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COVID-19 variant found in South Africa might be a problem for vaccines, experts warn – Global News

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U.K. scientists expressed concern on Monday that COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out in Britain may not be able to protect against a new variant of the coronavirus that emerged in South Africa and has spread internationally.

Both Britain and South Africa have detected new, more transmissible variants of the COVID-19-causing virus in recent weeks that have driven a surge in cases. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday he was now very worried about the variant identified in South Africa.

Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said that while both variants had some new features in common, the one found in South Africa “has a number additional mutations … which are concerning.”

Read more:
Canada ‘actively monitoring’ new coronavirus variants

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He said these included more extensive alterations to a key part of the virus known as the spike protein — which the virus uses to infect human cells — and “may make the virus less susceptible to the immune response triggered by the vaccines.”

Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at Warwick University, also noted that the South African variant has “multiple spike mutations.”

“The accumulation of more spike mutations in the South African variant are more of a concern and could lead to some escape from immune protection,” he said.






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Canadian scientists work to track new coronavirus variant


Canadian scientists work to track new coronavirus variant

Scientists including BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin and John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, have said they are testing the vaccines against the new variants and say they could make any required tweaks in around six weeks.

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Public Health England said there was currently no evidence to suggest COVID-19 vaccines would not protect against the mutated virus variants. Britain’s health ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The world’s richest countries have started vaccinating their populations to safeguard against a disease that has killed 1.8 million people and crushed the global economy.

There are currently 60 vaccine candidates in trials, including those already being rolled out from AstraZeneca and Oxford, Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm.

Read more:
Another new coronavirus variant appears to emerge in Nigeria

Scientists say both the South African and UK variants are associated with a higher viral load, meaning a greater concentration of virus particles in patients’ bodies, possibly contributing to increased transmission.

Oxford’s Bell, who advises the UK government’s vaccine task force, said on Sunday he thought vaccines would work on the British variant but said there was a “big question mark” as to whether they would work on the South African variant.

BioNTech’s Sahin told Germany’ Spiegel in an interview published on Friday that their vaccine, which uses messenger RNA to instruct the human immune system to fight the virus, should be able to protect against the UK variant.

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“We are testing whether our vaccine can also neutralize this variant and will soon know more,” he said.

© 2021 Reuters

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Saskatchewan plans to create coronavirus vaccine TV ads – Global News

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Saskatchewan is reporting another 290 new cases of COVID-19 as it looks to create TV ads to encourage vaccinations.

Health officials said Monday there were 210 people in hospital, with 30 patients receiving intensive care.

Read more:
World on brink of ‘catastrophic moral failure’ with vaccine nationalism, WHO says

Four more residents, all 60 or older, also died from the virus.

Saskatchewan has recently had the highest rate of active cases per 100,000 population in Canada. And the regions of Saskatoon, North Battleford, Prince Albert and Regina are where many of the active infections are located.

Officials said more than 22,000 vaccine shots have gone into the arms of doctors and nurses working directly with COVID-19 patients, as well as staff and residents in long-term care homes and some seniors.

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“Saskatchewan has significantly picked up the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in recent days. Over 10,500 shots have been administered in the past four days,” Premier Scott Moe said in a tweet.

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To encourage vaccinations, documents posted on the government’s procurement website show the Ministry of Health is shopping for a production company to shoot some TV ads next month.

“To get back to the things we love to do, and re-connect with family and friends, people need to get vaccinated. These spots will be used to raise public awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated,” the documents read.

Read more:
Immune but infectious: Can someone vaccinated against COVID-19 still spread the virus?

Last week, the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said he would recommend that the Saskatchewan Party government implement stricter public-health restrictions if he keeps seeing 300 or more infections reported daily.

The current public-health order prohibits household guests, as well as restricts business capacity and worship services. It is set to expire next Friday.

“The government and Dr. Shahab are continuously monitoring the case numbers and have not ruled out adjustments before that time,” Julie Leggott, Moe’s press secretary, said in a statement.






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COVID-19 restrictions extended in Saskatchewan until Jan. 29


COVID-19 restrictions extended in Saskatchewan until Jan. 29

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Coronavirus: Regina police, SHA looking into maskless dance video – Global News

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Police and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) are looking into a video circulating on social media that shows people dancing without masks at a Regina bar and restaurant.

The Tap Brewhouse & Liquor Store posted a statement on Facebook this past weekend regarding a video recorded on its premise on Jan. 15.

Read more:
Regina police fine woman $2,800 for disobeying COVID-19 public health orders

“There were some young patrons not adhering to the COVID rules and guidelines. They were asked to leave, which they did in a timely manner,” read the statement attributed to The Tap ownership and management group.

“Unfortunately, they decided to dance their way out the door.

“We have strictly followed the guidelines implemented from day one of the pandemic and assure everyone this is a very isolated incident. Because of this incident, we have implemented more supervision & education in our business for the safety of our customers … we sincerely apologize to everyone.”

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Read more:
Coronavirus outbreak at Saskatoon restaurant was potential superspreader event: SHA

The Regina Police Service (RPS) said on Monday the matter is in the hands of the SHA, and is working in conjunction with them.

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“A number have asked if people will be ticketed under the Saskatchewan’s Public Health Act as a result of this video,” read a RPS statement.

“The short answer is: we do not know; it’s not concluded yet.

“One of the messages from us and (the provincial) government was that each case is evaluated on its own merits. Another theme was that the goal is compliance, not handing out fines (although that is one of the options available) … and the matter will be dealt with appropriately.”

Fines for not following Saskatchewan’s public health orders, in cases where negligence or misconduct have been found, may be $2,000 for individuals and $10,000 for corporations, plus a victim surcharge.

RPS have issued at least nine tickets under the public health orders brought into effect during the pandemic.


Click to play video 'COVID-19 restrictions extended in Saskatchewan until Jan. 29'



1:33
COVID-19 restrictions extended in Saskatchewan until Jan. 29


COVID-19 restrictions extended in Saskatchewan until Jan. 29

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Story continues below advertisement

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Quebec high school students back in classroom after month-long break – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press


Published Monday, January 18, 2021 10:32PM EST

MONTREAL – Quebec high school students returned to classrooms on Monday following a month-long, extended winter break imposed by the government to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The return of high schoolers came one week after primary schools reopened last Monday. High school students are required to wear procedural masks at all times inside school buildings, and the province is providing each student two masks per day.

Quebec is reopening schools despite imposing a provincewide curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. until at least Feb. 8. and despite ordering most businesses deemed non-essential closed.

Premier Francois Legault has said schools aren’t primary drivers of COVID-19 transmission and that the benefits to children of keeping them open outweigh the risks of contagion.

A recent study by a group of researchers, including some from the Universite de Montreal, indicated schools were, in fact, a significant vector of transmission. Government figures indicate that schools have accounted for about 22.5 per cent of all completed outbreaks in the province – second only to workplaces.

Monday’s return to class coincided with a sharp decrease in the number of reported COVID-19 infections. The province reported 1,634 new COVID-19 cases – including about 200 that were left out of Sunday’s tally due to a reporting delay. Quebec had been recently reporting more than 1,900 cases a day.

Benoit Masse, public health expert at the Universite de Montreal, said it’s too soon to know which way the numbers are trending.

“I would be very careful before we declare victory because I think everybody realized, especially in the last 10 days, that we are in a very, very difficult situation,” Masse said. “I think everybody is making their effort and following the rules.”

He said it’ll take another 10 days to two weeks to determine the epidemiological impact of reopening schools.

“We have to see for a week or two that the early trend that we’re seeing (currently) keeps going down and has an effect on hospitalizations,” Masse said in an interview Monday.

“It’s not going to be tomorrow . . . but we should be able to reach Feb. 8 and see whether we’re going to be in a good position,” he said, referring to the date when the curfew is scheduled to be lifted.

Despite a drop in new infections, authorities reported a rise in hospitalizations Monday after reporting decreases during the previous three days. The number of patients rose by 31, to 1,491, and the number of patients in intensive care rose by two, to 217.

“Before you see a reduction of hospitalizations, you have to see a reduction in the cases,” Masse said.

Quebec announced Monday it has vaccinated three-quarters of long-term care residents with a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“Vaccination continues to give a first dose to the entire group,” Health Minister Christian Dube wrote on Twitter. Quebec administered 6,845 vaccine doses Sunday, for a total 153,539.

Vaccinations won’t help bring down Quebec numbers in the short term, but Masse said the protection will be needed should cases begin to rise in the spring.

Masse said it’s too early to say whether the curfew is having a direct impact on case numbers. On Monday, Quebec’s Public Security Department reported that 1,429 tickets had been handed out by Quebec police forces relating to the curfew between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17.

Montreal police said they handed out 353 curfew-related tickets and another 583 tickets for contravening public health rules.

Quebec has reported 244,348 infections and 9,087 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, with 215,325 people deemed recovered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021.

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