Countries in the Americas should prioritize pregnant and lactating women in distribution of COVID-19 shots, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, hailing the ability of the vaccines to protect women and their babies.
“PAHO recommends that all pregnant women after their first trimester, as well as those who are breastfeeding, receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said during the organization’s weekly virtual briefing.
More than 270,000 pregnant women have had COVID-19 in the Americas and about one per cent have died, she said. In Mexico and Colombia, the virus is the leading cause of maternal deaths this year, she said.
But she pointed out that vaccination has been effective in preventing death.
“In Mexico, where pregnant women have been prioritized for vaccinations for some time, not a single vaccinated woman has died from COVID during pregnancy,” Etienne said.
Countries also must ensure pregnant women are able to access pre-natal care despite the pandemic, Etienne said. At least 40 per cent of countries in the region have reported disruptions to maternal and newborn care during the pandemic.
Just 28 per cent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, Etienne said, adding that vaccination figures vary widely, with one-fourth of regional countries yet to vaccinate even 20 per cent of its people.
Guatemala and Nicaragua are currently below 10 per cent vaccine coverage, while Venezuela is at just over 11 per cent. Less than one per cent of Haiti’s population has been inoculated against COVID-19.
PAHO’s Emerging Viral Diseases advisor Jairo Mendez Rico joined other health officials in downplaying concerns about the Mu variant of the virus first discovered in Colombia, saying there is no solid evidence yet to show that it is more transmissible or lethal than others.
All currently available COVID-19 vaccines have so far been effective in protecting against the variant, which has been circulating in the Americas since January, he said.
There were nearly 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in the region last week and more than 22,000 deaths.
-From Reuters, last updated at 1:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 222.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.5 million.
The UN-backed program to get vaccines to the neediest people in the world has again scaled back its target to ship doses this year, projecting about 1.4 billion doses will be available through the end of the year.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says the COVAX program that it runs has faced setbacks. Those include export restrictions from hard-hit India, a key producer of vaccines, as well as regulatory hurdles for some vaccine candidates and manufacturing troubles elsewhere.
The head of WHO on Wednesday again called on rich countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year, expanding a call that has largely fallen on deaf ears.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday he was “appalled” at comments by a leading association of pharmaceutical manufacturers who said vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots and vaccinations in countries in dire need of jabs but facing shortages.
“I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers,” he told a news conference.
In Europe, the head of Germany’s disease control agency says the vaccination rate needs to increase to avoid another wave of the coronavirus, warning “the pandemic is not over yet.”
Lothar Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute said Germany could experience another wave in cases in the fall, with the potential of overwhelming the country’s health system. On Wednesday, the institute reported 13,565 confirmed cases. While infection rates have been stagnant in recent days, the number of hospitalizations has increased in Germany. The number of patients in intensive care has almost doubled to more than 1,300 in the last two weeks, Wieler said.
Meanwhile, Sweden will push ahead with easing restrictions at the end of this month, removing most curbs and limits on public venues such as restaurants, theatres and stadiums.
In the Asia-Pacific region, a medical research institute in Thailand on Wednesday opened registrations for schools to get COVID-19 vaccinations for students ages 10 to 18. The Chulabhorn Royal Academy announced it would vaccinate up to 50,000 children with China’s Sinopharm vaccine starting Sept. 20.
Bangkok’s city government previously announced it will allow children 12 to 18 with underlying medical conditions to receive the Pfizer vaccine starting Sept. 21, ahead of the upcoming school year.
The Philippines capital region will remain under the second strictest coronavirus containment measures, despite a day earlier announcing a relaxation of curbs to spur business activity.
Indonesia’s daily coronavirus positivity rate dropped below the World Health Organization’s benchmark standard of five per cent this week for the first time.
South Korea has reported more than 2,000 new cases of the coronavirus, approaching a one-day record set last month, as officials expressed concern about an erosion in citizen vigilance amid prolonged pandemic restrictions.
In the Americas, Venezuela has received its first batch of vaccines through COVAX, the Pan-American Health Organization said.
U.S. President Joe Biden will present a six-pronged strategy intended to fight the spread of the delta variant and increase U.S. vaccinations, the White House said.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia removed the United Arab Emirates, Argentina and South Africa from its entry banned country list and re-allowed citizens to travel to the three countries starting Sept. 8, state TV reported.
In Africa, the International Monetary Fund’s executive board on Tuesday approved $567 million US in emergency support for Tanzania to help it finance a vaccination campaign and meet the health and social costs of the pandemic.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 10:20 a.m. ET
The 2 Michaels are home. But what about the 115 Canadians still detained in China? – Global News
Heartwarming images and video surfaced of the two reuniting with their families. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday called their homecoming “good news for all of us,” noting that they had both gone through an “unbelievably difficult ordeal.”
But as of Sunday at least 115 Canadians remain in custody in Chinese prisons, Global Affairs Canada said in an emailed statement to Global News. Not all Canadians imprisoned in China are in arbitrary detainment, but the agency said at least four of those jailed are on death row.
“Canada opposes the death penalty in all cases, everywhere,” Global Affairs Canada said.
“We have raised our firm opposition to the death penalty with China and continue to call on China to grant clemency for all Canadians sentenced to death.”
“Two Michaels” and Meng Wanzhou return home
The agency said it reviews each detention on a case-by-case basis, as consular officials often require a “tailored approach” that can adapt to different local contexts and circumstances.
Here’s a look at the four Canadians currently on death row.
Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison
Of those sentenced to death, the most recent is Canadian Robert Schellenberg of Abbotsford, British Columbia. The Liaoning High Court upheld his death sentence on Aug. 10 following an appeal made over the summer.
Schellenberg was detained on drug charges in China in 2014 and was formally charged with drug smuggling in January 2015. Initially, a Chinese court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison. But four years later, his verdict was overturned following a retrial and he was sentenced to death.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in August that Canada “strongly” condemned the court’s decision to uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.
“We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” he said, shortly after the ruling was delivered.
“We oppose the death penalty in all cases, and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence.”
In an emailed statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada reiterated that the federal government remains “strongly opposed” to the decision to arbitrarily impose and uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.
The agency added it “will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to seek clemency for Mr. Schellenberg.”
Chinese court upholds death sentence against B.C. man
Canadian Xu Weihong was sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court over drug manufacturing charges on Aug. 6, 2020. They also handed down a life sentence to Wen Guanxiong, whom they claim helped Xu make ketamine.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin justified Xu’s death sentence during a briefing last year, saying that death penalties would help “deter and prevent” similar crimes in the future.
“I would like to stress that China’s judicial authorities handle the relevant case independently in strict accordance with Chinese law and legal procedures,” Wang had said.
He added that “this case should not inflict any impact on China-Canada relations.”
China defends death sentence for Canadian convicted of making illegal drugs
Ye Jianhui is the fourth Canadian to receive the death penalty in China.
His sentence was handed down in August of last year over charges to manufacture and transport drugs by the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court, just one day after Xu’s.
Ye and co-defendant Lu Hanchang conspired with others to manufacture and transport drugs between May 2015 and January 2016, the Associated Press reported last year.
Asked last year if the sentencing of the Canadian drug offenders was linked to Meng’s case, Wang said China’s judicial organs “handle cases independently,” while also adding that “the Canadian side knows the root cause” of difficulties in China-Canadian relations.
Fan Wei was given the death penalty on April 30, 2019 along with 11 others over his involvement in an international methamphetamine operation.
Speaking to Global News the day of his sentencing, Global Affairs Canada said officials attended the sentencing and reading of the verdict. They called on China to grant clemency, adding the decision to apply the “cruel and inhumane” death penalty to Fan’s case was of “extreme concern” to their government.
“Obtaining clemency for Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei is also of primary importance given China’s decision to impose the death penalty in these cases,” Global Affairs Canada said, in an emailed statement to Global News on Sunday.
“Canada will continue to provide consular services to Robert Schellenberg, Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei, as well as to their families.”
— With files from Global News’ Saba Aziz and Aaron D’Andrea, as well as the Canadian Press, Associated Press and Reuters.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have finally landed in Canada – CTV News
Two Canadians who’ve been imprisoned in China for more than 1,000 days have arrived safely in Canada.
Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, detained on espionage charges since Dec. 10, 2018, arrived at the Calgary International Airport early Saturday morning, following an overnight fuel stop in Alaska.
Footage from CTV News on the tarmac shows several passengers greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a hug, though everyone in the footage is wearing a mask.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office told CTV News’ Bill Fortier at the airport that the passengers are indeed the two Michaels. The spokesperson added that it is very emotional moment for both of them and they would not be taking questions.
Later in the day, a smiling Kovrig landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where he was met by his sister and wife. Kovrig briefly spoke to media, where he issued his thanks for the support and said he would have more to say in due time.
“It’s wonderfully fantastic to be back home in Canada,” he told reporters. “I’m so grateful for everybody who worked so hard to bring both of us back home.”
Trudeau announced the two would be returning to Canada in a late-night press conference on Friday, only once the two had left Chinese airspace.
“Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Trudeau wrote in a tweet on Saturday. “You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”
News of their release has garnered celebration from across Canada, including from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, as well as from people who knew the two Canadians.
“It’s hard to describe but I’m just so thrilled for him and his family more than anybody else,” Praveen Madhiraju, a colleague of Kovrig’s, told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “This has been a long time coming and we’re just thrilled for this next chapter.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the two Michaels showed “incredible strength” during their detention.
“Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are now home — they, as well as their families, have shown incredible strength, bravery and resilience,” she tweeted on Saturday. “The Canadian government has worked hard to secure their release. We thank everyone involved who helped make it possible.”
The Michaels arrived in Canada just one day after a British Columbia court dropped the extradition case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou over fraud and conspiracy charges related to American sanctions against Iran.
Meng had earlier Friday pleaded not guilty to all charges in a virtual appearance in New York court, where the judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement.
The two Michaels were both convicted of spying in closed Chinese courts earlier this year. Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in Chinese prison, while Kovrig had yet to be sentenced.
The detainment of the two Canadians has largely been seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest, though China has repeatedly denied any connection between the Michaels and Meng.
Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that the swift release of the two Michaels shows that their detainment was in fact retaliatory.
“Obviously this is the acknowledgment that this was really a retaliatory hostage taking for Meng Wanzhou,”
“I think (this is) a triumph for quiet diplomacy, because this was kept very much to wraps. Nobody knew what was going on. I was as surprised as the rest of Canada.”
With files from The Canadian Press
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca
The U.S. Travel Association said the ongoing closure of the land borders with Canada and Mexico is costing U.S. businesses an estimated $1.5 billion a month in “travel exports,” which the association defines as spending by foreign residents while visiting the U.S.
Canada reopened its air, land and sea borders to Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Aug. 9. However, the ban on non-essential land travel from Canada and Mexico to the United States was extended last Monday for a 19th month, until Oct. 21.
“My constituents are deeply frustrated by this, particularly given the trade and the relationships that people have across the border,” Michigan Sen. Gary Peters said last week during national security hearings with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“We are very mindful of the economic consequences, and not only the economic consequences but the consequences on family members who haven’t seen one another for quite some time,” Mayorkas replied.
He said the progression of the delta variant of the coronavirus “is not yet where we need it to be” in the U.S., and that there are communities near the U.S.-Mexico border that are also suffering as a result of the closure.
“We are looking at the situation, not only at the ports of entry on our northern border, but also on our southern border,” Mayorkas said.
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“We have heard similar concerns with respect to border communities on the South and the impact, economic and family impact, of the restrictions. We are looking at what we can do operationally, and we are moving in a very sequential and controlled manner.”
Canada, meanwhile, remains the largest single U.S. export market, accounting for nearly 18 per cent of all American goods sent out of the country last year. The two countries trade $1.7 billion worth of goods and services each day, for a total of $614.9 billion in 2020.
What’s happening across Canada
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- N.L. reports 14 new case as 80 per cent of eligible residents now fully vaccinated.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 231.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool, which collects data from around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in mid-September that he would have to spend a “few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with COVID-19.
The results of his time away from official duties, after he cancelled his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit, could be seen in photos released on Sunday, showing him fishing in Siberia.
Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians, and has previously been pictured riding a horse bare-chested and in sun glasses, as well as carrying a hunting rifle and piloting a fighter jet.
In Asia, China has provided more than 1.25 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday. President Xi Jinping announced recently that China will provide a total of two billion doses of vaccines for the rest of the world by the end of this year.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales recorded 961 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths, government data showed on Sunday.
The state’s first dose vaccination rate has climbed to 85.2 per cent of its population over 16 years of age, while 59.1 per cent of the population has had their second doses.
New South Wales is expected to relax harsh lockdown restrictions that have been in place since June, when its population reaches 80 per cent double vaccinated some time in November.
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