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



The latest:

The World Health Organization has issued a call for experts to join a new advisory group to address the agency’s
attempts to further investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Friday, the UN health agency said the new scientific group would provide WHO with an independent analysis of the scientific work done to date to pinpoint the origins of COVID-19 and to advise the agency on necessary next steps.

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Meanwhile, In the U.S., millions of students in Florida, Texas and Arizona were being required to wear masks in class, as school boards in mostly Democratic locales impose anti-COVID mandates in defiance of their Republican governors.

A recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida led the mayor of Orlando to ask residents to stop watering their lawns and washing their cars for a least a week, saying water treatment needed to be preserved for medical usage.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was reported to be preparing to give full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, according to the New York Times.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 5:37 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Vaccination key to avoiding the worst from delta variant, experts say: 

Vaccination key to avoiding the worst from delta variant, experts say

With the delta coronavirus variant making up more than 80 per cent of cases in Canada, experts say most people will encounter it. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent the worst outcomes. Correction: At 1:30 in this story, Dr. Mike Nayak is incorrectly identified as Mark Nayak. 2:44

What’s happening around the world

A student wearing a mask attends class on the first day of school at St. Lawrence Catholic School in North Miami Beach, Fla., earlier this week. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

As of Friday afternoon, more than 210 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide. According to the Johns Hopkins University tracking database, more than 4.4 million deaths had been reported worldwide.

In Jamaica, the prime minister has announced a lockdown to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 as the Caribbean country faces a strong surge, with more than 550 cases reported over the past 24 hours.

In India, the country’s drug controller has given emergency use approval to Zydus Cadila’s COVID-19 vaccine, the country’s first shot for adolescents in the 12-18 age group. 

In the Middle East, Israel has made COVID-19 vaccine booster shots available to people aged 40 and older, in an effort to fight a surge of the delta variant. About 5.9 million people of Israel’s 9.3 million population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. More than 5.4 million have received two doses, and 1.3 million have received a third dose.

In the Americas, Mexico is battling a new wave of coronavirus infections as daily cases hit record highs and the official death toll surpassed 251,000, one of the highest worldwide.

San Francisco became the first major city in the U.S. to require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 for people dining inside restaurants, working out in gyms or attending indoor concerts.

In Florida, officials threatened to withhold funds equal to the salaries of school board members if school districts in two counties didn’t immediately do away with strict mask mandates.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam will deploy troops in Ho Chi Minh City and prohibit residents from leaving their homes, authorities said, as its biggest city turns to drastic measures to slow a spiralling rate of coronavirus deaths.

Sri Lanka’s government imposed a 10-day lockdown across the island on Friday in an attempt to contain the rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases. The lockdown will be effective from 10:00 p.m. Friday until Aug. 30, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella tweeted.

Thailand, meanwhile, passed one million total coronavirus infections Friday, as its latest surge dropped below 20,000 daily cases for the first time in 10 days. Over 97 per cent of the cases counted since the pandemic began have been since April.

Health-care workers prepare to remove the body of a coronavirus patient who died in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Machakos, Kenya, on Friday. (Brian Inganga/The Associated Press)

South Africa has opened vaccine eligibility to all adults to step up the volume of inoculations amid a coronavirus surge fuelled by the delta variant. 

The country started offering shots to everyone aged 18 and older Friday as the number of vaccinations stalled to less than 200,000 a day, down from 250,000 earlier this month. It’s significantly lower than the target of 300,000 the government had hoped to achieve by this time. 

The update comes a day after the Africa director for the World Health Organization warned that “as some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery of vaccine equity.”

Matshidiso Moeti and other African health officials, including the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had recently warned against offering booster shots in countries further advanced in their vaccination rollouts, such as the U.S., as less than two per cent of the population on the continent of 1.3 billion people is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In Europe, Germany is declaring Crete and other Greek islands as a “high-risk area” for COVID-19, meaning that many people coming from those spots who haven’t been vaccinated will need to quarantine upon arrival in Germany.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

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Major biodiversity conference opens in Montreal amid hope of hard conservation target



A major international conference on preserving the world’s biodiversity is to open Tuesday with speakers including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

COP15 in Montreal brings together 196 countries to refresh the Convention on Biological Diversity and is seen as a crucial attempt to reach a global deal on saving the world’s ecosystems and the plants and animals that depend on them.

Mary MacDonald of the World Wildlife Fund Canada said COP15 could provide for biodiversity what the Paris Agreement created for climate change: hard targets for preserving nature.

“What we’re looking for is something like an acknowledgment by all countries in the world that we need to have a nature-positive 2030,” MacDonald said. “That means there’s more healthy nature on this planet by 2030 than there is now.”

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Diplomats have hammered out 22 targets for the negotiations, which include halting the spread of invasive species and reducing the use of pesticides and plastics.

But the main objective will be to agree on a minimum amount of how much of the world’s ecosystems should be protected and conserved.

Scientists suggest preserving 30 per cent of the globe’s remaining lands and oceans is vital to stop increasing threats of extinction and achieving international targets for reducing greenhouse gases. They say biodiversity and climate change are closely linked.

A 2019 paper in the journal Science concluded: “If current trends in habitat conversion and emissions do not peak by 2030, then it will become impossible to remain below 1.5 (degrees Celsius).”

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says Canada has four main goals for the final agreement: meeting the 30 per cent threshold, reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, providing money to developing nations to allow them to meet those targets and ensuring Indigenous people are fully involved.

Guilbeault acknowledges meeting those goals won’t be easy. He said the last draft of the convention he saw contained 1,200 places where the final text hasn’t been agreed on.

The event will create a small city within Montreal for the next two weeks, with 17,000 registered attendees and 900 reporters accredited to cover their deliberations.

The COP15 conference lasts until Dec. 19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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Security breach detected in October, believed to be sponsored by the Chinese state



The Canadian branch of human rights organization Amnesty International says it was the target of a cyberattack it believes was sponsored by the Chinese state.

In a statement posted on its website, Amnesty International Canada said the digital security breach was first detected on Oct. 5, 2022, when suspicious activity was spotted on Amnesty’s IT infrastructure.

An investigation by forensic investigators and cybersecurity experts was immediately launched, and steps were taken to protect the organization’s systems.

Amnesty International Canada said preliminary results of the probe suggest tools and techniques associated with specific advanced persistent threat groups were used in the cyberattack.

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It said forensic experts with international cybersecurity firm Secureworks later established the likely source of the security breach was a threat group sponsored or tasked by the Chinese state, based on the nature of the targeted information as well as the observed tools and behaviours.

“As an organization advocating for human rights globally, we are very aware that we may be the target of state-sponsored attempts to disrupt or surveil our work,” Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Ketty Nivyabandi said in the release. “These will not intimidate us and the security and privacy of our activists, staff, donors, and stakeholders remain our utmost priority.”

Nivyabandi added the cyberattack speaks to the “increasingly dangerous context which activists, journalists, and civil society alike must navigate today.”

“Our work to investigate and denounce these acts has never been more critical and relevant. We will continue to shine a light on human rights violations wherever they occur and to denounce the use of digital surveillance by governments to stifle human rights.”

The organization said at this point, there is no evidence that any donor or membership data was exposed

In the statement, Amnesty International Canada said it “has taken swift and robust action to strengthen its digital security and restore systems back online securely.” It added law enforcement was notified of the breach, and it will continue to work with security experts to mitigate against potential future risks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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Migrant worker battling cancer in urgent need of MSI



Halifax, NS (December 6, 2022) – In a video released today, migrant worker Kerian Burnett speaks out about her ongoing struggle with cancer. While she is supposed to start cancer treatments soon, she has no health coverage in Nova Scotia.

Kerian is a 42 year-old woman from Jamaica. She is a mother of 6 and grandmother to 2 children. In April 2022, she came to work in Canada through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). After 2 months of working on a strawberry farm, she fell sick and was unable to work. In September 2022, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which required two different surgeries. She was advised by her doctor to remain in Canada to undergo life-saving treatments.

In some provinces, migrant workers have access to public healthcare on arrival. In Nova Scotia, migrant workers must have a one-year work permit to be eligible for public healthcare (MSI). This means that SAWP workers are not eligible, because their contracts are only up to 8 months. They would only have access to private health insurance, which is tied to their employment.

Due to her illness, Kerian’s job ended and her private health insurance was terminated.

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Kerian is calling on Health Minister Michelle Thomson to provide MSI coverage to herself and other migrant workers in Nova Scotia.

“There are lots of Jamaicans here and other migrant workers here, which come here for work. Nobody wants to be sick, but eventually, you get sick. Now we are working for like $13.35/hour. There is no way if you get sick, and you have a bill at the hospital, how are we going to pay these bills? So, actually, I’m not really doing this for myself alone. I’m doing this for every farmworker that doesn’t have access to public healthcare here in Canada,” said Kerian in the video.


To date, a GoFundMe campaign in support of Kerian has raised over $9,000 of the $15,000 goal.

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