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Oil prices rise as storms bear down on Gulf of Mexico –



Oil prices rose on Monday as storms headed for the Gulf of Mexico shut more than half of the region’s offshore production, with the more dangerous of the two storms expected to strike later in the week.

Brent crude settled at $45.13 a barrel, gaining 78 cents, or 1.76 percent, while United States West Texas Intermediate crude settled at $42.62 a barrel, rising 28 cents, or 0.66 percent.

Energy companies shut more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of offshore crude oil supply in the US Gulf of Mexico and evacuated more than 100 production platforms because of the twin threat from Tropical Storms Marco and Laura.

Marco reached the coast Monday, and Laura was expected to accelerate to a hurricane and hit by midweek.

US petrol futures jumped roughly 7 percent as refiners idled plants as a precaution.

“As is often the case within the energy complex, developments that are bullish to the products can be bearish to the crude futures as crude demand from the refiners is curtailed,” said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.

The storms could also curtail US exports. Brent’s gains outpaced US crude on expectations that other countries might be able to boost exports while Gulf facilities are shut.

“Because the US is a major exporter, some of the supplies that we normally would be exporting are going to be stuck in the harbour,” said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “That’s going to offset what we’re losing in production.”

Motiva Enterprises began preparations to shut its Port Arthur, Texas, crude refinery, the country’s largest, sources told Reuters News Agency.

Total SA also cut production to minimum at its 225,500 bpd Port Arthur refinery and was preparing for a possible shutdown.

Also supporting oil prices was a Financial Times report that US President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

AstraZeneca denied having discussed an emergency use authorisation for its potential vaccine with the US government and called speculation of such use “premature”.

Reuters news agency

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COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record pace. And that's a serious concern – National Post



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Part of the problem is that the science keeps shifting, evolving. Is COVID airborne or not? What’s the size of a particle, a droplet? “Should you be six feet away, should it be three feet, should it be 2,000,” Johnson said. “It’s not wrong, it just looks like science doesn’t know.”

Safety, need, big-pharma conspiracies and does-science-actually-know-what-it’s-doing are the main features that appear among the “not-sure’s,” Johnson said.

“But we also see it — and I think this is even more scary — in the yes’s, the ones that say ‘they would get a vaccine’, who then inside are thinking, ‘yeah, but I wouldn’t be first in line. I’m going to wait until my whole street, everybody I know has it, and if they’re still standing a few months later I’ll get one.’”

Among the narratives he’s read: What happens if you have the first shot at the same time as the flu shot? What happens if I’ve already had antibodies in me and I have the vaccine, is that bad? “These are the things occurring to them.”

Dozens of vaccines are now being tested in humans. It’s not clear which strategy will be the most successful. The best vaccines are the ones that most closely mimic a natural infection, without making the person sick, or killing them.

Vaccines use parts of the virus — in the case of most of the frontrunner vaccines, the spike protein the virus uses to attach to and enter cells— to goad the body into making an immune response.

A COVID vaccine doesn’t have to be as good as vaccines against highly infectious viruses like the measles, said McMaster University’s Dr. Matthew Miller, an infectious diseases researcher.

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Chinese company says coronavirus vaccine ready by early 2021 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Sam McNeil, The Associated Press

Published Thursday, September 24, 2020 10:20PM EDT

BEIJING – A Chinese pharmaceutical company said Thursday the coronavirus vaccine it is developing should be ready by early 2021 for distribution worldwide, including the United States.

Yin Weidong, the CEO of SinoVac, vowed to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell CoronaVac in the United States if it passes its third and final round of testing in humans. Yin said he personally has been given the experimental vaccine.

“At the very beginning, our strategy was designed for China and for Wuhan. Soon after that in June and July we adjusted our strategy, that is to face the world,” Yin said, referring to the Chinese city were the virus first emerged.

“Our goal is to provide the vaccine to the world including the U.S., EU and others,” Yin said.

Stringent regulations in the U.S., European Union, Japan and Australia have historically blocked the sale of Chinese vaccines. But Yin said that could change.

SinoVac is developing one of China’s top four vaccine candidates along with state-owned SinoPharm, which has two in development, and military-affiliated private firm CanSino.

More than 24,000 people are participating in clinical trials of CoronaVac in Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia, with additional trials scheduled for Bangladesh and possibly Chile, Yin said. SinoVac chose those countries because they all had serious outbreaks, large populations and limited research and development capacity, he said.

He spoke to reporters during a tour of a SinoVac plant south of Beijing. Built in a few months from scratch, the plant is designed to enable SinoVac to produce half a million vaccine doses a year. The bio-secure facility was already busy on Thursday filling tiny bottles with the vaccine and boxing them. The company projects it will be able to produce a few hundred million doses of the vaccine by February or March of next year.

SinoVac is also starting to test small doses of CoronaVac on children and the elderly in China after noticing rising numbers of cases globally among those two groups.

Yin said the company would prioritize distribution of the vaccine to countries hosting human trials of CoronaVac.

While the vaccine has not yet passed the phase 3 clinical trials, a globally accepted standard, SinoVac has already injected thousands of people in China under an emergency use provision.

Yin said he was one of the first to receive the experimental vaccine months ago along with researchers after phase one and two of human trials showed no serious adverse effects. He said that self-injecting showed his support for CoronaVac.

“This is kind of a tradition of our company,” Yin said, adding that he had done the same with a hepatitis vaccine under development.

Earlier this year, China permitted “emergency use” of vaccine candidates for at-risk populations like border personnel and medical workers if companies could show “good safety and good antibodies” from tests of about 1,000 people, Yin said.

SinoVac received that approval in June along with SinoPharm and CanSino, and was able to provide tens of thousands of doses of CoronaVac to Beijing’s municipal government, Yin said.

SinoVac employees qualified for emergency use of the vaccine because an outbreak inside the company would cripple its ability to develop a vaccine, he said. About 90% of the company’s staff have received it.

“We are confident that our research of the COVI-19 vaccines can meet the standards of the U.S. and EU countries,” Yin said.

— Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang contributed to this report.

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 24 –



A protester blows a bicycle horn outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on Thursday, after Israel moved to further tighten its second countrywide lockdown amid soaring coronavirus case numbers. (Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press)

Public health officials call for tighter restrictions, warn COVID-19 could spiral out of control 

Infectious disease experts say Canadian health authorities must tighten restrictions again, or hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 will increase exponentially in the coming weeks. Canada reported 1,248 new cases Wednesday, and Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam has outlined projections that show new cases could climb to 5,000 daily by October if we continue on the current course.

“To date, we’re not moving fast enough to get ahead of this,” Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease physician based at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, told CBC News. “I think we’re being lulled into a false sense of security because of the low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths [relative to earlier in the pandemic]. But they will come in the next six weeks or so.”

He said asking people nicely to tighten their social circles is not going to be enough. Gardam said Canadians grew fatigued with the restrictions imposed on their social circles earlier in the year and won’t be eager to return to them unless pressed. “I think we’re going to have to be a lot more forceful,” he said. Right now, “people are playing fast and loose with bubbles all over the place.”

The actions taken in the next two weeks could change the trajectory of the pandemic in the months to come, said Laura Rosella, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “There’s a lot of things with this pandemic that we can’t control, but we might be able to control who we interact with, especially socially, and who’s in our bubble,” said Rosella. “I would encourage everyone to rethink what their bubbles are given the new situation.”

Getting a handle on this COVID-19 surge means returning to restrictions implemented earlier in the pandemic, said Dr. Samir Gupta, a clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto. Speaking with Heather Hiscox on CBC Morning Live Wednesday, Gupta said Canadians “need to start making similar sacrifices to the ones we made the first time around,” which was successful with flattening the curve in the spring.

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Ontario sees 409 new COVID-19 cases, rolls out $1B updated testing and contact-tracing plan 

Ontario reported an additional 409 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as Premier Doug Ford said his government will invest $1 billion to expand testing and contact-tracing capacity heading into flu season, including some $30 million to “prevent and manage outbreaks” in priority settings such as long-term care facilities, retirement homes and schools.

The province’s network of labs is currently facing a backlog of 53,840 test samples, the most since cases of the infection were first detected in January. During a media briefing, health officials said that publicly funded testing sites are moving away from offering tests to asymptomatic people. Instead, the province will return to a more targeted approach as hospitals, testing sites and labs have reported being overwhelmed by public demand for tests.

“We know that over the summer, when we opened up testing to anybody who wanted it, we did not find cases,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health. “Right now, we need to focus on people who are symptomatic, people who are contacts, people in outbreaks, or in very specific populations where we have designated that testing needs to occur. Your average person out there who is not exposed to a case … should not be going for testing. There’s no value. In fact, what we found is when there’s very little COVID in that group, what we end up with is false positives, which just complicates things even more.”

Testing of asymptomatic people will be limited to pharmacies, an initiative announced by Ford earlier this week. According to Matthew Anderson, president and CEO of Ontario Health, the province hopes to have capacity for up to 50,000 tests per day some time in October.

No one likes wearing a mask — but with COVID-19 cases rising, you should put it on more often than you think 

Experts are warning that at this point in the pandemic, when the benefits of mask-wearing are growing clear and COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly, Canadians should be donning their masks as much as possible.

“Keep wearing your mask, as much as you can, especially with people you don’t live with,” Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, stressed on Monday. Multiple experts who spoke to CBC News this week say that means keeping a mask on in a variety of settings, even if local bylaws don’t mandate it.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University and an infectious disease consultant at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said masks are helpful when staying a couple of metres apart is challenging — “even if you’re on the patio, until you have to eat and drink, and then putting it back on afterwards,” he said. “We just have to kind of get people to make it a reflex.”

Edmonton-based health policy expert Timothy Caulfield agreed that people should strive to wear a mask around anyone from outside their own household. “If it’s an indoor environment and you can’t get that good two-metre space all the time, think about wearing a mask — even if it’s family members,” said Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy and research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.

Liberals boost some COVID-19 benefits in new bill 

The federal government tabled legislation Thursday to provide what it’s calling a “safe bridge” for Canadians who are still experiencing lost income due to COVID-19. The proposed new suite of measures aims to transition people from the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) to an employment insurance program with expanded eligibility or to one of three new recovery benefits. Bill C-2 also provides for a 10-day sick leave benefit — something the NDP had demanded.

During a news conference in Ottawa, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the CERB was introduced quickly at a time when most of the economy was at a standstill. As the country moves into economic recovery mode, the government is better placed to deliver financial support in a more sophisticated way, she said. “I think we’ve created, in Bill C-2, a much more elegant balance between the need to not disincentivize work but also support people who, regardless of effort, still aren’t working or have significantly reduced hours,” she said.

Qualtrough said the past few months have exposed gaps in the EI system, which is why the government wants to modernize it to better reflect Canada’s current labour market. Measures in the legislation offer greater flexibility on the work hours required for the EI benefit, making it easier for people to qualify for a one-year period.

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world.


Quebec’s early March break contributed to province’s spring woes, study suggests 

COVID-19 could have been carried to Quebec by as few as 247 people coming home from travelling, according to a new genome sequencing study conducted by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec and the McGill Genome Center. The study looked at the genome sequences of 734 COVID-19 samples in Quebec between mid-February and April 1 and compared them to over 21,000 other samples elsewhere in the world.

In Quebec, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was traced back to as early as Feb. 25, according to the study, but it and other early cases were well contained and did not lead to sustained transmission. “It was a trickle at first,” said Jesse Shapiro, an associate professor in the department for human genetics and head of genome sciences at McGill, noting that it was easier to manage the few cases of COVID-19 in the province at that time.

That trickle turned into a rush of new arrivals after the province’s early spring break, with hundreds of travellers returning to Quebec after travelling abroad. The study, which has not been peer reviewed, suggests what many already suspected: the early break, which began Feb. 29, was a key factor in the spread of the virus before the lockdown in mid-March.

According to the study, nearly one-third of the infections in Quebec came through Europe, with 12 per cent coming from France. Just under 31 per cent of the virus samples studied came from the Caribbean and Latin America, and around 24 per cent came from the United States. Few transmissions appeared to come from Asia.


Disney postpones Black Widow, West Side Story

From left, president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Scarlett Johansson, David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle, director Cate Shortland and Rachel Weisz of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow stand on stage at the San Diego Comic-Con last year in San Diego, Calif. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

The Walt Disney Co. has further postponed its next mega-movies from Marvel, including Black Widow, while also postponing Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story a full year in the company’s latest recalibration due to the pandemic.

Ten of Disney’s top films shuffled release dates Wednesday, uprooting several of the company’s major fall releases. The Scarlett Johansson Marvel movie Black Widow, last set for Nov. 6, heads now to May 7 of next year. Instead of opening next month, Kenneth Branagh’s murder mystery Death on the Nile moves to Dec. 18. That was the date set for West Side Story, but Spielberg’s musical will instead debut in December 2021.

Disney didn’t entirely abandon the season. The Pixar release Soul remains on the calendar for late November. But the delays of Disney’s upcoming blockbusters reinforce the growing exodus from 2020 among the movies that hadn’t already uprooted to next year.

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

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