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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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The World Health Organization says it has cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, meaning poorer countries may soon get access to the shot already available in Europe and North America.

Every country that has a drug regulatory agency will have to issue its own approval for any COVID-19 vaccine, but countries with weak systems usually rely on WHO to vet the shots.

The global body said late Thursday that the decision to issue its first emergency use validation for a COVID-19 vaccine “opens the door for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine.”

The UN health agency said its review found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has already received clearance in the United States, Britain, Canada, the European Union and a dozen other countries, “met the must-have criteria for safety and efficacy set out by WHO.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has to be stored at ultra-frozen temperatures, a big hurdle for developing countries where the required freezers and reliable electricity supply may not be available.

“This requirement makes the vaccine more challenging to deploy in settings where ultra-cold chain equipment may not be available or reliably accessible,” WHO said, adding that it was “working to support countries in assessing their delivery plans and preparing for use where possible.”


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Mandatory COVID-19 tests add turbulence between airlines, Ottawa:

The federal government has set Jan. 7 as the date when airline passengers will require a negative COVID-19 test before entering Canada. The decision has added turbulence to the already fraught relationship between Ottawa and the airlines. 1:56

Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, exceeded 200,000 COVID-19 infections on Thursday after reporting a record 2,819 new cases — a record single-day high.

Health officials in the province also reported 62 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, bringing the provincial death toll to 8,226. Hospitalizations stood at 1,175 with 165 people in intensive care units.

Quebec also said Thursday that it’s changing its COVID-19 vaccine strategy in order to vaccinate as many people as possible instead of holding doses back for booster shots — a practice already in place in several other provinces.

As of Thursday, the province had received 87,000 doses of vaccine and has administered 29,250 injections.

Quebec wasn’t the only province to shatter its single-day COVID-19 case record on Thursday — Ontario reported 3,328 cases of COVID-19, becoming the first province to report more than 3,000 cases in a single day.

As of early Friday morning, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 580,195, with 74,777 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 15,605.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer on Thursday urged people to start 2021 by following COVID-19 precautions to prevent a surge in cases similar to those in other jurisdictions.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said persistence under adversity during 2020 has helped save lives, but some sacrifices must continue before more people can be vaccinated. She said 17,510 people in every region of the province have had their first dose of a vaccine, mostly the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Here’s a look at what’s happening with COVID-19 across the country:

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening in the U.S.

Hundreds of people waited in line at Lakes Park Regional Library to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Fort Myers, Fla., earlier this week. (Andrew West/The News-Press/USA Today Network/Reuters)

Florida health authorities late Thursday reported finding evidence of the latest U.S. case of the new and apparently more contagious coronavirus strain first seen in England, saying it was detected in a man with no recent travel history.

The case, disclosed in a Florida Health Department statement tweeted on its HealthyFla site, comes after reports in recent days of two individual cases of the new strain of COVID-19 discovered in Colorado and California.

Florida’s health statement said the new virus variant was detected in a man in his 20s in Martin County, which abuts the Atlantic Coast above densely populated South Florida. The health department did not give further details, such as releasing the man’s medical condition or how the strain was detected.

California on Wednesday announced the nation’s second confirmed case of the new virus strain. The announcement came 24 hours after word of the first reported variant infection in the U.S., which emerged in Colorado — in a National Guardsman who had been sent to help out at a nursing home struggling with an outbreak.

Scientists in the U.K. believe the variant is more contagious than previously identified strains. The cases have triggered questions about how the version circulating in England arrived in the U.S. and whether it is too late to stop it now, with top experts saying it is probably already spreading elsewhere in the United States.

Medical staff member Diana Isabel Escalante talks to a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit on New Year’s Eve at the United Memorial Medical Center on in Houston, Texas. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

The U.S. has been dealing with rising case numbers and a vaccination effort that hasn’t moved forward as quickly as officials hoped. More than 19.9 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. and the country has seen more than 345,000 deaths.

In Wisconsin, authorities arrested a suburban Milwaukee pharmacist Thursday suspected of deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine by removing them from refrigeration. Police in Grafton, about 32 kilometres north of Milwaukee, said the Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property, all felonies.

The pharmacist has been fired and police said in a news release that he was in jail. Police did not identify the pharmacist, saying he has not yet been formally charged. His motive remains unclear. Police said that detectives believe he knew the spoiled doses would be useless and people who received them would mistakenly think they’d been vaccinated when they hadn’t.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:20 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A sign that reads ‘Happy Year 2021’ is seen inside an intensive care unit where patients with COVID-19 are treated at Hospital General on New Year’s Eve in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

As of early Friday morning, more than 83.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 47.1 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.

In Europe, British medics warned Friday that hospitals around the country face a perilous few weeks amid surging new coronavirus infections that have been blamed on a new variant of the virus.

A day after the U.K. posted a record 55,892 new infections and another 964 coronavirus-related deaths, concerns are mounting about the impact on the overstretched National Health Service. Field hospitals that were constructed in the early days of the pandemic but that were subsequently mothballed are being reactivated.

The Royal College of Nursing’s England director, Mike Adams, told Sky News that the U.K. was in the “eye of the storm” and that it was “infuriating” to see people not following physical distancing guidance or wearing masks.

A leading physician also warned of burnout among health workers on the front line of the outbreak in hospitals, while also urging people to follow the rules.

“I am worried,” Adrian Boyle, vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told the BBC. “We are very much at battle stations.”

New infections have more than doubled in recent weeks after a new variant that health experts have said appears to be significantly more contagious was found to be behind a big spike in cases around London and the southeast of England.

Given the lags between new cases and hospitalizations and subsequent deaths, there are huge concerns about the path of the pandemic over the coming month or two in a country that has Europe’s second-highest virus-related death toll at nearly 74,000.

As a result of the spike, which has spread around the country and seen lockdown restrictions tightened, the strategy around the rollout of vaccines has been changed to get more people an initial jab as soon as possible, with a scheduled second one delayed.

In a joint statement Thursday, the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the first vaccine dose offers “substantial” protection.

Currently, two vaccines have been approved for use in the U.K.

Just under 1 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech, with a small minority also getting the second dose as planned after 21 days.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines will prohibit the entry of foreign travelers from the United States effective Jan. 3, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson said on Friday, after the more infectious new variant of the coronavirus was detected in Florida.

The travel ban, until Jan. 15, covers those who have been to the United States within 14 days preceding arrival in the Philippines, spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement. The measure expands the travel restriction that Manila announced on Tuesday, which initially covered passengers from 19 countries and territories — including Canada — and took effect as of midnight on Dec. 29.

Two major airports in northeastern China are requiring departing passengers to show a negative coronavirus test taken over the previous 72 hours before they can board their planes.

The requirements by the Shenyang and Dalian come amid a small but persistent growth in cases in the two cities located in Liaoning province just north of the capital Beijing. Four new cases were announced Friday in Liaoning, along with another five cases in Beijing, where emergency testing was ordered for more than a million people following the detection of a small cluster in the northeastern suburbs.

Wary of another wave of infections, China is urging tens of millions of migrant workers to stay put during next month’s annual Lunar New Year holiday.

A woman checks her temperature as she visits a popular entertainment street to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Bangkok during the coronavirus pandemic in Thailand. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

The Thai capital is shutting down venues including schools and entertainment parks as coronavirus cases continue to spread. Thailand reported 279 new cases on Friday including two deaths.

In the Americas, Brazil reported more than 1,000 deaths from the coronavirus for a third day in a row. Brazil has seen more than 7.6 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 195,000 deaths.

In Africa, Chad has locked down its capital N’djamena for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic and has declared a dusk to dawn curfew due to a rise in infections.

In the Middle East, Israel said it has vaccinated 1 million people against COVID-19, more than a tenth of its population, as it rolls out one of the world’s earliest and most rapid inoculation campaigns.

Iranian media said Thursday the country is negotiating the purchase of coronavirus vaccines from China. The semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi as saying: “We are reaching agreement with China for buying 4 million doses.”

Vaezi said the process would take around two months. Iran has already discussed buying vaccines from both Russia and India. China on Thursday authorized the Sinopharm vaccine for general use, after it had already approved its use earlier to health-care professionals and essential workers under emergency-use guidelines. Vaezi said Iran will also buy 16.5 vaccines from COVAX, the global vaccine consortium.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:25 a.m. ET

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Retail frenzy as restrictions eased – Winnipeg Free Press

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Hundreds of Winnipeggers lined up outside multiple retailers across the city, with one shopper bellowing triumphantly: “It doesn’t even feel like a pandemic anymore — it’s Boxing Day 2.0!”

As the province eased public-health orders to allow the sale of non-essential items this weekend, parking lots filled up quickly Saturday morning.

Shoppers didn’t let the biting snow showers or even the mandated 25-per-cent capacity limits stop them from waiting outside storefronts for hours on end, before they could get in. Malls remained busy well into the evening, with larger outlets allowing up to 250 people at a time.

“Honestly,” Darrien Drewyer told the Free Press, as he queued up outside the Winnipeg IKEA with his young son to pick up a new chair, “I’ve been waiting for this for like months now.”

Drewyer — like all of Manitoba — hasn’t been able to shop for anything but groceries, pharmaceuticals or other essentials since mid-November, when the province enforced strict Code Red measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

At Polo Park, a security guard said he’d never seen this many cars stacked across the space in tight rows in the many years he’s worked at the mall. “It’s madness,” he said.

“We couldn’t do a lot of Christmas shopping or even Boxing Day or Black Friday properly,” said Nicole Julien, waiting outside the Grant Park Winners outlet.

“I guess this is our chance now because the government finally said you can do it,” chimed in Julien’s boyfriend Henry Siloam, who wanted to purchase a pair of T-shirts he saw at a special in-store discount.

While most other large retailers, such as Costco, Toys”R”Us, Best Buy and Sport Chek were also chock full of customers, independent and small stores did not see the same level of foot traffic.

Just a few steps next to the busy Winners outlet in Grant Park Shopping Centre, which touts up to 70 different storefronts, Northern Reflections and other such outlets appeared barren.

Used DVD store Entertainment Exchange was relatively occupied with customers, however. At one point Saturday afternoon, at least 12 people were waiting to enter, while several others were already glancing over the CDs inside.

“I’m sure the larger businesses are extremely happy with this,” said Jonathan Alward, Manitoba director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “But I just wish people would understand that it might actually be safer and even quicker to go support a small business instead of going off to an IKEA instantly.”

Alward hopes, “once people have gotten things out of their system in the following days,” retailers could look calmer. He thinks a lot of it comes from having more than two months of pent-up cabin fever since restrictions were implemented.

According to the newly relaxed public-health orders, all businesses are allowed to reopen and sell anything they’d like, if they’re enforcing strict capacity limits, physical distancing guidelines and mask policies. Restrictions have not been eased for northern Manitoba communities.

The new rules have effectively closed all loopholes that emerged from a repeatedly changed provincial list of “essential” items, which advocates and business owners have argued impacted independent companies more than big-box stores. Smaller shops relied far more on curbside pickups, delivery and online sales — without necessarily having the infrastructure to match larger chains.

Announcing the measures Thursday, chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the new rules are meant to “allow increased personal connections, support the well-being of Manitobans… and allow struggling small businesses to get a chance at opening.”

“It all depends on Manitobans,” said Roussin of the current orders that will last at least three weeks. “If we start seeing transmission of COVID-19 again, we’re not going to be able to further reopen.”

Looking at the lineups across the provincial capital on the first day of reopenings, Lisa Malbranck of Diamond Gallery isn’t sure if that messaging has come across for Manitobans.

“You know, they’ve talked so much about this ‘spirit’ of the orders,” she said Saturday. “To me this doesn’t really seem like the spirit of the order when you’re running off and flocking so quickly to the bigger stores.”

At her own store, Malbranck did not see any lineups. Save for the occasional walk-in customers, most people came in after they’d already booked an appointment.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “I just want our community to come together and support the ones these orders are really there for, as we return to some sense of normal again.”

Twitter: @temurdur

Temur.Durrani@freepress.mb.ca

Temur Durrani

Temur Durrani
Reporter

Temur Durrani reports on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for this Free Press reporting position comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

   Read full biography

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Retail frenzy as restrictions eased – Winnipeg Free Press

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Hundreds of Winnipeggers lined up outside multiple retailers across the city, with one shopper bellowing triumphantly: “It doesn’t even feel like a pandemic anymore — it’s Boxing Day 2.0!”

As the province eased public-health orders to allow the sale of non-essential items this weekend, parking lots filled up quickly Saturday morning.

Shoppers didn’t let the biting snow showers or even the mandated 25-per-cent capacity limits stop them from waiting outside storefronts for hours on end, before they could get in. Malls remained busy well into the evening, with larger outlets allowing up to 250 people at a time.

“Honestly,” Darrien Drewyer told the Free Press, as he queued up outside the Winnipeg IKEA with his young son to pick up a new chair, “I’ve been waiting for this for like months now.”

Drewyer — like all of Manitoba — hasn’t been able to shop for anything but groceries, pharmaceuticals or other essentials since mid-November, when the province enforced strict Code Red measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

At Polo Park, a security guard said he’d never seen this many cars stacked across the space in tight rows in the many years he’s worked at the mall. “It’s madness,” he said.

“We couldn’t do a lot of Christmas shopping or even Boxing Day or Black Friday properly,” said Nicole Julien, waiting outside the Grant Park Winners outlet.

“I guess this is our chance now because the government finally said you can do it,” chimed in Julien’s boyfriend Henry Siloam, who wanted to purchase a pair of T-shirts he saw at a special in-store discount.

While most other large retailers, such as Costco, Toys”R”Us, Best Buy and Sport Chek were also chock full of customers, independent and small stores did not see the same level of foot traffic.

Just a few steps next to the busy Winners outlet in Grant Park Shopping Centre, which touts up to 70 different storefronts, Northern Reflections and other such outlets appeared barren.

Used DVD store Entertainment Exchange was relatively occupied with customers, however. At one point Saturday afternoon, at least 12 people were waiting to enter, while several others were already glancing over the CDs inside.

“I’m sure the larger businesses are extremely happy with this,” said Jonathan Alward, Manitoba director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “But I just wish people would understand that it might actually be safer and even quicker to go support a small business instead of going off to an IKEA instantly.”

Alward hopes, “once people have gotten things out of their system in the following days,” retailers could look calmer. He thinks a lot of it comes from having more than two months of pent-up cabin fever since restrictions were implemented.

According to the newly relaxed public-health orders, all businesses are allowed to reopen and sell anything they’d like, if they’re enforcing strict capacity limits, physical distancing guidelines and mask policies. Restrictions have not been eased for northern Manitoba communities.

The new rules have effectively closed all loopholes that emerged from a repeatedly changed provincial list of “essential” items, which advocates and business owners have argued impacted independent companies more than big-box stores. Smaller shops relied far more on curbside pickups, delivery and online sales — without necessarily having the infrastructure to match larger chains.

Announcing the measures Thursday, chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the new rules are meant to “allow increased personal connections, support the well-being of Manitobans… and allow struggling small businesses to get a chance at opening.”

“It all depends on Manitobans,” said Roussin of the current orders that will last at least three weeks. “If we start seeing transmission of COVID-19 again, we’re not going to be able to further reopen.”

Looking at the lineups across the provincial capital on the first day of reopenings, Lisa Malbranck of Diamond Gallery isn’t sure if that messaging has come across for Manitobans.

“You know, they’ve talked so much about this ‘spirit’ of the orders,” she said Saturday. “To me this doesn’t really seem like the spirit of the order when you’re running off and flocking so quickly to the bigger stores.”

At her own store, Malbranck did not see any lineups. Save for the occasional walk-in customers, most people came in after they’d already booked an appointment.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “I just want our community to come together and support the ones these orders are really there for, as we return to some sense of normal again.”

Twitter: @temurdur

Temur.Durrani@freepress.mb.ca

Temur Durrani

Temur Durrani
Reporter

Temur Durrani reports on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for this Free Press reporting position comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

   Read full biography

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Vaccine eligibility spurs frustration as youngest Albertan, 20, dies of COVID-19 – Calgary Herald

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Article content continued

Through Friday, Alberta has administered 98,807 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including at least 8,304 second doses. It’s an increase of only 1,022 shots from the previous day, a slowdown caused by short supply from a disruption to Pfizer shipments.

On Saturday, the province reported 573 new cases of the novel coronavirus. The infections came from 10,894 tests, representing a 5.3 per cent positivity rate and breaking a three-day streak of positivity rates below five per cent.

Also Saturday, Alberta reported 13 additional deaths from COVID-19, bringing the pandemic’s toll in the province to 1,525.

Two of those deaths were people in their 20s from the Alberta Health Services Calgary zone, a man and a woman. According to Alberta Health, it’s unknown whether the man had any comorbidities, but the woman did not.

One of the newly reported deaths was 20 years old, the youngest Albertan to die of COVID-19. Previously, the youngest person reported to have died from the virus was 23. Seven Albertans in their 20s and another seven in their 30s have lost their lives to the virus.

Hospitalization rates continued a steady decline Saturday. There are now 676 Albertans in hospital with the coronavirus, including 114 in intensive-care units.

The number of active cases in Alberta also dropped to 9,727. The province dipped below 10,000 active cases the previous day for the first time since November.

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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