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Deadliest day: 30 more people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta Thursday – Edmonton Journal

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Another 1,571 cases were added in Alberta Thursday with a total of 86,168 cases in the province.

Alberta has the most active cases of any province in Canada with 19,865 cases.

Of Thursday’s new cases, 760 are in the Edmonton Zone. The zone, which includes the city and surrounding municipalities, has the most active cases of any Alberta health region: 9,525 cases. Sixty per cent of the 138 Albertans in ICU are in the Edmonton Zone.

Holiday safety

Hinshaw reminded Albertans to stick to the province’s mandatory COVID-19 rules during the holiday season.

“This year we can and must celebrate differently. Holiday gatherings with people outside of your household are not only against the restrictions that are in place. They are also the wrong thing to do right now,” she said.

Alberta’s COVID-19 rules legally prohibit socializing with anyone who doesn’t live inside your home both inside and outside. Single people can have two close contacts.

Even if getting together with a group in person feels like the right thing to do, it’s not, she says. Outbreaks have started when someone who has mild or no symptoms passes COVID-19 in a gathering.

Religious gatherings

Alberta has among the most relaxed restrictions on religious events in the country. Current rules allow services to continue at 15 per cent capacity, along with other regulations, including physical distancing.

B.C. has banned in-person religious gatherings, and in Manitoba only drive-in services are allowed. Ontario permits up to 10 people and Saskatchewan up to 30 people at a religious ceremony.

Asked about whether Alberta’s current restrictions on these gatherings are sufficient even as there may be more interest amid the holidays, Hinshaw said the province’s rules “mitigate the risk of gathering.”

She said although there have been some outbreaks linked to religious groups, the vast majority of faith communities have responded well to guidance and many have moved services online voluntarily.

School outbreaks

Since Tuesday, there have been outbreaks declared at Divine Mercy, St. Kateri, St. Catherine, Cardinal Collins Clareview, Julia Kiniski, Kirkness, Sweet Grass, Michael Strembitsky, and Montrose schools.

There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 450 schools in Alberta, with a combined total of 1,966 cases in schools.

Health Canada data shows 488,638 cases of COVID-19 including 13,916 deaths. The World Health Organization reports more than 72.8 million cases. More than 1.6 million people have died globally from COVID-19.

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Vaccine manufacturers concerned about provinces delaying second doses: Anand – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
While Canada’s top immunization experts have signed off on provinces delaying the administration of the second Pfizer and Moderna doses in an effort to begin vaccinating more people with a small supply, Procurement Minister Anita Anand says she’s heard concerns from the manufacturers that may impact future deliveries.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing on Sunday, Anand said that some drug companies have brought up concerns with Canada or other countries not following the recommended usage protocols set out by the vaccine manufactures, as they are based on data from their clinical trials.

“That has not directly impacted our deliveries to date, but it has been a concern that vaccine corporations have raised with us in our discussions,” Anand said. While she would not say whether a company has outright said it would withhold future doses, she said the issue has come up in negotiations.

“It is still a recommendation from the manufacturers that we are hearing at the table” to follow their protocols, she said.

This week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) approved delaying administering second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for up to 42 days. The decision was made in the face of rising cases and strained hospitals.

The two vaccines that have been approved in Canada so far – made by PfizerBioNTech and Moderna — require two separate doses in order to achieve 94-95 per cent immunity for the patient.

These doses are spaced apart. Pfizer’s second dose is intended to be delivered 21 days after the first, while Moderna’s has a 28-day wait in between the doses.

The report from NACI stated that while the ideal is to follow the vaccine manufacturers’ recommendations, people can wait longer — 42 days or so for the second dose — in order to allow double the number of Canadians to get some partial protection by receiving their first shot faster.

However, contrary to NACI’s recommendations, Quebec public health officials have announced they plan to prolong second doses in that province for up to 90 days between the first and second dose, and Ontario indicated on Friday that given the upcoming temporary Pfizer shortage that province may also extend the timeframe between doses. 

SOME TRIAL PARTICIPANTS HAD DOSE DELAYS

In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, NACI chair Dr. Caroline chair Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh said that while Pfizer and Moderna have recommended shorter windows between vaccinations, in phase three trials for both vaccines, candidates received their second dose up to 42 days after the first.

“So the actual vaccine efficacy that are reported in those trials are covering a span from 21 to 42 days. It’s impossible to say if people who got their second dose at 42 days are protected better, less, or worse than the ones that got it before,” she said.

She’s suggesting Quebec conduct surveillance to ensure the vaccine remains effective if the second shot is given so late after the first.

“If we had enough doses to vaccinate all the high-risk groups right away with it two doses, we would stick to label. But at one point in time if you have to choose between vaccinating only a small proportion of your population, and let the variant spread very quickly, there’s no health gains here,” she said.

With files from CTV News’ Alexandra Mae Jones, CTV Montreal and CTV Toronto.  

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Couche-Tard and Carrefour Abandon Takeover Talks – Bloomberg

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Shopping carts outside a Carrefour SA hypermarket in Avignon, France.

Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. and Carrefour SA broke off talks on a proposed $20 billion deal in the face of strong opposition from France’s finance minister to the tie-up, according to people familiar with the matter.

The decision to halt negotiations came after top executives of the Quebec-based convenience-store operator flew to Paris to offer the government several sweeteners: billions of euros of investment in Carrefour stores, no job cuts for at least two years and dual stock listings in France and Canada.

It was not enough to persuade Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who told executives in a private meeting Friday he was standing by his position that a takeover would be bad for France. Earlier, Le Maire said on BFM TV: “To sum up: it’s a no. A courteous no, but a no that is clear and definitive.”

Couche-Tard executives are flying back to Canada after the failed talks, the people said. While discussions are on ice for now, they could be revived later if the government changes its position, they said.

#lazy-img-367315417:beforepadding-top:66.7%;Carrefour SA Hypermarket as Couche-Tard Said to Plan $3.6 Billion Investment

A customer collects a shopping cart outside a Carrefour SA hypermarket in Avignon, France, on Friday.

Photographer: Jeremy Suyker/Bloomberg

A merger would have created a retail powerhouse, combining Couche-Tard’s North America-focused network of 14,200 convenience stores with Carrefour’s sizable European operations, which include hypermarkets and smaller outlets. Carrefour has more than 7,000 convenience stores and gets almost all of its revenue from Europe and Latin America.

Couche-Tard, Canada’s largest retailer by market value, faced hurdles from the outset for its offer of 20 euros per share. Le Maire signaled that even if both parties agreed to the transaction, regulators might still block it. Carrefour shares fell 2.9% to 16.61 euros in Paris on Friday. Couche-Tard rose 4.8% to C$37.98 in Toronto.

Representatives from Carrefour and Couche-Tard didn’t respond to requests for comment. The decision to stop negotiations was reported first by Reuters.

Political Implications

For French President Emmanuel Macron, the political stakes are high with local elections later this year and presidential ones in 2022. The campaign is already on, with his handling of the pandemic making him open to criticism. The loss of a well-known French company to a foreign takeover could fuel nationalist Marine Le Pen, his primary rival for leadership.

France has often objected to foreign attempts to take over its blue-chip companies — frowning on talk of an approach from PepsiCo Inc. to yogurt maker Danone SA in 2005, for example.

The bid for Carrefour was especially sensitive because it is France’s largest private employer. On top of that, the pandemic has thrust jobs and the nation’s food supply to the top of the political agenda. “If this deal continues, food sovereignty comes before everything,” Le Maire said earlier this week, citing a decree he introduced in 2019 on state screening of foreign investments.

France isn’t the only country caught in a wave of protectionism that’s been heightened by companies’ suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.K. late last year drew up plans to give the government sweeping powers to intervene in foreign takeovers of assets deemed a threat to national security.

Some Couche-Tard analysts had questioned the deal’s strategic rationale and said it wouldn’t create significant cost savings as there’s little overlap between the two companies’ store networks. Both retailers’ bonds had slipped on concerns that the deal would swell the combined company’s debt burden.

The brutal ending marks the second time in nine months that Couche-Tard has come close to a major takeover, only to see it fizzle out.

In April, the company cited the pandemic as a reason for walking away from a $5.6 billion proposal for gas station chain Caltex Australia Ltd. (now known as Ampol Ltd.), ending a six-month pursuit. Its largest acquisition to date is Texas-based CST Brands Inc., a rival chain it agreed to buy in 2016 for about $4 billion.

— With assistance by Flavia Krause-Jackson

(Updates with share price movements and additional information on Carrefour operations and French political context)

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    Canada will experience 'temporary' delays with Pfizer shipments: Anand – CTV News

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    OTTAWA —
    Over the next month Canada will be experiencing a “temporary” delay in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to the pharmaceutical giant’s expansion plans at its European manufacturing facility, with the shortage resulting in an average of 50 per cent of coming doses delayed each week.

    While shipments will continue in the coming weeks, the amount of doses in them will be lessened, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of doses.

    “Pfizer has confirmed that Canada’s deliveries will be impacted for the next four weeks. We will see an average reduction over this timeframe of 50 per cent of expected deliveries. There will minimal impact next week… The most profound impact will be in the week of January 25,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout. 

    This setback to Canada’s short-term COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule means the number of doses going to each province and territory will have to be readjusted. Fortin said that the allocations will begin to scale back up in the first two weeks of February, before returning to the size of doses originally anticipated. 

    Canada was planning on receiving between 124,800 and 366,600 Pfizer doses every week between now and the end of February, as part of the plan to have six million doses total from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March when Phase 1 ends.

    The delivery for the week of Jan. 25, which Fortin said is likely to see the largest reduction, was set to be 208,650 doses. If that’s reduced by half, Canada will receive 104,325 Pfizer doses that week, which is fewer than the forecasted allocation received this week.

    “In my conversation this morning with Pfizer, it was very clear that we’re are still correct in our planning assumption to receive approximately four million doses of Pfizer by March 31,” Fortin said,

    Fortin said that knew the company would at some point need to scale-up their manufacturing to ramp-up its mass production, but the news of the looming construction project was brought to the federal government’s attention in the last 24 hours, according to Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos.  

    Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced the delay on Friday, saying all nations who are receiving vaccines from this Pfizer facility will be receiving fewer doses.

    “It is a temporary reduction, it’s not a stoppage… We will make up those doses,” Anand said.

    Addressing the setback during his Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that shipments have largely been ahead of schedule so far, but that “with an undertaking this historic, it’s only to be expected that there will be a few bumps along the way.”

    Norway, which is also receiving Pfizer doses from its Europe facilities has announced that “for some time ahead” their deliveries will be reduced. In the coming week their shipment will be reduced by approximately 18 per cent.

    “The reduction is due to a reorganisation at Pfizer in connection with an upgrade of production capacity… It is not yet clear how long it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again,” said the statement published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

    The government sought to ensure that all countries who will be impacted, will be “equitably treated” in terms of delivery reductions, according to Anand. Fortin confirmed later Friday that this will be the case, with all seeing deliveries reduced by 50 per cent on average.

    Anand said that while Canada is expecting to be able to catch up, the delay is “unfortunate.”

    “However such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.

    By end of the day Friday, the federal government will have distributed a total of 929,000 doses of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines, around 84 per cent of which have been administered.

    WON’T IMPACT PHASE 2  

    The plan is to receive “more than” one million doses of approved vaccines every week, on average, starting in April with Phase 2. 

    Trudeau said that while this issue is out of Canada’s hands, the country “must still get ready for the ramp-up,” in Phase 2. 

    Fortin said the delays “will not change our second quarter goals,” though he could not guarantee future delays. He said he understands and feels the “disappointment,” but “we need to move forward.”

    He committed to keep all key stakeholders, and Canadians appraised of any future delivery schedule changes. 

    The ongoing initial vaccination stage has seen Canada pushing to properly allocate and prioritize key groups like residents and staff in long-term care homes as well as front-line health-care workers. 

    In this first stage of the vaccine campaign, Canada has seen both doses sitting in freezers as well as provinces saying they are running short, while those on the front line have sought to sort out who should and shouldn’t be receiving shots at this time.

    “It was with precisely these types of issues in mind that Canada pursued the aggressive procurement strategy that we did,” Anand said. “This approach of ensuring diversity and volume months ago is what now gives us flexibility and margins to remain on track in difficult times.” 

    Asked whether Canada will be looking to revisit their decision to not procure additional Moderna doses to make up the shortage over the next few weeks, Fortin said the amount scheduled to arrive from that company will stay the same.

    As previously reported, the additional 16 million Moderna doses that the federal government left on the table in talks with that company would not be arriving until late 2021. 

    As for whether Canada looked into being able to receive Pfizer shipments from the  United States facility, Fortin said that the federal government looked into it, but for now Canada’s line of doses will continue to come exclusively from the European facility.

    Health Minister Patty Hajdu added that because as part of the regulatory approval granted to Pfizer, Health Canada approves the manufacturing sites as well as the vaccine itself.

    “So, should we procure from even the same company a different site, then there would need to be review of the manufacturing data,” she said. 

    Several federal officials sought to reassure Canadians Friday that the country remains on track to vaccinate everyone who wants to be, by the end of September.   

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