The Queensway Carleton Hospital has received 700 courses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill, the first take-home medication for treating COVID-19.
Ontario’s top public health official says that the government still plans on distributing rapid tests “at a population level” but isn’t likely to have sufficient supply to do so until at least mid-January.
The province distributed approximately two million free rapid tests at pop up sites at shopping malls and transit stations over the last several weeks but demand significantly exceeded supply with some residents lining up overnight just to get their hands on one of the test kits.
A select number of LCBOs that were given the kits to hand out before the holidays also ran out in less than a day.
In an interview with CP24 on Friday morning, Chief Medical Officer of Health. Dr. Kieran Moore said that the province still intends to distribute rapid tests but is dealing with dealing with a global supply issue that is likely to make them scarce for at least the next several weeks.
His comments come as a new policy limiting publicly-funded PCR testing to select high-risk individuals takes effect.
“It is absolutely in our plan to distribute more (rapid tests) at a population level to make them accessible and available now that we have to limit the PCR but please bear with us as we negotiate on the international market to have them available to Ontarians,” he said. “We anticipate second or third week of January that we’ll have more to distribute. Right now we need them to protect our workplaces in long-term care, in cancer wards, in transplant centers where we’re trying to protect patients by testing workers asymptomatically in those areas.”
The final planned pop-up sites to distribute rapid tests to the general public took place this morning at Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill and Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket. Hundreds of people lined up outside Hillcrest Mall hours ahead of time but the tests were all handed out within 30 minutes, leaving many disappointed.
It is unclear when the tests will be made available to most Ontarians again but Moore said that he anticipates the government will be able to make an announcement in “the coming weeks.”
In the meantime, he urged residents to continue to use caution and to isolate for a period of five days should they develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Residents who are not fully vaccinated should isolate for a period of 10 days.
“I don’t necessarily have a crystal ball but we’re absolutely accelerating throughout January. I do hope we’ll be on the descent in February and in March we’ll have population immunity plus immunity through our robust immunization strategy and head us off for spring and summer with a very strong protection at a population level,” Moore said of the weeks ahead. “So that’s our hope. I do think January is going to be a rough month for us and we’ll be watching the data closely.”
The Queensway Carleton Hospital has received 700 courses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill, the first take-home medication for treating COVID-19.
Health Canada announced the prescription antiviral treatment was approved on Monday. Each course of treatment involves two antiviral drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. The treatment consists of two oral tablets of nirmatrelvir and one of ritonavir, taken together twice a day for five days.
The province says 15 hospitals will be receiving Paxlovid. For now, it’s unclear how it will be distributed, although the Public Health Agency of Canada has released preliminary guidelines for categories of patients to be prioritized.
Until now, COVID-19 medications were given intravenously or by injection in a hospital or health-care settings. Paxlovid is expected to be in high demand, but the global supply is limited.
The Queensway Carleton Hospital is actively working on creating a regional process with other hospitals, led by director of pharmacy Joe Dagenais, to identify which patients are eligible and the criteria they need to meet to receive this treatment, hospital spokesperson Kelly Spence said. Dagenais is also head of the regional pharmacy committee and is spearheading regional plans.
“We are waiting to receive patient eligibility guidance from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table, hopefully coming this week,” Spence said.
Ontario expects to receive about 10,000 courses of treatment from the federal government in January, Ministry of Health spokesperson W.D. Lighthall said in a statement.
“Based on the limited supply we expect to receive from the federal government, we have worked with our hospital partners and are prepared for distribution of antivirals at 15 sites across the province as soon we receive them.”
Initially, the medication will be prioritized for adults with the highest risk of severe outcomes, including immunocompromised patients, Lighthall said.
The Ontario Medical Association is seeking more details but understands clinical assessment centres may have key roles in prioritizing testing and eligibility and ensuring timely delivery, spokesperson Leslie Shepherd said.
Manotick physician Dr. Alykhan Abdulla, past chair of the association’s section on general and family practice, said family physicians are still learning more about these medications and support the province’s plan at this time.
“We want to have access to prescribing these medications in a month or so.”
Health Canada received the Paxlovid submission from Pfizer on Dec. 1 and conducted an expedited review, including information confirming its effectiveness against the Omicron variant.
Paxlovid has been approved to treat mild to moderate COVID in adult cases where the patient has tested positive and is at high risk of getting severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.
It’s not approved for patients who are already hospitalized or to prevent COVID. Paxlovid can’t be used more than five days in a row and has not been approved for those under 18 years old.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s interim set of guidelines for prioritizing patients includes those who have the highest likelihood of severe illness, including patients who are immunocompromised, regardless of their vaccination status, as well as those over the age of 80 whose vaccinations are not up to date.
Patients over 60 who live in underserved rural or remote communities, long-term care homes, First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities are also prioritized under the interim guidelines.
Pfizer reported in November that Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 per cent compared with a placebo in high-risk adults who were not hospitalized.
Health Canada’s review found the benefits outweigh potential risks, but also cautioned that Paxlovid has the potential to interact with other prescription drugs.
Health officials also said public health measures and vaccinations remain key ways to prevent infection, and no drug is a substitute for vaccination.
Paxlovid could help keep thousands of people out of hospitals, Lighthall said.
“The arrival of these pills gives us increased confidence as we continue to review key indicators and data to determine when we can begin safely and gradually lifting public health measures, and we look forward to providing additional details in the near future.”
Amazon.com Inc’s recipe for the department store of the future includes algorithmic recommendations and what one corporate director called “a magic closet” in the fitting room.
The online retailer is making another push to grow its fashion business, announcing on Thursday it will open its first-ever apparel store this year, with a tech twist. “We wouldn’t do anything in physical retail unless we felt we could significantly improve the customer experience,” said Simoina Vasen, a managing director.
At 30,000 square feet (2,787 sq meters), the planned “Amazon Style” shop near Los Angeles is smaller than the typical department store. Model items are on the racks, and customers scan a code using Amazon’s mobile app to select the color and size they would like. To try on the clothes, which are stored in the back, shoppers enter a virtual queue for a fitting room that they unlock with their smartphone when it is ready.
Inside, the dressing room is “a personal space for you to continue shopping without ever having to leave,” Vasen said. Each has a touchscreen letting shoppers request more items that staff deliver to a secure, two-sided closet “within minutes,” she said.
“It’s like a magic closet with seemingly endless selection,” Vasen said.
The touchscreens suggest items to shoppers too. Amazon keeps a record of every good a customer scans so its algorithms personalize clothing recommendations. Shoppers can fill out a style survey as well. By the time they arrive in a fitting room, employees have already deposited customers’ requested items and others that Amazon has picked.
Shoppers can opt out with a concierge’s help, Amazon said.
Amazon has unveiled tech to help customers choose outfits before. The company has surpassed Walmart Inc as the most-shopped clothing retailer in the United States, according to analyst research.
But it still has room to expand and compete with the likes of Macy’s Inc and Nordstrom Inc, which have opened smaller-format stores. Amazon’s lineup of physical grocery and convenience shops have yet to upend brick-and-mortar retail.
The company’s new store aims to attract a broad range of shoppers with hundreds of brands, Vasen said, declining to name examples.
It has hundreds of associates, and no cashier-less checkout like some Amazon stores, Vasen said. Still, using a biometric system known as Amazon One, customers can pay with a swipe of their palm.
(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, California; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
The likelihood of an interest rate hike from the Bank of Canada next week is growing as record levels of inflation and high housing prices coincide with an anticipated economic rebound from the Omicron wave of the pandemic, some economists say.
Scotiabank Economics said in a note to investors Wednesday that it expects the Bank of Canada to raise its key overnight rate by 25 basis points to 0.5 per cent at its next meeting Jan 26.
This would be the first of multiple interest rate hikes over the course of the year, senior economist Jean-Francois Perrault forecasts, with rates hitting two per cent by the end of 2022.
While the Bank of Canada signalled at the end of last year that interest rate increases were likely for 2022, it had pegged possible hikes towards the middle of the year.
But Perrault said in his note that the central bank could be forced to act sooner than anticipated after Statistics Canada reported on Wednesday that the annual rate of inflation hit 4.8 per cent in December — the highest level in 30 years.
“Despite a clear, but temporary, negative impact of Omicron on economic activity, it is clear that inflationary pressures are larger than earlier assessed and require a more robust monetary policy response,” he wrote.
James Orlando, a senior economist with TD Economics, told Global News in an interview that conditions are right for an interest rate hike in the near future.
“The Bank of Canada is in a position right now where inflation is at this uncomfortable level, where the economy is hot, where we’re likely going to bounce back strongly from this Omicron time period,” he said.
“There really is a pressing need for the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates.”
Orlando also believes the hike will start with 25 basis points, noting that after nearly two years of rock-bottom interest rates tied to the pandemic, the central bank won’t “want to shock people.”
Though markets have built in an interest rate hike on Jan. 26, Orlando says there is a possibility the bank will hold off until its March announcement to wait for the Omicron wave to recede and see how businesses bounce back.
“But with everyone expecting it, the question for the Bank of Canada is, why should they wait?” he asks.
Stephen Tapp, senior economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, agrees.
“My expectation is that, certainly, a rate hike is on the table next Wednesday,” he tells Global News.
He and Orlando said the Bank of Canada would be able to tie an interest rate hike to a monetary policy report due out the same day. Both noted the increase could wait until the March decision if the governors are feeling skittish about the Omicron recovery, but a warning of a looming increase would at least be in the cards for next week.
Tapp says inflation is having a two-pronged effect on businesses right now. Not only are their costs rising due to more expensive goods, but an anticipated need to increase wages in 2022 to cover inflationary pressures will continue to affect their bottom lines.
While the central bank might be feeling the pressure to raise interest rates to dampen inflation, some of the causes of surging prices could well be out of its hands.
“There is little that the Bank of Canada can do to address the biggest part of the inflation puzzle, and that is the pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions,” says Tu Nguyen, economist with accounting firm RSM Canada.
Nguyen and most other economists who spoke to Global News this week said inflation could remain around the five per cent mark for the next few months but eventually come back down toward three per cent by the end of the year, closer to the upper bound of the Bank of Canada’s targeted range.
Also putting pressure on the Bank of Canada to act are record high housing prices.
Orlando says that Canada could see “further housing market acceleration” if the Bank of Canada doesn’t start to raise its overnight lending rates.
“As house prices go up, people get bigger and bigger mortgages, they lever themselves up to uncomfortable levels.” he says. “And so you just add so much more vulnerability to the economy.”
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Change your Perspective (Plastic use)
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SETI Institute in the News – Media Roundup. December 2021 – SETI Institute