Tag Archives: calls

London police commissioner rejects calls to resign following clashes at Sarah Everard vigil

London’s police commissioner on Sunday defended her officers’ actions and said she didn’t intend to resign, after coming under heavy criticism for the way police treated some protesters during a vigil for a woman whom one of the force’s own officers is accused of murdering.

Hundreds defied coronavirus restrictions to gather and protest violence against women, but the event ended with clashes between police and those attending and many questioned whether the police force was too heavy-handed.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said scenes from Saturday’s vigil in south London were “upsetting” and she is seeking a full report on what happened from the Metropolitan Police.

The capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the police response was “at times neither appropriate nor proportionate.”

Police were seen scuffling with some women at the event, and one woman was seen pinned to the ground by two officers. Video widely shared on social media showed a woman was pulled up from the ground by officers who then shoved her from the back. Several women were led away in handcuffs as other attendees chanted “Shame on you” at police. The force later said four people were arrested for violating public order and coronavirus regulations.

PHOTOS | Hundreds in the U.K. defy vigil ban to honour Sarah Everard:

On Sunday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who is the first woman to head the force, said she was personally appalled by the attack on Everard and she was more determined than ever to lead the organization. She said she fully understood the strength of feeling in response to Everard’s case, but stressed that Saturday’s vigil was an unlawful gathering and officers had been put in a “very difficult position” trying to police a protest during a pandemic.

She said that as big crowds gathered, officers needed to act to counter the considerable risk to people’s health. She added that she welcomed a review into her force’s operations.

Many of those attending the vigil were already wary of police because a serving Metropolitan Police officer, Wayne Couzens, was charged with the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who vanished March 3 while walking home in London. Her body was found a week later.

The case has sparked a national outcry and a heated debate on women’s safety. Organizers had planned an official vigil at Clapham Common, a park near where Everard was last seen alive, but were forced to cancel the event because of COVID-19 restrictions. A huge crowd turned up Saturday nonetheless.

Khan, London’s mayor, said Sunday the police force had assured him the vigil would be “policed sensitively” but that this wasn’t the case. He added he is asking for a full and independent investigation into the force’s operation on Saturday as well as the actions of individual officers at the vigil.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, left, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick are seen in London in June 2017. (Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)

Jamie Klingler, who organized the cancelled “Reclaim These Streets” event, blamed police for denying women their right to have a silent vigil in the first place. The force got the angry reaction Saturday because they refused to facilitate a peaceful rally, she alleged.

“I think we were shocked and really, really sad and to see videos of policemen handling women at a vigil about violence against women by men … I think it was painful and pretty triggering to see,” Klingler said Sunday.

Patsy Stevenson, who was pictured pinned to the ground by two officers during Saturday’s clashes, said she was considering whether to challenge the 200-pound ($ 347 Cdn) fine she received.

Police detain a woman who was later identified in media reports and on social media as university student Patsy Stevenson. She said officers pinned her to the ground while arresting her at the memorial site on Saturday night. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

“We were there to remember Sarah, we all felt deeply saddened and still do that it happened, so I brought a candle with me but unfortunately wasn’t even able to light it to put it down because the police turned up and barged their way through,” she told LBC radio.

Couzens, 48, appeared in court Saturday for the first time. He was remanded in custody and has another appearance scheduled Tuesday at London’s Central Criminal Court.

The Metropolitan Police has said it is “deeply disturbing” that one of its own is a suspect in the case. The force said Couzens joined its ranks in 2018 and most recently served in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, an armed unit responsible for guarding embassies in the capital and Parliament.

Everard was last seen walking home from a friend’s apartment in south London at about 10:30 p.m. on March 3. Her body was found hidden in an area of woodland in Kent, more than 50 miles southeast of London, on Wednesday. 

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CBC | World News

B.C. gets 1 million calls within 1st hour of opening phone lines to vaccine appointments for elderly

Call centres in British Columbia received a million calls in the first hour after they opened to receive COVID-19 vaccine appointments for some of the province’s oldest residents, according to the doctor in charge of the province’s rollout plan.

Dr. Penny Ballem, who is also chair of Vancouver Coastal Health, spoke on CBC’s The Early Edition just after 8 a.m. Monday morning and said while call agents were hit with a “massive onslaught” the minute the lines opened, it was not unexpected and should not worry eligible residents who have not yet secured an appointment.

“Everyone’s going to get their vaccine,” said Ballem, adding it’s a big job, but the province is prepared.

The call centres opened at 7 a.m. at the Fraser, Island, Interior, Northern and Vancouver Coastal health authorities to allow appointments for people 90 years and older and Indigenous people who are 65 and older or identify as elders.

In less than three hours after they opened, 1.7 million calls came in.

Karen Bloemink, vice-president of pandemic response with Interior Health, asks people not to phone the call centre ahead of their eligibility dates that are based on their birth years.

“Call volumes will be closely monitored and if there are some delays initially, we will be working in the background to adjust and respond quickly,” she said. “Once an individual becomes eligible to receive their vaccine, they can book their appointment at any time.”

Plenty of spots remain

Health Minister Adrian Dix says there are about 47,000 people in the province who are 90 and older and 35,000 who are Indigenous people over 65, so he urged anyone who is not calling on behalf of someone in those categories to hang up the phone.

“I very much appreciate the enthusiasm of everybody calling in. But I would ask that people allow those who are eligible this week to book appointments,” he said. “That is a massive number of phone calls. If that were to continue, obviously no phone system would respond to that.”

Dix says health authorities are booking thousands of appointments and plenty of time slots remain.

There are still five days left to book for people in those age groups, so if callers don’t get through today, he says there is still time.

“This is not first-come, first-serve,” said Dix. “There are going to be lots of opportunities.”

Dix says the phone lines are the focus right now because of the age of those who are eligible.

Fraser Health was the only authority to launch an online booking system on the first day. Web-based platforms across health regions will become a larger component of booking as younger age categories get their turn, Dix said.

Dix says the “enormous” response on Monday reflects the significant support for vaccination in the province. 

Caller frustration

Some residents calling on behalf of their elderly parents spent all morning trying to get through on the phone lines.

Elaine Husdon, whose father is 95, said she called the Fraser Health number when the line opened at 7 a.m., “exactly on the dot,” and received a busy signal.

She said she has been redialing constantly and can’t even get on hold — she either gets a busy signal or a recording that says there is a high call volume that instructs her to hang up and try again.

A nurse takes a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination dose at Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Husdon said her father lives with her family and she decided to take a leave of absence from her job at a school because of the risk of contracting the virus and bringing it home to him.

Julie Tapley, whose 90-year-old father lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, also said she only received a busy signal every time she has called.

She said she spent two hours between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. constantly pressing redial.

Tapley said she wishes that the health authority had set up an online booking system from the beginning, as Fraser Health did.

“I feel a bit frustrated because I know it’s very important to my dad to get (the vaccine),” she said, adding her parents have had a lonely year during the pandemic.

“I just want to get in the queue and start the process so that they can return to their normal lives,” said Tapley.

Who is eligible now

Seniors are being asked to phone during the following weeks, based on their age:

  • For the week of March 8: seniors born in 1931 or earlier (aged 90 and above) or Indigenous seniors born in 1956 or earlier (aged 65 and above).
  • For the week of March 15: seniors born in 1936 or earlier (aged 85 and above).
  • For the week of March 22: seniors born in 1941 or earlier (aged 80 and above).

Once someone becomes eligible, they are able to book at any time — meaning no one will miss their window for booking an appointment. 

The first appointments will be available on March 15. 

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CBC | Health News

Olympic champion Kingsbury calls for urgent action to allow sport in Quebec schools

Quebec mogul king Mikael Kingsbury is calling for the return of sport in schools.

In an open letter on Wednesday to Quebec Premier François Legault, the reigning Olympic and world moguls champion says urgent action is needed amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

“I am worried about the situation of young athletes,” wrote the 28-year-old freestyle skiing star. “The health of thousands of young people is at risk.”

Inspired in part by his own experiences growing up, Kingsbury is lending his voice to the efforts of a 16-year-old high school student, Isaac Pépin, who has been urging the provincial government to show flexibility in its approach to sport in schools.

WATCH | Kingsbury writes open letter to Quebec Premier François Legault:

Days before the world championship, the moguls skier writes an open letter to Quebec Premier urging the government to get kids out of their houses. 5:49

Kingsbury told CBC Sports in an exclusive interview on Thursday that the plea is something he understands all too well.

“Having grown up skiing and playing baseball with my friends, sport is a motivator. A source of meaning,” he said, adding that sport was a big part of what helped keep him coming back to class.

For the 28-year-old native of Deux-Montagnes, Que., it’s also a question of mental as well as physical health.

“I am worried that young people are lost. That they are abandoning sport in favour of screens,” Kingsbury wrote in his letter to Legault.

This is why Kingsbury supports Pépin’s calls for the resumption of supervised sport.

‘I got dizzy’

“I stopped this week and wondered what I would do if I was this young man deprived of sport for a year in a period of a pandemic,” Kingsbury wrote.

“I got dizzy! I wouldn’t have had the capacity to survive a full year without my passion. I tell you very simply: I would be adrift. I am convinced that sports clubs, sports organizations and federations have the capacities, the means, but above all the determination necessary to protect young people and their families. Before, during and after sports practice.”

And Kingsbury feels the time to act is now.

“It’s been a year where people across Canada, but especially in Quebec, have not been able to play collective sports,” he told CBC Sports. “It’s like a year the kids are losing and will never get back again.”

WATCH | Kingsbury reflects on consecutive World Cup victories:

A day after winning his 1st event in Deer Valley, reigning Olympic and world moguls champion Mikael Kingsbury from Deux-Montagnes, Que., earns his 2nd straight victory with a win in dual moguls. 1:35

Legault said he understands the frustration, but also the importance of sport on mental health during a COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

“People who know me know that I do a lot of sports,” Legault said. “Sports is important. There’s nothing better to decrease stress levels, and it’s important for mental heath. But we all agree that certain sports, at the very least, we might get too close and bring about contagion.”

While discussions with sports federations are still ongoing, Legault will offer more of an update next week and acknowledged that “as of March 15th, everywhere in Quebec will be able to start outside school activities.”

Meanwhile, Kingsbury — who only recently returned to action in February after fracturing his T4 and T5 vertebrate in November prior to the opening of the freestyle ski season — is in Kazakhstan gearing up for freestyle skiing world championships in Almaty.

He says the passion that Pépin and fellow organizers have exhibited for sport has given him extra motivation to win. 

“[They] are only asking for one thing: to breathe new life into young people by allowing them to reconnect with their passion.”

Kingsbury won’t be able to stand with protestors at a planned rally in front of the provincial parliament on Sunday, but remains hopeful activities will open up when he returns to his home province.

“On behalf of all athletes in Quebec, amateurs and professionals, I hope that when I return home in mid-March, sport will find its rightful place.”

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CBC | Sports News

New York governor admits to ‘insensitive’ conduct amid calls for sexual harassment investigation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged for the first time Sunday that some of his behaviour with women had been “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation,” and said he would cooperate with a sexual harassment investigation led by the state’s attorney general.

In a statement released amid mounting criticism from within his own party, the Democrat maintained he had never inappropriately touched or propositioned anyone. But he said he had teased people and made jokes about their personal lives in an attempt to be “playful.”

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.

He made the comments after New York Attorney General Letitia James demanded Cuomo grant her the authority to investigate claims he sexually harassed at least two women who worked for him.

Cuomo’s legal counsel said the governor would back a plan to appoint an outside lawyer as a special independent deputy attorney general.

Democrats statewide abandoning Cuomo

Top Democrats statewide appeared to be abandoning Cuomo in large numbers as he tried to retain some say over who would investigate his workplace conduct.

James, a Democrat who at times has been allied with Cuomo but is independently elected, appeared to emerge as a consensus choice to lead a probe.

Over several hours Sunday, she and other leading party officials rejected two proposals by the governor that they said could potentially have limited the independence of the investigation.

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a news conference in New York City in August 2020. (Kathy Willens/The Associated Press)

Under his first plan, announced Saturday evening, a retired federal judge picked by Cuomo, Barbara Jones, would have reviewed his workplace behaviour. In the second proposal, announced Sunday morning in an attempt to appease legislative leaders, Cuomo asked James and the state’s chief appeals court judge, Janet DiFiore, to jointly appoint a lawyer to investigate the claims and issue a public report.

James said neither plan went far enough.

“I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” she said. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task, per Executive Law. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”

Many of the biggest names in New York politics lined up quickly behind James.

The state legislature’s two top leaders, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both said they wanted her to handle the investigation. New York’s two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and and Kirsten Gillibrand, both said an independent investigation was essential.

“These allegations are serious and deeply concerning. As requested by Attorney General James, the matter should be referred to her office so that she can conduct a transparent, independent and thorough investigation with subpoena power,” Gillibrand said.

2 former aides allege harassment

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ,”There should be an independent review looking into these allegations.” She said that’s something President Joe Biden supports “and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible.”

The calls for an investigation into Cuomo’s workplace behaviour intensified after a second former employee of his administration went public Saturday with claims she had been harassed.

Charlotte Bennett, a low-level aide in the governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she ever had sex with older men, and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair.

Her accusation came days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, elaborated on harassment allegations she first made in December. Boylan said Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments about her appearance.

Cuomo, 63, said in a statement Saturday he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25. He has denied Boylan’s allegations.

The furor over the sexual harassment allegations comes amid a new round of criticism over his leadership style and actions his administration took to protect his reputation as an early leader in the nation’s coronavirus pandemic.

Lindsey Boylan attends an event in New York City in June 2019. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Women’s Forum of New York)

Cuomo had won praise as a strong hand at the helm during last spring’s crisis of rising case counts and overflowing morgues. His book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, was published in October.

But in recent weeks his administration was forced to revise its count of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes following criticism that it had undercounted the fatalities to blunt accusations that some of his administration’s policies had made the situation in the homes worse.

James fuelled some of that criticism by issuing a report that raised questions about whether the Cuomo administration had undercounted deaths.

Cuomo was also criticized after a state assembly member went public with a story of being politically threatened by Cuomo over comments he made to a newspaper about the governor’s coronavirus leadership. Cuomo said his comments were being mischaracterized.

Now, his support is eroding faster.

“Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read,” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter Sunday. “There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”

A group of more than a dozen Democratic women in the state assembly said in a statement: “The Governor’s proposal to appoint someone who is not independently elected, has no subpoena authority, and no prosecutorial authority is inadequate.”

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CBC | World News

Veteran Canadian Olympic officials dismiss ‘silly’ calls to move 2022 Games from China

A number of Canadian politicians have called for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China, to be relocated to another country, but Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, says such a move is unfeasible at this late date.

“What the politicians are doing with this kind of a request of moving the Games with less than a year to go is silly,” said Pound, a former president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “If they give this 30 seconds of thought, they know it’s not possible.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and other politicians, including Green Party Leader Annamie Paul and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, have called for the relocation of the Games, pointing to the Chinese government’s treatment of its Muslim minority population.

Concerns have also been raised over China’s actions in Hong Kong and the ongoing detention of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

WATCH | Pound dismisses idea of boycott:

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, says athletes shouldn’t pay the price for the government’s dissatisfaction with China. 6:45

Two of the people involved in organizing the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics agree the logistics involved in staging a Games make a move impossible.

“The ability for a country to step in this late — the headwinds are fierce,” said John Furlong, who was head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).

“It makes for great headlines and it makes for great debate, but the truth is, it’s far too down the road to contemplate.”

Dave Cobb, who was VANOC’s deputy chief operating officer, said it takes years to prepare for an Olympics.

“It’s such a massive [project] that we took seven years and we needed every week of those seven years to be ready,” said Cobb.

The 2022 Winter Games are scheduled to open Feb. 4.

WATCH | Erin O’Toole says ’22 Olympics should be moved:

Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole is calling on the International Olympic Committee to relocate the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games amid what he calls a genocide against minority Uighurs. 1:43

Politicians call for action against Beijing Games

A multi-party group of 13 MPs also released an open letter calling for the Olympics to be relocated. Jean-Luc Brassard, a gold medallist at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, signed the letter along with some Canadian non-governmental organizations.

Annamie Paul has suggested Canada should consider the feasibility of hosting the Games, but Cobb said the timeline is too short.

“We could not replicate anywhere close to what we had in Vancouver in 2010, because so much of it takes years of advance planning,” he said.

WATCH | Bring It In panel on whether boycotts work:

Morgan Campbell is joined by Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin, to discuss the recent call from over 180 human rights organizations to boycott the Beijing Games in 2022, due to human rights violations in China. 8:07

Pound said moving the Games is a non-starter for the IOC.

“We certainly haven’t discussed it and have no intention of discussing it,” he said.

David Shoemaker, the CEO and secretary general of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said in a statement that moving the Games now “would be next to impossible.”

Massive undertaking

Furlong compared organizing an Olympics to “staging three Super Bowls a day for 17 days.”

A new host city would need the sports venues and an athletes village capable of housing the thousands of competitors attending the Games. There’s also the logistics of security, transportation, recruiting thousands of volunteers needed to stage the event and securing accommodation for officials and media.

“If you think of Vancouver, it took us eight months just to put the governance model in place,” Furlong said. “You’d have to build an organization capable of delivering the Games.

“You can certainly sit and dream and say you could do it, but no one would reasonably say, ‘I think we can pull that off,’ and deliver it anything near the standard that’s required for the Games.”

Cost is another issue. The estimated budget for the Beijing Games is $ 3.9 billion US. Furlong said the money the IOC has committed to Beijing has already been spent. That would leave a new host country scrambling to find cash to pay for the event.

“I would say the chances of any government being willing to do that are slim,” said Furlong.

The last two cities to host a Winter Olympics were Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018 and Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Furlong said many of the facilities in those cities have been re-purposed for non-sports uses.

WATCH | Trudeau says human rights issues being thoroughly examined:

After Conservative leader Erin O’Toole called for the Beijing 2022 Olympics to be relocated due to what he labelled a genocide against minority Uighurs, Prime Minister Trudeau was hesitant to use the term genocide, but says they have been “very vocal in standing up for human rights around the world” and they, along with the International Olympic Committee and Canadian Olympic Committee, will continue to follow the issue. 3:30

Even in Vancouver, facilities would need to be reconditioned.

“Some of them would be straightforward, some of them would be extremely complicated,” said Furlong.

Pound said relocating the Games to Sochi would be difficult, because Russian athletes have been banned from competing at all major sporting events until December 2022 because of a doping scandal.

Move would be ‘complete humiliation’ for China

Cobb said one option could be spreading events around several cities in different countries.

“You could put on a hockey game at Rogers Arena [in Vancouver], or you could put on a ski event in Whistler, but it wouldn’t have many of the unique elements which Olympic Games are all about,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is another factor for countries to consider.

“How many countries would be ready to receive all the people, the employees and the media and everyone who would be suddenly descending on them,” he said.

Moving the Games from China could also have legal and political implications.

Beijing will be the first city to host both a summer and winter Olympics.

Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the economics of sports, gaming and gambling at Concordia University, said taking away the Winter Games would be seen “as the ultimate affront” by the Chinese government.

“This is a complete sort of humiliation,” he said. “They’re not going to take it too kindly.”

Furlong said it also could make potential bid cities nervous.

“It would make countries feel that they were vulnerable, that you could do this any time,” he said.

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CBC | Sports News

O’Toole calls for relocation of 2022 Olympic Games out of China

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole today called for the relocation of the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing — in part because of the Chinese government’s treatment of its Muslim minority population.

O’Toole said Canada should not be sending its athletes to compete there while the country stands accused of committing “genocide” against Uighurs in Xinjiang province. He also cited the country’s actions in Hong Kong and the ongoing detention of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are scheduled to take place in and around the Chinese capital in February 2022. (CBC has the Canadian broadcast rights to the 2021, 2022 and 2024 Olympic Games).

“I think Canadians would agree that it would violate universal fundamental ethical principles to participate in an Olympic Games hosted by a country that is committing a genocide against part of its population,” O’Toole said at a press conference in Ottawa. “Canada must take a stand.”

O’Toole said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should lobby the International Olympic Committee to identify alternative countries where the games could be held, although he stopped short of calling on Canadian athletes themselves to boycott the international sporting event.

“It’s only if [relocation] is not possible and there’s no change in conduct by the state of China that we should examine whether our athletes compete,” said O’Toole. 

WATCH | Conservative leader calls for Beijing 2022 Olympics to be relocated:

Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole is calling on the International Olympic Committee to relocate the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games amid what he calls a genocide against minority Uighurs. 1:43

O’Toole has joined a growing chorus of critics in Canada and abroad calling on countries to re-examine their participation in the Winter Games in response to increasing international opposition to China’s policies in Xinjiang, a western province.

UN experts and activists say more than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been held arbitrarily in prison-like centres for political indoctrination. China claims the centres are intended to combat extremism and teach job skills, but former residents and rights groups say they target Islam and minority languages and cultures.

The country also has been accused of instituting a forced birth control campaign in the region.

The House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights tabled a report in October that concluded that China’s mistreatment of Uighurs — through mass detentions in concentration camps, forced labour, state surveillance and population control measures — amounts to a policy of genocide.

China’s foreign affairs ministry has denied the accusations. 

Trudeau said today that while there is “no question” that human rights abuses have occurred in Xinjiang, genocide is an “extremely loaded” term that should be applied only in accordance with internationally-recognized criteria.

Use of the word must be “properly justified and demonstrated so as not to weaken the application of ‘genocide’ in situations in the past,” he said.

The Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee “are looking very closely” at calls to relocate the games, Trudeau added.

WATCH | Olympic committees ‘looking very closely’ at human rights issues ahead of Beijing Olympics: Trudeau

After Conservative leader Erin O’Toole called for the Beijing 2022 Olympics to be relocated due to what he labelled a genocide against minority Uighurs, Prime Minister Trudeau was hesitant to use the term genocide, but says they have been “very vocal in standing up for human rights around the world” and they, along with the International Olympic Committee and Canadian Olympic Committee, will continue to follow the issue. 3:30

Other opposition leaders support relocation

The call from the Conservative leader follows a similar one from Green Party leader Annamie Paul and a multi-party group of 13 MPs who, earlier this month, released an open letter calling for the Olympics to be relocated. The letter was also signed by several Quebec MNAs, some Canadian non-governmental organizations and 1994 Winter Games gold medallist Jean-Luc Brassard.

It came days after a coalition of 180 groups representing Tibetans, Uighurs, Inner Mongolians and residents of Hong Kong, among others, called for a full boycott of the games.

Paul said Canada should consider the feasibility of hosting the Games itself.

“If the relocation of the Olympics serves as a wake-up call to the Chinese government, that would be a positive by-product,” Paul said in a press release last week. “However, it should be enough to know that Canada has not participated in providing a global platform for a country perpetrating genocide.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he also supports relocating the games.

Canada-China tensions continue

The push to relocate the games comes at a time of heightened tensions between Canada and China. Beijing has been demanding for the past two years that Canada release a top executive of communications giant Huawei who is wanted on fraud charges in the United States.

Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder, denies the charges, which China says are politically motivated and part of a U.S. effort to stifle the nation’s economic expansion.

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor were detained by Chinese authorities nine days after the RCMP arrested the Chinese tech scion at the Vancouver airport in December 2018 on a U.S. extradition warrant.

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, called on the United Nations in November to investigate whether China’s persecution of ethnic Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang constitutes genocide.

The Canadian Olympic Committee didn’t immediately return a request for comment, while the International Olympic Committee has said repeatedly that awarding the Olympics “does not mean that the IOC agrees with the political structure, social circumstances or human rights standards in the country” that hosts them.

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CBC | Sports News

Alberta premier calls Biden’s XL cancellation a ‘gut punch’ for U.S.-Canada trade relationship

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to revoke the permit for Calgary-based TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline was a “gut punch,” characterizing it as a direct attack on the trade relationship between the two countries.

“Sadly, [this is] an insult directed at the United States’s most important ally and trading partner,” Kenney said during a press conference held Wednesday.

Kenney said he was calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sit down with the new administration, suggesting that the federal government impose trade and economic sanctions should those efforts be refused.

As a part of the broader climate order, the Biden administration wrote that the Keystone XL pipeline “disserves the U.S. national interest,” citing challenges surrounding climate and the pursuit of a clean energy economy.

In the order, the administration indicated that its analysis concluded that approval of Keystone XL would “undermine U.S. climate leadership” by undercutting the influence of the country on other nations to take climate action.

“Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives,” the order reads.

WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reacts to Keystone decision:

Premier Jason Kenney responds to U.S. President Joe Biden’s move to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, calling it, “an insult directed at the United States’s most important ally and trading partner.” 1:55

Prior to Kenney’s comments, both Trudeau and Canadian Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman indicated that while disappointed with the decision, they were resigned to live with it.

The 1,897-kilometre pipeline, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to Nebraska. It would then have connected with the original Keystone pipeline that runs to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

Biden’s revoking of the permit was part of a series of executive orders aimed at tackling climate change that also included re-entering the Paris climate accord. 

The Alberta government agreed last year to invest about $ 1.5 billion as equity in the project, plus billions more in loan guarantees. As a result, the Canadian leg of the project has been under construction for several months with about 1,000 workers in southeast Alberta. 

Trudeau pledges support for energy workers

In a statement, Trudeau said he had spoken directly with Biden about the project in November, and Hillman along with others in the government had made Canada’s case to high-level officials in the administration.

Trudeau said his government did welcome the new administration’s moves to rejoin the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, and to temporarily suspend oil and natural gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Kenney said that if the federal government doesn’t approach Keystone XL discussions on the same level it did aluminum and steel tariffs, then the province would be forced to “go further in our fight for a fair deal in the federation.”

The comment appeared to be a reference to Alberta’s so-called fair deal panel, a series of measures being studied by the province that would help the province better assert its standing within Confederation.

In a statement, Alberta Opposition leader Rachel Notley called the cancellation of Keystone a “difficult day” for Alberta workers but criticized the provincial government’s approach to the project.

“This decision is made far worse by the premier’s reckless gamble of at least $ 1.5 billion on a project that most people understood was at great risk and over which he had no authority,” Notley said.

TC Energy says it’s considering its options

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole called the cancellation of the pipeline “devastating.”

“We need to get as many people back to work, in every part of Canada, in every sector, as quickly as possible. The loss of this important project only makes that harder,” O’Toole said in a statement.

“Justin Trudeau should have done more to stand up for our world-class energy sector and the men and women who depend on it to provide for their families.”

In a statement released Wednesday morning, TC Energy said it was disappointed in the move and warned it would lead to the layoffs of thousands of unionized workers.

“TC Energy will review the decision, assess its implications and consider its options,” the statement reads. “However, as a result of the expected revocation of the presidential permit, advancement of the project will be suspended.”

The company said the decision would “overturn an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade.”

The company struck a deal with four labour unions to build the pipeline and has an agreement in place with five Indigenous tribes to take a roughly $ 785-million ownership stake.

Contractors association ‘disappointed’

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada said in a news release it is disappointed that Biden is “putting politics before reason.” 

“We’re disappointed that the new president has lost sight of the huge economic and strategic advantages of this project,” said PCAC president Paul de Jong.

The association, whose member companies employ thousands of Alberta and B.C. construction workers, said the pipeline would have generated as many as 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada and the United States.

Canadian producers, who have struggled for years from low prices partly related to sometimes-congested pipelines, have long supported Keystone XL.

In a statement, Suncor Energy said it backed expanding market access to the U.S. through pipelines such as KXL, which, it said, would provide responsibly sourced oil to U.S. refineries for the benefit of U.S. consumers.

(CBC News)

But a Canada Energy Regulator report in November said western Canadian crude exports are expected to remain below total pipeline capacity over the next 30 years if KXL and two other projects proceed, prompting environmental groups to question the need for all three.

Biden signalled plan for months

For months, Biden had said he intended to cancel the project if elected.

Hillman said she was disappointed but that Canada would accept the decision. 

“We respect that that’s the decision he’s made,” she said. “He had made a commitment during his campaign, and he lived up to that commitment, and I think we have to accept that and move forward.”

WATCH | Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman reacts to Keystone decision:

Canada’s Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman tells the CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault that she “respects” but is “disappointed” by U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit. 0:47

Greg Anderson, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, says Canadians tend to look at narrow trade conflicts as a sort of barometer for the larger relationship with the U.S. but added “that just isn’t the case.”

He also says the province faces bigger challenges than the loss of one pipeline. 

“I think a lot of Albertans were hoping that maybe this could just kind of slide by and the pipeline would get built,” said Anderson. 

“But the Keystone pipeline is not the Alberta economy. You know, it’s not going to save Alberta or solve Alberta’s problems. It might have helped on the margins, but Alberta has bigger fish to fry.” 

The pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change.

The Obama administration rejected it in 2015, prompting TC Energy in 2016 to launch a lawsuit and a multibillion-dollar North American Free Trade Agreement claim against the U.S. government.

The company changed course after Donald Trump revived it once he became president four years ago and gave it strong support. Construction has already started in the United States. 

TC Energy could now take similar action in order to prevent walking away from Keystone XL empty-handed after a dozen years of setbacks, billions of dollars spent and thousands of pages of filings.

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Canada calls up 16-year-old Toronto FC midfielder Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty

Toronto FC midfielder Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty has been summoned by Canada, making the 16 year-old the youngest-ever call-up by the national men’s team.

Marshall-Rutty turned 16 on June 16. The previous youngest men’s call-up was Alphonso Davies, who was also 16 when he got the invitation on June 6, 2017 — the same day he got his Canadian Citizenship.

Marshall-Rutty has five days on Davies when it comes to call-ups. But Davies, who made his debut for Canada against Curacao a week after being called into camp, will remain the youngest Canadian male to earn a cap.

Marshall-Rutty saw just 18 minutes of action in MLS play with Toronto last season, coming off the bench in a 5-0 loss in Philadelphia on Oct. 24.

Fellow Toronto midfielder Jacob Shaffelburg and Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder/forward Theo Bair, both 21, have also been added to the roster for the Canada camp, slated to run through Jan. 24 in a bubble at the IMG Center in Bradenton, Fla, where the WNBA returned to action.

The camp officially started Saturday, although some players are still in transit.

It’s the second national team call-up for both Shaffelburg and Bair. Shaffelburg has won one cap for Canada while Bair has two.

Coach John Herdman originally called up 28 players for the camp. Canada Soccer has yet to confirm whether all 28 will make it given the pandemic, injuries and travel issues.

The Canada camp is expected to feature two training scrimmages against as-yet-unannounced opposition as well as a Canada intrasquad scrimmage.

The camp falls outside of the FIFA international calendar, so Herdman has elected to focus on players out of season in North America and Europe. Twenty-two of the original 28 were from Major League Soccer, including seven from Toronto FC, six from the Montreal Impact and four from the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The roster includes Toronto FC striker Ayo Akinola, who was born in Detroit but moved to Canada when he was one. He made his debut for the U.S. senior side earlier this month, scoring in a 6-0 win over El Salvador, but was not cap-tied since the match was a friendly.

Akinola is eligible to play for Canada, the U.S. and Nigeria.

The Canadian men, currently ranked 72nd in the world, have not played since Jan. 15, 2020, when they lost 1-0 to Iceland in Irvine, Calif. That friendly followed a camp in California and a pair of 4-1 wins over Barbados on Jan. 7 and 10.

They face a busy 2021 with CONCACAF World Cup and Olympic qualifying set to start in March and the Gold Cup in July.

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Iran’s supreme leader calls for ‘definitive punishment’ in scientist’s killing

Iran’s supreme leader on Saturday called for the “definitive punishment” of those behind the killing of a scientist linked to Tehran’s disbanded military nuclear program, a slaying the Islamic Republic has blamed on Israel.

Israel, long suspected of killing scientists a decade ago amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, has yet to comment on the killing Friday of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. However, the attack bore the hallmarks of a carefully planned, military-style ambush.

The slaying threatens to renew tensions between the U.S. and Iran in the waning days of U.S. President Donald Trump’s term, just as President-elect Joe Biden has suggested his administration could return to Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers from which Trump earlier withdrew. The Pentagon announced early Saturday that it sent the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Mideast.

In a statement, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Fakhrizadeh “the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist.”

Khamenei said Iran’s first priority after the killing was the “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.” He did not elaborate.

Speaking to a meeting of his government’s coronavirus task force earlier Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel for the killing.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a central figure in a presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 accusing Iran of continuing to seek nuclear weapons. (Reuters TV)


Rouhani said that Fakhrizadeh’s death would not stop its nuclear program, something Khamenei said as well. Iran’s civilian nuclear program has continued its experiments and now enriches uranium up to 4.5 per cent, far below weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent.

But analysts have compared Fakhrizadeh to being on a par with Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led the U.S.’ Manhattan Project in the Second World War that created the atom bomb.

“We will respond to the assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh in a proper time,” Rouhani said.

Israel ‘thinking to create chaos’

He added: “The Iranian nation is smarter than falling into the trap of the Zionists. They are thinking to create chaos.”

Friday’s attack happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.

Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, on Friday after gunmen fired on his car. (Fars News Agency via The Associated Press)


Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn’t revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road.

Hours after the attack, the Pentagon announced it had brought the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Middle East, an unusual move as the carrier already spent months in the region. It cited the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as the reason for the decision, saying “it was prudent to have additional defensive capabilities in the region to meet any contingency.”

The attack comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari that Tehran also blamed on Israel. That and other targeted killings happened at the time that the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, destroyed Iranian centrifuges.

Those assaults occurred at the height of Western fears over Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran long has insisted its program is peaceful. However, Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called AMAD program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “structured program” ended in 2003.

IAEA inspectors monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of the now-unraveling nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

WATCH | Iran’s top nuclear scientist assassinated:

Iran alleges the U.S. and Israel assassinated one of its top nuclear scientists. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was seen as the key player in Iran’s quest to build a nuclear bomb. 1:49

After Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the deal, Iran has abandoned all those limits. Experts now believe Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to make at least two nuclear weapons if it chose to pursue the bomb. Meanwhile, an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility exploded in July in what Tehran now calls a sabotage attack.

Fakhrizadeh, born in 1958, had been sanctioned by the UN Security Council and the U.S. for his work on AMAD. Iran always described him as a university physics professor. A member of the Revolutionary Guard, Fakhrizadeh had been seen in pictures in meetings attended by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a sign of his importance in Iran’s theocracy.

In recent years, U.S. sanctions lists name him as heading Iran’s Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research. The State Department described that organization last year as working on “dual-use research and development activities, of which aspects are potentially useful for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons delivery systems.”

Iran’s mission to the UN, meanwhile, described Fakhrizadeh’s recent work as “development of the first indigenous COVID-19 test kit” and overseeing Tehran’s efforts at making a possible coronavirus vaccine.

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B.C. premier calls for restriction on non-essential travel between provinces

The latest:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned that the province’s COVID-19 hot spots are “staring down the barrel of another lockdown” while Manitoba’s top doctor urged people not to leave their homes except for essential items, as infections continue to surge in many parts of Canada. 

In Ontario, Ford said that new COVID-19 restrictions could be announced Friday for Toronto and Peel and York regions, three jurisdictions consistently seeing the most new cases.

The premier said his cabinet will be discussing new public health measures in coming days. “We have to do something,” Ford said, calling the numbers in those regions “extremely, extremely concerning.” 

The province announced 1,417 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with 463 new cases in Peel Region and 410 in Toronto, both of which are already under tight public health restrictions.

The province reported 32 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative death toll in Ontario to 3,415. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased to 535, while the number of people in intensive care beds held steady at 127.

The update came as the province’s education minister said in a statement that Ontario won’t be extending winter break for students.

Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday that new COVID-19 restrictions are likely to be implemented later this week in three Ontario regions consistently seeing the most new cases, including Toronto. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In Manitoba, the province’s top doctor warned against misinformation as officials reported a record-high 249 people in hospital due to COVID-19, with 40 of them in intensive care.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there have been reports that someone is calling businesses, pretending to be him. He said he is not directly calling businesses.

“I think misinformation is a real negative thing right now,” he said. “There’s big work out there trying to convince people that this just isn’t important.… It’s very clear that our hospitals are reaching capacity.”

Roussin urged Manitobans not to leave their homes except for essential items, and he has emphasized that people should not be going to stores for Black Friday sales.

WATCH | Top doctor tells Manitobans to stay home for Black Friday:

Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says now is not the time to host or take part in large sales like Black Friday. 1:13

Manitoba also reported 400 new COVID-19 cases and 11 additional deaths on Wednesday.

The entire province was moved to code red under the provincial pandemic response system just under a week ago, and a new $ 298 fine may now be issued to people not wearing masks at indoor public places.

Meanwhile, British Columbia Premier John Horgan is calling on the federal government to implement a “pan-Canadian approach” to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horgan said people should not be travelling in and out of B.C. unless on essential business.

“I’m asking the federal government to work with us and other provinces to get the message out that if you do not need to travel between jurisdictions, you shouldn’t do that,” he said.

He said travel restrictions brought in a week-and-a-half ago that advise against non-essential travel in and out of the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions will be extended for “the next two weeks at least.”

His comments come a day after B.C. reported 11 deaths and 717 new cases of COVID-19 — the highest single-day figures reported by the province to date in the global pandemic.

What’s happening across Canada

Canada’s COVID-19 case count — as of 2:45 p.m. ET Wednesday — stood at 309,618, with 51,307 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,165.

COVID-19 case numbers in Nunavut increased again on Wednesday as health officials announced 10 new cases, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the territory to 70.

The territory, which reported its first case of the novel coronavirus just this month, is closing schools and non-essential businesses for a two-week lockdown.

“This is it folks — it’s time to take a stand and fight against COVID-19,” Premier Joe Savikataaq said Wednesday.

WATCH | Nunavut enters 2-week lockdown:

As Nunavut began it’s two-week lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19, Premier Joe Savikataaq appealed to Nunavummiut to follow the rules, and reach out for help if they are struggling. 2:34

“We have the opportunity to turn this around in two weeks,” he said, reminding people that tight rules could be extended if needed.

He urged people to stay home, stop socializing and go out only for essentials. Savikataaq said the recent rise in cases is significant and seems scary — and urged anyone struggling through the pandemic to reach out to friends and family or help lines if needed. 

The Northwest Territories, meanwhile, imposed additional restrictions on travellers entering the territory from neighbouring Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. In Yukon, health officials reported one new COVID-19 case on Tuesday, bringing the number of cases reported in the territory to 25.

Quebec reported 1,179 new cases on Wednesday and 35 deaths, with eight reported to have occurred in the last 24 hours. Hospitalizations increased to 652, with 100 of those cases in intensive care.

Premier François Legault said Tuesday that discussions around holiday guidelines are ongoing, but he said guidelines on how to handle gatherings could come in the days ahead.

Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, has reported 127,233 infections and 6,710 deaths linked to the virus since the start of the pandemic.

Saskatchewan reported 132 new cases and one new death on Wednesday. Health officials on Tuesday expanded mask requirements to all indoor public places provincewide in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The province is also suspending all visits to long-term care homes unless there are compassionate grounds and is limiting private indoor gatherings to no more than five people.

In Alberta, health officials reported 773 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and five more deaths.

WATCH | Alberta schools feel impact of rising COVID-19 cases:

Alberta schools are feeling the impact of the province’s climbing COVID-19 cases. One Calgary high school has sent all Grade 10 and 11 students home for two weeks, after many were required to self isolate and staffing also became an issue. 1:51

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported three new cases on Wednesday. The province’s top doctor warned of community spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday, saying there are seven cases in the province “where we can’t identify a source that is directly related to travel.”

Dr. Robert Strang said health officials “have to conclude this may be from local transmission.”

WATCH | Small businesses left in limbo as COVID-19 cases rise:

As the pandemic worsens and people are being told to stay home, some small business owners say it would be better to be shut down, with government support, than be left hanging in limbo. 1:50

Newfoundland and Labrador, meanwhile, reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald again urged people to avoid non-essential travel, pointing to mounting case numbers in other provinces.

“By now we know with sacrifice and a little creativity we can still find ways to connect with the ones we love during the holiday season,” she said.

New Brunswick reported nine new cases on Wednesday, bringing its total since the start of the pandemic to 388.

In Prince Edward Island, which as of Tuesday had three active cases, the premier said masks will be mandatory in all public indoor spaces.

“This isn’t about the cases here; this is about the turbulence we are seeing across the country,” Dennis King said.

What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 55.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 35.8 million of those listed as recovered by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S.-based university’s tracking tool put the global death toll at more than 1.3 million.

In the Americas, U.S.-based Pfizer said Wednesday that its latest COVID-19 vaccine trial results suggested the shots are 95 per cent effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19.

Wednesday’s announcement from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, just a week after revealing the first promising preliminary results, comes as the team is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.
They also have begun “rolling submissions” for the vaccine with regulators in Europe, the U.K. and Canada and will soon add this new data.

WATCH | Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine data still needs reviewing, expert says:

Though encouraged by what he knows so far about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, infectious diseases physician Dr. Zain Chagla says there’s still a lot of data that needs to be peer reviewed. He also cautions that the vaccine’s estimated efficacy rate of 95 per cent may not be maintained outside clinical trials.   7:08

Brazil’s Sao Paulo state is set to begin importing the first of 46 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine this week, while the federal government takes a more cautious approach with a vaccine developed by Pfizer.

In Europe, authorities in Portugal say 85 per cent of intensive care beds set aside for COVID-19 patients are occupied.

Health Minister Marta Temido says 432 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units, where a total of 506 beds are earmarked for pandemic patients.

German police fired water cannons Wednesday at demonstrators protesting coronavirus restrictions in Berlin’s government district after crowds ignored calls to wear masks and keep their distance from one another in line with pandemic regulations.

The protests came as German lawmakers opened debate on a bill that will provide the legal underpinning for the government to issue physical distancing rules, require masks in public and close stores and other venues to slow the spread of the virus. While such measures are supported by most people in Germany, a vocal minority has staged regular rallies around the country arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.

Police officers walk amid the pink smoke from flares during a protest against the government’s coronavirus restriction near the Reichstag, the seat of Germany’s lower house of parliament, in Berlin on Wednesday. (Christian Mang/Reuters)

Sweden registered 96 new deaths among people diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest for at least three months, Health Agency statistics showed. Sweden has recorded a total of 6,321 deaths, several times higher per capita than that of its Nordic neighbours but lower than some larger European countries such as Spain.

Poland, meanwhile, reported a record 603 new coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours on Wednesday, but a senior official expressed optimism over a fall in new infections since restrictions were tightened.

The health ministry reported 19,883 new cases, a much lower tally than the one-day record of 27,875 registered in the country of 38 million on Nov. 7.

In Africa, Zimbabwe has closed a school after 100 students tested positive for COVID-19, state media reported, as authorities warned of the risk of a new wave of infections in a country that has so far recorded few cases.

The John Tallach Secondary School in the country’s west has been turned into a quarantine centre, the Herald newspaper quoted Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, chair of the country’s COVID-19 task force, as saying. She says 73 students are asymptomatic and 27 show mild symptoms. An undisclosed number of teachers also tested positive.

Authorities suspect that a pupil who recently travelled to neighbouring South Africa infected the others, the paper reported. South Africa, with more than 750,000 recorded infections, has the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has recorded its largest daily rise in coronavirus infections in about 80 days as officials prepare to tighten physical distancing rules around Seoul. Officials on Wednesday reported 313 new daily virus cases, the first time the daily caseload exceeded 300 since late August.

Under rules taking effect Thursday for two weeks, no more than 100 people can attend rallies, festivals and concerts. People will have to sit at least one seat apart at theatres, concert halls and libraries, while sporting events are limited to 30 per cent capacity.

Authorities in Tokyo have announced nearly 500 new cases of the coronavirus, the biggest daily increase in the Japanese capital since the pandemic began, amid a nationwide spike in infections and as the country discusses with Olympic officials how to safely host the postponed Summer Games next year.

The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 493 new cases on Wednesday, surpassing the city’s previous high of 472 recorded on Aug. 1.

Malaysia, meanwhile, said it has signed an agreement with China to co-operate on the development of a safe and effective vaccine.

A worker sprays disinfectant at an apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sunday. (Lim Huey Teng/Reuters)

The Australian state of South Australia will begin a six-day lockdown at midnight Wednesday, with schools, universities, bars and cafes closed.

Only one person from each household will be allowed to leave home each day, and only for specific reasons. The restrictions also require most factories to close, nursing home facilities to go into lockdown, and weddings and funerals to be put on hold. Outdoor exercise is banned, and wearing masks is mandatory.

In the Middle East, Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported 600 new coronavirus cases and four deaths over the last 24 hours, the highest daily increase of both since the pandemic reached the isolated Palestinian territory.

Gaza has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power there in 2007, and its health system has been severely degraded by years of conflict and isolation. Authorities have reported more than 12,000 coronavirus cases and 54 deaths so far.

Hamas has periodically ordered the closure of schools, businesses and mosques to contain the spread. A prolonged lockdown would compound the economic woes of the territory’s two million Palestinian residents.

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