Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government is considering additional restrictions to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases and urged people not to gather over the upcoming long weekend.
Ford said he is “extremely concerned” about rising infections and stressed that residents must follow public health rules.
“Don’t make plans for Easter,” he said. “I won’t hesitate to lock things down if we have to.”
Ford would not specify what measures are being considered, but he said he will consult Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams before making a decision.
The province has seen rising COVID-19 rates for weeks, fuelled by the spread of more transmissible variants of the virus. Ontario reported 2,336 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional deaths on Tuesday.
Critical Care Services Ontario (CCSO) says 46 more people with the illness were taken to intensive care units since yesterday morning, bringing the current total to 410. Admissions of COVID-19 patients to ICUs peaked at 420 in mid-January, during the height of the second wave in the province.
CCSO compiles a daily internal report that hospitals and health organizations use for planning. The latest data show that COVID-19 patients require, on average, about two weeks of critical care, according to the agency.
Ford was asked about whether Ontario might adjust its vaccination plan based on the fact that younger people now make up the majority of the province’s COVID-19 cases.
“Our goal is to make sure we take care of the most vulnerable,” he said of the province’s strategy to vaccinate in descending order of age groups, adding there are no plans to change that strategy.
Meanwhile, an infectious disease expert on Ontario’s COVID-19 science table told CBC News that the pandemic is “completely out of control” and that total hospitalizations are already more than 20 per cent higher than they were at the start of the last provincewide lockdown.
Trudeau promises more vaccine dose arrivals
Earlier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians just need to hold on “a little longer,” adding that even more COVID-19 vaccine doses will arrive this spring.
Pfizer is going to send five million more doses to Canada in June than it previously planned, Trudeau said, and AstraZeneca will ship 4.4 million by the end of that month.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand also confirmed on Tuesday that the first deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will arrive in Canada at the end of April, though she said she couldn’t say yet how many of the 10 million doses that Canada purchased will be in the initial shipment.
Even without J&J, and barring any unexpected interruptions in production or export of vaccines, Canada is in line to receive more than 44 million doses before Canada Day.
That should mean that all adults over 18 will be offered a vaccine sooner than originally anticipated and that the wait for a second dose may not be as long as four months. Canada needs about 31 million doses to offer at least one shot to every adult.
The news, however, comes as concern about the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has pushed all provinces to stop using it for people under age 55 pending further analysis.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said on Tuesday that COVID-19 activity has been steadily increasing for several weeks. The ongoing increase in infection rates is now playing out in hospitals, she said, and placing “renewed strain” on the health-care system.
To date, more than 9,000 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada — with the B117 variant first reported in the U.K. accounting for 90 per cent of the variant cases, Tam said.
“New variant case numbers represent the tip of the iceberg, as there are thousands more cases that have screened positive for problematic mutations,” Tam said.
What’s happening in Canada
As of 7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, Canada had reported 976,604 cases of COVID-19, with 46,395 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,926.
Canada has signed on to a joint declaration with 13 other countries voicing concerns with an international report on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement outlines the nations’ unease after World Health Organization experts went to study the original outbreak of the virus in China’s Wuhan province.
Other signatories include the United States, Australia, Israel, Japan, Denmark and the U.K. The countries decry what they call the significant delays and lack of access to complete, original data and samples that the international study team faced in China.
The statement goes on to say that the international community must understand how COVID-19 began circulating in the local population to improve future pandemic responses. Such a response can only happen if experts can study the origins of COVID-19 free from interference and undue influence, the statement added.
In Quebec, health officials reported 864 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths on Tuesday. A provincial dashboard put the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at 487, with 126 people in intensive care.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday — both related to domestic travel, according to a news release from the provincial Department of Health.
Health officials in New Brunswick reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Eight of the new cases are in the Edmundston region and involve contacts of previously reported infections, officials said.
Manitoba reported 77 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, according to a provincial news release. The province also announced that another 11 screened or sequenced cases stemming from the more contagious coronavirus variants have been identified.
Saskatchewan reported 164 new cases of COVID-19 and one related death on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Health also said stricter public health rules for Regina and surrounding communities will be in place for at least another week. A ban on household visits and restrictions permitting restaurants to only offer takeout or delivery services will now be reviewed April 12.
As well, the Saskatchewan Health Authority announced that people older than 60 in the province can register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment beginning Wednesday morning.
Alberta reported 576 new COVID-19 cases and four related deaths on Tuesday.
As well, Alberta Health Services said 49 members of the public who attended vaccination appointments on March 23 and 25 at the South Calgary Health Centre may have been exposed to COVID-19 and should get tested. The agency said the risk is low because of strict safety protocols at the site.
British Columbia reported 840 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. A retail group said criticism of young people by Premier John Horgan could be replaced by better ways of educating them about the risks of COVID-19.
Greg Wilson, a director for the B.C. division of the Retail Council of Canada, said he understands Horgan’s frustration as cases rise, but social media or other channels may be a way of reaching youth rather than hour-long briefings.
Horgan asked those in the 20-39 age group not to “blow this for the rest of us” as the province introduced new pandemic measures Monday, saying the higher infection rates were putting everyone in a challenging situation.
“Do not blow this for your parents and your neighbours and others who have been working really, really hard making significant sacrifices so we can get good outcomes for everybody,” Horgan said during a briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, and Health Minister Adrian Dix.
WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. needs a ‘circuit-breaker to stop this virus now’:
Wilson said young workers in the retail sector have generally been pleased with the COVID-19 response in B.C., where stores have remained open even as some other provinces imposed restrictions.
“If I were a 20-to-39-year-old, I’d be insulted. But you know, I have to look at the broader picture. And the broader picture is that for retail workers in B.C., we’ve had a much better pandemic experience because the government has protected retail shops,” Wilson said.
What’s happening around the world
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 127.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.
More than 20 heads of government and global agencies in a commentary published Tuesday called for an international treaty for pandemic preparedness that they say will protect future generations in the wake of COVID-19.
But the commentary included few details to explain how such an agreement might actually compel countries to act more co-operatively.
WATCH | WHO, some world leaders urge creation of pandemic treaty:
World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Premier Mario Draghi of Italy and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda proposed “a renewed collective commitment” to reinforce preparedness and response systems by leveraging the UN health agency’s constitution.
Trudeau is not listed among the signatories to the letter, nor are the leaders of China, Russia or the United States.
When asked about China, Russia and the U.S., Tedros said signatories to the letter mainly joined through an opt-in process in which countries signalled their wish to join, though he noted that in some instances, the WHO invited regional representation.
“The comment from member states, including U.S. and China, was actually positive,” Tedros said. “And we hope the future engagements will bring all countries.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s Queensland state warned that more cases were expected to emerge as authorities scrambled to contain an outbreak linked to the virulent B117 variant, throwing Easter travel plans into disarray.
India reported the highest daily increase in coronavirus cases in five months, with the second wave of the disease driven by surging infections in the country’s richest state, Maharashtra.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden urged states to pause reopening efforts, and a top health official warned of “impending doom” amid a surge in COVID-19 cases that threaten efforts to quash the coronavirus pandemic.
Honduras said it would temporarily restrict arrivals from South America, citing fears about the variant first discovered in travellers from Brazil entering its territory.
In Africa, Ethiopian health authorities on Tuesday received 300,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine. The shots arrived a day after the East African country introduced stricter lockdown measures to stem a spike in infections.
Earlier in March, Ethiopia received nearly 2.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX initiative that ensures vaccine access for low- and middle-income countries.
Johnson & Johnson said it’s agreed to provide up to 400 million doses of its one-dose COVID-19 vaccine to African countries, starting this summer. The drugmaker said under its agreement with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, the company will provide up to 220 million vaccine doses for the African Union’s 55 member countries, with delivery beginning in the July-to-September quarter. The trust will be able to order 180 million additional doses from J&J, for a total of up to 400 million shots through 2022.
The company’s vaccine still must receive authorization from regulators in the African countries, but the World Health Organization approved it for emergency use on March 12. In late-stage testing, J&J’s vaccine prevented about 67 per cent of symptomatic infections with the coronavirus and was 85 per cent effective at preventing severe disease, beginning 28 days after vaccination.
In Europe, Italy has imposed a five-day quarantine on people entering from other EU countries in a bid to deter Easter getaways and limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza says he signed the new ordinance Tuesday. It requires a virus test before arriving in Italy, five days of quarantine once here and another virus test to get out of quarantine for anyone entering Italy from the EU.
In Germany, authorities in Berlin and Munich are again suspending the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for residents under age 60 due to new reports of unusual blood clots in people who recently received the shots, officials said Tuesday. The action was taken as a precaution ahead of a meeting later Tuesday of representatives from Germany’s 16 states and further recommendations were expected from national medical regulators, said Berlin’s top health official, Dilek Kalayci.
Germany is also extending virus-related border controls along its border with the Czech Republic by a further 14 days but ending entry requirements for people coming from the Austrian region of Tyrol.
WATCH | Why the Czech Republic is being hit hard by the 3rd wave:
Britain will focus on vaccinating the whole of its adult population before it can provide any surplus shots to other countries such as Ireland, British business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said on Tuesday. More than 30 million Britons have received their first shots in the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, with the aim of offering shots to all adults by the end of July.
However, Britain has found itself involved in a public spat with the European Union, where the vaccination program has been much slower, over the supply of doses.
In the Middle East, Israel has reopened its border crossing with neighbouring Egypt for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Israeli authorities on Tuesday started allowing 300 citizens per day to enter and exit for the purpose of tourism in the Sinai Peninsula, provided they pass coronavirus tests before each crossing and are vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from it.
Apple worker says she was fired after leading movement against harassment
An Apple employee who led fellow workers in publicly sharing instances of what they called harassment and discrimination at the company said on Thursday that she had been fired.
Janneke Parrish, an Apple program manager, said the iPhone maker informed her on Thursday that she had been terminated for deleting material on company equipment while she was under investigation over the leaking of a company town hall to media. She told Reuters she denies leaking.
Parrish said she deleted apps that contained details of her finances and other personal information before handing her devices in to Apple as part of the probe.
Parrish said she believes she was fired for her activism in the workplace.
“To me, this seems clearly retaliatory for the fact that I was speaking out about abuses that have happened at my employer, pay equity and, generally, about our workplace conditions,” she said.
Apple said Friday it does not discuss specific employee matters.
Apple has recently experienced other examples of employee unrest. Last month, two Apple employees told Reuters they had filed charges https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-national-labor-relations-board-investigating-two-complaints-apple-workers-2021-09-02 against the company with the National Labor Relations Board. The workers accused Apple of retaliation and halting discussion of pay among employees, among other allegations.
Apple has said that it is “deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace” and that it takes “all concerns” from employees seriously.
U.S. law protects the right of employees to openly discuss certain topics, including working conditions, discrimination and equal pay.
Over the summer, current and former Apple employees began detailing on social media what they said were experiences of harassment and discrimination. Parrish and some colleagues began publishing the stories on social media and a publishing platform in a weekly digest titled ‘#AppleToo.’
Parrish said she was careful to respect company rules and never shared information that she believed to be confidential. She said she continued to publish the ‘#AppleToo’ digest after coming under investigation at the end of September.
“If anything, it’s made the importance of that work clearer than ever, when Apple’s response to criticism is to start internal investigations into those that it wants to see gone,” she said. “It’s easier for them to terminate people than it is for them to actually listen.”
(Reporting by Julia Love; editing by Peter Henderson and Rosalba O’Brien)
China launches second crewed mission to build space station
China on Saturday launched a rocket carrying three astronauts – two men and one woman – to the core module of a future space station where they will live and work for six months, the longest orbit for Chinese astronauts.
A Long March-2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, which means “Divine Vessel”, blasted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu at 12:23 a.m. (1623 GMT on Friday).
The vessel successfully docked to the port of the space station on at 6:56 a.m. (2156 GMT), and the astronauts entered the space station’s core module at 10:03 a.m., the China Manned Space Agency said.
China began constructing the space station in April with the launch of Tianhe – the first and largest of the station’s three modules. Slightly bigger than a city bus, Tianhe will be the living quarters of the completed space station.
Shenzhou-13 is the second of four crewed missions needed to complete the space station by the end of 2022. During the first crewed mission https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/chinese-astronauts-return-after-90-day-mission-space-station-2021-09-17 that concluded in September, three other astronauts stayed on Tianhe for 90 days.
In the latest mission, astronauts will carry out tests of the key technologies and robotics on Tianhe needed to assemble the space station, verify onboard life support systems and conduct a host of scientific experiments.
The mission commander is Zhai Zhigang, 55, from China’s first batch of astronaut trainees in the late 1990s. Born to a rural family with six children, Zhai carried out China’s first spacewalk in 2008. Shenzhou-13 was his second space mission.
“The most challenging task will be the long-term stay in orbit for six months,” Zhai told a news conference on Thursday. “It will exact higher demands (on us), both physically and psychologically.”
He was accompanied by Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu, both 41.
Wang, also born to a rural family, is known among colleagues for her tenacity. The former air force pilot first travelled to space in 2013, to Tiangong-1, a prototype space lab.
She is China’s second female astronaut in space, following Liu Yang in 2012.
Shenzhou-13 is the first space mission for the third astronaut, Ye.
After the crew returns to Earth in April, China plans to deploy six more missions, including deliveries of the second and third space station modules and two final crewed missions.
China, barred by U.S. law from working with NASA and by extension on the International Space Station (ISS), has spent the past decade developing technologies to build its own.
With the ISS set to retire in a few years, China’s space station will become the only one in Earth’s orbit.
China’s space programme has come far since late leader Mao Zedong lamented that the country could not even launch a potato into space. China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket, in October 2003, following the former Soviet Union and the United States.
(Reporting by Carlos Garcia and Xihao Jiang; additional reporting by Josh Horwitz; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Nick Macfie and William Mallard)
U.S. will accept mixed doses of vaccines from international travelers
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Friday that it will accept mixed-dose coronavirus vaccines from international travelers, a boost to travelers from Canada and other places.
The CDC said last week that it would accept any vaccine authorized for use by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization. “While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records,” a CDC spokeswoman said.
The White House said Friday the new vaccine requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States will begin Nov. 8 for visitors crossing at land borders as well as international air travelers.
Representative Brian Higgins, a New York Democrat representing a district along the Canadian border, had on Friday asked the CDC if it would accept the mixed vaccine doses noting “nearly four million Canadians, equivalent to 10% of their fully vaccinated population, have received mixed doses of the available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines – this includes the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
The CDC said the vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use, as well as those authorized by the WHO, will be accepted for entry into the United States, including the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The CDC said “individuals who have any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series are considered fully vaccinated.”
The CDC plans to answer other questions and release a contact tracing order for international air visitors by Oct. 25.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Aurora Ellis)
Apple worker says she was fired after leading movement against harassment
China launches second crewed mission to build space station
U.S. will accept mixed doses of vaccines from international travelers
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