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Canada announces partnership with India-based company to secure more AstraZeneca jabs – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press


Published Friday, February 26, 2021 12:31PM EST

Canada’s vaccine rollout received a boost Friday with the approval of a third COVID-19 inoculation, giving the country another immunization option at a time when case counts remain nearly 75 per cent higher than they were at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.

Health Canada approved a vaccine from AstraZeneca, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said jabs will keep arriving “faster and faster as we head into the spring.”

While numbers of cases and hospitalizations have dropped from all-time highs just weeks ago, variants of concern are rising in parts of the country.

Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam said nationally there are 964 reported cases of the variant first detected in the U.K., up from 429 reported two weeks ago. There were also 44 cases of the variant first discovered in South Africa, and two cases of the version first found in Brazil.

“The risk of rapid re-acceleration remains,” Tam said. “At the same time new variants continue to emerge … and can become predominant.”

Tam added that average daily case counts in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have increased between eight and 14 per cent over the previous week.

Thunder Bay, Ont., will move into lockdown on Monday after community leaders called for government action following a recent spread of COVID in the city. Outbreaks have been declared there at correctional facilities, among the homeless population and at a number of local schools.

Ontario’s Simcoe Muskoka region will also go into lockdown next week after a spike in infections, but restrictions will loosen in seven other areas in the province.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said the country’s vaccine rollout will be just one method in slowing the spread of new variants and avoiding a third wave.

He said public health measures aimed at halting transmission such as physical distancing and limiting contacts remain important, adding that jurisdictions that have recently reopened need to keep a keen eye on transmission rates.

“Certainly if there’s any indication that the case rates and … the emergence of variants are increasing, we would need to adjust as appropriate,” he said. “But the vaccinations, and certainly the introduction of more vaccines coming to Canada is very, very good news.”

Experts advising the Ontario government said this week more contagious variants of COVID-19 are expected to make up 40 per cent of cases by the second week of March.

Ontario reported 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 more deaths linked to the virus on Friday, with 362 of them in Toronto, 274 in Peel Region and 104 in York Region.

Parts of Atlantic Canada have also seen rising case counts. Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases of COVID-19 while Nova Scotia added 10 more to its tally.

Of the new Nova Scotia cases, the province says two are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

Prince Edward Island, which reported an outbreak of three cases earlier this week, had one more new case Friday that does not appear to be directly linked to the others.

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 815 new COVID-19 infections and 11 more deaths. Health officials in the province said hospitalizations have dropped by 13, to 620, while intensive care also decreased by three to 119.

Saskatchewan health officials announced 153 new cases and no new deaths, while in Manitoba there were 64 new infections and one additional death.

In Alberta, with 356 new infections and three more deaths, doctors with the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s pandemic committee urged the province to hold off on possibly easing more restrictions next week. They said they are concerned that new daily active cases have stopped decreasing and the number of new infections that result from each case is growing.

As of Thursday evening, federal data showed there have been 858,217 COVID-19 cases in Canada, including 21,865 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.

While Tam warned that COVID-19 variants can spread more quickly and easily become dominant, progress on the vaccine front is a source of optimism, she noted.

“To date, over 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across Canada. And there are early indications of high vaccine efficacy.”

Trudeau also announced on Friday a partnership with Mississauga, Ont.’s Verity Pharmaceuticals and the Serum Institute of India that will deliver two million more doses of the AstraZeneca jab – in addition to the 20 million doses Canada already secured with AstraZeneca.

Trudeau said as vaccinations ramp up across the country, many provinces have expanded the number of health professions able to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, and he asked dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians and retired nurses to lend a hand in the rollout.

“Job 1 remains beating this pandemic,” Trudeau said, adding the federal government will continue to send rapid tests to provinces in hopes of getting more Canadians tested.

“We still have to be very careful, especially with new variants out there. We all want to start the spring in the best shape possible.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

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Man with 39 wive dies in India

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A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in north east India, the chief minister of his home state said.

Ziona Chana, the head of a local Christian sect that allows polygamy, died on Sunday, Zoramthanga, the chief minister of Mizoram and who goes by one name, said in a tweet.

With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Ziona has 33.

Winston Blackmore, the head of a polygamous Mormon sect in Canada, has around 150 children from 27 wives – 178 people in total.

Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-story pink structure with around 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.

The sect, named “Chana”, was founded by Ziona’s father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families. Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year.

They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.

Despite his family’s huge size, Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.

“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.

“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”

 

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Adnan Abidi in New Delhi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Huawei CFO seeks publication ban on HSBC documents in U.S. extradition case

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Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Monday will seek to bar publication of documents her legal team received from HSBC, a request opposed by Canadian prosecutors in her U.S. extradition case who say it violates the principles of open court.

Meng’s legal team will present arguments in support of the ban in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States, where she faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran and potentially causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions on business in Iran.

She has been under house arrest in Vancouver for more than two years and fighting her extradition to the United States. Meng has said she is innocent.

Lawyers for Huawei and HSBC in Hong Kong agreed to a release of the documents in April to Meng’s legal team on the condition that they “use reasonable effort” to keep confidential information concealed from the public, according to submissions filed by the defense on Friday.

Prosecutors representing the Canadian government argued against the ban, saying in submissions filed the same day that “to be consistent with the open court principle, a ban must be tailored” and details should be selectively redacted from the public, rather than the whole documents.

A consortium of media outlets, including Reuters News, also opposes the ban.

The open court principle requires that court proceedings be open and accessible to the public and to the media.

It is unclear what documents Huawei obtained from HSBC, but defense lawyers argue they are relevant to Meng’s case.

Meng’s hearing was initially set to wrap up in May but Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes granted an extension to allow the defense to read through the new documents.

Hearings in the extradition case are scheduled to finish in late August.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Howard Goller)

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NATO takes tough line on China at first summit with Biden

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NATO leaders designated China as presenting “systemic challenges” in a summit communique on Monday, taking a forceful stance towards Beijing at Joe Biden‘s first summit with an alliance that Donald Trump openly disparaged and ridiculed.

The new U.S. president has urged his fellow NATO leaders to stand up to China’s authoritarianism and growing military might, a change of focus for an alliance created to defend Europe from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The language in the summit’s final communique, which will now set the path for alliance policy, comes a day after the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations issued a statement on human rights in China and Taiwan that Beijing said slandered its reputation.

“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” NATO leaders said in a communique after their summit.

Biden also told European allies the alliance’s mutual defence pact was a “sacred obligation” for the United States – a marked shift in tone from his predecessor Trump, who had threatened to withdraw from the alliance and accused Europeans of contributing too little to their own defence.

“I want all Europe to know that the United States is there,” said Biden. “NATO is critically important to us.”

BALANCING THREAT

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, at her last summit of the alliance before she steps down in September, described Biden’s arrival as the opening of a new chapter. She also said it was important to deal with China as a potential threat, while keeping it in perspective.

“If you look at the cyber threats and the hybrid threats, if you look at the cooperation between Russia and China, you cannot simply ignore China,” Merkel told reporters. “But one must not overrate it, either – we need to find the right balance.”

Biden said both Russia and China were not acting “in a way that is consistent with what we had hoped”.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said China’s growing military presence from the Baltics to Africa meant nuclear-armed NATO had to be prepared.

“China is coming closer to us. We see them in cyberspace, we see China in Africa, but we also see China investing heavily in our own critical infrastructure,” he said, a reference to ports and telecoms networks. “We need to respond together as an alliance.”

Stoltenberg also said the leaders had agreed to increase their contributions to the alliance’s small common budget. The vast bulk of military spending in NATO is handled separately by member countries.

G7 nations meeting in Britain over the weekend scolded China over human rights in its Xinjiang region, called for Hong Kong to keep a high degree of autonomy and demanded a full investigation of the origins of the coronavirus in China.

China’s embassy in London said it was resolutely opposed to mentions of Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which it said distorted the facts and exposed the “sinister intentions of a few countries such as the United States”.

“China’s reputation must not be slandered,” the embassy said on Monday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arriving at the summit, said there were both risks and rewards with Beijing.

“I don’t think anybody around the table wants to descend into a new Cold War with China,” he said.

DEEP ECONOMIC TIES

From China’s investments in European ports and plans to set up military bases in Africa to joint military exercises with Russia, NATO is now agreed that Beijing’s rise deserves a strong response, although envoys said that would be multi-faceted.

Allies are mindful of their economic links with China. Total German trade with China in 2020 was more than 212 billion euros ($257 billion), according to German government data. Total Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasuries as of March 2021 stood at $1.1 trillion, according to U.S. data, and total U.S. trade with China in 2020 was $559 billion.

Biden will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said that Russia was trying to “swallow” Belarus and that NATO needed to be united in deterring Moscow. Nauseda also said the Baltic nations would push for more U.S. forces in their region to deter Russia.

($1 = 0.8255 euros)

(Additional reporting by Mark John, Sarah Young and Elizabeth Piper in London, Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, and Kate Abnett, Gabriela Baczynska, Marine Strauss and John Chalmers in Brussels; Editing by Catherine Evans, Peter Graff, Bernadette Baum and Alex Richardson)

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