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COVID-19 testing sites see demand surge as cases rise, kids return to school

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OTTAWA —
Provinces are looking to expand COVID-19 testing as many Canadians wait long hours to be swabbed or can’t get in for testing at all.

Demand for testing surged in much of the country in recent days, as schools and universities reopened and the number of identified cases began to rise.

Ottawa public health officials said they’d seen record demand at testing sites since the weekend, and many people were turned away both Monday and Tuesday because the sites had reached capacity.

In London, Ont., two testing sites hit capacity in the afternoon Tuesday.

New testing centres have opened in Laval, Que., and Edmonton in the last week to accommodate rising demand. Quebec Premier Francois Legault said his province is trying to expand sites in regions that previously weren’t seeing much call for swabbings, as well as adding capacity to labs to do the actual tests, but he said getting equipment is taking time.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday the lineups for testing are “ridiculous” and he is trying to see if pharmacies can be used to test some asymptomatic people to take pressure off overloaded COVID-19 assessment centres.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said some increase in demand has been expected, “but perhaps not to this extent.”

Ottawa mother Robin MacIntyre was waiting in line with her daughter at Ottawa’s Brewer Park testing site for the second day Tuesday, after they failed to get in on Monday. She had already waited two hours Tuesday and was frustrated.

“I think this is ridiculous,” she said. “They knew this was coming.”

People started lining up two hours before the testing site opened at 9 a.m. and by mid-morning, the lineup snaked around a nearby soccer field four times. Some people brought lawn chairs and boxed lunches, entertaining their kids with smartphones and tablets, or let them play on a nearby playground. By 10:30 a.m. people at the back of the line were already being warned they wouldn’t get in, even though the site was open until 3:30 p.m.

MacIntyre wondered what is going to happen in the winter.

Ontario’s public health chief Dr. David Williams said Monday the province is looking at what to do about winter testing lines, including possibly finding a way for people to safely wait indoors.

Ottawa’s local authorities are trying to increase test capacity from 2,000 to 3,000 a day, and is hiring and training more staff over the next week. Dr. Alan Forster, a vice-president at the Ottawa Hospital who is overseeing testing for the Ottawa region’s COVID-19 response committee, said two local testing sites should be able to add four more hours per day within a week.

He said the No. 1 driver of the surge in demand for testing is kids.

But Ottawa officials are also desperately trying to convince adults who don’t have symptoms and have no known exposure to COVID-19 to stop coming in for tests. Forster said asymptomatic people who haven’t had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are clogging up the system.

Ottawa public health chief Dr. Vera Etches said people without symptoms or a known exposure can give themselves peace of mind they don’t have COVID-19 by practising the public health precautions preached for months: wear a mask, keep your distance, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands.

The surge in cases is driving testing demand too because the number of potential exposures is growing. In London, testing demand soared after five students at Western University tested positive over the weekend.

Etches said people who are testing positive are also reporting more close contacts, which means more people have to be sent for testing. She said in March many people were reporting 15 to 20 close contacts, while in the summer, that had fallen to just two or three per person.

This month, she said some people have more than 100 contacts, and one even had more than 150.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday the federal government is offering federal lab capacity to help the surge in demand because getting testing done quickly is critical to identifying and isolating cases and controlling the pandemic.

Tam also said Canada needs to get more rapid tests, so results can be provided in under an hour rather than in one or two days. She said the faster tests still need to be approved by Health Canada and couldn’t say when that might happen.

Dr. Tony Mazzulli, microbiologist in chief at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said conducting a test on a sample takes less than 24 hours but it takes time to get the specimens from the test sites to the lab, and more time to get the results back to the testing site and then entered into a computer so patients can be contacted.

Mazzulli said his lab saw between 4,500 and 5,000 specimens a day for testing in the last two or three weeks, up from between 3,000 and 3,500 a day over the summer. It can do as many as 10,000 now and are working to get that to above 17,000 by mid-October.

With files from Paola Loriggio in Toronto, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and Jordan Press in Ottawa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.

Source:- CTV News

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Sanofi-GSK report positive interim results for their COVID-19 shot

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An experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline showed a robust immune response in early-stage clinical trial results, enabling them to move to a late-stage study, the French drugmaker said on Monday.

Sanofi and Britain’s GSK said a global Phase III trial would start in the coming weeks and involve more than 35,000 adults, with the hope of seeing the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year before a setback.

Sanofi and GSK last December were forced to restart their trial when the vaccine showed a low immune response in older adults as a result of a weak antigen formulation.

Sanofi and GSK shares were little changed in early trading.

“The Phase II interim results showed 95% to 100% seroconversion following a second injection in all age groups and across all doses, with acceptable tolerability and no safety concerns,” Sanofi said.

Seroconversion refers to the vaccine’s ability to prompt the body to produce antibodies against the coronavirus, as measured by blood readings. Later mass trials will be based on real infections.

“Interestingly, we also observed that our vaccine generated a higher antibody response in those with previous COVID-19 infection, we are analysing this further as it may suggest our vaccine could serve as a potential booster, regardless of what vaccine someone may have received (beforehand),” Su-Peing Ng, Sanofi’s global head of medical for vaccines, told reporters.

Ng said the vaccine had not been tested against so-called variants in the Phase II trial but that the Phase III study would be assessing it against various strains including a virus lineage known as B.1.351 first detected in South Africa.

But Sanofi, Ng said, has conducted parallel studies evaluating its vaccines against variants, with results expected to be published soon.

GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.

‘QUITE A POTENTIAL’

Some 162.75 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019, while economies have taken a hit and restrictions have turned daily life upside down.

The United States and Europe have embarked on mass vaccinations programmes in the past months, raising hopes of a gradual reopening, although the virus is still in circulation in many regions, with variants causing concern.

Last month, the European Union executive’s President Ursula von der Leyen said protein-based COVID-19 vaccines such as the one developed by Sanofi and GSK offered “quite a potential”, a positive signal as the bloc develops its purchasing strategy for the next two years.

Sanofi’s shot, however, even if approved, will come long after ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which have produced efficacy results of more than 90%.

So far, Sanofi has purchasing agreements with the United States, the EU, Britain and Canada, as well as with the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility.

The company has pledged to help other drugmakers this year, striking “fill and finish” deals for vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

In addition to its vaccine project in collaboration with GSK, Sanofi is working on a mRNA candidate with U.S. company Translate Bio for which it has started clinical trials.

 

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; editing by Louise Heavens and Jason Neely)

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Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 161.42 million, death toll at 3,488,751

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More than 161.42 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 3,488,751​ have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/2FThSv7 in an external browser.

Eikon users can click  for a case tracker.

The following table lists the top 50 countries by the number of reported cases. A complete list is available with the above links.

COUNTRIES AND TOTAL DEATHS CONFIRMED DEATHS PER

TERRITORIES CASES 10,000

INHABITANTS

United States 584,768 32,926,288 17.9

India 262,317 24,046,809 1.94

Brazil 430,417 15,433,989 20.55

France 107,423 5,848,154 16.04

Turkey 44,301 5,095,390 5.38

Russia 254,590 4,922,901 17.62

United Kingdom 127,668 4,446,824 19.21

Italy 123,927 4,146,722 20.51

Spain 79,339 3,604,799 16.95

Germany 85,903 3,579,871 10.36

Argentina 69,254 3,242,103 15.56

Colombia 79,760 3,067,879 16.06

Poland 71,311 2,849,014 18.78

Iran 76,433 2,732,152 9.34

Mexico 219,901 2,375,115 17.43

Ukraine 47,620 2,143,448 10.67

Peru 65,316 1,873,316 20.02

Indonesia 47,823 1,734,285 1.79

Czech Republic 29,857 1,651,178 28.09

South Africa 55,012 1,605,252 9.52

Netherlands 17,423 1,589,282 10.11

Canada 24,825 1,312,408 6.7

Chile 27,520 1,266,601 14.69

Iraq 15,910 1,134,859 4.14

Philippines 18,958 1,131,467 1.78

Romania 29,413 1,070,605 15.11

Sweden 14,275 1,037,126 14.03

Belgium 24,645 1,026,473 21.56

Pakistan 19,384 873,220 0.91

Portugal 16,999 841,379 16.53

Israel 6,379 839,076 7.18

Hungary 29,041 796,390 29.71

Bangladesh 12,102 779,535 0.75

Jordan 9,203 722,754 9.24

Serbia 6,646 705,185 9.52

Switzerland 10,179 679,510 11.96

Japan 11,396 673,821 0.9

Austria 10,455 635,780 11.83

United Arab Emirates 1,626 543,610 1.69

Lebanon 7,569 534,968 11.05

Morocco 9,091 514,670 2.52

Malaysia 1,822 462,190 0.58

Nepal 4,669 439,658 1.66

Saudi Arabia 7,134 431,432 2.12

Bulgaria 17,194 413,320 24.48

Ecuador 19,442 405,783 11.38

Slovakia 12,168 387,162 22.34

Greece 11,322 373,881 10.55

Belarus 2,681 373,351 2.83

Panama 6,288 369,455 15.05

Source: Reuters tally based on statements from health ministries and government officials

Generated at 10:00 GMT.

 

(Editing by David Clarke)

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Canada plots course to fully vaccinated return to gatherings in fall

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Canada on Friday said there would be a gradual return to a world with indoor sports and family gatherings as more people get vaccinated, but it did not go as far as the United States in telling people they could eventually ditch their masks.

Canada has administered one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to just over half its adult population, and the country may be over the worst of its current third wave of infections, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.

On Friday, Canada‘s public health agency offered guidelines to the 10 provinces, which are responsible for public health restrictions.

The agency says once 75% of Canadians have had a single dose and 20% are fully vaccinated, some restrictions can be relaxed to allow small, outdoor gatherings with family and friends, camping, and picnics.

Once 75% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in the fall, indoor sports and family gatherings can be allowed again.

“I think masks might be the last layer of that multi-layer protection that we’ll advise people to remove,” Tam told reporters, noting that in Canada colder temperatures meant people would start spending more time indoors in the fall.

“We are taking a bit of a different approach to the United States,” she added. While in most of Canada masks are not required outdoors, they are mandatory indoors.

Less than 4% of Canada‘s adult population has been fully vaccinated compared to more than 36% of Americans.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has promised that everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by September, this week spoke of a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall” without explaining what that might look like.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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