Vaccine recipients at a church in Salisbury, England, being used as a mass vaccination centre, to speak about their experiences. Among them are health-care workers, the elderly over 70, and the clinically vulnerable.
Vaccine recipients at a church in Salisbury, England, being used as a mass vaccination centre, to speak about their experiences. Among them are health-care workers, the elderly over 70, and the clinically vulnerable.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) has once again put out a national call for grant applications for funds to assist internet projects across the country. Preference will be given to projects that not only benefit students but also those geared to assist Indigenous communities and those in rural and northern locations. CIRA has been providing more than $1 million in funding to various projects each year since 2014. For the past few years, including this year, it has offered $1.25 million in grants. Registered charities, non-profit organizations and researchers and academics affiliated with a post-secondary school in Canada are encouraged to submit funding applications for projects before the April 14 deadline. Traditionally, CIRA officials receive more than 100 applications for funding annually. “We usually fund 15- 20- per cent of the applications that come in,” said Maureen James, who manages CIRA’s Community Investment Program. “It’s very competitive.” During the past seven years CIRA has provided a total of $7.95 million in funding for 171 projects across the country. The funding program is looking to specifically fund projects in four areas this year. The Infrastructure category includes research or projects that boost internet speed, access and affordability. Digital Literacy ventures include research, training programs and tools to develop digital skills. The Cybersecurity category includes research and projects that advocate for users’ online safety. And Community Leadership Initiatives includes research or events that assist Canadians in domestic internet policy issues. “It used to be a lot more broad,” James said of projects CIRA previously provided grants for. “This is the second year now with these particular focuses.” CIRA’s funding will include one grant up to a maximum of $250,000. Others can apply for up to $100,000 in funding. “We used to do smaller projects and then as people became more interested it turned into more substantial projects,” James said. “I think the most we’ve funded in a year is 28 or 29 projects.” James anticipates CIRA officials could potentially see the highest number of funding applications this year. And she attributes this to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think we expect a lot more people to apply this year,” she said. “COVID has certainly increased the demand for internet access like overnight.” The need in Indigenous communities across the country is especially great. In its Communication Monitoring report issued last year the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) discovered that just over one-third (34 per cent) of First Nations households in the country had access to basic internet only. More information on CIRA’s grants is available here https://www.cira.ca/improving-canadas-internet/grants CIRA will also be hosting informational webinars on its funding grants in both English and French next week. The English webinar is set for March. 9 at 1 p.m. EST. And the French webinar is scheduled for March 10 at 2 p.m. EST CIRA’s call for applications was sent out Tuesday of this week. By yesterday more than 100 people had registered for next week’s English webinar. “It tells us there’s a lot of interest, which is good,” James said. “CIRA’s name has been getting out a little bit more.” James said those looking to submit funding applications are not required to attend the informational webinars. “It’s an opportunity for us to highlight key aspects that sometimes people might miss with their application,” she said. CIRA welcomes applications from groups that have received funding from them in the past. “We have had repeat recipients,” James said, adding a funded project must be complete before another grant can be secured. “The project has to be finished and signed off in order to do another one.” Several Indigenous projects have been among those in recent years that have received funding. For example, the Mamawapowin Technology Society received a grant in 2019. This non-profit was keen to upgrade and expand wireless infrastructure to all 600 homes on Samson Cree First Nation, located in Maskwacis, Alta. Funding recipients in 2020 included I-STEAM and Siksika Health Services. I-STEAM is a research and design project delivering STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming to Indigenous youth at Antler River Elementary School in Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in southwestern Ontario. As for Siksika Health Services, it received funding for its southern Alberta project to upgrade the internet infrastructure in five community buildings. These upgrades provide high-speed internet for not only staff in the facilities but also for youth, Elders and community members who utilize the buildings. Windspeaker.com By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
BEIJING — A senior Chinese official says the largely pro-Beijing committee that currently elects the Hong Kong's leader will also elect some members of the city's legislature, as part of Beijing's planned revamp of Hong Kong's electoral system. "The election committee will be entrusted with the new function of electing a relatively large share of Legco members and directly participating in the nomination of all candidates for the Legco,” Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said Friday during the annual session in Beijing. Wang added that the size, composition and formation method of the current election committee will also be adjusted, and that the chief executive will continue to be elected by the election committee. The Associated Press
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Newfoundland and Labrador announced Wednesday it was extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months. Public health officials said the change will help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey said the decision is a game changer for the province's vaccination prospects. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. Nova Scotia will get 13,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine the week of March 8. Health officials said March 3 the upcoming shipment must be used by April 2 and therefore all 13,000 doses will be administered to residents across the province aged 50 to 64 years starting March 15. The vaccine will be given out at 26 locations in Nova Scotia on a first come, first served basis. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario Ontario has given its first vaccines to people in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, some health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will include a service desk and online portal. It said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. Several regions in Ontario have moved ahead with their plans to vaccinate the general public using their own booking systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. The province has also said it will extend the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months. Toronto began vaccinating police force members who respond to emergency calls on Monday and has also started offering vaccines to people experiencing homelessness. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will go to residents between the ages of 60 and 64, but has not elaborated yet on how it will be distributed except to say it won't be through mass immunization sites. The province has said it will follow the advice of a national panel that has recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older. The health minister said the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot could be used in correctional facilities, but further details haven't been released. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. Like British Columbia, Manitoba has already indicated it would opt for a four-month interval between doses. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. Premier Scott Moe said Thursday that people will get their second shot up to four months after the first, which falls in line with a recent recommendation from Canada's national immunization committee. --- Alberta Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations and the province hopes to hit a major milestone before July. Tyler Shandro said the province expects to offer all Albertans aged 18 and over a first dose of vaccine by the end of June. So far, Alberta has delivered 266,000 doses of vaccine. About 176,000 Albertans have been vaccinated, including 90,000 fully immunized with the recommended two doses. Shandro said residents aged 65 to 74, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis aged 50-plus, can begin booking March 15. The province had originally not expected to begin this stage of vaccination until April. The AstraZeneca vaccine will for now be offered to adults aged 50 to 64 who don’t have a severe chronic illness. Alberta has also said it will follow other provinces by extending the time between the first dose and the second to four months. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — When Sheldon Keefe was cutting his teeth as a coach in the junior ranks in Pembroke, Ont., the world's most famous hockey dad paid a memorable visit. Walter Gretzky, the Toronto Maple Leafs coach recalled, sat around for “what seemed like hours” during a trip with NHL old-timers, talking to anyone who wanted to talk, signing autographs and taking photos. Memories of that day came back to Keefe on Thursday, after Walter's death was announced by Wayne Gretzky on Twitter. “It was pretty cool to see someone of his stature, what he means to the game, what he’s brought to the game, all the way out in Pembrooke, Ontario, taking part in an event like that with people who might not usually get a chance," Keefe, who coached in Pembroke from 2006 to 2013, said after the visiting Leafs lost to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. Keefe said Walter Gretzky's impact on the game looms large. “It’s a terrible loss of a great man who gave so many terrific things to our game, to our sport. Certainly he leaves a legacy behind that we’ll never forget," he said. Leafs forward John Tavares remembers meeting Walter when he was a kid in Mississauga, Ont. “He was always around the rinks and was obviously very involved in the game and around the hockey community," he said. "Just his graciousness, his big smile and obviously passion for the game. Just a very gracious man, from what I remember as a kid.” The Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky's first NHL team, released statements on Walter after the death. "The fabric of our franchise has been woven by some of the most influential players, coaches and executives the game has known and included in that too, are the loved ones that make our team a family," Oilers chairman Bob Nicholson said. "From his development and constant influence on one of the greatest players our game has known, to the tremendous impact he had on Canada's gold medal-winning team in 2002, Walter was truly everyone’s hockey dad. He will be missed by all of us, but the memories created by his tremendous character and passion for our game will remain with us forever.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
Northern Ireland's first minister said the European Union's promise of legal action over the UK extending grace periods for trade showed its priority was protecting the trading bloc, not the Belfast peace agreement. "What they're only interested in is protecting their bloc, they're not interested, as they claim to be, in protecting the Belfast agreement," Arlene Foster told BBC radio on Friday. The European Union said on Wednesday it would take legal action after the British government unilaterally extended a grace period for checks on food imports to Northern Ireland, a move Brussels said violated the terms of Britain's divorce deal.
China will push forward with the development of CJ1000, a turbofan jet engine designed to power the homemade C919 narrowbody aircraft, the government said on Friday in its development plan for the 2021-2025 period. It also aims to achieve breakthrough in engine technology for widebody jets, the government said. Chinese-made civil aircraft, including the C919, currently use foreign engines but the country has been trying to develop a home-grown alternative as it seeks to cut its dependence on foreign sources of sophisticated technology.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 76,438 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,168,138 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,720.79 per 100,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,614,020 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 82.94 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,842 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 37,590 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.518 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 60.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 17,794 new vaccinations administered for a total of 490,504 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 57.324 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.83 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 30,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 784,828 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 53.429 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 86.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,408 new vaccinations administered for a total of 82,579 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.97 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 116,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.79 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,493 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,090 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 71.314 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 112.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 10,948 new vaccinations administered for a total of 266,231 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.479 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 96.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 9,042 new vaccinations administered for a total of 298,851 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.238 per 1,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.61 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 18,158 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 435.12 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 96.07 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 360 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,753 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 355.136 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 57.54 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canada's municipalities are asking the federal government to include $7 billion in its upcoming budget for cities and housing providers to buy disused properties and quickly turn them into affordable housing. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) estimates the money could create up to 24,000 permanent affordable housing units in urban and rural communities. The request is for seven times the amount the Liberals put into a rapid-housing program launched last year, when the government dedicated $1 billion over a six-month stretch. The Liberals estimated the money could create up to 3,000 units by this spring by helping cities buy and quickly convert rental buildings, motels and hotels into affordable units. FCM president Garth Frizzell says the Liberals should build on what has been a success thus far. "It's a proven tool. It's working," said Frizzell, a city councillor in Prince George, B.C. "We want to find tools like this that have the evidence behind them that they are demonstrably successful, find the ones that are working like this and scale them up. This is an opportune time to do it." He may get his wish. Sources say the Liberals have been consulting on a rebooted rapid-housing program for weeks, and sending signals that the budget will include dollars for it. The two sources with knowledge of the meetings and the government's thinking spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen's most recent marching orders from the prime minister included expanding the rapid-housing initiative unveiled in September. The Liberals spent months leading up to the announcement figuring out all the details of the property acquisition program, seeing it as a way to keep people from falling into homelessness heading into the winter, with temporary shelter measures for the COVID-19 pandemic set to expire. Some cities have been renting hotel rooms to accommodate people while shelter capacity is reduced to allow for physical spacing, but they were badly stretched financially. The Liberals split the money into two streams: One with dedicated funding for over a dozen big cities, the other with money put for grabs for projects that will have to be completed within 12 months of federal officials giving the green light for funding. The project-based stream has been flooded with applications, so much so that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which oversees the program, has had to reject far more applications than it has approved because demand has outstripped supply. "There is definite demand for this," Frizzell said. FCM is hoping to get most of the money over the next two to three years, the period the Liberals have eyed as a timeline for stimulus spending to spur an economic recovery from the pandemic. Cities hope whatever is left can be spread over the remaining years of the national housing strategy, which has seven years left in the decade-long plan. Hussen, the minister in charge of affordable housing, has spent time trying to get a read on what needs to change in the program. Cities would like to keep direct allocations to major centres, while stakeholders have suggested a program solely based on project applications. He has also heard concerns about the timelines to file applications, and easing rules to allow, for instance, applicants to have purchase agreements for land rather than having to fully secure property first. The Liberals are also being pushed to provide subsidies for housing providers to cover costs for operations and services once people are housed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Thousands of people tuned in earlier this week as the judge overseeing a high-profile trial into one of the deadliest attacks in Toronto delivered her guilty verdict from the basement of her home, with a fireplace and tightly shut blinds as a backdrop. For some, the highly anticipated ruling in the murder trial of Alek Minassian provided a first glimpse of the criminal court process under the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen many proceedings move online and prompted some in the justice system to work from home. Over months of hearings culminating in Wednesday's verdict, the case -- which captured public attention across Canada and beyond -- shone a spotlight on the challenges and particularities of remote proceedings, from dress codes and home decor to the presence of pets. One witness, a forensic psychiatrist, testified from a room where several guitars hung from the walls. Court staff as well as the judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy, warned that their cats may make an appearance during hearings. Meanwhile, lawyers dressed in business clothes rather than their usual robes throughout the trial -- as did Molloy, though she donned her gown for the verdict. "It may not look like a real courtroom, it may not feel like a real courtroom sometimes, it may seem to be more relaxed, but I can assure that rules of evidence, the rules of law, are not relaxed," the judge said on the trial's opening day in November. Ontario's courts issued guidance to those in the justice system when the health crisis began last year, as did several legal organizations. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice, for example, suspended the requirement to wear a gown, but noted participants, including judges, would be "expected to dress in appropriate business attire." It also advised that participants find an appropriate space to log on. "We understand that you may not have complete privacy and silence in your current environment, which may be a shared living space, but please do your best to participate from a private, quiet space," the court wrote. A task force convened early in the pandemic also laid out best practices for remote proceedings, which included a recommendation that participants consider using an "appropriately dignified artificial digital background" if necessary. Kathryn Manning, a civil litigator and co-chair of the E-Hearings Task Force, said the group had many discussions on how to maintain a serious tone in the more relaxed setting of the home. Seeing lawyers and judges in their homes, dressed in less formal clothing, humanizes them and the court process, "and of course all the people in the justice system are people," she said. "But on the other hand, it's still a formal court proceeding and I think you need to respect that and make sure you can replicate it as much as possible." The task force is working on updating its best practices now that the justice community has more experience with remote hearings, and there will be some additions related to those kinds of issues, Manning said. Trevor Farrow, a professor at York University's Osgoode Hall law school, said the loosening of the rules regarding attire and location for remote hearings has made the court more accessible in some ways, beyond making it easier for people to participate and observe. The practice of wearing gowns was meant to put everyone on a level-playing field as well as instill a certain sense of formality, but it can also intimidate and alienate people at times, he said. "So the idea of relaxing the rules around dress codes, in some ways, makes court more accessible to more people in ways that are less intimidating and alienating," he said. What's more, judges, who maintain a significant amount of discretion in how their cases operate, have also had to acknowledge the realities of people's lives, be it the presence of young children or the sudden ringing of a doorbell, Farrow said. "Some judges are still saying they don't want to hear any dogs barking, others are saying, 'Don't worry, feel free.' And so, you know, judges still run their own courtroom and there's a wide range of practices ... within the Zoom community," he said. At the same time, being able to see into someone's home as they're addressing the court can be distracting and could potentially draw away from their words, he said. "I do know that lots of lawyers and judges are using the sort of fake backgrounds, or blank backgrounds... because ideally justice is about the merits of a case not, you know, how interesting the background is," Farrow said. "Not only from an accessibility perspective, not only from a people taking it seriously perspective, but also as a matter of persuasion, you want the judge to listening to you, not thinking about the guitar behind your head." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
Controversy in India over Amazon's political drama "Tandav" has put Bollywood and global video streaming giants on edge, prompting a closer scrutiny of scripts for possible offence to religious sentiments in a key growth market. Companies like Amazon's Prime Video and Netflix are inspecting planned shows and scripts, with some even deleting scenes that could be controversial, five Bollywood directors and producers, and two industry sources said. This comes as Amazon Prime Video has become embroiled in legal cases and police complaints alleging "Tandav" depicts Hindu gods and goddesses in a derogatory manner and offends religious beliefs.
A virologist says if Ontario adopts the federal government's expert panel recommendation to delay booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines, it will allow the city of Ottawa to open up at a faster rate. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said delaying booster shots by about four months will allow about 80 per cent of the population 16 and older to be vaccinated by the end of June. Earl Brown, professor emeritus of virology at the University of Ottawa, said that will change the math for public health officials when they consider lockdown-style measures. "There's fairly strong protection against disease as well as spread, so it will change the way we work as a society and let us open up at a faster rate," he said. However, Brown said the immunization program will have to continue so people can have the more "mature" immune response that comes with the booster. "It won't be over by June, but we'll have good protection in the majority of the population by June," Brown said. He said the NACI review shows the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZaneca-Oxford vaccines are highly effective at reducing hospitalization and death, one month after the first shot. Doubling pace of first shots The City of Ottawa's vaccination task force says it is waiting for direction from the province to follow the latest NACI recommendation. The task force chair says the recommendation is welcome news. "It would have a significant positive impact. I'm actually quite excited to hear this recommendation," said Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency and protective services, in an interview on CBC's Ottawa Morning. Di Monte says the change could double the number of people getting their first shot in a given week. Right now between 5,000 and 6,000 doses are put aside from each week's shipment of vaccine to administer booster shots, he said. "If this happens — and we're waiting four months now — 10,000 doses a week will arrive and we'll be able to put that in 10,000 new arms every week," he said. Di Monte said he expects the implementation will likely be gradual enough that people who already have appointments for their boosters can get them without delay. He said city staff would be ready to open additional clinics in 72 hours if more doses become available.
James Mellish couldn't believe his ears when the parody song he recorded for the nascent "Sens Sicko" fan movement was played last Thursday at an Ottawa Senators home game. The Sens fan's anthem, a parody of the Ying Yang Twins's song Say I Yi Yi, was quietly making the rounds on Twitter until it was picked up by an in-house DJ at the Feb. 25 game, which saw Ottawa beat the Calgary Flames 6-1. "I just could never have fathomed, especially being an outsider from St. Louis, being able to get in touch with the fan base on this level," Mellish told CBC's All In A Day Thursday. The Missouri native became a Senators fan back in 2004 when he and a friend rented an NHL video game for a sleepover. He's now part of the Sens Sicko fan movement, which has grown out of the passionate posts from Sens fans on Twitter, and can be traced back to memes created a year ago, according to an article in The Athletic. Sens Sicko movement an online phenomenon Mellish told All In A Day that being a Sens Sicko involves having low expectations of a rebuilding franchise like the Senators. In the past several weeks, fans like him have revelled in the firing of Montreal head coach Claude Julien following a loss to the Sens, the relatively dominant performance of forward Tim Stützle compared to other highly ranked draft picks, as well as a come-from-behind victory over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. It was that particular game that inspired Mellish's anthem. "Anytime we're beating the Leafs or the Habs, that's obviously a huge win because those fan bases in general have had more to lord over us ... in the past couple of years," he said. "Being able to beat them while we supposedly suck is an easy way to negate anything they're trying to brag about." For Mellish, who began writing Sens parody tunes after the team chose Stützle third overall in the NHL entry draft, the movement grew organically, proving the old adage that misery loves company. He said he'll continue to record parodies for his fellow Sens Sicko fans.
Pope Francis began his most risky foreign trip on Friday, flying into Iraq amid the tightest security ever seen for a papal visit to appeal to the country's leaders and people to end militant violence and religious strife. The country has deployed thousands of security personnel to protect him during the visit, which comes after a spate of rocket and suicide bomb attacks and a spike in COVID-19 cases. Even before he landed, Francis told reporters on his plane that he felt duty-bound to make what he called an "emblematic" trip despite the difficulties because the country "has been martyred for so many years".
The Pope's three-day visit will include a meeting with Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.View on euronews
The month of September was a brief window of reprieve for Toronto tour operator Sash Munjal in what was otherwise a devastating year. "We got tours going from Aug. 29 until Oct. 6, when the premier made his announcement that we were going back into restrictions," Munjal, who owns ShortTrips.ca, told CBC Toronto. "The entire tourism sector pretty much got a bit of a bloodbath" due to COVID-19, he said. As for his own business, "we're just hanging on by our fingernails." A new analysis by industry association Destination Toronto looks at the impact on the city's tourism industry, following a year of on-and-off pandemic lockdowns. It found the city lost out on more than $8 billion in economic activity through visitor spending — a number that balloons to more than $14 billion when you look at the Greater Toronto Area. "The tourism and hospitality industry was really hit first and probably hardest, and looks like it will be the last to recover," said Destination Toronto vice-president Andrew Weir. Though there's a long road ahead, Weir says his team is working hard on plans to entice visitors back when it's safe for them to return — and hoping to lure back businesses for meetings and events. Destination Toronto tracked 463 conferences and events that were cancelled or postponed since the pandemic began, amounting to $833 million in losses. Conventions and meetings are "foundational to the [tourism] business in Toronto, and often get booked a couple of years in advance." Drawing in visitors could start with you One of the first steps in Destination Toronto's recovery strategy: getting residents and their social media feeds to help spread the word that the city is a welcoming place for tourists again. "The more we get out and engage with the city ... have meals on patios, go to some outdoor events when they start up again… That's going to be the catalyst," said Weir. "When people see the photos we share, then people outside the city start to see Toronto coming back." The Destination Toronto analysis found attractions and entertainment lost $707 million due to the pandemic. (Sam Nar/CBC) Weir envisages a multi-stage comeback, in which Ontarians, then Canadians, then international travellers can gradually begin visiting again. Jim Byers, editor-in-chief at canadiantravelnews.ca and author of a book about Ontario destinations, says promoting safety should be another key part of the city's pitch to visitors. "I think most cities that can will be trying to talk about their open spaces," he said. "Toronto is blessed with a lot of pretty wonderful nature." What can we learn from SARS? Destination Toronto can also look back to 2003, when a group of tourism organizations, attractions and different levels of government worked together to boost the city's tarnished image during the SARS outbreak. Called Toront03, they raised money and then spent it on promoting the city in the northern United States. The goal was to show the city was "open, alive, and well,'" said Kevin Shea, who served as president of the group. Shea says they also worked on attractions, bringing the Conan O'Brien show to the city, creating theatre and hotel packages, and promoting a free Rolling Stones concert. Both Shea and Weir from Destination Toronto say they believe pent-up demand for in-person experiences will lead to big spending in Toronto when it is finally green-lit. "There's many Canadians that now have more money in the bank because there's nowhere to spend it … I think it's going to be the roaring 20s all over again," said Shea. Full recovery could take 5 years Despite that optimism, industry predictions suggest it could be years before Canada returns to its pre-pandemic tourism spending levels. According to Destination Canada, if the borders stay closed until Oct. 2021 — it will take until 2026 for the country to return to 2019 levels of activity. Industry associations continue to call on government support to get businesses through the difficult times ahead. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada put out a five-point 2021 recovery plan, calling on the federal government to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and create a recovery stimulus fund, among other things. "The big concern is making sure businesses are still there," said Weir.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. There are 878,391 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 878,391 confirmed cases (29,903 active, 826,337 resolved, 22,151 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,832 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 78.68 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,063 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,866. There were 47 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 286 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 41. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,763,481 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,002 confirmed cases (125 active, 871 resolved, six deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 23.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,101 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 138 confirmed cases (23 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Thursday. The rate of active cases is 14.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 18 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 109,360 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,649 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,555 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 350,135 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,443 confirmed cases (37 active, 1,378 resolved, 28 deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 4.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 239,229 tests completed. _ Quebec: 290,377 confirmed cases (7,379 active, 272,553 resolved, 10,445 deaths). There were 707 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 86.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,047 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 721. There were 20 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 84 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 304,757 confirmed cases (10,309 active, 287,424 resolved, 7,024 deaths). There were 994 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 69.97 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,446 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,064. There were 10 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 108 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 15. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,017,094 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,051 confirmed cases (1,143 active, 30,005 resolved, 903 deaths). There were 51 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 82.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 394 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 56. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 536,934 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,220 confirmed cases (1,422 active, 27,407 resolved, 391 deaths). There were 161 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 120.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,029 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 147. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.17 per 100,000 people. There have been 581,914 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,785 confirmed cases (4,613 active, 128,261 resolved, 1,911 deaths). There were 331 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 104.32 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,353 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 336. There were nine new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 37 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.22 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,425,265 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 82,473 confirmed cases (4,808 active, 76,289 resolved, 1,376 deaths). There were 564 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 93.4 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,691 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 527. There were four new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.73 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,950,778 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,187 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,743 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 369 confirmed cases (14 active, 354 resolved, one death). There were 10 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 35.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,755 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
Britain's financial regulators on Friday called a formal halt to nearly all Libor rates from the end of this year, as expected, piling pressure on markets to speed the switch in interest rates used in $260 trillion of contracts around the world. Libor, or London Interbank Offered Rate, is being replaced with rates compiled by central banks after lenders were fined billions of dollars for trying to rig what was once dubbed the world's most important number, used for pricing a wide range of debt from home and company loans to credit cards. "Today’s announcements mark the final chapter in the process that began in 2017, to remove reliance on unsustainable Libor rates and build a more robust foundation for the financial system," Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said in a statement.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has faced political pressure and angry constituents over her state’s mask order during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the 76-year-old governor of the deeply red state has resisted calls to drop the requirement as Republican governors across the South either shunned mask mandates altogether or lifted them in late winter. “Maybe they don’t have access to the same information I have. We want to be abundantly clear and abundantly safe before we drop the mask mandate,” Ivey said when asked about fellow Republicans — including the Alabama Senate and the lieutenant governor — who urged her to end the order. Ivey issued Alabama’s mask order in July and announced on Thursday that she would extend it five more weeks until April 9. “We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer,” Ivey said at a Thursday news conference. GOP governors from Texas to South Carolina have resisted, or ended, statewide mask orders. Florida, South Carolina and Georgia never had a statewide order. Ivey’s announcement came days after Mississippi and Texas dropped their mandates, decisions President Joe Biden called “Neanderthal thinking.” Mississippi's governor took issue with the criticism. “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them,” Gov. Tate Reeves responded on Twitter. On social media, Ivey’s decision drew a mix of rage and gratitude. “Meemaw you gotta go.... I ain’t wearing it and whoever runs against you in 2022 has got my vote,” one person tweeted at Ivey using the phrase for a Southern grandmother. Another thanked her and wrote, “you are the only Southern governor doing the right thing.” A few questioned if a five-week extension was long enough. In extending the order, Ivey threaded a political needle — following medical advice while letting people know a firm end date is in sight. The governor said wearing a mask will be a personal responsibility after the order expires. “Let me be abundantly clear: After April 9, I will not keep the mask order in effect,” she said. Early in the pandemic, the governor closed dine-in restaurants, beaches and nonessential businesses — all orders that have been lifted. Alabama’s State Health Officer Scott Harris said he presented the governor with information and options, but she made the final decision. “I really appreciate her being willing to do that. I understand it’s a very difficult decision for her. I think the science on masks is very clear that they prevent disease,” Harris said. Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease specialist who contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and now treats patients with the illness, said Ivey deserves credit for standing up to calls to lift the order from fellow Republicans. “I think it was a bold step forward considering the pressure she was under,” he said. But rather than setting a firm deadline for the requirement to expire, Saag said, it would be better to see where both caseloads and vaccinations totals are next month and then make a decision. Comparing Alabama’s hospitalization trend with those from states that are lifting mask orders could be illuminating, he said. “My only plea at this point is to keep an open mind, to watch the data,” Saag said. “Keep an eye on where Alabama is as compared to where Mississippi and Texas are.” Ivey, known for her folksy demeanour, in December made a tongue-in-cheek quip about the heaping doses of criticism she has received from some over masks. “Y’all, I’m not trying to be Governor Mee-Maw as some on social media have called me. I’m just trying to urge you to use the common sense the good Lord gave each of us to be smart and considerate of others,” she said. Kim Chandler, The Associated Press