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Reality check: Could mail from Canada to China spread Omicron? – Global News

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Chinese health authorities have claimed that the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 may have arrived into the capital, Beijing, via a contaminated letter from Canada — an assertion dismissed and questioned by Canadian experts.

The Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control (BCDC) said in a news release Monday that its first case of the Omicron variant in a Beijing resident could be the result of international mail sent from Canada via the United States and Hong Kong.

The letter was sent on Jan. 7 and received on Jan. 11, the BCDC said.

Read more:

Employees locked inside office tower after single Omicron case in Beijing

The agency claimed that a comprehensive investigation, sampling and testing of the mailed papers showed traces of the Omicron variant.

The person who tested positive had not travelled internationally or domestically 14 days prior to being infected, it said.

“To sum up, combined with the epidemiological history of the case, the test results of suspicious items, and the gene sequencing results of the case specimens, the possibility of contracting the virus through foreign items cannot be ruled out,” the BCDC stated.

It urged residents to minimize the purchase of overseas goods and to wear masks and disposable gloves when receiving international mail.


Click to play video: 'Beijing Olympics: China taking no chances with COVID-19 as Games near'



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Beijing Olympics: China taking no chances with COVID-19 as Games near


Beijing Olympics: China taking no chances with COVID-19 as Games near

Beijing confirmed its first local case of Omicron on Saturday, weeks before the city is set to host the Winter Olympics in February.

Aside from Beijing, China has reported locally-transmitted infections of the Omicron variant in at least four other provinces and municipalities: in the northern city of Tianjin, the central province of Henan, the southern province of Guangdong and the northeastern province of Liaoning. However, the total number Omicron cases across China remains unclear.

What do experts say?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 can spread through indirect contact with contaminated surfaces, also known as fomite transmission.

But current evidence suggests that the virus is predominantly transmitted from person to person via respiratory droplets, WHO says on its website.

Read more:

Droplet, aerosol, airborne: The confusion over how COVID-19 spreads

Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said it was “implausible” that a piece of mail from Canada would have any infectious virus on it that survived intact to result in a COVID-19 transmission event in China.

“SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, does not survive in an infectious form for very long outside an infected host or person,” he told Global News in an email.

Evans cited a study released last week by the University of Bristol that showed that the virus loses 90 per cent of its infectivity after 20 minutes in respiratory particles exhaled by a infected person, with the majority of that loss occurring in the first five minutes.

Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, also said China’s claims don’t add up.

“This doesn’t sound credible at all,” he told Global News in an email.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Chinese city begins testing all residents after Omicron cases detected'



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COVID-19: Chinese city begins testing all residents after Omicron cases detected


COVID-19: Chinese city begins testing all residents after Omicron cases detected – Jan 9, 2022

Furness said while COVID-19’s ability to survive on paper depends partly on the roughness of the paper, it’s unlikely to persist in an active state for more than a day or two.

“High friction with other documents in a mailbag make survival of even a day seem unlikely,” he explained.

Dr. Horacio Bach, an infectious diseases expert at the University of British Columbia, said while Omicron is more transmissible, it is spreading in the same way as previous variants — namely, from person to person.

Read more:

Canada Post warns of delays as Omicron leads to staff shortages

Canada Post says that the WHO and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) have made public assurances that the risk when handling mail, including international mail, is low.

“According to the PHAC, there is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages,” a statement on its website says.

“Currently, there is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted by imported goods or packages.”

What is Canada’s response?

In a news conference on Monday, Federal Health Minster Jean-Yves Duclos said the assertion that a piece of Canadian mail introduced the Omicron variant to Beijing was “an extraordinary view.”

He said that while he may have his own opinion of why China was making that claim, he deferred to experts on how COVID-19 can be spread.

Read more:

Canada working on new China strategy, Joly says

“We’ll check with officials and our partners around the world,” Duclos said.

“I think this is something not only new, but intriguing and certainly not in accordance with what we have done both internationally and domestically.”


Click to play video: 'O’Toole says allegation Canadian mail introduced Omicron to Beijing is ‘comical’'



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O’Toole says allegation Canadian mail introduced Omicron to Beijing is ‘comical’


O’Toole says allegation Canadian mail introduced Omicron to Beijing is ‘comical’

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole slammed it as “comical”.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned with variants within the pandemic, variants that have come from outside of Canada that we have to deal with here,” O’Toole said during a news conference Monday.

“Stories like this remind us that from the beginning of the pandemic, some of the news and reporting out of China could not be trusted.”

— with files from the Canadian Press, Reuters 

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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The latest on the French-language Conservative leadership debate in Laval

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LAVAL, Que. — Conservative leadership hopefuls are squaring off — in French — in the second official debate of the race, which is being held in Laval, Que.

Here are the latest developments. All times eastern:

8:55 p.m.

Conservative leadership candidates Patrick Brown and Leslyn Lewis took turns attacking rival Pierre Poilievre for his embrace of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a solution to inflation.

Lewis, who is often reading from her notes during the French-language debate in Laval, Que., said Poilievre’s position was wrong.

At one point, Brown said Poilievre’s position on Bitcoin was similar to that of the leadership in El Salvador, which adopted Bitcoin as legal tender.

The International Monetary Fund urged the Central American country to drop Bitcoin as its official currency earlier this year, citing its volatility.

___

8:20 p.m.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest says Canada must renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States.

He says that is how he would deal with “illegal immigration,” such as migrants entering the country through the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road south of Montreal.

Candidates were asked about immigration as the first question in the debate.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown used the question to say he was trying to build an inclusive party and attacked Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre for not publicly condemning the “white replacement” conspiracy theory espoused by Pat King, a leader of the Ottawa convoy protest.

Poilievre responded by saying he has in fact condemned King’s remarks and that people couldn’t believe anything Brown says.

While answering a question about public safety, Poilievre said the country needs to better deal with guns illegally brought into Canada.

Charest said Poilievre has no businesses talking about law and order when he supported the Ottawa convoy, which he called an illegal blockade.

The room then erupted into a mix of cheers and boos.

___

8:10 p.m.

Candidates took to the stage and began by outlining one by one what legacy they wanted to leave behind as leaders.

Pierre Poilievre says he wants his legacy to be making Canada the freest country in the world, including by making sure people don’t feel forced to get vaccinated and that young people are able to afford a home.

Patrick Brown says he can win in urban areas, which the party needs, and has what it takes to build a party that can succeed in a general election.

Roman Baber, an Independent member of the Ontario legislature, introduced himself to the crowd.

He says he knows Canada is bilingual and has taken lessons, but still asked those watching to forgive his French.

___

8:05 p.m.

The Conservative party’s leadership organizing committee announced before the debate began that it will announce the results of the leadership race at a downtown Ottawa convention centre on Sept. 10.

The party’s president, Robert Batherson, says it will be the first time since 2018 that members will gather together at a national event.

The party held a convention in Halifax in 2018.

___

7:50 p.m.

House music issued from amplifiers as Conservatives of all ages began to take their seats ahead of tonight’s leadership debate.

Several hundred attendees, who were not wearing masks, crowded the ballroom of the Chateau Royal venue north of Montreal, seated between television cameras and the stage.

The six contenders are slated to appear at their podiums at 8 p.m.

___

7:30 p.m.

Conservative leadership candidates filed in for the race’s only French-language debate, being held at a reception hall north of Montreal.

The suburban venue in Laval, Que., saw scores of federal Tories and onlookers mingling in the foyer before the six contenders take the stage.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest greeted a handful of supporters with kisses, while Ontario MP Scott Aitchison chatted with party members amid sign-up booths for each candidate.

Bookending the stage beneath ballroom chandeliers were a bank of speakers and 14 flags — six with the Fleur-de-lis, eight with the Maple Leaf.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022

 

The Canadian Press

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Monkeypox: Cases in Canada climb to 16, PHAC says – CTV News

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The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says it has now confirmed a total of 16 cases of monkeypox in the country, all in Quebec.

The latest update on the spread of the viral disease came in a statement issued Wednesday evening.

The statement says Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory continues to receive samples from multiple jurisdictions for confirmation testing.

“At this time, cases of monkeypox are being identified and treated by local health clinics,” the statement said.

“There is ongoing planning with provinces and territories to provide access to approved vaccines in Canada that, if required, can be used in managing monkeypox in their jurisdiction.”

The PHAC says it has given Quebec a small shipment of the smallpox vaccine Imvamune from Canada’s National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, with other jurisdictions able to receive some supply.

In April, Public Services and Procurement Canada submitted a tender to purchase 500,000 doses of the Imvamune vaccine between 2023 and 2028.

There is currently no need for mass immunizations, the PHAC says.

“I know Canadians are concerned,” Duclos said in a statement Tuesday. “The Government of Canada is prepared to respond to emerging public health events and takes precautions to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.”

The national laboratory received its first samples during the week of May 16, before announcing the first two cases of monkeypox identified in Quebec on May 19. That number rose to five cases the following day.

Since then, other possible cases of monkeypox have emerged in Canada. On Wednesday, Toronto public health authorities said they identified two new suspected cases in the city, along with one probable case currently under investigation.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that was first discovered among colonies of monkeys used for research. Historically, it has also been transmitted from animals to humans, with the first human case recorded in 1970. The virus can spread through close contact with an infected animal, human, or contaminated material.

The federal government is prepared to help provinces and territories develop their own means of testing for the disease in order to monitor it more easily, Duclos said.

“Our surveillance system is working, as is our testing system, though we will continue to refine both, including supporting provinces and territories in building their own testing capacities so cases can be identified and traced even more efficiently,” Duclos’ statement read.

The government will also provide updated guidance on preventing infection, as well as procedures around isolation and case management. Canadians can expect the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to provide additional guidance in the coming weeks as well.

In his statement, Duclos emphasized that the emergence of monkeypox is not the same as COVID-19, which quickly spiralled into a worldwide pandemic.

“I want to re-iterate to Canadians that this is a different situation than we saw ourselves in with the emergence of COVID-19,” Duclos’ statement read. “While global understanding of the monkeypox virus is still evolving, we do have a supply of vaccines, which we will be sure to maintain, and we are working hand-in-hand with our provincial and territorial counterparts to roll out our response plan as quickly as possible.”

In an effort to avoid contracting the disease, Canadians are advised to physically distance from those around them, frequently wash their hands and wear masks in crowded environments.

With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press

____

Do you have any questions about monkeypox?

CTVNews.ca wants to hear from Canadians with any questions.

Tell us what you’d like to know when it comes to monkeypox.

To submit your question, email us at dotcom@bellmedia.ca with your name, location and question. Your comments may be used in a CTVNews.ca story.

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Peter Nygard sexual assault case to return to Montreal courtroom in July

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MONTREAL — Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard’s sexual assault and forcible confinement case in Quebec will return to a Montreal courtroom July 8.

Nygard remains detained in Toronto and did not appear during the brief hearing before a judge at the Montreal courthouse.

Laurence Juillet, a lawyer for Nygard, asked for the delay while her client’s other pending sex crime cases move through the courts.

Nygard faces one count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in Quebec. The crimes, which involve the same person, allegedly took place between Nov. 1, 1997, and Nov. 15, 1998.

He is also facing six counts of sexual assault and three counts of forcible confinement in Toronto in connection with alleged incidents dating back to the late 1980s and mid-2000s.

Authorities in the United States have asked for him to be extradited to face sex-related charges in that country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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