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

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The European Union on Tuesday warned pharmaceutical giants that develop coronavirus vaccines to honour their contractual obligations after slow deliveries of shots from two companies hampered the bloc’s vaunted vaccine rollout in several nations.

The bloc already lashed out Monday at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, accusing it of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation. It also had expressed displeasure over vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech last week.

“Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines. To create a truly global common good,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum’s virtual event in Switzerland. “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.”

The statement Tuesday highlighted the level of distrust that has grown between the 27-nation bloc and pharmaceutical companies over the past week.

On Monday, the EU threatened to impose strict export controls on all coronavirus vaccines produced in the bloc to make sure that companies honour their commitments to the EU.

A doctor adjusts his personal protective gear before entering a patient’s room at a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Klinikum Rechts der Isar hospital in Munich, southern Germany on Monday. (Lennart Preiss/AFP/Getty Images)

The EU said it provided €2.7 billion (more than $4.1 billion Cdn) to speed up vaccine research and production capacity and was determined to get some value for that money with hundreds of millions of vaccine shots according to a schedule the companies had committed to.

“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it also means business,” von der Leyen said Tuesday via video link.

Germany was firmly behind von der Leyen’s view. 

“With a complex process such as vaccine production, I can understand if there are production problems — but then it must affect everyone fairly and equally,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told ZDF television. “This is not about EU first, it’s about Europe’s fair share.”

The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc, is lagging badly behind countries like Israel and Britain in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health-care workers and most vulnerable people. That’s despite having over 400,000 confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.

The EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with an option on 100 million extra shots. Late last week, the company said it was planning to reduce a first contingent of 80 million to 31 million.

The shortfall of planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is expected to get medical approval by the bloc on Friday, combined with hiccups in the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots is putting EU nations under heavy pressure. Pfizer says it was delaying deliveries to Europe and Canada while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase production capacity.

The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine Friday and its approval is hotly anticipated. The AstraZeneca vaccine is already being used in Britain and has been approved for emergency use by half a dozen countries, including India, Pakistan, Argentina and Mexico.

The delays in getting vaccines will make it harder to meet early targets in the EU’s goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of its adults by late summer.

The EU has signed six vaccine contracts for more than two billion doses, but only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use so far.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:15 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Inside two Toronto ICUs one year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case:

A look inside two Toronto hospital ICUs one year after Canada’s first case of COVID-19, and at the doctors and nurses both exhausted and determined to keep fighting. 4:28

As Parliament resumed Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from MPs of all parties as they blasted the Liberal government for what they described as a botched approach to rolling out vaccines.

Both Trudeau and Procurement Minister Anita Anand repeated the government’s promise that by the end of September, all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated will have received their shots.

Trudeau has stressed that the delay that is currently hampering vaccination efforts is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March. The prime minister noted that the country is still receiving shipments of the Moderna vaccine.

Earlier Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said there is “tremendous pressure” on the global supply chain for vaccines that the government has tried to mitigate.

“We are working on this every single day, because we know how important vaccines are to Canadians, to first and foremost the lives of Canadians and also to our economy,” she told a news conference in Ottawa by video.

WATCH | New urgency for vaccinations in long-term care homes:

Faced with a COVID-19 vaccine shortage, Ontario says it will now vaccinate only long-term care residents and other seniors in at-risk retirement homes and care settings. 2:54

Despite the vaccine delay, some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations. Ontario reported fewer than 2,000 cases on Monday, as well as fewer people in hospital. It was a similar story in Quebec, where hospitalizations dropped for a sixth straight day.

As of early Tuesday morning, Canada had reported 753,011 cases of COVID-19, with 62,444 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,238.

In Alberta, health officials reported the province’s first case of a COVID-19 variant first seen in the United Kingdom that can’t be directly traced to international travel. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that while it is one case, the variant has the potential to spread faster than the original novel coronavirus and could quickly overwhelm hospitals if not checked.

“There’s no question that this kind of exponential growth would push our health-care system to the brink,” Shandro told a virtual news conference Monday.

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

From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET 


 What’s happening around the world

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 99.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 55.1 million of the cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, the U.K. is set to announce changes to its quarantine rules later Tuesday that could see anyone arriving in the country having to spend ten days in a hotel at their own expense. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said there will be an “announcement on this issue later on today,” but would not be drawn on what the changes would entail.

The British government has been reviewing its quarantine policies amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus. Whether the changes will be universal and apply to everyone arriving, including British citizens, or just to those arriving from high-risk coronavirus countries, is unclear. Zahawi told Sky News that “as we vaccinate more of the adult population, if there are new variants like the South African or the Brazilian variants, we need to be very careful.”

Pedestrians walk past a sign pointing toward a COVID-19 testing centre in Walthamstow over the weekend in London. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The U.K. has seen more than 3.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 98,700 deaths.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, said Monday that Canada is considering additional international travel restrictions. Speaking on CBC’s Power & Politics, Freeland said she is, “very sympathetic to the view that, with the virus raging around the world, we need to be sure our borders are really, really secure.”

In Portugal, the health minister said authorities are considering asking other European Union countries for help amid a steep surge in COVID-19 cases. Portugal has had the world’s worst rate of new daily cases and deaths per 100,000 people for the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Health Minister Marta Temido said sending patients to other EU countries is not uncommon in the bloc. But, she said, Portugal has the disadvantage of being geographically remote and hospitals across the continent are under pressure from the pandemic. She said the country may instead be asking for medical workers to be sent.

Portuguese hospitals are under severe strain, Temido told public broadcaster RTP. “We have beds available,” she said. “What we’re struggling with is finding staff.”

That request may be difficult to fulfil, because all countries in the 27-nation bloc are dealing with their own pandemic strains, made more difficult now because of the emergence of virus variants.

In the Asia-Pacific region, health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital.

Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed one million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.

Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468.

The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesia launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health-care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world’s fourth-most populous country.

Medical workers visit COVID-19 patients at a general hospital in Indonesia on Monday. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese airlines are offering refunded tickets as the coronavirus continues to spread in the country’s northeast. The offer Tuesday from the government’s aviation authority comes amid a push to prevent people travelling during the Lunar New Year holiday next month.

In the Americas, Mexico’s death toll passed 150,000 on Monday following a surge in infections in recent weeks.

In Africa, Russia and China have approached Zimbabwe about supplying vaccines to tackle its escalating COVID-19 outbreak amid concern about Harare’s ability to afford the shots.

In the Middle East, Oman said earlier this week it will extend the closure of its land borders for another week until Feb. 1.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET

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COVID-19 vaccination ramps up in several provinces as supply worries ease – CTV News

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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

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Huawei CFO’s lawyer disputes what HSBC knew as U.S. extradition case resumes

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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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'Each time we get a different answer': Do older children arriving to Canada have to stay in quarantine hotels? – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
A group of Toronto-area parents are struggling to interpret Canada’s rules over whether younger adults and older children have to book themselves into so-called quarantine hotels when they return to Canada.

The problem appears to be the use of two definitions for whether a child or a young adult qualifies for an exemption and can go straight home — with two different ages — and, if someone is caught in between, no one is sure what will happen when they get to the airport.

“Each time we get a different answer,” said Michael Stavsky, whose 20-year-old son Isaac is slated to return to Canada after spending two years studying in Israel on March 10. Stavsky said his son has received both doses of the vaccine while studying abroad.

“We had answers ranging from, ‘sure it says 22 and under, that’s no problem,’ to others that said ‘no it’s 19 and under and even one saying, ‘it’s 20 and under.’ We don’t know,” he said.

The Stavskys aren’t the only family that’s had this issue, said Peter Kent, the MP for Thornhill. He said he’s received several calls from people who aren’t sure where government officials will send their children.

“It’s been very inconsistent and CBSA, Health Canada and Immigration Canada, the messaging is all over the place,” Kent told CTV News Toronto.

The hotel stay requirement can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the hotel and require all incoming air travellers to Canada to spend at least three days in an approved hotel at their own expense as they await the results of a COVID-19 test they were required to take when they landed in Canada.

Some guests have complained to CTV News about a lack of bottled water and hot, prompt meals; others have said the hotels have been very difficult to book.

CTV News Toronto reached out to the Canadian Border Services Agency about the question of whether young adults must stay in the hotels, but the department referred the inquiry to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which didn’t respond by deadline.

The answer, however, may lie in the order-in-council that explains the quarantine regulations. It says most people are required to “quarantine themselves without delay at a government-authorized accommodation…and remain until they receive the result for the COVID-19 molecular test.”

The rule doesn’t apply to a “diplomatic or consular courier” and an “unaccompanied dependent child or an unaccompanied minor.”

If that seems clear, it isn’t, said immigration lawyer Michael Battista, who pointed out that “unaccompanied minor” is customarily someone under 18, while a “unaccompanied dependent child” for immigration purposes is someone who is under 22 — as long as they are not married.

“To use both definitions simultaneously does create confusion,” Battista said.

He said strictly the language implies that if a person meets either definition they should be eligible — but it is going to be up to the border guards — because any legal appeal will take too long to make a difference for a two-week quarantine.

The people coming into Canada from Israel are much more likely to be vaccinated than those already here — more than 93 per cent of adults in the country have received at least one dose, while less than five per cent of Canadian adults have.

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