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

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The latest:

China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to a World Health Organization-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, one of the team’s investigators said. The move potentially complicates efforts to understand how the outbreak began.

The team had requested raw patient data on the 174 cases of COVID-19 that China identified from the early phase of the outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but were only provided with a summary, said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious diseases expert who is a member of the team.

The United States has “deep concerns” about the way the findings of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 report were communicated, the White House said on Saturday.

“It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

“To better understand this pandemic and prepare for the next one, China must make available its data from the earliest days of the outbreak.”

No comment was immediately available from the Chinese Embassy in Washington or the WHO.

The raw data, known as “line listings,” would typically be anonymized but contain details such as what questions were asked of individual patients, their responses and how their responses were analyzed, he said.

“That’s standard practice for an outbreak investigation,” Dwyer said via video call from Sydney, where he is currently undergoing quarantine.

WATCH | Procurement minister updates Canadians on AstraZeneca vaccine supply:

Procurement Minister Anita Anand provides an update on Canada’s expected AstraZeneca vaccine supply. 3:00

While the Chinese authorities provided a lot of material, he said, the issue of access to the raw patient data would be mentioned in the team’s final report.

“The WHO people certainly felt that they had received much much more data than they had ever received in the previous year,” he said. “So that in itself is an advance.”

A summary of the team’s findings could be released as early as next week, the WHO said on Friday.

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | See some of what experts had to say about Ontario’s latest COVID-19 modelling and hear what it might mean for people in the province:

Dr. Zain Chagla tells CBC News that reopening is fine provided the province can shut down again quickly, if there’s a jump in new cases. 3:37

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says people need to continue what they’ve been doing but with “even more diligence” to counter the more contagious variants that have been identified in several provinces.

Speaking at a briefing on Friday, Tam said that means keeping up “individual public health practices” to limit spread, protecting the vulnerable and allowing time for vaccination programs to expand.

WATCH | Tam on why provinces are not using COVID-19 rapid tests:

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, responds to questions about why she thinks provinces are not using their supplies of COVID-19 rapid tests. 0:58

As of Friday, eight provinces had reported more than 429 cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K., she said.

There were also 28 recorded cases of the B1351 variant, which was first reported in South Africa, and one case of the P1 variant blamed for a surge of cases in Brazil. 

Ontario faces third wave of COVID-19 pandemic if variants aren’t controlled, modelling warns

WATCH | An infectious disease expert on new international travel measures:

CBC News Network’s Andrew Nichol’s speaks with Dr. Chakrabarti hours after the Canadian government announces new testing, and quarantine measures for all travellers coming into Canada. 6:29 

As of 12:35 p.m. ET Saturday, Canada had reported 822,710 cases of COVID-19, with 36,698 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,209.

Ontario on Saturday reported 1,300 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 additional deaths. 

The provincial government on Friday issued a list of regions that will remain under a stay-at-home order while others transition into a colour-coded framework of restrictions, as of Feb. 16.

The only regions not transitioning out of the stay-at-home order on that date include Peel and York regions, Toronto and North Bay Parry Sound District.

In Quebec, health officials reported 1,049 new cases of COVID-19 and 33 additional deaths on Saturday. New Brunswick also reported 16 new cases, bringing its active case count to 160, and Nova Scotia reported two new cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador is now battling a COVID-19 “variant of concern” responsible for this week’s mass outbreak in the capital, according to Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Effective immediately, the entire province is at Alert Level 5, with all but essential businesses closed, Fitzgerald announced Friday. The new measures have also delayed Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial election.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported 26 new cases on Saturday, down from 50 on Friday.

In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister announced a plan to procure a made-in-Canada vaccine that is in early trial stages.

The province on Friday reported 81 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths. There are now 240 COVID-19 patients in hospital in Manitoba, the government said in a news release, down by four from Thursday, with 29 of those people in intensive care, down by three.

WATCH | Manitoba buys its own made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine:

Manitoba is the first province to buy its own COVID-19 vaccine rather than relying on the federal government. 1:53

Saskatchewan reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths from the respiratory illness on Friday. There are currently 182 people in hospital due to COVID-19, 23 of whom are in intensive care.

In Alberta, health officials reported 314 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 more deaths on Friday.

British Columbia reported 445 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths on Friday. 

Ahead of the Family Day long weekend, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry repeated her plea for British Columbians to stay local and stick to their households, in accordance with public health orders and advice.

Here’s a look at what else is happening across Canada:


What’s happening around the world

As of 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, more than 108 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 60.5 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved in a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.3 million.

A COVID-19 vaccine shortage has forced California to temporarily close five mass vaccination sites, all in Los Angeles, including one at Dodger Stadium.

A temporarily closed COVID-19 vaccination site is seen at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Friday. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Over the past week, state health officials say they have received less than 20 per cent of the doses they need to maintain the sites.

California leads the United States in COVID-19 deaths, with more than 46,000, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen more than 27.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 480,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Vaccine supply constraints are slowing ambitious vaccination programs in the U.S., as massive sites capable of putting shots into thousands of arms daily in states, including New York, California, Florida and Texas, as well as hospitals and pharmacies, beg for more doses. In-person schooling can resume safely with masks, physical distancing and other strategies, but vaccination of teachers, while important, is not a prerequisite for reopening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

In Europe, Portugal is getting more help from its European Union partners to ease pressure on hospitals crunched by the pandemic, with France and Luxembourg the latest countries to offer medical workers.

The Portuguese Health Ministry said France is sending a doctor and three nurses, while Luxembourg is providing two doctors and two nurses. The ministry said in a statement late Thursday the medics should arrive next week.

The German army sent eight doctors and 18 nurses earlier this month to help at a Lisbon hospital. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital and in intensive care fell Thursday for the third straight day, but Portugal’s seven-day average of daily deaths remained the world’s highest, at 1.97 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.

A student gets a bag of food during a distribution organized by Linkee, a solidarity solution to food waste, in Paris on Thursday. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

In Africa, South Africa has secured millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines to fight the highly infectious COVID-19 variant that is dominant in the country.

Kenya is going ahead with its plan to inoculate its citizens using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, while Zimbabwe has bought 600,000 shots from China’s Sinopharm, in addition to 200,000 China has donated.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the first batch of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Japan on Friday, local media reported, with official approval for the shots expected within days as the country races to control a third wave of infections ahead of the Olympic Games.

WATCH | Australia’s Victoria state enters a ‘short, sharp’ circuit-breaker lockdown:

It’s a necessary circuit breaker to limit further spread of COVID-19, officials said. A highly contagious strain, first reported in the U.K., was detected at a quarantine hotel in Melbourne. 1:32

In the Americas, Mexico’s Health Ministry on Thursday reported 10,677 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,474 more fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 1,968,566 cases and 171,234 deaths. The government said the real number of infected people and the death toll in Mexico are both likely significantly higher than reported levels.

State governors in Brazil are pursuing their own vaccine supply plans, with some expressing concern that President Jair Bolsonaro’s government won’t deliver the shots required to avoid interrupting immunization efforts.

Governors are under pressure from mayors, some of whose vaccine stocks have already been depleted, including three cities in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro. Northeastern Bahia state’s capital Salvador suspended vaccination on Thursday because supplies are dwindling. Brazil’s two biggest cities, Rio and Sao Paulo, are expected to be without shots in a matter of days. The country has the third-highest COVID-19 case count in the world, with more than 9.7 million cases and more than 237,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

In the Middle East, Israel began reopening its education system on Thursday after a closure of more than six weeks because of the surge in coronavirus infections.

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Canada receives largest COVID-19 vaccine shipment to date | News – Daily Hive

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Canada has received its largest number of COVID-19 vaccine doses to date as February draws to a close.

At a press briefing on February 25, Major-General Dany Fortin said that 643,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have been distributed across the country this week alone.

Fortin said that a total of 440,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine would be delivered each week in March, which will round out the company’s first-quarter commitment of 4 million doses.

Moderna, which sends vaccines to Canada every three weeks, is expected to deliver 466,000 doses the week of March 8, and another 846,000 doses the week of March 22.

These next two deliveries will complete the company’s first-quarter commitment of 2 million doses.

“This is all good news for Canadians who are hoping to get vaccinated,” he said. “As we head into spring, we are collectively gearing up for what we call the ramp-up phase.”

Fortin revealed that Pfizer has begun to finalize weekly shipment numbers for the second quarter of the year.

The company is expected to send approximately 769,000 vaccine doses each week for the first two weeks of April.

While numbers for subsequent weeks are still being confirmed, Fortin said a total of 10.8 million Pfizer doses should arrive in Canada between April and June.

The country is still working with Moderna to finalize the company’s shipment dates and dosage numbers for the second quarter.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that 2.9% of the country has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.1% have been given two doses.

“We are on track to have [a] significant increase into the spring, and again into the summer,” Fortin said.

“The projection is that we have seen 88 million vaccines, of both approved products, in-country by September.

To date, 1,682,106 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across Canada.

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'Good to go': Canadian pharmacies ready for next phase of vaccine rollout – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s pharmacies say they’re primed and ready to start administering COVID-19 vaccines at their facilities across the country, as government officials prepare for the next phase of vaccine rollout.

Shoppers Drug Mart President Jeff Leger says he’s informed all levels of government that once given the green light, the company’s more than 1,300 locations and an additional 500 Loblaw pharmacies, would need just 48 to 72 hours to get their sites prepped for mass inoculations.

“Our stores have already been thinking about it, we’ve got the processes in place. We can move very quickly and we can move large volumes of people through our network,” Leger said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

He said a smooth rollout is contingent on provinces using a framework similar to that used during flu season.

“As long as we’re adhering to the same principles that we’ve done for flu vaccination…we’re good to go,” said Leger. “At the height of flu season we did as many as half a million in one week, we think we could do much more than that – really the constraint was supply.”

He added that this network of pharmacies can manage the finicky ultra-cold storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine. Leger says he’s also confident the company’s large roster of pharmacists will be able to draw the now-approved sixth dose from vaccine vials using low dead space syringes – though he said they’re still waiting on the shipments of those syringes from provincial governments.

“The supply of those syringes, our understanding [is that] they’ll be coming from the federal supplies and provincial supplies so as long as the supply of those low dead space syringes hold up then there shouldn’t be a problem for that,” he said.

This comes as Health Canada announced its highly-anticipated approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate on Friday, now the third vaccine given a formal stamp of approval in Canada. The federal government has secured 20 million doses of this vaccine, set to arrive between April and September, plus an additional 1.9 million doses before the end of June from the global vaccine sharing network COVAX.

The federal government also maintains the country is still on track to meet is six million dose target of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

While the details of how and when pharmacies will be incorporated into vaccine rollout plans differ by province, Joelle Walker, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, said all have signaled use of the facilities at some point to reach the broader public.

“Pharmacies are very conveniently located. Most Canadians live within five kilometres of a pharmacy which makes them very accessible to people who can’t travel to major centres to get vaccinated,” she said during a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Friday. “Most Canadians see their pharmacists more than any other provider and so it just makes them an obvious choice.”

Some provinces, including Alberta, have already laid out plans detailing how pharmacies will assist in administering vaccines. Forty-one Shoppers Drug Mart stores and Real Canadian Superstore locations in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer will be offering in-store shots to Albertans 75 and older as early as next week.

“This is a step that just makes sense. As anyone who has gotten a flu shot knows, pharmacists have a lot of experience in delivering vaccines. They have played an important role in our seasonal flu program for many, many years and they have the skills, they have the experience and they have the infrastructure in place to be an important part of our immunization program,” said Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday.

Many other provinces list pharmacies as designated vaccination sites in phase two, which for most is expected to begin in April.

Walker said she’s encouraged the federal government to work more closely with provinces to establish some level of national consistency on pharmacy involvement.

“It [would] make it easier for pharmacists to communicate that information to patients. Many people are saying ‘oh you know, in Alberta it’s over 75’ and not necessarily knowing that will be different in other provinces,” said Walker.

“That kind of consistency of information would really help bring that confidence to Canadians that there’s a process in place.”

As for tracking the second dose of any of the three approved vaccines, Walker said pharmacies are particularly well-equipped with this function as they remind Canadians daily to refill their prescriptions.

“The refill system in pharmacies is designed to do exactly that, to make sure their patients come back when they’re supposed to to pick up their refills.”

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Canadian firm develops biodegradable mask that's ready for production – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A private non-profit Canadian organization and its partners have created an eco-friendly biodegradable mask that is ready for manufacturing and public use, an innovation it says is the first of its kind in the world.

FPInnovations, a research and development centre that supports the Canadian forestry sector, said in a press release on Friday that the masks, which took only a few months to develop from research to market, are fully biodegradable, from the mask filtering materials, to the elastic ear loops and nose pieces.

“The development of a biodegradable mask clearly shows that stimulating the bioeconomy can contribute to a cleaner environment in Canada,” Stephane Renou, president and chief executive of FPInnovations said in a statement.

The project was highlighted by both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan.

“We need to keep wearing our masks to keep each other safe. And now you can wear one without worrying about damaging the environment … This is Team Canada at its best,” O’Regan said in a video posted on Twitter.

A key element that makes this mask appealing is that its components can be easily assembled and produced on existing commercial mask-converting machines, the group behind the $3.3 million project said.

Third party labs have assessed the masks, it added, saying it “would set the standard” for non-medical grade masks for its filtration capabilities, breathability and biodegradability.

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