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Coronavirus Christmas: Canadians should celebrate outdoors, virtually, experts say – Global News

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As Canada continues to struggle to contain the second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic, experts say the holiday season is going to look very different this year.

We know that it’s going to be a modified Christmas, it’s pretty clear that that’s going to be the case,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases faculty member at the University of Toronto said.

However, he said there are “certainly steps that we can do” to make the holidays as safe as possible.

First and foremost, Bogoch said people should educate themselves on the public health restrictions in their region, as they differ across Canada.

“Let’s just all know what’s expected of us and get that information from a credible source and act accordingly,” he said.

But regardless of where you are, Bogoch said everyone should be limiting their close contacts “as much as possible” and really double down and adhere to our fundamental public health principles.

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“Putting on a mask when we go into an indoor environment,” he said. “Keeping physically distanced and really having a sense of situational awareness about not getting into settings like where we know the virus can be transmitted — which are basically crowded indoor settings.”


Click to play video 'COVID-19: Christmas light installers busy as people try to ‘raise up spirits’ during pandemic'



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COVID-19: Christmas light installers busy as people try to ‘raise up spirits’ during pandemic


COVID-19: Christmas light installers busy as people try to ‘raise up spirits’ during pandemic

Countdown to Christmas

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that there are “many weeks still until Christmas.”

“It’s right to give people hope that there might be ways we can gather at Christmas but so much depends upon what we are doing right now, immediately to reduce our contacts and get through these next weeks and see the cases that are right now spiking almost out of control get back under control,” he said.

Trudeau said a normal Christmas is “quite frankly, right out of the question.”

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“But what kinds of limits we have in place, what kinds of permissions public health is going to encourage us to have depends a lot on what we do right now.”

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He urged Canadians to “tighten up” in the coming weeks.

Read more:
Ontario reports 1,534 new coronavirus cases, 14 deaths

However, Dr. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said while we may be able to slow the growth rate of the virus in the next few weeks, Canadians will need to be “disciplined in December” if the country hopes to get the outbreak under control and keep schools and businesses open.

He said suggesting we may be able to relax measures to gather for the holidays is not responsible messaging.

“I mean, I guess [Trudeau] wants to transmit hope, but I don’t think it’s responsible to get people looking forward to something that absolutely should not happen,” he said.

He said Canada is going to need to have “pretty significant restrictions” in place until at least April.

Bogoch echoed Furness’ remarks, saying he doesn’t think it’s “realistic” that the most heavily impacted areas of Canada would see enough improvement by Christmas that would allow public health policy to be modified.

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Click to play video 'B.C. holiday attractions awaiting clarification on whether they can operate'



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B.C. holiday attractions awaiting clarification on whether they can operate


B.C. holiday attractions awaiting clarification on whether they can operate

Virtual or outdoor gatherings

Furness said no one should be gathering indoors this holiday season.

I’m concerned about gatherings because gatherings among people who know each other well tend to be mask-less,” he said. “That’s going to drive COVID really high.”

Read more:
A coronavirus vaccine is almost ready. But will you take it?

Dr. Timothy Sly, an epidemiologist and professor emeritus at Ryerson University’s School of Public Health said this will “not be a normal Christmas, by any stretch of the imagination,” but said Canadians should embrace using video-chat software like Zoom or Skype to connect with their loved ones.

“I think most of the joy of this time of year is getting together with other people maybe you haven’t seen for a while. But we’re going to see them in a two-dimensional screen,” he said.

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“I think that’s the way to do it.”

But, Furness said only connecting online can be a “bit depressing,” adding that outdoor visits are still possible if done from a safe distance.

“I think you can do porch things,” he said. “It’s easy to say ‘oh, it’s cold, we can’t be outside,’ but of course we can, just dress for it.”

Shopping for gifts

When it comes to shopping for gifts, Sly said Canadians should order online where possible.

If you need to shop in person, Furness said you should avoid large retailers and stick to smaller stores whenever possible.

Small stores, I think can be far more responsive in terms of things like appointment only and doing curbside [pickup] more effectively,” he said.

By the numbers

On Saturday, Canada added 4,992 new cases of the virus, with four provinces — New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta —  reporting new highs for daily infections.

By Sunday at 12 p.m. ET, the total number of infections in the country stood at 326,943.

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Since the virus was first detected, it has claimed 11,420 lives in Canada.

Read more:
‘Normal Christmas’ off the table, Trudeau says amid coronavirus spike

On Friday the Public Health Agency of Canada released new modelling which said Canada could see 20,000 new cases per day by the end of December if people fail to limit their contacts.

In a statement on Saturday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the modelling indicates a “stronger response is needed immediately” in order to “interrupt transmission and slow the spread of COVID-19 across the country.”

“Canada needs a collective effort, from individuals and public health authorities, to support and sustain the response through to the end of the pandemic, while balancing the health, social and economic consequences,” the statement said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Pfizer will ship COVID-19 vaccine in fewer vials if Canada agrees to label change – CBC.ca

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Pfizer and BioNTech will cut back on how many vials of COVID-19 vaccine they send Canada this year if the federal health regulator agrees to change the vaccine label to say every vial contains six doses instead of five.

Medical professionals in the United States were first to discover in December that they could get six doses from each vial by using smaller syringes or special ones that trap less vaccine around the needle after an injection.

Initially heralded as a way to stretch the precious vaccine even further, the company stepped in to note its contracts are for doses, not vials: If a recipient can get six doses instead of five, then Pfizer and BioNTech can ship fewer vials and still fulfil their contractual obligation.

Pfizer pushed the U.S. and Europe to change the label information on the number doses per vial and both did in early January. On Friday, Pfizer asked Canada to follow suit, and Health Canada’s vaccine regulatory team is now considering the request.

“The final decision on the label update will reside with Health Canada,” said Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou.

Special syringes needed

If Canada agrees to the change, Canada’s 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine will be shipped in about 6.7 million vials. Antoniou said if Canada does not, then the existing deliveries will continue based on five doses per vial, for a total of eight million vials.

“We will supply to Canada in line with our supply agreement and the label valid in the country,” she said.

Health Canada told medical professionals they could use sixth doses if they can get them from single vials, but advised against taking partial doses from multiple vials to make one dose due to the risk of cross-contamination.

WATCH | Ottawa offers assurances about COVID-19 vaccine supply:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to reassure Canadians about the COVID-19 vaccine supply after the European Union raised the possibility of imposing export controls on vaccines leaving the EU. Canada’s Pfizer-BioNTech shots are made in Belgium. 1:44

There has been some success at doing this. Saskatchewan reports receiving 22,425 doses of Pfizer’s and 10,300 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, for a total of 32,725. But it has injected 34,080 doses. The government attributed that to being able to get more doses out each vial than expected.

But European health officials have complained that a shortage of the special syringes needed is making it hard to get six doses out of each vial.

If Canada agrees to the change but can’t get the six doses out of every single vial, its goal to vaccinate 20 million people with Pfizer’s 40 million doses will be impossible to meet. 

Getting that extra dose requires the use of smaller syringes that allow less vaccine to go to waste with each injection. The best version is called a low-dead-volume syringe, which leaves less room for vaccine to get trapped in the needle and syringe after the plunger is pushed in all the way.

Those syringes are not as common as the three- and five-millilitre syringes mostly used in Canada’s vaccine campaign now, and the smaller ones have become the latest hot commodity of COVID-19.

Syringes on order

Public Services and Procurement Canada tendered contracts last year for 145 million syringes, 95 million of which are of the three- or five-millilitre variety.

There are 50 million one-millilitre syringes on order, including 37.5 million low-dead-volume versions.

The department wouldn’t say how many syringes of each type have arrived in Canada. A tender for one-millilitre syringes issued in October set a deadline for the first 15 million to be delivered at the end of this month and the rest by the end of March.

But whatever contract awarded has not been made public, including who the supplier is, how much it is worth, or when the supplies will be delivered.

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for Wednesday, Jan. 27 – CityNews Toronto

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):

10:45 a.m.

Ontario’s new daily case count of COVID-19 is the lowest it’s been in seven weeks.

The province is reporting 1,670 new cases of the virus today and 49 more deaths related to the disease.

Ontario’s daily case count hasn’t been this low since December 8.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says that 450 of those new cases are in Toronto, 342 are in Peel Region, and 171 are in York Region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Canadian politicians struggle to come to grips with the global vaccine race – CBC.ca

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The global scramble to vaccinate the human race against COVID-19 is bigger than Canadian politics. But every Canadian politician no doubt understands the political and human importance of this country seeming to do well in this multinational competition. 

The result this week is anxiety and a rush to assign blame that has failed to produce easy answers to the central question of what, if anything, Canadian officials could be doing to procure more of what’s arguably the most precious commodity on Earth.

But this consternation among Canadian politicians might be obscuring a bigger question for the world: Is this really the best way to go about vaccinating 7.6 billion people against a common threat? 

The latest spasm of concern about Canada’s vaccine supply can be traced to a production facility in Puurs, Belgium, where Pfizer has been manufacturing one of the two approved vaccines for use in Canada. Pfizer has decided to retool that facility so that it can increase production. In the short-term, that means fewer doses will be available.

In response to Pfizer’s change of plans, Ontario Premier Doug Ford quickly declared that, if he were prime minister, he’d be on the phone to Pfizer’s top executive demanding the previously scheduled shipments. “I’d be up that guy’s ying-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” Ford said.

WATCH | Ontario premier says Trudeau’s ‘No. 1 job’ is to get vaccines:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to fight to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Canada and he suggests the alternative to the Belgian plant may be Pfizer’s Michigan facility. 0:55

It stands to reason that if getting a plentiful supply of the Pfizer vaccine was as easy as getting up Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s ying-yang with a firecracker, nearly every leader on the planet would be doing so. But Ford got a chance to test his theory — a day later he spoke with the president of Pfizer Canada. If a firecracker was lit during that conversation, it has so far failed to change Pfizer’s plans.

In Ottawa, the consternation has been only slightly less colourful, culminating in an “emergency debate” in the House of Commons on Tuesday. 

The Conservatives argue that an ill-fated partnership between the National Research Council and China’s CanSino Biologics distracted Justin Trudeau’s government from pursuing better options — but Public Services Minister Anita Anand told the Canadian Press in December that Canada was the fourth country in the world to sign a contract with Pfizer and the first to sign with Moderna, the other major supplier of an approved vaccine. 

The New Democrats argue that the federal government should have negotiated for the right to domestically produce the currently approved vaccines — but that presumably depends in large part on the willingness of companies like Moderna and Pfizer to do so. 

A real effort to ensure Canada had domestic capacity to produce a pandemic vaccine likely would have had to have been implemented years ago.

Little control over vaccine supply

Eventually, Tuesday night’s debate landed on questions of transparency. The government says it has a plan for vaccinating Canadians, but the opposition says that plan isn’t detailed enough.

The opposition insists the government should release the details of the contracts it has signed with manufacturers, but the government says those contracts are necessarily confidential. There are suggestions that Europe’s supply of the Pfizer vaccine might be smaller than the interruption to Canada’s supply, but it’s not clear why that might be the case.

The Liberals surely understand the gravity of the vaccine race, but they have never shown much interest in explaining themselves in detail. They insist that their agreements with seven potential manufacturers have put Canada in a decent position and that their medium-term and long-term targets for vaccinating Canadians over the course of this year will not be affected by the current shortfall.

WATCH | EU threatens to slow vaccine exports, increasing concerns about vaccine nationalism:

The European Union is threatening to slow exports of the Pfizer vaccine after Astra-Zeneca announced a delay in production. With vaccines in short supply, global health leaders are growing increasingly concerned about the rise of vaccine nationalism. 2:00

But Pfizer’s decision to retool the plant in Puurs underlines how little control the Liberal government can claim to have over the situation and how little sympathy they’ll receive if things don’t work out the way they said they would.

It was just over a month ago that the federal government was able to answer a previous panic with earlier-than-expected approvals and shipments of the new vaccine. If the Liberals were only too happy to bask in that good news, this interruption feels like the universe’s way of telling them to not get cocky.

Canada vs. other countries

In the meantime, even the definition of success will be up for debate.

On Monday, for instance, Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus complained that Canada was not doing as well as the Seychelles, which had delivered at least a first dose to 20.22 per cent of its population through January 25. By comparison, Canada’s rate of vaccination was 2.23 per cent.

But the tiny island nation has a population of 98,000 people (roughly the equivalent of Red Deer, Alta). In absolute terms, the number of people who had received a dose in the Seychelles was 19,889. Canada, meanwhile, had administered doses to 839,949 people.

WATCH | Ottawa offers assurances about COVID-19 vaccine supply:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to reassure Canadians about the COVID-19 vaccine supply after the European Union raised the possibility of imposing export controls on vaccines leaving the EU. Canada’s Pfizer-BioNTech shots are made in Belgium. 1:44

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland countered that Canada was ahead of Germany, France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But three of those countries — Japan, Australia and New Zealand — haven’t yet begun their vaccination programs. And in two of those countries — Australia and New Zealand — COVID-19 is almost non-existent. 

‘This is pure nonsense’

During the emergency debate on Tuesday night, the NDP’s Don Davies said Canada ranked 16th per capita in doses administered. He meant it as a complaint. But it could just as easily be framed as a compliment — if Canada ends up being the 16th fastest country to vaccinate its population, it will have finished ahead of 174 other countries. Among the 32 OECD countries who have begun vaccinations, Canada ranks 12th in doses administered per capita.

A few countries — the United States, United Kingdom and Israel — seem to be benefiting from their own unique circumstances. The U.S. and U.K., for instance, have access to domestic production of the available vaccines.

In every other country, there might be some version of the Canadian debate playing out; Trudeau said last week that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had commiserated about the similar criticism that they were each facing. 

WATCH | COVID’s one year anniversary in Canada:

One year after the first confirmed case of COVID-19, are we really all in it together? A PSW speaks about the reality of working the front lines in long-term care homes, and an artist questions life after CERB. PLUS, why first-world countries like Canada are being accused of hoarding vaccines. 45:36

But all of this might underline the questions of whether an every-country-for-itself scramble to acquire vaccines from a limited number of private manufacturers is the sensible way to go about vaccinating the human race.

“‘Could Canada have done more?’ The problem for me is that this is not the right question. What we’ve been seeing, for me, is a bit of a catastrophe,” said Marc-Andre Gagnon, a political science professor at Carleton University who focuses on pharmaceutical policy.

“You end up with a handful of companies that are developing their own vaccines, each by themselves, working in silos. So then you have a product with a patent, so monopoly rights on the product. And then you end up with this vaccine nationalism of all countries basically doing a free market negotiation in terms of who can jump the queue in order to get faster access to the vaccines. In terms of priorities of global public health, this is pure nonsense.”

A better approach, Gagnon suggests, would have focused on collaboration, data sharing and making use of all available manufacturing capacity around the world. 

Pfizer’s new deal with Sanofi, a rival producer, might at least be a step in that direction. But any serious rethinking of global vaccination policy might have to wait for the next pandemic.

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