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U.S. travel is falling out of favour with Canadians as COVID-19 continues: survey – CTV News



A recent survey by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) suggests that U.S. travel is falling out of favour with Canadians, with European and Caribbean destinations being the most sought-after places to travel to post-pandemic.

While the U.S. is typically the most popular destination for Canadian travellers, the ongoing border closure has stalled tourism and snow birds eager to return to their winter homes.

But, according to the THIA, 79 per cent of Canadians, and 90 per cent of seniors, said they would not travel to the U.S. this winter even if their travel health insurance policy provided coverage for COVID-19.

Instead, the small survey of 1,000 respondents suggests that Canadians are most interested in visiting European and Caribbean destinations when the pandemic subsides.

But many Canadians are still confidently travelling abroad in the midst of the pandemic, despite warnings from the government to avoid all non-essential travel.

Barrie, Ont.-area resident Elizabeth Teffer Hodgson recently returned from a trip to an all-inclusive resort at Montego Bay, Jamaica, noting she felt safer and more comfortable while travelling than she does when going grocery shopping at home.

“I’m 67 years old, I’ve had a lot of travel experience and I thought I’m not going to shy away. I will make up my own mind,” she said of the restrictions, speaking to by phone on Friday.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

By booking with Expedia, Hodgson was able to secure travel insurance that included coverage for COVID-19-related incidents. Several other Canadians wrote into noting they too had taken advantage of this type of travel coverage.

But the THIA notes that the landscape of travel and travel insurance is changing drastically in light of the pandemic.

Will McAleer, executive director of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, warns that with the rollout of vaccination programs in Canada and around the world, some countries may soon start requesting proof of vaccination as a condition to entry.

“Where are Canadians travelling? Most of the time they’re travelling to countries in the Caribbean that have access to far less resources in order to be able to vaccinate their populations,” McAleer told by phone.

“As a result, the likelihood that they want to take extra precautions of those coming in is likely going to happen.”

This idea, sometimes referred to as an immunity passport, has been widely talked about since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But McAleer says it’s still too soon to tell how this may affect the future of travel.

“Yes, it’s likely there’s going to be some sort of overarching requirement where you’re going to need to prove that you’ve got a vaccine in certain countries. The problem is there is no one standard from any of the governments who have started vaccination programs,” he explained.

“We know from our survey one in four, or 25 per cent, of Canadians would be prepared to falsely disclose a condition on a questionnaire, so what would individual’s openness be to suggesting they had a vaccine when they don’t.”

Some frequent fliers say they’d be more eager to get vaccinated if it meant they would be able to travel, such as Winnipeg resident Kathy Kwasnik, who travelled to Mexico twice amid the pandemic and has another trip to the Dominican Republic booked in January.

“We love to travel, mainly in the winter, and if that’s the case I would get the vaccine when its available to the general population,” she told by phone Friday.

In the meantime, McAleer says those who do choose to travel internationally should go through their travel insurance policies with a fine-tooth comb.

“Find out whether it has coverage for something related to COVID and make sure you’re asking the question about whether a travel advisory for a particular country will negate that coverage,” he said.​ 

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Tensions rise as AstraZeneca, EU spar over vaccine delays – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Raf Casert, Samuel Petrequin And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Published Wednesday, January 27, 2021 2:08PM EST

Last Updated Wednesday, January 27, 2021 6:00PM EST

BRUSSELS – The European Union and drugmaker AstraZeneca sparred Wednesday over a delay in coronavirus vaccine deliveries amid a deepening dispute that raises concerns about international competition for limited supplies of the shots needed to end the pandemic.

AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot addressed the dispute for the first time, rejecting the EU’s assertion that the company was failing to honour its commitments. Soriot said vaccine delivery figures in AstraZeneca‘s contract with the 27-nation bloc were targets, not firm commitments, and the company was unable to meet them because of problems in rapidly expanding production capacity.

“Our contract is not a contractual commitment, it’s a best effort,” Soriot said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “Basically, we said we’re going to try our best, but we can’t guarantee we’re going to succeed. In fact, getting there, we are a little bit delayed.”

AstraZeneca said last week that it planned to cut initial deliveries in the EU to 31 million doses from 80 million due to reduced yields from its manufacturing plants in Europe. The EU claimed Wednesday that it will receive even less than that – just one quarter of the doses that member states were supposed to get during January-March 2021.

The EU says it expects the company to deliver the full amount on time, and on Monday threatened to put export controls on all vaccines made in its territory.

Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for health and food safety, rejected Soriot’s explanation for the delays, saying that “not being able to ensure manufacturing capacity is against the letter and spirit of our agreement.”

Kyriakides said AstraZeneca should provide vaccines from its UK facilities if it it is unable to meet commitments from factories in the EU. The comments are certain to create tension in the UK, which completed its exit from the bloc less than a month ago.

“I call on AstraZeneca to engage fully to rebuild trust, to provide complete information and to live up to its contractual, societal and moral obligations,” Kyriakides said at a media briefing in Brussels.

The EU’s contract with AstraZeneca is confidential and can’t be released without the agreement of both sides. The EU has asked AstraZeneca for permission to release the contract, Kyriakides said.

After a third round of talks aimed at resolving the dispute on Wednesday evening, Kyriakides regretted the “continued lack of clarity on the delivery schedule” and urged AstraZeneca to come up with a clear plan for a quick delivery of the doses reserved by the EU for the first quarter. In a message posted on Twitter, Kyriakides however noted “a constructive tone” in the discussions with Soriot.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said after the meeting that the company has “committed to even closer co-ordination to jointly chart a path for the delivery of our vaccine over the coming months as we continue our efforts to bring this vaccine to millions of Europeans at no profit during the pandemic.”

The dispute comes as the EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc, lags far behind countries like Israel and Britain in delivering coronavirus vaccines to its people.

The EU has signed deals for six different vaccines, but so far regulators have only authorized the use of two, one made by Pfizer and another by Moderna. The EU’s drug regulator will consider the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.

Robert Yates, director of the global health program at the Chatham House think-tank in London, said the EU-AstraZeneca dispute highlights the danger of “vaccine nationalism” as countries compete for limited supplies.

“For politicians, this is red hot. And, you know, unfortunately, what we’re seeing as well is that Brexit politics is playing into this,” he said.

“This is this is really, really bad news – not only bad news for the European countries involved,” he said. “I think what’s much worse is that these squabbles between rich countries potentially deny vaccines to people in the rest of the world.”

AstraZeneca is setting up more than a dozen regional supply chains worldwide to meet regional demand for its vaccine. Overall, AstraZeneca plans to deliver up to 3 billion doses to countries around the world by the end of 2021.

However, establishing each facility is a complicated process that involves training people and ensuring each batch of vaccine is safe and effective. Sometimes this goes smoothly, but in other cases there are problems, Soriot said.

“We train them on how to manufacture,” he said. “And then, you know, some people are new to this process … They don’t know how to make the vaccine and they’re not as efficient as others.?

There are two basic steps in producing the vaccine. The first is a biological process that involves growing cells, which are injected with a virus, Soriot said. The second involves turning this “drug substance” into the final product, filling vials and testing each batch of vaccine.

Soriot said AstraZeneca had to reduce deliveries to the EU because plants in Europe had lower than expected yields from the biological process used to produce the vaccine. This has also happened in other regions as AstraZeneca sought to rapidly expand production capacity to meet demands from countries battling the pandemic.

“We’ve also had teething issues like this in the U.K. supply chain,” Soriot said. “But the U.K. contract was signed three months before the European vaccine deal, so with the U.K. we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced. As for Europe, we are three months behind in fixing those glitches.”

An official from the European Commission, the EU’s executive, said the bloc has agreed to give 336 million euros ($407 million) to AstraZeneca to develop its vaccine and deliver doses. The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said the commission would be entitled to recover part of the money if the company fails to live up to the terms of this advance purchase agreement.

“We reject the logic of first come, first served,” Kyriakides said. “That may work at the neighbourhood butchers, but not in contracts and not in our advance purchase agreements. There’s no priority clause in the advanced purchase agreement.”

The shortfall in planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine is coming at the same time as a slowdown in the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots as Pfizer upgrades production facilities at a plant in Belgium.

“There are a lot of emotions running in this process right now, and I can understand it: people want vaccine,” Soriot said. “I want the vaccine too, I want it today. But, at the end of the day, it’s a complicated process.?

Danica Kirka reported from London.

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Discord bans r/WallStreetBets server (for hate speech) – Gamasutra



The GameStop trading fiasco has taken a new turn. Discord has announced that it’s banning the /r/WallStreetBets server from the platform.

While all of the finance industry is in an uproar over what a small group of redditors have accomplished (driving up the price of GameStop stock to counter a planned short sell by a hedge fund group), Discord says its reasons are not tied to the group’s current news activity. It’s apparently being banned for violating the platform’s hate speech policies.

“The server has been on our Trust & Safety team’s radar for some time due to occasional content that violates our Community Guidelines, including hate speech, glorifying violence, and spreading misinformation,” the company said in a statement. “Over the past few months, we have issued multiple warnings to the server admin.”

“Today, we decided to remove the server and its owner from Discord for continuing to allow hateful and discriminatory content after repeated warnings.”

Elsewhere, the group’s Reddit page suddenly switched to private, (Updated: it’s public again) though it’s unclear if this is over language used in the group or over the possibility that the US Securities and Exchange Commission might be monitoring it for fraudulent activity.

A colleague who checked in on the subreddit briefly confirmed to Gamasutra that one could quickly find ableist slurs all over the group.

This is the second time Discord has banned a server that’s affiliated with a specific Subreddit in the last month. The first was the TheDonald Discord server, which was shut down after the right-wing siege of the US Capitol on July 6th.

Discord seemed intent on communicating that today’s ban was not related to the group’s successful manipulation of GameStop’s stock price. “To be clear, we did not ban this server due to financial fraud related to GameStop or other stocks. Discord welcomes a broad variety of personal finance discussions, from investment clubs and day traders to college students and professional financial advisors,” it stated.

“We are monitoring this situation and in the event there are allegations of illegal activities, we will cooperate with authorities as appropriate.”

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Top 2 Rebound Stocks for 2021 – The Motley Fool Canada



2020 was a difficult year for some stocks. Retail, leisure, travel, and entertainment were all severely punished by the pandemic and lockdowns. However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel now. 

The vaccination drive is underway, and 2.3% of Canada’s population has already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. By the end of 2021, malls, flights, and restaurants could be back to normal. 

With that in mind, here are the top two rebound stocks that you could bet on this year as the recovery gathers steam.

Air Canada

Air Canada (TSX:AC) stock took a significant hit in 2020, as the sector felt the full brunt of the pandemic. While Air Canada stock was not spared either, the stock has made a comeback in recent weeks amid talk that it is poised for a parabolic move.

Improving fundamentals

A faster-than-expected end to the pandemic followed by a resurgence of the travel industry, are some of the factors that affirm why Air Canada would be a perfect bet in the airline industry. The airline is likely to see a significant surge in volumes coming out of this pandemic once the travel restrictions are lifted.

The breakthrough on the vaccine front has once again brought hope to the embattled airline industry. As more people get vaccinated, the pandemic should be brought under control, a development likely to result in the easing of lockdown restrictions as well as fears about air travel. Likewise, Air Canada remains well positioned to be one of the beneficiaries.

Air Canada’s stock valuation

After a recent slide lower, Air Canada is currently trading at a great discount relative to its long-term prospects. Likewise, the stock remains well positioned to skyrocket once prospects in the travel industry improve.

Amid the pandemic, the company’s cargo revenues are growing steadily and likely to sustain the momentum in 2021. The airline has already doubled its cargo space and is operating more cargo flights to meet the growing demand.

Air Canada boasts of a top-tier growth potential backed by a solid balance sheet that has improved amid an ambitious cost-cutting drive that will reduce about $3 billion through 2023. Significant costs cuts should also continue to support Air Canada’s cash flow — a development likely to drive recovery in the stock.

While the lower operating scale is to impact revenues and margins, improvements in air travel demand and cost-cutting measures should help drive Air Canada financials and, in return, fuel a recovery in financials.

Diversified Royalty

Another rebound stock is Diversified Royalty (TSX:DIV). The company owns and manages franchises such as Air Miles, Sutton, Mr. Mike’s steakhouses and Mr.Lube. As Canadians start dining out and driving again, this stock could rebound sharply. 

At the moment, DIV stock is down 27% from its pre-crisis market price. It’s still offering a hefty 8.2% dividend yield. That could make it an ideal buy for income-seeking investors with a contrarian streak. 

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