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China to declare virus victory with unveiling of vaccines – Asia Times

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Three Chinese-made vaccines purported to be safe and effective against Covid-19 have made their debut at a local trade fair, the first to be held for domestic and overseas traders in Beijing since the epidemic first erupted in the country in late December. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping will preside over an honor and award ceremony expected to formally unveil the vaccines at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday (September 8) morning.

The leader is expected to proclaim China’s victory against the virus at the event and commend scientists and researchers who have worked on vaccines, including the nation’s top pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Major General Chen Wei, who has led the military’s research.

The nation has gone 50 days without any local infections, although there has been a rise in imported cases. 

China National Biotech Group, a subsidiary of the state-owned conglomerate China National Pharmaceutical Group Co, Ltd. (SinoPharm) and the Nasdaq-listed Sinovac Biotech Ltd are showcasing at the China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing their respective vaccines, both of which are nearing the end of their final, third-stage clinical trials.

Both are reportedly still pending regulatory approval for mass production. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing on February 10, 2020. Photo: Liu Bin / Xinhua via AFP / Getty

Xinhua and China News Service quoted the two drugmakers as saying that the three vaccines would be ready to hit the market by year’s end and annual production could be ratcheted up to 600 million doses, enough to inoculate roughly half of China’s population. 

SinoPharm’s Senior Vice-President for Sales Luo Linyun told reporters that one of the two vaccine candidates would be manufactured in Wuhan, the initial ground zero of the disease before it spread worldwide. 

For the final human trials, SinoPharm has recruited 50,000 participants and recovered patients from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Peru, Morocco and Argentina, among other locales, Luo said.

The trial has been purposefully conducted across a wide spectrum of races with possible exposure to different virus strains to ascertain the two vaccines’ safety and efficacy. Luo added that since the coronavirus had been largely “vanquished” in China, most of the trials have been conducted overseas in countries still grappling with Covid-19 outbreaks.     

He also confirmed previous media reports that Beijing has given “emergency jabs” to immigration officers and medical and essential workers since July to protect high-risk personnel. Their experiences have been monitored as part of third-stage human trials. 

SinoPharm’s two vaccines are reputedly effective against strains linked to June’s outbreak in Beijing, which hit a food wholesale market in the city, as well as infections reported in July in Urumqi, the capital of China’s far-west Xinjiang region. 

The two vaccines from SinoPharm made their high-profile debut at a trade fair being held in Beijing. Photos: Handout

Sinovac said that the final human trial for its vaccine is being conducted in Brazil and Indonesia, with an eye towards a year-end launch for the treatment. The Beijing-based drugmaker said the serum of its vaccine could neutralize over 20 strains of the virus, including those detected in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

The company claims it is not affiliated with any state-led program to develop a vaccine.

The Chinese military is also working to develop a vaccine, with human trials being conducted by a team from the PLA’s Military Sciences Academy. 

CanSinoBio, a Tianjin-based private pharmaceutical firm that has partnered with the PLA in the joint endeavor, has said that some Chinese troops had been vaccinated as early as June. 

Questions are already rising over how Beijing will allocate its vaccines if proven safe and effective. China has already pledged vaccine donations to a dozen or so countries across Southeast Asia and Africa as well as to Hong Kong and Macau. 

Hong Kong’s government confirmed on Sunday that it had already secured vaccine doses from the West and mainland China that would be equivalent to one-third of its 7.5 million population, with shipments and universal injections expected at the earliest by the end of the year. 

So far, Beijing has not made any guarantees about mass vaccination of the local population, despite state media ballyhooing the supposed progress in development, trial and scheduled production of the treatment. 

Read more:

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world’s first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

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GTA casinos opening Monday while COVID-19 case numbers rise – 680 News

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With new COVID-19 cases still soaring across the province and beyond, some gamblers are getting set to hit the casino floor Monday for the first time in six months.

As of 10 o’clock, most major GTA casinos will be open again, including Casino Woodbine, Great Blue Heron, and Casino Ajax.

There will be screening at the door, sanitizer stations throughout, and just 50 players allowed in at a time.

You also have to book online in advance, and spots are filling up fast.

All possible time slots are full for the next four days at Casino Woodbine.

Table games will be off limits, and play sessions will be capped at two hours.

Ontario reported 491 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday up against more than 42,000 tests.

That is the highest daily increase reported since early May.

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Chinese stocks underpin Asia; markets wary of virus spike, U.S. presidential debate – Reuters

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Chinese stocks drove Asian markets higher on Monday, though sentiment was still cautious ahead of a U.S. Presidential debate and as a spike in new coronavirus cases undermined global economic recovery hopes.

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective masks, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, are reflected on a screen showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File photo

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.5% to 550.47, but still within striking distance of a two-month low of 543.66 hit last week.

The index is set to end the month deep in the red after three straight monthly gains as the pandemic continues to wreak economic havoc around the world and raises investor anxiety about sky-high valuations.

Chinese shares opened higher and helped to underpin Asian markets after a tentative start, with the blue-chip CSI 300 index up 0.85%. Shanghai’s SSE climbed 0.5%.

Encouragingly, data over the weekend showed profits at China’s industrial firms grew for the fourth straight month in August buoyed in part by a rebound in commodities prices and equipment manufacturing.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei was 0.75% higher, partly on a lower yen, while South Korea’s KOSPI index gained 1.1%.

Australia’s main share index reversed early losses to edge up, led by positive news on the coronavirus front with new infections in the country’s second-most populous state of Victoria down sharply and allowing authorities to ease some of the mobility restrictions.

The broad gains in Asia follow a Wall Street rally on Friday though analysts expect the gains to be short-lived as expectations for economic growth start to falter.

Particularly worrying is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Europe, dousing earlier hopes that authorities might have started to exert some control on the outbreak and raising further strains on businesses already grappling with losses.

“Clouds have started to gather over the developed world as political uncertainty increases in the U.S. and Europe grapples with a resurgence in COVID-19 cases,” Kerry Craig, Global Market Strategist, J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

COVID-19 cases are edging closer to 33 million around the globe with 992,470 reportedly dead with Europe seeing a surge in new infections.

“While governments are loathe to re-introduce nationwide lockdowns, localised and sector based restrictions may last for some time, restraining economic activity,” Craig added.

Investor focus will next be on the first debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden on Tuesday ahead of the November election.

A strong performance in Tuesday’s debate by Biden, who currently has a modest lead in betting odds and polls, might boost stocks related to global trade and renewable energy, while a perceived victory by Trump could benefit fossil fuel and defense companies.

Market focus will also be on progress on a new fiscal support package in the United States while investors will be closely watching UK-Europe post-Brexit trade talks as they continue this week.

In currencies, the dollar eased from a near a two-week high against the Japanese yen to 105.44.

The euro was last at $1.1628, not far from a two-month trough of $.1611 touched on Friday.

The British pound rose 0.1% to $1.2760.

The risk sensitive Australian dollar was slightly firmer at $0.7052 after falling for six consecutive sessions as odds narrowed over the prospect of further monetary policy easing in the country.

In commodities, oil prices came under pressure as renewed mobility curbs in various countries to contain a resurgence of coronavirus cases cloud the outlook on fuel demand recovery.

U.S. Brent crude slipped 18 cents to $41.74 a barrel while U.S. light crude was down 19 cents at $40.06.

Gold was a shade higher at $1,861.8, still some way off an all-time peak of above $2,000 an ounce touched in August.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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Amazon to hire 3500 workers in B.C. and Ont., expand their office footprint – CTV News

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Amazon.com Inc. will hire 3,500 Canadians to work in spaces it is opening and expanding in British Columbia and Ontario.

The e-commerce giant revealed Monday that 3,000 of the jobs will be in Vancouver, where it is growing its footprint, and another 500 will be in Toronto, home of a new Amazon workspace.

Jesse Dougherty, Amazon’s vice-president and Vancouver site lead, said the company wanted to offer the jobs in Canada because the country has an “enormous” amount of tech talent Amazon is eager to tap into and accommodate at home.

“I look at it through the lens of how can we grow so that people don’t have to leave Canada to learn and take on amazing global challenges that are of a scale that aren’t typically available here?” he said.

The new corporate and tech jobs will include software development engineers, user experience designers, speech scientists working to make Alexa smarter, cloud computing solutions architects, and sales and marketing executives.

The bulk of the jobs will be done out of the Post, a Vancouver building where Amazon will take over an extra 63,000 square metres of office space. By 2023 it will be operating across 18 floors it is leasing in the building’s north tower and 17 in its south tower.

Vancouver has long been seen as an attractive Canadian outpost for companies because of its proximity to the U.S. and major tech hubs including Silicon Valley and Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.

The company will also welcome new workers in Toronto, where it will lease 12,000 square metres over five floors at an 18 York St. building that is not far from investors on Bay Street. It hopes workers will be in the building next summer.

Amazon’s renewed interest in its corporate and tech workforce and footprint in the country comes after focusing the bulk of its efforts in the market on its network of 16 fulfilment centres — 13 already in operation and another three coming in Hamilton, Ajax and Ottawa, Ont.

Those centres have faced homegrown competition from Shopify Inc., an Ottawa-based e-commerce business that has shot up the Toronto Stock Exchange to hold the title of country’s most valuable company several times this year.

While it was long known for providing the back-end for companies to sell goods online, Shopify launched its own fulfilment network in 2019 and bulked up its presence in Vancouver with 1,000 hires and a new office earlier this year.

Dougherty doesn’t appear to be nervous about Shopify.

“Amazon works in lots and lots of different businesses and all of them are highly competitive and we welcome that because it inevitably creates better experiences,” he said.

“There are other benefits to having other tech companies raise the bar in markets we work in because it educates more talent, you can move around and it creates more economic activity.”

Amazon has invested more than $11 billion in Canada, including infrastructure and compensation, delivered $9 billion to the country’s economy and helped create at least 67,000 jobs, he said.

However, many have those jobs have been dogged with concerns.

The Warehouse Workers Centre, a Brampton, Ont.-based organization representing people in the warehouse and logistics sector, started a petition earlier this year that garnered hundreds of signatures claiming “Amazon is failing to protect our health.”

The petition alleged that Amazon, which employs tens of thousands of people in Canada and has fulfilment centres in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, was refusing to give workers paid leave and not telling staff what their plans are if facilities are contaminated or suspected of being contaminated with COVID-19.

The petition claimed physical distancing at its facilities is “nearly impossible” and said some warehouse workers are now putting in 50 hours a week or more, which the petition called “unsustainable” and said needs to stop.

Amazon has spent more than $800 million on employee safety since the start of the year, Dougherty said.

The company has unveiled temperature checks, physical distancing measures and offered personal protective wear as part of that investment.

“The health of our employees is absolutely critical to us,” Doughtery said. It is our top priority, so we are always paying attention to how those systems are working and ensuring they are the best they can be.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2020

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