Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, both reported daily case counts of the respiratory illness beyond 2,000 on Sunday — with the latter setting a new single-day record — while Nunavut reported its first two COVID-19-related deaths.
Ontario registered 2,316 more confirmed cases, Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted. That marks the sixth consecutive day the province has exceeded 2,000 new positive test results. The province also reported 25 new deaths from the disease.
In Quebec, health officials reported 2,146 new cases on Sunday and 21 more deaths.
Nunavut‘s health authorities on Sunday confirmed the territory’s first-ever deaths from COVID-19. They said a resident of Arviat and another from Rankin Inlet died of complications related to COVID-19 on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Canada surpassed the half-million mark in reported cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and New Brunswick became the last province to launch its inoculation program.
WATCH | N.B. administers its 1st COVID-19 vaccine shot:
In the United States, shipments of Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine began leaving U.S. warehouses early on Sunday, heading for health-care facilities around the country in a push to distribute the nation’s second approved coronavirus vaccine.
Employees at distribution centres in the Memphis area of Tennessee and in Olive Branch, Miss., could be seen boxing up the vaccine. The first shots were expected to be administered starting as early as Monday, just three days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized their rollout.
Who gets the vaccine depends on state and local officials across the United States. But generally, health-care workers and the elderly are at the top of the priority list.
It is the second COVID-19 vaccine that has received FDA authorization, following the first one developed by American drugmaker Pfizer in partnership with German company BioNTech.
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Last Tuesday, a day after Canada began using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the federal government reached an agreement with Moderna Inc. to receive the first deliveries of its vaccine within 48 hours of regulatory approval.
Canada’s chief public health officer says her focus for the next few months will be controlling the second wave of COVID-19 and communicating to Canadians that it is safe to get the vaccine. In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Dr. Theresa Tam said she is in awe that the world was able to develop, test, produce, ship and now inject a vaccine less than a year later.
“That’s never been seen before in the history of public health,” she said. “So I think it is emotional for the perspective of just, just that alone how incredible a scientific achievement that was.”
Last spring, when vaccine development efforts were well underway, most experts warned it would be at least a year to 18 months before one was ready. Instead, massive investments from governments and the private sector pushed the development, testing and review process forward at lightning speed.
Canada expects to vaccinate more than 200,000 people by the end of 2020, three million by the end of March and most Canadians who want the vaccine by the end of September.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 503,910, with 76,404 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 14,179.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce more public health rules on Monday to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus following a weekend of emergency talks.
Five regions in Ontario are scheduled to be in the province’s grey or “lockdown” stage as of Monday.
“We really need these measures to come in now. We needed them last week,” said Dr. Kali Barrett, a Toronto critical care physician and a member of the COVID-19 Modelling Collaborative, a joint effort of scientists and physicians in the city.
Barrett said new data modelling for Ontario intensive care units shows a system heading for a crisis, noting that if hospital admissions continue on this trajectory, the system could be beyond capacity by the end of January.
WATCH | We answer your COVID-19 questions:
In British Columbia, the number of COVID-19 cases linked to the Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna has jumped to 76.
Interior Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Silvina Mema confirmed that workers living in overcrowded housing are behind the spread of coronavirus at the Okanagan resort.
Alberta reported 26 more COVID-19 deaths and 1,349 new cases on Saturday.
WATCH | Declining case numbers an early positive sign, says Alberta’s top doctor:
Saskatchewan reported 252 new cases and eight more deaths.
Manitoba saw 238 new infections and nine more deaths. The province also declared a number of new outbreaks, including incidents at three different hospitals.
New Brunswick reported five new cases. Even so, the province’s active case count fell to 49.
Nova Scotia saw two new cases, the lowest number of new daily cases in a month.
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Newfoundland and Labrador recorded eight new cases, the most in a single day in the province since April 6.
Prince Edward Island added one new case.
The Northwest Territories says the government will foot the cost of self-isolation for residents returning from education or training programs outside the territory.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 76.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 43.1 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a COVID-19 tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The global death toll stood at more than 1.6 million.
In Asia, thousands of people lined up for coronavirus tests in a province near Bangkok on Sunday, as authorities in Thailand scrambled to contain an outbreak of the virus that has infected nearly 700 people.
Three lineups of mainly migrant workers stretched for roughly 100 metres in one location alone, at Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province.
In Europe, Serbia is opening a second new hospital in Krusevac to treat patients with COVID-19. Earlier this month, a coronavirus hospital was opened in Belgrade amid an overburdened health system.
President Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday visited the latest hospital to open and greeted workers and medical staff. Serbia has so far recorded 296,528 cases with 2,632 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins.
In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that London and much of the southeast of England would be placed under tougher restrictions, meaning a household of people must not meet up with those in other households over Christmas.
In the rest of England, plans to allow three households to mix indoors for five days over the Christmas period have been scaled back, allowing for such get-togethers only on Christmas Day.
In Australia, the outbreak in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs has grown to 70 cases with an additional 30 in the last 24 hours, and authorities say they may never be able to trace the source.
While the numbers are rising, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sunday there hasn’t been evidence of widespread seeding outside the northern beaches community.
The government has imposed a lockdown in the area until Wednesday. Residents will only be permitted to leave their homes for five basic reasons, including medical care, exercise, grocery shopping, work or for compassionate care reasons.
Canadian politicians struggle to come to grips with the global vaccine race – CBC.ca
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
Canada Post employee dies after contracting COVID-19 amid major outbreak at Mississauga facility – CTV Toronto
A Canada Post employee infected with COVID-19 during an outbreak that has impacted 224 workers at a Mississauga, Ont., facility died over the weekend, the union representing workers said.
Canadian Union of Postal Workers Toronto local president Qaiser Maroof told CP24 the employee at the Gateway East plant died on Monday.
He said the man worked nights on “Shift 1” at the Gateway East plant.
He was tested on Jan. 19 and isolated at home after his test.
Between the start of January and today, 224 workers at the facility have tested positive for coronavirus infection.
The spread at the 4,500-worker facility got so bad this month that 100 Canada Border Services Agency guards assigned to inspect packages at the facility were instructed to stay away.
More than 350 workers – an entire shift of workers in one area of the facility – were sent home to self-isolate last week as Peel Public Health sought to slow the spread of infection in the facility.
Maroof said the deceased employee was not part of the shift sent home to self-isolate, and sought out testing on his own.
He did not show symptoms prior to his test and was upset that he was not offered a test as a proactive measure, Maroof recalled.
“It is an unnecessary loss of life and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” Maroof said in a statement. “This tragedy underscores why we have been insisting to the government that the postal workers are indeed frontline workers.”
Employees told CP24 news of death was shared informally with some workers on Tuesday.
Chief Medical Officer of Health for Peel Region Dr. Lawrence Loh would not comment on the death when asked Wednesday.
He said that rapid tests were used to detect cases at Gateway East.
Maroof said he did not know whether the man was hospitalized prior to his death or where in the GTA he passed away.
The man’s wife also works for Canada Post, at a Toronto facility on Eastern Avenue.
Canada Post did not comment on the death when asked Wednesday, only saying that the outbreak was impacting parcel processing speeds at the facility.
A previous headline said the employee died of COVID-19. While the worker had tested positive for the disease, it has not yet been confirmed if it was the cause of death.
Could zero-waste shopping be the solution to Canada’s plastic packaging issue? – Global News
When you walk into The Tare Shop, you’ll notice one thing that sets it apart from other stores: no plastic bags or containers in sight.
When Kate Pepler opened her flagship store in Halifax’s north end three years ago, it was hailed as Nova Scotia’s first completely package-free bulk store.
“After announcing the business in Jan. 2018, I was flooded with messages from folks from all over Nova Scotia saying how excited they were to finally be able to shop at a package-free place,” Pepler tells Global News.
“You bring in your own containers and we encourage folks to reuse what they have.”
Love Your Local: The Tare Shop
It’s a business model that has seen so much success, the 27-year-old entrepreneur just opened up her second location on Portland St. in downtown Dartmouth.
“It’s really encouraging to see. It definitely feels like this way of shopping is catching on and is growing,” says Pepler.
She says she’s seen more customers — particularly new customers — during the coronavirus pandemic: an increase of about 30 to 40 per cent each month.
It’s a surge in new customers that doesn’t come as a surprise to Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie University professor who studies Canadian food trends and habits.
“We do waste a lot of food and our lifestyles have changed since the start of COVID,” he says.
Coronavirus: Soaring reliance on single-use plastics stalls zero-waste movement
“There are reports that suggest that we are wasting more than ever, especially when it comes to packaging, so I’m not surprised that more and more people are conscious about this issue and they’re willing to do something about it.”
And just how much work Canadians are willing to put in to their shopping trips to help the environment could depend on where they live, according to Charlebois.
“We conducted a study last year about food waste awareness or packaging waste awareness, and awareness levels on both coasts in Canada were higher than say, in the prairies, Ontario or Quebec. That’s probably because we can actually see the problem, they see things on the beach, they see things in parks. So I’m not surprised to see this movement actually getting some traction in our region,” he says.
But, he says, while it may be a solution for some, he doesn’t believe a package-free shopping model will solve Canada’s food waste issue, as plastics have become a “safety net” for consumers.
“I do think that there is a good market for shops like that, but not for the masses. Everything that you have to do to visit these shops require more time. It’s a lot of work. The key is to save the planet, with convenient solutions for consumers,” Charlebois says.
He says during the pandemic, people simply aren’t focused on sustainability issues as public health takes centre stage. That said, Charlebois expects the focus to shift back to environmental issues soon.
“We need to change behaviours as quickly as possible because right now, parks and oceans don’t care about the pandemic. The problem is still there,” Charlebois says.
That is what motivates Pepler, who says she is happy to cater to those who are willing to put in the work today.
“It definitely can get very frustrating walking into a grocery store and not being given an option for a lower-waste or a plastic-free option. We can make these small changes in our lives, but we have to go one step further and push those big businesses and manufacturers and producers to take responsibility for their packaging and offer more sustainable solutions that are also economical,” she says.
“It’s been really great to be able to still provide folks with a safe way to shop a lower waste lifestyle, because, we are in a time of crisis, not just COVID-19, but the climate change and the plastic problem. We need to act, and we need to act now.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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