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‘We’re going to run out of time’: Health experts sound alarm as Canada’s coronavirus cases rise –



On Tuesday, Ontario recorded 203 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily total in three weeks.

Quebec reported 180 cases, the most since mid-June.

On Monday, B.C.’s medical officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, warned that the province was teetering on the brink of an “explosive growth” in cases after she reported more than 100 cases over the weekend.

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Ontario reports 203 new coronavirus cases, highest single-day increase in 3 weeks

While Ontario’s numbers on Wednesday were a bit lower, overall, the number of Canadian cases reported each day has begun to tick upward — which is the opposite of what health officials want.

“We were averaging about 300 cases a day,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer of Canada, at a briefing Tuesday. “More recently, that’s increased to 350. And now we’re in the neighbourhood of 450, 460 cases per day over the last four days or so.

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“That is of concern.”

Overall, Canada added 445 new cases on Tuesday, continuing a steady upward trend.

“I am quite concerned that the numbers are going back up,” said Robyn Lee, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

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The average number of people to whom each infected person spreads the virus, called “R0” by epidemiologists, has been rising recently, too. It’s now above one, according to the most recent weekly report from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which means that on average, each person spreads the virus to more than one other person.

In other words, the virus is spreading rather than shrinking.

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“If this number keeps going, if it keeps increasing, that means that more people are being infected for each person who has this virus,” Lee said. “We could very rapidly end up in the same spot that we were in a few months back where we were concerned about the hospital bed utilization and ICU bed availability.”

Dr. Matthew Pellan Cheng, an infectious disease doctor and medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre, says he’s not too concerned about the rise in case numbers yet.

We shouldn’t be alarmed at numbers from individual days, he said, but instead keep an eye on overall trends.

“I think we need to look at the general trajectory in that the number of cases is, indeed, slightly increasing but not at very, very elevated levels,” he said. “And it was expected that there’s going to be a slight uptick in the number of cases as most of the country reopens.

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“I think the more important question is, what are we doing now with this information? Are we implementing appropriate contact tracing? Are we reinforcing important public health mitigation strategies? Are we going to let it continue or are we going to start planking the curve?”

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Lee doesn’t believe that we can continue to let cases rise for long without seeing serious consequences.

“We’re going to run out of time. I think we need to do stuff now,” she said. “There is going to hit a point where it spins out of control and we don’t have the resources to keep up with it.”

Coronavirus: Ford pleads with young people to follow health guidelines as uptick in cases rise

Coronavirus: Ford pleads with young people to follow health guidelines as uptick in cases rise

Many recent cases of COVID-19 have to do with younger adults attending indoor events, like house parties, and not restaurants and bars reopening, Njoo said.

“I don’t have any actual proof, but the thinking might be that as bars and restaurants and society opens, that is maybe in some ways a signal for people to think, ‘Oh, OK, I can let go.’

“Things are returning to normal and, therefore, they are getting together at indoor parties, probably with lack of social distancing and so on.”

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There’s still time to stop the trend if we act now, Lee said, but people have to remember to maintain physical distance, limit their contact with others and follow other such public health measures.

“I think we all need to recognize we’re in it for the long haul,” she said. “Unfortunately, until there’s a vaccine, this is something that is a part of our lives, meaning we do have to keep up with the physical distancing and we do have to keep going with the same precautions.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Commander leading COVID vaccine rollout leaves pending investigation



A top military commander tasked with Canada‘s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has unexpectedly left his assignment pending the results of a military investigation, a government statement said on Friday.

Major-General Dany Fortin was brought in by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to lead Canada‘s vaccine distribution in November, describing the effort as the greatest mobilization effort the country has seen since World War Two.

The brief statement did not elaborate on the nature of the investigation. Acting Chief of the Defence Staff, Lieutenant-General Eyre will be reviewing next steps with Fortin, the statement added.

Fortin, who has decades of experience including in warzones, was a key fixture of the government’s vaccine briefings and his team coordinated the logistical challenge of reaching vaccines to Canada‘s far-flung places.

Canada‘s vaccination campaign has picked up pace after a rocky start, with some 43.1% of the country’s population receiving at least one dose.


(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Canada slams ‘unconscionable’ Iran conduct since airliner shootdown



Canada on Thursday condemned Tehran’s “unconscionable” conduct since Iranian forces shot down an airliner last year, killing 176 people, including dozens of Canadians, and vowed to keep pressing for answers as to what really happened.

The comments by Foreign Minister Marc Garneau were among the strongest Ottawa has made about the January 2020 disaster.

“The behavior of the Iranian government has been frankly unconscionable in this past 15 months and we are going to continue to pursue them so we have accountability,” Garneau told a committee of legislators examining what occurred.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport. Iran said its forces had been on high alert during a regional confrontation with the United States.

Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.

Garneau complained it had taken months of pressure for Iran, with which Canada does not have diplomatic relations, to hand over the flight recorders for independent analysis and said Tehran had still not explained why the airspace had not been closed at the time.

In March, Iran’s civil aviation body blamed the crash on a misaligned radar and an error by an air defense operator. Iran has indicted 10 officials.

At the time, Ukraine and Canada criticized the report as insufficient. But Garneau went further on Thursday, saying it was “totally unacceptable … they are laying the blame on some low-level people who operated a missile battery and not providing the accountability within the chain of command.”

Canada is compiling its own forensic report into the disaster and will be releasing it in the coming weeks, he said.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Mexican union was set to lose disputed GM workers’ vote



General Motors Co workers in Mexico were on track to scrap the contract negotiated by one of the country’s biggest unions, according to a Mexican government report on a vote last month that led to a U.S. complaint under a new North American free trade deal.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration called for a probe into allegations that worker rights were denied at GM’s Silao pickup truck plant during the vote to ratify workers’ collective contract with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM).

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday said he accepted the U.S. recommendation to make sure there would be no fraud in union votes, noting that many “irregularities” had been detected in the union-led vote at GM.

The CTM, which represents 4.5 million workers, is one of several traditional unions accused by workers and activists of putting business interests over workers’ rights.

A ministry report into the vote, reviewed by Reuters, shows that 1,784 workers cast ballots against keeping the CTM contract, while 1,628 workers voted to maintain it.

Allegations of interference – including the ministry’s findings that some blank ballots in union possession were cut in half – have raised suspicions among some activists and experts that the CTM may have been headed for a deeper defeat.

A follow-up vote, which the Labor Ministry ordered to take place within 30 days, could result in a wider margin against keeping the current contract, especially if more workers who were apathetic or scared of voting turned out the second time, said Alfonso Bouzas, a labor scholar at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.

“This whole new opportunity is going to awaken conscience and interest,” Bouzas said.

CTM’s national spokesman, Patricio Flores, said the union supported the regional trade deal and would comply with the law and whatever “would not harm investment in Mexico.”

He did not dispute the vote tally in the labor ministry report, but called for an investigation into the disputed proceeding before a second vote.

“We should listen to the voice of these workers and not let pressure from unions in the United States and Canada have influence right now,” CTM said in a statement.


The ministry document showed that just over half of the 6,494 workers eligible to vote did so in the first of two days of voting, before labor inspectors halted the process.

If GM workers scrap their contract, either the CTM or a new union could negotiate new collective terms.

Many collective bargaining contracts in Mexico consist of deals between unions and companies without workers’ approval, which has helped keep Mexican hourly wages at a fraction of those in the United States.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which took effect last year and replaced the 1994 NAFTA, sought to strengthen worker rights in Mexico and slow migration of U.S. auto production south of the border.

GM has said it respects the rights of its employees to make decisions over collective bargaining, and that it was not involved in any alleged violations. It declined to comment on the Labor Ministry report.

GM has indicated that it is ready to shift away from the old system that had let companies in Mexico turn a blind eye to worker rights, said Jerry Dias, the head of Canada‘s largest private sector union, Unifor.

“The rules are changing and a company like GM is not going to get caught,” he said.

Dias said he hoped to personally monitor the follow-up vote at the Silao plant.

Contract ratification votes are required under Mexico’s 2019 labor reform, which underpins the renegotiated free trade pact, to ensure workers are not bound to contracts that were signed behind their backs.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Christian Plumb, Richard Pullin, Paul Simao and David Gregorio)

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