The government of Italy is requiring all health-care workers to take a COVID-19 vaccine, with those refusing facing suspension without pay for the rest of the year.
The government of Italy is requiring all health-care workers to take a COVID-19 vaccine, with those refusing facing suspension without pay for the rest of the year.
The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can "break through" Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found, though its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed. The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1% of all the COVID-19 cases across all the people studied, according to the study by Tel Aviv University and Israel's largest healthcare provider, Clalit. But among patients who had received two doses of the vaccine, the variant's prevalence rate was eight times higher than those unvaccinated - 5.4% versus 0.7%.
B.C. RCMP are seeking witnesses and dashcam footage related to a homicide in West Kelowna in March. On March 21, a 35-year-old man was shot and killed near Highway 97 between Butt and Grizzly roads. RCMP said that the shooting appeared to be targeted. Investigators are still seeking eyewitnesses and dashcam footage from everyone who travelled in the area between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. that Sunday. Investigators said in a written statement that they believe a vehicle headed toward West Kelowna stopped in the intersection for a brief time. They say they would like to speak to the occupants of the vehicle, which is described as a dark coloured and, possibly, smaller-style SUV. Police ask everyone with information to contact the B.C. RCMP Southeast District Major Crime Unit tipline at 1-877-987-8477.
Ukraine's defence minister said on Saturday his country could be provoked by Russian aggravation of the situation in the conflict area of Ukraine's eastern Donbass region. The minister, Andrii Taran, said Russian accusations about the rights of Russian-speakers being violated could be the reason for the resumption of armed aggression against Ukraine. "At the same time, it should be noted that the intensification of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is possible only if an appropriate political decision is made at the highest level in the Kremlin," he said in a statement.
Sixteen years ago, a handsome man in his 50s, who had been a big deal in the United Kingdom, addressed a Liberal policy convention. He was distinguished and impressive and he possessed the political allure that comes with having been a great success at something other than politics. Though he did not admit to having any ambitions for public office, he was already being touted as a potential successor to the prime minister of the day. Less than a year later, Michael Ignatieff was the Liberal MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Four years after that, he was leader of the Liberal party. But the less said about what happened after that, the better. Mark Carney is not the exact facsimile of Ignatieff. A political turn by Carney — if he is so inclined — is not fated to end in tears. But Ignatieff's story is a cautionary tale that Liberals, Carney boosters and Carney himself might want to heed before anyone gets too excited about the former bank governor's appearance at this weekend's Liberal convention. Carney was not exactly electrifying in his appearance on Friday night — though perhaps few people are when speaking via video call from their living room. But he no doubt set Liberal hearts aflutter with his comments about "the responsibility of service" and his pledge to "do whatever I can to support the Liberal party in our efforts to build a better future for Canadians." Those words will pour fuel on speculative fires that have been smouldering for years. Regardless of whether he is actually now preparing or prepared to run as a Liberal for elected office, Liberals will no doubt happily accept the credibility that any association might lend to them. Generally speaking, if the former governor of the banks of Canada and England offers his endorsement and support, you accept it. Roots in government Beyond his resume and reputation, his publicly stated concerns also fit within the broad ideas that the Liberal party has tried to associate itself with since Justin Trudeau became leader. Carney has long been interested in questions about climate change and sustainability and he is now promoting a weighty tome — Value(s) — in which he argues that human values should not be secondary to market values. But whether Carney would be any good at politics is another matter entirely. In Ignatieff's own telling of the six years he spent as a practising politician — Fire and Ashes, published in 2013 — he recalls leaving the stage after his speech in March 2005 and being met by a crush of people, including a journalist who was an old friend. "He whispered, 'Good speech,' and then realizing I really was about to take the plunge gave me the commiserating look old friends give you when they know they can't stop you doing something foolish," Ignatieff writes. Michael Ignatieff acknowledges crowd after being named leader at the Liberal Leadership Convention in Vancouver on May 2, 2009. Ignatieff emerged as a great hope for the Liberal party, the reality proved much different.(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press) There are elements of Carney's story that distinguish him from Ignatieff. For one thing, Carney's professional life is much more grounded in Canada — before his five years as governor of the Bank of Canada, he worked for three years as a senior official in the federal department of finance and one year as the bank's deputy governor. Even after seven years as governor of the Bank of England, it should be difficult to portray him as a fairweather Canadian who's "just visiting." (Carney made sure to note on Friday that he was born in the Northwest Territories and grew up in Edmonton.) Though bank governors are necessarily apolitical — or at least non-partisan — Carney's time as governor also exposed him to a level of politics that Ignatieff had only really observed. Ignatieff had delivered lectures and written essays, Carney has done news conferences and defended policy decisions. NDP, Tories launch attacks But Ignatieff's example demonstrates that you can't really know how well someone is going to do at partisan politics until they actually try to do it. Professional politics of this sort is a series of acts that most humans don't take to naturally: stump speeches, hostile interviews, speaking in slogans and shaking hands with strangers. Your words are picked over, your mannerisms are scrutinized and you will inevitably embarrass yourself from time to time. Already, Carney has run into trouble over a recent claim that the investments of Brookfield Asset Management, for whom he now works, are producing "net-zero" emissions. Carney's argument rested on the idea that renewable energy sources in Brookfield's portfolio were resulting in "avoided emissions" that counter-balanced the firm's investments in fossil fuels. Climate experts objected to that math and Carney was compelled to acknowledge that he was mistaken. Hours before Carney spoke on Friday night, the New Democrats sent a note to reporters to rehash that gaffe. While noting that Carney spent 13 years "climbing the corporate ladder at Goldman Sachs," the NDP accused the Liberals of "court[ing] the approval of the ultra-rich and well connected." Shortly thereafter, the Conservatives issued a release describing Carney as "one of Canada's most well-known elites" and accusing him of "promot[ing] trendy new economic experiments that are popular with Davos billionaires." There would be more of that sort of thing if Carney actually crosses the threshold into politics. And then he'd be mocked relentlessly if he tried to compensate by ditching his nice suits and only ever wearing plaid shirts and jeans. Of course, if one does manage to succeed at politics there are rewards — like being able to make meaningful changes to public policy that substantially improve the lives of your fellow citizens. If you are into that sort of thing, politics might have some appeal. Carney will wake up Saturday morning as more of a political figure than he was before he spoke on Friday night. And Liberals will wake up happy for whatever excitement he might generate. But no one should get too far ahead of themselves just yet. At the very least, Carney should read Ignatieff's book before going any further.
Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, overwhelmingly voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.View on euronews
MONTREAL — Quebec recorded another day of rising COVID-19 cases Saturday while setting a new high for daily vaccinations. Health authorities reported 1,754 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. There were 14 more patients requiring hospital care for a total of 583, with the number in intensive care rising by four to 138. Quebec set another daily record for inoculations on Friday, administering more than 73,023 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted that 530,000 Quebecers have received a dose in the past nine days and the goal of having every adult having received a first dose by the Fete nationale holiday on June 24 remains on track. "While we are vaccinating, we must continue to respect the measures, we must limit the spread of the virus," Dube wrote. "Now is not the time to relax (efforts), despite the good weather." The province has administered 1,829,011 shots since the immunization campaign began, with 21.4 per cent of the province having received at least one dose. Montreal led the way with 428 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, followed by Quebec City with 410 and Chaudiere-Appalaches, just south of the provincial capital, with 220. The Laurentians, the Outaouais in western Quebec and Monteregie, south of Montreal, also each reported more than 100 cases. There are now 12,371 active reported cases in the province. On Saturday, Quebec's Health Department announced that it was opening up vaccinations to health care and social service sector workers who haven't been vaccinated against COVID-19 and who work directly with patients. The latest group includes a long list of workers such as those working in private medical clinics, dental clinics, pharmacies and community workers who interact with high-risk clientele. Authorities decided to split vaccinations of health-care workers into two phases due to a slowdown in vaccine deliveries in February. The Health Department also announced unvaccinated health care workers or those who refuse to provide a proof of vaccination will be required to take a COVID-19 screening test. The measure comes into effect Saturday. The province has said the decree is due to the risk presented by more contagious COVID-19 variants and worries about large-scale outbreaks in environments where there are vulnerable users or activities that are deemed critical . Those who haven't received a dose for more than 14 days or refuse to provide proof will be required to undergo recurrent preventive screening. Refusal could lead to reassignment to similar tasks or withdrawal from the system, the province said. Quebec has now reported 324,848 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 301,740 recoveries and 10,737 deaths since the onset of the pandemic, with two removed from the tally after being found not to be attributed to the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Maxine Koskie says when she heard she wouldn't be getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as planned, she broke down and cried. The Regina resident is waiting for surgery and required a vaccine for the procedure — one she's been waiting for since last October. She made an appointment online for vaccinations for her and her husband at the Evraz Place immunization site in Regina, which, based on previous Saskatchewan Health Authority information, she believed was offering the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. But just before she was set to receive the shot, the nurse informed Koskie she and her husband would be getting the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine instead. "It was a complete surprise to both of us," she said. "They're acting more like a dictatorship, because they're taking away the freedom of choice," she said. "I made the conscious choice to go for a Pfizer vaccine and that was not an option for me." Koskie says she ended up receiving the shot out of necessity, but the experience left her feeling let down by the government. 'It's been very underhanded' Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman need to be transparent with the people of Saskatchewan, she says. "My concern is that it's been very underhanded," she said, adding the experience left her feeling appalled. "I was so upset with the disrespect." The Saskatchewan Health Authority announced "vaccine delivery changes" in an online notice on Friday. "The SHA has re-allocated the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the Regina mass immunization sites at the International Trade Centre and the University of Regina to allow for the administration of Pfizer vaccines through the drive-thru starting Friday, while vaccine supply is available," the health authority said online. One of the province's first mass vaccination clinics at the International Trade Centre at Regina's Evraz Place. One Regina resident is fuming after only discovering at her appointment that she wasn't getting the brand of vaccine she expected.(Matt Duguid/CBC) Koskie thinks patients should be notified directly about any changes to their appointment or vaccine plan before they arrive for their appointments. She says she wasn't alone in her anger and frustration, as others around them also expressed concern when they were informed of the change. "They need to be honest and when they change things on the spur of the moment, they need to get that information out to the public that it is going to affect." Efficacy concerns She said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was her shot of choice because she feels it provides better protection. AstraZeneca has said its vaccine had a 76 per cent efficacy rate at preventing symptomatic illness — compared with rates of about 95 per cent for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and about 67 per cent for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was the fourth and latest approved by Health Canada. As well, data from one small trial suggested the AstraZeneca vaccine did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the B1351 variant of the coronavirus, which was first identified in South Africa. However, Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, told CBC in a February interview that "Where it matters the most, against severe disease, hospitalization and death … [AstraZeneca] seems to be quite effective against the variant." Sharma also said laboratory tests and real-world evidence suggest the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine seems to be "quite effective" against the B117 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. The clinical trials of both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were completed before the variants of concern took off worldwide. 'Safe and effective': health ministry In a statement sent to CBC, Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health said vaccine availability is dependent on numerous factors, including the increasing presence of coronavirus variants of concern in the Regina area. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization guidelines suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine should be used only for people older than 55. But the presence and transmission of variants of concern in Regina has required the province to "accelerate the vaccination program" for those under 55, the health ministry said. "All vaccines approved by Health Canada are safe and effective at preventing the most serious forms of COVID-19 illness and death. All residents have been asked to take the vaccine that is available to them," the ministry said. "If those receiving the vaccine have concerns regarding a certain brand of vaccine due to their medical history, they should speak to their primary care physician or a public health nurse directly prior to their appointment." The ministry also said patients are informed about the brand of vaccine they will receive, noting they are free to refuse the vaccine if they have concerns. However, Koskie says she thinks the government is "not accepting responsibility or ownership" for the fact people may be caught off guard when they're told they'll be receiving a different vaccine once they're at an appointment. "They're in a position where they have no choice," she said. She's already made a call to the ministry on the issue, and now plans to file a formal written complaint. 'Any vaccine is a good vaccine': health minister Health Minister Paul Merriman addressed questions about vaccines on Saturday, following a rare weekend sitting of the legislature. He said a "very minimal" number of people out of the thousands who have booked appointments at Evraz Place have refused a vaccine because they didn't want to take a specific brand. "Any vaccine is a good vaccine, unless there are very certain circumstances where a doctor or a health-care provider has recommended you don't do that," he said, noting people can rebook later if they're concerned about the type of vaccine offered to them. He says the province is not in a position to "pick and choose" when it comes to vaccines, and pointed out Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab has already received the AstraZeneca shot. Merriman said the province will work to accommodate people who are unable to get a certain vaccine due to medical conditions outlined by a doctor, encouraging them to call into the province's vaccine line at 1-833-727-5829 beforehand. But he said there are no plans moving forward for the government to inform members of the public about which vaccines will become available to them, as supply fluctuates. "There will be, to my knowledge, no advance warning of what you are getting," he said. "People assume that they're getting one vaccine or not, but any vaccine is a good vaccine right now."
A Yellowknife-born actor is showing his range, from playing a veterinarian on Emmy award-winning show Schitt's Creek to voice acting for a new kids series. Dustin Milligan played a key role on Schitt's Creek, a show that chronicles a formerly-filthy-rich family as they are demoted from their opulence to lead normal lives in a rural town — their only remaining asset. Schitt's Creek just wrapped up its final season and is up for 22 Canadian Screen Awards. The popularity of the show couldn't have been predicted, but seeing its success has been "pretty wild" for Milligan. "As a Canadian actor there is always this sense of 'yeah, you do the Canadian work in order to pay the bills and keep yourself busy until the larger American jobs come through,'" he said. But, when Milligan was presented with the opportunity to work with Eugene Levy, who plays Johnny Rose and Catherine O'Hara playing the role of former soap opera star wife Moira Rose, he says taking the role was an easy choice. "I looked up to Eugene and Catherine a lot as a kid and to work with them — it was a no-brainer. You never know what a show like this is going to do in terms of the final outcome and how the audience is going to receive it," he said. "Truly an unexpected dream come true." He added the actors are both "kind and generous with their time and their talents." From sitcoms to kids' TV Milligan is on the up after the hit comedy series and has a few projects on the go. Among them is Rutherford Falls, an upcoming American TV sitcom that focuses on the relationship between a fictional Native American reservation and the residents of a neighbouring small town in upstate New York. He is also starring in a new show kids' show, Super Agent Jon Le Bon!. The show is fun and goofy, and the super agents help to deceive villains while delivering an environmental message. "A lot of the hijinx we get into are related to environmental issues — global warming, climate change as well as friendships, bonding and teamwork," he said. "It's a high energy show. I think it's a lot of fun for kids, the young at heart," he said. Raised by a northern community Milligan said the support of his teachers at Mildred Hall School in Yellowknife and community members have been a guiding force in his career. "It may be cliché to say, but, I do believe in that adage of it takes a village to raise a child," he said. "I believe it was a large group of people over many, many years that continued to encourage me over the years in those moments when I needed it that has led my to pursue this job," he said. And, he says, the longer he's been away from the North, the more he realizes just how much he loves Yellowknife.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for the "worrying" developments in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held more than three hours of talks with Erdogan in Istanbul as part of a previously scheduled visit, amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the conflict in Donbass. Kyiv has raised the alarm over a buildup of Russian forces near the border between Ukraine and Russia, and over a rise in violence along the line of contact separating Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in Donbass.
Italy reported 344 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday against 718 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 17,567 from 18,938 the day before. Italy has registered 113,923 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. Some 320,892 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 362,973, the health ministry said.
Liberal delegates to the party's policy convention have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling for the establishment of a universal basic income (UBI) in Canada, while also rejecting a call to hike the capital gains tax. By a vote of 77 per cent, Liberal members on hand for the policy plenary today backed a call to permanently implement an income program similar to the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), which kept millions of people afloat with monthly cheques during the first wave of the pandemic. With 8.7 per cent of Canadians living below the poverty line and thousands more struggling to make ends meet, backers of this policy say a UBI would "ensure that communities at risk (including Indigenous peoples) are able to feel financially secure." "Given the success of the CERB program, a UBI will assist seniors and low-income Canadians maintain an adequate standard of living, regardless of working status," the resolution reads. Speaking to delegates assembled online, Alex Spears of the Young Liberals of Canada said a UBI would ensure the country's "strong and robust social safety net is adapted to the 21st century," adding that a program to send cheques to all families is "completely consistent with our values as a party." He said the program would "put more cash in the hands of working Canadians and families" and could lift millions out of poverty. "UBI is not a silver bullet and it ought to be done in conjunction with many other progressive policies, but it is a critical step," he said. Would a UBI work? The resolution does not say how such a costly program would be designed and implemented. Few jurisdictions around the world have successfully enacted programs that make regular payments to all citizens without means tests or work requirements. The parliamentary budget officer last week concluded that a universal basic income could almost halve Canada's poverty rate in just one year, but at a steep cost: $85 billion in 2021-22, rising to $93 billion in 2025-26. While the resolutions are non-binding — the government ignored a 2018 convention vote to decriminalize all illicit drug use, for example — the policy endorsements could help inform future government spending and the Liberal Party's election platform. The government has said it's preparing to spend up to $100 billion this year to kick start the post-pandemic economy even after it reported a record-high deficit of $381 billion in the last fiscal year. While the idea of a UBI has gained traction in progressive circles — supporters maintain the massive price tag of such a program could be offset by dismantling existing provincial social welfare schemes — academics who study poverty reduction are split on its value. A 529-page report authored by researchers at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Calgary concluded after a three-year investigation that a basic income for all is not the best way to address poverty and other social problems. Instead, the report said, governments should boost existing social support programs for vulnerable groups through improved disability assistance, dental care programs and more money to help the working poor pay rent. A more targeted approach to help the disadvantaged, as opposed to a universal program like UBI, would do more to lift people out of poverty, the report concluded. Conservative MP Ed Fast, the party's finance critic, said pursuing a UBI would be a "risky and unknown experiment that will leave millions more Canadians behind." He said the Liberal Party is trying to "reimagine" the Canadian economy while the country is still struggling with the pandemic. "The fact that UBI was supported at the convention this weekend is par for the course with Justin Trudeau and the Liberals. Instead of focusing on creating jobs, they are fixated on implementing risky, expensive and untested economic policies," Fast said. Delegates endorse pharmacare, 'green new deal' Liberal delegates also supported other progressive policies, such as the creation of a national pharmacare program and a "green new deal" to dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions. B.C. members backing the new green-friendly policies say Canada needs a "10-year national mobilization" plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 because "a changing climate threatens human life, healthy communities and critical infrastructure." While this proposal is also light on specifics, its supporters are calling for an "urgent, transparent and inclusive consultation process" with workers, labour unions and businesses affected by the shift to cleaner fuel sources. Delegates agreed there should be a "just transition" for energy workers who will lose their jobs as a result of move to renewable energy. Inheritance tax, capital gains hike rejected At a time when all levels of government are searching for new revenue streams to offset the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberal delegates rejected a resolution from the party's Ontario chapter to hike the capital gains tax. Currently, when an investment is sold — a stock, a mutual fund or any one of a number of other assets — 50 per cent of any increase in value is taxed as income. For example, if a person buys a share in a publicly traded company for $20 and sells it for $40 at a later date, then $10 will be added to a person's income for tax purposes; the other $10 earned goes untaxed. This preferential tax treatment is designed to encourage people to make investments to drive economic growth and provide companies with easy access to capital. Critics maintain this unfairly benefits the rich. The Ontario chapter proposed reducing the capital gains tax exemption to zero — meaning all investment gains would be taxed as income. As part of the same proposal, the Ontario chapter pitched an "inheritance tax" on all assets over $2 million. That proposal did not specify the rate at which these assets should be taxed, or how and when such a system would take effect. Delegates rejected the idea along with the suggestion to increase the capital gains tax by a 62-38 margin. 'Please make me pay more taxes' One delegate, Jake Landau, the president of the Don Valley West Young Liberals, said he considers himself "upper middle class" and he believes the current system is tilted toward the wealthy. "I am asking everyone, please make me pay more taxes. I want to pay my fair share," he said. Another delegate named Linda — who also did not give her last name — said she worries that a change to the capital gains tax might open the door to the federal government taxing the sale of primary residences. In the last election, the Conservative Party warned that a Liberal government would look to cash in on rising home values by levying a capital gains tax on home sales to raise funds — a charge the Liberals have denied. Delegates to the Liberal Party's virtual policy convention rejected a call to increase the capital gains tax.(Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press) Right now, sales of primary homes are exempt from capital gains taxes — meaning the owners don't have to pay taxes on any increase in a home's value when it's sold. The same rules do not apply to secondary, seasonal or investment properties, which are taxed like other investments. "My concern with this is it is a blanket resolution," said Linda. "There are many people relying on capital gains in their home in order to retire and not live in poverty." 'Long-term care can be a nightmare' Party members also overwhelmingly backed a policy proposal — with 97 per cent in favour — to reform the country's long-term care home system, which has been hit hard with death and disease throughout this pandemic. "The pandemic has shown us that long-term care can be a nightmare," said one unnamed Liberal delegate. "Seniors will do anything they can to stay out." The policy calls on the federal government to introduce new legislation to set "enforceable" national standards to prevent a repeat of the COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities that have claimed the lives of thousands. Kathleen Devlin of the Senior Liberals' Commission said Canadians have been "horrified" by the conditions reported in long-term care homes throughout this health crisis. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are shown at Residence Yvon-Brunet, a long-term care home in Montreal, Saturday, May 16, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world.(Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press) She said the Canadian Armed Forces report last summer from the pandemic front lines "embarrassed us all." Soldiers reported that residents in some long-term care homes were bullied, drugged, improperly fed and in some cases left for hours and days in soiled bedding. "While it's a provincial responsibility to deliver it, there needs to be federal leadership to give all Canadians equity when they're at their most vulnerable," Devlin said. "Sometimes we need a crisis to face what we already know." According to the resolution, these new standards would address accommodation conditions, staffing levels, qualifications and compensation. The proposed legislation also would demand greater transparency in how homes are operated "and public accountability through random inspections and annual public reporting."
Parts of northwestern New Brunswick will go into lockdown in response to a surge in cases of COVID-19. The Edmundston and Haut-Madawaska areas will be placed under the tighter restrictions effective Saturday at 11:59 p.m. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell urged residents of the region to stay home and said an effort is being made to send more vaccine to the area. "The new variants of COVID-19 have changed the course of this pandemic," she said. Saint-Léonard, Grand Falls, Drummond, New Denmark and Four Falls will remain under the Red level. The Saint-Quentin and Kedgwick regions will remain in the Yellow level. Public Health is reporting 19 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, with 15 in the Edmundston region. The other four cases are spread out across the Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John regions. The province also reported its 33rd death from COVID-19, an individual in their 70s in Zone 4. Twenty patients are hospitalized in the province, including 13 in intensive care. Most are at the Edmundston Regional Hospital, which was forced to redirect admissions after reaching capacity this week. High school delay New Brunswick is reversing a controversial decision to send students back to high school full-time on Monday. New Brunswick's teachers' union has been calling on the province to delay full-time, in-person classes that are expected to resume on Monday. Zone 4 is not included under the red phase. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced plans to delay the return across the province as a "precaution." "We need to be quite confident that we're not contributing to the problem, and this gives us time to watch the cases," she said. École Saint-Jacques in Edmundston reported two cases of COVID-19 on Friday. (Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada) High school students have been following an alternate-day system since September, aiming at reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. On days where they are not present in-person, students have been learning virtually from home. Vaccine clinics were held at schools in preparation of the change, offering the shot to teachers and school staff. But some educators and parents criticized the decision. Zone 4 was not expected to follow the change. The update comes as hundreds of households in the Edmundston area are self-isolating after a school confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant first reported in the U.K. École Saint-Jacques confirmed two cases on Friday. The District Scolaire francophone du Nord-Ouest told all students, staff and anyone they live with to self-isolate until Sunday at 11:59 p.m. There are about 300 students at the elementary school. The self-isolation directive applies to anyone who was at the school April 6-8. Family members are asked to remain in their homes over the weekend while contact tracing is underway. Public Health will reach out directly to close contacts. Hundreds of families are self-isolating after two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at École Saint-Jacques in Edmundston.(Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada) École Saint-Jacques will move to virtual learning on Monday and Tuesday. Classes are expected to resume in person on Thursday, after a previously scheduled day off. A childcare facility within the school will also close on both days. A case was also confirmed at an Edmundston daycare on Friday. With the rise in cases, the Edmundston hospital has been forced to restrict admissions and redirect patients to other facilities. Variants prompt lockdown New Brunswick's hardest-hit region is returning to a lockdown for the second time this year. Under those measures, all non-essential businesses in the region must close. People must continue to maintain a single-household bubble and non-essential travel in or out of the area is not permitted. Schools in the area will move entirely to virtual learning. The Edmundston region is continuing a series of large-scale vaccine clinics and is expected to be prioritized for additional doses in the coming weeks. There have been 16 cases of transmission of COVID-19 variants in Zone 4. Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said she is concerned about the presence of variants of COVID-19.(Government of New Brunswick) Russell said every COVID-19 case is now being treated as a highly contagious variant moving forward. She said three vaccinated people are currently in hospital. One person was fully vaccinated with two doses and more than two weeks had passed, one person had not passed 14 days, and another had only received one dose. Health officials are closely monitoring the Saint John and Moncton regions as areas of concern for the variant. More than 200 people in Saint John are currently self-isolating after possible exposure at a church service. Russell would not specify which presumptive variant is involved until lab results return in the next few days. 148 active cases New Brunswick now has 148 total active cases. The new cases on Saturday are as follows: In the Edmundston and Grand Falls region (Zone 4), there are 15 new cases. Public Health said 15 are contacts of previous cases, and the other three are under investigation: Three people 19 and under. Two people in their 20s. Two people in their 40s. Three people in their 50s. Four people in their 60s. A person in their 70s. The Fredericton region (Zone 3) is reporting two new cases: Two people in their 30s, both travel-related. The Saint John region (Zone 2) has one new case: A person 19 and under, travel-related. In the Moncton region (Zone 1), there is one new case: (CBC News) New Brunswick has confirmed 1,713 total cases, including 1,531 recoveries. There have been 33 deaths. Public Health conducted 1,386 tests on Friday, for a total of 266,621. Possible exposure in Saint John Public Health has identified possible public exposure to the virus at the following locations in Saint John: Thursday, April 8 between 1:15-2 p.m. – Service New Brunswick, 15 King Square North. Friday, April 9 between 5-6 p.m. and Thursday, April 8 between noon-1 p.m. – McAllister Place, 519 Westmorland Rd. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: Fever above 38 C. New cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.
BEIJING — Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce company, was fined 18.3 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) by Chinese regulators on Saturday for anti-competitive tactics, as the ruling Communist Party tightens control over fast-growing tech industries. Party leaders worry about the dominance of China's biggest internet companies, which are expanding into finance, health services and other sensitive areas. The party says anti-monopoly enforcement, especially in tech, is a priority this year. Alibaba was fined for “abusing its dominant position” to limit competition by retailers that use its platforms and hindering “free circulation” of goods, the State Administration for Market Regulation announced. It said the fine was equal to 4% of its total 2019 sales of 455.712 billion yuan ($69.5 billion). “Alibaba accepts the penalty with sincerity and will ensure its compliance with determination,” the company said in a statement. It promised to “operate in accordance with the law with utmost diligence.” The move is a new setback for Alibaba and its billionaire founder, Jack Ma, following a November decision by regulators to suspend the stock market debut of Ant Group, a finance platform spun off from the e-commerce giant. It would have been the world's biggest initial public stock offering last year. Ma, one of China's richest and most prominent entrepreneurs, disappeared temporarily from public view after criticizing regulators in a November speech. That was followed days later by the Ant Group suspension, though finance specialists said regulators already had been worried Ant lacked adequate financial risk controls. Alibaba, launched in 1999, operates retail, business-to-business and consumer-to-consumer platforms. It has expanded at a breakneck pace into financial services, film production and other fields. The government issued anti-monopoly guidelines in February aimed at preventing anti-competitive practices such as exclusive agreements with merchants and use of subsidies to squeeze out competitors. The next month, 12 companies including Tencent Holdings, which operates games and the popular WeChat messaging service, were fined 500,000 ($77,000) each on charges of failing to disclose previous acquisitions and other deals. Regulators said in December they were looking into possibly anti-competitive tactics by Alibaba including a policy dubbed “choose one of two,” which requires business partners to avoid dealing with its competitors. Also in December, regulators announced executives of Alibaba, its main competitor, JD.com, and four other internet companies were summoned to a meeting and warned not to use their market dominance to keep out new competitors. Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
As spring weather takes hold across the city, with temperatures hitting highs of 23 degrees over the weekend, Toronto residents are itching to get outdoors after being hunkered down amid the ongoing third wave of the pandemic. For those wondering what is considered safe for outdoor activities and what behaviours could increase your risks of COVID transmission, experts have some answers. The first thing to note is that even with variants, infectious disease physicians in the Greater Toronto Area say the virus has less chance to accumulate and become harmful outdoors. "I'd rather have 100 people outdoors in a park rather than have 20 people indoors," said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist with Trillium Health Partners. Respiratory viruses spread through aerosol droplets that can go from one person to another, Chakrabarti explained in an interview with CBC Toronto. In an area that has very poor ventilation, such as many indoor spaces, these droplets can accumulate and the amount of virus in these droplets can then reach the point of infecting someone. "One way to mitigate this is to have increased ventilation, and that's what you see in hospitals and it lessens the chance of there being a strong concentration of particles that can infect you," Chakrabarti said. He said outside is essentially perfect ventilation. Outdoor transmission 'exceedingly small,' expert says Last summer, Toronto officials and Premier Doug Ford slammed crowds who flocked to Trinity Bellwoods Park on a day when the weather was particularly nice, saying it could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases and undo weeks of effort to curb the spread of the virus. But Chakrabarti says the risk of outdoor transmission is so small, the outrage was unwarranted in regard to its effect on case counts — or lack thereof. "If you look at it, a month afterwards, there was no increase in COVID transmission. Not to say that there probably wasn't a case or two but the point is it pales in comparison to the types of transmission we see in indoors," he said. Chakrabarti adds that if you're planning on having a prolonged conversation with someone and you're unable to physically distance outdoors, consider wearing a mask. He also said that avoiding large crowds is another way to mitigate risk. Infectious disease expert Isaac Bogoch echoed Chakrabarti's statements, saying that if you can safely spread apart from others outside, "the risk of transmission of this infection would be exceedingly small." Avoid riskier high-contact sports In December, the Mayo Clinic published a list of lowest-risk outdoor activities, which include running, hiking, rollerblading, biking, fishing, golfing — notably activities that keep you apart from others. The "mid-risk" category of outdoor activities includes picnics, which experts say can be made safer. They advise people to keep their distance, to avoid sharing a blanket, and to bring their own food and drinks to avoid sharing, which increases risk. Low-contact sports like tennis, baseball and soccer, where distance can be maintained, are considered safer than high-contact sports such as basketball and wrestling. During the third wave of the pandemic fuelled by more transmissible variants, Bogoch advises people to pick sports and activities that keep participants distanced from each other in order to lower the risk. "No matter how bad wave three is, wherever people are, we still can get through it and there still are activities that you can do safely," he says. Regardless of the activity, experts say getting outside can help people cope during the pandemic, offering them a much needed mental boost.
Even as the Atlantic bubble is scheduled to bring down barriers in the Atlantic provinces in a little more than a week, many P.E.I. tourism operators are still trying to decide whether to open this season. Coffee shops in Charlottetown are delicately discouraging "computer campers" from taking up tables for hours at a time when space is at a premium. Now with the bubble scheduled to reopen April 19, two brothers from P.E.I. now living in New Brunswick are reviving a P.E.I.-themed beer in hopes of luring Islanders to the mainland. P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office announced one new case of COVID-19 Friday, bringing the province's 13-month total to 162. Prince Edward Island's seesawing unemployment rate went down to 8.1 per cent in March, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began to take a bite out of jobs. That's according to Statistics Canada data released Friday. A message issued by Buckingham Palace Friday asked Commonwealth citizens to refrain from gathering to mourn Prince Philip's death at 99, citing the need to avoid further COVID-19 outbreaks. P.E.I.'s condolences over the death of the Duke of Edinburgh will be collected online only; Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry said Islanders could find a link at www.lgpei.ca. Continuing pandemic restrictions have quashed any hope of staging Anne of Green Gables — The Musical at the Charlottetown Festival this summer. Organizers announced the Anneless 2021 lineup on Thursday. Prince Edward Island recorded its 162nd case of COVID-19 Friday, with news of a case linked to travel outside the Atlantic region. Elsewhere in the Atlantic region: Also in the news These Islanders are currently eligible for a vaccine People over 60. People over the age of 55 may book for an AstraZeneca vaccine at a pharmacy. People providing health care services to the public — including optometrists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists — and their support staff. Firefighters, police officers, power-line workers. Residents and staff of long-term care homes. Adults living in Indigenous communities. Residents and staff of shared living facilities. Truck drivers and other rotational workers. Further resources Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
Last month, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet took part in a split-screen Instagram livestream with blogger Sarah Nicole Landry, known by the handle @thebirdspapaya to her 1.9 million followers. You won't find much talk of Canadian politics in Landry's posts, if any. They tend to focus instead on motherhood, empowerment and health. Singh stuck to much the same themes in his talk with Landry, which focused on her ideas and struggles through the pandemic — placing Singh, who has over 600,000 Instagram followers, in the role of empathetic listener. The conversation typified the NDP's digital strategy to reach Canadians between the ages of 18 to 40 — a strategy that puts Singh's personality and personal brand ahead of granular policy debates. Through social media influencers, the party wants to bypass traditional forms of advertising to project Singh's image to an audience that's hard to reach through conventional political messaging. WATCH: NDP turns to influencers Singh appears to be working to become a pervasive presence on digital platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse in the coming months. He recently put out an online call for Canadians to text him on the Community social media platform. The party is also planning to place ads in video games and wrap buses with colourful ads featuring Singh front and centre. "It's really taking a look at where people are spending a lot of their time and using that as a motivation for where we are spending money, so people get to know who Jagmeet is," said Mélanie Richer, Singh's director of communications. Building Singh's brand The party is making big plans to build Singh's brand. It's preparing to spend nearly $12 million just on ads for the next campaign — roughly what the NDP spent for its entire campaign in the 2019 election. The NDP is launching a new series of ads today, starting with one airing during tonight's game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators. The ads are unconventional by Canadian party standards. Singh himself doesn't say a word in them. WATCH: Using untraditional ways to reach young voters Instead, the ads use text and images to tell a story about the party fighting for working people during the pandemic. They're aimed at those who might feel disenchanted by the results of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise of a new kind of politics. The challenge for the NDP is in translating digital likes into votes — especially since it's focusing on an age group that historically tends not to cast ballots in large numbers. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh takes photos with university students in Toronto on Oct. 8, 2019.(Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press) Campaign insiders argue the NDP is playing a long game. "Rather than trying to chase votes directly from younger people, we only need to find a small subset of hyper-engaged young people," said Zain Velji, a former campaign manager for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and former digital director for Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley. "Give them disproportionate access, disproportionate skin in the game, perhaps even disproportionate titles on the campaign so that they can be the standard bearers to their social network." WATCH: Singh's version of a viral rendition of Fleetwood Mac's 'Dreams' Velji said the NDP needs an approach to campaign advertising that will keep it from becoming mere noise on social media. He said the party needs to find a way to keep Singh's brand and message fresh so it continues to echo through social media influencers — giving a $12 million campaign $50 million worth of reach. Will the strategy pay off? The party needs this strategy to work if it's to make significant gains in the next federal election. The NDP is trailing the Liberals in the 18 to 34 age group by six points, said CBC polling analyst Eric Grenier —but those voters still represent opportunity for New Democrats. "Those voters might ... be the ones who are most likely to be disillusioned by the Liberals, that they're not as progressive as maybe Justin Trudeau might have said he was back in 2015," he said. "Getting younger voters to the polls in big numbers — and if they vote for the NDP — would help them a lot, particularly in a lot of urban ridings where the NDP was shut out in the last election." WATCH: Singh says young people will make history in the next election Singh told reporters on Friday he believes young people are going to make history in the next election because they're at the forefront of so many social justice movements, from the fight against climate change to Black Lives Matter. "I love the idea of young people asking their parents and their grandparents to say, 'Hey, we need help. New Democrats are the ones offering this help for us to make our future better. Please lend us your votes so that we can bring in the changes that we need to help us out,'" Singh said. "Young people can influence people around them and I'm excited for what's going to happen." Singh will rally the NDP base with a keynote speech Sunday to wrap up a three-day virtual policy convention. Today, British Columbia Premier John Horgan — the only NDP leader who currently heads a government — and veteran Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath are addressing the convention. The 2,000-plus delegates assembled virtually around the country today are debating resolutions on social security, green programs and issues of human rights and discrimination.
Allison Garber says from the outside it looked like she had it all together. The communications business owner and mother of two may not have looked like a problem drinker. But she says she found herself willing the clock to hit 5 p.m. every day so she could open a bottle of wine and pour a glass. Then "not so patiently" waiting for her kids to go to bed so she could have a few more. Garber decided she had a problem with drinking in 2018 and sought help. She's been sober now for more than two years and is thankful her recovery came before the pandemic did. "I am so glad that I was not still stuck on this train where I viewed alcohol as a reward for getting through a tough day," she said. "[The pandemic] just amplified everything. It has amplified how we use alcohol as a form of self-medication, as a form of self care. "And that message is reinforced almost everywhere you go. You've had a long day, pour yourself a glass of wine." WATCH | Allison Garber says it was hard to come to the realization she had a problem with alcohol: Drinking among women has increased steadily in recent years. In 2018, the Report on the State of Public Health from Canada's chief public health officer identified alcohol use in women as one of the most pressing concerns of our time. The report highlighted that from 2011 to 2017, deaths attributed to alcohol increased by 26 per cent among Canadian women, while alcohol-related deaths in men increased just five per cent. The pandemic has led to soaring alcohol sales and some Canadians are reporting increased binge drinking. A Statistics Canada survey released in January shows many Canadians are not just pouring themselves a single glass. Almost one in five who responded to the survey said they consumed five or more drinks — the equivalent of a bottle of wine — on the days they reported drinking alcohol in the previous month. The agency says this is higher than before COVID-19 hit. When women drink, the health effects can be staggering. Drinking three to six alcoholic beverages a week increases the risk of breast cancer in women by 15 per cent. Women who drink two glasses of wine daily have a 50 per cent increase in their risk of breast cancer. "What we might consider to be very modest amounts of alcohol are still really significant from a health perspective," said Dr. Jennifer Wyman, associate director of the Substance Use Service at Women's College Hospital. Right now, Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommend no more than 10 drinks per week for women and 15 for men. The agency in charge of these guidelines, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, is looking now at whether they should be changed. The current guidelines need to be revised to reflect the risks, said Dr. Wyman. WATCH | Dr. Jennifer Wyman talks about why she feels the low-risk alcohol guidelines need to change: One drink a day or seven a week would likely be more reasonable, she said, adding that the guidelines are meant to be a maximum even though they may not always be treated that way. Dr. Wyman says she thinks some people view the guideline's 10-drinks-a-week maximum and interpret that as being what the average person is drinking. "And therefore, if that's what they're drinking, then they're sort of within the middle of the spectrum and they're doing OK, as opposed to that's really the maximum number that you should be thinking about," she said. "And it doesn't mean that you should be aiming to hit that every week. That should be the tops." Just as the upper limits for alcohol consumption are different for women and men, so are the reasons why they drink. The pressure put on women to fill several different roles has many counting down to the time that they can pour a glass of wine, Dr. Wyman says. "I think that women tend to drink as a coping mechanism," she said. A report from Canada's chief public health officer identified alcohol use in women as one of the most pressing health concerns, with deaths attributed to alcohol increasing by 26 per cent among Canadian women from 2011 to 2017. Since then, the pandemic has led to soaring alcohol sales.() Alcohol is often seen as the quickest decompression tool, says Ann Dowsett Johnston, who wrote the book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. "If you can't get to a yoga class, if you can't figure out how you're going to fit that in, or a long bath, or a walk around the block — you're making dinner, you're at the vegetable chopping block, you pour a glass of wine." Alcohol consumption is reinforced socially as well. Girls nights out, popping champagne for a celebration, wine at a book club. It's how we celebrate, relax and reward ourselves, Dowsett Johnston said. It has also become a social media phenomenon that moms need wine to cope. There are wine glasses emblazoned with "mom juice" and "because kids." "I think the whole notion of mommy drinking has become a meme, and I think that there's far too much humour about it. I think it's a serious social issue." Dowsett Johnston says the pandemic has only added to the burdens many women carry. WATCH | Ann Dowsett Johnston discusses the challenges facing women that may influence their alcohol consumption: The "mommy juice" marketing to help cope is something life coach Alexis McCalla resents. "You're making an assumption that they can't handle their life, so they have to go out and drink," the Whitby, Ont., mother said. "And now you're normalizing it." McCalla never drank an amount even close to the 10 drinks a week upper limit, but said she found herself having a glass of wine to unwind during the pandemic more often than she normally would. Previously, opened wine bottles would go unfinished. But she says she found herself making more frequent trips to the liquor store to numb the fear she was feeling about COVID-19. She says she journaled and asked herself tough questions, and in the end realized she was drinking more because she worried about her family getting sick during the pandemic. Once McCalla got to the root of her fears, she says she decided to stop drinking, doing an alcohol-free period with a few of her clients. She's also working with some of them to address the anxieties at the core of their alcohol consumption. McCalla has had a single glass of wine since then and found she wasn't interested in restarting, realizing she was getting a better night's sleep and a harder workout the next day if she didn't open a bottle. "I could have gone and read another book. I could have spoken to friends or journaled and learned more about myself." Life coach Alexis McCalla said once she decided to cut out alcohol altogether, she realized she was getting a better night's sleep and a more effective workout the next day.(Alexis McCalla) McCalla and the women she has helped are not the only ones questioning their drinking. Dawn Nickel is based in Victoria, B.C. She's the founder of SheRecovers, an addictions recovery program tailored to women. Nickel says in the last year, the number of women who have reached out has exploded. "Our Facebook group went from 2,000 people to 7,800 in the last year." Nickel says not every woman contacting the program has an alcohol abuse disorder. For some, abstinence is the goal, for others it could be cutting back. "We just talk about, like, what are your goals? What's your intention? Do you want to slow down? Do you want to stop? You pick it and we'll support you to get there." The pandemic may have led to more drinking, but with so many recovery programs now online, Nickel says finding help is also easier and more convenient than ever. So is finding a safe space to question why they need alcohol to cope. "There's so much support for them now," Nickel said. "We're having these conversations for the first time in society around what we're being influenced by, and who says we have to have a bottle of wine every evening to unwind." For Garber, recovery involved a more traditional 12-step program. "I knew that if I continued down this path, I was going to face some dire consequences. I could see it clearly. And so I made a choice to reach out to a friend who I knew was in recovery herself." Now, Garber is supporting other women who reach out and need help. She joined a running club and trains for races. She runs on the waterfront every Saturday and on the days when Halifax's famous clouds part, she takes a moment to stop and take a picture of the sunrise, grateful for how far she's come. "I stop at the same place every time," she said. "It's just this chance to say thank you to whatever it is out there that helped me stay here." Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.
The Toronto police chief is urging the public to abide by provincial stay-at-home orders. The order, which came into force on Wednesday, is in place for the next four weeks, as Ontario attempts to curb rising case counts. On Friday, Ontario reported another 4,227 cases of COVID-19, the second-most on a single day at any point during the pandemic. "I urge all Torontonians to please comply," said Chief James Ramer in a Saturday news release. "Do not go out unless it's for essential reasons only." Toronto police are not allowed to stop cars or enter homes simply to check if a person is complying with the order, nor can they compel a person who is outside to explain the reason they left their home. However, if officers have "probable grounds to suspect someone has violated" a public health order, they are allowed to ask for identification and a person who refuses can be arrested or charged with obstructing a police officer.
Vandals have twice targeted Alberta Health Services since Thursday, leaving employees unsettled by their messages. Red paint spelling the words "AHS Nazis" greeted some Edmonton workers Friday morning after someone inked the words on the pavement outside the entrance to the Plaza 124 building on 124th Street and 102nd Ave. An AHS spokesperson called the message "disturbing," and said workers found it both upsetting and threatening. "This type of language and vandalism of any kind is completely unacceptable and after a year of hard work from all of our AHS staff to fight the pandemic, it's demoralizing to see this kind of action taken," said a statement from the organization. Also painted in red on a nearby bus shelter and sidewalk were the words, "No more lockdowns." AHS plans to report the incident to Edmonton police. Employees targeted In the northwestern Alberta community of La Crete, RCMP say four vehicles rented by AHS employees were pelted with eggs on Thursday morning. AHS employees were in the community, about 670 kilometres north of Edmonton, to help launch a new electronic health information system called Connect Care. Mackenzie County posted a notice online saying misinformation had been spreading about why additional AHS workers were in the area. AHS said it does not know the motives for the vandalism. The United Conservative Party MLA for the area, Dan Williams, posted a message on Facebook saying it was disappointing to see the workers targeted while they were upgrading rural health services. "I know La Crete to be a hospitable and welcoming place, and I would expect that the community of La Crete would extend that same hospitality to visitors with courtesy and warmth, no matter the purpose and no matter who they work for," he wrote on Thursday. Connect Care, which is rolling out in phases across the province, is set to launch Saturday in the province's northwest. AHS is one of the authorities responsible for enforcing public health orders put in place by the Alberta government. Some frustrated by health orders On Wednesday, AHS announced officials had physically closed the GraceLife Church building in Parkland County after it repeatedly violated public health orders limiting the number of people who could attend worship services. Since December, hundreds of people have gathered for services at the church west of Edmonton, in violation of demands from Alberta's chief medical officer of health, AHS and the courts. Provincial regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 restrict in-person attendance at churches to 15 per cent of capacity and require those who do attend to physically distance and wear masks. Critics said the church's closure was Draconian and an attack on fundamental freedoms. In a Facebook video posted Wednesday afternoon, MLA Williams decried the church's closure. He said he has argued against his own government's 15 per cent capacity limit in places of worship. "It is a different line to cross to barricade a church," Williams said in the video. "We need to take a stand." Williams could not be reached for comment on Friday. The Alberta government has also come under fire — including from a contingent of 17 government MLAs — for additional restrictions announced on Tuesday to attempt to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Upon advice from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the government once again closed Alberta restaurants and bars to indoor dining. Libraries are now closed and gyms may only offer one-on-one scheduled training sessions. Other services such as physiotherapy or salons can see clients by appointment only. More contagious variant strains of the disease have prompted a rapid jump in the number of new cases, and hospitalizations are once again on the rise. The premier said earlier this week Alberta hospitals could be overwhelmed by the end of May.
With spring break upon us, Ottawa's health experts and politicians are advising residents to abide by the province's stay-at-home order and not travel. That means no trips to the family cottage and keeping kids close to home, according The Ottawa Hospital's Dr. Doug Manuel, who does the modelling of the local COVID-19 numbers. "We see movement and mobility as, this is how the variants spread," he said. "So the idea is staying close to home, staying at home." Manuel noted Ottawa's health-care system is being tested by record levels of hospitalizations. As of Saturday, Ottawa hospitals were caring for 73 COVID-19 patients, including 24 in intensive care. Manuel predicted those numbers will continue to rise. He said anyone who contracts the virus and then travels to their cottage risks spreading the virus further, and putting unnecessary strain on smaller regional hospitals. Dr. Doug Manuel says people should abide by the stay-at-home order and not travel during spring break.(Submitted by Dr. Doug Manuel) According to the stay-at-home order, no one should travel outside their province or region unless absolutely necessary. "You shouldn't be crossing the bridge to go to Quebec, you shouldn't be leaving your neighborhood just to go and traipse around and in other areas," said Anthony Di Monte, the general manager responsible for the City of Ottawa's vaccine rollout, during a news conference on Friday. "This is serious." The mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau have also discouraged residents from crossing the interprovincial border. "It's a large piece of geography," said Mayor Jim Watson during the same meeting. "We have lots of city and NCC trails on this side, as well as parklands. So we really encourage people not to go over to a cottage or to Gatineau Park. Our best advice is please respect the borders and stay within your community." Manuel said it's important people take that advice seriously if there's any hope of reopening schools after spring break. On Friday, Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said it's unlikely schools will reopen following the break. Manual suggested parents looking to take advantage of the time off should take their children outside but follow health protocols including wearing masks and keeping their distance from others. "People are doing a good job, but unfortunately ... it's just with the variants, we need to do a great job," he said.