Nova Scotia gas prices to rise due to COVID-19 markup, energy regulatory says

Nova Scotia drivers will face higher prices at the pump on Friday after the province’s energy regulator approves a price increase to make up for a drop in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The temporary markup comes on top of a permanent increase in the retail margin on gas prices approved earlier this year, as well as federal subsidies some gas stations have received due to a revenue shortfall.

“Motorists can expect to see a small increase in the price at the pump this Friday,” said Paul Allen, executive director of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

“The board is allowing retailers some temporary relief for the ongoing lower sales volumes due to COVID. That will help ensure they stay in business so gasoline and diesel will be available in local communities.”

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Pain at the pumps: How gas in the Maritimes has jumped by as much 37% since November

Pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions have drastically curbed demand for gasoline and diesel fuel across Canada, decreasing gas station sales.

A recent report by the Canada Energy Regulator said stay-at-home orders in 2020 resulted in a 15 per cent drop in the overall consumption of refined petroleum products compared to the previous year.

The federal regulator said gasoline consumption volumes fell the most, followed closely by jet fuel, then diesel fuel, with consumption of all three fuels bottoming out in April 2020.

The drop in sales emerged as a particular concern in more rural areas, which tend to sell lower volumes to begin with, limiting their ability to recover losses.

This issue was brought to Nova Scotia’s energy regulator by Hilda and Richard Cormier, the owners of a PetroCanada along Nova Scotia’s famed Cabot Trail.

The Cheticamp gas station relied heavily on tourism, and the reduction in visitors to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park as well as restricted travel among locals saw their sales wiped out.

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“The Cormiers noted they lost the tourism season in 2020 and said it would take years for sales volumes to recover from the pandemic,” a decision by the Nova Scotia regulator issued last month said.

Although the regulator committed to a temporary markup on retail gas prices in its decision, the details are expected to be released this week.

The three potential options being considered to temporarily increase gas prices include a rolling 12-month average sales volume, a month-over-month comparison and so-called static adjustment that would be reviewed periodically.

Maritimers continue to feel impacts of rising gas prices

Maritimers continue to feel impacts of rising gas prices – Mar 18, 2021

In a letter last week seeking comment from intervening parties, the regulator said it preferred the rolling 12-month average sales volume.

But Nova Scotia’s consumer advocate David Roberts urged the regulator to choose a different option, noting that the 12-month average would be the most expensive for consumers as it “reaches back to the early months of the pandemic.”

“It would be doing what the board said it would not do, that is adjusting the retail margin going forward to offset losses experienced by retailers in the past,” Roberts, a lawyer with the Halifax firm Pink Larkin, said in a submission to the energy regulator.

“This will necessarily increase the amount of the adjustment and the impact the adjustment will have on the consumers of gasoline and diesel fuel.”

In an interview, he added that the temporary markup should help gas station retailers cope with the ongoing impact of pandemic restrictions.

“It’s not supposed to offset losses that occurred last year,” he said. “But there’s recognition that there are continuing impacts as a result of COVID-19 on sales volume.”

The Nova Scotia government regulated gas prices in 2006 after a period of price volatility and a decline in the number of stations. Regulation is intended to provide stable prices from week to week, and ensure the availability of gasoline in rural areas.

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

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Breaking down barriers: How newcomers to Saskatchewan are accessing COVID-19 vaccines

Rima and Abdullah Nasser have been doing their best to follow the public health measures and guidance from officials to protect themselves, their family and their community from COVID-19.

Making the move to Regina from Turkey during the pandemic has been challenging for the couple and their kids, who only arrived in February.

And as vaccines have been rolling out across the province, figuring out how to get immunized while facing language and transportation barriers has been tough, said Abdullah Nasser in Arabic, through interpreter May Farhat.

“They don’t know how to book an appointment, how to take a cab or take a bus or just go to the location,” Farhat explained following an exchange with the couple.

“The presence of the Open Door was really essential.”

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Farhat is talking about the Regina Open Door Society, which, in partnership with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), organized a special vaccination clinic for the newcomers it works with, such as the Nassers, on May 11, providing first doses to 250 people.

“Our goal is to take away as many barriers as possible,” explained Victoria Flores, of the Open Door Society.

A big part of the strategy for the Open Door Society, and other organizations, like the Global Gathering Place in Saskatoon, that have similarly partnered with the SHA, has been directly reaching out to clients to ask what they need help with.

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“We knew we were going to have to book in a huge number of clients,” said Lori Steward, of the Global Gathering Place, who began thinking about the situation ahead of the vaccine rollout.

Because navigating mainstream organizations can be difficult for newcomers at the best of times, Steward said holding clinics for refugees and others who are vulnerable was the logical solution.

“Our clients are very eager to get vaccinated and very happy to be vaccinated,” Steward said, noting that more than 300 people have been vaccinated through the Global Gathering Place over two clinics so far.

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Dr. Satchan Takaya, the SHA’s pandemic chief of staff for Saskatoon, has made a point of being involved and thinks there are important lessons for bridging health care gaps going forward.

She noted how clients with ties to the Refugee Engagement and Community Health (REACH) clinic in Saskatoon responded to seeing their doctors on site at the Global Gathering Place.

“They would see their doc and run over to them to get the vaccine from that doctor,” said Takaya. “The connection and the familiarity is really important, I think, for these people that the health care system is new to.”

Through her experiences working at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon, she attests to the issues people face accessing it.

“Those have become even more evident a we try to get vaccine out to these groups,” Takaya said.

She said continuing with outreach and relationship building is an important part of developing a more inclusive system.

Saskatoon health-care team calls for more services for refugees

Saskatoon health-care team calls for more services for refugees – May 7, 2021

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

COVID-19: Saskatchewan pharmacist says first vaccine dose kept her out of the hospital

Julie Nykiforuk knew it could happen, but she says she was surprised when it happened to her.

When Nykiforuk woke up with a sore throat on May 9, she thought she was just run down. She had been working long hours at Midtown Pharmacy in Davidson, Sask., immunizing others against COVID-19.

“Honestly, I thought I just had a cold because I had been vaccinated,” said Nykiforuk, 51, who had her first dose on March 30.

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Given her symptoms, she went to go get tested later that morning anyway. And then she spent the rest of the day and the one after that back in bed. On May 11, she got her result: positive.

“The symptoms were just getting worse and worse,” she said. “I really did feel horrible. I don’t think I’ve ever been that sick from a cold or flu in my life.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t a little bit scared.”

She isn’t sure where she contracted the virus, but she thinks being partially immunized against it is what kept her out of the hospital. She noted a healthy colleague around the same age was diagnosed with COVID before getting a first shot and ended up an in-patient.

“I do think it made a difference,” Nykiforuk said. “I’m grateful I had it, that I didn’t get any worse.

“Based on what I know and went through, get your vaccine. We know that the vaccines prevent hospitalizations and they prevent death.”

Although still feeling fatigued, she’s deemed recovered and back at work doling out doses.

“It means we’ll get back to normal sooner,” she said.

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‘Very encouraging’: Only 0.15% of Canadians caught COVID-19 after getting vaccinated

Officials in Saskatchewan and across Canada have been pushing a first-dose strategy, trying to get as many people as possible at least partially immunized.

As the pandemic’s crippling third wave washed over provinces’ health-care systems earlier in the spring, they said this approach would reduce relieve some of the mounting pressure.

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Saskatchewan had administered 642,431 first doses as of Monday.

Across the province, 263 people at least partially immunized for three weeks more had contracted COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Health, which only provided data up until May 8.

Of those people, 20 ended up hospitalized, the ministry said in a statement.

“The majority of these hospitalized cases were elderly and had one or more comorbidities,” the statement said.

“Vaccines provide a high degree of protection from COVID-19 infection; however, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, and we do expect to see a small number of COVID-19 cases among vaccinated individuals.”

Nationally, early data is showing about 0.15 per cent of people have become infected two weeks or more after receiving their a first dose.

COVID infections are extremely rare but still possible after vaccination

COVID infections are extremely rare but still possible after vaccination – May 14, 2021

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Where to Buy Rapid COVID Tests

Where to Buy Rapid COVID Tests

Citizens and businesses alike want to know where to buy rapid COVID tests in Ontario. Community transmission of this infectious disease reached record highs in April.

Unfortunately, the pandemic hasn’t shown signs of slowing down.

Ontario health care facilities have been hardest hit by the third wave of COVID-19 in Canada. With local public health officials overwhelmed, the province went into another lockdown to bend the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19.

where to buy rapid COVID tests in Ontario

Problems with Diagnostic Testing

There are two major problems with PCR tests, the standard for diagnostic testing in Ontario.

  • Due to capacity restraints, PCR molecular tests are only available to symptomatic people
  • Turnaround times are too long; results take 1-5 five days depending on where you are in Ontario

Variants of Concern

Everyone is following the recommended public health measures.

  • frequent hand washing
  • physical distancing
  • wearing masks

But it’s not enough.

The rising cases related to variants of concern (VOC) are overloading health units across the province. Rapid testing is an underutilized tool in Canada’s defense against COVID-19.

Luckily, the private sector is stepping up.

From long-term care homes in Ottawa to transport companies in Mississauga, businesses are looking to administer rapid point-of-care tests.

Are Rapid COVID Tests Approved in Ontario?

The Government of Ontario was one of the first in Canada to embrace rapid testing as part of its pandemic response plan. And the province has since expanded its rapid testing program to more sectors. Rapid tests are even available at some Shoppers Drug Marts.

Ontario is trying to make it easier to administer rapid COVID-19 tests in the workplace. The government is providing guidance to employees who want to self-swab for a rapid antigen test on a voluntary basis under the supervision of a trained individual. 

Rapid Tests to Protect Your Workplace

Workplace rapid testing programs are an effective way to screen staff and derisk your business from the spread of COVID-19. In addition to daily questionnaires and temperature checks, companies test staff twice per week with a rapid antigen test.

Advantages of Rapid Tests

There are many advantages to using rapid antigen tests in the workplace.

  • It allows asymptomatic people to get regularly tested
  • Costs are much lower than the standard PCR test
  • Test results are available in under 20 minutes
  • Tests can be administered by trained staff

Most importantly, it enables businesses to identify infectious people before the virus spreads through the workplace.

Where to Buy Rapid COVID Tests in Ontario

The assessment centre system in Ontario (which only tests people with symptoms, exposure, or those in certain groups) is failing. We need a different approach. But Canada has been slower than other countries in adopting mass rapid testing.

In some parts of the US, for example, you can buy rapid tests in vending machines. In Ontario, you will need to buy rapid test kits through a reseller, like Rapid Test & Trace Canada.