Health officials are reminding people to make the Halloween weekend safe for everyone by maintaining safe physical distances from one another.
By John Miller
VISP, Switzerland (Reuters) – Lonza is confident that U.S. and Swiss plants it is building to help make Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate will be ready for commercial production this year, executives at the Swiss company said on Tuesday.
New production lines at Lonza’s site in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, aim to start making vaccine ingredients in November, while three lines in Visp, deep in a valley in the Swiss Alps – to supply 300 million vaccine doses annually – should begin delivering by December.
There is no approved COVID-19 vaccine yet, but several are in advanced trials, including from Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, whose candidate relies on technology never previously approved that enlists human cells to help trigger an immune response.
Torsten Schmidt, who heads Lonza’s Visp facility, where Moderna’s $210 million production lines are about 50% completed, said he has secured the equipment needed to avoid any last-minute setbacks.
“The delivery of the equipment was critical,” Schmidt said in an interview. “You typically wait 12 months, you’re talking here about 4-5 months. In the end, the CEO has been talking to the CEOs of suppliers, to get the equipment delivered.”
Lonza, whose shares are up 60% this year, has a 10-year contract to supply ingredients to Moderna, including for up to 1 billion doses annually of COVID-19 vaccine.
The ingredients include a synthetic version of messenger RNA (mRNA), genetic material, which is packed inside tiny fat droplets called nanolipids, to instruct human cells to make a non-replicating form of the coronavirus’s spike protein and trigger an immune response in the body.
They will be frozen at -70 degrees Celsius, then shipped from Visp to Spain’s Laboratorios Farmacéuticos Rovi SA for “fill and finish,” the final stage of manufacture.
Lonza is still hiring some of the roughly 200 workers it needs to operate the Moderna production lines in Visp, located where the Alps tip up towards the nearby ski towns of Zermatt, near the famed Matterhorn, and Saas Fe.
In all, Lonza expects to have some 4,000 workers in Visp by January, from 3,500 now, following a hiring spree fueled by its manufacture of drugs for other customers, as well as Moderna. They include Roche, Sanofi and California’s Humanigen, with which it has partnered on another COVID-19 project.
However ready Lonza is, when precisely Moderna’s vaccine becomes available depends on its trials and regulators. The U.S. company has said about 20 million doses should be ready by the year’s end.
Already Lonza’s drugs unit revenue has seen double-digit percentage gains, prompting the Basel-based company earlier this year to seek to offload its $1.8 billion-per-year speciality chemicals business, after sales of products, such as animal feed supplements and resins have stagnated.
Talks with potential buyers are ongoing, Renzo Cicillini, Lonza’s Visp site head, said.
‘A LITTLE PROUD’
In Visp, two hours by train from both Zurich and Milan, Italy, its roughly 8,000 residents are accustomed to Lonza’s taking a behind-the-scenes role in making drugs for better-known companies, the town’s mayor, Niklaus Furger, said.
But the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 1 million people and wreaked global economic havoc, has left the people of Visp hoping for success that would put it on the map.
“The idea that a vaccine might just be produced in Visp with which we could fight against the pandemic, that would be excellent,” Furger told Reuters at Visp city hall. “For certain, the attention of the world would be trained on Visp along with Lonza, something that admittedly would make us all a little proud.”
(Reporting by John Miller; editing by Barbara Lewis)
BC health officials to release final coronavirus update of the week this afternoon | News – Daily Hive
On Friday afternoon, BC health officials will release their final coronavirus update for this week in the form of a written statement.
The update is expected between 3 and 4 pm and comes after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix held a live update on the virus in Surrey on Thursday, focusing on the Fraser Health region.
Henry said on Thursday that 234 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the province, for a recorded total of 14,109 in BC.
By specific health region, this equates to 4,588 known cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 8,036 in Fraser Health, 256 on Vancouver Island, 734 in Interior Health, 406 in Northern Health, and 89 from those who reside outside the province.
There are currently 2,344 active cases in British Columbia. Out of these active cases, 86 people are in hospital, and 24 of these are in intensive care.
As well, 5,714 people are currently under “active monitoring” for symptoms as a result of their exposure to known cases.
There has also been one additional death.
A total of 11,448 cases are now considered fully recovered in the province.
BC regional health officers can now issue COVID-19 restrictions in their own jurisdictions | News – Daily Hive
After hinting on Thursday that region-specific public health orders could become a reality, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry released an amendment to her public health order around public and private gatherings on Friday.
The amendment gives regional medical health officers the power to issue COVID-19 restrictions for their own jurisdictions instead of being bound to province-wide rules.
Henry states the order was made in recognition of the fact that “the risk differs in different regions of the province and that medical health officers are in the best position to assess local circumstances and to determine whether or not additional or more restrictive steps need to be taken.”
Henry states such orders by health officers could mean further prohibitions or the imposing of more restrictive limitations or conditions, “with respect to gatherings and events in the geographic area of the province, or a part of the geographic area of the province, for which the medical health officer is designated.”
Henry issued the original public health order around household gatherings this past Monday, which stated household gatherings must be limited “in private homes to no more than your immediate household, plus “your safe six.”
This, she said at the time, “is a province-wide order that applies to all homes for all occasions.”
Henry said she issued the order because “similar to what occurred in the summer with vacation homes and rentals, we have seen a notable increase in new cases and transmission of COVID-19 as a direct result of social gatherings in private homes.”
Until this week, provincial orders on gatherings and events allowed events of up to 50 people, as long as a number of guidelines could be met, including a sufficient amount of space for patrons to maintain a two-metre distance from one another and a limit of six patrons at each table, even if they were part of the same party.
However, “we know the vast majority of homes cannot safely accommodate large numbers of people,” said Henry on Monday.
For those trying to flout the new rules, “enforcement will be stepped up to ensure people are following this new order, with the immediate focus on the Fraser Health region, where the increase in new cases is most notable,” said Henry.
Then, on Thursday, Henry again singled out the Fraser Health region as an area of the province that is seeing a surge of infections and reporting high test positivity. She characterized the rise of cases in the region – which encompasses the eastern Lower Mainland from Burnaby to Boston Bar – as “quite dramatic.”
Fraser Health officials also asked residents in the region not to invite friends or family into their homes ahead of Halloween weekend because private gatherings have been driving new infections in recent weeks.
Other provinces such as Ontario and Quebec have already implemented tighter restrictions in their biggest cities that were seeing high coronavirus transmission.
COVID-19 update for Oct. 30: Now is not the time for parties or large gatherings, say health officials – Standard Freeholder
Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Oct. 30, 2020.
We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.
Check back here for more updates throughout the day.
B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS
As of the latest figures given on Oct. 30:
• Total number of confirmed cases: 14,381 (2,390 active)
• New cases since Oct. 29: 272
• Hospitalized cases: 78
• Intensive care: 25
• COVID-19 related deaths: 263 (1 new)
• Cases under public health monitoring: 6,003
• Recovered: 11,670
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 26
B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS
LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.
The province reported another 272 cases of COVID-19 on Friday and one additional death, bringing the total number of people who have died to 263.
There are 2,390 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and 6,003 people are under public health monitoring after being exposed to a known case.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced this week that gatherings are now limited to people in an immediate household, plus their so-called “safe six”’ guests.
The B.C. government says it will increase surveillance this weekend as the new order came into effect.
In a joint statement, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are reminding people to make the Halloween weekend safe for everyone by maintaining safe physical distances from one another.
They say this is also not the time for large gatherings in homes as the number of cases of COVID-19 spikes.
— The Canadian Press
Transport Canada has extended a ban on cruise ships to the end of February as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s the third time the federal agency has imposed a ban on visiting cruise ships, after the federal government extended the ban at the end of May, sinking Vancouver’s lucrative summer cruise ship season.
Port of Vancouver spokesperson Arpen Rana said Friday that Vancouver’s cruise season begins in April and concludes in October, so they can’t speculate on the revenue impact for 2021 but said the port supports the decision.
“As a Canada Port Authority, we support and follow the direction of Transport Canada regarding the recently announced extension of measures pertaining to cruise ships,” said Rana.
“We are actively engaged in discussions with the cruise industry and tourism partners to support the industry under these challenging conditions.”
Rana did not say when the port expected the ban to lift, or whether it might be extended into the spring, but said the agency is working with the Association of Canadian Port Authorities Cruise Committee to resume safe cruises sometime next year.
The committee is made up of all port authorities with cruise terminals in Canada.
Given that the extension ends before the season kicks into gear in May, it does not change much in terms of anticipated revenue lost, said Sabrina Tey, a spokesperson for Tourism Vancouver.
The ban has taken a heavy toll this year on Vancouver’s tourism industry, however, as an estimated 1.3 million cruise ship passengers on 310 ships were scheduled to make port in Vancouver in 2020 before the pandemic hit.
Each ship translates into $3 million in tourism spending.
11:30 a.m. – To report Halloween parties in Vancouver call 311
Vancouver residents are being reminded ahead of Halloween that reports of large gatherings or parties, which are not allowed under a new COVID-19 rules, should be reported to 311 and not 911.
This follows an order this week from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry limiting gatherings in private residences to the household members plus six others within the household’s bubble. B.C.’s cases have been going up, with more than 200 cases reported a day for more than a week.
Health officials have said most of the new cases are in the Fraser Health Authority, and are linked to social gatherings such as weddings, celebrations of life, and holidays.
Vancouver police said they are asking residents to keep 911 lines free for emergencies and to call 311 if there is a large gathering. The VPD has issued two tickets on the order, one to a host of a party and the other to an individual for failure to comply.
Meantime, in the last month the city of Vancouver has received hundreds of complaints on 311 about the pandemic, including 130 complaints of too many people being inside a business, 120 calls about house parties, 61 complaints about gatherings exceeding 50 people.
Thirty-three callers complained about people promoting parties or gatherings, three were upset about banquet halls being open, and 16 called to complain about people not adhering to social distancing measures.
There were also 160 other pandemic-related calls. Of those 49 had to do with too many people gathering together.
For more on this, read How do I have a Safe Halloween?
Health officials shared a sobering story during Thursday’s COVID-19 update, meant to drive home the tragedy that could be prevented when people adhere health orders and guidelines.
“It is something that reminds us of how important the measures that we need to take right now can be in protective lives,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, who said Thursday that B.C. is “in a danger zone.”
Henry said the latest death recorded was of a woman in her 80s who attended a small birthday party of less than 10 people in a private home.
Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO of Fraser Health hosted Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing in Surrey on Thursday.
B.C. saw 234 new cases and one death reported between Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the province’s total number of reported cases up to 14,109 since the start of the pandemic. There are are now 2,344 active cases of COVID-19.
Of those, 86 remain in hospital, of which 24 are in the intensive care unit.
There are 4,588 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 8,036 in Fraser Health, 256 in Vancouver Island, 734 in Interior Health, 464 in Northern Health and 89 who are non-B.C. residents.
LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information
Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.
–with files from The Canadian Press
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