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Canada's first case of Brazilian virus strain detected – Medical Xpress

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Health authorities in Toronto announced Sunday that a resident had been diagnosed with the Brazilian variant of COVID-19, marking Canada’s first known case of the mutated virus.

The patient has been hospitalized, Toronto Public Health (TPH) said in a statement. He had recently traveled from Brazil.

TPH also said it had found the first case of the South African coronavirus variant in Canada’s largest city, though the strain had previously been detected elsewhere in the country.

“Scientists and are concerned that these variants are more transmissible than the original coronavirus,” TPH said.

The resident with the South African strain had no recent travel history and no known contact with any recently returned travelers, TPH added.

The Brazilian variant has been blamed for a disastrous surge in infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus.

It has already been spotted in Europe, as well as Colombia and the United States.

Toronto have now detected 27 confirmed “variant of concern” cases in the city of about 3 million people.

Canada, with a population of more than 38 million, has recorded more than 800,000 coronavirus cases and more than 20,000 deaths.


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The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 – Cochrane Today

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The latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada (all times eastern):

6:35 p.m.

British Columbia is reporting 589 new cases of COVID-19, along with seven deaths.

But the province cautions the numbers are considered provisional due to delayed updates in its lab reporting system.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a statement that the federal government’s approval of the vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Verity-Serum Institute of India is encouraging news.

More than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., with roughly 73,000 of those being second doses.

5:40 p.m.

Alberta has recorded 356 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. 

There were 269 people in hospital with the virus, including 55 in intensive care. 

The test positivity rate was 3.9 per cent.

Two doctors who co-chair the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s pandemic committee are urging the Alberta government to hold off on easing restrictions on Monday.

They also think restrictions should be tightened on bars, restaurants and pubs, which they say are overcrowded and not following existing rules.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says he still needs to see latest data, but so far there’s been nothing that warrants alarm.

4:30 p.m.

Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka will be in lockdown starting Monday based on COVID-19 trends.

Ontario announced the decision on Friday after local leaders in Thunder Bay called for help amid growing spread of the virus.

Public health restrictions will loosen in seven other Ontario public health units on Monday.

Data has shown COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dropped after strict public health measures took effect in January, but numbers are starting to rise again.

4:10 p.m.

Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says the case involves a woman in her 20s, adding that the infection does not appear to be directly linked to other cases announced this week.

She says health officials are still trying to determine the source of an outbreak of three cases in the Summerside area, about 60 kilometres west of Charlottetown.

Morrison says COVID-19 testing is being offered in the Summerside area for people between the ages of 14 and 21 on Saturday and for those between 22 and 29 on Sunday.

3:10 p.m.

Saskatchewan health officials announced 153 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths Friday. 

There were 155 people in hospital, with 16 in intensive care. 

The province says 3,545 vaccine doses were administered Thursday for a total of 69,451.

1:55 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting one new travel-related case of COVID-19 today involving a person in their 20s in the Moncton region.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says there are 41 active known cases in the province and that one person is in hospital with the disease, in intensive care.

She says if the number of new cases remains low, all areas of the province may be able to move from the “orange” to the lower, “yellow” pandemic-alert level on March 7.

Under the new rules, mask-wearing will still be required for indoor activities but not outdoor ones, and restrictions will be eased for entertainment centres, churches and sporting activities.

1:50 p.m.

Health officials in Manitoba say one more person has died due to COVID-19 and there are 64 more cases. 

The number of new infections has been steadily decreasing in Manitoba over recent weeks. 

There are 191 people in hospital due to the novel coronavirus. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccination task force, says there’s no indication yet about how much of the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine will come to the province. 

But she says 250 clinics and pharmacies are ready to provide doses when it arrives.

1:35 p.m.

Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

The new case is in Arviat, a community of about 2,800 and the only place in Nunavut with active cases.

Arviat, which continues to see an outbreak of the virus, has been in a strict lockdown for over 100 days.

All schools and non-essential businesses in the community are closed and travel is restricted.

There are 26 active cases in Nunavut, all in Arviat.

1:10 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador health authorities are reporting four new cases of COVID-19.

Officials say they are also battling the province’s first outbreak at a hospital.

Though Eastern Health officials will not provide exact numbers, they say fewer than 10 people are affected by an outbreak at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in St. John’s.

Public health says a wider outbreak in the St. John’s metro region is ongoing and there are now 11 people in hospital with the virus, including five in intensive care.

12:10 p.m.

Canada’s chief public health officer says the daily COVID-19 case counts are nearly 75 per cent higher than they were at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic last spring.

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

She says that as of Thursday evening, there have now been 858,217 COVID-19 cases in Canada, including 21,865 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tam warns that COVID-19 variants can still emerge and those that spread more quickly can become predominant.

12:05 p.m.

Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 today.

Nine of the new cases have been identified in the health region that includes Halifax, and one is in the eastern region.

Of the new cases, five are close contacts of previously reported cases, three are under investigation and two are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

12 p.m.

Ontario’s science advisers say prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations based on neighbourhood as well as age could prevent thousands of cases and reduce the number of deaths due to the pandemic.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table makes the findings in a new report released today.

The group says the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on older adults and residents of disadvantaged and racialized urban neighbourhoods. 

It says targeting those residents for vaccination first could minimize deaths, illness and hospitalizations across Ontario. 

11:50 a.m.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada has secured two million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine through a deal with Verity Pharmaceutical Canada Inc. and the Serum Institute of India.

She says 500,000 of those doses will be delivered in the coming weeks.

Another 1.5 million doses will arrive by mid-May.

This is on top of the 20 million doses already secured through an earlier deal with AstraZeneca.

Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in Canada earlier today.

11:25 a.m.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on the federal government to work to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines to give poorer countries greater access to doses.

Singh joined with former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis today to demand Ottawa support developing nations at an upcoming World Trade Organization meeting.

Those countries are asking for a patent waiver, which would allow them to produce generic versions of the vaccines.

Singh is also calling for the WTO to suspend its dispute resolution mechanism as it applies to poorer countries so that pharmaceutical companies cannot sue them over vaccine production.

(The Canadian Press)

11 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 815 new COVID-19 infections and 11 more deaths attributed to the virus.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 13, to 620, and 119 people were in intensive care, a drop of three.

Quebec has now vaccinated more than 400,500 people with a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine after administering 12,038 doses on Thursday.

10:40 a.m.

Ontario’s ministry of health says there are 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says that of those new cases 362 are in Toronto, 274 are in Peel Region and 104 are in York Region.

There were also 28 more deaths linked to the virus in Ontario since the last daily update.

8:30 a.m.

Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, the third to be given the green light for national use.

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June.

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

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version, based on information provided by Dr. Theresa Tam, erroneously stated that daily COVID-19 case counts are nearly 75 times higher now than they were at the peak of the first wave. In fact, Tam later clarified they are 75 per cent higher than at the peak of the first wave.

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Canada approves use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine – MENAFN.COM

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(MENAFN – IANS)

Ottawa, Feb 27 (IANS) Canada announced its approval of the use of the Covid-19 vaccine co-developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca on Friday, clearing the way for millions of more inoculations in the country.

“AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine is indicated for active immunisation of individuals 18 years of age and older for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019,” said Health Canada in its news release.

“The efficacy of the vaccine was estimated to be 62.1 per cent. Overall, there are no important safety concerns and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants,” it added.

Canada, which began to assess the submission from AstraZeneca and Oxford University for safety and efficacy since last October, has secured access to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine before July, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The approval follows that of Pfizer and Moderna, both of which also require two doses.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines based on mRNA technology, AstraZeneca uses more conventional viral vector technology.

One major advantage is in logistics. The shot can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures, unlike its leading mRNA-based competitors, which require ultra-cold storage.

Health Canada said it has no immediate safety concerns for those 65 and older.

France has restricted the vaccine to people under the age of 65 despite the World Health Organization’s insistence that the product is safe and effective for all age groups.

As of Friday morning, more than 1,729,203 doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines have been administered across Canada, according to Health Canada.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government was “very confident” that it would meet its end-of-September goal of vaccinating every Canadian who wants to be inoculated.

Canada has a population of nearly 38 million.

–IANS

int/rs

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Tanzania COVID U-turn ‘a good move’ – but is it good enough? – Al Jazeera English

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Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania – Esther Mngodo, like other Tanzanians, was relieved to hear this week government officials are finally urging people in the country to take precautions against the coronavirus – and even wear face masks.

“It is a good move,” said Mngodo, a 34-year-old resident of Dar-es-Salaam. “But much more needs to be done to increase public awareness, testing and treatment. Most importantly, we must have a clear strategy on how to navigate through these unprecedented times.”

In a surprise change in the official stance on coronavirus, President John Magufuli on Sunday said the government had not forbidden the wearing of masks and encouraged those who wanted to do so.

However, he warned against what he claimed were faulty face coverings on sale in the country, suggesting that high coronavirus-related death rates worldwide could be linked to the uptake of such products and claiming those in Tanzania’s rural areas were less likely to fall victim to the virus because they tended not to wear them.

“The government has not forbidden mask-wearing. But we have to be careful about which masks we wear. We will perish. Don’t think we’re loved so much. Economic war is bad,” Magufuli told a congregation at a church service in Dar-es-Salaam.

“These masks which we buy in the shops- we’re killing ourselves,” he argued, before advising Tanzanians to either to make the masks themselves or use those produced locally.

[embedded content]

Magufuli has long downplayed the severity of COVID-19, urging Tanzanians to pray, use steam inhalation and embrace local remedies to protect themselves from the respiratory disease. Tanzania stopped releasing infection numbers in April 2020, weeks before Magufuli declared the country coronavirus-free in June through divine intervention.

For Mngodo, the recent U-turn could be a result of what seems to be a deadly resurgence of infection, which has swept across the country over the past few months.

“It appears that the extent of the problem has reached to a point where the government cannot deny the severity of the problem,” said Mngodo, a media consultant.

Announcements of deaths often attributed to “the current pneumonia” or “breathing problems” have flooded social media.

Among the deceased are a number of high-profile individuals, including several university professors, a former governor of the central bank, the country’s chief secretary and Zanzibar’s first vice president, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad.

Of them, Hamad was the only person confirmed to have been infected by the novel coronavirus, as he texted his COVID-19 test results to the media. As for the others, the public has been left to speculate about the causes of their deaths, at a time when the world is stilling battling the coronavirus pandemic and many common Tanzanians have been touched by the effects of it.

These circumstances have led religious leaders and other critics, particularly on social media, to put pressure on the government to provide clear and consistent guidelines on fighting the pandemic, while also urging individuals to take precautions.

A Tanzanian medical doctor based in the United States, Frank Minja, said the change of mind is welcomed, if long overdue, and could present an opportunity. “We want to encourage [the president] to move faster in implementing what we know to be effective and implement it right away,” he said.

“I don’t want to say it’s too late, because if we say too late then it means we might as well not do anything. And because, by its nature, the pandemic attacks in waves, it is never too late to start doing the right thing,” added Minja, who has been campaigning on social media to raise awareness about the coronavirus.

Dorothy Semu, acting chairperson of the opposition ACT Wazalendo party, criticised Magufuli, saying the measures implemented when the virus first entered the country – including physical distancing and cancellation of large events – should have been kept in place.

“I am a politician but I am also a believer in science,” Semu said. “As leaders responsible for people’s lives it is important that we make our decisions based on facts. It’s like when HIV/AIDS was discovered; some people denied its presence and many lives were lost. So, I expected the president, who is also a scientist, to have continued with the past measures and we would have saved many lives.”

Magufuli in June declared Tanzania ‘coronavirus-free’, thanks to the prayers of its citizens [File: AP Photo]

The new stance by Magufuli – a former teacher and industrial chemist – on mask-wearing seems to have also prompted many other public offices and officials to suddenly come forward and warn people of the dangers of coronavirus and measures individuals should take to protect themselves from the virus.

For instance, the agency which runs Dar-es-Salaam’s rapid transport buses on Monday said passengers would not be allowed to board if not wearing a mask.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, headed by Dorothy Gwajima who has previously advocated steam inhalation and a vegetable smoothie to treat COVID-19, earlier this week issued a statement warning people against the virus and appealing to them to take precautions.

However, it insisted that it would not be recommending lockdown measures.

“As said by the president, we won last year and the economy continued to grow until we achieved middle-income economy status, and Coronavirus still existed,” said the ministry’s statement.

“We did not set lockdowns, and even now, we will not impose lockdowns because God is on our side.”

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