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Cineplex second-quarter revenue plunged 95% with theatres closed – BNN

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Cineplex Inc. said revenue dropped 95 per cent in the second quarter and that it burned through about US$40 million in cash as it shut theaters because of the coronavirus.

“To immediately mitigate the impact of the closure of our theaters and entertainment venues, we focused on reducing all expenses to the greatest extent possible,” Chief Executive Officer Ellis Jacob said in a statement. “We also shifted our attention to plan for the safe return of our employees and guests and to strengthen Cineplex’s financial position over the short and long term.”

The company lost $98.9 million (US$74.7 million) in the quarter and said free cash flow was negative $53.8 million on an adjusted basis. That was consistent with analysts’ expectations, according to Royal Bank of Canada analyst Drew McReynolds.

Canada’s largest chain of movie theaters has gradually reopened cinemas across the country as it exits from a lockdown that began in March. As of Aug. 14, approximately 80 per cent of locations have resumed operations, the company said in a call with analysts Friday, with the remaining 20 per cent set to open by next week.

The Toronto-based company said it’s “implementing a number of pricing and marketing strategies to entice its guests to return.” Jacob said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Friday that customers “are starved for content, and they can’t wait to come back.”

Many theaters have already reached capacity under physical-distancing rules, and attendance numbers are expected to increase as new films such as “Unhinged” and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” come out, he added.

Cineplex said in June it was working with lenders on a deal to relax financial covenants after London-based Cineworld Group Plc, the world’s second-largest cinema group, scrapped its deal to take over the Canadian chain, alleging breach of contract. Cineplex denied the claim and has filed a suit against Cineworld, seeking billions in damages. The trial is tentatively set for September 2021.

The merger would have created the biggest operator of movie theaters in North America. Now, the stock is the worst performer in the S&P/TSX Composite Index this year, falling about 75 per cent. The shares rose as much as 6.6 per cent as of 12:41 p.m. in Toronto on Friday, the biggest intraday gain in about a month.

The company doesn’t expect to see breakeven results in the third quarter, but added it expects 2021 to be a “very strong year” at the box office with the release of highly anticipated titles, such as “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

“While it is impossible to predict how long this crisis will last and how significant the impact will be on our business, Cineplex will continue to take the necessary steps to strengthen the financial position of our company and ensure a healthy future,” Jacob said.

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13 Ottawa pharmacies to begin offering COVID-19 tests Friday – CBC.ca

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Thirteen Ottawa pharmacies will begin offering free COVID-19 tests Friday to people who have no symptoms of the viral illness, the province says.

Last week, Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be allowing pharmacists to perform the tests in order to alleviate some of the pressures facing Ontario’s existing COVID-19 assessment centres.

Long lineups have been a major problem recently at Ottawa’s test sites, with stories of people waiting more than four hours for a throat or nose swab.

As of Sept. 25, the following pharmacies in Ottawa will be offering tests:

  • Cedarview Pharmacy, 12-4100 Strandherd Dr.
  • Medicine Shoppe, 19-5303 Canotek Rd.
  • Rexall, 1615 Orléans Blvd.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 1-2148 Carling Ave.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 1309 Carling Ave.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 1102 Klondike Rd.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 1937 Portobello Blvd.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 2954 St. Joseph Blvd.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 3940 Innes Rd.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 541 Montreal Rd.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 455 Bank St.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 647 Earl Armstrong Rd.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart, 1180 Walkley Rd.

Friday ambitious for some pharmacies 

The Ontario Pharmacists Association warned not all the pharmacies identified for testing in Ontario will be prepared to start Friday.  

“It may not be [that] all stores [are] ready to go immediately as stores adjust to the necessary precautions and changes they might need to make to their workflow,” said board of directors chair Jen Baker on Wednesday. 

Those precautions include proper cleaning, directional signs, making a separate space for the test and ensuring the right personal protective equipment is in place. Stores will also have to perform a pre-screening process to make sure only asymptomatic people are being tested.

“There will be funding associated with performing the COVID-19 testing in the pharmacies, so that could be used to hire additional staff…should they find that they need to, in order to accommodate the demand in the community.” 

Baker said pharmacies are also busy trying to figure out how to implement COVID-19 testing and the flu shot program at the same time. She said many pharmacies are opting to do appointments for flu shots too and looking at other management programs such as allocating certain times of day for each service.  

Anyone seeking a COVID-19 test must first make an appointment. More locations will be announced in the coming weeks, the province said Wednesday.

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Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine candidate begins phase 3 trial – Global News

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Johnson & Johnson is beginning a huge final study to try to prove if a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine can protect against the virus.

The study starting Wednesday will be one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine studies so far, testing the shot in 60,000 volunteers in the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

A handful of other vaccines in the U.S. — including shots made by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. — and others in other countries are already in final-stage testing. Hopes are high that answers about at least one candidate being tested in the U.S. could come by year’s end, maybe sooner.

U.S. health officials insist the race for a vaccine isn’t cutting corners.

Read more:
9 drugmaker executives testing coronavirus vaccines pledge safety, high standards

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“We want to do everything we can without sacrificing safety or efficacy — we’re not going to do that — to make sure that we end up with vaccines that are going to save lives,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told reporters.

But many vaccine specialists question whether the Food and Drug Administration will stick to that goal under intense pressure from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has consistently presented a faster timeline for a new vaccine than experts say is adequate to fully test the candidates.

Meanwhile, testing of still another experimental vaccine, made by AstraZeneca, remains on hold in the U.S. as officials examine a safety question, even though studies have resumed in other countries.

Earlier this week, Vice-President Mike Pence urged state governors to “do your part to build public confidence that it will be a safe and effective vaccine.”






5:37
Coronavirus: Trump says his administration expects vaccines for every American by April


Coronavirus: Trump says his administration expects vaccines for every American by April

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, added in the call to governors that he is confident in “a tried and true process” that has checks and balances built in, including an independent board evaluating the progress of each vaccine trial, as well as “the integrity of the FDA.”

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A recording of the call was provided to The Associated Press.

Senators were scheduled to question FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Fauci and other administration officials later Wednesday about the pandemic response.

Even if the FDA were to allow emergency use of a vaccine by year’s end, supplies would be limited and given first to vulnerable groups such as health workers. Most Americans aren’t likely to receive a vaccine until sometime next year.

Read more:
Canada to join global coronavirus vaccine procurement program

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants states to get ready now to roll out vaccinations, which will present enormous logistical challenges. On Wednesday the CDC was set to announce distribution of $200 million in congressionally approved funds to help begin setting up operations.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the COVID-19 vaccine campaign will build on longstanding co-operation between the federal government and the states on immunizations.

J&J’s vaccine is made with slightly different technology than others in late-stage testing, modeled on an Ebola vaccine the company created. Unlike the other three vaccines that started late-stage testing in the U.S., it requires only one shot, not two. Despite a later start to testing than some of its competitors, Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, told reporters that the study was large enough to yield answers possibly by early next year.

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Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Johnson & Johnson begins giant trial testing one-dose COVID shot – BNN

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Johnson & Johnson has begun dosing up to 60,000 volunteers in a study of its COVID-19 vaccine, marking the first big U.S. trial of an inoculation that may work after just one shot.

J&J became the fourth vaccine maker to move its candidate into late-stage human studies in the U.S. If enrollment goes as expected, the trial could yield results as soon as year-end, allowing the company to seek emergency authorization early next year, should it prove effective, according to Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels.

“A single dose could be a very efficient tool to combat the pandemic as it is faster acting,” he said Wednesday in an interview. Animal models and early human studies showed that one shot of its vaccine generated a strong immune response in just 15 days, he said.

The final-stage study will pit the vaccine against a placebo injection, with a goal of showing whether it reduces cases of moderate to severe COVID-19, “the most important part of the disease to prevent,” Stoffels said. J&J is also looking at whether the shot curbs the virus’s spread.

The company’s shares rose as much as 2.3 per cent in New York.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company published detailed trial plans on Wednesday. Frontrunners Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc have already done the same in a broader transparency push.

“It is likely that multiple COVID-19 vaccine regimens will be required to meet the global need,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a statement. J&J’s vaccine “may be especially useful in controlling the pandemic if shown to be protective after a single dose.”

The study is nearly two months behind those of Moderna, working with NIAID, and Pfizer, partnered with BioNTech SE, whose final-stage trials started in late July. Pfizer has said it could get efficacy results by the end of October. Those vaccines use two-dose regimens.

J&J’s vaccine could offer an advantage in distribution over those inoculations, which require vaccination sites to ensure recipients return for their second dose. The company also said its vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for three months, far longer than the Pfizer vaccine that requires deep freezing for long-term storage.

“In countries where there is less health-care infrastructure, it can be much better used at a very large scale,” Stoffels told Bloomberg. “Single dose, easy to use in the field are the main characteristics that make it different.”

Years in the Making

The J&J product is made from a cold virus, called an adenovirus, that’s modified to make copies of the coronavirus’s spike protein, which the pathogen uses to enter cells. The altered virus can’t replicate in humans, but it induces an immune response that prepares the body for an actual COVID-19 infection. The vaccine was developed with researchers at Harvard University who have spent years working on the adenovirus vaccine platform, which is also used in J&J’s Ebola vaccine.

The health-care behemoth is running the study in conjunction with NIAID and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at sites in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and other countries. It will include significant representation among those over the age of 60, as well as minorities at disproportionate risk of becoming infected, including Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples, according to a statement.

J&J has also agreed to collaborate with the U.K. on a separate phase 3 clinical trial that will test a two-dose regimen of the vaccine in multiple countries, with two months between each dose, according to Stoffels. That booster could be critical to providing long-term protection, he said.

Trial Protocol

The decision to begin the final-stage trial was based on data from an earlier human study that showed a single shot was safe and stimulated a strong immune response, Stoffels said.

Like other final-stage vaccine trials, J&J’s study is monitored by an independent board of doctors and statisticians who wait for a certain number of coronavirus cases to accumulate before looking at the data.

The trial aims to accumulate 154 cases for a final analysis. If the vaccine turns out to be more than 90% effective, the study could produce results after just 20 cases, Stoffels said. He said that scenario is unlikely, though.

J&J’s trial appears to have stringent criteria for declaring early success that prevent a readout based on very short-term results in patients with relatively moderate symptoms. Based on discussions with U.S. regulators, the data won’t undergo its first analysis until at least half of participants have been vaccinated for two months or more.

The study will also have to accrue at least 5 severe cases for an early readout. And to be considered a success, the absolute number of severe cases needs to be half of that in the placebo group, along with other benchmarks, according to documents posted on J&J’s website.

Still, the study will take less time to complete than it would with two doses. Scientists will start counting cases just 15 days after patients get their inoculations or placebo shots.

Despite accelerated timelines, Operation Warp Speed won’t cut corners in confirming vaccine safety or efficacy, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said on the Tuesday media call. “That absolutely will not be allowed to happen,” he said.

Stoffels said J&J will continue to clinch new manufacturing partnerships to meet its 1 billion dose production goal for 2021. The company has already kick-started at-risk manufacturing in hopes the shot will prove successful in the clinic.

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