As efforts continue to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, where the number of reported cases has surpassed 89,000, a cluster of cases in Quebec’s elementary schools is shining a light on the cost of reopening the hardest hit provinces.
At least 41 staff and students tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the first two weeks after elementary schools outside the Montreal area reopened, the province’s education department says.
“It’s normal that by having the daycare, the school being open to the community, there can be cases,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s director of public health.
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“The advantage in those areas is that they’re young children, and we didn’t put any personnel who was high-risk (in the classroom).”
The numbers came from a survey of school boards conducted May 25, which found that 19 students and 22 staff members were infected. Twelve of the province’s 72 school boards did not offer up data.
News of the outbreaks came as Quebec reported another 530 cases of the virus on Friday, pushing its total above the 50,000 mark. The death toll climbed by 61, to 4,363.
In Ontario, meanwhile, where officials announced the case count had surged by 344 for a total of 27,210 with 2,230 deaths, Premier Doug Ford said he was looking at reopening the province region by region.
“The reality on the ground is different in every part of the province,” Ford said.
Two-thirds of the province’s cases are in the Greater Toronto Area, while some other public health agencies say they have few or no current patients.
New Brunswick, which didn’t report any new cases of the virus for the two weeks leading up to May 21, continued to grapple with a new outbreak of eight cases in the Campbellton area. Two of those infected are in intensive care, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
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As of 6:00 a.m. ET Saturday, Canada had 89,418 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 47,533 of them considered recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial data, regional information and CBC’s reporting stood at 7,046.
Russell said over the next four to five days, teams will be doing “a lot” of testing.
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Russell urged people to be patient and understanding as public health officials work to trace contacts and complete tests. The Campbellton region has been pushed back a level in terms of reopening, which has meant some businesses that were getting ready to open their doors will now wait at least another week.
N.B. Premier <a href=”https://twitter.com/BlaineHiggs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BlaineHiggs</a> says it is “prudent” to postpone the province’s next reopening phase, until officials can determine just how many people may have been exposed to COVID-19 by a medical professional who failed to self-isolate after returning from Quebec. <a href=”https://t.co/xATvgE1rUs”>pic.twitter.com/xATvgE1rUs</a>
Statistics Canada, meanwhile, has announced that gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 8.2 per cent in the first three months of 2020 — the worst quarterly showing since 2009 — even though efforts to contain the novel coronavirus by shuttering businesses and schools didn’t begin in earnest until March.
Many of those businesses are now reopening in a bid to re-employ some of the three million people who lost their jobs, putting workers and clients in close proximity and lending new urgency to the testing and tracing process.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia this week has had the lowest number of deaths and new cases since a public health emergency was declared on March 18. In the past seven days, there has been a total of 56 new cases, including four announced on Friday. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta has ordered 20 million non-medical masks and plans to distribute them to residents, offering up to four masks per person at no cost. McDonald’s, Tim Hortons and A&W restaurants have partnered with the province to distribute the masks at drive-thrus. The province reported 24 new cases of coronavirus Friday, but no new deaths. There are 616 active cases in province, with 55 people in hospital, four of them in intensive care. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan reported two more coronavirus cases on Friday, one in the south and one in the Saskatoon area. The province has 61 active cases. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
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Manitoba reported no new cases on Friday after confirming that two new cases on Thursday were related to out-of-province travel. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s considering a regional phased approach to reopening the province, an approach he had previously resisted. Ford said that the province’s expanded testing guidelines, released Friday morning, will help public health officials better understand trends and hot spots. The new strategy will focus on communities with relatively high numbers of cases and certain high-risk workplaces while also boosting Ontario’s contact-tracing work. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
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Quebec reached a grim milestone Friday, surpassing 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, nearly 60 per cent of all confirmed cases in Canada. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
In New Brunswick, Premier Blaine Higgs is hoping any reopening of the border with Maine will be delayed. Higgs raised his concerns on a federal call Thursday night, where he and other premiers learned the border might be reopened soon for people in communities next to them. Higgs said the reopening for border friends and families could come in the next few weeks or even days. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia reported no new cases and one new recovery on Friday, bringing its case total to 1,055, with 978 considered resolved. It’s the first day with no new cases since March.The province has reported 59 deaths to date, with most linked back to the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax. Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
In Prince Edward Island, Health Minister James Aylward said more than 1,100 surgeries have been delayed because of COVID-19. The surgeries, which included almost 500 eye surgeries, were all postponed during the 10-week period in which elective surgeries were put on hold. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I., which again reported no new cases on Friday.
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Newfoundland and Labrador will allow people to expand their household bubbles, officials said Friday. The government first allowed for bubbles of two households on April 30. Now households can expand their bubbles by up to six more people. New members of a bubble do not have to be from the same household, but cannot be changed once decided. The province, which announced a new COVID-19 case related to travel on Thursday, had no new cases on Friday. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
Yukon health officials say the territory is on track to allow people in July to travel freely between the territory and neighbouring B.C. That means anybody arriving in Yukon from B.C. would no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
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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)
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.
Oil prices mixed as coronavirus spike casts shadow over U.S. demand
By Florence Tan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices offered up a mixed market snapshot on Monday, with Brent crude edging higher, supported by tighter supplies, while U.S. benchmark WTI futures dropped on concern that a spike in coronavirus cases could curb oil demand in the United States.
Brent crude <LCOc1> rose 11 cents, or 0.3%, to $42.91 a barrel by 0109 GMT after a 4.3% gain last week, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude <CLc1> was at $40.35, down 30 cents, or 0.7%, from its previous settlement on Thursday. U.S. markets were closed on Friday to mark July 4 holiday celebrations.
Amid rising numbers of coronavirus cases in 39 U.S. states, a Reuters tally showed that in the first four days of July alone, 15 states reported record increases in new COVID-19 infections with parties over the holiday weekend possibly leading to another spike. [nL1N2EC043]
“Rising case numbers in some U.S. states are still looming over energy demand prospects,” ANZ analysts said in a note.
Still, some in the market remain focused on tightening supplies as production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) fell to its lowest in decades with Russian output dropped to near targeted cuts. [nL8N2E731A][nR4N2DN04W]
OPEC and allies including Russia, collectively known as OPEC+, have pledged to slash production by a record 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) for a third month in July. After July, the cuts are due to taper to 7.7 million bpd until December.
U.S. production, the world’s largest, is also falling. The number of operating U.S. oil and natural gas rigs fell to an all-time low for a ninth week, although the reductions have slowed as higher oil prices prompt some producers to start drilling again. [nFWN2E90KT]
(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)
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