Health officials in Quebec are moving five more municipalities into lockdown on Monday in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The provincial government said the curfew will move from 9:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday evening in the regional municipalities of Beauce-Sartigan, Bellechasse, Les Etchemins, Nouvelle-Beauce and Robert-Cliche.
Non-essential businesses will have to close starting Monday evening, as will restaurant dining rooms. Schools will also have to close for in-person learning. The measures will be in place until at least April 12, the province said.
The Quebec government imposed the same restrictions on three other cities last week, including Quebec City and Gatineau.
The announcement of the additional restrictions in Quebec came Sunday, as the province reported 1,154 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 502, the province said, with 128 COVID-19 patients reported to be in intensive care units.
The restrictions come as many provinces face mounting COVID-19 case numbers and increasing hospitalizations, prompting concern about strain on health-care systems.
Ontario is expected to provide two days’ worth of COVID-19 numbers later Monday. On Saturday, the last day health officials in Ontario posted updated COVID-19 statistics, the province reported more than 3,000 new cases and 16 additional deaths. As of Saturday, a provincial dashboard put the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at 796, with 496 in ICU “due to COVID-related illness.”
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of early Monday morning, Canada had reported 1,003,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 58,402 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,062.
In Atlantic Canada, a hospital in northwestern New Brunswick is nearing its capacity for acute care patients, according to a statement released by the Vitalité Health Network over the weekend.
“The evolution of the variant and its atypical behaviours are creating problems that exceed the pessimistic projections that had been made for that region,” the statement from the organization’s president and CEO Dr. France Desrosiers said. “The Edmundston Regional Hospital will soon reach its maximum capacity in terms of patients requiring acute care.”
Desrosiers, who praised the efforts of front-line workers and health-care staff, noted that the transfer of patients to other facilities “is imminent.”
New Brunswick reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, with nine of the cases coming from the Edmundston region. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 15, health officials reported, with seven people in intensive care.
Nova Scotia reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and there were no cases reported in either Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or Yukon on Sunday.
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In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba did not provide an update on COVID-19 on Sunday.
In Saskatchewan, health officials reported 221 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 194, with 44 people in intensive care due to COVID-19, the highest figure recorded in the province.
In Alberta, a preliminary estimate of new case numbers reported Sunday stood at 950, the province’s top doctor said in a tweet. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said hospitalizations remained stable, noting that health officials would provide an update on Monday.
British Columbia will provide updated case numbers later Monday. Businesses putting staff and patrons at risk by remaining open in defiance of COVID-19 rules will face consequences, the province’s public safety minister said Sunday as the province works to bring surging infections under control.
The warning from Mike Farnworth comes after a Vancouver restaurant that flouted restrictions by serving patrons indoors was slapped with a closure notice on Saturday, which its owner has indicated she intends to ignore.
“Harassment of enforcement officials will not be tolerated, and closure orders by Vancouver Coastal Health or any other health authority must be respected,” Farnworth said in a statement.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 131.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.8 million.
In the Americas, Johnson & Johnson is taking over “full responsibility” for a subcontractor’s Baltimore facility that produces the drug substance for its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine after an embarrassing mix-up. The company said it’s adding leaders in operations and quality control to the Emergent BioSolutions plant to supervise the work of its vaccine line.
It comes after enough drug substance for about 15 million doses was contaminated by human error at the plant. The issue was flagged to federal regulators, who have yet to approve any doses from the Baltimore plant, last week.
J&J has delivered about 20 million doses from another plant to the federal government already and says it expects to deliver about 80 million more by the end of May.
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In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippine government extended a lockdown by another week Monday after an alarming spike in coronavirus infections continued to surge and started to overwhelm many hospitals in the capital and outlying regions.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metropolitan Manila and four outlying provinces, a region of more than 25 million people, under lockdown last week as daily infections breached 10,000. Roman Catholic leaders shifted Holy Week and Easter events online after all public gatherings, including in places of worship, were temporarily banned.
Bangladesh began enforcing a weeklong nationwide lockdown Monday, shutting shopping malls and transportation as authorities try to stop a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.
The decision came after health authorities said that they were facing overwhelming pressure in intensive care units in recent weeks because of severe infections. This is the second time the South Asian nation has enforced a virus lockdown after the first last March.
India has reported its biggest single-day spike in confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and officials in the hard-hit state home to Mumbai are returning to the closure of some businesses and places of worship in a bid to slow the spread.
The Health Ministry on Monday reported 103,558 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, topping the previous peak of 97,894 daily cases recorded in late September. Fatalities rose by 478, raising the country’s death toll to 165,101.
India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 73,000 cases per day and infections in the country are being reported faster than anywhere else in the world.
In the Middle East, Iran’s capital is once again facing the highest level of restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus as the country struggles with a new surge in daily deaths. State media said the measure on Monday is the third time Tehran has faced a so-called code red since the pandemic began. A code red involves a ban on any travel by personal cars to and from cities, and limits working hours of many businesses and offices to prevent the spread of the virus.
About 50 cities and towns are in code red, with only 23 in code blue, or “safe” status, out of the country’s total of more than 800 cities and towns. The rest are in orange and yellow status, which involve less restrictions.
The report comes as Iran’s daily death toll again reached three digits, after months of being under 100. On Sunday, 161 deaths were reported, bringing the registered death toll in Iran to more than 63,000, the highest in the Middle East. Iran has reported some 1.9 million confirmed cases of the virus
Also on Monday, Iran said it received the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the Netherlands through the global COVAX initiative.
In Africa, South Africa’s health minister said Sunday that the number of confirmed cases in the country — the hardest-hit on the continent — stood at more than 1.5 million, with nearly 53,000 recorded deaths.
In Europe, Portugal on Sunday extended restrictions on travel via land and sea to Spain that had been due to end this weekend until April 15.
Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco told the Financial Times newspaper that the biggest threat to a global economic recovery is the irregular pace at which countries are vaccinating their populations against COVID-19.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
CANADA STOCKS – TSX falls 0.14% to 19,201.28
* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.14 percent to 19,201.28
* Leading the index were Stantec Inc <STN.TO>, up 3.4%, Imperial Oil Ltd, up 3.3%, and Corus Entertainment Inc, higher by 2.9%.
* Lagging shares were Aphria Inc, down 14.2%, Village Farms International Inc, down 9.9%, and Aurora Cannabis Inc, lower by 9.4%.
* On the TSX 91 issues rose and 134 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 24 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 228.0 million shares.
* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Royal Bank Of Canada and Suncor Energy Inc.
* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.32 points, or 0.3%, while the financials sector climbed 2.46 points, or 0.7%.
* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.52%, or $0.31, to $59.63 a barrel. Brent crude rose 0.4%, or $0.25, to $63.2 [O/R]
* The TSX is up 10.1% for the year.
Air Canada signs C$5.9 billion government aid package, agrees to buy Airbus, Boeing jets
By David Ljunggren and Allison Lampert
OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada, struggling with a collapse in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached a deal on Monday on a long-awaited aid package with the federal government that would allow it to access up to C$5.9 billion ($4.69 billion) in funds.
The agreement – the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company – was announced after the airline industry criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling. The United States and France acted much more quickly to help major carriers.
Canada‘s largest carrier, which last year cut over half its workforce, or 20,000 jobs, and other airlines have been negotiating with the government for months on a coronavirus aid package.
In February, Air Canada reported a net loss for 2020 of C$4.65 billion, compared with a 2019 profit of C$1.48 billion.
As part of the deal, Air Canada agreed to ban share buybacks and dividends, cap annual compensation for senior executives at C$1 million a year and preserve jobs at the current level, which is 14,859.
It will also proceed with planned purchases of 33 Airbus SE 220 airliners and 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX airliners.
Chris Murray, managing director, equity research at ATB Capital Markets, said the deal took into account the “specific needs of Air Canada in the short and medium term without being overly onerous.”
He added: “It gives them some flexibility in drawing down additional liquidity as needed.”
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government was still in negotiations with other airlines about possible aid.
Canada, the world’s second-largest nation by area, depends heavily on civil aviation to keep remote communities connected.
Opposition politicians fretted that further delays in announcing aid could result in permanent damage to the country.
Air Canada said it would resume services on nearly all of the routes it had suspended because of COVID-19.
‘SIGNIFICANT LAYER OF INSURANCE’
The deal removes a potential political challenge for the Liberals, who insiders say are set to trigger an election later this year.
The government has agreed to buy C$500 million worth of shares in the airline, at C$23.1793 each, or a 14.2% discount to Monday’s close, a roughly 6% stake.
“Maintaining a competitive airline sector and good jobs is crucially important,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, adding the equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit when the airline’s fortunes recovered.
The Canadian government previously approved similar loans for four other companies worth up to C$1.billion, including up to C$375 million to low-cost airline Sunwing Vacations Inc. The government has paid out C$73.47 billion under its wage subsidy program and C$46.11 billion in loans to hard-hit small businesses.
Michael Rousseau, Air Canada‘s president and chief executive officer, said the liquidity “provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada.”
Jerry Dias, head of the Unifor private-sector union, described the announcement as “a good deal for everybody.”
Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector.
But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents roughly 10,000 Air Canada flight attendants, said the package protected the jobs of current workers rather than the 7,500 members of its union who had been let go by the carrier.
($1=1.2567 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)
U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry
British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.
The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.
Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.
“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”
Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.
The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”
Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.
The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.
While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.
“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”
In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.
Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.
The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.
Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.
“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.
In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.
“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”
Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.
“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.
The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.
French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.
On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.
But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.
“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”
Source: – CTV News
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