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Canada reports first cases of U.K. coronavirus variant. Here’s what you need to know – Global News

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The discovery of a new, possibly more contagious variant of COVID-19 in Canada calls for more stringent lockdowns, curbs to international travel and a need to vaccinate people faster, experts say.

On Saturday, the country’s largest province of Ontario reported the first two cases of the coronavirus strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom and has since spread to Australia, Japan and several European countries.

Read more:
Ontario confirms Canada’s 1st known cases of U.K. coronavirus variant

Provincial officials said the cases involved a couple from Durham Region with no known travel history, but had been in contact with a recent traveller from the U.K. A third case, an individual who had recently travelled from the U.K., was found in Ottawa on Sunday, a provincial health official confirmed to Global News. All three are now in self-isolation.

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“Not heeding the advice of some experts to seriously curtail international travel is now demonstrably a mistake,” Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, told Global News.

“Nationally, we would do well to speed up vaccination and curtail international travel,” he said.


Click to play video 'What we know about the new strain of coronavirus'



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What we know about the new strain of coronavirus


What we know about the new strain of coronavirus

Canada suspended flights from the U.K. on Dec. 20 for 72 hours due to concerns over the new variant and has since extended the suspension until Jan. 6, 2021.

Travellers are now asked “additional health screening questions” to see if they had visited a country that has reported the variant, according to Health Canada.

All travellers arriving in Canada are required to quarantine for 14 days.

What is the new variant?

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

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The U.K. variant was first announced by the British government on Dec. 14.

Read more:
Masks, handwashing and distancing remain key amid new U.K. coronavirus variant, doctors say

The strain, referred to by some experts as the B.1.1.7 lineage, is not the first new variant of COVID-19, but it has rapidly become the dominant strain in cases of COVID-19 in many parts of U.K. To date, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness.

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But the variant is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant strain in the U.K and its cases has been found in several European countries, including France, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

In recent weeks, at least two other variants have also been identified in South Africa and Nigeria.


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Travellers arriving from UK encouraged to immediately be tested for COVID-19


Travellers arriving from UK encouraged to immediately be tested for COVID-19

Dr. Zain Chagla, medical director of infection control with St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said the new variants are similar to the current strain by “over 99 per cent” and there may also be other variants emerging in different countries that have not been detected due a lack of aggressive sequencing.

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In a statement on Saturday, Health Canada said Canadian and global medical communities are actively evaluating the mutations.

“As the monitoring continues, it is expected that other cases of this variant and other variants of concern may be found in Canada,” the agency said.

Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of infectious diseases division at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said the SARS-CoV-2 virus is mutating fairly slowly and the frequency of new strains arising is “not excessive” at the moment

“It’s just that the sheer number of infected humans is so large that we are seeing mutations developing simply from the extraordinary frequency of viral replication globally,” he told Global News.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Trudeau extends travel ban on U.K. for two weeks amid discovery of new COVID-19 variant'



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Coronavirus: Trudeau extends travel ban on U.K. for two weeks amid discovery of new COVID-19 variant


Coronavirus: Trudeau extends travel ban on U.K. for two weeks amid discovery of new COVID-19 variant

Ontario went into a province-wide lockdown earlier on Saturday, coinciding with Boxing Day, in an effort to curb the spread of the rising number of cases and hospitalizations.

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Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, said the new variant “further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible.”

In light of recent developments, experts are urging people across the country not to panic and to continue adhering to public health measures.

“We’re in fairly strict restrictions and the same ones apply to preventing the B.1.1.7 variant — masking when indoors, testing with any symptoms, distancing, and staying home as much as possible,” Chagla said.

What does this mean for the vaccines?

Canada has so far approved two coronavirus vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The country began its nationwide vaccine rollout earlier this month, with up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and 168,000 from Moderna expected by the end of the year.

Read more:
‘No need to panic’: COVID-19 mutations unlikely to impact vaccine, experts say

Experts and health officials say there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccines will not be effective against the new variants.

“So far, early preliminary studies, not yet published, show that immunity induced by the current vaccine produces neutralizing antibodies that are effective against variants with the N501Y mutation,” Evans said.

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“We will need further studies to corroborate these findings along with other mutations that have been documented.”

Chagla agreed. “Most indications are that the vaccines are spared,” he said.

“Both Pfizer and Moderna will confirm this in the coming weeks.”


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

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

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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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