they will come in the next six weeks or so.”
He said asking people nicely to tighten their social circles is not going to be enough. Gardam said Canadians grew fatigued with the restrictions imposed on their social circles earlier in the year and won’t be eager to return to them unless pressed. “I think we’re going to have to be a lot more forceful,” he said. Right now, “people are playing fast and loose with bubbles all over the place.”
The actions taken in the next two weeks could change the trajectory of the pandemic in the months to come, said Laura Rosella, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “There’s a lot of things with this pandemic that we can’t control, but we might be able to control who we interact with, especially socially, and who’s in our bubble,” said Rosella. “I would encourage everyone to rethink what their bubbles are given the new situation.”
Getting a handle on this COVID-19 surge means returning to restrictions implemented earlier in the pandemic, said Dr. Samir Gupta, a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto. Speaking with Heather Hiscox on CBC Morning Live Wednesday, Gupta said Canadians “need to start making similar sacrifices to the ones we made the first time around,” which was successful with flattening the curve in the spring.
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Ontario sees 409 new COVID-19 cases, rolls out $1B updated testing and contact-tracing plan
Ontario reported an additional 409 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as Premier Doug Ford said his government will invest $1 billion to expand testing and contact-tracing capacity heading into flu season, including some $30 million to “prevent and manage outbreaks” in priority settings such as long-term care facilities, retirement homes and schools.
The province’s network of labs is currently facing a backlog of 53,840 test samples, the most since cases of the infection were first detected in January. During a media briefing, health officials said that publicly funded testing sites are moving away from offering tests to asymptomatic people. Instead, the province will return to a more targeted approach as hospitals, testing sites and labs have reported being overwhelmed by public demand for tests.
“We know that over the summer, when we opened up testing to anybody who wanted it, we did not find cases,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health. “Right now, we need to focus on people who are symptomatic, people who are contacts, people in outbreaks, or in very specific populations where we have designated that testing needs to occur. Your average person out there who is not exposed to a case … should not be going for testing. There’s no value. In fact, what we found is when there’s very little COVID in that group, what we end up with is false positives, which just complicates things even more.”
Testing of asymptomatic people will be limited to pharmacies, an initiative announced by Ford earlier this week. According to Matthew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health, the province hopes to have capacity for up to 50,000 tests per day some time in October.
No one likes wearing a mask — but with COVID-19 cases rising, you should put it on more often than you think
Experts are warning that at this point in the pandemic, when the benefits of mask-wearing are growing clear and COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly, Canadians should be donning their masks as much as possible.
“Keep wearing your mask, as much as you can, especially with people you don’t live with,” Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, stressed on Monday. Multiple experts who spoke to CBC News this week say that means keeping a mask on in a variety of settings, even if local bylaws don’t mandate it.
Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University and an infectious disease consultant at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said masks are helpful when staying a couple of metres apart is challenging — “even if you’re on the patio, until you have to eat and drink, and then putting it back on afterwards,” he said. “We just have to kind of get people to make it a reflex.”
Edmonton-based health policy expert Timothy Caulfield agreed that people should strive to wear a mask around anyone from outside their own household. “If it’s an indoor environment and you can’t get that good two-metre space all the time, think about wearing a mask — even if it’s family members,” said Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy and research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.
Liberals boost some COVID-19 benefits in new bill
The federal government tabled legislation Thursday to provide what it’s calling a “safe bridge” for Canadians who are still experiencing lost income due to COVID-19. The proposed new suite of measures aims to transition people from the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) to an employment insurance program with expanded eligibility or to one of three new recovery benefits. Bill C-2 also provides for a 10-day sick leave benefit — something the NDP had demanded.
During a news conference in Ottawa, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the CERB was introduced quickly at a time when most of the economy was at a standstill. As the country moves into economic recovery mode, the government is better placed to deliver financial support in a more sophisticated way, she said. “I think we’ve created, in Bill C-2, a much more elegant balance between the need to not disincentivize work but also support people who, regardless of effort, still aren’t working or have significantly reduced hours,” she said.
Qualtrough said the past few months have exposed gaps in the EI system, which is why the government wants to modernize it to better reflect Canada’s current labour market. Measures in the legislation offer greater flexibility on the work hours required for the EI benefit, making it easier for people to qualify for a one-year period.
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world.
Quebec’s early March break contributed to province’s spring woes, study suggests
COVID-19 could have been carried to Quebec by as few as 247 people coming home from travelling, according to a new genome sequencing study conducted by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec and the McGill Genome Center. The study looked at the genome sequences of 734 COVID-19 samples in Quebec between mid-February and April 1 and compared them to over 21,000 other samples elsewhere in the world.
In Quebec, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was traced back to as early as Feb. 25, according to the study, but it and other early cases were well contained and did not lead to sustained transmission. “It was a trickle at first,” said Jesse Shapiro, an associate professor in the department for human genetics and head of genome sciences at McGill, noting that it was easier to manage the few cases of COVID-19 in the province at that time.
That trickle turned into a rush of new arrivals after the province’s early spring break, with hundreds of travellers returning to Quebec after travelling abroad. The study, which has not been peer reviewed, suggests what many already suspected: the early break, which began Feb. 29, was a key factor in the spread of the virus before the lockdown in mid-March.
According to the study, nearly one-third of the infections in Quebec came through Europe, with 12 per cent coming from France. Just under 31 per cent of the virus samples studied came from the Caribbean and Latin America, and around 24 per cent came from the United States. Few transmissions appeared to come from Asia.
Disney postpones Black Widow, West Side Story
The Walt Disney Co. has further postponed its next mega-movies from Marvel, including Black Widow, while also postponing Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story a full year in the company’s latest recalibration due to the pandemic.
Ten of Disney’s top films shuffled release dates Wednesday, uprooting several of the company’s major fall releases. The Scarlett Johansson Marvel movie Black Widow, last set for Nov. 6, heads now to May 7 of next year. Instead of opening next month, Kenneth Branagh’s murder mystery Death on the Nile moves to Dec. 18. That was the date set for West Side Story, but Spielberg’s musical will instead debut in December 2021.
Disney didn’t entirely abandon the season. The Pixar release Soul remains on the calendar for late November. But the delays of Disney’s upcoming blockbusters reinforce the growing exodus from 2020 among the movies that hadn’t already uprooted to next year.
Find out more about COVID-19
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Ant Group raises $34.4 billion in the biggest IPO of all time – CNBC Television
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- Ant Group raises $34.4 billion in the biggest IPO of all time CNBC Television
- Ant Group set to surpass Aramco as biggest-ever IPO Aljazeera.com
- Chinese fintech could shatter records with US$35B share offer CTV News
- Jack Ma Wealth Surges Above Walmart Heirs’ With Record Ant IPO BNN
- Behold the Mighty Ant The Wall Street Journal
- View Full coverage on Google News
Ant Group set to surpass Aramco as biggest-ever IPO – Aljazeera.com
Jack Ma’s fintech giant Ant Group is set to raise $34.5bn through initial public offerings in Shanghai and Hong Kong – a listing that will rank as the largest ever.
Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co is set to raise about $34.5 billion through initial public offerings in Shanghai and Hong Kong, a blockbuster listing that will rank as the biggest IPO ever and make it one of the most valuable finance firms on the planet.
The fintech giant will have a market value of $315 billion even before exercising its greenshoe option, based on filings Monday. That’s about the same valuation as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and four times larger than Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
The IPO is attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest money managers, and sparking a frenzy among individual investors in China clamoring for a piece of the sale. In the preliminary price consultation of its Shanghai IPO, institutional investors subscribed for over 76 billion shares, or over 284 times of the initial offline offering tranche, according to Ant’s Shanghai offering announcement.
“This was the first time such a big listing, the largest in human history, was priced outside New York City,” billionaire founder Ma told the Bund Summit in Shanghai Saturday. “We wouldn’t have dared to think about it five years, or even three years ago.”
Such demand puts the much-anticipated IPO on track to surpass Saudi Aramco’s $29 billion sale last year. Ant priced its Shanghai stock at 68.8 yuan ($10.27) apiece and its Hong Kong shares at HK$80 ($10.32) each. The company may raise another $5.17 billion if it exercises its greenshoe options.
This is “a homecoming for capital markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong,” said existing investor John Ho, founder of Janchor Partners. Ho, who invested $400 million in Ant two years ago, added that he’s trying to secure a bigger allocation of the Hong Kong shares and that being able to invest in Ant “is priceless.”
T. Rowe Price Group Inc., UBS Asset Management and FMR LLC, the parent of Fidelity Investments, are among the money managers angling for a piece of the deal, a person familiar with the matter has said. Hong Kong stockbrokers are so confident Ant IPO will go smoothly that they’re offering to let mom-and-pop investors buy the stock with as much as 20 times leverage.
“The investment thesis of Ant is a systemic valuation transfer from mainstream Chinese financial institutions such as banks to a platform that’s data-driven, with a huge network effect, and enjoying almost zero marginal costs of cross-selling,” said Nick Xiao, CEO of Hywin International, the Hong Kong arm of Hywin Wealth which is helping rich individuals buy shares of Ant. “Every bank and securities house and fund manager will have to plug into it, while every consumer, corporate or individual, cannot live without it.”
The fintech giant that runs the Alipay platform is charging ahead with its landmark offering just days ahead of the U.S. election. The Hong Kong listing day will be on Nov. 5., only two days after the U.S. vote, an event that could spark market volatility if the vote is disputed or counting delayed.
Ant has picked China International Capital Corp. and CSC Financial Co. to lead its Shanghai leg of the IPO. CICC, Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan. and Morgan Stanley are heading the Hong Kong offering. Existing Ant shareholders won’t be able to sell shares for six months, according to the filings.
The company will issue no more than 1.67 billion shares in China, equivalent to 5.5% of the total outstanding before the greenshoe, according to its prospectus on the Shanghai stock exchange. It will issue the same amount for the Hong Kong offering, or about 3.3 billion shares in total.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which was co-founded by Ma and currently owns about a third of Ant, has agreed to subscribe for 730 million of the Shanghai shares, which will be listed in Shanghai under the ticker “688688,” according to the prospectus. Alibaba will hold about 32% of Ant shares after the IPO.
(Updates with quotes and details throughout.)
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Stock markets sell off on renewed uncertainty over COVID-19 and U.S. election – CBC.ca
Stock markets around the world sold off on Monday as surging coronavirus infections prompted a new wave of fear and uncertainty, barely a week before a U.S. election that could reshape global geopolitics.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day at 27,685, down 689 points or 2.3 per cent. At the lowest point, the benchmark group of 30 large U.S. companies was off by more than 900 points.
The broader S&P 500 and technology-focused Nasdaq fared slightly better, but both closed down by almost two per cent.
The reason for the selling was a new wave of fear washing over markets as COVID-19 infections are rising to record levels in many places.
Spain’s government declared a national state of emergency on Sunday that includes an overnight curfew, while Italy ordered restaurants and bars to close each day by 6 p.m. and shut down gyms, pools and movie theatres.
Numerous Latin American nations also set their own daily case records over the weekend.
After two record days of more than 80,000 new cases over the weekend, the seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. is now at 68,767, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“And nobody is quite sure about what the response is going to be,” said Colin Ciezinsky, chief market strategist with SIA Wealth Management. “Are we going to see widespread lockdowns or more targeted rollbacks? Markets are like a deer caught in headlights.”
TSX down, too
Canadian stocks got swept up in the gloom, although on the whole they held up comparatively better.
The TSX’s main index lost 257 points, down 1.6 per cent on the day.
Travel-related companies were hit hardest, with shares in Air Canada losing more than $1 to close at $15.91. Those same shares were valued at more than $50 apiece in January, but that was before COVID-19 wiped out demand for air travel.
Energy companies were battered too, as the price of oil lost more than three per cent with a barrel of the North American benchmark known as WTI closing at $38.52 US.
Oil’s sell off was mainly due to COVID-19, said Judith Dwarkin, chief economist at Enverus. “COVID’s second wave or third wave has enveloped Europe and prompted a new raft of travel restrictions,” she said. “It’s not surprising there’s heightened volatility in the market.”
Shares in three of the biggest oil companies in Canada — Cenovus, CNR Limited, and Suncor — all fell. Cenovus plunged by eight per cent to $4.47 despite news the company was planning to take over smaller rival Husky in a $23 billion deal.
U.S. election impact
Renewed coronavirus fears were the main thing roiling markets, but the U.S. election was also a contributing factor, Ciezinsky said.
“People are starting to take money off the table,” he said. “They aren’t sure what the result might be or if it is disputed [so] this is about fear and uncertainty. People don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Hopes are also fading that Democrats and Republicans will come together on another stimulus package, but Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers, said some sort of deal is likely once the uncertainty of the election can be settled.
“It’s going to be a little bit volatile in the next week depending on the results, but we’re not expecting weeks of uncertainty,” she said.
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