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WestJet temporarily cuts 4 domestic routes in Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada – CBC.ca

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WestJet says it’s temporarily cutting service to some communities in four provinces as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hammer the airline. 

The Calgary-based airline says it will stop the following flights until June 24:

  • Calgary to Medicine Hat, starting on March 21.
  • Calgary to Lloydminster, starting on March 19.
  • London, Ont., to Toronto, starting on March 22.
  • St. John’s to Halifax, starting on March 21.

“We have continued to operate in the face of uncertainty as domestic and international travel restrictions and quarantines have caused demand to plummet,” said Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO in a news release Thursday.

“Unfortunately, with new and increasingly restrictive policies, we are left once again with no other option than to suspend service to these communities.”

Simms said WestJet’s ability to return to the markets is “directly correlated to government policies and the prioritiziation of a domestic travel program.”

Impact of service cuts

The pause on flights means the Medicine Hat airport no longer has any scheduled passenger flights. 

“In 2019, we had the best year Medicine Hat airport’s ever had, and then with the onset of COVID we’ve basically reduced our operations now to zero for the next three months,” said airport manager Jeff Huntus. 

“It was a popular service, but the reality is that with government imposed restrictions and lack of any kind of funding support for airlines or airports, it’s just not feasible for air carriers to be running around in empty airplanes.”

Huntus says the airport still serves as a medevac base for Alberta Health Services and continues to operate with business traffic, as well as private and charter aircraft.

Previous cuts

The recent cuts aren’t the only reductions introduced by WestJet.

In January, the airline cut about 1,000 jobs and slashed its flight capacity by one-third, which it blamed on a new government policy requiring a negative COVID-19 test prior to flying.

WestJet says it is operating at more than a 90 per cent reduction, year over year.

The airline said it will be working with third-party service providers to help fill the gaps left by the newly announced service cuts and guests impacted by the changes will be contacted directly about their options.

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Peel and Toronto's top doctors want to be placed in lockdown level of Ontario's framework for coronavirus restrictions – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Toronto’ top doctor is asking the province to place the city in the grey lockdown category of its framework for COVID-19 restrictions as of Monday, allowing non-essential retail stores to reopen while keeping most other businesses closed.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa shared her recommendation during a briefing at city hall on Wednesday, calling it a “modest step towards more flexibility in daily life.”

If approved by the provincial government the designation would allow non-essential retail stores to reopen across the city, including those located in shopping malls.

Most stores, however, will be limited to no more than 25 per cent of their regular capacity. Grocers, convenience stores and other businesses that primarily sell food will be allowed up to 50 per cent of their regular capacity.

“Based on the data in front of us it is clear that reopening widely such as under the red category of the provincial framework is not advisable at this time given our case counts,” de Villa said, noting that the number of samples that have screened positive for a variant of concern in Toronto have doubled over the last week. “Moving out of the stay-at home order is a reasonable course of action for Toronto although I will add that while there are evident reasons for a change in status there remains reasons or risks that underscore how moving back into grey status is, or will be, a delicate balance.”

The province lifted its state of emergency order last month and began gradually moving regions back into its framework, with the exception of Toronto, Peel and North Bay which have remained under an extended stay-at-home order.

As part of Toronto’s potential move back into the grey zone, de Villa has issued a Section 22 order that will establish a series of additional requirements for workplaces with active outbreaks, including the mandatory wearing of masks at all times by employees.

De Villa said that she has also asked the Ministry of Labour to conduct a “workplace inspection blitz” in the city.

“Returning to the province’s framework represents a modest step towards more flexibility in daily life which can be taken because we all worked to limit the spread of COVID-19 but it is important that we all act in ways that do not squander these hard earned small steps forward,” she told reporters. “It is a question of preserving what we have gained.”

Wednesday was Toronto’s 100th consecutive day under a lockdown but the recommendation made by de Villa could represent a slight loosening of restrictions for the first time since this summer.

Of course, restaurants and bars will remain takeout-only and other businesses like gyms and hair salons won’t be able to reopen for at least two weeks.

Indoor gatherings of people from different households will also continue to be prohibited, though outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed.

“I am very sympathetic to those who will not be able to reopen going into grey but I think the best way in which we can avoid that further lockdown later on, which I think everybody to a person says would be the worst case scenario, is to take these cautious steps one at a time and to follow public health advice and keep doing what we have been doing in many respects and then the day may not be too far down the road where we can do more,” Mayor John Tory said during Wednesday’s briefing.

Peel’s top doctor has also asked for region to be kept in grey

De Villa’s announcement on Wednesday afternoon came hours after Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh confirmed that he would also be advocating for his region to be placed under the grey lockdown category in the province’s framework.

The recommendation from Loh comes despite a vocal campaign from Mississauga Bonnie Crombie to have the region moved into the red zone, which would have allowed indoor dining to resume at bars and restaurants with capacity limits.

“From five cases just two weeks ago we now have over 100 confirmed case of variants in our community and 600 that have screened positive and these numbers give me pause,” Loh said earlier in the day. “Our hospitals are also seeing admissions related to spread of variants and while ICU occupancy has improved from the peak of the second wave it still remains at levels similar to what e saw in wave one in the spring of 2020. Reopening too quickly risks eliminating the gains we have made and putting lives and wellbeing at risk.”

Peel’s rolling-seven day average of new cases has risen from 194 at the this time last week to 213.

It also has the highest weekly incidence rate of any public health unit when adjusted for population.

Loh said that if conditions were different he would “absolutely recommend loosening measures more quickly,” as he did in July but can’t do so while cases are rising.

Speaking with reporters during a subsequent news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Crombie conceded that she was “extremely disappointed” by the decision but said that she understands the reasoning behind it.

Nonetheless, Crombie said that she wants the data reviewed on a weekly basis so that Peel can be moved to the red zone as soon as possible.

The province has typically said that it will not move regions to a new level in its framework until it has two weeks worth of data.

“It is extremely unfair that businesses in neighbouring regions have been allowed to reopen more fully. Think about this for just a moment if you will. If you are standing at Dundas Street at Winston Churchill Boulevard restaurants and stores on the south side of the street are open for business for in-person shopping and dining while on the north side of the street they are closed because the north side of the street is in Mississauga. That is simply unfair and also inequitable,” Crombie said.

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Trudeau 'optimistic' that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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  1. Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated  CP24 Toronto’s Breaking News
  2. AstraZeneca doses set to arrive tomorrow — but questions remain about who gets them first  CBC.ca
  3. First doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Canada amid confusion over who should receive them  CP24 Toronto’s Breaking News
  4. LILLEY: A jab for all by summer?  Toronto Sun
  5. Vaccine preference a problem for EU leaders  Irish Examiner
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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Nova Scotia to Receive AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine – Government of Nova Scotia

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  1. Nova Scotia to Receive AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine  Government of Nova Scotia
  2. Nova Scotia hasn’t decided if it will accept deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccine  CTV News
  3. COVID-19 vaccines to be made available in Nova Scotia pharmacies  CBC.ca
  4. VOICE OF THE PEOPLE — March 3, 2021  TheChronicleHerald.ca
  5. TOM URBANIAK: Nova Scotia needs a child advocate  TheChronicleHerald.ca
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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