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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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Canadians leaving big cities at record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas. 

Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent. 

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city. 

“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.

Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties. 

This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical. 

“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.

Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.

And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions. 

Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.

“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue. 

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Canadians leaving big cities at record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News

Published

 on


TORONTO —
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas. 

Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent. 

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city. 

“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.

Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties. 

This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical. 

“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.

Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.

And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions. 

Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.

“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue. 

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Canada surpasses 700000 confirmed COVID-19 cases – CTV News

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Canada’s procurement minister urged drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to get the country’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule back on track as soon as possible as cases of the novel coronavirus surged past the 700,000 mark on Saturday.

The country hit the milestone less than two weeks after recording 600,000 cases of the virus on Jan. 3 — a feat that took months during the pandemic’s first wave.

Seven provinces recorded 6,479 cases on Saturday, pushing the national tally over 702,000.

Nationwide inoculation efforts had resulted in more than half a million residents receiving a vaccine dose as of Friday night, though the pace of immunizations is set to decrease as Pfizer-BioNTech upgrades its production facilities in Europe.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision to delay international vaccine shipments for four weeks during the upgrades.

“We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said on Twitter Saturday. “Pfizer assured us that it is deploying all efforts to do just that.”

She noted that shipments for the upcoming week will be largely unaffected, and said Ottawa will provide updates as they become available.

Ontario became the latest province to adjust its vaccination rollout plans in light of Pfizer’s announcement.

Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued a statement on Saturday saying officials do not yet know the full impact the delay will have on Ontario’s immunization strategy.

“We understand that this change in supply could see deliveries reduced by at least half for Canada in the coming weeks,” Williams said in a statement Saturday.

“We will assess and take appropriate action to ensure we can continue providing our most vulnerable with vaccines.”

In Ontario, long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine will get their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week beyond what was originally planned.

But that time frame will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday the reduced shipments mean that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the vaccine expected by Feb. 8 won’t be delivered on schedule.

Officials are establishing a new distribution plan, but the Quebec Health Department said it still intends to immunize as many people as possible within priority groups, with a delay of up to 90 days for the second dose.

Officials in Saskatchewan said COVID-19 vaccinations will continue as doses are received, with Premier Scott Moe telling reporters Friday that the province’s strategy for the two-dose regime depends on steady shipments.

Canada’s top doctor continued her push for strict adherance to public health guidelines as Saturday’s case count inched closer to levels forecasted in bleak federal projections released earlier in the week. Modeling released on Thursday indicated Canada could see 10,000 daily cases by the end of January if current infection rates continue.

“If we ease measures too soon, the epidemic will resurge even stronger,” Dr. Theresa Tam said in a tweet. “This is double-down time!!”

Tam said Hospitalizations and deaths across the country, which tend to lag one to several weeks behind a spike in cases, are still on the rise.

Canada averaged 4,705 hospitalizations across the country with 875 patients requiring intensive care treatment For the seven-day period ending Jan. 14.

During the same period, an average of 137 deaths were reported daily.

Ontario topped 3,000 cases in a 24-hour period once again on Saturday and added another 51 deaths linked to the virus.

In Quebec, 2,225 new infections were reported along with 67 deaths attributed to the virus, pushing the province over the 9,000 death mark since the beginning of the pandemic.

New Brunswick continued to report the highest daily COVID-19 case counts in Atlantic Canada, with 27 new diagnoses reported Saturday. Nova Scotia, by contrast, reported just four.

Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two further deaths on Saturday. Alberta logged 717 new infections, while Manitoba reported 180.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

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