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Conservative MP dismisses China’s COVID-19 ‘excuse’ barring access to detained Canadians – Global News

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OTTAWA — China can no longer credibly use the “excuse” of COVID-19 to continue keeping Canadian diplomats from visiting Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Conservative foreign affairs critic says.

Conservative MP Michael Chong also says this past week’s virtual consular visits to Kovrig and Spavor should have happened much sooner.

“COVID-19 is an excuse that doesn’t hold water,” Chong said in an interview Sunday.

Read more:
China denies Canadians ‘arbitrarily’ detained in response to Meng Wanzhou arrest

“The economy in China has largely reopened,” he added. “A direct in-person visit should have already taken place a long time ago with appropriate social distancing.”

Kovrig and Spavor have been in prison in China since December 2018 in what is widely seen as retaliation for Canada arresting Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant.

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Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to China, had internet-based visits with Spavor on Friday and Kovrig on Saturday.

It was the first contact Canadian diplomats have had with the two men since in-person visits in mid-January.






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Hong Kong police arrest nine people suspected of helping 12 activists held in China


Hong Kong police arrest nine people suspected of helping 12 activists held in China

The Chinese government has said it can’t allow in-person visits to prisons because of concerns around COVID-19. The federal government has been pushing China since the spring for an alternative form of access in order to check on the welfare of the two men.

“There was absolutely no reason that virtual access couldn’t have been offered by China even during the height of the pandemic, and no justification for denying in-person visits after China emerged from lockdown during the summer,” said David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China.

“This is simply more cruel treatment by China, with the expectation that we will be grateful even for even a half-hearted effort on their part. We shouldn’t fall into that trap.”

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Read more:
Consular meeting with Canadians detained in China should have happened sooner: Chong

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne pressed for virtual access in his own in-person meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, when the two crossed paths in Rome in August.

Up until January, Canadian diplomats had been able to visit the two men approximately once a month.

Chong reiterated past Conservative criticism of the government’s handling of relations with China, saying its approach has lacked coherence, and that Canada should impose targeted sanctions on the people responsible for the imprisonment of the two men.

But Chong said he is seeing signs of the government taking a firmer stand against China recently with tougher rhetoric this past week from Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“I think the Liberal government’s finally responding to the pressure that the Conservatives have been putting on them,” said Chong.


Click to play video 'Canada’s new ambassador to the United Nations says there is “no justification” for China’s imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor'



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Canada’s new ambassador to the United Nations says there is “no justification” for China’s imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor


Canada’s new ambassador to the United Nations says there is “no justification” for China’s imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor

Sajjan accused China of engaging in “hostage diplomacy” in an online panel discussion, while Rae ripped into his Chinese counterpart in a meeting of the UN General Assembly on Friday for saying that Canada was bullying the People’s Republic.

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Rae said Meng was living under “house arrest” while Spavor and Kovrig “have been living in terrible conditions, without consular access, without any humane treatment whatsoever.”

“This is something which we shall never forget,” Rae added.

“If you think that insulting us or insulting my country or insulting anyone is going to help in resolving the situation, you’re sadly mistaken.”

Champagne, too, has ramped up his public criticism of China’s human rights record on a number of issues: Beijing’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and the forced detention Uighur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang province.

In a recent interview prior to the virtual visits with Kovrig and Spavor, Champagne said Canada would continue to push back against Beijing by working with allies.


Click to play video 'Freeland ‘heartbroken and really angry’ with China’s charges against Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor'



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Freeland ‘heartbroken and really angry’ with China’s charges against Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor


Freeland ‘heartbroken and really angry’ with China’s charges against Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor

“We need to act together, and we need to be strong together to face what we have seen, a coercive type of diplomacy by China,” the minister said.

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Champagne said it was significant that the case of the “two Michaels” was raised in China’s recent summit with the European Union, including in its final communique.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for America’s “ongoing support” in the effort to free Kovrig and Spavor during a Saturday phone call.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Coronavirus victims: Remembering the Canadians who have died – CTV News

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The first person in Canada contracted COVID-19 in January, but it wasn’t until March that the first Canadian died from the disease.

The numbers have grown in Canada and around the world since then, each death an anonymous statistic announced in a growing daily tally.

While the loss is real for those who have lost loved ones to the disease, it is harder to fathom for Canadians not directly touched by the tragedy.

However, each statistic represents a Canadian with their own story.

These are some of the victims’ stories, as told to CTV News by family members and loved ones.

Did one of your loved ones die of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? Help us share your memories of them, along with a favourite photo of them, to paint a fuller picture of some of the Canadian lives lost as a result of the pandemic.

Please email us the name, age, hometown, and date of death of your loved one at dotcom@bellmedia.ca, along with your name, location and contact information.

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Why getting COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada won't be 'overnight solution' to pandemic – CBC.ca

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For months, more than 150 teams around the world have been working at an unprecedented pace to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus. 

Ten of those vaccine candidates are now in Phase 3 clinical trials, in which each is given to thousands of people to ensure it’s both safe and effective — the final leg of the process before their potential approval.

In the fight against COVID-19, that feels like a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

But once at least one vaccine is approved, what comes next? 

“Approval itself is not going to be an overnight solution,” said Matthew Miller, an associate professor at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“There’s going to be a significant amount of time required to distribute the vaccine and then have enough doses prepared to administer to the population.”

Public health and vaccination experts also say the months after Canada starts acquiring a vaccine will be rife with challenges, both logistically and ethically, as public health officials will need to determine which groups should get priority access — be it health-care workers or other vulnerable demographics — as production scales up to meet demand.

“There will inevitably be supply chain issues,” Miller warned. “It’s going to take time for the vaccine manufacturers to produce enough doses, and there’s going to need to be prioritization over who will get those first doses when they become available.”

WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam on the flu and COVID-19 vaccines:

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says preparations for administering this year’s flu vaccine is a “good rehearsal” for any COVID-19 vaccine. 1:01

Canada preordering 6 candidates

Earlier this year, the federal government said it put $1 billion into preorders of six foreign vaccine candidates

It’s a move that hedges our bets, with Canada set to receive 20 million to 76 million doses of each vaccine — if any successfully make it through clinical trials and gain approval from Health Canada.

Should at least one of the preorders prove safe and effective, federal and provincial officials need a strategy in place to roll it out among different groups, ensuring there are no “inequities” between regions, noted Alison Thompson, an associate professor in the Leslie Dan faculty of pharmacy and Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

“This is something that we can get out in front of,” she said. “We know a vaccine could become available in the next few months.”

In September, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said preparations for administering this year’s flu vaccine offered a “good rehearsal” for mass immunization programs for a coronavirus vaccine.

But some Ontario physicians recently warned those efforts fell short, with initial rounds of supplies drying up quickly amid early and higher-than-usual demand.

The province, however, has said more shipments are coming — and stressed the program was meant to take a staggered approach to rolling out the vaccine, first targeting vulnerable populations like long-term care residents before the general public. 

Protecting ‘vulnerable’ first

That “prioritization” approach could also prove crucial while rolling out a vaccine for the coronavirus, both to conserve supplies while production scales up and protect those most at risk.

“We may be looking at protection for really important health-care workers, first responders, people who keep the economy running,” Thompson said. “We might want to be protecting vulnerable populations first before anybody else.”

But who should be deemed most vulnerable, and first in line?

There’s no “one size fits all” approach behind that decision, Miller said, and in Canada a lot of factors are at play, from residents’ ages to their socioeconomic status to their pre-existing health conditions.

Health-care workers have proved at risk across the country, with a dozen dying and more than 21,000 falling ill — representing roughly 20 per cent of cases — in the pandemic’s first wave, according to a September report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The largest death toll, however, was more than 5,300 elderly residents in long-term care, with those facilities accounting for more than 80 per cent of all Canadian COVID-19 deaths in the first wave, CIHI findings show.

Racialized and marginalized communities have also been hard hit in areas like Toronto, where multiple diverse, lower-income neighbourhoods have experienced high case counts and test positivity rates for the virus have been more than triple the city’s average, Toronto Public Health data shows.

A resident of Toronto’s Fairview Nursing Home leaves with paramedics on Sept. 29, 2020 — the same day Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to scale back visitations to care homes as a means to curb a spike in cases. Fairview is in the midst of an outbreak of COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Alongside health-care workers on the front lines, it’s remote Indigenous communities which “need to be first priority,” based on the severe comorbidities, residential overcrowding and lack of access to health-care facilities found in many areas, according to Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and faculty lead for Indigenous and refugee health. 

“All Indigenous communities are at highest risk compared to non-Indigenous communities — by far,” she said.

Scaling up could take ‘many months’

Miller said the process of scaling up vaccinations from priority groups to the broader public could take “many months,” if not a year or more.

That time frame could also involve a less-discussed stage of vaccine research: Phase 4 clinical trials, after candidates are already on the market.

It’s a time to evaluate vaccines’ effectiveness and safety in a “real world” setting, Miller said, and could offer clues for future generations of COVID-19 vaccines.

“The first vaccines approved may not necessarily be the most effective vaccines,” he said. 

The vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, was later expanded to protect people against more strains of the virus, for instance, while an early version of the shot for shingles was far less effective than a later form which has an efficacy of more than 90 per cent.

In those instances, people wound up getting additional rounds of newer vaccines to ensure the highest level of protection, Miller explained, adding it’s still not clear if people will need revaccination to protect against this coronavirus. 

The more pressing concern now is getting at least one first option out to the public in hopes of winding down this months-long pandemic.

While the threshold for achieving herd immunity — which occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making its continued spread less likely — isn’t clear yet for COVID-19, it could be as high as 70 per cent of people, said epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

That’s a level of protection Canada won’t hit for quite some time after a vaccine becomes available, assuming enough residents get the shot.

“If we don’t get there, then we have a functioning society, with some restrictions still in place, like distancing and mask wearing and maybe limits on gatherings, but no more lockdowns and things like that,” he said. 

“So either way, the vaccine is going to help us.”

Front Burner28:37Inside Canada’s race for a COVID-19 vaccine

A global race for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is underway. More than 160 of them are in different stages of testing around the world. Canada is in this race too. A group of scientists at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac – the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon – are trying to get through a decade’s worth of testing and approvals as early as next year. Today on Front Burner, CBC Saskatoon reporter Alicia Bridges takes us inside a lab working on a Canadian COVID vaccine, and inside the lives of the scientists trying to find it. 28:37

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EU removes Canadians from list of approved travellers because of COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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European Union officials are moving to halt Canadians from travelling to the bloc of European countries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In July, the EU set up a so-called white list of countries whose citizens would be allowed access for non-essential travel.

Canada had been on the approved list from Day 1, along with 14 other countries.

The United States has been on the list of banned countries from the start.

In August, the EU removed Algeria, Montenegro, Morocco and Serbia from the white list because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in those countries.

Officials meet every two weeks to decide if any changes should be made to the white list, and no changes had been recommended since then.

Rising case numbers

On Wednesday, officials met for their regularly scheduled meeting. According to Reuters, Bloomberg and other reports, they decided to remove three countries — Canada, Tunisia and Georgia — while adding Singapore to the approved travel list.

An EU official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed to CBC News that the bloc has decided to change the makeup of the white list, the finalized version of which is expected to be made public within days.

According to CBC’s coronavirus tracker, there are more than 203,000 confirmed cases of the disease across Canada, with 2,251 new cases on Tuesday.

After the changes, the white list consists of nine countries: Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Uruguay. 

The decision doesn’t ban travel immediately, nor is it necessarily strictly enforced in every EU country.

Some countries, such as France, have not placed any restrictions on visitors from countries on the white list. Germany has pared the list down while Italy requires a period of self-isolation and demands travellers take a private vehicle to their destinations even if they are on the white list.

The Canada Border Services Agency doesn’t provide a detailed breakdown of how many Canadians have been travelling to various EU countries, but Statistics Canada does note that in July, the month with the most up to date data, 57,000 people came to Canada from France, 11,000 came from the Netherlands and 42,000 from Germany.

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