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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday

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The latest:

British Columbia’s top doctor said the first stage of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts will focus on priority populations — including long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers, and people living in remote First Nations communities — with an aim of getting roughly 150,000 people immunized by February.

Vaccination efforts in Canada have been underway in several provinces for weeks and recently began in the territories, which will be using the Moderna vaccine.

At a briefing on Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry reiterated that for January, the province will be focused on residents and staff in long-term care homes.

“We have said that from the very beginning, those are the people that we know need our protection most.”

Henry said the province’s priority groups from December to February include:

  • Roughly 70,000 residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
  • Roughly 30,000 health-care workers, including hospital workers, paramedics and public health workers.
  • Roughly 25,000 people living in remote or isolated First Nation communities.
  • Roughly 13,000 residents and staff at assisted living residences.
  • Roughly 8,000 essential visitors to long-term care or assisted living facilities.
  • Roughly 2,000 people in hospital or in the community waiting for a long-term care placement.

Henry said the province is “hoping and planning” to get through the first groups by the end of January.

“The scheduling of these priority groups will vary a little bit as we deal with additional outbreaks in our communities, in long-term care in particular,” she said.

More details on general rollout are expected toward the end of January, Henry said.

After finishing the first “high-risk and high-priority groups,” the province will move onto the next group, which includes seniors over the age of 80 in the community and Indigenous seniors and elders over 65.

Homeless people using shelters, people in congregate living settings like provincial correctional centres and group homes, and health-care workers including family doctors and paramedics transporting long-term care residents will then be given priority for shots, Henry said, calling the immunization program a “monumental task” that will last for months.

 

 

The province doesn’t yet have a fixed number of guaranteed doses for February, Henry said, but health officials expect to learn more this week.

The province expects to receive 792,000 doses of vaccine by the end of March, Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

There are currently two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs ultra-low temperatures, limiting distribution, Henry said she’s hopeful Health Canada will approve additional vaccines, including the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines, increasing the amount of vaccine available.

In Quebec, health officials have decided to delay the second shot for many of the people who got a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so they can get the protection offered by a single dose to more front-line health-care workers.

Radio-Canada reported Tuesday that Premier François Legault has been asked to consider a curfew as the province deals with rising numbers and an increasingly strained health-care system. The premier hasn’t made a final decision, the report said.

Ontario, which has faced criticism over what many see as a slow rollout and a holiday pause in vaccination efforts, on Monday gave a second dose to the woman who got the very first shot in the province. Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker in Toronto, said she hopes others will follow her footsteps as the province continues its rollout of two COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force, said Tuesday that logistical and organizational challenges were at play at the outset of vaccination efforts in the province and across the country.

“I think it’s fair to give these programs — not just in Ontario, but across the country — a little bit of wiggle room and a little bit of runway to take off,” Bogoch told CBC’s Heather Hiscox. “However, it’s now been three weeks since the first delivery of the vaccine. We should be taking off, we should be in the air, and we should have mass vaccine programs functioning at full capacity by now.”

Ontario, which as of Sunday night had administered 42,419 doses, is set to provide a briefing later Tuesday morning about the vaccination plan.

 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford looks on as the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to personal support worker Anita Quidangen by registered nurse Hiwot Arfaso at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

 

“I think the next test is to see what’s done between now and a week from now,” Bogoch said. “We should not have any vaccines in freezers.”

“Today you’re going to hear, hopefully across the country, some very practical methods on how that’s going to be done.”

In Yukon, health workers kicked off the territory’s immunization program at a long-term care facility in Whitehorse.

“I feel very privileged, and I did it because I want all people to know that there is an answer to what’s happening within our life right now,” said 84-year-old Agnes Mills, the first person in Yukon to get the shot.

Nunavut is also expected to start its vaccination program this week and the Northwest Territories is scheduled to begin immunizations next week.

As of early Tuesday morning, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 611,424, with 77,466 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 16,074.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 118 new cases of COVID-19, while neighbouring Saskatchewan reported 286 new cases. Alberta, which has seen several MLAs demoted or removed from their cabinet posts after facing questions over holiday travel, reported 1,128 new cases of COVID-19.

In the North, a Nunavut woman who contracted COVID-19 in November after delivering a child in Manitoba, died on Sunday. Silatik Qavvik, 35, leaves behind five children, including the baby she delivered in Winnipeg.

In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 17 new cases of COVID-19, while Nova Scotia reported six new cases. There was one new case of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador and no new cases in Prince Edward Island.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 9:10 a.m. ET


What’s happening in the U.S.

 

Dr. Thomas Yadegar, medical director of the intensive care unit at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, Calif., asks for help while he attends to a COVID-19 patient inside a bedroom adapted with isolation doors over the weekend. (Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images)

 

More than two-thirds of the coronavirus vaccines shipped within the United States have gone unused, U.S. health officials said on Monday, as the governors of New York and Florida vowed to penalize hospitals that do not dispense shots quickly.

Medical authorities have confronted widespread distrust of immunization safety, even among some health-care workers, owing in part to the record speed with which COVID-19 vaccines were developed and approved. But some U.S. officials also have cited organizational glitches in launching the most ambitious mass inoculation campaign in the nation’s history in the year-end holiday season.

“The logistics of getting it going into the people who want it is really the issue,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, told MSNBC. “We’re not where we want to be. No doubt about that.”

The federal government has distributed more than 15 million vaccine doses to states and territories across the country, but only about 4.5 million have been administered, the CDC reported.

Those figures put the government far short of its goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020, although officials said they expected the rollout would pick up significantly this month.

The U.S. has seen more than 20.8 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 353,000 deaths, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

From Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has gotten off to a sluggish start, but there could be lessons to learn from countries such as Israel, which has vaccination clinics operating around the clock. 3:11

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 85.7 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, with more than 48.2 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a COVID-19 tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.

In Europe, England is facing a third national lockdown that will last at least six weeks, as authorities struggle to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals around the U.K.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a tough new stay-at-home order for England that won’t be reviewed until at least mid-February to combat a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus. It takes effect at midnight Tuesday. Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon imposed a lockdown that began Tuesday.

Johnson and Sturgeon said the lockdowns were needed to protect the National Health Service as a new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 sweeps across Britain. On Monday, hospitals in England were treating 26,626 coronavirus patients, 40 per cent more than during the first pandemic peak in April.

Many U.K. hospitals have already been forced to cancel elective surgery, and the strain of the pandemic may soon delay cancer surgery and limit intensive care services for patients without COVID-19, Professor Neil Mortenson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told Times Radio.

“Over the weekend we talked about a slow-motion car crash, but I think it’s getting much worse than that now,” he said.

Beginning Tuesday, primary and secondary schools and colleges in England will be closed for in-person learning except for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. University students will not be returning until at least mid-February. People were told to work from home unless it’s impossible to do so, and to leave home only for essential trips.

All non-essential shops and personal care services like hairdressers will be closed, and restaurants can only offer takeout. Britain has reported over 75,500 virus-related deaths, one of the highest tallies in Europe.

 

Ambulances line up as a government sponsored electronic sign gives out coronavirus pandemic information to visitors and staff outside the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

 

Amid public outcry, France’s health minister has promised an “exponential” acceleration of his country’s slow coronavirus vaccination process.

After barely 500 people in France were vaccinated in the first six days, Health Minister Olivier Veran defended the government’s strategy of giving the vaccines first to residents of nursing homes. But he vowed Tuesday to simplify a bureaucratic consent process blamed in part for France’s lagging vaccinations.

In the Americas, Mexico approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use Monday, hoping to spur a vaccination effort that has only given about 44,000 shots since the third week of December, about 82 per cent of the doses the country has received. Prior to this, the Pfizer vaccine was the only one approved for use in Mexico.

Assistant Health Secretariat Hugo Lopez-Gatell said he erroneously reported approval for Chinese vaccine-maker CanSino, noting it had not yet submitted full study results for safety and efficacy.

In the Middle East, Iran has registered its first case of a highly contagious coronavirus variant that emerged in Britain, in an Iranian who arrived from the U.K.

American biotech company Moderna said Israel has approved its COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna said in a statement Tuesday that the Israeli Health Ministry authorized use of the company’s vaccine and that it would begin delivering this month the six million doses secured by Israel.

Israel’s Health Ministry reported 8,308 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday — one of the highest daily tallies since the beginning of the pandemic — as the country struggles to contain the pandemic during a third national lockdown

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan will decide later this week whether to impose a state of emergency in the Tokyo area, a move citizens derided as too little, too late in a nation set to host the Olympics.

 

Medical workers in a booth work during COVID-19 testing at a makeshift clinic in Seoul. South Korea is extending stringent distancing rules as authorities seek to suppress a viral resurgence. (Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press)

 

As a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) prepares to visit China to investigate the origins of COVID-19, Beijing has stepped up efforts not only to prevent new outbreaks, but also shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began.

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus in South Korea passed 1,000 on Tuesday, while an increasing number of gym owners said they would reopen in protest against strict physical distancing rules.

In Africa, Eswatini aims to vaccinate all its 1.3 million people against COVID-19, senior officials in the southern African kingdom said.

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

Source: – CBC.ca

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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'



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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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