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Alberta death toll from COVID-19 pandemic tops 1,000

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More than 1,000 people have now died from COVID-19 in Alberta, though active cases have continued to follow a downward trend over the past five days.

The declining case numbers seen over the holiday season are, in part, due to the fact that laboratories have performed fewer tests in recent days, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Monday.

Yet despite the drop in active and new cases, the number of people being treated in hospitals for the illness has not declined.

Hinshaw provided case numbers for the most recent five-day period.

  • Dec. 23 — Alberta reported 1,007 new cases, completed 15,585 tests and added 30 more deaths.
  • Dec. 24 — Alberta reported 1,191 new cases, completed 17,845 tests and added 18 more deaths.
  • Dec. 25 — Alberta reported 914 new cases, completed 14,193 tests and added 17 more deaths.
  • Dec. 26 — Alberta reported 459 new cases, completed 6,866 tests and added 27 more deaths.
  • Dec. 27 — Alberta reported 917 new cases, completed 9,633 tests and added 20 more deaths.

That brings the death toll since the pandemic began to 1,002.

As of Monday, the province had 15,487 active cases, while 878 people were being treated in hospitals for the virus, including 148 in ICU beds.

Hinshaw characterized Monday’s update as “difficult,” given that she had to report 112 deaths had been added to the total over that five-day period.

Fewer tests over the holidays

It will likely take several weeks before the trend of declining cases is reflected in the number of deaths and hospitalizations and ICU admissions, she said.

“We know that things like deaths, hospitalizations, ICU, those are what we call lagging indicators, because they do happen at a delay of one to two weeks after we start to see our case numbers change,” she said.

“So we would expect that those numbers would take longer to start to come down than our case numbers.”

 

Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury is an intensive care physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. He shares what it’s like working in an ICU during Christmas. 0:44

Over the holidays, fewer people went to testing centres, she said, so the lower number of tests would translate into lower numbers of positive cases.

The positivity rate over much of that five-day period shifted between six and seven per cent, but jumped to more than nine per cent on Dec. 27, she said.

New variant appears in Alberta

The province’s top public health doctor announced that Alberta has reported its first case of a new variant of the virus, first seen earlier this month in the United Kingdom.

“It is important to remember that the public health measures in place are protective against this variant, and the best thing we can do to protect each other is to follow them,” Hinshaw said.

“Following public health measures is in part also contributing to our declining cases.”

 

Alberta traveller who tested positive for the COVID-19 variant did “everything they were supposed to do,” says Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw. 2:15

There is some evidence that the variant may be more infectious than other strains of the virus, she said, but there is no evidence that it has spread in the province beyond that single case.

“We are working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to be able to get the flight details and the list of individuals who were on the same plane,” Hinshaw said.

“There’s a time delay between when that individual arrived and when the symptoms began, and so it’s something that’s a theoretical possibility of transmission … at the moment, we have looked at the situation and believe that the risk is very low, but we will be making those phone calls to make sure that we are providing that additional information to anyone who may have been seated near this individual on the flight.”

 

Paramedics in Alberta say the uncontrolled nature of their work as first responders should give them high priority for COVID-19 vaccines, while dentists in British Columbia want to be among the second round of health-care workers to be vaccinated. 1:48

The encouraging downward trends reflect the collective actions taken by Albertans over the past two weeks, Hinshaw said.

“We must remain attentive to the orders in place and continue to follow them closely to make sure that we don’t see a spike in mid-January that ignites a dangerous spread in 2021.”

‘Tragic milestone’

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement calling the death toll a “tragic milestone” and said those 1,002 people were mothers, fathers, husbands or wives who will be mourned and missed.

“But even as we reach this painful milestone, there is reason for hope,” Kenney said.

 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, pictured in September, said more than 6,000 Albertans have received their first vaccine doses and the province can ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel.’ (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

 

“As of today, more than 6,000 Albertans have received their first vaccine doses. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And so on this grim day, I ask all Albertans to double down on our public health measures. Let’s prevent as many Albertans as we can from experiencing the same pain and loss that so many already have.”

NDP Official Opposition deputy leader Sarah Hoffman offered her condolences to the families and friends of those who have died of COVID-19.

“We continue to call on Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP to do more to prevent the spread and further tragic loss of life,” Hoffman said in a statement.

“We need more staff in Alberta’s continuing care centres, we need an actual plan for school re-entry in January and we need updated modelling on COVID-19 so that we have the facts and transparency on the risks we face as this pandemic carries on.”

Source: – CBC.ca

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Latest worldwide spread of the coronavirus

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Russia has tightened curbs in major cities as authorities blame the new Delta variant for spiking cases and deaths, while neighbouring Ukraine has registered its first two cases of the more infectious virus type.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news

EUROPE

* The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said the more contagious Delta variant, first identified in India, will represent 90% of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the European Union by the end of August.

* Spain has vaccinated half of its 47 million population with at least one dose and nearly 32%, or over 15 million people, have been fully inoculated.

* The share of infections caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus has doubled in Germany in a week and is likely to gain more traction over other variants.

* Greece will end the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors and ease other remaining restrictions.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* Japan is suspending approval for companies to inoculate staff amid concerns that an increase in such applications will hamper smooth delivery of vaccines.

* Alcohol, high-fives and talking loudly will be banned for the reduced numbers of Olympic ticket holders allowed into venues.

* Australia’s largest city of Sydney reintroduced “soft touch” curbs to contain a widening outbreak of the Delta variant.

AMERICAS

* A Brazilian Senate committee has formally approved a request to call representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify in an ongoing probe into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

* Canada will further relax border restrictions in the weeks to come as long as the science supports such a move, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

* Federal authorities have seized at U.S. airports unauthorised versions of remdesivir destined for distribution in Mexico, the Wall Street Journal reported. [nL2N2O51U0]

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* South Africa’s health regulator said it had received documentation for China’s Sinopharm vaccine and will evaluate the data to assess the efficacy of the shot.

* Israel empowered health officials to quarantine anyone deemed to have been exposed to the especially infectious Delta variant.

* Bahrain will extend by three months a government support program for businesses hard hit by the pandemic.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults are likely linked to vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna shots, a group of doctors advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

* Vaccines made by AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech alliance remain broadly effective against Delta and Kappa variants. [nL3N2O43IN]

* The University of Oxford said it was testing anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Wall Street and global equity markets were broadly higher on Wednesday after reassurances from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that the central bank is not rushing to hike interest rates, while European stocks remained under pressure. [MKTS/GLOB]

* A period of high inflation in the United States may last longer than anticipated but should still ease over time as the economy settles back to normal, two U.S. Federal Reserve officials said.

* Euro zone business growth accelerated at its fastest pace in 15 years in June as the easing of lockdown measures unleashed pent-up demand and drove a boom in the dominant services sector but also led to soaring price pressures.

(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M. and Juliette Portala; Edited by Arun Koyyur)

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Canada’s M&A boom fuels hiring spree, higher pay

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Record-breaking dealmaking in Canada is encouraging investment banks to beef up staffing, but the increased demand for bankers is forcing some to pay up in unique ways to attract new hires.

Canadian mergers and acquisitions (M&A) year to date surged to a record $206.5 billion and IPOs hit an all-time high of $5.6 billion, according to Refinitiv, after the pandemic crushed dealmaking in the first three quarters of 2020.

HSBC, JPMorgan Chase & Co and National Bank of Canada are expanding their M&A teams.

“It continues to be an active market with lots of active discussions with clients going on as well, and so that has absolutely spurred on a need to fortify the ranks within the teams,” said Scott Lampard, head of global banking for HSBC Bank Canada.

HSBC plans to boost overall investment banking headcount by 20%-25%, mainly at the analyst level to support pitching and executing deals, Lampard said.

PENT-UP DEMAND

With the pace of transaction expected to continue at pace, banks are paying more to hire and retain existing teams, offering a range of new services, like sending in a consultant to create the ideal home office, recruiters say.

“We’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years and we’ve never seen a market like this,” said Bill Vlaad, CEO at recruitment firm Vlaad and Company. “Everybody is scrambling,”

“Many of the banks have increased base salaries quite dramatically, mostly in 2021,” he said, adding salaries had increased 20%-40% across M&A roles.

“Now if you want to attract, you have to put something else on the table.”

To poach talent, banks are adding signing bonuses, extra vacation days, healthcare increases, special programs for mental wellness and home office perks, all tailored to individual requests, Vlaad said.

TD Securities, Barclays, CIBC World Markets are the top M&A advisers year to date. All three declined to comment on hiring plans.

Of the top deals announced this year, Rogers Communications Inc’s C$20 billion ($16.2 billion) bid for Shaw Communications Inc and Canadian National’s bid $33.6 billion offer for Kansas City Southern are the two biggest.

Despite the pandemic, five of the top six Canadian banks paid an average of C$3.1 billion ($2.50 billion) in total bonuses last year, up from C$2.9 billion ($2.34 billion) in 2019, an analysis of filings by Reuters showed.

Headcount at National Bank Finance will be up by four or five people in M&A versus the same time last year, David Savard, head of M&A at the bank, told Reuters.

That put the team at 28 for the large-cap M&A team and 10 for the mid-market team, he said, adding both areas were “booming”.

“There seems to be some pent-up demand for entrepreneurial-led companies and private companies doing M&A coming out of COVID,” he said.

David Rawlings, CEO for JPMorgan Canada, agreed headcount would be likely higher in the near future.

“We think activity will continue to be strong and are currently looking to selectively hire with a particular focus on senior diverse candidates,” said Rawlings.

($1 = 1.2453 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)

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French court overturns ruling saying sale of cannabidiol is illegal

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France’s highest appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ruling that stores in the country can’t legally sell cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychotic compound related to cannabis that is being researched for a variety of medical applications.

Based on the free trade of goods within the European Union, the Cour de cassation ruled that judges could not find the sale of CBD in France illegal if it had been legally produced in a member state of the bloc.

The Court of Justice of the EU ruled last year that no national law can prohibit the sale of CBD legally produced in a member state, the French court also said.

“Without considering whether the substances seized had not been legally produced in another member state of the European Union, the court failed to provide a basis for its decision,” it said, referring to a ruling of a lower appeals court.

The Cour de cassation did not rule whether selling CBD in France was legal or not, and ordered a lower court to rule again on a case involving the owner of a shop selling CBD.

“We are happy”, CBD shop owner Mathieu Bensa, who was not involved in the case, told Reuters after the ruling.

“We did not understand why France was the last country in the European Union that had not given access to the sale of hemp plants”, he said.

Derived mainly from the hemp plant, CBD is increasingly used as a relaxant.

Cannabis stocks have attracted growing interest on world stock markets, particularly on the Toronto stock exchange after Canada became one of the first major economies to legalise the recreational use of marijuana.

Cannabis use is outlawed in France but the country has one of Europe’s highest consumption rates.

(Reporting by Matthieu Protard, Benoit Van Overstraeten and Ardee Napolitano; Editing by Mark Potter)

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