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Canada ‘actively monitoring’ new coronavirus variants – Global News

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There is still no evidence that the new, more contagious variants of COVID-19 found in the United Kingdom and South Africa are in Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada has said.

In a statement on Thursday, the country’s health agency said it was conducting an analysis of Canada’s coronavirus cases and so far, the fresh strain had not been identified over 25,000 virus samples.

This comes as another variant of the novel coronavirus was also identified in Nigeria on Thursday, the head of Africa’s disease control body said, mounting fresh concerns about the mutations.

Read more:
Canada could see ‘grotesque’ spike in coronavirus cases after holidays, expert says

Mutations, which are small changes in the genetic material of the virus, are common during outbreaks.

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“While early data suggest that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe disease symptoms or have any impact on antibody response,” PHAC said, adding that more research was needed.

The new variant, first reported in the U.K. on Dec. 14, has led to a slew of countries, including Canada, France, Germany and Italy, to enact travel bans in an effort to quell the spread of the virus. Canada will continue to suspend all incoming flights from the U.K. until Jan. 6, 2021.


Click to play video 'New data suggests Canada should not reserve COVID-19 vaccine doses'



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New data suggests Canada should not reserve COVID-19 vaccine doses


New data suggests Canada should not reserve COVID-19 vaccine doses

Canadian health authorities are also advising extra caution to Canadians travelling to the U.K. or South Africa.

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“We continue to advise against non-essential travel to other countries and are advising extra caution if you must travel to the United Kingdom or South Africa,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said.

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In a press conference on Wednesday, Tam said the new strain will likely eventually make its way to Canada, however, there are several variables that are helping slow it down.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that this variant is in many different countries,” she said Tuesday, adding that “it may become one of the more common strains.”

Meanwhile, the developments have also raised questions about whether the newly approved coronavirus vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will protect people against the new strains.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Heath Canada official says Moderna vaccine believed to be effective against new U.K. variant'



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Coronavirus: Heath Canada official says Moderna vaccine believed to be effective against new U.K. variant


Coronavirus: Heath Canada official says Moderna vaccine believed to be effective against new U.K. variant

While not impossible, mutations affecting the efficacy of vaccines is doubtful, according to Levon Abrahamyan, a virologist at the University of Montreal.

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The first doses of Moderna’s vaccine arrived in Canada on Thursday, with the rollout set to begin next week.

While Tam said she was hopeful, with the approval of a second COVID-19 vaccine for use in Canada, she called on Canadians to continue following public health recommendations.

“It is important to remember, however, that initial vaccine supplies will remain limited as vaccine rollout continues in Canada and we must not forget that infection rates remain very high in many parts of the country,” Tam said.

The country has been gripped by a second wave of the pandemic.

In Quebec, a provincewide lockdown went into effect on Friday, with businesses deemed non-essential ordered to remain closed until at least Jan. 11. Similar restrictions come into effect in Ontario on Saturday.

Read more:
Should provinces reserve COVID-19 vaccine 2nd doses or administer them all right away?

While some provinces, including Quebec and Ontario, have said they don’t plan to release new data on the spread of COVID-19 on Christmas, New Brunswick reported a single new infection Friday.

All other provinces as well as all the territories announced that they were not going to report new data until either after Christmas or Boxing Day.

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As of Thursday, federal public health authorities said there were more than 75,000 active cases of COVID-19 across Canada and that an average of 3,392 people with COVID-19 were in hospitals across the country during the seven-day period ending Dec. 23.

An average of 114 deaths associated with the virus were reported each day during that same period.

— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Rachel Gilmore

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Teamsters votes to fund and support Amazon workers

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union in the United States and Canada, said on Thursday it has voted to formalize a resolution to support and fund employees of Amazon.com Inc in their unionization efforts.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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Citigroup names new sales head for Treasury and Trade Solutions unit

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Citigroup Inc has named Steve Elms as the new sales head for the bank’s Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) unit effective immediately, according to an internal memo shared by a company spokesperson.

Elms, who will oversee the management of the global sales teams, has been involved with the bank’s TTS division for over 10 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

TTS is a division of the bank’s Institutional Clients group. The segment offers cash management and trade services and finance to multinational corporations, financial institutions and public sector organizations around the world.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and David Henry in New York; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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Indigenous group finds 751 unmarked graves at former residential school in Saskatchewan

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An indigenous group in Canada’s Saskatchewan province on Thursday said it had found the unmarked graves of 751 people at a now-defunct Catholic residential school, just weeks after a similar discovery rocked the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “terribly saddened” by the new discovery at Marieval Indian Residential School about 87 miles (140 km) from the provincial capital Regina.

He told indigenous people that “the hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada’s responsibility to bear.”

It is not clear how many of the remains detected belong to children, Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme told reporters.

He said the church that ran the school removed the headstones.

“We didn’t remove the headstones. Removing headstones is a crime in this country. We are treating this like a crime scene,” he said.

The residential school system, which operated between 1831 and 1996, removed about 150,000 indigenous children from their families and brought them to Christian residential schools run on behalf of the federal government.

“Canada will be known as a nation who tried to exterminate the First Nations. Now we have evidence,” said Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

“This is just the beginning.”

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which published a report that found the country’s residential school system amounted to cultural genocide, has said a cemetery was left on the Marieval site after the school building was demolished.

Cowessess First Nation has been in touch with the local Catholic archdiocese and Delorme said he is optimistic they will provide records allowing them to identify the remains.

“We have full faith that the Roman Catholic Church will release our records. They haven’t told us ‘No.’ We just don’t have them yet.”

The Cowessess First Nation began a ground-penetrating radar search on June 2, after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia outraged the country.

The Kamloops discovery reopened old wounds in Canada about the lack of information and accountability around the residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families and subjected them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse.

Pope Francis said in early June that he was pained by the Kamloops revelation and called for respect for the rights and cultures of native peoples. But he stopped short of the direct apology some Canadians had demanded.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto and Moira Warburton in VancouverEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)

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