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Chris Hall: Freeland pitches 'made in Canada' supply lines as country braces for second COVID wave –



Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canadian companies need to shift critical supply lines home from overseas as the world prepares for a second wave of COVID-19.

“I think that one of the consequences of coronavirus is going to mean, for the economy, a shift from a sort of just-in-time, get-the-very-cheapest-input-possible model, to a model that puts a greater emphasis on resilience, puts a greater emphasis on supply chains that are closer to home,” Freeland said in an interview airing Saturday on the CBC’s ​The House.

The interview covered a range of topics, including a letter sent this week by a group of retired politicians and diplomats calling on the federal government to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in December 2018 on a U.S. extradition warrant.

That letter argues Meng’s case is preventing Canada from defining and pursuing an effective foreign strategy with China. It also claims ending her extradition case could facilitate the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians arrested by Chinese authorities in what Canada says was an act of retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland talks COVID-19, Canadians detained in China and NAFTA 2.0. 11:39

‘Hostage diplomacy’

“China has now openly admitted that the detention of the two Michaels is connected to the Meng case,” Freeland told The House, calling the imprisonment of the two men an act of “hostage diplomacy” by China.

Freeland said that if Canada were to release Meng in exchange for China freeing Kovrig and Spavor, it would send a signal “to every authoritarian regime out there” that the way to get what they want out of Canada is to “arbitrarily detain and arrest a couple of Canadians …

“I think that would be a terrible, dangerous precedent to set.”

Canada’s deteriorating relationship with China has threatened to interfere with its pandemic response. The superpower is a major supplier of goods to Canadian businesses — including the personal protective equipment (PPE) badly needed by medical personnel fighting COVID-19.

Stockpiling for a rainy day

Freeland said making the country less reliant on overseas suppliers is a key part of the federal government’s approach as it prepares for future waves of COVID-19 infections.

That message mirrors a warning Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, delivered in April when he called on Canadian manufacturers to switch from “just in time” to “just in case” deliveries of key supplies.

He argued that keeping stockpiles handy would serve as a hedge against future calamities while creating jobs in Canada.

Back in the spring, the global stampede to secure supplies of key protective medical equipment like masks, face shields and gloves laid bare the fragility of just-in-time supply lines in an emergency. The federal government, working with the provinces, has moved aggressively to increase domestic production of PPE.

At a news availability Friday at an Ottawa brewery which is now producing hand sanitizer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is close to closing its PPE gap.

“We’re now getting to a place where we’re close to self-sufficient on (PPE) and able to turn that around and share with the world, particularly the developing world,” he said.

Convincing major Canadian manufacturers to lean more on domestic supply chains — rather than on material produced more cheaply overseas — represents a new type of challenge for the federal government, even as the new North American trade deal officially kicks in on Canada Day.

While she acknowledged that the pandemic exposed significant weaknesses, Freeland told ​The House​ that Canada will continue to depend on and promote global trade deals.

“But I do think this is a moment for us to also be thinking more than ever about the value of resilience here in our own country,” she said. “And that’s one of the reasons … as we get ready for further coronavirus outbreaks, that we’ve been putting such an emphasis on made-in-Canada production.”

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Nearly 40 feared dead as torrential rains hit southwest Japan



TOKYO (Reuters) – Nearly 40 people were feared dead as torrential rains continued to hit Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, with river banks at risk of bursting on Monday morning and new evacuation orders put in place.

Flooding and mudslides that began at the weekend torrential rains killed 21 people so far. A further 18 people were showing no vital signs and presumed dead pending official confirmation, and 13 people were missing, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

“I offer my deepest condolences for those who have passed from the torrential rains,” Suga said, adding that some 40,000 members of the Self-Defence Force were involved in rescue missions.

He added that evacuation centres were also working on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus by distributing disinfectant and asking evacuees to maintain their distance from each other.

As of Saturday, some 200,000 have been ordered to evacuate their homes, according to Kyodo news agency.

The floods are Japan’s worst natural disaster since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year that left about 90 people dead.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Australia closes state border for first time in 100 years to halt coronavirus



By Colin Packham and Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The border between Australia’s two most populous states will close from Tuesday for an indefinite period, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday, following an outbreak of the coronavirus in his state.

The decision marks the first time the border with neighbouring New South Wales has been shut in 100 years – officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.

The state reported 127 new COVID-19 infections overnight, its biggest one-day spike since the pandemic began. It also reported one death, the first nationally in more than two weeks, taking the country’s total tally to 105.

“It is the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face in containing this virus,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne as he announced the border closure.

The closure will, however, likely be a blow to Australia’s economic recovery as it heads into its first recession in nearly three decades.

Andrews said the decision to close the border, effective from 11.59 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was made jointly with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia state, is already closed.

Australia has fared better than many countries in the coronavirus pandemic, with just short of 8,500 cases so far, but the Melbourne outbreak has raised alarm bells. The country has reported an average of 109 cases daily over the past week, compared with an average of just 9 cases daily over the first week of June.

(Reporting by Colin Packham and Renju Jose; editing by Jane Wardell)

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Canada weeks away from first glimpse at true rate of COVID-19 infections – CTV News



The national immunity task force has started testing thousands of blood samples for COVID-19 antibodies and should be able to produce a more detailed picture of how many Canadians have been infected with the novel coronavirus within a couple of weeks.

It will be much longer, however, before we know more about what kind of protection against future infection having the antibodies provides, said Dr. Timothy Evans, executive director of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

Plus, said Evans, most of the people whose blood is being tested will not be informed of the results because of how the blood is being collected for testing.

“There won’t be an opportunity for individuals to find out their status,” said Evans, who is also director of the McGill School of Population and Global Health.

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified in January, while many others were sick but couldn’t get tested because provinces were limiting who could access the procedure until just a few weeks ago.

Evans also said a significant number of people get the infection and show no symptoms and will have no clue they were ever sick. Evans said immunity testing in other countries has suggested the actual infection rate is 10 to 20 times more than the number of confirmed cases.

There are multiple prongs to the task force’s plan to figure out the true infection rate here, starting with running antibody tests on 40,000 samples collected from people who donated blood to Canadian Blood Services and Hema Quebec since May. Evans said about 1,600 of those samples are being run through the test kits every day now, and analyses are already under way on the results.

“Hopefully within the next two weeks we will have an initial first number,” he said.

The first results will reveal how many samples showed antibodies, but include no specifics like whether they are male or female or where they live.

“By the end of the month of July, we expect to have a more broken down picture of what we call the seroprevalence, the presence of antibodies in the blood, that will look at it by age group and geographic location,” Evans said.

Evans said Canadian Blood Services can’t trace back the samples to the actual patients who gave them, so positive antibody tests will not be reported back for anyone who donated blood outside of Quebec. He said Hema Quebec said it might be possible to identify the patients but hasn’t yet decided if it will do so.

Another testing program is now beginning on 25,000 blood samples taken from pregnant women, using blood routinely drawn during the first trimester to screen for sexually transmitted infections and check for immunity to other illnesses like rubella. COVID-19 antibody testing will be added to that list for all pregnant women in Canada, going back all the way to December. The women will be informed if they test positive for COVID-19 antibodies, said Evans.

Evans said there are also about 30,000 blood samples held in provincial labs that are being tested for antibodies.

He said together these projects can provide a piecemeal picture of the infection rate across the country, though it won’t be a truly representative sample until a national household survey can be run. That isn’t going to happen until the portable antibody tests become reliable, but a plan is being developed with Statistics Canada so it’s ready when the tests are.

“We’d love to have a test that didn’t require a formal blood draw, but rather a pin prick but we’re not quite there yet,” he said. “There’s some things on the horizon. We’re trying to get those validated quickly but we still haven’t got what I would call a good portable test that could be used in the home.”

The tests the task force is using now require only a small amount of blood — less than 1/20th of a teaspoon, generally — but it is still more than what comes from a finger prick.

Evans said understanding how many people got infected can help drive policy decisions about where to vaccinate first, the impact specific public health measures might have had in some settings like long-term care centres, hospitals and schools, or communities that have been hit particularly hard.

The task force also has a two-year mandate to try to look at what kind of protection someone has from having antibodies, as well as how long the levels of antibodies last in a person’s blood. Evans said those studies are just getting underway and will take time, including looking to see whether people who have the antibodies get infected during a second or third wave of the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2020.

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