4 p.m.: Saskatchewan reports first cases of a COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K.
9 a.m. WHO experts visit animal disease centre in Wuhan
8:40 a.m.: The vast majority of Canadians support tighter restrictions on international travel
The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
In a news conference at Queen’s Park, Ontario Premier Doug Ford provides an update on his government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic. He is joined by provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott, Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and retired General Rick Hillier, chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.
4:15 p.m.: Thousands of eviction notices have been filed to Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board for nonpayment of rent since the first moriatorium on evictions ended in August 2020.
A Toronto Star report into eviction notice data found two postal codes listed on more eviction filings, known as L1s, than any other postal code in Ontario since the first moriatorium. Advocacy groups for tenants argue eviction notices are being dealt with in a system that favours landlords.
Victoria Gibson, a Toronto Star affordable housing reporter, talks to “This Matters” host Adrian Cheung on the precarious living situation of thousands, details of the second eviction moriatorium and what a long-term fix to a long-standing problem could look like.
Click here to listen: This Matters: Ontario’s eviction moratorium, explained
4:10 p.m.: Star columnist Heather Mallick writes: With each day of lockdown, daily life is boiled down a little more. Who is an essential worker? What stores are necessary? How can industry adapt?
Lockdown is a good time to gather information, as the Star has just done on defining workers and industries considered crucial to keeping our nation functioning. We all have a mental map of our nation and our city but Star reporters Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Andrew Bailey have gathered data to give us a map of Toronto lockdown employment, a visual most people wouldn’t have bothered with much in days when we breathed more easily.
The numbers show that about 65 per cent of Toronto residents are considered essential workers, people in sectors that can remain open with some in-person staffing (some sectors including government were excluded for data collection reasons). We think of COVID-19 as a health survival story but as time progresses it becomes more about financial survival, often the same thing.
Essential workers live differently. They are more likely to have lower pay, no paid sick pay, are less unionized, more easily laid off, have fewer benefits and so on. Overwhelmingly, packed into workspaces, public transit, and small homes, and forced into contact with the public, they contract the coronavirus in greater numbers. This is an immense public failure, a historic sorrow that builds day by day.
Read Heather Mallick’s full column here.
4 p.m.: Saskatchewan has identified its first cases of a COVID-19 variant.
Health officials say the strain from the United Kingdom was found in two residents from in and around Regina.
One had travelled from the U.K. and the other was a close contact.
The province says both people quarantined, their other contacts were notified, and it’s believed there was no further transmission.
It says it’s assessing what impact COVID-19 variants could have on the spread of the virus and whether current public health measures should be tightened.
Health officials are reporting 223 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths.
3:03 p.m.: The Northwest Territories says a delay in shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Canada means the territory will receive fewer doses than expected this month.
Health Minister Julie Green says the territory was to get 7,200 Moderna doses this week, but will receive 4,700 instead.
Green says the federal government has also told her a shipment expected in mid-February will also be reduced.
The Northwest Territories’ chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, says while the delay is disappointing, the territory’s vaccine rollout plan is flexible and changes will only be felt in the short term.
3 p.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 and now has 10 active infections.
Health officials say the new case is in the Halifax area and is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.
Two people are currently in hospital, including one in intensive care.
As of Monday, 15,165 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 2,954 people having received their second dose as required.
2:22 p.m.: France’s top health advisory body is recommending that the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine only be used on people under 65, citing lack of sufficient data about its effectiveness in older people.
The decision could shake up the French vaccination strategy, because the country has prioritized nursing home residents and people over 75. France had counted on the AstraZeneca vaccine for a large part of its upcoming inoculations, until the company announced delays affecting countries around Europe and the world.
The French guidance differs from that given by the European Medicines Agency, which authorized AstraZeneca’s vaccine for use in all adults throughout the European Union on Friday, amid criticism the bloc is not moving fast enough to vaccinate its population.
Health authorities in Germany and other countries have raised concerns that the Anglo-Swedish company didn’t test the vaccine in enough older people to prove it works for them, and indicated they would not recommend it for people over 65.
In guidance issued Tuesday, France’s High Authority for Health said it “recommends that the vaccine … be given preferentially to people under 65.” It says it will review this guidance when AstraZeneca has more data on the vaccine’s effectiveness in older people.
2:10 p.m.: Public health officials in New Brunswick say the U.K. variant of COVID-19 has been identified in the province.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says lab tests have confirmed two cases of the variant in the Saint John region and one in the Miramichi area.
Officials are also reporting 25 new infections today – 24 of which are in the Edmundston region, which has been under lockdown for more than one week.
Russell says 19 of cases in hard-hit Edmundston have been identified at a retirement home.
1:50 p.m. The Biden administration will begin providing COVID-19 vaccines to U.S. pharmacies, part of its plan to ramp up vaccinations as new and potentially more serious virus strains are starting to appear, the White House said Tuesday.
Coronavirus co-ordinator Jeff Zients said starting next week some 6,500 pharmacies around the country will receive a total of 1 million doses of vaccine. The number of participating pharmacies, and the allocation of vaccines, are expected to accelerate as drugmakers increase production.
Drug stores have become a mainstay for flu shots and shingles vaccines, and the industry is capable of vaccinating tens of millions of people monthly. “This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities,” said Zients.
The partnership with drug stores was originally announced by the Trump administration last November. At that time, no coronavirus vaccines had been approved.
Zients also announced an increase in doses the government is shipping to states, territories and some major metropolitan areas. Those will now total 10.5 million doses across all jurisdictions, up from 10 million announced last week.
The 1 million doses being shipped to pharmacies will be on top of the allocations to states. Zients said a priority will be to get the vaccine to minority communities that have suffered a disproportionately high toll of disease and deaths from the virus.
1:40 p.m. Shipping containers have become overflow mortuaries for the dead from COVID-19 in South Africa, while some other African nations are now looking to China for the next wave of vaccine doses.
South Africa is working to launch its vaccination campaign in mid-February after its first delivery of vaccines on Monday: 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. An additional 500,000 are coming later in February.
South Africa will use the doses to inoculate its frontline healthcare workers as the country aims to vaccinate 67 per cent of its 60 million people by the end of the year.
Driven by the more infectious variant, 501Y.V2, now dominant in the country, South Africa had a resurgence of COVID-19 that saw confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths reach nearly double the numbers of the first surge last year.
As mortuaries reached capacity, the country’s largest firm of undertakers, AVBOB, distributed 22 refrigerated shipping containers to its funeral homes.
“If you compare the number of funerals that we are dealing with currently as compared to the same time last year, for example, there’s been a significant increase,” marketing manager Marius de Plessis said.
1:30 p.m. England has begun house-by-house COVID-19 testing in some communities as authorities try to snuff out a new variant of the coronavirus before it spreads widely and undermines a nationwide vaccination program.
Authorities want to reach the 80,000 residents of eight areas where the variant, first identified in South Africa, is known to be spreading because a handful of cases have been detected among people who have had no contact with the country or anyone who travelled there.
Officials are dispatching home testing kits and mobile testing units in an effort to reach every resident of those communities. It is “critical” for everyone in these areas to stay at home unless travel is absolutely essential, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
“Our mission must be to stop its spread altogether and break those chains of transmission,” Hancock told the House of Commons on Tuesday.
1:20 p.m. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says there are signs of community spread of COVID-19 variants in several provinces.
Tam says 148 cases of the mutations that first emerged in the United Kingdom and South Africa have been confirmed across the country, even as overall coronavirus case counts continue to decline.
The country’s top doctor says that provincial officials should be very cautious about relaxing safety measures, as the U.K. and South African strains are highly contagious.
Tam says the variants’ arrival in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia means health authorities need to ramp up their testing capacity.
The single case of the South African variant confirmed in Ontario and the four cases identified in B.C. have no known link to international travel, raising fears of community spread.
12:05 p.m. Later-than-expected deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines are forcing Ontario to delay its plan to give first vaccinations to all residents of nursing homes and high-risk retirement homes by five days, to Feb. 10, officials said Tuesday.
Shipments are coming later in the week than expected, making it impossible to meet the Feb. 5 goal set last month when the vaccination strategy was changed to focus on the most vulnerable seniors in the wake of word from Pfizer that it could not meet original promises.
“We are at the mercy of when doses are delivered to us,” a senior public official told a background briefing.
It’s the third time the deadline has been changed as Ontario has struggled to manage the vaccination process amid the shifting sands of the pandemic. Premier Doug Ford was to address the process at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Read the full story from the Star’s Rob Ferguson
11:30 a.m.: Capt. Tom Moore, the World War II veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for healthcare workers, has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 100.
His family announced Moore’s death Tuesday in a tweet with his photo, noting that his death was in 2021.
Captain Tom, as he became known in newspaper headlines and TV interviews, set out to raise 1,000 pounds for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard. But his quest went viral and caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic. Donations poured in from across Britain and as far away as the United States and Japan, raising some 33 million pounds ($40 million).
For three weeks in April, fans were greeted with daily videos of Captain Tom, stooped with age, doggedly pushing his walker in the garden. But it was his sunny attitude during a dark moment that inspired people to look beyond illness and loss.
“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” Moore said in an interview during his walk, uttering the words that became his trademark.
11:20 a.m. (updated): Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government has inked a deal that will see COVID-19 vaccines churned out on home soil.
Trudeau says the federal government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Novavax to start producing immunization doses at the U.S. company’s Royalmount facility in Montreal.
The Novavax vaccine is currently under review by Health Canada and, if approved, would eventually leave Canada less reliant on foreign production for the most sought-after product in the world.
Trudeau also says the government is investing $25 million in Vancouver-based Precision NanoSystems to build a manufacturing centre, with the ultimate goal of producing up to 240 million vaccine doses per year.
11:15 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 1,053 new COVID-19 infections and 38 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including seven in the previous 24 hours.
The numbers come ahead of an evening news conference during which Premier François Legault is expected to ease restrictions across the province.
Health officials said today hospitalizations dropped by 34, to 1,110, and 178 people were in intensive care, a drop of five.
Quebec has reported a total of 264,526 cases and 9,862 deaths linked to the virus.
10:17 a.m. (corrects number of deaths): Because of changes in the data reporting system, Ontario is reporting just 745 cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths.
“Please note that Toronto Public Health has now migrated all of their data to the provincial data system, CCM,” Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted.
“This migration has impacted today’s daily counts, resulting in an underestimation of cases. We anticipate fluctuations in case numbers over the next few days.”
Locally, there are 334 new cases in Peel, 124 in York Region and 65 in Niagara.
With the caveats about the change in reporting system, the seven-day average is down to 1,746 cases daily or 84 weekly per 100,000.
The seven-day average for deaths is down to 47 a day. The labs completed 28,552 tests with 4.6 per cent positivity rate.
10:15 a.m.: The Quebec government appears set to announce it will relax certain COVID-19 public health measures in the province.
Premier Francois Legault will hold a news conference in Quebec City this afternoon alongside Health Minister Christian Dube and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health.
Legault suggested last week that Quebecers would see some of the rules relaxed beginning next week, but most would remain in place.
While Legault has suggested restrictions on businesses would be lifted in areas with few COVID-19 cases, health orders would likely be extended in the Montreal area.
Quebec has seen a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases, with just 890 reported on Monday — mostly in Montreal, the Monteregie region to its south and Laval to the north.
Among the more recent measures, non-essential businesses have been closed since Christmas and the province on Jan. 8 imposed a provincewide curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.
In Quebec’s so-called red zones, restaurant dining, entertainment venues, bars and gyms have been shut since the fall.
Today’s announcement comes as the Quebec national assembly resumes sitting, with opposition parties calling on the government to ease certain restrictions.
9:30 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today a deal with Novavax to produce doses of its new COVID-19 vaccine at a new National Research Council biomanufacturing facility in Montreal.
More details are expected on making some COVID-19 therapeutic drugs at other facilities in Canada.
The deal could help Trudeau tamp down the political headache caused by Canada’s skeletal vaccine production capacity.
But Novavax’s vaccine is likely at least two months away from being approved in Canada, while the NRC facility is still under construction and designed to produce only about two million doses a month.
Canada has a deal to buy 52 million doses from Novavax after it is approved by Health Canada.
9:16 a.m. Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced Tuesday that he is extending a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and nine other areas through March 7, amid growing uncertainty over the national rollout of vaccines and the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Suga said he will speed up vaccination plans and start inoculating a first group of medical workers in mid-February, instead of the earlier target of late February.
Under the state of emergency, the government has issued non-binding requests for people to avoid crowds and eating out in groups, and for restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m.
New cases have declined in Tokyo and nationwide since early January, but experts say hospitals remain flooded with serious cases and that preventive measures should remain in place.
Japan has had about 400,000 coronavirus cases, including 5,800 deaths.
9 a.m. The World Health Organization experts have visited an animal disease centre in the Chinese city of Wuhan as part of their investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
A team member says they met with staff in charge of the health of livestock in Hubei province, toured laboratories and had an “in-depth” discussion with questions and answers.
Meanwhile, WHO officials in Geneva were pushing back against suggestions the team was not getting enough access or data. The officials said the agency was continuing to ask for more data. They also said the team planned to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology, considered among the major sources of information about the origins of the coronavirus.
8:53 a.m. Russian scientists say the country’s Sputnik V vaccine appears safe and effective against COVID-19, according to early results of an advanced study published in a British medical journal.
The news is a boost for the shot that is increasingly being purchased by nations around the world who are desperate to stop the devastation caused by the pandemic.
Researchers say based on their trial, which involved about 20,000 people in Russia last fall, the vaccine is about 91% effective and that the shot also appeared to prevent people from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. The study was published online Tuesday in the journal, Lancet.
Scientists not linked to the research acknowledged that the speed at which the Russia vaccine was made and rolled out was criticized for “unseemly haste, corner cutting and an absence of transparency.”
“But the outcome reported here is clear,” British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary. “Another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.”
The Sputnik V vaccine was approved by the Russian government with much fanfare on Aug. 11. President Vladimir Putin personally broke the news on national television and said that one of his daughters had already been vaccinated with it. At the time, the vaccine had only been tested in several dozens of people.
8:40 a.m.: The vast majority of Canadians support tighter restrictions on international travel imposed by the federal government, a new poll suggests.
Eighty-six per cent of respondents agree with stricter measures that suspend flights to most sun destinations and require quarantining at a hotel at the passenger’s expense upon arrival in Canada, according to an online survey by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies.
The poll also found that 87 per cent of respondents think the government should go further by banning international travel until there are several consecutive days of reduced COVID-19 numbers.
The wariness of foreign trips stems in part from more transmissible — and possibly more lethal — variants of the virus emerging abroad as well as homegrown politicians jetting off to far-flung beaches during the holidays, says Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.
“We probably would not have gotten such high numbers before the whole talk about the South African variant, the Brazil variant,” Bourque said in an interview. “I think this probably jolted Canadians in a way.
“And then when you see people coming back with a very nice tan, you’re thinking, ‘Why am I making the effort and you’re not?’ And in certain cases it was MLAs and even (provincial) cabinet ministers,” senators and MPs, he noted.
7:22 a.m. The European economy shrank 0.7 per cent in the last three months of 2020 as businesses were hit by a new round of lockdowns aimed at containing a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.
The quarterly drop in the official figure released Tuesday was not as sharp as experts had feared. But that couldn’t erase a gloomier outlook for this year: the 19 countries that use the euro are forecast to lag China and the U.S. in bouncing back from the worst of the pandemic.
Tuesday’s figures from statistics agency Eurostat underscored a rollercoaster year of freakish economic data, with a plunge of 11.7 per cent in the second quarter, the biggest since statistics started in 1995, followed by a rebound of 12.4 per cent in the third quarter in late summer.
The winter wave of coronavirus infections has meant new restrictions on travel and business activity, although companies in some sectors such as manufacturing have been better able to adjust than services businesses such as hotels and restaurants.
7:17 a.m. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve kept walking. I will soon pass 1,500 consecutive days of walking more than 10,000 steps — for me, that’s about eight kilometres — according to the app I use. I can’t stop. Each day, no matter how much the weather sucks or how many deadlines I’m facing, I go out for a long walk. The app, and the streak, control me. I’m glad that public health guidelines have allowed me to keep it up.
But as the temperatures have dropped, two things have made my walking routine more challenging: trails and toilets.
Trails because I like to stick to routes that go through parks, and in many places the city’s approach to winter maintenance is to put up a sign letting people know there’s no winter maintenance. Snow and ice abound.
Toilets because, well, when you got to go, you got to go. The number of publicly available washrooms was already at a low with businesses closed, and it’s worse now as many facilities in city parks have shut down for the season.
So I was happy to see Coun. Mike Layton, a member of city hall’s budget committee, ask the parks division for a report on what it would cost to significantly — and permanently — improve both situations.
The answer: about two dollars.
Read the Star’s Matt Elliott’s column
6:05 a.m.: The deadliest month yet of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. drew to a close with certain signs of progress: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are plummeting, while vaccinations are picking up speed.
The question is whether the nation can stay ahead of the fast-spreading mutations of the virus.
The U.S. death toll has climbed past 440,000, with over 95,000 lives lost in January alone. Deaths are running at about 3,150 per day on average, down slightly by about 200 from their peak in mid-January.
But as the calendar turned to February on Monday, the number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 fell below 100,000 for the first time in two months. New cases of infection are averaging about 148,000 day, falling from almost a quarter-million in mid-January. And cases are trending downward in all 50 states.
6 a.m.: Since arriving in Toronto in 1994, Lily Wong has assumed many roles: driving school secretary, software saleswoman, part-time postal outlet worker, and now, a nursing home dietary aide.
In all those years, she has never had a paid sick day or made over $20 an hour.
She is not alone. In fact, 65 per cent of workers in the GTA — over two million people — are in sectors that can remain open with some form of in-person staffing under current lockdown guidelines, a Star analysis has found. These essential workers are more likely to be lower-wage and immigrants to Canada, and less likely to be unionized than those who can work from home.
Ontario’s Dec. 26 lockdown, and stay-at-home orders issued in mid-January, are working. COVID-19 case counts have begun declining steadily, including case counts among essential workers, according to the latest modelling data from the province’s Science Advisory Table.
But essential work is still “strongly associated with risk of infection,” the same modelling shows — raising crucial questions about the scope of lockdown, and the supports available to those who fall outside it.
Click here to read more by the Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh.
5:48 a.m.: Chinese police have arrested more than 80 suspected members of a criminal group that was manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, including to other countries.
Police in Beijing and in Jiangsu and Shandong provinces broke up the group led by a suspect surnamed Kong that was producing the fake vaccines, which consisted of a simple saline solution, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The vaccines were sold in China and to other countries, although it was unclear which ones. The group had been active since last September, according to state media.
“China has already reported the situation to the relevant countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing Tuesday.
“The Chinese government highly values vaccine safety and will continue to take efforts to strictly prosecute any counterfeits, fake sales and illegal business, and other related actions that involve vaccines,” Wang said. “At the same time, China will strengthen our law enforcement co-operation with the relevant countries, to earnestly prevent the spread of this type of illegal and criminal action.” He did not offer further details.
China has a long history of vaccine scandals resulting from manufacturing issues as well as business practices. In 2016, police arrested two people who were in charge of a ring that sold millions of improperly stored vaccines across the country.
5:33 a.m.: Estonia says it will allow, effective Tuesday, those passengers arriving to the country with a proof of COVID-19 vaccination to omit quarantine requirement. Health officials of the Baltic country say that proof isn’t restricted only to those vaccine suppliers approved in the European Union but proof from any of the global vaccine suppliers would be accepted.
However, Estonia’s Health Board said that certificate of vaccination from foreign nationals has to meet certain criteria, including language.
Vaccination certificates must be in either in Estonian, Russian — which is widely spoken in Estonia — or English.
5:32 a.m.: Austria is toughening entry requirements in an effort to prevent the spread of contagious coronavirus variants.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said Tuesday that the country will require weekly tests for cross-border commuters, who also will have to register under a “pre-travel clearance system,” the Austria Press Agency reported.
It also will scrap the possibility for new arrivals to cut their 10-day quarantine short by testing negative.
Nehammer also said that checks by police and health officials in Austrian ski resorts will be stepped up after authorities discovered visitors in illegally booked accommodation.
On Friday, police in St. Anton checked 44 properties and filed complaints against 96 people, among them Britons, Danes, Swedes, Romanians, Germans, Australians, Poles and Irish citizens. While ski slopes are open to locals in Austria, hotels are closed to tourists.
Austria plans to loosen some coronavirus restrictions next week, opening schools, museums, hairdressers and nonessential shops.
5:03 a.m.: The European economy shrank by a smaller than expected 0.7 per cent in the last three months of 2020 as businesses in France and Germany weathered a renewed round of anti-COVID-19 lockdowns somewhat better than expected.
That consolation in official figures released Tuesday couldn’t erase a gloomier outlook for this year, as the 19 countries that use the euro are expected to lag China and the U.S. in bouncing back from the worst of the pandemic.
For the year, the eurozone shrank 6.8 per cent, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat.
The growth figures underscored a rollercoaster year of freakish economic data, with a plunge of 11.7 per cent in the second quarter, the biggest since statistics started in 1995, followed by a rebound of 12.4 per cent in the third quarter in late summer. The winter wave has meant new restrictions on travel, business and activity, but companies in some sectors such as manufacturing have been better able to adjust than services businesses such as hotels and restaurants.
The German economy, Europe’s biggest, grew by a scant 0.1 per cent while France saw a smaller than expected drop of 1.3 per cent. Overall, economists had expected a drop in the eurozone of as much as 2.5 per cent as recently as mid-January.
5 a.m.: This Groundhog Day, there’s a storm heading to Nova Scotia on Shubenacadie Sam’s big day … just like there was this time last year. And while those storm clouds may foreshadow an early spring for those who like their weather warm, it’s left Sam feeling a bit out of sorts.
To be fair, most of Sam’s days revolve around either napping or snacking, so perhaps that déjà vu is just his status quo.
But for many across the country, the past year under the coronavirus pandemic has seemed — as it did in Bill Murray’s iconic time-loop movie from 1993 — like one Groundhog Day after another. (Or is that really just one long Groundhog Day?)
For Sam, this year will be a lot different. Gone will be the crowds surrounding his pen. There will be no bagpipers, no town criers at the park. Instead, in deference to the coronavirus, Sam’s gala appearance will be virtual — streamed live on social media.
Click here for more of this story by Steve McKinley.
4:10 a.m.: It had been a while since Alana Fiks had been able to open her shop in Winnipeg when she spoke about the impact of COVID-19.
The co-owner of Black Market Provisions, which sells food and housewares, said the business has done OK as the store moved to curbside pickup when case counts rose through the fall and winter.
But other LGBTQ-owned business have had a rougher ride, she said. Fiks said she’s recommended some of them look at federal aid programs, while also trying to send business their way.
“There’s probably a lot of people out there who really need them,” she said in a telephone interview.
The question is whether those programs targeting LGBTQ-owned companies are doing the job, with owners saying federally targeted aid remains steps behind what is available in the private sector.
Compounding problems is that broader programs don’t appear to collect diversity data on ownership that LGBTQ entrepreneurs say would better track shifts in government procurement, for example.
“The federal programs, they’re still in their infancy and I feel like they have a ways to go to catch up even right now,” said Connie Stacey, president and founder of Edmonton’s Growing Greener Innovations, which sells high-end batteries and solar technology.
“To be honest, it’s the first time we’ve seen any initiatives that are coming out to support diverse groups, but we’re a long ways from seeing the real impact of what they could potentially be doing.”
But, she says, “you’ve got to start somewhere.”
The LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce says there are more than 28,000 such businesses in the country, contributing an estimated $22 billion in economic activity and employing more than 435,000 people.
4:02 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today is expected to announce the makings of an agreement to produce COVID-19 vaccines within Canada.
Industry Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne tells The Canadian Press the government is moving quickly to start making COVID-19 vaccines itself, instead of being entirely reliant on foreign production for the most sought-after product in the world.
The deal could help Trudeau tamp down the political headache caused by Canada’s skeletal vaccine production capacity.
Canada’s inability to produce any COVID-19 vaccines at home has left the country at the mercy of foreign governments who could at any time slam the doors shut to vaccine exports until their own people are vaccinated.
That risk became ever more real this week as Europe’s new export controls on vaccines takes hold, putting at risk Canada’s entire supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Click here to read more of Sunday’s COVID-19 coverage.