A new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 that first surfaced in the U.K. and has since been found in several other countries is likely already in Canada, a health expert says.
“I’d be surprised if it’s not, actually,” Ronald St. John, the former director-general of the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), told CTV News Channel Saturday.
“It’s spread to other countries,” St. John said. “Since it’s been found since September, there’s no reason why people coming since September haven’t been able to bring that new strain to Canada.”
PHAC said in a statement on Dec. 24 that there had been “no evidence of these variants in Canada to-date” and that it was enhancing screening and scrutiny of quarantine plans for inbound passengers.
But St. John said finding the first case is “a little like finding a needle in a haystack” among the virus strain already in Canada, but that it will likely emerge.
On Dec. 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a restriction on flights from the U.K. to Canada in an effort to prevent the new variant from coming to Canada. That restriction has since been extended to Jan. 6.
But St. John said these measure may have come too little, too late.
“It’s a question of if the horse is out of the barn already, and are we closing the doors too late?” St. John said, adding that while the restrictions may be a good idea to try until the first cases are found in Canada, “it seems a little bit difficult to keep this strain from coming in just by closing down flights.”
The new variant of the virus “may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original version of the disease,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a press conference on Dec. 19, though a new study from the London School of Hygiene And Tropical Medicine suggests the virus is about 56 per cent more contagious.
Two other variants of COVID-19 have also been found in Nigeria and South Africa, leading Canada to expand screening and monitoring measures on flights inbound from South Africa.
St. John said both variants need further study to understand how variations in the genes could impact the behaviour of the virus and its effects on how the disease presents itself in the people who have contracted it, adding that the variant found in South Africa also appear, “at this point,” to be more contagious than the base strain of coronavirus already in Canada.
As to whether or not the vaccines already being delivered in Canada will be effective in defending against these new variants, St. John said he doesn’t believe the virus will mutate in the same way seasonal influenza does, and that the vaccines will likely be effective.
“So far, as near as I know, the vaccine targets many different parts of the virus,” St. John said. “So it’s a good thing that it does, and that the virus probably will not escape the vaccine.”
BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin has also said he is “confident” his company’s vaccine, created with Pfizer, will be effective against the new U.K. variant of the virus.
Latest worldwide spread of the coronavirus
Russia has tightened curbs in major cities as authorities blame the new Delta variant for spiking cases and deaths, while neighbouring Ukraine has registered its first two cases of the more infectious virus type.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news
* The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said the more contagious Delta variant, first identified in India, will represent 90% of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the European Union by the end of August.
* Spain has vaccinated half of its 47 million population with at least one dose and nearly 32%, or over 15 million people, have been fully inoculated.
* The share of infections caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus has doubled in Germany in a week and is likely to gain more traction over other variants.
* Greece will end the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors and ease other remaining restrictions.
* Japan is suspending approval for companies to inoculate staff amid concerns that an increase in such applications will hamper smooth delivery of vaccines.
* Alcohol, high-fives and talking loudly will be banned for the reduced numbers of Olympic ticket holders allowed into venues.
* Australia’s largest city of Sydney reintroduced “soft touch” curbs to contain a widening outbreak of the Delta variant.
* A Brazilian Senate committee has formally approved a request to call representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify in an ongoing probe into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
* Canada will further relax border restrictions in the weeks to come as long as the science supports such a move, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
* Federal authorities have seized at U.S. airports unauthorised versions of remdesivir destined for distribution in Mexico, the Wall Street Journal reported. [nL2N2O51U0]
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* South Africa’s health regulator said it had received documentation for China’s Sinopharm vaccine and will evaluate the data to assess the efficacy of the shot.
* Israel empowered health officials to quarantine anyone deemed to have been exposed to the especially infectious Delta variant.
* Bahrain will extend by three months a government support program for businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
* Rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults are likely linked to vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna shots, a group of doctors advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
* Vaccines made by AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech alliance remain broadly effective against Delta and Kappa variants. [nL3N2O43IN]
* The University of Oxford said it was testing anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
* Wall Street and global equity markets were broadly higher on Wednesday after reassurances from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that the central bank is not rushing to hike interest rates, while European stocks remained under pressure. [MKTS/GLOB]
* A period of high inflation in the United States may last longer than anticipated but should still ease over time as the economy settles back to normal, two U.S. Federal Reserve officials said.
* Euro zone business growth accelerated at its fastest pace in 15 years in June as the easing of lockdown measures unleashed pent-up demand and drove a boom in the dominant services sector but also led to soaring price pressures.
(Compiled by Ramakrishnan M. and Juliette Portala; Edited by Arun Koyyur)
Canada’s M&A boom fuels hiring spree, higher pay
Record-breaking dealmaking in Canada is encouraging investment banks to beef up staffing, but the increased demand for bankers is forcing some to pay up in unique ways to attract new hires.
Canadian mergers and acquisitions (M&A) year to date surged to a record $206.5 billion and IPOs hit an all-time high of $5.6 billion, according to Refinitiv, after the pandemic crushed dealmaking in the first three quarters of 2020.
HSBC, JPMorgan Chase & Co and National Bank of Canada are expanding their M&A teams.
“It continues to be an active market with lots of active discussions with clients going on as well, and so that has absolutely spurred on a need to fortify the ranks within the teams,” said Scott Lampard, head of global banking for HSBC Bank Canada.
HSBC plans to boost overall investment banking headcount by 20%-25%, mainly at the analyst level to support pitching and executing deals, Lampard said.
With the pace of transaction expected to continue at pace, banks are paying more to hire and retain existing teams, offering a range of new services, like sending in a consultant to create the ideal home office, recruiters say.
“We’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years and we’ve never seen a market like this,” said Bill Vlaad, CEO at recruitment firm Vlaad and Company. “Everybody is scrambling,”
“Many of the banks have increased base salaries quite dramatically, mostly in 2021,” he said, adding salaries had increased 20%-40% across M&A roles.
“Now if you want to attract, you have to put something else on the table.”
To poach talent, banks are adding signing bonuses, extra vacation days, healthcare increases, special programs for mental wellness and home office perks, all tailored to individual requests, Vlaad said.
TD Securities, Barclays, CIBC World Markets are the top M&A advisers year to date. All three declined to comment on hiring plans.
Of the top deals announced this year, Rogers Communications Inc’s C$20 billion ($16.2 billion) bid for Shaw Communications Inc and Canadian National’s bid $33.6 billion offer for Kansas City Southern are the two biggest.
Despite the pandemic, five of the top six Canadian banks paid an average of C$3.1 billion ($2.50 billion) in total bonuses last year, up from C$2.9 billion ($2.34 billion) in 2019, an analysis of filings by Reuters showed.
Headcount at National Bank Finance will be up by four or five people in M&A versus the same time last year, David Savard, head of M&A at the bank, told Reuters.
That put the team at 28 for the large-cap M&A team and 10 for the mid-market team, he said, adding both areas were “booming”.
“There seems to be some pent-up demand for entrepreneurial-led companies and private companies doing M&A coming out of COVID,” he said.
David Rawlings, CEO for JPMorgan Canada, agreed headcount would be likely higher in the near future.
“We think activity will continue to be strong and are currently looking to selectively hire with a particular focus on senior diverse candidates,” said Rawlings.
($1 = 1.2453 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)
French court overturns ruling saying sale of cannabidiol is illegal
France’s highest appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ruling that stores in the country can’t legally sell cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychotic compound related to cannabis that is being researched for a variety of medical applications.
Based on the free trade of goods within the European Union, the Cour de cassation ruled that judges could not find the sale of CBD in France illegal if it had been legally produced in a member state of the bloc.
The Court of Justice of the EU ruled last year that no national law can prohibit the sale of CBD legally produced in a member state, the French court also said.
“Without considering whether the substances seized had not been legally produced in another member state of the European Union, the court failed to provide a basis for its decision,” it said, referring to a ruling of a lower appeals court.
The Cour de cassation did not rule whether selling CBD in France was legal or not, and ordered a lower court to rule again on a case involving the owner of a shop selling CBD.
“We are happy”, CBD shop owner Mathieu Bensa, who was not involved in the case, told Reuters after the ruling.
“We did not understand why France was the last country in the European Union that had not given access to the sale of hemp plants”, he said.
Derived mainly from the hemp plant, CBD is increasingly used as a relaxant.
Cannabis stocks have attracted growing interest on world stock markets, particularly on the Toronto stock exchange after Canada became one of the first major economies to legalise the recreational use of marijuana.
Cannabis use is outlawed in France but the country has one of Europe’s highest consumption rates.
(Reporting by Matthieu Protard, Benoit Van Overstraeten and Ardee Napolitano; Editing by Mark Potter)
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