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Ontario sees record new cases; Tam says Canada nearing same peak as 2nd wave

The latest:

Ontario has reported its highest daily count of new COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 4,456 more infections confirmed on Sunday.

The province also registered 21 more deaths attributed to the respiratory illness. On Saturday, health officials confirmed 3,813 new cases and 19 additional deaths.

The province now has 1,513 patients in hospital for treatment of COVID-19, with 605 in intensive care.

The latest figure comes just days after the province ordered hospitals to halt non-emergency surgeries. A memo was sent to hospitals Thursday night telling them to postpone their non-emergency surgeries, effective Monday, everywhere but in northern Ontario. Pediatric specialty hospitals are excluded from the order. 

WATCH | COVID-19 patient says time in ICU was a ‘scary experience’:

Matthew Cardinal talks about his time in the intensive care unit, after he was put into a medically induced coma and on a ventilator after catching the B117 coronavirus variant. The 34-year-old shares his experience, which he described as ‘traumatic.’ 8:10

Meanwhile, Canada’s chief public health officer says the country is nearing case totals seen at the peak of the second wave.

Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement on Sunday that intensive care admissions across the country increased by 23 per cent over the last seven days compared to the week before, which is putting strain on the health system. She also said that COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are increasingly impacting younger people and says there’s been a jump in the number of hospitalizations among those 40 to 59 years old.

On the vaccine front, Pfizer confirmed to CBC News on Sunday that it it intends to seek approval from Health Canada “within the next few weeks” for children aged 12 to 15 to use its vaccine.

The drugmaker and it development partner, BioNTech, have already asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand emergency use for that same age group in the United States.

The companies say preliminary results through March 31 from late-stage testing in that age group found the vaccine safe and 100 per cent effective in blocking infections.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 1,060,163 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 73,446 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,315.

In British Columbia, a worker who was fired for refusing to wear a mask has had his complaint dismissed by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. The worker alleged he was discriminated against based on his religion. But the tribunal disagreed.

In Whistler, adults living and working in the ski resort community will be able to receive vaccine shots starting tomorrow. Vancouver Coastal Health says the move comes in response to increasing transmission recorded there.


Alberta logged 1,183 new COVID-19 cases and an additional death on Sunday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people rallied outside the GraceLife Church just west of Edmonton on the first Sunday after it was shut down and fenced off by health officials for refusing to follow COVID-19 rules related to capacity, physical distancing and masking.

Dozens of police officers monitored the large crowd as they sang hymns and prayed for the church to reopen.

There was a tense moment around noon when a group splintered from the crowd and tore down part of the fence. RCMP and others from the crowd pushed back the group and re-established the fence.

PHOTOS | Hundreds rally outside Alberta church closed over COVID-19 violations:

In Saskatchewan, residents who are 51 can be vaccinated at a drive-thru clinic in Regina starting Sunday. The previous age range for eligibility was 52 to 54.

Manitoba registered 112 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and no new deaths.

Quebec confirmed 1,535 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths.

In Montreal and Laval, the 9:30 p.m. curfew in those cities was pushed up to 8 p.m. on Sunday night.


People wait in line at a walk-in clinic to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in Montreal on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

In New Brunswick, lockdowns came into effect in the Edmundston and Haut-Madawaska areas on Sunday, forcing all non-essential businesses to close and schools to move to virtual learning.

Additionally, residents must continue to maintain a single-household bubble and non-essential travel in and out of the area is not permitted.

The measures come as hospitals in those areas are reaching capacity due to an influx of COVID-19 patients, driven by coronavirus variants.

WATCH | 3rd wave renews pressure on Canada’s hospitals:

The fast-spreading third wave of COVID-19 is making younger people sicker and it’s renewing the pressure on hospitals across the country. 1:49

In Prince Edward Island, 12 pharmacies will start administering AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine shots to residents over 55 on Monday.

Nova Scotia reported five new cases on Sunday while Newfoundland and Labrador recorded one.

In Yukon, visitors to the territory can now apply to self-isolate in the wilderness instead of in hotels. The Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon came up with the idea after seeing the government approve alternative self-isolation plans for the mining industry and for outdoor outfitters last year. It was approved by Yukon health officials last month. 


What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 135.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll had increased to more than 2.9 million.

In the Middle East, Iran on Sunday reported 258 new deaths — its highest single-day death toll from COVID-19 this year — bringing the country’s total deaths in the pandemic to nearly 64,500, state TV reported.


People wearing face masks walk past closed shops in Tehran on Sunday following the tightening of restrictions to curb the surge of COVID-19 cases. (Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

In Europe, France said Sunday that residents over age 55 will be granted access to COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, which is earlier than had been anticipated.

In the Americas, Mexico will expand vaccinations to adults over 50 at the end of April, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

In Africa, Cameroon received 200,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine, the first vaccines to arrive in the country, which will enable it inoculate frontline workers as it battles rising cases of coronavirus, the health ministry said.

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CBC | Health News

Lawrence says hungry Canadians feel confident ahead of upcoming U.K. friendlies

Head coach Bev Priestman’s message to the Canadian women’s national soccer team after the SheBelieves Cup in February was simple: “Show up ready in April.”

Canada will have two European friendlies over the next five days to see whether they’ve done their homework.

Canada plays world No. 31 Wales in Cardiff on Friday and No. 6 England in Stoke-on-Trent on April 13 as part of its ongoing preparations for the Tokyo Olympics less than four months from now.

The matches give Canada a look at two different styles — a buckle-down defensive Welsh side and the Lionesses, a solid back-to-front squad that plays direct and is a threat on the counter attack.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Signa Butler previews Canada’s upcoming U.K. friendlies:

Head coach Bev Priestman has a chance to determine her strongest 18-player roster as Canada come up against Wales and 6th-ranked England in back to back friendlies this month. 9:02

So, are the Canadians ready? For national team standout Ashley Lawrence, the first few days of camp have looked promising.

“It’s a very healthy, competitive environment,” Lawrence told reporters Thursday from Cardiff. “From day one, I’ve been pushed and hopefully I’m pushing others around me. We’ve been looking really good on the field and our goal is to show that in the game [against Wales] and against England.”

It’s the first time in over a year the 25-year-old from Brampton, Ont., has been with her national teammates. She wasn’t released by her professional club, France’s Paris Saint-Germain, for the SheBelieves Cup due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic.


Though she and PSG teammate Jordyn Huitema, Lyon’s Kadeisha Buchanan and injured players like Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson weren’t at that February camp, Lawrence said she was completely invested, watching all the games and training sessions and even virtually attending team meetings.

But nothing beats being together in person.

“It’s been nice to catch up and see players I haven’t seen in a long time, even some new faces, and also get acquainted with the new staff,” said Canada’s 2019 player of the year.

Priestman eager to gauge progress

Priestman’s first matches in charge at the SheBelieves Cup saw Canada win one game — 1-0 in stoppage time over Argentina — and lose two, a hard-fought 1-0 contest to No. 1 United States and 2-0 to fellow No. 8 Brazil.

While the February tournament wasn’t a true evaluation of her squad, as it was hurt by player injuries and availability issues, Priestman still had concerns over two things — the team’s match fitness and lack of goal scoring.

“I felt that while we were fresh, we could compete,” she said on a recent media call. “I think that U.S. game, granted we lost, but I felt we competed even with a weakened roster. But with the reality of COVID and a lot of players not touching a ball for a long time, I felt that by the third game, physically we struggled.

“The tight turnaround between these [April] games is going to let me see the progress made from a lot of players who’ve gone back to the NWSL, NCAA, particularly North America, they were out of season.”

Those players have since been prepping for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup, which begins this weekend, while the NCAA players have been gearing up for their spring seasons.

Hungry to score goals

Canada’s goal-scoring issue is a more complicated one to solve, but Priestman and her staff are confident it will come if players put the work in.

The staff did an analysis after the tournament and surmised they definitely created chances and were in much better positions against those teams historically, but “ultimately it is about putting the ball in the back of the net,” Priestman said.

“I’ve challenged the group away from camp. You don’t develop in those areas on camp, you have to turn up ready,” she said, adding that many players went back to their clubs and were doing extras after training to gain that confidence.

Manchester City’s Janine Beckie is an example, scoring recently in Champions League against Barcelona and in league versus Tottenham.

“We have to be ruthless in both boxes,” Priestman added. “Stopping goals but also scoring them, and I think you stick with that process [by] getting in those positions. It’ll only help because we had the chances.”

Lawrence agrees.

“I think we have shown a lot of growth in a short period of time and we are on the right track,” she said. “We have a lot of players on the field that are hungry to score some goals. We know the quality and the talent that we have. It’s about putting the ball in the back of the net.

“I’m really confident that we’re going to be doing that in these two games.”

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CBC | Soccer News

Jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny has spinal hernias, losing sensation in hands, lawyer says

A lawyer for imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has complained of serious back and leg pain in custody, says prison doctors have determined his client is suffering from two spinal hernias.

Vadim Kobzev told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Navalny also has a spinal protrusion and is beginning to lose sensation in his hands.

Navalny went on a hunger strike last week to protest what he called poor medical care in his Russian prison. On Tuesday, the leader of the Navalny-backed Alliance of Doctors union was detained by police after trying to get into the prison to talk to doctors.

Navalny, 44, is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest domestic opponent. He was arrested in January upon returning to Moscow from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation. Still, labs in Germany and elsewhere in Europe confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.

A Russian court ordered Navalny in February to serve 2½ years in prison for violating the terms of his probation, including when he was convalescing in Germany, from a 2014 embezzlement conviction. Navalny has rejected the conviction as fabricated, and the European Court of Human Rights found it “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.”


Police officers guard an entrance of the prison colony IK-2, east of Moscow on April 6. Doctors from the Navalny-backed Alliance of Doctors union announced they were going to the prison on Tuesday to demand the opposition leader gets qualified medical help from independent doctors after he complained about pain in his leg and back. (Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)

Authorities transferred Navalny last month from a Moscow jail to the IK-2 penal colony in the Vladimir region, 85 kilometres east of the Russian capital. The facility in the town of Pokrov stands out among Russian penitentiaries for its especially strict inmate routines, which include standing at attention for hours.

Within weeks of being imprisoned, Navalny said he developed severe back and leg pains and was effectively deprived of sleep because a guard checks on him hourly at night. He went on a hunger strike on March 31, demanding access to proper medication and a visit from his doctor.

Concern about tuberculosis, COVID-19

Human rights group Amnesty International said Wednesday that Navalny is incarcerated in conditions that amount to torture and may slowly be killing him.

Russia’s state penitentiary service has said that Navalny is receiving all the medical help he needs.

Another Navalny lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, said a neurologist consulted by Navalny’s organization determined the treatment prescribed in the prison was ineffective.


Navalny sits in a Moscow court as his lawyer Olga Mikhailova, left, reads documents in this photo from July 24, 2019. Mikhailova provided an update this week on her client’s health problems. (Dmitry Serebryakov/The Associated Press)

In an Instagram post Monday, Navalny said three of the 15 people he is housed with have been diagnosed with tuberculosis, a contagious disease that spreads through the air. He said he had a strong cough and a fever with a temperature of 38.1 C.

On Monday, the state penitentiary service said Navalny had been in the prison’s sanitary unit after a checkup found him having “signs of a respiratory illness, including a high fever.”

Mikhailova said Wednesday that Navalny’s fever had lowered, but he is still coughing and is weak from the hunger strike. She said he has tested negative for COVID-19 twice. 

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CBC | World News

Tiger Woods was speeding before crashing SUV, sheriff says

Authorities say Tiger Woods was speeding when he crashed an SUV in Southern California less than two months ago, leaving him seriously injured.

The golf superstar was driving 84 to 87 miles per hour (135 to 140 km/h) on a downhill stretch of road outside Los Angeles that had a speed limit of 45 mph (72 km/h), Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday.

The stretch of road is known for wrecks and drivers hitting speeds so high that there is an emergency exit for runaway vehicles just beyond where Woods crashed.

Villanueva blamed the Feb. 23 crash solely on excessive speed and Woods’ loss of control behind the wheel.

WATCH | Tiger Woods injured in car crash:

Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening. 2:02

Detectives did not seek search warrants for the athlete’s blood samples, which could have been screened for drugs or alcohol. However, investigators did search the SUV’s data recorder, known as a black box, in the days after the crash.

Sheriff’s officials said Woods told deputies that he had not ingested medication or alcohol before the crash.

Woods struck median, crossed 2 traffic lanes

Originally from the Los Angeles area, Woods had been back home in February to host his PGA tournament, the Genesis Invitational, at Riviera Country Club.

He was driving an SUV loaned to him by the tournament through Rolling Hills Estates, just outside Los Angeles, when he struck a raised median. The SUV crossed through two oncoming lanes and uprooted a tree.

Villanueva had previously said detectives had determined the cause of the crash, but he would not release it, citing privacy concerns and a purported need for Woods’ permission to divulge information.

Documents show that Woods told deputies he did not know how the crash occurred and did not remember driving. At the time of the wreck, Woods was recovering from a fifth back surgery, which took place two months earlier.

The athlete is now in Florida recovering from multiple surgeries, including a lengthy procedure for shattered tibia and fibula bones in his lower right leg in multiple locations. Those were stabilized with a rod in his tibia. Additional injuries to the bones in his foot and ankle required screws and pins.

Woods, 45, has never gone an entire year without playing, dating back to his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old. He had hoped to play this year in the Masters tournament, which begins Thursday.

Rory McIlroy, a four-time major golf champion who lives near Woods in Florida, said he visited him on March 21.

“Spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him,” McIlroy said Tuesday from the Masters.

“It was good to see him in decent spirits. When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he’s going to be in a hospital bed for six months. But he was actually doing better than that.”

3rd vehicle-related investigation involving Woods

In the weeks after the crash, the sheriff called it “purely an accident” and said there was no evidence of impairment. Villanueva faced criticism for labelling the crash an accident before the investigation had concluded.

This is the third time Woods has been involved in a vehicle investigation.

The most notorious example was when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree early the morning after Thanksgiving in 2009.

That crash was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months.

In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.

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CBC | Sports News

North Korea says it won’t participate in Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns

North Korea said it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A website run by the North’s sports ministry said the decision was made during a national Olympic Committee meeting on March 25 where members prioritized protecting athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Tuesday expressed regret over the North’s decision, saying it had hoped that the Tokyo Olympics would provide an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations, which have declined amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters she was still confirming details and couldn’t immediately comment on the matter.

North Korea sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, along with government officials, performance artists, journalists and a 230-member all-female cheering group.

Politics and sports

At the Pyeongchang Games, the North and South Korean athletes jointly marched under a blue map symbolizing a unified Korean Peninsula, while the red-clad North Korean cheerleaders captivated global attention.

The Koreas also fielded their first combined Olympic team in women’s ice hockey, which drew passionate support from crowds despite losing all five of its games with a combined score of 28-2.

Those games were also much about politics. The North Korean contingent included the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who conveyed her brother’s desire for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a move which helped it initiate diplomacy with South Korea and the United States.

That diplomacy has stalemated since, and North Korea’s decision to sit out the Tokyo Olympics is a setback for hopes to revive it.

WATCH | Olympic torch begins 121-day journey:

Japanese torchbearer Azusa Iwashimizu, a member of Japan’s women’s national football team, lit the Tokyo Olympic torch to begin the relay in Fukushima, Japan. 0:40

While North Korea has steadfastly claimed to be coronavirus-free, outsiders widely doubt whether the country has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea has severely limited cross-border traffic, banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and mobilized health workers to quarantine tens of thousands of people who had shown symptoms.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga previously said he expected to invite U.S. President Joe Biden to the Olympics and was willing to meet with Kim Jong-un or his powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, if either attended the Games. Suga, however, did not say if he will invite either of them.

Kim Jong-un in recent political speeches has pledged to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of U.S.-led pressure, and his government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overture for talks, demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.

The North ended a yearlong pause in ballistic testing activity last month by firing two short-range missiles off its eastern coast, continuing a tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.

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Britain says to ease lockdown next week, will test vaccine passports

Britain’s slow but steady march out of a three-month lockdown remains on track even as coronavirus cases surge elsewhere in Europe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday, as he confirmed that businesses from barbers to bookstores will be allowed to reopen next week

Johnson said it’s too soon to decide, however, whether U.K. residents will be able to have summer trips abroad. He confirmed that the government will test out a “vaccine passport” system — a way for people to offer proof they have protection from COVID-19 — as a tool to help travel and large events return safely.

Four weeks after England took its first step out of lockdown by reopening schools, Johnson said Britain’s vaccination program was proceeding well and infections were falling. He said the next step would come as planned on April 12, with the reopening of hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms, non-essential shops and bar and restaurant patios. 

“We set out our road map and we’re sticking to it,” Johnson said during a news conference.

But, he added: “We can’t be complacent. We can see the waves of sickness afflicting other countries, and we’ve seen how this story goes.”

A ban on overnight stays away from home in England will also be lifted April 12, and outdoor venues such as zoos and drive-in cinemas can operate again.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following similar but slightly different paths out of lockdown.

Highest death toll in Europe

Britain has recorded almost 127,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. But infections and deaths both have fallen sharply during the current lockdown and since the start of a vaccination campaign that has given a first dose to more than 31 million people, or six in 10 adults.


People paint red hearts onto the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, on the Embankment in London on April 5, 2021. (Frank Augstein/The Associated Press)

The government aims to give all adults at least one shot of vaccine by July, and hopes that a combination of vaccination and mass testing will allow indoor socializing and large-scale events to return.

It says all adults and children in England will be encouraged to have routine coronavirus tests twice a week as a way to stamp out new outbreaks. The government said free lateral flow tests will be available free starting Friday by mail, from pharmacies and in workplaces. 

Lateral flow tests give results in minutes but are less accurate than the PCR swab tests used to officially confirm cases of COVID-19. But the government insists they are reliable and will help find people who contract the virus but don’t have symptoms.

Britons are currently banned by law from going on holiday abroad under the extraordinary powers Parliament has given the government to fight the pandemic. The government said Monday it won’t lift the travel ban before May 17 — and maybe later.

“The government hopes people will be able to travel to and from the U.K. to take a summer holiday this year, but it is still too soon to know what is possible,” it said in an official update.

Once travel resumes, Britain will rank countries on a traffic-light system as green, yellow or red based on their level of vaccinations, infections and worrying new virus variants. People arriving from “green” countries will have to be tested but won’t face quarantine.

The government also is testing a system of “COVID-status certification” — often dubbed “vaccine passports” — that would allow people seeking to travel or attend events to show they either have received a coronavirus vaccine, tested negative for the virus, or recently had COVID-19 and therefore have some immunity. 

The return of football

A series of events will start this month, including soccer matches, comedy shows and marathon races. The government said the first events will rely only on testing, “but in later pilots vaccination and acquired immunity are expected to be alternative ways to demonstrate status.”


A vial of of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh temple, on the day the first Vaisakhi Vaccine Clinic is launched, in Luton, England, on March 21, 2021. (Alberto Pezzali/The Associated Press)

The issue of vaccine passports has been hotly debated around the world, raising questions about how much governments, employers and venues have a right to know about a person’s virus status. The idea is opposed by a wide swath of British lawmakers, from left-of-center opposition politicians to members of Johnson’s Conservative Party, and the policy could face stiff opposition when it is put before Parliament later this month.

Conservative legislator Graham Brady said vaccine passports would be “intrusive, costly and unnecessary.” The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, called the idea “un-British.”

The government said vaccine passports were all but unavoidable, since many countries were certain to demand proof of COVID-19 status for entry.

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B.C.’s health minister says it’s time to ‘dig in’ to obey COVID-19 safety rules as cases mount

B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix has defended measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, even as his province set one-day case counts records on Friday and Saturday.

“Right now they’re strict measures and we need everyone to dig in,” Dix said in an interview Sunday. “This is the time to follow those measures.”

Dix along with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry cancelled indoor dining, in-person worship and group fitness classes last week to curb an alarming growth in COVID-19 cases.

Other measures in place since November include restricting indoor gatherings to individual households only and to avoid travel to other health regions.

In early March, the province allowed for British Columbians to gather outside in groups of up to 10 people, following four months of restrictions on social gatherings. 

Surge in young patients

Dix said on Sunday that B.C.’s latest COVID-19 measures were very strict, and did not say if other new measures could be coming in days ahead.

A record 2,090 new cases of COVID-19 for Friday and Saturday were announced in a release from the province on Saturday, but it did not include information about deaths, variants of concern or the number of active cases.

The 1,018 new cases on Friday and 1,072 new cases on Saturday were both single-day infection records.

The release said 90 patients were in critical care, which was up 11 from 79 on Thursday.

Dix said on Sunday that a higher proportion of younger people are becoming ill from the disease.

“I’m not one bit happy about where we are at now,” he said, adding that provincial measures are targeting indoor transmissions.

On Saturday, a tweet from Dr. Kevin McLeod of Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver said hospitals are seeing a surge in young patients needing serious medical intervention for illnesses caused by COVID-19.


Dix said he saw the tweet and said its message was an important one.

“What it says to everybody is this is the time to take care,” he said. “Right now is the time to really follow public health orders whether you’re 25 or 75.”

The minister also said  B.C. had delivered a record number of vaccinations this past week.

A total of 856,801 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. to date, including 87,455 second doses.

Vaccine appointments are currently open for seniors aged 72 and up, Indigenous people over the age of 18 and people that the province has deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable.

People between the ages of 55 and 65 are also eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine in the Lower Mainland while more communities are expected to be added by the end of next week.

No travel, says Dix

Dix has also pleaded with people to stay local this weekend, as he said unnecessary travel has contributed to the rise in infections.


Some officials in tourist destinations in B.C. said over the weekend that they were noticing an influx of visitors.

“My feeling is that the province’s restrictions on indoor dining and the messaging about staying local are getting through certainly to a lot of people, not everybody,” said Tofino Mayor Dan Law.


In the Southern Interior, Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff said it appears that more people are visiting her community this weekend than over the past two weeks, but not as much as a normal year.

She says people coming are doing so to play golf, visit wineries or be at properties they own and are playing it safe.

“We offer Canada’s warmest welcome, that’s our motto, and so it seems unusual. But I appreciate the fact that people are looking after themselves and looking after our businesses and looking after the community by obeying … the health regulations. I don’t see it being a problem.”

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Jordan’s Prince Hamzah says he’s under house arrest amid security crackdown

The half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah said Saturday he has been placed under house arrest by Jordanian authorities and accused the country’s leadership of corruption and incompetence.

In a videotaped statement leaked to the British Broadcasting Corp., Prince Hamzah bin Hussein said he was visited early Saturday by the country’s military chief and told “I was not allowed to go out, to communicate with people or to meet with them.”

He said his security detail was removed, and his phone and internet service had been cut. He said he was speaking over satellite internet, but expected that service to be cut as well. The BBC says it received the statement from Hamzah’s lawyer.

In the statement, Hamzah said he had been informed he was being punished for taking in part in meetings in which the king had been criticized, though he himself was not accused of being a direct critic.

He said he told the army chief: “I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse by the year. I am not responsible for the lack of faith that people have in their institutions. They are responsible.”

General denies arrest

The country’s top general had earlier denied that Hamzah — a former crown prince stripped of the title in 2004 — was arrested or under house arrest, even as authorities announced the arrests of former senior officials close to the ruling monarchy.

Hamzah was asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to target Jordan’s security and stability,” said Gen. Yousef Huneiti, the army chief of staff.

He said an investigation was ongoing and its results would be made public “in a transparent and clear form.”

“No one is above the law and Jordan’s security and stability are above all,” he told the official Petra news agency.

Petra had earlier reported that two senior officials who formerly worked for the palace, along with other suspects, had been arrested for “security reasons,” without providing further details.

The Petra report said Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, a former head of the royal court, were detained. Awadallah, also previously served as planning minister and finance minister and has private business interests throughout the Gulf region.

The agency did not provide further details or name the others who were arrested.

King has ‘our full support,’ says U.S.

“We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

Saudi Arabia’s official news agency said the kingdom “confirmed its full support to Jordan and its king and crown prince in all decisions and procedures to maintain security and stability and defuse any attempt to affect them.”

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the 1999 death of of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for close to a half-century. The king has cultivated close relations with U.S. and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was a key ally in the war against the Islamic State group. The country borders Israel, the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The country, with a population of around 10 million, also hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. The countries maintain close security ties, but relations have otherwise been tense in recent years, largely due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship.

Stability in Jordan and the status of the king has long been a matter of concern, particularly during the Trump administration, which gave unprecedented support to Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinians, including by slashing funding for Palestinian refugees.

In early 2018, as then-President Donald Trump was threatening to cut aid to countries that did not support U.S. policies, the administration boosted assistance to Jordan by more than $ 1 billion over five years.

Hamzah stripped of crown prince title

Abdullah stripped his half-brother Hamzah of his title as crown prince in 2004, saying he had decided to “free” him from the “constraints of the position” in order to allow him to take on other responsibilities. The move was seen at the time as part of Abdullah’s consolidation of power five years after the succession.

The current crown prince is Abdullah’s oldest son, Hussein, who is 26.

Jordan’s ruling family traces its lineage back to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Abdullah had chosen Hamzah as his crown prince hours after their father died of cancer in February 1999. The designation was out of respect for King Hussein, who was known to have favoured Hamzah the most among his 11 children from four marriages.

Abdullah and Hamzah have not displayed any open rivalry over the years.

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Rapper DMX on life support after heart attack, lawyer says

DMX’s longtime New York-based lawyer, Murray Richman, said the rapper was on life support Saturday evening at White Plains Hospital.

“He had a heart attack. He’s quite ill,” Richman said.

Richman said he could not confirm reports that DMX, 50, overdosed on drugs and was not sure what caused the heart attack.

“I’m very sad about it, extremely sad. He’s like my son,” Richman said. “He’s just a tremendous person, tremendous entertainer, tremendous human being. And so much to offer, so much to say. Not the run-of-the-mill rapper. A person of great depth.”

DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, made a splash in rap music in 1998 with his first studio album It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The multi-platinum selling album was anchored by several hits including Ruff Ryders’ Anthem, Get At Me Dog and Stop Being Greedy.

The rapper had four other chart-topping albums including …And Then There Was X, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My BloodThe Great Depression and Grand Champ. He has released seven albums and earned three Grammy nominations.

Along with his music career, DMX paved his way as an actor. He starred in the 1998 film Belly and appeared in Romeo Must Die a couple years later with Jet Li and the late singer Aaliyah. DMX and Aaliyah teamed up for the film’s soundtrack song Come Back in One Piece.

The rapper also starred in Exit Wounds with Steven Seagal and Cradle 2 the Grave with Li.

Over the years, DMX has battled with substance abuse. The rapper cancelled a series of shows to check himself into a rehabilitation facility in 2019. In an Instagram post, his team said he apologized for the cancelled shows and thanked his fans for the continued support.

Last year, DMX faced off against Snoop Dogg in a Verzuz battle, which drew more than 500,000 viewers.

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Non-essential travel a low risk for the vaccinated, CDC says in new guidance for Americans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward.

Previously, the agency had cautioned against unnecessary travel even for vaccinated people, but noted that it would update its guidance as more people got vaccinated and evidence mounted about the protection the shots provide.

Even with the new guidance, however, U.S. health officials said at a briefing on Friday that they hoped the recommendation wouldn’t be taken up in great numbers anytime soon, even by the those vaccinated.

“While we believe that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

Walensky — who earlier in the week said she had a feeling of “impending doom” due to widely circulating variants and states opening up activity prematurely — said there had an eight per cent increase in reported cases on Friday since the previous CDC report.

Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska’s College of Public Health, said the update reinforces the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, and is another incentive for people to get vaccinated.

“Every day you get more data, and you change your guidance based on the existing data,” said Khan.

According to the CDC, nearly 100 million people in the U.S. — or about 30 per cent of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine. Some 56 million people have been fully vaccinated, officials said Friday.

As well, unvaccinated people are still advised to avoid unnecessary travel.

The new travel guidance says:

  • Fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S., without getting tested for the coronavirus or quarantining. People should still wear a mask, maintain physical distance and avoid crowds, the agency says.
  • For international travel, the agency says vaccinated people do not need to get a COVID-19 test before leaving, though some destinations may require it.
  • Vaccinated people should still get a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to the U.S. and be tested three to five days after returning. They do not need to quarantine. The agency noted the potential introduction of virus variants and differences in vaccine coverage around the world for the cautious guidance on overseas travel.

The CDC cited recent research on the real-world effects of the vaccines for its updated guidance. Already, the agency had said fully vaccinated people could visit with each other indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.

It also said vaccinated people could visit with unvaccinated people from a single household under similar conditions, as long as the unvaccinated individuals were at low risk for severe illness if infected.

The U.S. began its vaccine rollout in mid-December. The first vaccines — from Pfizer and Moderna — require two doses taken a few weeks apart. A one-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson was given the green light by regulators at the end of February.

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