The Canadian Press
BUDAPEST— Hungary reported a record-breaking day of new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, and the number of patients being treated in the country’s hospitals also reached a new high. Health authorities announced 9,444 new confirmed cases, more than 1,000 more than the previous record set on Friday. The jump came amid a rapid spread of a coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom. The outbreak has put a strain on Hungary’s health care system. Officials reported the hospitalization of 179 more COVID-19 patients, bringing the national total to a record high of 8,897 Hungary has the second-highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the 27-nation European Union, underpinned by the acquisition of vaccines from Russia and China as well as the EU. The number of people who have received at least one dose of a vaccine climbed to nearly 1.3 million in the country of fewer than 10 million. Officials say they plan to have all people over age 60 vaccinated by Easter. As of Saturday, Hungary reported 16,790 virus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, giving the country the seventh-worst death rate per 1 million people in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — Biden boosts US vaccine stockpile as world waits — IRS says new round of COVID relief payments on the way — Most of California to reopen as vaccine eligibility expands — COVID-19 deaths falling but Americans ‘must remain vigilant’ __ Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia received its first batch of coronavirus vaccines on Saturday and is set to become the last European country to launch a COVID-19 vaccination drive. The ex-Soviet nation received 43,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX program, a United Nations=backed initiative aimed at ensuring equal access to vaccines. Georgia’s second shipment of 87,000 vaccines is expected next month. Georgian Health Minister Ekaterina Tikaradze said the country will start administering the vaccine on Monday, with the first shots given to medical workers. Georgia hopes to vaccinate 60% of its population of 3.7 million this year. The country has engaged in talks to receive additional batches of the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines. Georgia is also negotiating with China to receive the Sinovac vaccine. ___ THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Police in France have arrested a Dutch man and an American man suspected of involvement in the stabbing of two Dutch police officers in the northern Dutch city of Groningen. The incident happened after the officers questioned two men who were outdoors during the Netherlands’ coronavirus curfew on Wednesday night. One of the police officers suffered serious injuries to his face and neck in the stabbing. Police in Groningen say that French officers detained the suspects Saturday morning in northern France. One was a 20-year-old Dutch man and the other a 32-year-old American national. Their identities have not been released. Police say procedures are underway to have the suspects sent back to the Netherlands. ___ VIENNA — Police in Austria are enforcing new rules requiring people to show a negative coronavirus test to leave Wiener Neustadt, a city of more than 45,000 people. The system that took effect Saturday involves police and other officials controlling 26 exit roads from the city south of Vienna around the clock. Wiener Neustadt has an exceptionally high level of coronavirus infections — more than 500 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over seven days, compared with a national average of 198 per 100,000. Fines of up to 1,450 euros ($1,730) are foreseen for people who violate the rules. Mayor Klaus Schneeberger said testing stations set up in recent days have a capacity to test 15,000 people per day. He said he didn’t understand why Austria’s health ministry “doesn’t use this occasion to start a vaccination campaign here so we get this under control.” A targeted campaign to vaccinate the entire adult population is underway in the Schwaz district in western Austria, which has seen a significant number of cases of the more contagious virus variant first detected in South Africa. ___ BERLIN — The leaders of Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Bulgaria are calling for talks among European Union leaders about the distribution of vaccines within the 27-nation bloc. Austrian media reported Saturday that the five leaders wrote a joint letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. That came after Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz complained on Friday that, even though the EU had agreed on distribution of the vaccines on a per-capita basis, some countries were receiving considerably more than others. The letter asserted that “if this system were to carry on, it would continue creating and exacerbating huge disparities among Member States by this summer.” Officials elsewhere have noted that countries have wanted differing amounts of various vaccines and have not always taken up their full allocation. Austria’s health ministry — which is run by Kurz’s junior coalition partner — was among those rejecting Kurz’s criticism. Oe1 radio reported that its general secretary, Ines Stilling, said negotiations on distributing the vaccines had been “balanced and transparent.” ___ AMMAN — Jordan has become the first country in the Middle East to receive coronavirus vaccines through the global COVAX initiative. A plane carrying 144,000 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine landed in Amman’s airport late Friday and was greeted by representatives of the agencies supporting the COVAX program — the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the European Union. The COVAX alliance aims to share COVID-19 vaccines with more than 90 lower and middle-income nations. However, the program is facing delays, underfunding and limited supply. The EU has allocated 8 million euros to support Jordan’s purchase of vaccines. A second shipment from COVAX is expected in April. Jordan launched its vaccination drive in mid-January with plans to inoculate over 4 million residents in 2021, according to Health Minister Nathir Obeidat. The kingdom, home to nearly 10 million people, has approved five vaccine types, including Russian and Chinese ones. The vaccination campaign also targets some of the 650,000 Syrian refugees. The country is struggling to contain the surge of infections. It has reported over 465,000 cases and more than 5,200 deaths. ___ COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan health authorities said on Saturday that they will continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccine and that health workers have begun inoculating people over 60. Sri Lanka has so far received 1.264 million doses of the vaccine and, by Saturday, 760,765 Sri Lankans had received a shot. The Health Ministry said on Saturday that it is continuing to use the AstraZeneca vaccine despite it being suspended in some countries, including Denmark. According to State Minister Channa Jayasumana who oversees pharmaceutical production, supply and regulation, Sri Lanka has not yet taken a decision to suspend the vaccine. Sri Lanka received 500,000 doses of the vaccine from India as a donation, while the island nation bought the same number again from the Serum Institute of India. It received another 264,000 doses from the COVAX facility. Sri Lanka has also planned to purchase some 13 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines directly. By Saturday, Sri Lanka’s total positive cases stood at 87,285, with 525 fatalities. ___ ISLAMABAD — The provincial government in Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, has announced the shutting of 15 famous shrines, including that of the Sufi saint famously known as Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore, amid the third wave of the coronavirus. Federal authorities earlier announced the closing of educational institutions for two weeks in seven cities in Punjab and some in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan has reported 602,536 cases, including 13,476 deaths. ___ WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials are warning health professionals about the risk of false positive results with a widely used laboratory test for COVID-19 and flu. The Food and Drug Administration issued the alert to Friday for health facilities using Roche’s cobas test for coronavirus and seasonal flu. The agency warned that problems with the test’s processing tubes could result in false diagnosis in people who are not actually infected. Roche’s testing system is widely used to screen large batches of patient samples in hospitals and laboratories. The FDA recommends health workers test samples multiple times to help assure accuracy. If the test delivers conflicting results it may indicate a problem and use should be discontinued, the agency says. The Associated Press
Canada’s Telesat takes on Musk and Bezos in space race to provide fast broadband
By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Telesat is racing to launch a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to provide high-speed global broadband from space, pitting the satellite communications firm founded in 1969 against two trailblazing billionaires, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Musk, the Tesla Inc CEO who was only a year old when Telesat launched its first satellite, is putting the so-called Starlink LEO into orbit with his company SpaceX, and Amazon.com Inc, which Bezos founded, is planning a LEO called Project Kuiper. Bezos also owns Blue Origin, which builds rockets.
Despite the competition, Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s chief executive officer, voices confidence when he calls Telesat’s LEO constellation “the Holy Grail” for his shareholders – “a sustainable competitive advantage in global broadband delivery.”
Telesat’s LEO has a much lighter price tag than SpaceX and Amazon’s, and the company has been in satellite services decades longer. In addition, instead of focusing on the consumer market like SpaceX and Amazon, Telesat seeks deep-pocketed business clients.
Goldberg said he was literally losing sleep six years ago when he realized the company’s business model was in peril as Netflix and video streaming took off and fiber optics guaranteed lightning-fast internet connectivity.
Telesat’s 15 geostationary (GEO) satellites provide services mainly to TV broadcasters, internet service providers and government networks, all of whom were growing increasingly worried about the latency, or time delay, of bouncing signals off orbiters more than 35,000 km (22,200 miles) above earth.
Then in 2015 on a flight home from a Paris industry conference where latency was a constant theme, Goldberg wrote down his initial ideas for a LEO constellation on an Air Canada napkin.
Those ideas eventually led to Telesat’s LEO constellation, dubbed Lightspeed, which will orbit about 35 times closer to earth than GEO satellites, and will provide internet connectivity at a speed akin to fiber optics.
Telesat’s first launch is planned in early 2023, while there are already some 1,200 of Musk’s Starlink satellites in orbit.
“Starlink is going to be in service much sooner … and that gives SpaceX the opportunity to win customers,” said Caleb Henry, a senior analyst at Quilty Analytics.
Starlink’s “first mover” advantage is at most 24 months and “no one’s going to lock this whole market up in that amount of time,” Goldberg said.
Telesat in 2019 signed a launch deal with Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin. Discussions are ongoing with three others, said David Wendling, Telesat’s chief technical officer.
They are Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Europe’s ArianeGroup , and Musk’s SpaceX, which launches the Starlink satellites. Wendling said a decision would be taken in a matter of months.
Telesat aims to launch its first batch of 298 satellites being built by Thales Alenia Space in early 2023, with partial service in higher latitudes later that same year, and full global service in 2024.
The Lightspeed constellation is estimated to cost half as much as the $10 billion SpaceX and Amazon projects.
“We think we’re in the sweet spot,” Goldberg said. “When we look at some of these other constellations, we don’t get it.”
Analyst Henry said Telesat’s focus on business clients is the right one.
“You have two heavyweight players, SpaceX and Amazon, that are already pledging to spend $10 billion on satellite constellations optimized for the consumer market,” he said. “If Telesat can spend half that amount creating a high-performance system for businesses, then yeah, they stand to be very competitive.”
Telesat’s industry experience may also provide an edge.
“We’ve worked with many of these customers for decades … That’s going to give us a real advantage,” Goldberg said.
Telesat “is a satellite operator, has been a satellite operator, and has both the advantage of expertise and experience in that business,” said Carissa Christensen, chief executive officer of the research firm BryceTech, adding, however, that she sees only two to three LEO constellations surviving.
Telesat is nailing down financing – one-third equity and two-thirds debt – and will become publicly traded on the Nasdaq sometime this summer, and it could also list on the Toronto exchange after that. Currently, Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Loral Space & Communications Inc are the company’s main shareholders.
France and Canada’s export credit agencies, BPI and EDC respectively, are expected to be the main lenders, Goldberg said. Quebec’s provincial government is lending C$400 million ($317 million), and Canada’s federal government has promised C$600 million to be a preferred customer. The company also posted C$246 million in net income in 2020.
Executing the LEO plan is what keeps Goldberg up at night now, he said.
“When we decided to go down this path, the two richest people in the universe weren’t focused on their own LEO constellations.”
($1 = 1.2622 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
$600K donation to boost online mental health programming in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Health’s mental health and addictions program hopes to offer more online support to people across the province after receiving a significant donation this week.
The QEII Foundation announced that RBC is contributing $600,000 toward the province’s e-mental health programming.
“It’s particularly important for the current time under all the strains of COVID,” said Dr. Andrew Harris, a psychiatrist and the senior medical director for the program.
The plan for online programming has been in the works for years, he said, but the pandemic expedited the push. Last June, the department launched a number of applications that can be used to help those with anxiety, depression and addictions.
Since then, as many as 3,000 Nova Scotians have used the site to access mental health services.
“There’s a persistent difficulty in accessing services,” Harris said of traditional models in Nova Scotia. He said those who don’t need intensive therapy may find the support they need through the online programs.
He uses the example of someone who can’t take time off work to speak to a clinician.
“It’s better for them to be able to access a service after hours or on the weekend. So our e-mental health services are tailored a little bit to meet that need.”
Calls to crisis line increase
Harris said the province’s mental health crisis line continues to see a 30 per cent increase in calls for help, so he’s trying to raise awareness that services can be accessed immediately online.
“I think everyone is aware that for a lot of people it’s much easier to talk about a physical illness than a mental illness. So there’s an allowance there for privacy, for some anonymity but still making available things that can help the person who is struggling in the community.”
The online portal has a list of programs that people can use, covering things like reducing stress, solving problems and becoming mindful. It mirrors a site in Newfoundland and Labrador that Harris said is used to help people in remote areas.
Harris said the donation from RBC will be used to continue to evaluate more services, and pay for the licensing of the products that are mostly developed by other organizations.
He encourages anyone who is struggling to test out the site, and use it as an entry point into the mental health system.
“It’s important for people to acknowledge when they’re struggling. It happens to all of us through our lives in different times.”
Anyone in Nova Scotia looking to access the tools can visit: https://mha.nshealth.ca.
Samsung’s cheapest 5G Galaxy phones yet are launching this month
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- Samsung is launching five new phones in its Galaxy A series this month.
- Three of them will support 5G connectivity, and the most expensive phone is just $500.
- The cheapest phone of the five still has three cameras but lacks 5G and other features.
- See more buying advice on the Insider Reviews homepage.
Samsung may be best known for its high-end Galaxy S phones that rival the iPhone. But the tech giant is proving that it can appeal to cost-conscious customers with the launch of five new smartphones in the United States, the priciest of which only costs $500.
Samsung’s new lineup of budget phones, which debuted in other markets before coming to the US, are all launching this month. Some of them will be released as soon as this week, while the least expensive model will debut on April 29. The launch comes as competitors like Apple and Google have also been focusing on cheaper smartphones to boost sales.
Three of these new Samsung devices also support 5G, another sign that shoppers no longer have to pay a premium to get access to next-generation wireless networks. All five of the new phones also have the traditional headphone jack for wired listening and run on an octa-core processor.
Here’s a look at the new Samsung Galaxy A series phones that will be launching soon.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
- Release date: April 9
- Price: $499.99
The Galaxy A52 5G is the most expensive smartphone of the bunch. It comes with a 6.5-inch FHD+ screen and a quad-camera system that includes some of the same features as Samsung’s more expensive Galaxy S phones. These include Single Take, which creates several different photos or video clips with different effects with a single press of the shutter button.
Its screen can also boost its refresh rate up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling and performance, a feature that has become common on pricier flagship phones but is rare on cheaper models. It’s also the only phone in this A-series lineup to include Samsung’s notch-free screen design.
Samsung Galaxy A42 5G
- Release date: April 8
- Price: $399.99
The less expensive Galaxy A42 5G has a slightly larger screen than the A52 5G, but scales back on certain features when it comes to the camera and screen refresh rate.
Still, it has a triple-lens camera with high-resolution sensors, and like its pricier sibling it also supports Single Take.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G
Release date: April 9
The Galaxy A32 5G is Samsung’s cheapest 5G smartphone to date. It has a large 6.5-inch screen, but it’s made from an LCD panel instead of Super AMOLED. That means it will likely lack some of the contrast and boldness of Samsung’s other devices. But Samsung hasn’t skimped on the camera considering this model has a quad-lens main camera, which is rare if not unheard of at that price.
Samsung Galaxy A12
Release date: April 9
Samsung’s Galaxy A12 doesn’t come with 5G support, but it still gives you a lot for the price. For less than $200, you’re getting a quad-lens camera and a large 6.5-inch LCD screen. But remember this phone only has 32GB of storage, so it’s best suited for those who don’t store a lot of photos and videos on their device.
Samsung Galaxy A02s
- Release date: April 29
- Price: $109.99
The Galaxy A02s is Samsung’s cheapest phone, offering a 6.5-inch LCD screen and three main cameras. It doesn’t have 5G support or as much computing power or camera prowess as Samsung’s other A-series phones, but that’s to be expected for a device at this price. This phone is truly for those who just need the basics and little else.
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Source:- Business Insider