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5 Ontario regions tightening restrictions, Peel and Toronto to remain in lockdown – CBC.ca

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Ontario is tightening public health restrictions in five regions as hospitals say they are inundated with COVID-19 patients. 

Those regions include Hamilton, which will move to the grey or “lockdown” level, joining Peel Region and Toronto, Premier Doug Ford’s government said late Friday afternoon.

Elsewhere, Brant County and Niagara Region move into the red or “control” zone, the public health unit for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington moves into the orange or “restrict” zone, and Timiskaming moves into yellow or “protect.” The restrictions take effect Monday and will remain in place until Jan. 4.

The province says Hamilton’s rate of new COVID-19 cases has increased by about 25 per cent, to 103.3 cases per 100,000 people and the number of hospitalizations in the region has more than doubled in the last two weeks.

The province also confirmed the current lockdowns in Toronto and Peel Region will remain in place past Monday, when they were set to expire.

“The trends we are seeing here in Ontario are very, very concerning,” Ford told reporters before heading into an emergency meeting with his chief medical officer of health and other officials.

The public health unit for the Sudbury area was meanwhile moved down a level to green or “prevent” in the province’s colour-coded system of public health measures. 

WATCH | Ford confirms Toronto, Peel Region lockdowns will continue:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’ll hold an emergency meeting with CEOs of hospitals this weekend before deciding how to tackle the rising number of coronavirus cases straining the province’s health-care system. 1:25

Earlier Friday, CBC News learned that Ford’s government was considering a lockdown across southern Ontario from Boxing Day until Jan. 11

Ford said earlier on Friday that the government would announce its next steps on Monday, after he meets with hospital officials and cabinet over the weekend.

Multiple sources in and outside government who are aware of the proposal for southern Ontario say that the lockdown plan is similar to what will take effect in Quebec after Christmas Day. The plan is to be put to a meeting of Ford’s cabinet Friday afternoon.

Quebec is closing all non-essential businesses and issuing a mandatory work-from-home order for nearly all office employees until Jan. 11 and asking all schools to go online-only for the first week that classes resume in the new year. 

Northern Ontario would be excluded from all the lockdown measures, say the sources, who have knowledge of the plans and spoke to CBC News on condition they not be named.

The precise closures and restrictions in the widespread lockdown have yet to be decided, the sources say. However, one government source says in-person classes at schools would not resume in the areas under lockdown until Jan. 11. 

Another source aware of the proposal described it as a modified version of Stage 1, the restrictions that existed across Ontario immediately after the first lockdown was lifted earlier this year. That source also says the government is considering imposing stricter measures in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas than in the rest of the lockdown zone.

‘Whatever is needed’

There’s already some pushback to the possible lockdown.

Durham Region chair John Henry is calling on the province to consider keeping it in the less strict red zone, rather than in a full lockdown, saying the region wasn’t consulted on any potential changes.

Durham, just east of Toronto, saw 89 new cases on Friday, based on provincial data.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie called on the Ford government Thursday to lock down the Toronto and Hamilton area on Monday to drive down daily case counts.

Crombie said, while she acknowledges the disappointment of remaining in lockdown during the holiday season, the situation at hospitals in Peel Region, of which Mississauga is a part, remains dire and stricter measures are required. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he supports the idea of a lockdown in the city’s area, noting that right now, it’s still easy for people to travel from Toronto to less-affected areas, especially during the holiday season.

Specifics not yet decided

A senior government official, however, told CBC News that the sources are getting ahead of themselves. 

The official said the duration of any lockdown is yet to be decided and said it is not certain that in-person classes at schools would be cancelled in the lockdown areas.  

Before his cabinet meets, Ford is set to sit down with top hospital officials for an emergency meeting as the rising number of COVID-19 cases puts increasing strain on the health-care system in the province.

The meeting comes as public health officials reported 2,290 more cases of the illness Friday morning and 68,246 coronavirus tests completed. It is the fourth day with more than 2,000 new cases in the province. Another 40 deaths of people with the illness were also reported.

In a tweet, Ford said the discussion with hospital leaders will focus on “next steps to break the concerning trends in cases and hospitals in our province.”

As he has often repeated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford said “everything is on the table when it comes to protecting the health of Ontarians.”

WATCH | Here’s what Ford said about a potential further lockdown on Thursday:

There are many things to consider before Ontario will tighten its lockdown of the province to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Premier Doug Ford. But he said he will not make a ‘snap’ judgment about which course to take. 1:34

LISTEN | ‘This could be your family,’ Toronto doctor warns:

Metro Morning7:00‘This could be your family:’ Dr. Michael Warner on losing 5 isolated, COVID-19 patients this week

There are more COVID-19 patients in intensive care units right now than at any other point in the pandemic. That’s led the Ontario Hospitals Association to call on the Premier to tighten restrictions and impose harsher lockdowns. 86 more people died from COVID-19 this week and five of them were being treated at the Michael Garron hospital ICU where Dr. Michael Warner works. He reflects on the state of COVID-19 in Ontario. 7:00

7-day average reaches new high

The new cases reported Friday include 691 in Toronto, 361 in Peel Region, 296 in York Region, 207 in Windsor-Essex and 126 in Hamilton.

The other public health units that saw double-digit increases are:

  • Durham Region: 89
  • Waterloo Region: 84
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 61
  • Halton Region: 57
  • Ottawa: 52
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 51
  • Niagara Region: 47
  • Southwestern: 37
  • Middlesex-London: 30
  • Eastern Ontario: 16
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark: 13
  • Thunder Bay: 11

(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)

Combined, the additional cases push the seven-day average of new daily cases to 2,089.

Close to 18,000 active cases across province

The Ministry of Education also reported 133 new cases that are school-related: 111 students and 22 staff members. Around 957 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 19.8 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19 while 22 schools are currently closed because of the illness.

There are now 17,742 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 throughout the province, the most at any point during the pandemic.

They come as Ontario’s network of labs processed 68,246 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 3.9 per cent. There are another 81,235 tests in the queue waiting to be completed.

The 40 additional deaths of people with COVID-19 increases the official toll to 4,098.

17 more vaccination sites announced

Also this morning, the provincial government announced that doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be shipped to 17 additional hospital sites over the next two weeks.

The distribution is part of the initial phase of Ontario’s immunization campaign, which is focused primarily on front-line health-care workers and essential caregivers who work in congregate settings for seniors, such as long-term care homes.

The province expects about 90,000 total doses of the vaccine to arrive before the end of the year.

Speaking to CBC News yesterday, retired general Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, said that about 2,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine this week. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses, about 21 days apart.

In addition to the University Health Network in Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital, vaccine doses will be available at:

  • Windsor Regional Hospital.
  • London Health Sciences Centre.
  • Grand River Hospital.
  • Halton Healthcare.
  • Hamilton Health Sciences.
  • William Osler Health System.
  • Trillium Health Partners.
  • Southlake Regional Health Centre.
  • Mackenzie Health.
  • Humber River Hospital.
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
  • Toronto East Health Network.
  • Unity Health Toronto.
  • Scarborough Health Network.
  • Lakeridge Health.
  • Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.
  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

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PM warns Canadians to expect more travel restrictions soon – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is warning Canadians to expect more travel restrictions in the near future.

At his briefing Tuesday, Trudeau reiterated federal public health guidance to avoid all non-essential travel, both abroad and in between provinces.

Trudeau said in French that the constantly evolving news of COVID-19 variants from other countries has spurred the government to look at improving the measures already implemented – and that an announcement would come very soon.

The prime minister also reiterated his previous statements on upcoming travel, telling Canadians to cancel any plans they may have booked, and that while the number of cases linked to traveling abroad are low, “one case is too many.”

Trudeau said the “bad choices of a few” should not be allowed to put others at risk.

Currently, the land border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed to travellers, while international travellers flying into the country must show a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before their departure flight. They then must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Violations of any of these measures can result in charges under the Quarantine Act, with a maximum sentence of six months in jail or fines up to $75,000.

Last week, Quebec Premier Francois Legault called for Ottawa to implement an outright ban on non-essential travel – and as Trudeau said at his Tuesday briefing, “all options are on the table if necessary.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported more than 200 flights, both international and domestic, that have confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as one VIA Rail train trip.

Overall, travel outside Canada has been deemed the primary cause of 1.4 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada since the start of the pandemic, with contact with a traveller accounting for another one per cent of infections.

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Made-in-Canada coronavirus vaccine starts human clinical trials – CBC.ca

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A made-in-Canada vaccine to protect against COVID-19 began human clinical trials Tuesday in Toronto, says the biotechnology company that developed the vaccine.

Toronto-based Providence Therapeutics said three shots will be given to 60 adult volunteers at a clinical trial site in Toronto in the first phase of the trial on Tuesday. 

Fifteen of those volunteers will receive a placebo, and 45 will get the vaccine, called PTX-COVID19-B.

Brad Sorenson, the company’s CEO, said it’s the first time a vaccine designed and manufactured in Canada has begun clinical trials. The company has purchased a site in Calgary to mass produce the vaccine. 

Vaccines are designed to trigger an immune response in the body. Providence’s product is an mRNA vaccine and is similar to the Moderna coronavirus shot being given to people across Canada.

Quebec-based pharmaceutical Medicago began clinical trials last July of its coronavirus vaccine that is based on another technology. Unlike Providence, a large portion of Medicago’s vaccine doses will be manufactured outside the country, in North Carolina.

A vial is shown in this handout image provided by Providence Therapeutics. The company says it is the first fully made-in-Canada coronavirus vaccine to reach clinical trials in this country. (Providence Therapeutics/The Canadian Press)

Medicago’s vaccine is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials — the last stage before it can apply for approval from Health Canada and other regulators to market the product. 

Sorenson said Providence designed and built its vaccine last March.

“We reached out to the Canadian government in April and said, ‘Hey, you’ve heard of Moderna. We’re doing the exact same thing,'” Sorenson said in an interview.

“We went from concept into the clinic in under a year without the same level of support as our peers had.”

Purchased Calgary site

The federal government provided financial sponsorship and support for the early phase clinical trial through the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program. 

Currently, Canada lacks the capacity to manufacture the millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines needed to immunize people outside of a clinical trial setting. It’s why the federal government struck deals with Pfizer and Moderna — both manufactured abroad — to obtain the vaccines being rolled out across Canada.

While the company was developing the vaccine in pre-clinical studies, Sorenson said it also started to build the infrastructure to manufacture the vaccine in Canada as well.

A typical vaccination station is seen at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg on Dec. 14. Currently, Canada lacks the capacity to manufacture the millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines needed to immunize people outside of a clinical trial setting. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The company purchased a 20,000-square-foot facility in Calgary that includes 12,000 square feet of lab space to mass produce the vaccine. The facility will be up and running in two months, Sorensen said. 

Pending regulatory approval, a larger Phase 2 trial with adults over 65, youths under 18 and pregnant people could start in May, Sorenson said.

Initial focus was cancer research

If the vaccine proves safe and effective in clinical trials and Health Canada approves it, the goal is to have it ready for the global market by January 2022.

Sorenson founded Providence Therapeutics in 2013 to focus on cancer vaccines.

Several scientists contributed to the pre-clinical research on Providence’s vaccine, including those at the lab of Dr. Mario Ostrowski, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and an infectious disease clinician at St. Michael’s Hospital, Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Rob Kozak at Sunnybrook Research Institute, as well as Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist.

In August, Ostrowski, whose laboratory performed the animal trials, said results were on par with tests of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech at that stage.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

The European Union on Tuesday warned pharmaceutical giants that develop coronavirus vaccines to honour their contractual obligations after slow deliveries of shots from two companies hampered the bloc’s vaunted vaccine rollout in several nations.

The bloc already lashed out Monday at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, accusing it of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation. It also had expressed displeasure over vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech last week.

“Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines. To create a truly global common good,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum’s virtual event in Switzerland. “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.”

The statement Tuesday highlighted the level of distrust that has grown between the 27-nation bloc and pharmaceutical companies over the past week.

On Monday, the EU threatened to impose strict export controls on all coronavirus vaccines produced in the bloc to make sure that companies honour their commitments to the EU.

A doctor adjusts his personal protective gear before entering a patient’s room at a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Klinikum Rechts der Isar hospital in Munich, southern Germany on Monday. (Lennart Preiss/AFP/Getty Images)

The EU said it provided €2.7 billion (more than $4.1 billion Cdn) to speed up vaccine research and production capacity and was determined to get some value for that money with hundreds of millions of vaccine shots according to a schedule the companies had committed to.

“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it also means business,” von der Leyen said Tuesday via video link.

Germany was firmly behind von der Leyen’s view. 

“With a complex process such as vaccine production, I can understand if there are production problems — but then it must affect everyone fairly and equally,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told ZDF television. “This is not about EU first, it’s about Europe’s fair share.”

The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc, is lagging badly behind countries like Israel and Britain in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health-care workers and most vulnerable people. That’s despite having over 400,000 confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.

The EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with an option on 100 million extra shots. Late last week, the company said it was planning to reduce a first contingent of 80 million to 31 million.

The shortfall of planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is expected to get medical approval by the bloc on Friday, combined with hiccups in the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots is putting EU nations under heavy pressure. Pfizer says it was delaying deliveries to Europe and Canada while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase production capacity.

The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine Friday and its approval is hotly anticipated. The AstraZeneca vaccine is already being used in Britain and has been approved for emergency use by half a dozen countries, including India, Pakistan, Argentina and Mexico.

The delays in getting vaccines will make it harder to meet early targets in the EU’s goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of its adults by late summer.

The EU has signed six vaccine contracts for more than two billion doses, but only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use so far.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:15 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Inside two Toronto ICUs one year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case:

A look inside two Toronto hospital ICUs one year after Canada’s first case of COVID-19, and at the doctors and nurses both exhausted and determined to keep fighting. 4:28

As Parliament resumed Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from MPs of all parties as they blasted the Liberal government for what they described as a botched approach to rolling out vaccines.

Both Trudeau and Procurement Minister Anita Anand repeated the government’s promise that by the end of September, all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated will have received their shots.

Trudeau has stressed that the delay that is currently hampering vaccination efforts is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March. The prime minister noted that the country is still receiving shipments of the Moderna vaccine.

Earlier Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said there is “tremendous pressure” on the global supply chain for vaccines that the government has tried to mitigate.

“We are working on this every single day, because we know how important vaccines are to Canadians, to first and foremost the lives of Canadians and also to our economy,” she told a news conference in Ottawa by video.

WATCH | New urgency for vaccinations in long-term care homes:

Faced with a COVID-19 vaccine shortage, Ontario says it will now vaccinate only long-term care residents and other seniors in at-risk retirement homes and care settings. 2:54

Despite the vaccine delay, some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations. Ontario reported fewer than 2,000 cases on Monday, as well as fewer people in hospital. It was a similar story in Quebec, where hospitalizations dropped for a sixth straight day.

As of early Tuesday morning, Canada had reported 753,011 cases of COVID-19, with 62,444 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,238.

In Alberta, health officials reported the province’s first case of a COVID-19 variant first seen in the United Kingdom that can’t be directly traced to international travel. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that while it is one case, the variant has the potential to spread faster than the original novel coronavirus and could quickly overwhelm hospitals if not checked.

“There’s no question that this kind of exponential growth would push our health-care system to the brink,” Shandro told a virtual news conference Monday.

Here’s a look at what’s happening across Canada:

From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET 


 What’s happening around the world

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 99.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 55.1 million of the cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, the U.K. is set to announce changes to its quarantine rules later Tuesday that could see anyone arriving in the country having to spend ten days in a hotel at their own expense. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said there will be an “announcement on this issue later on today,” but would not be drawn on what the changes would entail.

The British government has been reviewing its quarantine policies amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus. Whether the changes will be universal and apply to everyone arriving, including British citizens, or just to those arriving from high-risk coronavirus countries, is unclear. Zahawi told Sky News that “as we vaccinate more of the adult population, if there are new variants like the South African or the Brazilian variants, we need to be very careful.”

Pedestrians walk past a sign pointing toward a COVID-19 testing centre in Walthamstow over the weekend in London. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The U.K. has seen more than 3.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 98,700 deaths.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, said Monday that Canada is considering additional international travel restrictions. Speaking on CBC’s Power & Politics, Freeland said she is, “very sympathetic to the view that, with the virus raging around the world, we need to be sure our borders are really, really secure.”

In Portugal, the health minister said authorities are considering asking other European Union countries for help amid a steep surge in COVID-19 cases. Portugal has had the world’s worst rate of new daily cases and deaths per 100,000 people for the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Health Minister Marta Temido said sending patients to other EU countries is not uncommon in the bloc. But, she said, Portugal has the disadvantage of being geographically remote and hospitals across the continent are under pressure from the pandemic. She said the country may instead be asking for medical workers to be sent.

Portuguese hospitals are under severe strain, Temido told public broadcaster RTP. “We have beds available,” she said. “What we’re struggling with is finding staff.”

That request may be difficult to fulfil, because all countries in the 27-nation bloc are dealing with their own pandemic strains, made more difficult now because of the emergence of virus variants.

In the Asia-Pacific region, health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital.

Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed one million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468.

The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesia launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health-care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world’s fourth-most populous country.

Medical workers visit COVID-19 patients at a general hospital in Indonesia on Monday. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese airlines are offering refunded tickets as the coronavirus continues to spread in the country’s northeast. The offer Tuesday from the government’s aviation authority comes amid a push to prevent people travelling during the Lunar New Year holiday next month.

In the Americas, Mexico’s death toll passed 150,000 on Monday following a surge in infections in recent weeks.

In Africa, Russia and China have approached Zimbabwe about supplying vaccines to tackle its escalating COVID-19 outbreak amid concern about Harare’s ability to afford the shots.

In the Middle East, Oman said earlier this week it will extend the closure of its land borders for another week until Feb. 1.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET

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