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More Canadian airports to accept international flights from end-Nov

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Canada will allow international flights to land at more airports from end-November, officials announced on Tuesday, saying strict vaccination requirements for travelers had made it possible to loosen restrictions.

Ten Canadian airports are currently accepting international flights and Transport Canada said it would add eight more, including St John’s, Victoria, Saskatoon and Regina.

“Increased vaccination levels have allowed us to safely re-open these additional Canadian airports to international passenger flights,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement.

Canada has a vaccine mandate policy going into effect from Nov. 30 for travelers, according to which a negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted as a replacement for proof of vaccination.

At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, only four airports were open for returning international flights – Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.

The United States has also announced new vaccine requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States, beginning Nov. 8.

Canadian Airports Council President Daniel-Robert Gooch said international flights should also be allowed to land at regional airports that connect remote and northern communities.

“One of the most important lessons from COVID was how important smaller regional airports are to the entire network,” he said in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Could surge in COVID-19 cases mean more restrictions? – CTV News

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BARRIE —
As Canada’s two most populous provinces grapple with a surge in COVID-19 cases, concerns are swirling over whether new restrictions could be imposed before the holidays.

On Saturday, 1,512 new COVID-19 cases were detected in Quebec, marking the highest single-day tally in the province since April.

A total of 1,234 new cases were reportedin the provinceon Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, 1,184 new cases were detected on Sunday, marking the province’s highest daily increase in six months.

On Tuesday, Ont.officials said 928 more people had tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Doug Manuel is a senior scientist in the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute’s clinical epidemiology program.

He told CTV’s Your Morning that in some places, the increase in case counts has already resulted in additional restrictions.

“You’re already seeing it in say Windsor-Essex – they’ve reduced their capacity in restaurants by 50 per cent,” Manuel said Tuesday.

He said in Ontario, a lot of the places hardest-hit are rural communities outside of the greater Toronto area.

“In many places across Canada, we’re getting cases above 100 cases per million per day,” Manuel said. “That’s often when public health can’t keep up anymore with contact tracing and starts to think about more restrictions.”

To date, 76 per cent of the Canadian population are vaccinated against the virus.

Asked whether the vaccination rate means Canada could see less extreme measures, should they be reintroduced, Manuel said it “helps tremendously.”

 

Dr. Doug Manuel on restrictions amid case surge

“We’re following Europe,” he said. “Europe has about the same vaccination rate as us and many countries, they opened up quite quickly later in the summer or in the fall, and their cases went up quickly, and now they’re imposing restrictions and some of those countries are imposing more severe restrictions than we have in Canada.”

Manuel said he “hasn’t seen” a country or jurisdiction “successfully make that transition with current vaccination rates.”

“But that doesn’t mean that we have to have full restriction like we’ve seen in the past,” he said.

Ultimately, Manuel said things are dependent on what happens with the Omicron variant.

The variant — first detected in South Africa — has caused global panic. Several countries, including Canada, have imposed more stringent travel restrictions in a bid to keep the disease outside of their borders.

However, by Monday, at least 23 cases of the Omicron variant had already been detected in Canada.

Manuel said he expects Omicron will “take over as the dominant strain worldwide, sooner than later.”

He said researchers are waiting for more data from South Africa, to determine whether those who have been infected with the Omicron variant experience more severe symptoms.

“The hospitalization rates are starting to go up there quite quickly,” he said. “But we’re still hearing that people in hospital are less severe than they’ve seen in the past.”

He said “for sure it’s more transmissible.”

“It will likely take over very quickly, and the only question is as it comes in quickly, will that result in increase hospitalizations and deaths?” he continued. “That will dictate what we do moving forward.”

WHAT HAVE PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES SAID?

Health officials in both Ontario and Quebec have suggested new restrictions are not in the immediate plans.

Last week, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said he doesn’t expect the province will re-impose restrictions due to the Omicron variant.

“If we see widespread presence of Omicron across Ontario, which is not the case at present, then we could review any measures that we need to take at a provincial level.”

He said, though that he doesn’t have a “crystal ball.”

Moore said if it’s a “less lethal virus,” has less impact on the province’s hospital sector and vaccines continue to work against it, “we will continue our current strategy and not have to have any further public health restrictions.”

However, on Tuesday, officials in Ontario did announce the pause on moving to the next step of reopening plans would continue indefinitely.

Next week, capacity limits were supposed to be lifted in some high-risk settings where proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required.

However, that was delayed last month due to a surge in cases. 

In new modelling released by the Science Table COVID-19 advisory for Ontario on Tuesday, researchers said cases are rising in “most public health units” across the province due to the Delta variant.

“Testing has not increased, but positivity is rising,” the updated projection document reads. “This is a real rise in cases.”

The scientists said modelling shows that, even without the Omicron variant, occupancy in intensive care units at hospitals in Ontario is expected to climb to between 250 and 400 by January, putting hospitals under strain once again.

“We can’t predict Omicron precisely, but it will almost certainly hit us hard and fast,” the scientists said in a series of tweets on Tuesday. “Cases are rising, even without much Omicron yet. Our hospitals and ICUs are feeling pressure again. We need to increase vaccination and we can’t let up on public health measures.”

Meanwhile in Quebec, officials announced Tuesday that gatherings of up to 20 vaccinated people will be allowed in private homes beginning on Dec. 23.

Currently only 10 people from no more than three households are allowed to gather in homes.

Premier Francois Legault said last week that the province was not planning to add additional public health measures.

“I know Quebecers well enough to know that there are many people fed up with the current measures,” he said. “We don’t like the trend, but it’s under control.”

Legault said as long as hospitalizations “stay at low levels, it remains under control.”

With files from CTV’s Katharine DeClerq and Sean Davidson, and The Canadian Press 

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Canada's first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine shows high efficacy – CBC.ca

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Canada’s first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine has shown high efficacy against infection during Phase 3 clinical trials, the drugmakers behind the plant-based shot reported Tuesday, fuelling hopes it could soon get a stamp of approval for use.

Medicago, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Quebec City, and British-American vaccine giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are now gearing up for their final regulatory submission to Health Canada.

The vaccine’s overall efficacy rate against all virus variants studied was 71 per cent, with a higher efficacy rate of 75 per cent against COVID-19 infections of any severity from the dominant delta variant, the companies said in a news release.

  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: covid@cbc.ca or join us live in the comments now.

The results followed a global, Phase 3, placebo-controlled study of the two-dose vaccine that was launched last March. The newly discovered omicron variant — recently confirmed in various countries around the world, including Canada — was not circulating during the trial period.

If licensed in this country, the shot would be the first COVID-19 vaccine using virus-like particle technology and the first plant-based vaccine ever approved for human use, Brian Ward, medical officer for Medicago, said during a recent interview with CBC News.

“This would be a first for the world,” he added, “not just for Quebec and Canada.”

The shots use Medicago’s plant-derived, virus-like particles — which resemble the coronavirus behind COVID-19 but don’t contain its genetic material — and also contain an adjuvant from GSK to help boost the immune response.

In the vaccine’s Phase 3 trial, no severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in the vaccinated group, the release notes. No related serious adverse events were reported either, and reactions to the shots were “generally mild to moderate and transient,” with symptoms lasting, on average, only one to three days.

“I think there will be an important need for our vaccine, both to increase the number of doses available for those who haven’t had any vaccines yet, but also possibly for those who need a booster dose,” Ward said.

Canada’s first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine has shown high efficacy against infection during Phase 3 clinical trials, the drugmakers behind the plant-based shot reported Tuesday. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

Results are promising, immunologist says

National Advisory Committee on Immunization working group member Matthew Miller, an immunologist at McMaster University in Hamilton who is working on developing a different type of vaccine for COVID-19, said the Medicago trial results are promising on both efficacy and safety.

He noted that the public information was so far limited to a news release, much like previous announcements from other vaccine manufacturers.

The trial itself was also hindered by time constraints and didn’t specifically break down the level of protection against severe illness. That’s because there were too few serious COVID-19 cases in the placebo arm and none in the vaccine arm, limiting the ability to draw strong conclusions, Miller said.

“Nevertheless, I think we can expect that with 75 per cent protection against any infection, you would expect even stronger protection against severe illness; that’s been universally true of every single other vaccine,” he added.

“The durability of that response, I think, is still a question that we’d have to wait and see.”

WATCH | Canada’s long-term plan for homegrown vaccines: 

Canada’s long-term strategy to make vaccines for COVID-19 and beyond

11 months ago

Duration 8:15

Canada may not have a vaccine in production yet but it does have a long-term strategy in the works — to develop a made-in-Canada vaccine and the vaccine independence that comes with it. 8:15

The Phase 2 portion of the trial at multiple sites in Canada and the United States involved a mix of healthy adults, those with comorbidities and seniors over the age of 65, while the Phase 3 portion expanded to more than 24,000 participants in various countries.

If approved for use, the shot may help jump-start Canada’s sluggish vaccine production sector, said Miller, who has no current affiliation with Medicago but previously sat on a panel advising the company on influenza vaccines.

Canada lost its vaccine manufacturing capacity over time, but that could change with several Canadian COVID-19 vaccines currently in development, said Lakshmi Krishnan, director general of human health therapeutics at the National Research Council of Canada.

“We hope that in due time, all of that will align and we will be able to produce vaccines in Canada,” she said.

Trial looked at range of variants

Medicago is now one of the first to share trial results on how well its vaccine works against a range of variants, Ward said, unlike those earlier in the pandemic, which focused on the earliest strain of SARS-CoV-2.

The trial showed nearly 89 per cent efficacy against the gamma variant, with no cases of alpha, lambda or mu variants observed in the vaccinated group, while 12 cases were observed in the placebo arm.

While there’s concern over the omicron variant and whether it may evade some level of vaccine- or infection-based immunity, Ward said the company plans to get that data for its vaccine as soon as possible.

“The goalposts have moved,” Ward said.

Full results of the Phase 3 study will be released in a peer-reviewed publication, Medicago’s release noted.

If Health Canada gives the green light to the vaccine, it would be the fifth COVID-19 shot approved for use in Canada, alongside those from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.


Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.


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U.S. Senate backs sale of missiles to Saudi Arabia

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The U.S. Senate rejected a resolution on Tuesday that would have prohibited the proposed sale of advanced medium range air-to-air missiles, missile launchers and other weapons and support to Saudi Arabia.

The vote was 67 to 30 against the resolution, which was introduced by Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee, as well as Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats.

While many U.S. lawmakers consider Saudi Arabia an important partner in the Middle East, members of Congress also have criticized the country for its involvement in the war in Yemen, a conflict considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

“Exporting more missiles to Saudi Arabia does nothing but further this conflict and pour more gasoline on already raging fire,” Sanders said in a speech urging support for the resolution of disapproval.

They have refused to approve military sales for the kingdom without assurances U.S. equipment would not be used to kill civilians. Backers of the sale noted that President Joe Biden’s administration has already barred U.S. sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia.

“I completely agree with the need to hold Saudi leadership accountable for a variety of actions… but I also believe that it is important that our security partners know that we will uphold our commitments,” said Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The weapons package, which was approved by the State Department as well as leaders of the Senate and House foreign affairs committees, would include 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers (MRL) along other equipment and support,

Raytheon Technologies makes the missiles.

The Biden administration said earlier on Tuesday it strongly opposed the resolution.

Passage “would undermine the president’s commitment to aid in our partner’s defenses at a time of increased missile and drone attacks against civilians in Saudi Arabia,” the White House Office of Management of Budget said in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates)

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