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Former NATO commander to lead planning for Canada's vaccine rollout – CTV News

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Canada has tapped former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead the national vaccine distribution effort, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced his target of immunizing more than half of Canadians by September 2021.

“Canadian can expect that if all goes well, to have more than half of us vaccinated by next September,” said the prime minister, adding this “significant positive news” comes straight from Canada’s federal health experts.

“I can understand the eagerness with which people want to know: ‘When is this going to be over? When are we going to get the vaccines?’ What we can say is we are working extremely hard to deliver as quickly and as safely as possible… if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have the majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau also spoke more about the government’s vaccine strategy of procuring up to 414 million doses from seven different pharmaceutical companies—enough to vaccinate every person in this country more than a few times over. Because COVID-19 is a new disease and there are different approaches to tackling it, Canada wanted to keep its options open, he said.

“Some are going to work better than others, and some are going to be speed bumps along the way that cause extra challenges, and we knew that creating an array of opportunities for Canadians was one of the best ways of making sure that we would get through this the best possible way,” Trudeau said.

TOP MILITARY GENERAL TAKES LEAD

As first reported by CTV News ahead of Trudeau’s Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Fortin will be in charge of overseeing what is set to be a massive logistics-heavy operation.

There are already Canadian Armed Forces military logistics teams working with the Public Health Agency of Canada on planning for the rollout of vaccines to millions of Canadians in the coming months. This work has quietly been underway for months but with positive vaccine trial news coming out in recent weeks, the country’s attention has been largely seized with assessing where Canada stands.

Known as the National Operations Centre, Fortin will head up the logistics and operations within the centre.

“This will be the biggest immunization in the history of the country,” Trudeau said. “We must reach everyone who wants a vaccine, no matter where they live.”

Fortin most recently served as the Chief of Staff for the Canadian Joint Operations Command, but has also served as the commander of NATO’s Iraq mission.

“The Canadian Armed Forces will assist on planning, including to meet challenges like cold storage requirements, data-sharing, and reaching Indigenous and rural communities,” Trudeau said.

This follows news from Health Canada’s chief medical adviser that the first COVID-19 vaccine approval could happen before Christmas, in line with expected approvals in the U.S. and Europe.

“We are expecting to make a final decision on the vaccines around the same time,” Dr. Supriya Sharma told reporters Thursday during the first of what will be weekly public briefings on the status of procurement and rollout plans. “And then we’re going to have to figure out all of those shipments.”

That’s where the military is expected to play a role.

Further complicating the tall task of distributing millions of vials across the country, a number of the vaccine candidates being tested—including the Pfizer vaccine— require two doses and must be stored at very cold temperatures.

The government has begun procuring freezers that are able to stay cold enough to keep the vaccine supply stable, and the procurement process is underway for a contract tender to ship, fly, and drive doses to all regions of the country.

The prime minister spoke with provinces again Thursday evening about the COVID-19 response and said the federal government is offering the latest information it can, after frustration and confusion about timelines and plans bubbled over this week.

“We have continued to work with the provinces on vaccine delivery logistics, since last spring. We’ve been engaged, understanding that a vaccine was the way we were going to get through this pandemic,” Trudeau said.

Noting that Ontario hit a new record for the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day on Friday, and Canadians from coast to coast are adjusting to new levels of restrictions in the face of the second wave, Trudeau said that Canada is in “some of the toughest days of this pandemic.” Trudeau restated that as the country waits for vaccines, the standard public health measures still need to be taken.

“We’re in this together, and the more we work as a team, the better we’ll all do,” said the prime minister on Friday.

With files from CTV News’ Michel Boyer and Solarina Ho

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COVID-19 worsening Canadian students' diets, inactivity, alcohol consumption: study – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A new Canadian study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased unhealthy behaviour in post-secondary students.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, reported that isolation brought on by the novel coronavirus has led to a “significant worsening of already poor dietary habits, low activity levels, sedentary behaviour, and high alcohol consumption among university students.”

Nutrition professor and lead author of the study, Gordon Zello, said in a press release that the findings could be used to help students maintain healthy behaviours going forward.

“Our findings are important because university students, especially those most vulnerable for poor nutrition and sedentary behaviour, should be targeted for interventions aimed at maintaining and improving physical activity and dietary practices during this pandemic and beyond,” Zello said.

Researchers noted the study is the first to assess “changes in students’ dietary intake, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour” amid COVID-19.

The findings were published Friday in the peer-reviewed medical journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

The study looked at 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were living independently or had roommates, but were responsible for buying and preparing their own meals.

Over the course of the four-month study, the students responded to online questionnaires about their food and drink consumption, physical activity and sedentary behaviour before and during the pandemic.

The study started just as Saskatchewan was imposing COVID-19 restrictions, according to researchers. Zello said this timing ensured that details of students’ eating and activity habits prior to the pandemic and during it were “fresh” in their minds.

“With pre-pandemic research already showing university students to be a vulnerable group for inadequate diet and physical activity, the measures imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to examine further impact on their lives,” Zello said.

The study found that the students consumed less food every day during the pandemic compared to before.

Researchers say the students ate 20 per cent less meat, 44 per cent less dairy, and 45 per cent fewer vegetables as the pandemic continued.

While they drank considerably less caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea, Zello said the students’ alcohol consumption “increased significantly.” He added that these dietary habits could pose serious health implications following the pandemic.

“This dietary inadequacy combined with long hours of sedentary behaviour and decreased physical activity could increase health risks in this unique population during COVID-19 confinement and once the pandemic ends,” Zello explained in the release.

The researchers behind the study noted that “several reasons” may explain the students’ dietary shift.

Zello said that public health measures implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as reduced grocery store hours and restaurant closures, may have limited students’ shopping frequency and the availability of healthy food options.

STUDENT FITNESS

According to the study, previous research has shown that psychological distress brought on by the coronavirus has been linked to “poor diet quality, particularly increased consumption of alcohol.” With that in mind, the study said that students may be eating less to counteract their lack of exercise and “increased sedentariness.”

Researchers found that only 16 per cent of the students studied were meeting Canadian guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week prior to the pandemic. They say that “further decreased” to 9.6 per cent during COVID-19.

Of those that were meeting Canadian activity guidelines before the pandemic, researchers say 90 per cent became less active.

The number of hours spent in “sedentary behaviour,” sitting or lying down with little energy expenditure, also rose by three hours to approximately 11 hours a day, according to the study.

“There’s no doubt that measures such as the closures of gyms and other recreational facilities by the universities and other private and public establishments within the province resulted in reductions in the level of physical activity,” the study said.

Researchers say another reason for the decrease in physical activity may be that many students were no longer walking to school after universities moved to remote learning formats.

The study noted that 55 per cent of students studied were employed before the pandemic, and only 49 per cent continued to be employed in the following months, adding to the overall decrease in activity.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Pfizer says it will increase vaccine deliveries by mid-February.
  • China building isolation hospitals in Hebei province to combat increase in infections.
  • Brazilian approval of Sputnik V vaccine delayed by missing data.
  • Some health-care workers are still hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.

Canada has reached a grim new milestone in its fight against COVID-19, with the country’s case count surging well past 700,000, ahead of an expected reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Saturday said she understands Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.

She said she has been in touch with the drugmaker and been assured it’s “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible,” Anand said on Twitter. The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.

WATCH | CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin answers questions about strained ICUs and vaccine delays:

The CBC’S John Northcott puts your coronavirus-related questions to family physician and CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin. 9:26

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said on Friday that Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by 50 per cent for four weeks.

Pfizer said it hopes the upgrade will allow it to produce two billion doses per year, up from 1.3 billion doses. The company said in an email to CBC News on Saturday that it will increase its vaccine deliveries beginning the week of Feb. 15.

As of Friday night, more than half a million Canadians had received inoculations against the virus that causes COVID-19.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 12 35 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 707,354 cases of COVID-19, with 75,558 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,984.

In British Columbia, the B.C. Hotel Association said implementing an inter-provincial travel ban would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators and urged Premier John Horgan — who sought legal advice on such an action — to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

WATCH | British Columbia mulls how to keep visitors out:

Frustrated by the number of non-residents ignoring stay-at-home orders and coming to British Columbia to holiday, the province is considering how to keep them out. 2:06

Alberta saw 717 new cases and 15 new deaths on Saturday.

Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths

In Regina, police fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.

Manitoba recorded 180 new cases and two additional deaths

The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.

Ontario reported 3,422 new cases on Sunday, after registering 3,056 new cases the previous day. Locally, there are 1,035 new cases in Toronto on Sunday, 585 in Peel Region, 254 in Windsor-Essex County, 246 in York Region and 186 in Niagara Region, Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

Children wears face masks as they play in the snow in Ottawa on Saturday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Quebec reported 1,744 new cases on Sunday, after counting 2,225 new cases on Saturday.

In east-end Montreal, a group of protesters braved a snowstorm on Saturday to denounce the province’s COVID-19 curfew, which has been in place for a week.

The protest took place in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough and was organized by a group called “No police solution to the health crisis.” Montreal police were present at the protest and asked that everyone present wear masks and respect physical-distancing guidelines.

New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases on Saturday.

Nova Scotia added four new cases on Sunday, after reporting the same number the previous day. Last week, mandatory testing for rotational workers in the province came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Sunday after seeing no new infections on Saturday.

Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.

Meanwhile, officials confirmed the first positive case in Fort Liard, a hamlet nearly 545 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife.

In Nunavut, a worker at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, located about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, has tested positive, the company said. There have now been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.

What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 94.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.

WATCH | WHO chief pleads for breaking of COVID-19 transmission:

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pushed past 2 million, the head of the World Health Organization urged people to use the tools they have to curb the virus and lift the burden on health workers. 1:40

Brazil‘s health regulator on Saturday said it’s seeking further data on Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use.

Regulator Anvisa wants assurances on Phase 3 clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine by drugmaker Uniao Quimica.

Moscow has approved Sputnik V for Russian domestic use, though clinical trials there have not yet been completed.

The Brazilian regulator was expected to make a decision on Sunday about authorizing emergency use of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that despite the U.K. government’s confidence about its coronavirus vaccination plan, the public needed to stay home as the country’s health service was “on the cusp” of being overwhelmed.

Raab told broadcaster Sky News that the U.K. was a “global leader” in its vaccination rollout, and he was confident that the government’s roadmap would meet targets.

In China, officials reported 109 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.

This aerial photo taken on Saturday shows construction of a centralized COVID-19 quarantine centre in Shijiazhuang, in northern Hebei province. (China News Service/AFP via Getty Images)

There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.

China had largely contained the virus that was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.

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Policy alignment, predictability to mark Canada-U.S. relationship under Biden, ambassador says – CBC.ca

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The shared priorities between this country and its southern neighbour — including the COVID-19 crisis, economic recovery and climate policy — will define the Canada-U.S. relationship under a Biden presidency, Canada’s ambassador to the United States says.

“I think that the Biden administration and our government have an enormous amount of policy alignment,” Kirsten Hillman said in an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“And I think also that we are going to find a more predictable government to deal with and a bit more traditional relations in terms of how we deal with them,” she added.

Ahead of president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration — which Hillman will attend in person — Canada’s top diplomat in Washington said tackling the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is a chief concern.

“We are both focusing on … ensuring the safety and health of our citizens, respecting science, respecting experts, being clear and consistent in the advice that we give [and] caring about people around the world in that regard as well,” Hillman told CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton.

Getting Canada and the U.S. “back on track economically … in partnership with each other” is also a priority on the countries’ long list of mutual policies, as is climate change, Hillman said.

Trudeau, Biden have ‘very warm’ relationship

Despite their common goals, the United States that Biden will inherit is still reeling from the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol and accusations that outgoing President Donald Trump incited the attack.

“You can imagine how much [Biden’s] got on his plate with COVID and the economy and now the events of last week and the repercussions that are coming out of that,” Hillman said. “I do think that he’s been pretty clear around some of the aspects of his economic policy that are a little more protectionist than we would want to see.”

Biden’s pandemic recovery plan includes a pledge to “Buy American” — a promise to purchase, produce and develop made-in-America goods.

As for whether the relationship between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the incoming president will mirror that of Trudeau and former president Barack Obama, Hillman said such ties are forged among the myriad ways both countries “interact and work together.”

“But of course, the tone at the top matters. It’s not the only thing that matters, but it does matter. And the prime minister and president-elect Biden have a very warm and good relationship. So that is definitely going to be an asset.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, with Joe Biden, at the time U.S. vice-president, arrive at a state dinner in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 2016. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Fostering connections during last 4 years

A change in administration also doesn’t mean the connections Canada formed over the past four years were all for naught. 

“We always work really hard to foster strong relations on the Hill, in particular in the Senate and in the House, because in the system of governance here … it’s a co-equal branch of government that has an awful lot of authority over issues that matter a lot to Canada,” Hillman said.

The ambassador pointed to the renegotiated NAFTA deal as an example of those relationships in action.

“We went across the nation, and it was very healthy for the Canada-U.S. relationship, that activity. It was very healthy for us to remind each other of the degree to which we are integrated, the degree to which we are mutually supportive.”

Hillman said she’s in talks with Biden’s transition team but noted that incoming nominees and appointees to the White House are not engaging directly with foreign governments until a new president is sworn in.

“If we look at the slate of appointees and nominees that are coming [into] the Biden administration, many, many of them are well known to Canada and really good friends of Canada,” she said. “So that is also a strong reason for optimism.”

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