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

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The latest:

  • Vaccine campaigns roll out across European Union.
  • Ontario becomes 1st province to identify new COVID-19 variant.
  • Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising COVID-19 case counts.
  • Japan to ban entry of foreign travellers to fight spread of new COVID-19 variant.
  • Most Boxing Day shopping expected to happen online.
  • Have a question about COVID-19 in Canada? Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca.

Europe launched a massive vaccination drive on Sunday, with seniors and health-care workers first in line to be inoculated against COVID-19 during a pandemic that has claimed more than 1.7 million lives worldwide.

The region of 450 million people has secured contracts with suppliers for more than two billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and has set a goal for all adults to be inoculated during 2021.

The first person to get the vaccine in Berlin was Gertrud Haase, who is 101 years old and lives in a nursing home.

“It [the virus] is very dangerous. We hear and read about it, and there are so many people dying in other homes,” Haase said. “It is horrible, and that is why it is so good that we can be vaccinated against it. It is a big advantage for all of us who live here.”

In Canada, a new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, first discovered earlier this month in Britain, was detected in Ontario. The variant has been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, Belgium, France, Australia and the Netherlands.

WATCH | Ontario identifies U.K. COVID-19 variant in province:

A couple was found to be carrying the virus, but neither had travelled or been in contact with a known case, officials say. 2:45

The province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said in a news release on Saturday that the strain of COVID-19 was identified in a couple from Durham Region, just east of Toronto, who have no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.

Provincial health officials say modelling and epidemiological studies suggest the variant can spread more easily and faster than the original version of the novel coronavirus — but is not believed to be more deadly.

WATCH | Pfizer, Moderna vaccines can be modified to tackle variants, expert says:

According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, vaccines that use mRNA technology can be reverse engineered quite quickly to take on variants — such as the recent U.K. variant of the coronavirus. 1:42

“While early data suggests that these new variants may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that they cause more severe disease or have any impact on antibody response or vaccine effectiveness,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

News of the new variant arriving in Canada came as a provincewide lockdown meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 took effect in Ontario.

WATCH | Provincewide lockdown comes into effect in Ontario:

New restrictions came into effect Saturday, placing the entire province of Ontario in lockdown. In some regions, the measures will stay in place until at least Jan. 23. 4:18

The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23 but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

Under the new rules, restaurants can only provide takeout and delivery, while non-essential stores can only provide curbside pickup and delivery. Supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers that sell food can stay open but with capacity limits and physical-distancing measures.

The lockdown began with Ontario reporting a two-day total of 4,301 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. Health Minister
Christine Elliott reported 2,005 more cases on Sunday. Locally, there were 572 new cases in Toronto, 331 in Peel Region, 207 in York Region and 140 in Windsor-Essex County.


What’s happening in Canada

As of 6:30 a.m. ET, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 541,647, with 78,623 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,801.

A woman wears a face mask as she walks by a storefront advertising sale discounts on Boxing Day in Montreal on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

In Quebec, a provincewide lockdown went into effect on Friday, with businesses deemed non-essential ordered to remain closed until at least Jan. 11. The province did not publish data on the number of new infections or deaths on Friday or Saturday.

Aside from Ontario, the only provinces to release new numbers on Saturday were New Brunswick and Alberta. 

New Brunswick announced two new cases, which means the province now has 38 active cases. There have been eight deaths and one person is in hospital, in the intensive care unit.

In Alberta, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw released a modified update on Saturday. The province saw an estimated 1,200 new cases on Dec. 24 and 900 new cases on Dec. 25. There was a small increase in the number of patients in the province’s ICU, Hinshaw said on Twitter. 

With Ontario joining Manitoba and Quebec in closing non-essential retail stores for in-person shopping and much of the rest of Canada curtailing in-store capacity, the new rules have been having an effect on Boxing Day shopping. The limitations are forcing bargain hunters in many parts of the country to look online for deals instead of lining up and crowding into stores in person.

What’s happening around the world

As of 7 a.m. ET on Sunday, more than 80.4 million coronavirus cases had been reported worldwide, with more than 45.4 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.

WATCH | Is one COVID-19 vaccine better than another?:

Infectious disease physicians answer viewer questions about COVID-19 vaccines, including if one is better than another and how vaccinations will impact the health-care system. 6:35

The United States is by far the leader among nations in cases of coronavirus illness, reporting nearly 18.8 million on Saturday. India follows with 10.2 million; Brazil has counted 7.45 million. There have been more than 330,000 deaths in the U.S., 190,000 in Brazil and 147,000 in India.

There have likely been many more cases of the coronavirus that have not been counted for a variety of reasons, including under-reporting, asymptomatic infections and lack of co-operation with contact tracers.

Boxes of Pfizer-BioNTec vaccines, manufactured in Puurs, Belgium, are delivered to the South-Pest Central Hospital in Budapest on Saturday. (Szilard Koszticsak/AFP via Getty Images)

Each European Union country is getting only a fraction of the vaccine doses needed — fewer than 10,000 in the first batches — with the bigger rollout expected in January when more vaccines become available. All of those getting shots will have to come back in three weeks for a second dose.

Altogether, the EU’s 27 nations have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 336,000 deaths — numbers that experts still agree understate the true toll of the pandemic due to missed cases and limited testing.

Japan, meanwhile, says it will ban the entry of all foreign nationals, following the discovery of a new strain of the coronavirus in the U.K. Since Friday, Japan has discovered at least seven cases of the new strain in passengers who arrived from Britain.

All Nippon Airways employees stand behind protective plastic sheeting at Kansai International Airport on Sunday in Osaka, Japan. Japan announced it will close its borders to non-resident foreign nationals from Monday until the end of January in an attempt to stop the spread of a new strain of coronavirus. (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

The ban takes effect from Monday and will last until the end of January. 

Japanese citizens and residents who are abroad will still be able to return but must show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test. They will also continue to have to quarantine for two weeks.

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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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Canada Post employee dies after contracting COVID-19 amid major outbreak at Mississauga facility – CTV Toronto

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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.

Correction:

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.

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Could zero-waste shopping be the solution to Canada’s plastic packaging issue? – Global News

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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.”

Read more:
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.

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The Tare Shop owner Kate Pepler in her newly-opened second package-free bulk store located in downtown Dartmouth.


thetareshop.com

“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.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Soaring reliance on single-use plastics stalls zero-waste movement'



2:07
Coronavirus: Soaring reliance on single-use plastics stalls zero-waste movement


Coronavirus: Soaring reliance on single-use plastics stalls zero-waste movement – May 24, 2020

“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.”

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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.

Read more:
London’s first zero-waste grocery store could open by year’s end: Reimagine Co.

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.

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“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.

Read more:
Toronto’s newest packaging-free market opens in east end

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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