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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

COVID-19 Business Update: January 29th, 2021

Ontario Chamber of Commerce releases fifth annual Ontario Economic Report

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has released the fifth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER), providing the latest data on Ontario’s economy and business confidence, highlighting the unprecedented year that was 2020 and the unpredictability that lies in the year ahead.

Key highlights from the OER include:

  • Ontario witnessed a steep decline in real GDP growth (-5.6 percent) in 2020 but is projected to see a moderate rebound of 4.8 percent in 2021, fuelled largely in part by expectations for vaccination rollout and the eventual re-opening of the economy.
  • In 2020, only 21 percent of survey respondents expressed confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook. Fewer than half of Ontario businesses (48 percent) are confident in the outlook of their own organizations.
    • Small businesses are more pessimistic about Ontario’s outlook than larger ones. Only 20 percent of small businesses expressed confidence in Ontario’s economy, compared to 27 percent of medium and large businesses.
  • The majority (58 percent) of survey respondents said their organizations shrank between April and September, while only 17 percent grew.
  • Employment growth declined throughout the province in 2020, with 47 percent of organizations indicating they let employees go due to COVID-19.
  • Sectors most negatively impacted by the crisis included: accommodation and food services; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and retail. Businesses in these sectors were among those most pessimistic about the economic outlook and most likely to have shrunk and let go of staff in 2020.
  • Businesses’ priorities for governments during economic recovery included enhancing access to capital, reforming business taxes, encouraging Ontarians to buy local, and investing in broadband infrastructure.

Dine Niagara offers no-commission online service to Niagara restaurants

Dine Niagara is pleased to offer a no-commission online ordering services to restaurants in the Niagara region. The service charges a flat monthly rate to its restaurant partners, with no commissions or hidden fees. 100% of every customer’s bill goes directly to their local restaurant. Restaurateurs can get more information and sign up here.


Minister Lisa MacLeod to hold business support townhall

Join Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries to discuss an overview of supports available to businesses and the government’s response to COVID-19. This event is specific to Niagara, and all Niagara businesses are welcome to attend. Registration is free.


Government of Ontario announces new plan for COVID-19 variants

The Ontario government has unveiled a six-point plan to prevent and stop the spread of new COVID-19 variants. The plan will help to minimize case importation resulting from travel, require screening of all positive case samples to identify variants, and will enhance the public health response to reduce the spread of the virus in communities across the province.

In recent weeks, three new variants of the COVID-19 virus have been identified as posing a significant threat to public health due to high rates of transmission, severity of illness and increased risk of reinfection. The variants are:

  • B.1.1.7 (501Y.V1) – variant first identified in the United Kingdom in late November 2020.
  • 501Y.V2 – variant first identified in South Africa at the end of December 2020.
  • P.1 – variant first detected in travelers from Brazil who arrived in Japan in January 2021.

The UK variant has been identified in multiple health units across the province, with cases believed to be linked to both travel-related and community transmission. While information about the UK variant is still emerging, evidence has indicated that it is more easily spread between people, with a 56 per cent higher transmission rate, and carries a potentially higher risk of severe illness or death. Recent modelling suggests that by March 2021, the UK variant could become the dominant strain of the virus in Ontario.

The plan includes:

  1. Mandatory Testing of Travellers
  2. Enhanced Screening and Sequencing
  3. Maintain Public Health Measures
  4. Strengthen Case and Contact Management
  5. Enhancing Protections for Vulnerable Populations
  6. Leveraging Data

Government of Canada announces new restrictions on international travel

Today, the Government of Canada announced new rules on international travel, in addition to the multi-layered approach on COVID-19 already in place. The government and Canada’s airlines have agreed to suspend all flights to and from Mexico and Caribbean countries until April 30, 2021. This will be in effect as of January 31, 2021.

Further, effective midnight (11:59 PM EST) February 3, 2021, in addition to proof of a negative pre-departure test, Transport Canada will expand the existing international flight restrictions which funnel scheduled international commercial passenger flights into four Canadian airports: Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Calgary International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport. The new restrictions will include scheduled commercial passenger flights arriving from the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America, which were exempted from the previous restriction. Private/Business and charter flights from all countries will also be required to land at the four airports. Flights from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and cargo-only flights will remain exempt.

As soon as possible in the coming weeks, all air travellers arriving in Canada, with very limited exceptions, must reserve a room in a Government of Canada-approved hotel for three nights at their own cost, and take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival at their own cost. More details will be available in the coming days.


Government of Canada temporarily waives waiting period for Employment Insurance claims

In response to the increase in people needing support, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, today announced EI regulations will be amended to temporarily waive the waiting period for EI claimants who establish a new claim between January 31, 2021 and September 25, 2021. This includes claimants of regular, fishing and special benefits. This temporary change will allow people who are applying for benefits to be paid for their first week of unemployment.

This temporary measure will not change the total weeks of EI benefits which claimants are entitled to, nor the service standard for payment. Claims will be automatically processed with this new waiver, meaning workers are not required to take additional steps.

This temporary measure means that people who open a new EI claim after January 31, 2021 and return to work before exhausting all of their weeks of entitlement will benefit from an additional week of income support, due to the removal of the waiting period.


Niagara Health to open new COVID-19 vaccination clinic for healthcare workers

Niagara Health will open a new COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at the Seymour Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre in St. Catharines, effective Wednesday, February 17.

The hospital will continue to focus on first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine for healthcare workers, including long-term care and high-risk retirement home staff and essential caregivers, and Niagara Health staff and physicians. This is consistent with the provincial government’s priority framework to begin with vaccination of highest risk groups.


Canadian GDP sees seventh consecutive monthly gain

Chart 1: Real gross domestic product grows in November

Real gross domestic product grows in November

Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.7% in November, following a 0.4% increase in October. This seventh consecutive monthly gain continued to offset the drops in March and April in Canadian economic activity, which were the steepest on record. However, total economic activity was about 3% below the pre-pandemic level in February.

 

Both goods-producing (+1.2%) and services-producing (+0.5%) industries were up, as 14 of 20 industrial sectors posted gains in November.

Following a 0.5% contraction in October, the manufacturing sector grew 1.7% in November, largely as a result of higher inventory formation. Both durable and non-durable manufacturing were up. This was the sixth increase in seven months, bringing the sector’s output to within 3% of its pre-pandemic level of activity.

Finance and insurance increased 1.3% in November on widespread growth across all subsectors. As market sentiments improved, following multiple global COVID-19 vaccine announcements, activity in equity and mutual funds markets drove increased activity on the Toronto Stock Exchange in November.

The retail trade sector grew 1.1% in November as 8 of 12 subsectors were up. Food and beverage (+6.1%) led the growth as higher activity at supermarkets and other grocery stores, along with beer, wine and liquor stores, contributed to the increase. Building material and garden equipment and supplies (+3.4%) grew for the fourth consecutive month, and non-store retailers rose 3.1% following two months of decline. Clothing and clothing accessories stores (-5.4%), and health and personal care stores (-1.8%) offset some of the growth, as did motor vehicle and parts dealers, which contracted 0.6% following six months of growth.


Reading recommendations

Worrisome New Coronavirus Strains Are Emerging. Why Now?

Megan Molteni, Wired

All viruses mutate. They are, after all, just autonomous bits of protein-encased, self-replicating strings of code equipped with imperfect internal spell-checkers. Make enough copies and there are bound to be mistakes. Coronaviruses actually make fewer mistakes than most. This one, SARS-CoV-2, evolves at a rate of about 1,100 changes per location in the genome annually—or about one substitution every 11 days.

The predictable pace at which the coronavirus’s genetic building blocks shift around can be detected by genomic sequencing, which allows scientists to identify new strains and follow them as they spread through a population or fade away. For most of 2020, those random changes didn’t have much of an effect on the way the virus behaves. But recently, three notable mutations have begun to show up alone or in combination with each other. And everywhere they do, these versions of the virus tend to quickly outcompete other circulating strains.


Canada’s economy looks like it shrank by 5% last year, says Statistics Canada

CBC News

Canada’s economy expanded by 0.7 per cent in November, Statistics Canada said Friday

The data agency said the country’s gross domestic product grew seven months in a row after steep drops in March and April. But despite that streak, the numbers mean the economy was still three per cent smaller in November than it was in February, before COVID-19 really took root in Canada.

For the full year of 2020, Statistic Canada’s preliminary estimate shows the economy contracted by 5.1 per cent.


Niagara COVID status tracker

Niagara’s most up-to-date COVID statistics, measured against the targets for the various stages of the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, are presented below. This does not predict government policy, but is offered to give you an idea of where Niagara is situated and how likely a relaxation (or further restrictions) may be. These data are drawn daily from Niagara Region. The Grey-Lockdown level does not have its own metrics, but is triggered when the COVID-specific measurements in a Red-Control region have continued to deteriorate.

Note that the Provincewide Shutdown is not the same as the Grey-Lockdown level listed in the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, which has been suspended for the duration of the shutdown. Additional restrictions for businesses apply during the Shutdown. Businesses should not use the Response Framework as a guide during this time, but should instead refer to the Shutdown guidelines.

 December 18December 25January 1January 8January 15January 22January 29
Reproductive number1.41.81.41.11.00.70.9
New cases per 100,000101.2267.3469.8575.8507.1295.5250.6
New cases per day (not including outbreaks)60.7178.7311.7376.9325.4182.7145.7
Percent of hospital beds occupied97%95.2%98.2%103.2%104.5%103.6%106%
Percent of intensive care beds occupied78.8%77.3%87.9%87.9%90.9%89.4%93.9%
Percentage of positive tests6.1%15.6%28.1%28.6%26.6%21.2%16.2%

Definitions:

  • Weekly Incidence Rate: the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week
  • Percent Positivity: the number of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed
  • Rt: the reproductive rate, or the number of people infected by each case of the virus

Information on government grants, resources, and programs, policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here.The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.
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