Students may not get a day out of class for a field trip during the pandemic, but are able to experience an even wider variety of museums, zoos and concerts virtually.
Students may not get a day out of class for a field trip during the pandemic, but are able to experience an even wider variety of museums, zoos and concerts virtually.
MANCHESTER, England — Success for Manchester United these days is being the spoiler as Manchester City goes on to eventually claim the league titles. City manager Pep Guardiola's pursuit of a world-record winning streak ended after United won the derby 2-0 on Sunday. A penalty won after 36 seconds was converted by Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw netted five minutes into the second half to end City's 21-match winning run in all competitions. But the complexion of the Premier League has drastically changed since City's last defeat 106 days earlier at Tottenham left the team in 11th place — eight points behind the London club at the top. Now losing is more a matter of pride and missing out on catching the mark of 27 consecutive wins set by Welsh side The New Saints in 2016. City has not only climbed to the summit but built a lead that meant its second-placed neighbour only trimmed the gap to 11 points with victory at the Etihad Stadium. With such a commanding lead and only 10 games remaining, United has probably only just delayed the moment City dethrones Liverpool as champion. Just like three years ago when Jose Mourinho's derby win prevented City sealing the title that April day. But it's only two months since United harboured ambitions of its own of lifting the trophy — for the first time since 2013 — when it sat in first place. The title challenge has melted away for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side and United will likely be consigned to seeing City crowned champions for the third time since United's name was last etched into the trophy. But there is no longer a vast gulf when these two sides meet in the Premier League. United has won three of the last derbies and drawn the other. It's almost a year to the day since United also beat City 2-0 at Old Trafford, the last time they played in a full stadium or any fans were allowed into a Manchester stadium due to the pandemic. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Rob Harris, The Associated Press
Most provinces, including British Columbia, announced this week they expect every adult will receive a first COVID-19 vaccine dose by June or July. The move came after a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to delay a second dose for four months, following evidence of high levels of protection from one dose. All provinces have adopted the recommendation, potentially accelerating Canada's vaccination timeline by two months. But where does that leave kids? Close to one million people in B.C. are 19 or younger, and they make up nearly one-fifth of the province's population. Here's what you need to know about where they fall in the vaccination plan. Can kids get vaccinated? Not yet. Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people aged 16 and older, while the Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those 18 and up. Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Supriya Sharma, has said there's not enough data from the initial clinical trials to know how the vaccines affect kids. So far, B.C.'s immunization plan is focused on residents 18 and older. B.C.'s health ministry said it will administer Pfizer vaccines to teens between the ages of 16 and 17 who are severely clinically vulnerable, and whose care provider has determined vaccination is the best course of action. Do kids need to be immunized? Dr. Manish Sadarangani, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and director of the Vaccine Evaluation Centre at B.C. Children's Hospital, said it's not yet not clear whether all kids need to get vaccinated. He is currently leading research that is testing children across B.C. for COVID-19 antibodies to understand asymptomatic infections and better estimate the true infection rate among younger people. Experts will also have a clearer picture once most adults are vaccinated, Sadarangani said. At that point, health officials can look at the number of cases among kids, whether severe cases are showing up and whether kids are a source of ongoing community transmission. Researchers are testing children across B.C. for COVID-19 antibodies to understand asymptomatic infections and better estimate the true infection rate among younger people.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, said children should "definitely" be vaccinated. "Getting COVID is much worse in terms of potential for long-term side effects than getting the vaccine," said Brinkman, who is also working on Canada's variant containment efforts through the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network. When will kids receive a vaccine? The four pharmaceutical companies are at all different stages of testing the vaccines on kids. It's unclear when exactly those vaccines could be approved for kids. Sharma said Friday that data from teenagers will come first, followed by kids under 12. "Potentially, by the end of the calendar year, we might have some answers for children." Clinical trials are underway to determine vaccine effectiveness on children.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) Sadarangani said the first clinical trial data from older kids is expected to come by the end of August. If the Health Canada approves the vaccines on kids, NACI will then recommend how to best deploy the doses, he said. Sadarangani said rolling out the vaccine as part of school immunizations will be far more efficient than immunizing adults, noting the system is "better set up" to vaccinate kids. Is achieving 'herd immunity' possible without vaccinating kids? Some experts have suggested that achieving "herd immunity" — the point at which the virus can no longer spread in the community because enough people have either been infected or vaccinated — may not be feasible without vaccinating kids. Brinkman said it's a reasonable concern, but the degree of protection to society from vaccines make them a powerful tool, even before they're available to children. "We have vaccines that have incredible efficacy. In fact, they're astounding," she said. "When you have vaccines that work that well, you don't actually have to vaccinate as many people in the population to have it be effective." A nurse administers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination in Vancouver on March 4. B.C. says it expects every adult to receive a first vaccine dose by July.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Anna Blakney, an assistant professor at University of British Columbia's school of biomedical engineering, said herd immunity is often thought of as a percentage of a population that must be protected to ensure safety for all. But it's actually a more dynamic concept, she said, especially since it's unknown how long immunity from COVID-19 will last. "With herd immunity, you don't just reach that level and then it's there forever," she said. "People can lose their immunity over time, so most likely what's going to happen is that it will be a combination of natural infections and the vaccine that get us to that kind of steady state of herd immunity." Are there safety concerns for kids? Blakney, who also runs a popular TikTok account that educates viewers about COVID-19, said she's received many questions about the safety of the vaccine in children. She said clinical trials are generally designed with less vulnerable populations in mind — those between the age of 18 and 55. (Because COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly, older people were included in vaccine trials.) Once a vaccine is found to be safe in those populations, they're expanded out to children and pregnant women. "It's routine for children and babies to get vaccines. That's when you get the most vaccines in your life. They're just waiting for that safety to be proven," Blakney said. "We want to first test it in the less vulnerable population in case there are any side effects. That doesn't mean we expect there to be — that's just how it's evolved over time." Sadarangani explained that the dose may be adjusted to ensure the best protection possible for children. "Some vaccines do need a bit more because they need a bit more to stimulate their immune systems than adults do. And some vaccines, they need a bit less," he said. "This is one of the reasons in the trial for going down through the age groups, starting with the older kids that are likely to be most like adults." What about parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their kids? In a UBC study last fall, about 43 per cent of 2,500 families across Canada surveyed said they would accept less rigorous testing and expedited approval of a vaccine for their kids. Blakney said she finds some degree of vaccine hesitancy normal, especially because people are not accustomed to the speed with which the vaccine was developed. A B.C. COVID-19 vaccination immunization record card. Sadarangani says school immunizations will be far more time efficient than immunizing adults.(Ben Nelms/CBC) But she said the vaccine research involved an unprecedented level of funding and effort from scientists, doctors, and governments alike. "We have lots of safety data on this because not only were they trialled in tens of thousands of people, but now they've been implemented to millions of people," she said. "So we have a pretty good idea of the safety profile of them thus far, which is what gives us that extra confidence to go into other populations. These vaccines are incredibly safe in the data we have so far." What can parents do in the meantime? Brinkman said, for now, parents can ensure that their children's other vaccinations and booster shots are up to date, while also following public health orders until restrictions can safely be lifted. "That will help protect them and give their system the best chance against other diseases," she said, adding some people may have fallen behind schedule on immunizations while B.C. has been partially shut down. "It's very important at this stage that we keep the numbers of cases as low as we can because we really need to reduce the chance of the viral variant spreading."
Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada's chief public health officer expressed optimism over vaccines ahead of the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 crisis.The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic last March 11, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said it's been a difficult 12 months marked by hardship and sacrifice."Yet, as the months have gone by, I have also witnessed the remarkable courage, strength, and generosity demonstrated by Canadians," she wrote in a statement."Through it all, it is the incredible support that Canadians have shown for one another that has impressed me the most."Tam expressed optimism that brighter days were coming, thanks to the recent approvals of the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines."This week has been a very good week for Canada's COVID-19 vaccination programs," she wrote.The anniversary comes as all provinces are expanding their mass vaccination programs and some are loosening restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick are among the provinces preparing to lift restrictions on Monday after weeks of stable or declining cases. A stay-at-home order in Ontario's Toronto, Peel and North Bay regions will lift on Monday, while five Quebec regions, including Quebec City, will be downgraded from red to orange on the province's colour-coded regional alert system.All of New Brunswick will transition to the less-restrictive "yellow" alert level Sunday at midnight, meaning residents can expand their contacts from 10 to 15 people and team sports activities may resume.Canada's two biggest cities will remain under fairly strict restrictions, however. Toronto — and neighbouring Peel Region — will enter the "grey lockdown" category, which will allow more retailers to open, with restrictions, but leaves gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining closed.The greater Montreal region remains a red zone, which means an 8 p.m. curfew is still in effect.Tam said the addition of the two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster and help ease the worries surrounding supply disruptions or setbacks.In a long message, Tam said it is not that it is not possible to directly compare the efficacy of different vaccines to one another."Each vaccine was studied in a separate trial conducted at different times, using different populations and conditions," she wrote.She said the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, manufactured by Janssen, was shown to be 66 per cent effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, while the AstraZeneca vaccine was found to have an efficacy of 62 per cent in generally preventing "symptomatic COVID-19." Both vaccines, she said, were found to protect against severe disease, meaning that those who got COVID-19 after the shot were much less likely to get seriously ill. Currently, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization does not recommend that the AstraZeneca vaccine be given to those aged 65 or over due to limited data, but Tam stressed that the recommendations could change.She noted both the new vaccines are easier to transport than those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which require freezer storage. With Canada set to receive more than 900,000 COVID-19 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this week, many provinces are ramping up their vaccination campaigns.Health authorities across British Columbia will start booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments Monday for people 90 years old and older and Indigenous residents over the age of 65.Quebec, which has been booking vaccine appointments for seniors 70 or 80 and over depending on the region, will speed up the pace this week as more mass vaccination centres open across the province after focusing mainly on hard-hit Montreal last week. Quebec counted 707 new cases of the virus on Sunday, and seven more deaths. Ontario reported administering 30,192 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, for a total of 890,604 doses handed out so far. That province logged 1,299 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and 15 added deaths. Manitoba counted 56 new cases of the virus and two more deaths. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 116 more cases and two more deaths due to COVID-19, including a person who was under 20 years old. Alberta logged roughly 300 new cases of the virus Sunday, though the province said a system upgrade meant precise numbers weren't available. Farther east, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island each recorded two new cases of COVID-19. The government said it would receive more than 14,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, which will be sent to five different parts of the province.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Chinese drone giant DJI Technology Co Ltd built up such a successful U.S. business over the past decade that it almost drove all competitors out of the market. Yet its North American operations have been hit by internal ructions in recent weeks and months, with a raft of staff cuts and departures, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees. The loss of key managers, some of who have joined rivals, has compounded problems caused by U.S. government restrictions on Chinese companies, and raised the once-remote prospect of DJI's dominance being eroded, said four of the people, including two senior executives who were at the company until late 2020.
P.E.I.'s Public Health Office announced two new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the Island's total number of active cases to 26. Both new cases are males in their 20s. One was a close contact of a previously announced case. He initially tested negative and, after developing mild symptoms, tested positive. He remains in self-isolation. The other man was at a public exposure site more than a week ago. He also tested negative, but developed mild symptoms and then tested positive. He is now in self-isolation and close contacts are being tested. The close contacts are required to self-isolate for 14 days after their last contact with him. There have been 141 COVID-19 cases in total on the Island. 'I remain concerned': Morrison "There are now more active cases of COVID-19 in P.E.I. than we had at any other point in the pandemic, and I remain concerned about the current outbreak in our province," Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said in a statement. "All Islanders are encouraged to respect the circuit breaker measures that are in place, including keep your circle of contacts small, stay home when not feeling well, and maintain a physical distance from people outside your household." Including Sunday's announcement, there have been at least five recent cases on the Island where the individual tested negative initially. Islanders are urged to get tested if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19, even after a previous negative test, and to self-isolate until the results come back. Islanders are also encouraged to download the free national COVID Alert app.
Memorial University political scientist Kelly Blidook says it's an issue that the province is seeing high proportions of uncertainty from the public surrounding the ongoing general election. (CBC) A Memorial University political scientist says the results of a recent survey, which suggest widespread discontent toward the ongoing Newfoundland and Labrador general election, portray "a real issue." Following the election's postponement due to last month's COVID-19 outbreak, CBC's Vote Compass surveyed 841 people on their thoughts on the election — which has been running since Jan. 15. The results suggested discontent with both Elections NL and the election itself. Seventy-five per cent of people surveyed said they somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of Elections NL's management of the election so far, while 33 per cent are not confident at all in the integrity of the election. Kelly Blidook says that shouldn't happen in a democracy. "High proportions of uncertainty, regardless of where they are coming from, is a real issue in a properly stable democratic state," Blidook said. "We shouldn't be seeing numbers like this." It's still unknown when the results of the election will be released, but Elections NL says it could take until April. Blidook said there should be a breathing period after results are released and the province should not take them as meaningful until the report from the chief electoral officer is tabled and legal advice is sought. "Use those to kind of figure out if this election is done properly or not. I think that the public's views on this are important to take into account too," he said. "If a large number of people in this province feel that the election was not done properly, that's an issue. I think this should play into how we approach this down the road." Blidook says the report from the chief electoral officer and advice from legal experts should be used in the days after election results come out before qualifying them as meaningful. (John Pike/CBC) Of the 841 people surveyed, 18 per cent agreed somewhat, while 50 per cent agreed strongly that the election should have waited until most people in the province had been vaccinated. Broken down by party support, Liberal supporters are more likely to approve of the election and its management, while PC and NDP supporters are more likely to have concerns about election timing and management, said Blidook. "So, if you are a supporter of the Liberals, you are more likely to think the election is OK. If you support the opposition parties, you are more likely to think the election is not OK," he said. "If what they want to happen is more likely to happen, then they are more likely to say the way it was done is good and vice versa." The Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties have been critical of Liberal Leader Andrew Furey for making the snap election call this winter, however. Furey contends there there were no obvious signs of an outbreak when the call was made and other provinces — British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick — had held provincial elections safely during the pandemic. But, Blidook told CBC News he doesn't believe the provincial Liberals will face a large change in their support. "I think we've seen a little bit of erosion of support for the Liberals. They started out in 60-plus [percentage] territory. We saw polls that brought them down into the 50s," he said. "It's possible they'll have dropped a bit more than that, but I honestly don't think that this will be a massive crumbling of support for them." Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
A 29-year-old man from Sainte-Marie-Saint-Raphaël, N.B., has been found dead near Lamèque. RCMP searched for for Justin Savoie after he was reported missing on Thursday. Savoie was last seen Monday at a business on Rue de L'Église in the village where he lives on New Brunswick's Acadian Peninsula. Police believe he was heading toward Lamèque or Tracadie on a snowmobile. A snowmobile matching the description of the one driven by Savoie was located underwater by police near the bridge on Route 113 between Haut-Lamèque and Lamèque. The RCMP Underwater Recovery Team conducted searches in the area on Friday. Police worked with the Canada Border Services Agency on Saturday to locate and remove the body from the ice. It was identified as the missing man, RCMP say. Several organizations assisted in the operation, including the Lamèque and Shippagan fire departments, Ambulance New Brunswick, the Department of Justice and Public Safety and the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization. RCMP continue to investigate.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek police clashed with more than 500 protesters in an Athens suburb on Sunday evening, using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The crowd was protesting police violence, but views of what happened earlier Sunday diverge widely. In an announcement, police say that a motorcycle patrol went to suburb Nea Smyrni’s main square just before 3 p.m. Sunday to investigate “multiple reports” of violations of lockdown measures and that they were set upon by a group of 30 people who injured two police officers. Police reinforcement detained 11 from among the group, police say. But videos uploaded on several websites show a different picture: peaceful citizens arguing with police and suddenly being thrown to the ground and attacked with batons. It was to this incident that the protest rally was held about four hours later. Police say that an administrative inquiry will be held in response to the video uploads. Opposition parties have entered the fray, denouncing the “police repression.” “It wasn’t an accident. The government and (Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis wanted this,” said Pavlos Christidis, the spokesman for socialist party Movement for Change. With the number of new cases of the coronavirus still well above 1,000 daily, the Athens area as well as others across Greece are under a strict lockdown and police patrols conduct checks to see if people are keeping social distancing and refrain from travelling unnecessarily. Police say that they, on Saturday alone, they conducted 71,177 checks across the country, finding 2,025 violations; 1,627 concerned unauthorized movement, 304 non-wearing of masks and 91 illegal operation of businesses. Demetris Nellas, The Associated Press
CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Atlantic Canada reported seven new cases of COVID-19 today, including two in Prince Edward Island. Officials in that province say both new patients are men in their 20s who are now self-isolating. With 26 active reported cases, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says there are more active infections on the Island now than at any other point in the pandemic. The province is under so-called circuit-breaker measures until March 14, which require all businesses and services to operate at reduced capacity and keep records for contact tracing. Public health authorities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia reported two new cases in their respective provinces and say all infections are connected to travel or to previously known infections. Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new travel-related case, marking the province's 10th consecutive day with single-digit infection numbers following an outbreak last month in the St. John's region. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
The White House on Sunday urged computer network operators to take further steps to gauge whether their systems were targeted amid a hack of Microsoft Corp's Outlook email program, saying a recent software patch still left serious vulnerabilities. "This is an active threat still developing and we urge network operators to take it very seriously," a White House official said, adding that top U.S. security officials were working to decide what next steps to take following the breach. The White House official, in a statement, said the administration was making "a whole of government response."
Durham Region’s medical officer of health says the region is in “very good shape” with vaccine distribution and administration. In a recent update to the region’s health and social services committee, Durham Region Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Kyle says clinics opening Monday, all those ages 80 and older can now book their appointment to be vaccinated, noting the vast majority of seniors living in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes in Durham Region, as well as most healthcare workers, have been vaccinated. “We were tasked by the government to develop a plan that when fully operational, will allow vaccination of approximately 10,000 clients per day,” says Kyle, noting there will be at least one clinic in each of the eight municipalities. As of Monday, March 8, two clinics will be open: Durham College and Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, and the other in Pickering. “The staging of the opening dates (of the other clinics is) a sign that we are ramping up, staffing up,” he adds. According to the Durham Region Health website, The Garnet B. Rickard Recreation Complex in Clarington will open on Tuesday, March 9, followed by the opening of the McKinney Centre in Whitby on Monday, March 15. Uxbridge Arena, Scugog Arena and Rick MacLeish Memorial Community Centre Arena will open on a rotating basis beginning March 15. Finally, the Audley Recreation Centre in Ajax will open on Tuesday, March 16. The mobile clinic will also continue to vaccinate additional Phase 1 populations as required, Kyle notes. However, he says the region can’t get too far ahead of the vaccine supply. “While I say the maximum capacity is 10,000 clients per day, the number of clinic sites and available appointments will depend on vaccine supply,” Kyle continues. Furthermore, Kyle says the region’s communications plan is “robust” and has been developed to “promote vaccine awareness, accurate evidence, informed information, and timely and accurate information.” “We’re building on key messages from the Ministry of Health and the go-to place for all things COVID vaccine is durham.ca/covidvaccines,” he says, noting the website is updated on an ongoing basis. Courtney Bachar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Oshawa Express
The Democratic leader of New York’s Senate called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign Sunday amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment and undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins added her voice to a growing number of Cuomo’s foes and allies who believe the three-term Democrat should step down. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Democrat, stopped short of echoing Stewart-Cousins but said in a statement that “it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.” On Saturday, another woman who worked for Cuomo publicly accused him of inappropriate behaviour, on the heels of other allegations in recent weeks. “Every day there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.” Her push for his resignation came shortly after a Sunday press conference where Cuomo said it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down. “They don’t override the people's will, they don’t get to override elections," Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters when asked about members of his own party calling for him to step down. "I was elected by the people of New York state. I wasn’t elected by politicians.” Cuomo said the next six months will determine how successfully New York emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m not going to be distracted because there is too much to do for the people,” he said, noting that the state must pass a budget within three weeks and administer 15 million more COVID-19 vaccines. Asked about Ana Liss, who told The Wall Street Journal in a story published Saturday that when she worked as a policy aide to the governor between 2013 and 2015, Cuomo called her “sweetheart,” kissed her hand and asked personal questions including whether she had a boyfriend, Cuomo said such talk was “my way of doing friendly banter.” He acknowledged that societal norms have evolved and noted: "I never meant to make anyone feel any uncomfortable.” Liss told the Journal she initially thought of Cuomo’s behaviour as harmless and never made a formal complaint about it, but it increasingly bothered her and she felt it was patronizing. “It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,” she said. “I wish that he took me seriously.” Cuomo’s workplace conduct has been under intense scrutiny in recent days as several women have publicly told of feeling sexually harassed, or at least made to feel demeaned and uncomfortable by him. The state's attorney general is investigating. Former adviser Lindsey Boylan, 36, said he made inappropriate comments on her appearance, once kissed her on the lips at the end of a meeting and suggested a game of strip poker as they sat with other aides on a jet flight. Another former aide, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked if she ever had sex with older men and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair. Another woman, who did not work for the state, described Cuomo putting his hands on her face and asking if he could kiss her after they met at a wedding. In a news conference last week, Cuomo denied ever touching anyone inappropriately, but apologized for behaving in a way that he now realized had upset people. He said he’d made jokes and asked personal questions in an attempt to be playful and frequently greeted people with hugs and kisses, as his father, Mario Cuomo, had done when he was governor. Karen Matthews And David Porter, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is proposing a series of steps to help jumpstart Afghanistan’s stalled peace process between the government and Taliban, according to a letter from Blinken to Afghanistan’s president Ashra Ghani published Sunday by Afghanistan’s TOLONews. The letter calls for bringing the two sides together for a U.N.-facilitated conference with foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the United States “to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.” Blinken also calls for holding talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in a senior-level meeting in Turkey in the coming weeks to hammer out a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence. The secretary of state has also called on special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to share with both the Afghan government and Taliban written proposals to help accelerate discussions, according to the TOLONews report. Blinken also made clear in the letter that the Biden administration continues to consider a “full withdrawal” of the roughly 2,500 U.S. forces in the country by the May 1 deadline negotiated by Trump administration. The State Department declined to comment on the TOLONews report. “We have not made any decisions about our force posture in Afghanistan after May 1,” the State Department said in a statement. “All options remain on the table.” Afghanistan presents one of the new administration’s most difficult foreign policy decisions. The U.S. public is weary of a war nearly 20 years old, but pulling out now could be seen as giving the Taliban too much leverage and casting a shadow over the sacrifices made by U.S. and coalition troops and Afghan civilians. Blinken urged Ghani to quickly embrace the proposal and underscored his concern that the security situation in the country could quickly deteriorate as the weather warms in Afghanistan “Even with the continuation of financial assistance from the United States to your forces after an American military withdrawal, I am concerned that the security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains,” Blinken wrote in the letter. The Associated Press
Starting Monday, health authorities across British Columbia will start booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments for seniors not living in care homes. People are being asked to phone their health authority to book appointments, starting at 7 a.m. on March 8. On Sunday, B.C.'s health authorities released further details on when seniors should call, in a bid to avoid call centres being overwhelmed. Bob Chapman, one of Vancouver Coastal Health's leaders on the vaccine rollout, said Monday will be a milestone in the province's pandemic response. "We're really excited about this phase of actually reaching out to some of our public to start calling in for their vaccines," Chapman said. "We feel there's been a lot of anticipation for this time, so we're really excited we're here." Here's what you need to know about booking your vaccine appointment. When should I call? Seniors are being asked to phone during the following weeks, based on their age: For the week of March 8: seniors born in 1931 or earlier (aged 90 and above) or Indigenous seniors born in 1956 or earlier (aged 65 and above). For the week of March 15: seniors born in 1936 or earlier (aged 85 and above). For the week of March 22: seniors born in 1941 or earlier (aged 80 and above). Once someone becomes eligible they are able to book at any time — meaning no one will miss their window for booking an appointment. The first day appointments are available is March 15. Are there any exceptions? There are some exceptions for remote communities. In Vancouver Coastal Health, seniors born in 1941 or earlier (80 years of age and older) who live on the Sunshine Coast, or in Powell River, Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton are invited to call as of March 8. In the Island Health region, approximately 30 smaller and remote communities that don't currently have immunization clinics will be vaccinated as a whole — meaning the whole community will receive the vaccine during a single visit by health authorities to the area. In Northern Health, the phone booking system will open to seniors aged 80 and above in certain communities on March 10. The communities are Burns Lake, Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Dease Lake, Fort St. James, Fort St. John, Fraser Lake, Hazelton, Houston, Hudson's Hope, Kitimat, Mackenzie, Masset-Haida Gwaii, McBride, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Quesnel, Smithers, Stewart, Terrace, Tumbler Ridge, Valemount, Vanderhoof, and the Village of Queen Charlotte. In Fort Nelson, seniors 60 and above will be able to register by March 10. What information will I need to provide? People phoning to book their appointment will be asked to provide their first and last name, date of birth, postal code and personal health number, which can be found on the back of a B.C. driver's licence, B.C. Services Card or CareCard. If you do not have a personal health number, you can still receive the vaccine. What will happen during the phone call? If you're phoning for yourself, the phone agent will verify your age and ask for your personal information. You'll then select an appointment time slot at a clinic close to your home. If you provide contact information, you'll receive a confirmation message by email or text. If you're phoning on behalf of someone else, the phone agent will verify who you are calling for and ask you to provide their age and personal information before proceeding. Which vaccine will I receive? Seniors during this phase of the vaccine rollout will receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. How can I prepare for the appointment? The province recommends arriving a few minutes early for your appointment and wearing a short-sleeved shirt and a mask. All clinics are wheelchair accessible, and you are allowed to bring one person for support. What will happen at the appointment? At the appointment you'll be asked to complete a check-in process and then receive your vaccine dose. You'll then be asked wait in an observation area for about 15 minutes. The whole appointment will likely last 30 to 60 minutes.
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — A series of explosions at a military barracks in Equatorial Guinea killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 600 others on Sunday, authorities said. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said in a statement read on state television that the explosion was due to the “negligent handling of dynamite” in the military barracks located in the neighbourhood of Mondong Nkuantoma in Bata. He said that the explosion occurred at 4 p.m. local time. “The impact of the explosion caused damage in almost all the houses and buildings in Bata," the president said in the statement, which was in Spanish. The defence ministry released a statement late Sunday saying that a fire in a weapons depot in the barracks caused the explosion of high-calibre ammunition. It said the provisional toll was 20 dead and 600 injured, adding that the cause of the explosions will be fully investigated. Earlier, the Health Ministry had tweeted that 17 were killed and the president’s statement mentioned 15 dead. Equatorial Guinea, a tiny West African country of 1.3 million people located south of Cameroon, was a colony of Spain until it gained its independence in 1968. State television showed a huge plume of smoke rising above the explosion site as crowds fled, with many people crying out “we don’t know what happened, but it is all destroyed.” The Health Ministry made a call for blood donors and volunteer health workers to go to the Regional Hospital de Bata, one of three hospitals treating the wounded. The ministry tweeted that its health workers are treating the injured at the site of the tragedy and in medical facilities, but feared people were still missing under the rubble. Images on local media seen by The Associated Press show people screaming and crying running through the streets amid debris and smoke. Roofs of houses were ripped off and wounded people were being carried into a hospital. The blasts were a shock for the oil rich Central African nation. Foreign Minister Simeón Oyono Esono Angue met with foreign ambassadors and asked for aid. “It is important for us to ask our brother countries for their assistance in this lamentable situation since we have a health emergency (due to COVID-19) and the tragedy in Bata,” he said. A doctor calling into TVGE, who went by his first name, Florentino, said the situation was a “moment of crisis” and that the hospitals were overcrowded. He said a sports centre set up for COVID-19 patients would be used to receive minor cases. Radio station, Radio Macuto, said on Twitter that people were being evacuated within four kilometres of the city because the fumes might be harmful. Following the blast, the Spanish Embassy in Equatorial Guinea recommended on Twitter that “Spanish nationals stay in their homes." ___ Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain. ___ A previous version of this story was corrected to show that state television is TVGE, not TGVE. Sam Mednick And Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press
Here's a sight most airline passengers don't get to witness! Watch as this flight soars right above the cloud deck.
Karla Combres says the night before the first COVID-19 lockdown last year, her husband was in Nipawin for a meeting with 100 people. "He came home that night and I said, you know what? I don't think you should go to work tomorrow," Combres told CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend. "It was as quick as that. You know, like, from one day to the next, it was unthinkable to gather with that many people." Combres is a life cycle celebrant in Saskatoon and one of the organizers of an online vigil being held this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. CST to mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. The vigil is called Together in Remembrance, Together in Hope, and it was organized by Saskatoon's multi-faith community, but Combres said everyone is welcome. "For anybody coming to this, no grief is too big or too small," she said. "This is really for everyone, no matter what your race or your creed or your colour or your age or where you are in the province." Her work centres around gathering people and in the early days of the pandemic, she said she wasn't sure how she was going to be able to continue doing that in a meaningful way. "Over the course of the past year, I have found ways through researching and participating in gatherings and then also through just really learning and being creative on my own with the people I work with," she said. Gatherings are smaller and people join via livestream but it is still possible to connect, she said, and she hopes people will find that with the vigil as well. Combres had the idea for a vigil but she said it was Blake Sittler who got the ball rolling initially to mark the anniversary. Sittler is the executive director of Saskatoon's Roman Catholic chaplaincy and another organizer of the vigil. He and his wife were celebrating their 25th anniversary in New York before the pandemic hit, arriving home only a few days before the first case was found there. "We went back to work for a day or two and on Friday, I grabbed my laptop and I said, you know, I'm going to take this laptop home in case I need to stay home for a few days and a few days turned into a full year working in my basement," he said. A person in a face mask walks through an almost empty Times Square in New York City as the COVID-19 outbreak pandemic continues.(Andrew Kelly/Reuters) Sittler said the goal of the event was to represent as many of the different communities in the province as possible, echoing the provincial motto, "From many peoples strength." "We knew we wanted to mark the day because humans do try to make meaning of their lives through ritual," Sittler said. He said the vigil is not a religious event but instead an opportunity to bring people together so they feel less alone. "You're not alone in your mourning, you know, you're not alone in the jobs you lost, your fear, the loneliness, the isolation.… And at the same time, now that the vaccines are coming out, we also wanted to let them know that they aren't alone in their hope." Sittler said he'll be thinking of people in special care and long-term care homes who have been isolated throughout the pandemic, as well as the workers in those facilities. "These are folks who have built up this province and have spent their life serving their community and their kids," he said. "It's like being in isolation in a prison. And some of them even asked that question is like, what did we do wrong that this is happening?" Sittler said he wanted to put an event together where people could gather and say, 'I'm not crazy for being sad and I'm not crazy for being hopeful.'(Supplied by Shirley Larkin/White Coat Black Art) The event will have greetings from representatives from different traditions. A front-line worker will speak about their experience, and there will also be poetry and music. The event also invites everyone to bring a candle to light. "People know what it means to light a candle in the window, you know, for the weary traveler to just find their way through the darkness," Sittler said. "And that's what this is, to light a candle, to give people hope to say that we're in this together." The event is free but you need to register at covidvigil.ca. You can join on Zoom, and it will also be livestreamed to YouTube.
For the first time in more than 100 days, non-essential stores in Toronto and Peel Region will be allowed to open, starting Monday. But it will not be business as usual because major malls are making changes to how people can visit. These changes come as stay-at-home orders lift in the two regions, shifting them into the grey lockdown zone as of 12:01 a.m. To prepare for visitors, malls in these areas have implemented new safety protocols, including: 25 per cent capacity limit. Live online meters to check mall capacity in real time. Mandatory screening (in-person or online) for all retailers, employees, and shoppers entering the malls Will Correia, director for Yorkdale Shopping Centre, suggests completing the Ontario Screening Questionnaire online before coming to shop as it will make customers' experiences more efficient. "You'll get a notification on your phone that is good for the entire day and it will just make those questions really easy to answer, he said. "You show us the results that you've received when you get to the shopping centre and that will allow you access." The new online capacity tracker for Oxford Properties shopping malls, which include Yorkdale, Square One and Scarborough Town Centre, will help distribute patrons in the mall throughout the day and allow shoppers to see exactly where capacity is so they can plan accordingly, Correia said. For Yorkdale, 25 per cent capacity means a maximum of 6,000 people in the mall at any given time, 1,000 of which are employees. WATCH l Toronto, Peel restrictions easing: What you need to know Once full capacity is reached, a one-in-one-out system will be put into place. Cadillac Fairview's Eaton Centre said in a statement: "We anticipate that the new restrictions may result in additional line ups inside and outside of the property and we will advise guests to prepare their visits accordingly." Select retailers will also offer curbside pickup, storefront pick up, and/or virtual appointment shopping, both Cadillac Fairview and Oxford Properties said. Masks mandatory, no food or drink consumption Masks remain mandatory in the shopping centres and must be properly worn at all times. Shoppers are also strongly encouraged to shop individually or with members of the same household. At this time, food and beverage consumption is not allowed in malls. In-dining areas are not open to the public but all food court retails are open for takeout. Under the grey lockdown tier in Ontario's colour-coded framework, non-essential stores can open at 25 per cent capacity while indoor dining, gyms and hair salons remain closed. Grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies can operate at 50 per cent capacity. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and must comply with physical distancing rules.
Health Minister John Haggie says the province may be on track to start staycations on time this tourism season.(Government of Newfoundland and Labrador) With the accelerating COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Newfoundland and Labrador, Health Minister John Haggie is optimistic that staycation season will start on time this year, but the reaction from tourism operators is mixed. "I think we may well be on track to start on time this year," Haggie said of staycations during Friday's provincial COVID-19 briefing, moments after Premier Andrew Furey announced that people who want the vaccine will have the shot by the end of June. Despite optimism from the provincial government, the pandemic has decimated the tourism industry worldwide over the last year, as people have been ordered to stay home as much as possible, borders have closed and airlines have slashed and suspended flights. Whales and icebergs normally draw thousands of tourists to Newfoundland and Labrador. There is optimism and uncertainty about how the tourism season will proceed amid the second year of the coronoavirus pandemic. (Submitted by Kris Prince) Last summer, the province's $1 billion tourism industry slowed to a trickle of staycationers and a few tourists from nearby provinces, once the Atlantic bubble formed in July. Kier Knudsen, owner the Dark Tickle Company in St. Lunaire-Griquet on the Northern Peninsula, says his family has been in business, in some form, for over 100 years. His company is known for its wild berry jams, sauces and chocolates sold in gift shops across the province. They also operate a boat tour expedition and a cafe. He said their gift shop and orders for their wholesale products were "dead" last year, and they didn't operate the boat tour at all. Knudsen calls the provincial government's optimism about staycations "a positive thing." But, he said, because they're about a thousand kilometres away from the Avalon Peninsula, fewer staycationers will be at their door, as it's difficult for them to come for the weekend. "I mean, we'll get some staycationers, but it's not enough to support a tourism business in this area," he said. "So we really need interprovincial travel to open for us to make a go of it." Knudsen noted 70 per cent of his business relies on visitors from Ontario and Quebec. Knudsen said business has dipped during the pandemic, but the Sculpin Cones have been a nice boost bringing in locals and people from across the island to his cafe.(Submitted by Kier Knudsen) Prince Edward Island's Premier Dennis King said Sunday he's hopeful the Atlantic Bubble will reopen by "early spring." But the Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister said it's too early to predict what will happen with interprovincial travel. "Because that's outside our control. But I really think that by the end of summer, there will be some serious consideration, maybe, of going back to a level one," Haggie said Friday. Meanwhile, Knudsen said people typically start their vacation planning during the winter and early spring, which will influence how well tourism operators do over the summer months. "If they're not doing that now, there's a good chance they're not going to be able to come in. The season — it's dead before it starts," he said. "2022 is what we're looking towards." Knudsen added he's hoping locals continue to support the province's tourism industry and continue taking staycations after the pandemic is over. Focusing on locals In contrast, Janet Denstedt, owner of the Old Saltbox Co. — a company operating vacation homes dotted across Newfoundland — says her focus will be on staycationers. "I think this year we're just really focused on supplying our Newfoundlanders with a special holiday and preparing out-of-province people for 2022 at this point," she said, while hoping for some out-of-province travels later in the fall. She calls the late start to last summer's staycation season "challenging," since her company lost all out-of-province bookings, amounting to 70 per cent of their business. The Old Saltbox Co. restores homes and decorates them with a modern touch. They rent vacation homes in Twillingate, Musgrave Harbour, Fogo Island, Greenspond, Burgo and Francois. (Old Saltbox Co.) "We survived," she said. "For the most part, it ended up pretty good. We had a whole lot more staycationers through our houses that never would have gotten to stay." While she is looking forward to a better season this summer, her biggest concern is about other tourism businesses who have also struggled through the last year. "The restaurants, and the tour operators and just local crafts people and musicians that are losing out on international and out-of-province visitors ... if we don't have them as part of our industry, then it really cuts down on the experience that the guests get," Denstedt said. Still, she thinks demand to visit the province will increase as the world recovers from COVID-19. "There's going to be so much pent up desire to get to the rock," she said. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
MONTREAL — Quebec reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and seven more deaths on Sunday, as much of the province prepared to transition to the lower orange alert level of pandemic-related public health restrictions. Two of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours, while the rest happened earlier or at an unknown date. Hospitalizations declined by nine to 592, with 107 people in intensive care, which is two fewer than the day before. The Quebec government announced last week that it would ease restrictions in most of the province on March 8, with the exception of Montreal and the surrounding regions where restaurant dining rooms will stay closed and an 8 p.m. curfew remains in effect. Quebec City and four other regions will move to the lower, "orange'' pandemic-alert level of the province's response framework, which means more businesses can open and the start of the nighttime curfew will be pushed back to 9:30 p.m. Health Minister Christian Dube asked Quebecers to stick to their own regions, writing that "now is not the time" for non-essential travel. But for some, the loosened restrictions didn't go far enough. A high-school football player led a protest in front of Quebec City's legislature on Sunday, demanding the resumption of all organized sports. The province announced last week that school athletics could resume as of March 15, as long as students stay within classroom groups. Police, meanwhile, announced that they had issued tickets totaling more than $1,500 to 36 people who gathered at a cottage north of Quebec City on Saturday evening. Local police said they broke up the gathering at the residence in Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury, Que., after being contacted by citizens at about 8:30 p.m. The province administered 15,329 doses of vaccine on Saturday, and has promised to ramp up its campaign this week as more regions begin mass vaccination of the general public, beginning with older seniors. Mass immunization began last week but has been concentrated in the Montreal area due to a higher number of cases and the risk posed by more contagious virus variants. The age of eligibility for a vaccine ranges from 70 to 80, depending on the region. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press