From manufactured rinks in city parks, to lengthy swaths of iced-over rivers, Canada’s outdoor public skating spaces may prove popular during the first full winter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health experts say that’s a good thing, as skating outdoors offers opportunity for socialization and exercise. And it poses relatively low risk of coronavirus transmission.
So go ahead and lace up those skates, they say, but be mindful of a couple caveats.
Risk goes up if those outdoor ice surfaces become too crowded, says Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, and safety precautions need to be followed in the moments before and after people hit the ice, where spread is more likely to occur.
“‘The activity (of skating) itself is safe, but if you’ve got 20 people in an indoor change room, especially unmasked, maybe with poor ventilation, that would be a real challenge,” Morris said.
“But in general, the more outdoors and the less crowded, the better. And if people can skate or engage in any other safe outdoor activities this winter, they should absolutely be doing it.”
Municipalities across the country are working on guidelines for their outdoor skating rinks, which can open anywhere from mid-November to early January, weather-depending.
Most cities are expected to cut on-ice capacity in order to better maintain a safe distance between skaters, and places like Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa say other safety measures will depend on public health advice at the time rinks open.
Calgary, home to many outdoor rinks including an artificial ice patch at Olympic Plaza, is also starting a pilot project of skating trails in parks across the city this winter, spokesperson Todd Reichardt said. The idea came together before the pandemic began, but will serve a safety purpose in giving skaters more space to spread out.
Winnipeg’s river trail, which also includes spaces for curling and hockey, is one popular outdoor destination once it opens in the chilly city, typically around New Year’s Eve.
Clare MacKay, a spokesperson for the Forks Renewal Corporation which runs the trail, says the skating area can stretch up to 11 kilometres in length, depending on how the river freezes each year.
Public health guidelines will be implemented on the trail, MacKay says, but the wide-open space gives her confidence people will be able to keep a safe distance.
Still, Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba, expects the river trail to look different this year if COVID cases continue to rise in Winnipeg.
The Manitoba capital reported 265 cases on Thursday and 136 more on Friday, and Kindrachuk says that while outdoor skating is low risk, danger can rise depending on how much COVID we’re seeing when rinks open.
“The trail is kind of a centerpiece for winter in Winnipeg, so it can get busy, and I don’t think we quite know what it’s going to look like (this year),” Kindrachuk said. “We know the situation in Winnipeg has not been good, but is that going to be the case in January and February?
“What we need to focus on is — if we want to be able to do these things safely we need to make the right decisions now to try and reduce transmission.”
Ottawa’s popular Rideau Canal Skateway, which is operated by the National Capital Commission, says it will also follow public health directives as it prepares to open in January, and skaters will be required to adhere to guidelines that will be posted along the trail.
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa who’s lived in the Canadian capital for 17 years, has seen how busy the canal can get at the height of the winter season.
But he’s not concerned with COVID spreading from person to person when they’re gliding past each other on canal’s lengthy ice surface — a six-metre wide track that winds 7.8 kilometres through the city.
“There’s a lot of space and a lot of movement, which is good; it means you’re not being exposed to the same people for prolonged periods,” he said. “And the ventilation is, of course, second to none.”
Crowding into one of the indoor spaces along the trail, such as a warming hut or public bathroom, isn’t advisable though, he added.
“So really it’s the stuff surrounding the skating that’s the concern, not the skating itself.”
Deonandan suggests putting on skates outside to avoid indoor locker areas that may be crowded. And he advises against huddling for warmth with people outside of your household while waiting your turn on an outdoor rink.
Masks should be worn in indoor environments to limit risk, Deonandan says. But wearing a face covering while skating isn’t necessary — “unless maybe you’re ice dancing with someone and you’re face-to-face,” he added.
Morris says skating with a mask likely won’t be a requirement at most rinks, but it won’t hurt to wear one anyway.
“Every measure increases the safety of an activity,” he said. “My guess is that if people are masked, it’s going to make everyone feel safer. And I think that’s part of the importance.”
As for Winnipeggers skating on the river trail this winter, MacKay says making masks mandatory likely won’t be necessary, but that could change based on public health directives.
“Right now things are changing so rapidly, but I mean, it’s Winnipeg in winter,” she said with a laugh. “You’re probably already wearing something over your face just to keep warm.”
Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Source:- Williams Lake Tribune
Sanofi-GSK report positive interim results for their COVID-19 shot
An experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline showed a robust immune response in early-stage clinical trial results, enabling them to move to a late-stage study, the French drugmaker said on Monday.
Sanofi and Britain’s GSK said a global Phase III trial would start in the coming weeks and involve more than 35,000 adults, with the hope of seeing the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year before a setback.
Sanofi and GSK last December were forced to restart their trial when the vaccine showed a low immune response in older adults as a result of a weak antigen formulation.
Sanofi and GSK shares were little changed in early trading.
“The Phase II interim results showed 95% to 100% seroconversion following a second injection in all age groups and across all doses, with acceptable tolerability and no safety concerns,” Sanofi said.
Seroconversion refers to the vaccine’s ability to prompt the body to produce antibodies against the coronavirus, as measured by blood readings. Later mass trials will be based on real infections.
“Interestingly, we also observed that our vaccine generated a higher antibody response in those with previous COVID-19 infection, we are analysing this further as it may suggest our vaccine could serve as a potential booster, regardless of what vaccine someone may have received (beforehand),” Su-Peing Ng, Sanofi’s global head of medical for vaccines, told reporters.
Ng said the vaccine had not been tested against so-called variants in the Phase II trial but that the Phase III study would be assessing it against various strains including a virus lineage known as B.1.351 first detected in South Africa.
But Sanofi, Ng said, has conducted parallel studies evaluating its vaccines against variants, with results expected to be published soon.
GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.
‘QUITE A POTENTIAL’
Some 162.75 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019, while economies have taken a hit and restrictions have turned daily life upside down.
The United States and Europe have embarked on mass vaccinations programmes in the past months, raising hopes of a gradual reopening, although the virus is still in circulation in many regions, with variants causing concern.
Last month, the European Union executive’s President Ursula von der Leyen said protein-based COVID-19 vaccines such as the one developed by Sanofi and GSK offered “quite a potential”, a positive signal as the bloc develops its purchasing strategy for the next two years.
Sanofi’s shot, however, even if approved, will come long after ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which have produced efficacy results of more than 90%.
So far, Sanofi has purchasing agreements with the United States, the EU, Britain and Canada, as well as with the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility.
The company has pledged to help other drugmakers this year, striking “fill and finish” deals for vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
In addition to its vaccine project in collaboration with GSK, Sanofi is working on a mRNA candidate with U.S. company Translate Bio for which it has started clinical trials.
(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; editing by Louise Heavens and Jason Neely)
Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 161.42 million, death toll at 3,488,751
More than 161.42 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 3,488,751 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/2FThSv7 in an external browser.
Eikon users can click for a case tracker.
The following table lists the top 50 countries by the number of reported cases. A complete list is available with the above links.
COUNTRIES AND TOTAL DEATHS CONFIRMED DEATHS PER
TERRITORIES CASES 10,000
United States 584,768 32,926,288 17.9
India 262,317 24,046,809 1.94
Brazil 430,417 15,433,989 20.55
France 107,423 5,848,154 16.04
Turkey 44,301 5,095,390 5.38
Russia 254,590 4,922,901 17.62
United Kingdom 127,668 4,446,824 19.21
Italy 123,927 4,146,722 20.51
Spain 79,339 3,604,799 16.95
Germany 85,903 3,579,871 10.36
Argentina 69,254 3,242,103 15.56
Colombia 79,760 3,067,879 16.06
Poland 71,311 2,849,014 18.78
Iran 76,433 2,732,152 9.34
Mexico 219,901 2,375,115 17.43
Ukraine 47,620 2,143,448 10.67
Peru 65,316 1,873,316 20.02
Indonesia 47,823 1,734,285 1.79
Czech Republic 29,857 1,651,178 28.09
South Africa 55,012 1,605,252 9.52
Netherlands 17,423 1,589,282 10.11
Canada 24,825 1,312,408 6.7
Chile 27,520 1,266,601 14.69
Iraq 15,910 1,134,859 4.14
Philippines 18,958 1,131,467 1.78
Romania 29,413 1,070,605 15.11
Sweden 14,275 1,037,126 14.03
Belgium 24,645 1,026,473 21.56
Pakistan 19,384 873,220 0.91
Portugal 16,999 841,379 16.53
Israel 6,379 839,076 7.18
Hungary 29,041 796,390 29.71
Bangladesh 12,102 779,535 0.75
Jordan 9,203 722,754 9.24
Serbia 6,646 705,185 9.52
Switzerland 10,179 679,510 11.96
Japan 11,396 673,821 0.9
Austria 10,455 635,780 11.83
United Arab Emirates 1,626 543,610 1.69
Lebanon 7,569 534,968 11.05
Morocco 9,091 514,670 2.52
Malaysia 1,822 462,190 0.58
Nepal 4,669 439,658 1.66
Saudi Arabia 7,134 431,432 2.12
Bulgaria 17,194 413,320 24.48
Ecuador 19,442 405,783 11.38
Slovakia 12,168 387,162 22.34
Greece 11,322 373,881 10.55
Belarus 2,681 373,351 2.83
Panama 6,288 369,455 15.05
Source: Reuters tally based on statements from health ministries and government officials
Generated at 10:00 GMT.
(Editing by David Clarke)
Canada plots course to fully vaccinated return to gatherings in fall
Canada on Friday said there would be a gradual return to a world with indoor sports and family gatherings as more people get vaccinated, but it did not go as far as the United States in telling people they could eventually ditch their masks.
Canada has administered one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to just over half its adult population, and the country may be over the worst of its current third wave of infections, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.
On Friday, Canada‘s public health agency offered guidelines to the 10 provinces, which are responsible for public health restrictions.
The agency says once 75% of Canadians have had a single dose and 20% are fully vaccinated, some restrictions can be relaxed to allow small, outdoor gatherings with family and friends, camping, and picnics.
Once 75% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in the fall, indoor sports and family gatherings can be allowed again.
“I think masks might be the last layer of that multi-layer protection that we’ll advise people to remove,” Tam told reporters, noting that in Canada colder temperatures meant people would start spending more time indoors in the fall.
“We are taking a bit of a different approach to the United States,” she added. While in most of Canada masks are not required outdoors, they are mandatory indoors.
Less than 4% of Canada‘s adult population has been fully vaccinated compared to more than 36% of Americans.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has promised that everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by September, this week spoke of a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall” without explaining what that might look like.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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