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Vaccine rollout and COVID testing in the workplace: In The News for Feb. 1

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 1 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 1 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

OTTAWA - Canada's national vaccine rollout seems poised to dominate COVID-19 discussions in the coming week as Canada enters the 11th month of life during a global pandemic.

The federal government, which is overseeing the nationwide effort, has been facing strong criticism as it struggles to ensure there are enough immunization doses to go around.

The two companies whose vaccines have been approved for use here recently complicated matters by saying they wouldn't immediately be able to deliver their promised number of doses due to production delays in Europe.

The Liberal government has repeatedly said both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna still intend to fulfill their promised delivery schedules and that current delays are temporary.

At least three other companies, Novavax, Astra-Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson, have all launched the process of having Health Canada approve their vaccines.

Canada officially recorded more than 20,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 as of Sunday and is still logging high daily case counts in several provinces, though Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says overall totals are trending downward.


Also this ...

Some of Canada's top airlines, banks, telecommunications companies and sports teams have formed a consortium piloting rapid tests to identify COVID-19 in workplaces and help reopen offices.

The 12 companies including Air Canada and Bank of Nova Scotia are experimenting with antigen tests as part of a program being run by the University of Toronto's Creative Destruction Lab.

Lab founder Ajay Agrawal says the pilot centres around companies asking employees to go through COVID testing twice a week when they appear at work.

He says it takes about 90 seconds to administer the rapid tests and about 15 minutes for them to detect whether someone has COVID-19.

Agrawal says Rogers Communications Inc. and Air Canada were the first two companies to begin the testing and were joined by Suncor Energy Inc. and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in late January.

Bank of Nova Scotia, Loblaw Companies Ltd., Magna International Inc., Nutrien Ltd. and Canada Pension Plan Investments are also part of the consortium


And this ...

EDMONTON - Alberta government documents show cuts to environmental monitoring despite contaminants in some waterways that cross thresholds supposed to trigger increased scrutiny.

The province's 2019 five-year monitoring plan shows stations on two rivers and a creek polluted with selenium from coal mines were mothballed.

That was despite more than two decades of readings that Alberta Environment guidelines suggest should have led to closer attention.

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt says the United Conservative government is cutting oversight at the same time it's promising strict rules on expanded coal-mining in the Rocky Mountains.

An independent analysis of government data has shown that the McLeod and Gregg Rivers and Luscar Creek in foothills east of Jasper, Alta., were heavily contaminated selenium from coal mines.

Selenium is toxic at high levels.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden is set to meet this afternoon with a group of 10 Republican senators who have proposed spending about one-third of what he is seeking in coronavirus aid.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says Biden has spoken with the leader of the the group, Sen. Susan Collins.

The invitation to the White House came hours after the lawmakers had sent Biden a letter urging him to negotiate rather than try to ram through his $1.9 trillion package solely on Democratic votes.

Congressional Democrats are poised to move ahead without Republican support.


Also this ...

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has named two lawyers to his impeachment defence team, one day after it was revealed that the former president had parted ways with an earlier set of attorneys.

The two lawyers representing him will be an Alabama attorney, David Schoen, and a former prosecutor in Pennsylvania, Bruce Castor.

Several South Carolina lawyers who were set to represent Trump at the trial starting next week have left the team.

Trump is the first president in American history to be impeached twice.

He is set to stand trial in the Senate on a charge that he incited his supporters to storm Congress on Jan. 6


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar — Myanmar military television says the military is taking control of the country for one year, while reports say many of the country’s senior politicians including Aung San Suu Kyi have been detained.

An announcer on military-owned Myawaddy TV made the announcement this morning and cited a section of the military-drafted constitution that allows the military to take control in times of national emergency.

He said the reason for takeover was in part due to the government’s failure to act on the military’s claims of voter fraud in last November’s election.

The announcement follows days of concern about the threat of a military coup — and military denials.

It came on the morning the country’s new Parliament session was to begin.


Also this ...

BERLIN — The European Union says vaccine maker AstraZeneca has agreed to supply 9 million additional doses to the 27-nation bloc during the first quarter.

The new target of 40 million doses by the end of March is still only half what the company had originally aimed for, triggering a spat between AstraZeneca and the EU last week.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said late Sunday that the British-Swedish pharmaceutical maker will also begin deliveries one week sooner than scheduled and expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.



CUT KNIFE, Sask. - Canada's Indigenous and military leaders paid tribute and offered condolences to the family of a Juno Beach veteran of the Second World War, who also advocated for Indigenous veterans after the war ended.

"Today, Canada lost a great First Nations leader in Philip Favel," Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde tweeted Sunday.

"A Juno Beach Veteran and a lifelong advocate, Philip was a beacon of hope for many," Bellegarde added. Favel was 98.

Born in Prongua, Sask., which is part of the Sweetgrass First Nation, Favel worked on his father’s farm before joining the Canadian Army in May 1942.

His biography on the Department of National Defence website says he served overseas from August 1943 to July 1945, and trained in England before being sent to France for the Allied invasion of Europe.

In addition to his service at Juno Beach, where Canadians went ashore on D-Day, Favel served in Belgium, Holland and Germany.

"On numerous accounts, his truck’s windshield was hit and smashed but Mr. Favel never stopped or turned back. He always stayed focused on the task at hand," the National Defence biography notes.

"Mr. Favel earned the French Legion of Honor Medal for not only helping an injured person but also for taking care of two children while on task," it adds.

Last Nov. 8, on Indigenous Veterans Day, Favel was honoured in a ceremony at the Canadian War Museum and a portrait of him was unveiled.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2021

The Canadian Press