New coronavirus hotspots are unfolding around the world — some of which are in countries once lauded for containing the spread.
Experts have long warned that the green light to reopen can become a red light at any time.
“These countries are an example,” said Zahid Butt, a University of Waterloo professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems. “We need to look at them and think, ‘What will happen in Canada?’”
Australia once prided itself on rapidly containing COVID-19.
The country implemented a ban on travellers from high-risk areas in February and closed borders to non-citizens in March. Later that month, schools, bars and other public places were closed and physical-distancing rules rolled out. Mask-wearing was also widely accepted, according to experts.
The strategy paid off at first.
By May, the country had successfully brought down its national daily case numbers to single digits, data shows, prompting the country to reopen. Principal health guidelines stayed put, but everything from schools to bars and restaurants to workplaces reopened nearly simultaneously.
Coronavirus: Australia looks to restrict return of citizens abroad amid new outbreak
That likely worked against Australia to some degree, according to Butt.
“They reopened everything and suddenly they started to see a rise in cases. It’s really a lesson-learned situation,” he said. “It’s definitely a lesson Canada can learn from, as well.”
The drop in cases also ushered in the revival of domestic travel and the return of Australian citizens and permanent residents, many via air travel.
“That’s the bigger risk with this whole thing,” Butt said.
While there were pockets of new cases following reopening, hotspots — focused in Victoria and New South Wales — began in July.
In Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, the outbreak is being blamed primarily on failures at quarantine hotels, where people who fly into Australia are required to complete a 14-day quarantine. Local reports suggest that private security personnel hired to maintain the hotel quarantine rules were improperly trained and are accused of rule-breaking. It’s believed the infection then spread from hotels to the community.
On July 31, Victoria reported 627 new infections. The state now accounts for about 60 per cent of the country’s 16,900 cases.
Spain has ping-ponged on containment.
It was dubbed Europe’s new epicentre for COVID-19 in April after cases surged.
Coronavirus: Concerns rising in Europe over new spike in cases
Spain operated under a four-stage plan for easing one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. On June 1, about 70 per cent of the country moved to a second phase. Hotspots, like Madrid and Barcelona, stayed under tighter Phase 1 restrictions.
The national lockdown was officially lifted on June 21.
While masks and physical distancing continue to be compulsory, the move restored freedom of movement and allowed bars, restaurants and other spaces to reopen.
Many new cases are tied to nightclubs, discotheques and other social venues that were given the all-clear. In Canada, outbreaks have also stemmed from the reopening of bars in some provinces, with young people at the centre of the blame.
“They’re coming from younger people going to these things and they’re passing it to their parents and grandparents,” Butt said. “It’s a combination of reasons.”
Like Australia, Spain’s reopening plan also paved the way for some certain degrees of travel to resume.
Spain, like many other countries, wanted to kick-start the economy through tourism. Dr. Jacob Mendioroz, the director and co-ordinator of the committee responding to the coronavirus in Catalonia, told Time reopening the economy to tourism may have been “rushed.”
This is where they may have gone wrong, according to Butt.
“Regional travel there is a risk, but it’s more of a risk with international travel and tourism,” he said. “You are obviously going to see new cases when you reopen, but you need to balance things like the economy and the health of the population.”
Less than four weeks after lifting the lockdown, national health authorities warned that Spain could be heading for a “second wave” of the virus.
On July 30, the country reported 1,229 new coronavirus infections, topping 1,000 for the second day in a row. It marked the biggest rise since the national lockdown was lifted, and prompted authorities to re-tighten restrictions.
Coronavirus: Spain reopens its borders to European tourists as state of emergency ends
Tenkate believes complacency plays a role here, too, as it likely does in other countries around the world seeing spikes, like the United States and parts of Asia.
“A lot comes down to the actions we take as individuals now,” he said. “We have a role as individuals to allow that reopening to be extended and be successful.”
What can Canada learn?
For one, reopening the U.S.-Canada border is not the right move at this point, said Butt.
“That will only risk a spillover of cases into Canada,” he said.
But looking to how Australia is managing its localized outbreaks, responding to hotspots with regional restrictions could be mimicked, Butt said.
He pointed to the “bubble” rule in Atlantic Canada, where residents from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island can travel freely between each province without needing to quarantine for 14 days upon entry.
“These are provinces that have little to no cases. That’s a way to boost local tourism without going too broad,” he said.
The approach ultimately needs to be co-ordinated as Canada continues to open up, said Tenkate.
“Lifting restrictions will always pose a risk,” he said. “Various agencies and levels of government will need to ensure that the messages are co-ordinated.”
Like Australia and Spain, Canada should recognize that it, too, will lock down again if needed, Butt and Tenkate agreed.
“There is no one-size-fits-all model to this,” Tenkate said.
— with files from Reuters and the Associated Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
U.S. Thousand Islands businesses feel the loss of Canadian customers – CTV Edmonton
KINGSTON, ONT. —
As the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel, business owners on the American side say they feeling the loss of their Canadian customers.
Kassi Pharoah is a server at Buster’s Restaurant in Ogdensburg, New York, located right near the Ogdensburg International Airport.
She says it’s common for people from places like Ottawa and eastern Ontario to treat the American city as their own.
“A lot of Canadian customers, taking their animals to the vet, coming in to catch a flight, getting their cars fixed,” explains Pharoah. “Sometimes the men would go golfing and the wives would go shopping. We don’t see that anymore.”
In fact, Pharoah says Canadians accounted for about 40 per cent of their business. Over the years, some even became friends.
“Our regular customers, when some of the girls have gone on to have kids, they’ve come over with baby shower gifts. We talk about different trips we know they’re going on, we see them on the way out for their vacations, we see them on the way back as well,” she explains. “We absolutely miss them.”
While she says she understands why they’re not visiting, the loss is felt, as hours and staff are cut.
Non-essential travel restrictions have been in place across the Canada-US border since March because of COVID-19.
Corey Fram, Director of Tourism with the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, says data from Statistics Canada show that in April of 2019, about 18,000 Canadians drove across the border for day trips.
This year, with the border closed, places like Ogdensburg, Watertown, and Syracuse are feeling the effects.
“It’s a little bit difficult to kind of continue to look at this region at this time as a truly bi-national area,” he says. “So many folks are relatives, cousins, teammates, and right now we’re separated.”
Fram says businesses understand why the closures are happening, but are hoping for a way to move forward.
“These two countries rely on each other and, in particular, these two regions rely on each other,” he says. “How are we going to get back there, and when?”
Made-in-Canada vaccine passes animal testing hurdle, seeks government funding – CTV News
A Canadian drugmaker says it has produced “compelling” early results from animal testing of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, but the government hasn’t responded to its application for funding that would allow it to advance to human clinical trials.
Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics, which designs cancer drugs using a technique called mRNA, announced Wednesday that the “preclinical” data from testing in mice showed more promising results than other notable COVID-19 research conducted with mRNA vaccines.
“I would gladly test our vaccine head-to-head against any out there,” said Chief Scientific Officer Eric Marcusson in a press release. “It is always difficult to compare preclinical results, however, I believe our results compare extremely favorably to preclinical results reported by other companies.”
Researchers at the University of Toronto conducted tests on mice and found that the vaccine candidate PTX-COVID19-B produced “robust” neutralizing antibodies, which are needed to defend cells from invading pathogens such as the novel coronavirus.
“The results coming from our first animal experiment showed that the vaccines are resulting in a strong immune response,” said Dr. Mario Ostrowski, an immunology professor at the University of Toronto, in a press release. “In particular, the vaccine against the S protein produced neutralizing antibodies at higher titers than the results announced by other mRNA vaccine manufacturers.”
Brad Sorenson, president and CEO of Providence Therapeutics, told CTV News that these results show their vaccine has shown to be “equivalent or better” than those from much larger firms in the vaccine race.
“We expected that it would work, but the results were even greater than we expected, so we were very pleased about that,” he said. “We’re very anxious to repeat this in real-life patients.”
Another notable mRNA vaccine is by U.S. biotechnology company Moderna, which has received hundreds of millions in funding from the U.S. government and entered final-stage testing last month when the first of some 30,000 Americans received the shot.
But Providence, which says it’s one of Canada’s leading mRNA vaccine producers, hasn’t heard from the government since late May and has yet to receive funding for the next stages of its testing after it submitted a $35-million proposal in April. That same month, the federal government committed more than $600 million to vaccine manufacturing and research in Canada, including clinical trials. Among projects already funded as part of that pledge is a partnership between China’s CanSino Biologics and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
Sorenson said his company is expecting to be able to produce 5 million vaccines by next summer, but without help from the federal government, they are hamstrung.
“The challenge that we’re facing is, we’re not a large pharma company,” he said. “We have really good technology, fantastic scientists … but for us to go into human trials, we either need to raise more money — which we can do if we’ve got a government that is indicated that they’re interested in what we’re producing — or we need a government to sponsor those clinical trials.”
Sorenson added that if the Canadian government does not help fund their human trials, they might have to find another government that will.
“We’re at a point in a company that if the Canadian government doesn’t want to do it, we’re going to start looking elsewhere, and that’s just the reality,” he said. “We’ve got a world-class vaccine and if it’s not going to be for Canadians, it’s going to be for somebody else.”
Sorenson said he has already had “preliminary discussions” with other governments about their vaccine, primarily from individual provinces.
Meanwhile, health professionals and politicians alike are urging the government to speed its funding process for homegrown vaccines so that Canadians won’t have to wait in line for another country’s COVID-19 shot. Among those adding their voice was Alberta Sen. Doug Black, who said pressure should be kept on the government to act.
“I see the commitment that’s being made by the European and American governments to this identical technology and I’m saying, ‘Hmm, why in the name of goodness aren’t we pursuing this aggressively in Canada?’” he told The Canadian Press earlier this week. “No stone should be left unturned in pursuit of a made-in-Canada COVID solution.”
Industry Canada, which is charge of administering the $600 million to vaccine manufacturing and research in Canada, has not responded to a CTV News request for comment.
With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Ben Cousins
Canada sending up to $5M in humanitarian aid to Lebanon after Beirut explosion – CBC.ca
Canada will provide up to $5 million in humanitarian assistance to help Lebanon and its people recover from the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port.
An initial $1.5 million of that funding will go to the Lebanese Red Cross to provide emergency medical services, shelter and food for those affected.
In an interview with CBC News, International Development Minister Karina Gould said the money represents Canada’s initial commitment and that it could grow in the coming days and weeks as the scale of the disaster becomes more clear.
“This is about saving lives in the next 48 hours and then making sure that people have access to emergency shelter, food, health care and medicine,” Gould said.
The explosion happened Tuesday when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, which had been stored for years at the port, ignited, sending shock waves across the Lebanese capital.
Around 135 people died, about 5,000 were injured and another 300,000 people have been left without a place to live. Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the injured.
Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud told Al Hadath TV that collective economic losses due to the blast might reach $13 billion to $20 billion, saying the estimate included both direct and indirect losses related to business.
🇨🇦 continues to closely monitor the situation and is in contact with humanitarian organizations in <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Beirut?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Beirut</a> to better understand needs on the ground. 🇨🇦 stands ready to provide additional assistance to respond to this terrible tragedy, as appropriate. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/BeirutExplosion?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#BeirutExplosion</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Lebanon?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Lebanon</a>
Other countries have also mobilized to provide help. Germany has dispatched dozens of search and rescue specialists to help find survivors trapped beneath rubble while Russia sent a plane carrying relief teams, doctors and medical equipment.
France is sending two planes with aid and 55 workers, including disaster response experts, emergency nurses, doctors and firefighters.
Gould said it’s possible Canada may provide support in other forms other than humanitarian funding, but wouldn’t say whether Canada’s disaster response team, DART, will be mobilized.
“Nothing is off the table right now in terms of Canada’s response,” she said. “We want to make sure that what we’re sending is indeed what is needed.”
Lebanese government under fire
Experts say the need for rapid assistance and the complexities of Lebanon’s political system — which is characterized by widespread corruption, sectarianism and a weak state — mean that non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross are best placed to provide immediate help.
“There are a lot of local organizations — some small, some really large — who have the capacity to implement significant humanitarian assistance programs and who have the capacity to really help the population with no political manoeuvring, with no political consequences,” said Ruby Dagher, an international development professor at the University of Ottawa who immigrated to Canada from Lebanon.
“We should look at those first for the humanitarian assistance before we turn our attention to working through the government.”
Public anger against the Lebanese government was already at historic highs after months of sustained protests amid a long-running financial crisis intensified by the coronavirus pandemic. That anger has only grown since it emerged that the highly explosive fertilizer that caused Tuesday’s explosion had been stored at Beirut’s port for six years while port officials did nothing about it.
Lama Mourad, a professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said any aid provided through the Lebanese government will help legitimize a ruling class that has lost the trust of its people.
“[The government of Canada would] be effectively supporting a government that has no legitimacy in the eyes of citizens,” Mourad said. “Giving money to this government or any of the ruling elite… will only serve to support and strengthen their power, rather than necessarily go to the people who need it most.”
Rex Brynen, a political scientist at McGill University, said after the immediate humanitarian crisis is over, Canada could play a role in strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese government.
He cited the possible negligence at the Beirut port as a sign that the Lebanese state has a regulatory management problem at the port.
“That’s an issue which in the longer term needs to be addressed in Lebanon and outside partners can play a role in trying to strengthen government capacity,” Brynen said.
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