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

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The latest:

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 hit record highs in the Prairie provinces over the weekend as Alberta on Sunday reported more new daily cases than hard-hit Ontario or Quebec.

The surge in the west came ahead of a decision by Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island to withdraw from the so-called Atlantic bubble for a period of two weeks.

Newfoundland and Labrador‘s premier said Monday that the decision to pull out of the Atlantic bubble is meant to stave off a second wave of COVID-19 and try to protect the upcoming holiday season.

Prince Edward Island also moved on Monday to suspend non-essential travel to and from the island for a two-week period.

The change comes after upticks in cases over the weekend. Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, it’s highest single day case number since May. New Brunswick reported six new cases on Sunday, after hitting a single-day record of 23 cases a day earlier.

In Alberta — which reported 1,584 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday — health officials also reported 319 hospitalizations, with 60 in intensive care. 

Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 236 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday after hitting a record high on Saturday. 

Premier Scott Moe, who has been facing pressure from some to step up restrictions, said Saturday that public health officials will “have more to say early next week.”

Health officials in that province on Sunday listed 99 people as hospitalized, with 19 in intensive care. 

Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, said her organization has been calling for tighter measures.

“We cannot wait until we get to a higher number.”

In Manitoba, where health officials recently imposed strict restrictions to try and get a handle on rising case numbers, hospitalizations hit 288 on Sunday, with 52 in intensive care.

In an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton, Premier Brian Pallister defended his government’s response to COVID-19, which has been surging in Manitoba.

Pallister said the province has been focused on getting people to reduce their contacts, saying “that’s the key to getting in front of COVID and turning the curve.”

WATCH | Manitoba’s premier takes questions over his government’s handling of COVID-19:

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister insists his province’s restrictions are the most stringent in the country. 8:00


What’s happening across Canada

As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 330,503, with 54,999 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,455.

Nunavut remained an area of concern as health officials in the territory reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases reported to 130. 

“Health teams are working around the clock in Arviat, Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet to trace, test, isolate and contain the spread of the virus,” Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said in a statement on Sunday.

The Northwest Territories, meanwhile, had no new cases over the weekend. 

In Yukon, health officials reported three more cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, saying two of the cases were linked to previously identified cases and one was linked to out-of-province travel.

Health officials in British Columbia don’t release updated COVID-19 figures over the weekend. The province reported 516 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the number of active cases to 7,122.

Lockdown begins in Toronto, Peel Region

In Central Canada, millions of residents in the Greater Toronto Area are now living under tight new restrictions as Toronto and Peel Region move into a lockdown period set to last at least 28 days. Non-essential stores in those regions will be closed to shoppers, and restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery.

Ontario reported 1,534 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, along with 14 new deaths associated with the virus. The province also said 484 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 147 in intensive care.

In Quebec, health officials reported 1,154 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths. Data from the province put the number of hospitalizations at 642, with 103 in intensive care.

The province, which has seen the most cases of any jurisdiction in Canada, has reported more than 132,000 cases and 6,829 deaths.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10 a.m. ET

As of early Monday morning, there were more than 58.7 million COVID-19 cases worldwide, with more than 37.5 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a case tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

AstraZeneca says that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90 per cent effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is easier to distribute than some of its rivals.

The results reported Monday are based on an interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late stage results for its potential COVID-19 vaccine as public health officials around the world anxiously wait for vaccines that will end the pandemic that has killed almost 1.4 million people.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries. All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.

Linda Flowers directs cars during a pre-Thanksgiving food handout sponsored by her for members of the community in Fort Washington, Md. Flowers, a survivor of COVID-19, holds a community food handout each Friday to honour her late father, Bishop James N. Flowers, who passed away from COVID-19 in April. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Americas, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he’s worried that crowding at airports from Thanksgiving travel could lead to a perilous situation as COVID-19 cases surge.

The U.S. infectious disease expert told Face the Nation on Sunday that the “people at airports” despite federal guidance to avoid travel “are going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now.”

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1.047 million passengers on Sunday, the highest number since mid-March.

The number of U.S. air travellers is still about 60 per cent lower than the same date last year, but Sunday was the second time in three days that the number of passengers screened topped one million.

Health officials in Washington state said the number of people who were hospitalized to receive treatment for the coronavirus has reached a record high.

In Nevada, meanwhile, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced plans to tighten restrictions on casinos, restaurants and private gatherings such as Thanksgiving dinner in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

In Europe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says a national COVID-19 vaccination plan will be launched in January.

A waiter stands at the entrance of a bar in Barcelona on Monday after Spain’s Catalonia region allowed bars, restaurants, gyms and cinemas to reopen, gradually easing some of the restrictions put in place to tackle COVID-19. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Sanchez said the vaccine will be administered at 13,000 locations across Spain and “a very substantial part of the population” can be vaccinated in the first half of next year. Further details are expected on Tuesday.

Hungary’s foreign minister on Monday said the country is moving forward with testing on a Russian coronavirus vaccine after being the first in Europe to receive samples of the drug last week. Russia’s vaccine candidate, known as Sputnik V, has not completed advanced clinical trials and has not yet been assessed by the European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s medicines regulator. The vaccine has already been administered in Russia to healthcare workers and other high-risk groups.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistan will again close all educational institutions as of Thursday because of a steady and increasingly drastic increase in coronavirus cases.

Schools were opened in September as Pakistan appeared to have achieved a sustained flattening of the curve.

Daily cases had dropped to less than 300 a day, but few people wear masks and social distancing is mostly non-existent in the country of 220 million.

Pakistan recorded 2,756 new cases in the last 24 hours, one of the sharpest spikes since the outbreak began in March. The country has 376,929 confirmed cases, and 7,696 people have died from the virus.

Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed half a million as the government of the world’s fourth most populous nation scrambles to procure vaccines to help it win the fight against the pandemic.

Gravediggers move a coffin during a funeral at a cemetery in Bogor, Indonesia, on Sunday. (Aditya Aji/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has announced a partial two-week lockdown to clamp down on the coronavirus’s spread as new cases have rapidly increased.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday that the West Bank will be under a full lockdown over the weekends, and a curfew will be imposed from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. on weekdays. All non-essential businesses will be closed during the periods of lockdown.

South Africa remained the hardest-hit country in Africa, with more than 767,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 21,000 deaths.

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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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