- Pfizer says it will increase vaccine deliveries by mid-February.
- China building isolation hospitals in Hebei province to combat increase in infections.
- Brazilian approval of Sputnik V vaccine delayed by missing data.
- Some health-care workers are still hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.
Canada has reached a grim new milestone in its fight against COVID-19, with the country’s case count surging well past 700,000, ahead of an expected reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Saturday said she understands Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.
She said she has been in touch with the drugmaker and been assured it’s “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible,” Anand said on Twitter. The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.
WATCH | CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin answers questions about strained ICUs and vaccine delays:
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said on Friday that Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by 50 per cent for four weeks.
Pfizer said it hopes the upgrade will allow it to produce two billion doses per year, up from 1.3 billion doses. The company said in an email to CBC News on Saturday that it will increase its vaccine deliveries beginning the week of Feb. 15.
As of Friday night, more than half a million Canadians had received inoculations against the virus that causes COVID-19.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 12 35 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 707,354 cases of COVID-19, with 75,558 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,984.
In British Columbia, the B.C. Hotel Association said implementing an inter-provincial travel ban would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators and urged Premier John Horgan — who sought legal advice on such an action — to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19.
WATCH | British Columbia mulls how to keep visitors out:
Alberta saw 717 new cases and 15 new deaths on Saturday.
Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.
In Regina, police fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.
Manitoba recorded 180 new cases and two additional deaths.
The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.
Ontario reported 3,422 new cases on Sunday, after registering 3,056 new cases the previous day. Locally, there are 1,035 new cases in Toronto on Sunday, 585 in Peel Region, 254 in Windsor-Essex County, 246 in York Region and 186 in Niagara Region, Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.
In east-end Montreal, a group of protesters braved a snowstorm on Saturday to denounce the province’s COVID-19 curfew, which has been in place for a week.
The protest took place in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough and was organized by a group called “No police solution to the health crisis.” Montreal police were present at the protest and asked that everyone present wear masks and respect physical-distancing guidelines.
New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases on Saturday.
Nova Scotia added four new cases on Sunday, after reporting the same number the previous day. Last week, mandatory testing for rotational workers in the province came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.
Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.
Meanwhile, officials confirmed the first positive case in Fort Liard, a hamlet nearly 545 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife.
In Nunavut, a worker at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, located about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, has tested positive, the company said. There have now been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 94.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.
WATCH | WHO chief pleads for breaking of COVID-19 transmission:
Brazil‘s health regulator on Saturday said it’s seeking further data on Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use.
Regulator Anvisa wants assurances on Phase 3 clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine by drugmaker Uniao Quimica.
Moscow has approved Sputnik V for Russian domestic use, though clinical trials there have not yet been completed.
The Brazilian regulator was expected to make a decision on Sunday about authorizing emergency use of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca.
In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that despite the U.K. government’s confidence about its coronavirus vaccination plan, the public needed to stay home as the country’s health service was “on the cusp” of being overwhelmed.
Raab told broadcaster Sky News that the U.K. was a “global leader” in its vaccination rollout, and he was confident that the government’s roadmap would meet targets.
In China, officials reported 109 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.
There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.
China had largely contained the virus that was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.
Why Canada's pandemic experience has been easier than some – CBC.ca
Although difficult months remain ahead — especially for poorer countries lacking the resources to buy vaccines — the end of the coronavirus pandemic in the developed world is now in sight.
Virus variants remain an unpredictable element but trendlines suggest that the great majority of deaths anticipated in developed countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic have occurred already.
The range of impacts on different countries can be seen in the statistics as the first full year of the pandemic draws to a close.
These statistics compare how Canada has fared to the experiences of five other Western countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy.
When historians look back on this pandemic, the first yardstick they’ll apply to measure its severity is, of course, the number of people it killed.
How bad did it get?
The United States is now coming down from its third wave of COVID infections. Canada has only had two so far. The peak came at different times in different places — but each of the six countries in this comparison experienced one week that was worse than any other.
In France and Italy, the pandemic peaked in November 2020, but in North America and the U.K. the first two weeks of 2021 were the worst.
On January 8, Canada reported a single-day record of 9,214 new cases. The following day, the U.S. reported a single-day record of 315,106 new cases.
The peak of intensity is measured here by the highest recorded daily caseload, per capita. At the pandemic’s height in the U.K., U.S. and France, COVID-19 was infecting almost one person in a thousand every day. In Canada, that number never reached one in 4,000.
Canada had the least intense pandemic of the six.
Immunizations vs infections
Vaccinations are the magic bullet that will end this pandemic. Some countries have done far better than others in administering them.
The U.K.’s vaccination effort started strong and stayed that way. Germany and the U.S. showed steady increases week over week. France was slow to start but soon caught up. Italy and Canada faltered and lost ground.
But vaccinations don’t tell the whole story. Vaccines entered the picture as much of the western world was racing to get ahead of a new wave of infections.
Canada placed last among this group of nations in terms of doses per capita. But it also has posted the lowest per capita caseloads through 2021.
The U.K. was the undisputed winner of the vaccine race but posted the worst per capita caseloads and death rates of the six. And the nation with the second-best record on vaccinations — the U.S. — had the second-worst caseloads.
Given this strange inversion, how should we measure each nation’s overall performance?
The next graph attempts to do that by dividing each nation’s total number of vaccines administered, week over week, by the number of new cases it recorded in the same week, to give an overall score — call it the “O Factor” — that may offer a clearer picture of how much progress each country has made so far in 2021.
The O Factor penalizes countries for failing to control infections in the present, but gives credit for the future caseload reductions they can expect to achieve by getting needles in arms now.
The damage to economies
Historians will one day study the pandemic’s social and economic effects. Some of those effects aren’t clear yet.
By killing a vast number of European peasants, the Black Death transformed the labour market, allowing workers to demand more for their work and ultimately helping to free them from feudalism. Perhaps this (far less apocalyptic) pandemic will free workers from the bondage of commuting and cubicles.
Whatever changes it leaves in its wake, it’s clear the economic blow of the pandemic has not fallen evenly on all nations.
The six countries we’re comparing here have taken different approaches to pandemic-related shutdowns and layoffs. Some (such as Canada) went big on public spending, while others held back. And some countries will struggle more than others with the debts they have accumulated.
All six of the nations measured here saw nearly unprecedented spikes in the number of unemployment claims as the pandemic took hold.
But some were hit harder than others and some bounced back faster than others.
The graphs shown here only offer snapshots of a pandemic that isn’t over yet. Although immunization appears to offer a path out of this global disaster, new mutations and new variants have the potential to delay that.
Unless Canada can improve its vaccination performance, other countries probably will be quicker to bend their rates of death and hospitalizations downward, closing a gap that currently favours Canada.
But the numbers suggest that one thing won’t change: when compared with its peers in Europe and North America, Canada’s pandemic experience has been less intense — and less deadly.
COVID-19 vaccination ramps up in several provinces as supply worries ease – CTV News
Several provinces began expanding their COVID-19 vaccination programs to members of the general population on Monday, as new recommendations on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine suggested it should be targeted at younger Canadians.
A national panel of vaccine experts said provinces should not use the newly approved vaccine on people 65 and over out of concern there is limited data on how well the vaccine will work in older populations — even though Health Canada approved the vaccine for all adults.
Rather, the recommendations issued by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine could help speed up vaccination for younger age groups, who otherwise would have to wait longer for protection.
The arrival of a third vaccine raises the prospect of further accelerating Canada’s efforts to inoculate the general population, which hit a new gear Monday in several provinces.
Ontario, Quebec and B.C. started or announced plans to start vaccinating older seniors living in the community on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care.
In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city.
The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province has already finished vaccinating long-term care residents with a first dose and was almost finished in private seniors homes, the premier said Saturday.
There were long lineups and some frustration among vaccine recipients at the Olympic Stadium, but at another site, Montreal’s downtown convention centre, people reported a swift process.
Julie Provencher, a spokeswoman with the regional health authority asked people not to be too harsh. “For the first day of the biggest mass vaccination in the history of humanity, I think it’s going OK,” she said in an interview.
Several Ontario health units were also set to begin giving COVID-19 vaccines to their oldest residents after a provincial website for appointment bookings opened in six regions.
Some health units reported thousands of bookings and high call volumes, as regions such as York, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton began taking appointments for seniors aged 80 or 85 and up, depending on the region.
In York Region — where those aged 80 and older could start scheduling and receiving their shots on Monday — vaccination clinics were fully booked just two hours after they started taking appointments, according to a spokesman.
“At this time residents are urged to remain patient and will be notified as more appointment bookings become available,” Patrick Casey said in a statement.
A similar problem occurred in Nova Scotia, where the COVID-19 vaccination-booking web page was taken off-line Monday after it experienced technical issues the first day it opened to people aged 80 and over. The Health Department said high traffic to the site prompted the slowdown and suggested people could book by phone in the meantime.
In British Columbia, Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlined the next phase of the province’s immunization plan, which covers all seniors 80 and over and Indigenous seniors 65 and up.
Despite the good news, Horgan warned that the province still has several difficult months to come. “Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we’re far from out of this,” he said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is expecting delivery of about 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and none from Moderna — numbers that are down from last week’s all-time high.
It’s unclear when the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in the country, but a senior government official told The Canadian Press on background Sunday it could be as early as midweek.
The advisory committee’s recommendations raise the prospect of younger Canadians getting vaccine much earlier than originally planned.
There are no concerns that the vaccine is unsafe, but the panel said the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred, especially for people 65 years old and above, “due to suggested superior efficacy.”
The advisory committee said AstraZeneca should be offered to people under 65 as long as the benefits of getting a good vaccine early outweigh any limitations the vaccine may have in terms of effectiveness. It also noted that because AstraZeneca, unlike the first two vaccines, is stable at normal refrigerated temperatures, it allows for “a variety of alternate vaccination sites.”
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reported about 95 per cent effectiveness at preventing COVID-19 overall, while AstraZeneca reported its vaccine to be about 62 per cent effective.
B.C. announced it would extend to four months the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine in order to allow the province to vaccinate more people sooner. Henry said the decision was based on evidence that showed the first two approved vaccines provide “a high level of real-world protection” after one dose.
Ontario confirmed Monday that it is considering following suit, adding that it’s asking the federal government for guidance on possibly extending the intervals between doses.
Despite the positivity surrounding vaccines, some Canadians were returning to lockdown on Monday.
Those included residents of the Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka health regions in Ontario as well as Prince Edward Island, which entered a 72-hour, provincewide lockdown Monday meant to stop two clusters of COVID-19 cases from spreading.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.
— With files from Mia Rabson, Stephanie Marin and Holly McKenzie-Sutter
Huawei CFO’s lawyer disputes what HSBC knew as U.S. extradition case resumes
By Moira Warburton and Sarah Berman
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou‘s U.S. extradition hearing resumed in a Canadian court on Monday with defence countering prosecutors’ claims that Meng misled HSBC about the Chinese telecom company’s relationship with its affiliate while doing business in Iran.
As five days of hearings in the British Columbia Supreme Court started, the defence drilled into the alleged sanction violations that led to Meng’s arrest. The daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei is accused by the United States of misleading HSBC about her company’s business arrangements in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.
Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant and has been living under house arrest while her case makes its way through Canada‘s courts.
Defence lawyer Frank Addario kicked off a new phase of hearings with an assertion that HSBC’s global client relationship manager, tasked with overseeing its dealings with Huawei Technologies, knew that Huawei controlled Skycom Tech Co Ltd’s accounts.
U.S. prosecutors allege Skycom operated as a Huawei affiliate in Iran and that Meng misrepresented this relationship. Meng allegedly made statements suggesting Skycom was sold to an arms-length third party, according to the prosecutors, when it was in fact sold to a parent company controlled by Huawei.
Addario countered that HSBC employee emails show that information about Huawei’s control of Skycom was shared freely before and after this relationship was first reported by Reuters. (https://reut.rs/3q0dtIc)
Addario said that U.S. prosecutors’ evidence that HSBC made decisions based on Meng’s statements “is very misleading in that it underplays the global relationship manager’s knowledge.”
Canadian prosecutor Robert Frater opposed Addario’s call to admit new evidence on Monday afternoon, insisting that an extradition hearing is not a trial. He told the judge she’s “not here to draw inferences about their (the bank employees) state of knowledge.”
Frater argued that Meng’s defence lawyers will have an opportunity to cross-examine bank witnesses about their knowledge of Huawei’s affiliates at trial.
Following testimony from Canadian border officials and police officers involved in the case in late 2020, the latest hearings will also focus on then-President Donald Trump’s alleged interference in the case, as well as outstanding issues from witness testimony and other abuses of process arguments.
Meng’s arrest caused tensions between Beijing and Ottawa, and soon afterward, China detained two Canadians, who continue to have limited access to legal counsel or diplomatic officials.
Meng’s case is scheduled to wrap in May.
(This story drops reference to South District of New York in paragraph nine)
(Reporting by Moira Warburton and Sarah Berman; Editing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)
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