SANTIAGO (Reuters) -China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine was 67% effective in preventing symptomatic infection, data from a huge real-world study in Chile has shown, a potential boost for the jab which has come under scrutiny over its level of protection against the virus. The CoronaVac vaccine was 85% effective in preventing hospitalizations and 80% effective in preventing deaths, the Chilean government said in a report, adding that the data should prove a "game changer" from the vaccine more widely. Rodrigo Yanez, Chile's vice trade minister who forged a deal with Sinovac to host the drug's clinical trial and buy 60 million doses of the drug over three years, said the results showed Chile had made "the right bet".
BERLIN — New polls Friday bolstered Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder's bid to be the candidate of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right bloc in fall elections, showing a wide margin of popular support for him over Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia. Laschet is the leader of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, and has rallied the party's leadership behind his bid to run as chancellor. Soeder, the leader of the CDU's smaller Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, has resisted pressure to resolve the matter immediately, however, saying it needs to be discussed with people beyond senior party officials. Soeder has emphasized his superior poll ratings, and two new surveys further boost that argument. One, conducted this week by the infratest dimap agency for ARD television, showed 44 per cent of Germans, and 72 per cent of union-bloc voters, preferred Soeder to Laschet. By contrast, 15 per cent of Germans and 17 per cent of union-bloc voters preferred Laschet. The poll of 1,174 people had a margin of error of plus or minus two to three percentage points. Perhaps more important as the bloc considers whom to choose, was an INSA poll done this week for Bild newspaper and released Friday. It indicating that with Laschet as the candidate the union bloc was polling at 27 per cent support, one point below its current ratings as measured by the agency, while with Soeder it sat at 38 per cent support. INSA's poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Laschet has dismissed the importance of the polls, noting that the elections are months away and that he has overcome poor numbers in state races in the past. After a meeting on Tuesday of the two parties’ joint parliamentary group in Berlin, both men emerged to say that the talks were productive and that they hoped to have a decision by week’s end. There was no indication early Friday, however, that any announcement was imminent. Germany’s parliamentary election on Sept. 26 will determine who succeeds Merkel, who isn’t seeking a fifth term after nearly 16 years in power. The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The government House leader has asked the Speaker of the House of Commons to investigate a photo leak of a Liberal MP caught naked on camera during a virtual sitting of Parliament. Pablo Rodriguez said Thursday the incident involving Quebec MP William Amos was "mean-spirited" and has been "life-changing" for him. He suggested there could be serious implications for the person who took and shared this intimate image on Wednesday. "Taking a photo of someone who is changing clothes and in the nude and sharing it without their consent could very well be criminal," Rodriguez said. A screenshot shows Amos standing unclothed behind a desk between the Quebec and Canadian flags with what appears to be a phone covering his private parts. During virtual House of Commons sittings, only those who speak are shown on the public feed. Therefore, Amos's fellow MPs could see him on camera but he did not appear on the main screen. Bloc Québécois MP Claude DeBellefeuille, the party whip, raised the incident in a point of order after question period Wednesday, as she called for parliamentary decorum. "It may be necessary to remind the members, especially the male ones, that a tie and jacket are obligatory, but so are a shirt, boxer shorts or pants," DeBellefeuille said in French. "We have seen that the member is in great physical shape, but I think members should be reminded to be careful and control the camera well." In a statement Wednesday, Amos said he had returned from a jog and was changing into his work clothes, and did not realize his camera was on. "This was an unfortunate error," said Amos, parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. "I sincerely apologize to my colleagues in the House of Commons for this unintentional distraction. Obviously, it was an honest mistake and it won't happen again.'' Thursday morning, Rodriguez opened the House of Commons by blasting the unidentified person who leaked the nude photo of Amos to media, asking if they had given any thought to the ramifications on Amos's personal life when they shared it. He called it a case of "callous disrespect." "Did they think of (Amos's) family, children, friends and the fact that the internet is forever? Are we really at the point in our politics that it is acceptable to try and destroy the reputation and humiliate a colleague because someone finds an unfortunate error and unintentional mistake to be funny?" Rodriguez said. "Our politics have taken a very dark and destructive turn if this is the case." Neither MPs nor staff are allowed to to take photos in the House of Commons when it is sitting — a rule that has been extended to include virtual sittings. This includes taking screenshots of the public and non-public video feeds, Speaker Anthony Rota ruled in September 2020. "For taking screenshots, it is the same as being in the House. If a member takes a picture, they are taking a picture, and posting it just adds to that. Members are not permitted to take photos in the House," Rota said in an exchange on Sept. 29. Rodriguez has asked Rota to launch an immediate investigation to determine who took the controversial photo so the House of Commons could then decide on a next course of action. Rota said he would take the matter under advisement. In another statement posted to Facebook on Thursday, Amos thanked people who "sent messages of moral support and encouragement in the aftermath of this most regrettable situation." He described the past day as having been difficult, both personally and professionally. "It is most unfortunate that someone shared, without my consent, a photo in which I was changing my clothes," he said, adding that he expects the Speaker to investigate. Procurement Minister Anita Anand also expressed concern over the shared image. Amos was scheduled to appear at an announcement with Anand Thursday morning, but she said he is instead "taking a day" and noted that he has apologized for the incident as an accident. “I do, as a member of Parliament, have concerns that we should all, as members of Parliament, be respecting the rules of the House of Commons as well as any additional applicable law,” Anand said when asked about the incident. Amos was described by Liberal government whip Mark Holland as an "upstanding member of the House" who made an honest mistake. "His screen was on while in the middle of getting dressed. It could have happened to any of us," Holland said in a statement. "We must know who is responsible for leaking non-consensual images from a private video feed. We must also be assured that the video taken by this person is deleted so that further violations of privacy and decency are not possible." This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021. Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press
TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) -The Canadian province of Ontario expanded and extended a stay at home order on Friday and said police will be given new powers to stop and question people who leave home as expert advisors warned that new cases of COVID-19 will continue to soar, overwhelming hospitals. Ontario also announced restrictions on non-essential travel from neighbouring provinces starting Monday and said non-essential construction, including building projects at malls, hotels and office towers will shut down as of Saturday to deal with a raging third wave. "The reality is there are few options left," said Premier Doug Ford.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper is working with former leaders of three major intelligence agencies — the Mossad, the CIA and MI5 — in a Canadian private investment company. AWZ Ventures invests in Israeli cybersecurity, intelligence and physical security technologies. Despite the many prominent individuals behind it, the company remains low-profile in Canada. The head office of AWZ (pronounced Oz) Ventures is at 20 Eglinton Ave. West in Toronto, on the 10th floor of an office tower at the corner of Yonge Street. Stephen Harper with AWZ Ventures founder Yaron Ashkenazi (right) and EnsureDR CEO Uri Shay (left).(Business Wire) Harper is one of AWZ's partners and president of its advisory committee. A glance at the company's website shows that, along with the former prime minister, AWZ has assembled an impressive list of leaders from the counter-intelligence and business worlds. According to his bio, the company's founder and managing partner, Yaron Ashkenazi, served for a decade in the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) VIP Protection Division, leading teams that protected several Israeli prime ministers. Edward Sonshine, founding partner of AWZ and chairman of the board, is the founder of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns the building that houses AWZ Ventures. Former Conservative public safety minister Stockwell Day is also involved with the company. Then-CSIS director Richard Fadden waits to testify before a committee on Parliament Hill on July 5, 2010.(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) AWZ Ventures has recruited former executives of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. They include Haim Tomer — who spent more than 30 years with the agency, serving as head of Mossad's intelligence, counter-terrorism and international divisions — and Gary Barnea, a former deputy director of Mossad's special operations division. Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and a former national security adviser to Harper, also works for the company. Fadden sits on AWZ Ventures' advisory committee. In an interview with Radio-Canada, he described the business philosophy of founder Ashkenazi, who he said reached out to him after attending a conference where Fadden was a speaker. Former Mossad officials Haim Tomer and Gary Barnea.(AWZ Ventures) "Yaron has had a lot of contact with the Israeli security community. But more to the point, Israel is very successful in developing new technology, both for the private sector and for government," said Fadden. "He decided — you'll have to ask him — but I think he decided it would be a good way to make some money while promoting some companies from his home country." Ashkenazi turned down Radio-Canada's request for an interview, saying the company is "extremely occupied with a few major deals." "We are keeping a 'below the radar' position at this point," he added. Harper, who joined the company in 2019, did not reply to Radio-Canada's interview request. The company's website says AWZ Ventures was launched in 2016. According to Ontario government records, it was incorporated in 2013. Two major figures from U.S. and U.K. intelligence circles are also part of AWZ Ventures — former CIA director James Woolsey and former MI5 director general Stella Rimington. "I think they are like many other investment, venture companies on the planet. They picked an area where they think they can make some bucks," Fadden said of AWZ Ventures' leadership. James Woolsey was the director of the CIA under President Bill Clinton.(Reuters) The company manages $130 million and has invested in 17 companies, according to its website. All of those companies have been Israeli so far, said Fadden. "A lot of this technology is useful in fighting terrorism and that was my main interest," he said. "Some of the technology that has been developed helps develop a sense of what's going on, on the one level on social media, so you can accumulate information. But mostly it's defensive." As an example of AWZ's targeted investments, Fadden cited an investment in what he calls "cybersafe control mechanisms for trains or planes. The idea is to simply develop technology that protects whomever from attacks, mostly cyberattacks these days." Israel is not a NATO member, nor is it part of the Five Eyes — the intelligence-sharing alliance that includes Canada, the United States, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Fadden said he's comfortable with helping to advance technological development in Israel, a friendly country. "We have a very firm policy that there are a number of companies that we do not invest in, that we do not sell to in any shape, way or fashion," he said. "For example, we don't deal with China or Russia, just to pick two." The companies that have benefited from AWZ Ventures' investments include NanoLock — which has developed a remote tool for protecting internet-connected devices from unauthorized access — and Assac, which has come up with an "anti-tapping, anti-hacking and threat management product available for the emerging corporate smartphone security and encryption market," according to AWZ Ventures' website. The Israeli cyber-tech sector continues to grow at a record pace despite the pandemic, according to the Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD). The Israeli government agency said the sector raised $2.9 billion in 2020 — an increase of more than 70 per cent over the same period in the previous year. The sum of investments in such technology in Israel has reached 31 per cent of the value of such investments worldwide, according to INCD.
While British Columbia's latest COVID-19 modelling shows a "levelling off" in some key data points, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, stressed that with variants of concern spreading, people need to continue to diligently follows the public health measures in place.
An Iqaluit man under the protection of Nunavut's public guardian is being forced into homelessness while government officials struggle to figure out how to help him and who should pay for that help, according to a case at the Nunavut Court of Justice. The Inuk man in this case, whose identity CBC is withholding, has schizophrenia and an intellectual disability. He was placed into the care of the public guardian according to an order under Nunavut's Public Guardianship Act in November last year. Those who fall under such protective orders do not have the capacity to make some basic life decisions for themselves. Last month, the man left Iqaluit's men's shelter in order to attend a court appearance in Kinngait. When he got back, the shelter was full. A couple days later, his defence lawyer noticed bruising and scratches on his face. The man reported the injuries were a result of frostbite due to homelessness. Legal aid lawyers quickly filed documents with the court demanding the public guardian secure temporary housing for the man under its care. But the guardian's office filed its own court documents refusing. It says it contacted numerous facilities in Iqaluit, none of which could house the man. It added that it is not its responsibility to house people under its care, especially in light of Nunavut's longstanding housing crisis. If it were their responsibility, the public guardian argued, it would have a long line at its door of people looking to be placed in its care for housing purposes. And the budget approved by the Legislative Assembly for the Office of the Public Guardian does not include such housing costs, the office argued. But Beth Kotierk, the man's legal aid lawyer, argued that the government cannot allow a person in its care to go homeless while it figures out which agency should pay for their care. Jordan's Principle should apply: legal aid lawyer In documents submitted to the court, Kotierk argues that Jordan's Principle should apply in the man's case. That principle was approved by a motion in the House of Commons in 2007, two years after five-year-old Jordan River Anderson died. The child, who was from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, died while different levels of government argued in court about who should pay for his care. The principle named in his honour aims to prevent a similar situation from occurring. Although the man in Nunavut's public guardianship case is not a child, the same principle applies, Kotierk argued. The case went before Justice Paul Bychok on April 1, but due to administrative errors by legal aid lawyers, the case was dismissed without prejudice, which means it can be brought to court again. It was scheduled to go before the court again in late May. But the discovery of a case of COVID-19 in the capital suspended operations at Nunavut's Court of Justice on Thursday, and it's not clear when the case may be heard again. In the mean time, Kotierk said Nunavut's legal aid agency is working to secure a hotel room for the man.
A poll commissioned by CBC News shows that only 16 per cent of Albertans say they are 'highly impressed' by Premier Jason Kenney’s performance, in part because of his handling of the pandemic, but also because of the province’s struggling economy.
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — La Soufriere volcano shot out another explosive burst of gas and ash on Friday as a cruise ship arrived to evacuate some of the foreigners who had been stuck on a St. Vincent island coated in ash from a week of violent eruptions. The explosions that began on April 9 forced some 20,000 to flee the northern end of the eastern Caribbean island for shelters and contaminated water supplies across the island. Friday morning's blast “wasn’t a big explosion compared to the ones that we last weekend, but it was big enough to punch a hole through the clouds," said Richard Robertson, lead scientist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, in an interview with local NBC radio. “Probably got up to 8,000 metres (26,000 feet)." During a comparable eruption cycle in 1902, explosive eruptions continued to shake the island for months after an initial burst killed some 1,700 people, though the new eruptions so far have caused no reported deaths among a population that had received official warning a day earlier that danger was imminent. Meanwhile, British, U.S. and Canadian nationals were being evacuated aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises' Celebrity Reflection from the harbour in the Kingstown, capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The ship was due to arrive Saturday in Dutch Sint Maarten. Dozens of foreigners toting luggage descended from tour buses and cars at the port terminal in Kingstown and patiently waited in a line that began in the parking lot and reached deep into the terminal. They included students from the Trinity School of Medicine along with stranded tourists, including families with young children in arms. “As of right now, we are being evacuated for our safety and to keep the island as safe as possible," said LLeah Ransai, a Canadian student at Trinity. "Between the school, the government and the embassies of the US and Canada, we’re being evacuated now.” The U.S. Embassy said those aboard would have to make their own travel arrangements home. It also noted in an official statement that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended against travel on cruise ships because the chance of getting COVID-19 and said people who had been in close contact with suspected COVID-19 cases were barred from the trip. All aboard were supposed to have a negative rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of boarding. Meanwhile, thousands of locals were stuck n emergency shelters with no idea when they might be able to return home. Levi Lewis, 58, a retired public servant from the town of Fancy, said the eruption had left him trying to get by with practically nothing. “I just reusing clothing cause i didn't walk with much," he said. "Plus water is an issue, so I’m trying to conserve it still.” “I want to go back home, or to whatever is left of it," he added. A few people, however, never left, defying evacuation orders. Raydon May, a bus conductor in his late 20s who stayed in Sandy Bay throughout the eruptions, said he had always planned to stay if the volcano erupted and was trying to protect properties in the community while making occasional trips outside the evacuation zone to pick up water and supplies. He said so much ash had fallen that the roofs of houses were collapsing under the weight. “One roof might get on like three truckloads of sand," he said. “We trying to help ... but we can’t help everybody.” Kristin Deane, The Associated Press
Michael Brisson hasn't been vaccinated against COVID-19, but it hasn't been for lack of trying. The 66-year-old lives in Emerald Woods, the neighbourhood with Ottawa's second-highest rate of COVID-19. Tucked just south of Bank Street and Hunt Club Road, local landmarks include a mosque, a Shawarma Station and Sawmill Creek Elementary School, named after the narrow stream that flows through the community. The neighbourhood falls within the K1T postal code, and has therefore been designated by the province as a COVID-19 "hot spot," where since last week residents as young as 50 have been eligible to receive a dose at one of the city's public vaccination clinics. But when Brisson, who doesn't own a computer, tried calling Ottawa Public Health (OPH) last week to book an appointment, he gave up after waiting nearly an hour on the phone. "I've gone to several pharmacies nearby, and they don't provide the service. And they're telling me, 'Well, go online, go online," Brisson said. "Well, I don't have online." Michael Brisson, 66, says he hasn't been able to book a vaccination appointment.(Jean Delisle/CBC ) Already at high risk due to his age, Brisson lives in a 12-storey apartment building where he said not everyone keeps their distance, especially in the elevator. Brisson doesn't own a car, and said even if he had been able to book an appointment, it would take him an hour to get to the nearest OPH vaccination clinic by bus. "I don't have time and it's inconvenient," he said. Immigrants, single parents According to the Ottawa Neighborhood Study, 51 per cent of the 5,600 people who call Emerald Woods are racialized, predominantly immigrants and refugees. Five per cent don't speak English or French, and the median annual income is less than $25,000. One-quarter of the neighbourhood's residents are single parents, many with school-age children who are suddenly home indefinitely. Sumaiya Hirsi, 11, worried about infecting her family after two classmates tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of March.(Jean Delisle/CBC) Sumaiya Hirsi, 11, hasn't attended class since March 29, when her entire Grade 5 class at Sawmill Creek Elementary School was sent home after two students tested positive for COVID-19. Hirsi, who shares a four-bedroom rowhouse on Bridle Path Drive with her mother, her aunt and four older siblings, worried about infecting her family. "I had to stay upstairs until I got my test [results] back. I could have infected my mom and her daycare. My siblings all work," said Hirsi, who normally shares a bed with her mother, a child-care worker. Stephanie Mitra, 33, who has lived in Emerald Woods for four years, said the neighbourhood's high infection rate comes as no surprise to her. "I think there are a lot of younger and ... essential workers, people who don't necessarily have sick leave or even have the ability to stay home," Mitra observed. Stephanie Mitra says many of her neighbours are essential workers who don't have sick pay.(Jean Delisle/CBC) Mosque steps in OPH said it's using neighborhood census data to improve access to vaccines for residents who have been disproportionately affected by the virus, and in the case of Emerald Woods, has enlisted the help of the neighbourhood mosque. Masjid ar-Rahmah — the Mosque of Mercy — has previously hosted virtual seminars with doctors to answer residents' questions and concerns, and is currently a COVID-19 testing site. Now, in a neighbourhood with no community health centre of its own, the mosque will become a vaccination site during the holy month of Ramadan. Hindia Mohamoud, executive director of the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, said that's the kind of initiative that will get results, because people in the city's hardest-hit neighbourhoods are often least likely to have the time or resources to get vaccinated. "The focus on hot spots doesn't necessarily result in vaccination of the most vulnerable," Mohamoud said. "We have to bring the vaccination to them." (CBC)
British Columbians relishing the sunshine and warm weather over the past week can expect another few days of delight, according to Environment Canada, with more blue skies in the forecast. The weather agency said the "very high ridge" of pressure over the province is expected to stay in place over the next five to seven days. Inland temperatures in the Lower Mainland could reach up to 23 C over the weekend — well above seasonal averages of 14 C — with equally toasty temperatures elsewhere in B.C. Temperatures in B.C. Interior cities such as Kamloops, Merritt and Kelowna could reach up to 26 C over the weekend. "This ridge is pretty well covering the whole province right now. It's essentially blocking any of the moisture air coming in from the Pacific," said meteorologist Gregg Walters. "Everywhere is above normal for this time of year, as far as temperature is concerned." People enjoy the waterfront in downtown Kelowna Thursday. Temperatures in the city could hit 24 C this weekend.(Winston Szeto/CBC) Temperature records set A number of temperature records were shattered across B.C. on Thursday, including one that hadn't been broken in 95 years. Pemberton hit 26.4 C, breaking the record of 25 C set in 1926. The Powell River area reached 21.2 C, edging past the old record of 20 C from 1947. Squamish was a hot spot at 27 C. Sunscreen would be a good idea over the next few days, Walters said. "The UV index is getting up," he said. "The sun angle is about the same as it is at the end of August, so it's like summertime intensity for sunlight." A cyclist is pictured along the seawall in Vancouver on Monday.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Public health restrictions remain in place, even for those heading outside. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that outdoor gatherings with people outside of one's own household are discouraged — though outdoor gatherings with up to 10 people are currently allowed under B.C.'s health restrictions. "Even if we can see people outside of our household, we shouldn't. Outside is lower risk, it's not zero, but it's lower risk," she said. "If you're going to be in close contact, wear a mask, even if it is outside." Fire risk Fire dangers will also be higher, since April has been unusually dry. A brush fire broke out Thursday off Highway 1 in Chilliwack and quickly burned through bone-dry grass. A brush fire in Chilliwack, B.C., on Thursday burned quickly through dry grass after weeks of sunny weather across the province.(Shane Mackichan) The B.C. Wildfire Service told CBC fire fuel in Cariboo, Kamloops, Prince George and coastal areas have been incredibly dry and outflow winds could fan the flames. "Under conditions of low humidity and little precipitation, it will not take long for the grass to dry out and become flammable, especially in windy conditions," read a tweet from the service.
The federal government is buying more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech as it moves to offset reduction in supply from another producer. And while it offered to help Ontario distribute its shots, the hot-spot province turned down that assistance as the premier piled on more restrictions on Friday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday a contract with Pfizer for eight million additional doses of its vaccine hours after Canada said Moderna would slash its deliveries in half through the rest of April. The increase in Pfizer supply is coming at a time when COVID activity is rapidly spreading in parts of the country, including Canada's most populous province. Trudeau said the federal government will provide more relief to Ontario, including deploying the Canadian Red Cross to help with their mobile vaccination teams; setting up additional hospital beds in Toronto and Hamilton; and sending equipment and drugs. "In many places, numbers are higher than they’ve ever been before," Trudeau said. "And far too many hospitals are already stretched far too thin. ... So we're going to do whatever it takes to help." Ontario logged a record 4,812 new cases on Friday and 25 more deaths related to the virus. Its science advisers presented stark new projections predicting daily infections could soon approach 20,000, and that extending stay-at-home orders and administering 100,000 vaccine doses per day would be needed to flatten the curve. Premier Doug Ford struck a dire tone as he announced a suite of severe measures to supplement the extension of the province's stay-at-home order for another two weeks. "We're losing the battle between the variants and vaccines," Ford told a news conference. "We are on our heels. But if we dig in, remain steadfast, we can turn this around." New restrictions include stricter limits on interprovincial travel, outdoor gatherings, businesses and religious services, and shutting down non-essential construction. Police are vested with special powers to enforce public health protocols. Ontario also made an appeal to other provinces to send health-care workers to alleviate pressure on its hospitals. However, the premier seemed more tepid about Trudeau's offer to help with the vaccine rollout. Spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said the gesture was appreciated, but the province would not need the Red Cross to help administer vaccines "unless it is matched with an increase in supply." "This isn't a capacity issue," Ford told reporters, "it's a supply issue." Data from the federal government shows Ontario has received more than 4.8 million vaccine doses. The provincial data shows 3.6 million have been administered as of Thursday evening, suggesting 1.2 million doses are still to be used. Earlier Friday, the Canadian Medical Association said further restrictions must be considered in regions experiencing rapid rates of COVID-19 transmission, including a "total lockdown" in Ontario. "That means anything that's truly not essential ... needs to be closed completely for a period of time," said Dr. Katharine Smart, the president-elect of the CMA. "These half-closures and half-measures and not working." Rapid growth in COVID activity continues to be seen as variants of concern escalate in parts of the country. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief medical officer, said the ramped-up vaccine rollout has been positive, however, with seven million residents inoculated this week. "Vaccines are reducing severe illness, death and outbreaks in high-risk settings and populations that were targeted in that initial phase of vaccination," she said. "These benefits are building, and they will be the bridge that takes us all to greater safety." Health Canada said Friday that it's reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech to expand the use of its COVID-19 vaccine to young people aged 12 and older. Canada's expanded contract with Pfizer will kick in next month, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said, with the first four million of the new eight million doses arriving in May. She said two million more doses will come in June and July, respectively, and Pfizer is also moving another 400,000 doses from the third quarter into June. Canada's initial shipment of approximately 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also arrive during the week of April 27, Anand said, to be delivered to the provinces at the beginning of May. The increased Pfizer doses help offset another production delay from Moderna, which will ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million. The company also told Canada that one to two million doses of the 12.3 million scheduled for delivery in the second quarter may be delayed until the third quarter. "We are disappointed, and while we understand the challenges facing suppliers in the current global market for vaccines, our government will continue to press Moderna to fulfil its commitments," Anand said in a statement. Moderna said in a statement there has been a "shortfall" in estimated doses from the European supply chain, and that it will be "making adjustments" to expected delivery quantities in a number of countries, including Canada. Trudeau said he was "concerned" about the delays and production challenges facing Moderna, but added that Pfizer has been reliable. He said its doses will make up the "bulk of vaccines being given to Canadians in the coming months." Quebec reported 1,527 new COVID cases on Friday while Manitoba reported 127. New Brunswick had nine new cases and Newfoundland had three. Meanwhile, the CMA released a statement calling for "extraordinary" measures, including sharing provincial health-care resources and dropping the per capita approach to vaccine distribution, to address the COVID-19 crisis unfolding in several provinces. The CMA said it wants the federal government to consider re-prioritizing its vaccine distribution strategy to focus on urgent areas instead of distributing to provinces on a per capita basis. Trudeau said conversations with provinces about vaccine allocation have been "ongoing." "We're happy to continue to work with the provinces on adjusting (vaccine distribution) as the provinces see necessary," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Coronavirus variants are fuelling a COVID-19 surge in southern Saskatchewan, including the city of Moose Jaw, says medical health officer Dr. David Torr. Torr, who is medical lead for south rural Saskatchewan, said the variant first detected in the U.K. has become the dominant strain in the city, adding pressure on the local hospital. More beds were created at the Dr. F.H. Wigmore Regional Hospital after the intensive-care unit reached capacity. "One of the challenges we're having is the hospitals are full.... You can add a couple of beds," he said. "It's not like you can add 10 more beds. Remember also we have limited staff; we can not expand beyond what our staff can manage." ICU beds have been added to the Dr. F.H. Wigmore Regional Hospital in Moose Jaw to meet the needs of a rising number of COVID-19 patients. (Neil Cochrane/CBC News) In the past month, the south central region has seen a 46 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases, with nearly 400 new cases reported in the area. Not only is the region seeing a surge in cases, but there's also a surge in the number of towns and villages that are impacted. "It's a real fast spread," Torr said. "Where it has not been previously, it is becoming pretty much the dominant factor, the variants of concern." The variants of concern appear to be more transmissible and potentially more deadly, and may also transmit for longer periods of time in infected individuals and bind to our cells more easily — providing more opportunities for infected people to spread the virus. On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a public health alert warning residents in Maple Creek, Swift Current, Rosetown, Kindersley, Davidson, Moose Jaw, Outlook and their surrounding areas of increased risk of coronavirus variants. A day later, Health Minister Paul Merriman confirmed a superspreader event in southwest Saskatchewan has been linked to at least 21 cases. New surge stems from Easter gatherings Torr said the recent surge stems from Easter activities, including outdoor gatherings like barbecues where people did not follow public health orders. "We're sort of paying for that with the cases we're seeing and the surges we're seeing," Torr said. He said people were socializing outside of their bubble, and "there was a lot of inter-town and inter-provincial travel" that occurred. Torr said several of the functions had people eating and drinking together while not wearing masks. Before the Easter weekend, Torr was among the province's medical health officers that pleaded with the public in an open letter to stay put over the long weekend. He's still pleading. "Let's not take this as a joke," Torr said. "It's serious stuff." Dr. David Torr says people can help by getting vaccinated and wearing a proper mask.(CBC) Torr said a major driving factor in cases rising has been non-compliance with health orders. "The most important thing, no matter how many measures you put into place, they are only as effective as people complying with them," Torr said. "That's where the challenge is. People need to realize: stay away as much as possible from crowds or forming of gatherings. Now is not the time to do that. We need to stay in our bubbles." His last pieces of advice: get vaccinated and get a proper mask with three layers. "There are so many types of fancy masks out there, and they're unfortunately not effective."
EDMONTON — Alberta’s Opposition says Premier Jason Kenney is sowing distrust by recounting misleading anecdotes to illustrate COVID-19 policy decisions. “I think this is about trust. I think this is about telling the truth,” NDP critic Sarah Hoffman said Friday. “I think we’ve seen many examples where the premier tries to bolster his own narrative. “This is a trend of being dishonest, and I think it really does call into question what trust and confidence we can have in the things the premier says and does.” Hoffman’s comments came a day after Kenney’s office confirmed the United Conservative premier “misspoke” when he used an anecdote about a super-spreader birthday party in Athabasca as a key driver of recent soaring COVID-19 rates in the town north of Edmonton. Kenney used the party as an example of how super-spreaders are not necessarily driven by in-school transmission but by social gatherings. "Apparently the virus had a 100 per cent attack rate at that birthday party. All of the kids who came to that birthday party got sick,'' Kenney said Monday. He repeated the same information at a news conference again Tuesday. An official with Alberta Health later said there was no data to suggest there had been an outbreak from a children's party in the community. Athabasca Mayor Colleen Powell said the publicity the community of 13,000 people has received since the premier's comments is not the kind it wants. "Why are you saying these things when you don't know?" Powell asked in an interview. "I had a couple of people get in touch with me (asking) who held the party. News spreads like wildfire." Just over 100 people, including students and a dozen staff, from three different schools in Athabasca tested positive for COVID-19 and its variants. Kenney’s spokesperson, Jerrica Goodwin, responded Friday in a short statement. “The premier was using the very real example to illustrate a point of the serious nature of COVID-19 and ease of transmission. As we've acknowledged, he misspoke on the specific location,” said Goodwin. “All the NDP's ridiculous criticism shows is that they can only attack and criticize.” Kenney has used anecdotes before to illustrate the rationale for COVID-19 policy decisions taken by his government. In late November, he cited an impromptu encounter with a food court kiosk owner — a refugee from Venezuela — as an example of the devastating impacts that COVID-19 health restrictions can have on businesses. “She came up to me, and she broke down in tears in front of me saying, 'Sir, I put my entire life savings as a refugee into this business. We're struggling to pay the bills. If you shut me down, I'm going to lose it all, everything, and I'll be in abject poverty,’” Kenney recounted at the time. When reached later by a reporter, the owner, Carolina De La Torre, said Kenney accurately recounted her core concerns of balancing health and the economy. But she dismissed the colourful drama, saying she did not cry and did not approach him, rather it was Kenney who approached her. Earlier this week, the premier came under criticism for challenging a radio host for saying Kenney once downplayed COVID-19 as the flu, telling the host he had never done so. Hansard, the official record of house debate, recorded Kenney calling the virus “influenza” multiple times during debate on May 27, 2020. In late February, just before Kenney’s government released its first COVID-era budget, he announced that due to oil and gas revenues the revised forecast deficit for the 2020 fiscal year would be about $14 billion — a third lower than expected. Treasury officials refused reporter requests to confirm the accuracy of that figure and, two days later, the budget revealed the 2020 deficit forecast was $20 billion. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021. — With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon says the province is encouraged the federal Conservatives would scrap the current carbon tax if elected — even if replacing it still means consumers would pay. On Thursday, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole announced his approach, a levy on fuel and other carbon-emitting purchases that would fund personalized savings accounts. Canadians could use the money only on environmentally friendly purchases like bikes or bus passes, even furnace upgrades, much like a rewards card. "We will need to consider what their proposed price on carbon and introducing personal low carbon savings accounts would mean for Alberta residents," said Nixon in a statement. The province is in the midst of engaging stakeholders on Alberta's future climate policies and plans, after losing the Supreme Court battle to repeal the current carbon tax, which was designed by the federal Liberal government. Premier Jason Kenney's government didn't prepare a backup plan on implementing a consumer carbon tax, betting on a win at the Supreme Court. "We will review the proposed plan from Mr. O'Toole to determine how it respects provincial jurisdiction in the management and development of natural resources," read Nixon's statement. The statement goes on to stress that any new climate plan at the federal or provincial level must minimize costs to Albertans and exposed industries while simultaneously responsibly reducing emissions. Currently, Alberta pays a federally imposed levy, which went up to $40 a tonne this month and is set to rise to $50 a tonne next year. The Conservatives' carbon levy would initially cost $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. Kent Fellows, an economist at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, said it's encouraging that the federal Conservatives are putting together a plan. "This is kind of taking us from the debate about whether we need to do anything, or the debate about whether plans can reduce emissions, to a debate about what's the correct plan to get the emissions where we want to get them." He said the Conservative plan is similar to what's already in place. The big difference is at the consumer level — moving away from the standard market-based mechanism to something more targeted in terms of how the rebate is spent. "Really, it's a case of can Alberta continue to take this seriously, can we head the feds off at the pass on some of this stuff by introducing our own regulations and saying, 'No, we have these standards already, we don't need the federal intrusion.'" But that's only an issue if the Conservatives are elected in 2023. At the pumps, Albertans are divided on the Conservative plan. Some say climate policy that will move Canada toward reducing carbon emissions is needed, while others say the oil and gas industry is already responding to international pressures to green operations. "It's money people are paying as they consume energy, for them it feels like a tax," said Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams. "Whether it's rebated once a year or put in a savings account, I don't think it makes much of a difference to most." Williams believes Albertans recognize there has to be a better balance between energy and the environment. A carbon tax may turn off some conservative voters, but Williams said conservatives don't have many alternatives at the polls. "It might well make some people angry," Williams said. "Conservatives aren't in a great place in the polls today and it's not clear to me that this is going to do the job Conservatives need it to do of attracting new voters while keeping the voters they already have."
LITTLE RED RIVER, Alta. — Some trappers and elders from Alberta's Little Red River Cree Nation are urging the province to protect a dwindling Wabasca wood buffalo herd. In a letter to Environment Minister Jason Nixon, they ask for immediate action to end unregulated hunting by legally protecting the herd. "Our Woodland Cree Trappers and Elders have seen the Wabasca wood buffalo herd plummet without suitable recovery management actions," says the March 26 letter, which was signed by trappers Johnson Alook, Sylvester Auger and Lorne Tallcree. "We have not seen more than nine animals at a time of this herd this past season." A spokesman for Nixon said in a statement Friday that the province recognizes the importance of the Wabasca herd to Indigenous people and other Albertans. "The Wabasca bison population plays an important role in the conservation and recovery of wood bison in northern Alberta," said the emailed statement from press secretary Paul Hamnett. "Currently the Wabasca bison population is at low levels and at risk of local extinction. At this time, the Wabasca bison population cannot sustain any level of harvesting." The statement said the province is looking at all potential measures and actions that could be taken to conserve and recover the population. The trappers said they have yet to receive a response from the province, but hope officials will take steps to protect the herd before it disappears completely. "When I started trapping, I used to see 40, 30 buffalo," Alook said in an interview. "For a few years now, I haven't seen any buffalo. "There's some buffalo out there, but I haven't seen them. I used to see them every time we'd go out there." Other trappers and elders noticed the same thing, added Auger, so they decided to form a group to express their concerns. "We want to get them protected," he said. Kecia Kerr, executive director for the northern chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said it has worked with the group and shares its concerns. "There isn't a very good estimate of population size for this herd. But when you are talking about 20 individuals, at this point it's dire," she said. Kerr said the society would like to see the herd get subject animal status, which is a category that allows for legal protection. It would also like to see hunting become regulated, she said. "Ultimately, in Alberta, there needs to be a change to how bison are provided status across the province." The letter says the herd is culturally and ecologically important as one of the few disease-free, free-ranging wood buffalo herds in Canada. There are only two other healthy herds in Alberta — in Ronald Lake and Hay Zama — and both have protections that prohibit unregulated hunting. "The persistence of this genetically unique, disease-free herd is critical to the recovery of the species," says the letter. "It has been our observation that unregulated harvesting targets the largest members of the herd and that when this herd is faced with the threats originating from predators, the largest members of the herd protect the young by forming a protective shield around them. "Thus, we believe the unregulated harvesting weakens the protective capacity of the herd and has a compounding effect towards herd extinction." Urgent action must be taken so that future generations of the Little Red River Cree Nation can exercise ceremonial use and have food security from the herd, it says. "The current situation, as it trends now towards herd extinction, does not uphold the honour and integrity of the Crown in protecting our treaty right." This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021 — By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton. Follow @cderworiz on Twitter The Canadian Press
Wabush mayor Ron Barron said he'd rather not see Air Canada return to the region.(Darryl Dinn/CBC) While news of a bailout package for Air Canada is being greeted with relief in some parts of Labrador, others aren't so jovial. For Ron Barron, mayor of Wabush — which has not been listed as one of the reinstated services, and instead will be served through interline agreements with third-party regional carriers — it makes no difference whether the airline returns or not. "We've seen this in the past from them, that they've pulled out of here before," he said. "But when we had other airlines here that set up shop — regional carriers — they drove them out of here by undercutting them." On Tuesday, the federal government announced a $5.4-billion bailout package for Air Canada, which in exchange has agreed to refund customers, keep jobs and bring back regional air services that were suspended last year. But Barron said carriers like PAL Airlines and Pascan Aviation continued to serve Wabush despite the pandemic, something he's disappointed the nation's largest airline didn't do. Labrador West Chamber of Commerce president Toby Leon says the real barrier for the community is cost, rather than availability. (Darryl Dinn/CBC) "They just cut and run, and that's not acceptable," said Barron. "Personally, I hope they don't come back. Let's get somebody else in here." Toby Leon, the president of the Labrador West Chamber of Commerce, likewise doesn't see the return of Air Canada as a solution to the region's needs. In the midst of the pandemic, Leon said, they'll have to trust Ottawa's judgment in the bailout but Labrador West has long been overlooked. "There's never been a great solution to our air link to the province and the rest of the world," he said. "I don't think Air Canada has ever really been a great asset to us." Goose Bay Airport Corporation CEO Goronwy Price says they're happy to see the return of Air Canada service. (John Gaudi/CBC) Leon said the region needs to look elsewhere for a better solution to what he says is more an issue of cost than availability. "There's never been a huge problem in the interim with getting flights; it's always been the price," said Leon. While Leon would happily see the return of Air Canada to Labrador West, if only for their seat sales, he said there needs to be a more long-term solution. "Whether that's the Q400s that PAL bought being more inexpensive to operate, and being able to compete, or this charter coming in and putting pressure on," he said. "I know that there are opportunities out there." Welcome news for airport CEO But for Goronwy Price, the general manager and CEO of the Goose Bay Airport, the bailout package is a welcome development. The loss of Air Canada flights, Price said, had a substantial impact on the airport and the community. "In 2020, we saw a 60 per cent reduction in our traffic," he said. "In 2019, we had 160,000 passengers go through our airport. In the year in 2020, we only had 69,000." Due to the fixed costs of maintaining the airport at operational capacity, said Price, they lost between 60 and 80 per cent of their revenue throughout 2020, depending on the area of operations. As a regional airport they're thankful to have had two other carriers, he said, but are eagerly anticipating the return of Air Canada services. "The fact that Air Canada has come out and said that they are reinitiating their routes is a very positive sign for us." Air Canada declined an interview request from CBC's Labrador Morning, but said in an emailed statement that discussions are ongoing with all regional carriers. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
CALGARY — Doctors say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be offered to Canadians in a wider age range as COVID-19 infections soar in many parts of the country. Provinces limited eligibility for that vaccine to those 55 and older after a small number of cases of an unusual and serious blood-clotting condition appeared in younger people — mostly women — who had received a shot. The odds of someone getting the syndrome — dubbed vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia — has been estimated at between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000. By comparison, about one in four people hospitalized with COVID-19 will experience a blood clot, Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw noted this week. "Certainly based on risks, most people are much better off with a vaccine," said Dr. Daniel Gregson, an associate professor at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine. "You can certainly drop it easily to 45, if not 35." Gregson, who specializes in infectious diseases and medical microbiology, said uncertainty has been planted in peoples' minds about getting AstraZeneca, but they do things that are just as risky on a daily basis without a second thought. Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, said she would also support dropping the age limit, so long as no other worrying side-effects arise and recipients are aware of the risk, however small. "I think it's an important strategy we need to consider," said Hota, also an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto. "The case counts are going up too fast and they're going to a point where it's hitting the hospitals in a way that we've not experienced before, ever." Hota suggested one approach could be offering the shot to younger men, since the rare side-effect seems to be more prevalent in women. Health Canada has deemed the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has not yet changed its recommendation that the shot only be offered to those 55 and up, but the decision ultimately rests with provinces. In Quebec, where AstraZeneca is available to those between the ages of 55 and 79, Health Minister Christian Dube said provincial public health authorities were considering whether to expand access. Alberta is also considering a change, Hinshaw said. "I also know that some who are younger than 55 are interested in getting the protection that this vaccine offers," she said Thursday. "Given the Health Canada assessment, we will be discussing this question with our Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization this week to get their perspective." In the meantime, Hinshaw is urging anyone who is already eligible to get their AstraZeneca dose without delay. Walk-in vaccinations are available at 26 pharmacies in Calgary and Edmonton and Alberta Health Services is opening walk-in vaccination clinics this weekend in both cities. "While not getting vaccinated may feel like a way to protect your health by avoiding the rare risk of a blood clot following vaccine, waiting can actually increase your risk of getting sick, or worse," Hinshaw said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 16, 2021. Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
When Joe Hughes of Charlottetown scanned the bar code on his scratch ticket and saw he had a major winner, he was expecting four zeros. "I scanned the barcode and it said, 'Major winner - contact Atlantic Lottery,'" Hughes said in a news release. "We didn't know what the amount was since I didn't scratch it. The ticket says there are lots of $10,000 prizes so I assumed that's what it was." But when he scratched it and counted up the zeros he found six. He shared the news first with his children. "My daughter said, 'It's too late for April Fool's,'" he said. "She and my son were looking at the ticket and finally realized it's real and that I did win the grand prize." Financial flexibility Hughes said his children will be the main beneficiaries of the prize. "The main focus is the kids' education. This is a big help there, for sure," he said. Hughes has worked for Bell Aliant for 36 years and said he has no intention of stopping any time soon. But in addition to the comfort of knowing his children's education costs will be covered, the win gives him the flexibility to consider early retirement, and maybe some renovations for his home. Hughes is the second major lottery winner in Charlottetown this year. In January, restaurant owner Seyedazim Sharif won $2 million. More from CBC P.E.I.
The Alberta government has proposed a timeline to remove all COVID-19 capacity restrictions for events including indoor and outdoor music, theatre and performance events by late July or earlier. In a letter sent to a wide range of industry stakeholders dated April 9, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, outlined a potential timeline for audiences to return to live events over the summer months. While contingent upon hospitalizations, case numbers, pressure on the health-care system and the vaccination rollout, it projects all capacity restrictions to be lifted on indoor and outdoor events by late July. The letter says this timeline has the potential to accelerate if there are "better than anticipated case trends and/or more aggressive progress for vaccines." "We are anticipating the ability to remove restrictions to enable a more normal level of operations by the summer, and acknowledge that the economic challenges you are facing requires the inclusion of an audience as soon as possible," Hinshaw wrote. "Alberta continues to closely monitor COVID-19 and the variants of concern and is taking a cautious approach to easing restrictions over the coming months." No final decisions made, Alberta Health says The timeline is staggered and projects no in-person audiences for events throughout April or early May. However, by late May, it anticipates the allowance of 15 per cent of fixed seating capacity, to a maximum of 100 people outdoors. In late June, this is anticipated to increase further — to 50 per cent of fixed seating capacity to a maximum of 500 people outdoors, and 15 per cent of fixed seating capacity indoors, to a maximum of 100 people. By late July, the removal of capacity restrictions is projected. In an email confirming the letter's authenticity to CBC News on Friday, Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan emphasized the proposed timeline will be dependent on the evolving state of COVID-19 in the province. Sara Leishman, the executive director of the Calgary Folk Festival, told CBC News on Wednesday it is 'in the process of planning ways to safely bring live music back, in a very modified way, to Prince's Island Park this summer.'(Rachel Maclean/CBC) "We are helping performance groups get a sense of what the future could possibly hold, but no final decisions have been made. This includes any future decisions around specific timing and capacity limits at in-person events," McMillan said. "Any future changes to the health measures in place will be based on the spread of COVID-19 in the province and our ability to bend down the curve. We will publicly announce any future changes when they are made." Rising variant cases prompt possible new restrictions On April 6, the Alberta government reintroduced stricter health measures to counter a surge of COVID-19 variant cases and hospitalizations. But Premier Jason Kenney said on April 10 that once vaccines outstrip the variants, the province may be able to go forward with the Calgary Stampede and other outdoor events. Calgary Stampede officials told CBC News that it is planning to go forward. Hinshaw said earlier this week that more restrictions might be necessary "if we do not see growth slowing soon," but suggested it may be possible to host some big events this summer if enough people are vaccinated and case numbers drop. On Thursday, Alberta reported 1,646 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily total since Dec. 13. Letter 'shows us the path forward,' Tourism Calgary says Cindy Ady, CEO of Tourism Calgary, told CBC News on Friday the good news is the letter "shows us the path forward." "It's the early signal that there is a potential for summer," Ady said. A second year in a row of cancellations for events would be devastating, Ady said. She noted that careful planning worked for events such as Chinook Blast and the curling bubble during the pandemic's second wave this winter. "We persevered," Ady said.