Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says he has full confidence that Canada’s provinces will be able to handle the influx of COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in the country in the weeks and months ahead.
“We’re going to see a significant ramp-up in these last weeks of February and into March … so we’re very confident, and provinces certainly tell us they’re anxious and ready to receive more vaccines, as I know all Canadians are,” LeBlanc said Sunday in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live. “We’re quite confident it will be very effective.”
The minister said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin — the commander in charge of Canada’s vaccine logistics — has been conducting a series of rehearsals and tabletop exercises with counterparts in each province to prepare for the 23 million doses expected between April and June.
“Everything that Gen. Fortin and the public health agency tell us is that the provinces are ready. But as always, if there are gaps or if there are needs for redundancy, sort of for backup plans, the government of Canada … will be there to help them,” LeBlanc told CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton.
Hundreds of thousands of doses expected each week
In the coming week, Canada is slated to receive just over 643,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that hundreds of thousands of doses are now expected to arrive each week.
“Vaccines are my top priority. I know the premiers feel the same,” Trudeau said. “The big lift we’re going to face, as our vaccine deliveries shift to the millions, means the provinces will need to be ready.”
The federal government has taken pains to reassure Canadians that the country’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign is back on track after several hiccups earlier this year.
The early weeks of the vaccine rollout were marked by disagreements between Ottawa and the provinces over how quickly provinces were administering the doses they had received. In the weeks that followed, Canada saw reduced shipments of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — the only shots to receive regulatory approval in Canada.
LeBlanc said approving other vaccine candidates and broadening the types of health-care professionals who can administer jabs — such as family doctors and pharmacists — could also speed up Canada’s rollout.
Ottawa won’t foot hotel quarantine bill
The minister’s comments come one day before the federal government’s mandatory hotel quarantine for air travellers comes into effect.
Starting Monday, passengers returning from non-essential trips abroad will need to book a stay in participating hotels in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal for up to 72 hours — or until the results of their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test come through.
But LeBlanc said Canadians who say they can’t afford the stay — which could cost between several hundred dollars up to $2,000 — shouldn’t expect the government to foot the bill.
“For the moment, no. That is a cost that shall properly be borne by the returning traveller,” the minister said, adding that the government has been firm on discouraging non-essential travel and that public health measures exist to keep all Canadians safe.
“We understand they’re tough, and it might represent a hardship for some people, but it’s necessary, in our judgment, to continue to protect Canadians during a pandemic.”
Concerns over costs
Gabby Boulding, a Canadian studying abroad in Scotland, is one person facing that dilemma.
She first arrived in Scotland in 2019 before the pandemic hit, but her visa expires in early March. That means she has no choice when it comes to returning home.
“I legally have to come home, and I’ve known this is happening for so long that I’ve budgeted, I’ve planned, I know flight costs, baggage fees and all the extra stuff. But $2,000 for a just-finished student is absolutely something I don’t have,” Boulding told Barton in a separate interview.
“I don’t think people are really choosing to travel,” she said of situations similar to her own. “We’re just doing what we have to. If you look at the definition of essential, that’s exactly what it is.”
LeBlanc said those studying abroad have a “more compelling reason” to travel than those choosing to visit resorts in sunny destinations.
“But these people have an obligation to follow the public health advice that can change without notice,” he said.
You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.
New species of crested dinosaur identified in Mexico
A team of palaeontologists in Mexico have identified a new species of dinosaur after finding its 72 million-year-old fossilized remains almost a decade ago, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said on Thursday.
The new species, named Tlatolophus galorum, was identified as a crested dinosaur after 80% of its skull was recovered, allowing experts to compare it to other dinosaurs of that type, INAH said.
The investigation, which also included specialists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, began in 2013 with the discovery of an articulated tail in the north-central Mexican state of Coahuila, where other discoveries have been made.
“Once we recovered the tail, we continued digging below where it was located. The surprise was that we began to find bones such as the femur, the scapula and other elements,” said Alejandro Ramírez, a scientist involved in the discovery.
Later, the scientists were able to collect, clean and analyze other bone fragments from the front part of the dinosaur’s body.
The palaeontologists had in their possession the crest of the dinosaur, which was 1.32 meters long, as well as other parts of the skull: lower and upper jaws, palate and even a part known as the neurocranium, where the brain was housed, INAH said.
The Mexican anthropology body also explained the meaning of the name – Tlatolophus galorum – for the new species of dinosaur.
Tlatolophus is a mixture of two words, putting together a term from the indigenous Mexican language of Nahuatl that means “word” with the Greek term meaning “crest”. Galorum refers to the people linked to the research, INAH said.
(Reporting by Abraham Gonzalez; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
Alberta family searches for answers in teen's sudden death after COVID exposure, negative tests – CBC.ca
A southern Alberta mother and father are grappling with the sudden, unexplained death of their 17-year-old daughter, and with few answers, they’re left wondering if she could be the province’s youngest victim of COVID-19.
Sarah Strate — a healthy, active Grade 12 student at Magrath High School who loved singing, dancing and being outdoors — died on Monday, less than a week after being notified she’d been exposed to COVID-19.
While two tests came back negative, her parents say other signs point to the coronavirus, and they’re waiting for more answers.
“It was so fast. It’s all still such a shock,” said Sarah’s mother, Kristine Strate. “She never even coughed. She had a sore throat and her ears were sore for a while, and [she had] swollen neck glands.”
Kristine said Sarah developed mild symptoms shortly after her older sister — who later tested positive for COVID-19 — visited from Lethbridge, one of Alberta’s current hot spots for the virus.
The family went into isolation at their home in Magrath on Tuesday, April 20. They were swabbed the next day and the results were negative.
‘Everything went south, super-fast’
By Friday night, Sarah had developed fever and chills. On Saturday, she started vomiting and Kristine, a public health nurse, tried to keep her hydrated.
“She woke up feeling a bit more off on Monday morning,” Kristine said. “And everything went south, super-fast.”
Sarah had grown very weak and her parents decided to call 911 when she appeared to become delirious.
“She had her blanket on and I was talking to her and, in an instant, she was unresponsive,” said Kristine, who immediately started performing CPR on her daughter.
When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they were able to restore a heartbeat and rushed Sarah to hospital in Lethbridge, where she died.
“I thought there was hope once we got her heart rate back. I really did,” recalled Sarah’s father, Ron.
“He was praying for a miracle, and sometimes miracles don’t come,” said Kristine.
Searching for answers
At the hospital, the family was told Sarah’s lungs were severely infected and that she may have ended up with blood clots in both her heart and lungs, a condition that can be a complication of COVID-19.
But a second test at the hospital came back negative for COVID-19.
“There really is no other answer,” Ron said. “When a healthy 17-year-old girl, who was sitting up in her bed and was able to talk, and within 10 minutes is unconscious on our floor — there was no reason [for it].”
The province currently has no record of any Albertans under the age of 20 who have died of COVID-19.
According to the Strate family, the medical examiner is running additional blood and tissue tests, in an effort to uncover the cause of Sarah’s death.
‘Unusual but not impossible’
University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who was not involved in Sarah’s treatment, says it is conceivable that further testing could uncover evidence of a COVID-19 infection, despite two negative test results.
However, she hasn’t seen a similar case in Alberta.
“It would be unusual but not impossible because no test is perfect. We have had cases where an initial test is negative and then if you keep on thinking it’s COVID and you re-test, you then can find COVID,” she said.
According to Saxinger, the rate of false negatives is believed to be very low. But it can happen if there are problems with the testing or specimen collection.
She says people are more likely to test positive after symptoms develop.
“The best sensitivity of the test is around day four or five of having symptoms,” she said. “So you can miss things if you test very, very early. And with new development of symptoms, it’s always a good time to re-test because then the likelihood of getting a positive test is a little higher. But again, no test is perfect.”
Sarah deteriorated so quickly — dying five days after she first developed symptoms — she didn’t live long enough to make it to her follow-up COVID-19 test. Instead, it was done at the hospital.
‘An amazing kid’
The Strate family now faces an agonizing wait for answers — one that will likely take months — about what caused Sarah’s death.
But Ron, who teaches at the school where Sarah attended Grade 12, wants his daughter to be remembered for the life she lived, not her death.
Sarah was one of five children. Ron says she was strong, active and vibrant and had plans to become a massage therapist after graduating from high school.
She played several sports and loved to sing and dance as part of a show choir. She was a leader in the school’s suicide prevention group and would stand up for other students who were facing bullying.
“She’s one of the leaders in our Hope Squad … which goes out and helps kids to not be scared,” he father said.
“She’s an amazing kid.”
Sarah would often spend hours helping struggling classmates, and her parents hope her kindness is not forgotten.
“She’d done so many good things. Honestly, I’ve got so many messages from parents saying, ‘You have no idea how much your daughter helped our kid,'” said Ron.
“This 17-year-old girl probably lived more of a life in 17 years than most adults will live in their whole lives. She was so special. I love her so much.”
China launches key module of space station planned for 2022
BEIJING (Reuters) -China launched an unmanned module on Thursday containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022, state media reported.
The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).
The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. China was barred from participating by the United States.
“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in the building of a powerful nation in both technology and in space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.
Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.
The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).
In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.
Both helped China test the programme’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.
China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has ramped up its space programme with visits to the moon, the launch of an uncrewed probe to Mars and the construction of its own space station.
In contrast, the fate of the ageing ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.
The project is set to expire in 2024, barring funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would quit the project from 2025.
Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington rise.
Moscow has slammed the U.S.-led Artemis moon exploration programme and instead chosen to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research outpost in the coming years.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Liangping Gao; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Simon Cameron-Moore and Lincoln Feast.)